BONES in Its Bones: Captain Earth

Captain Earth centers around an alien force attacking humanity known as the Planetary Gears, who see humans and their “libidos” as a food source. The main character is Manatsu Daichi, who, as a child, befriends a boy and a girl and is thus set on a strange path that ends with him becoming the pilot of a giant space defense robot known as the “Earth Engine.” At the same time that he defends the Earth with his friends, he must deal with the fact that there is another faction on Earth that believes that the only way to save humanity is to create an Ark to save the best of the best, and who are willing to get in “Captain Earth’s” way to do so.

When I watched the first episode of Captain Earth, I felt that the show had to be somehow related to the anime Star Driver, a previous work from the same studio, BONES. Like Star Driver, “libido” is presented as some kind of important power or energy source. The enemy mecha, known as Kiltgangs, bring to mind many  of the “Cybodies” from Star Driver as well, not only in terms of design but also in their pilots’ very “spirited” (read: erotic) reactions. Mysterious songs herald the arrival of an enemy. In the end, it turns out that these allusions remain only as such and that there were no direct narrative connections between these two works, but I do still find it valuable to compare them because Captain Earth more or less feels like a more conventional, less wild re-telling of Star Driver.

Above: Enemy mecha from Captain Earth, Below: Enemy mecha from Star Driver

Whereas Star Driver has a main character whose sense of justice has him appear out of a rift in space like some kind of giant interdimensional Zorro, Daichi in Captain Earth is mainly inspired to do good by the example of his deceased father, and undergoes an elaborate combination sequence that has him launching into multiple space stations. While quiet scenes in Star Driver are set on a mysterious island and battles take place in an enigmatic pocket outside of time and space, fights in Captain Earth uses Tanegashima (home of JAXA in reality), and its most signature fights take place in orbit around the Earth. One thrives on symbols and mystery and is akin to being a giant metal Utena, while the other plays out more closely to a typical super robot anime, yet they share many of the same strengths and flaws as shows. Both shows have vibrant and expressive characters, a consistent sense of mystery about the enemy that gradually reveals itself, and beautiful animation especially focused around dynamic action sequences. However, they also share unusual plot reveals that are strangely abrupt, as well as changes of heart in characters that basically make sense but could be better if they were focused on more. Both stories feel liable to fall apart in a structural sense, but are held together by the dynamism and energy of their characters, for better or for worse.

How does this manifest in Captain Earth in particular? There are two points that stick out to me. The first is the fact that the Planetary Gears have an intriguing inverse relationship with their robots, in the sense that they are basically giant robots who take on the guise of their “human” pilots rather than the other way around. This is quite a unique idea, but it never gets explored as much as I would have preferred. The second point comes in the last episode, when Daichi is back to basics, fighting the enemy with just the Earth Engine and no additional weapons or frills. It’s something that happens at the end in a lot of giant robot anime such as Gurren-Lagann or Gaogaigar, but when Daichi calls out the Earth Engine’s attacks, I realized I didn’t actually remember any of them, because the story couldn’t quite ever focus on the main robot as this symbol of good and make its attacks memorable. What makes the scene a partial success instead is the fact that we are there with Daichi as he grows into the role of “Captain Earth,” and his romantic relationship with the character Hana.

Actually, when I think about it further, Captain Earth doesn’t feel like simply a different, less surreal version of Star Driver, but more the lovechild of Star Driver and another BONES work, Heroman. The Earth Engine basically looks like an upgraded version of Heroman with its red, white, and blue color scheme and its overall “physique,” while Daichi’s personality is right in between Takuto from Star Driver and Joey Jones from Heroman. What’s even more notable, however, is the fact that many of the other high and low points of Captain Earth that it does not share with Star Driver can be found in Heroman. In particular, when Captain Earth is focused on its main story, it has a sense of urgency and excitement, but often it ends up meandering in a way that is less irritating and more puzzling: “Why put this diversion here of all places? It’s not even humor to break up a serious moment?” With Heroman it’s the long number of episodes they spend dealing with that mad scientist villain, and with Captain Earth it’s the time they spend on Earth chasing down unawakened Planetary Gears. While the latter makes more sense, it just feels as if it comes at an unusual point in the overall story.

While its aesthetics don’t have quite the flash and razzmatazz of anime like Utena or Kill la Kill or indeed Star Driver, the show’s more by-the-books approach to looking good enhances the series and its viewability by giving care to both its characters and its mechanical designs. At the same time, I can easily see why someone looking for a cohesive narrative above all else would find Captain Earth infuriating, even if I did consistently enjoy and look forward to the series. I wouldn’t say it’s a show that you shouldn’t think about too much, but that you should think about it while well aware of where the characters and their emotions fill in the gaps that might not otherwise make much sense.

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The Fujoshi Files 21: Agemaki Wako

Name: Agemaki, Wako (アゲマキワコ)
Alias:
Minami no Miko (皆水の巫女)
Relationship Status: Betrothed
Origin: Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto

Information:
Agemaki Wako is a resident of Southern Cross Island, a landmass of many secrets, most notable of which is the fact that it houses mysterious mammoth weapons called Cybodies, robots which are so powerful that they have been sealed in the island, trapped in a distorted pocket of space-time. This “Zero Time” is maintained by the presence of four shrine maidens, of which Wako is one. Wako is the last maiden whose seal must be broken in order to free the Cybodies, and the only one whose identity is known to everyone on the island. Unfortunately for her, this makes her a target of the Kiraboshi Juujidan, an organization set on removing the Cybodies from Zero Time, but two of her best friends, Shindou Sugata and Tsunashi Takuto, also happen to have the power to stop them.

Wako is a high school student and member of Yakan Hikou, the school drama club , though the “drama” is more evident in her relationship with Sugata and Takuto, both fellow club members. Wako is betrothed to Sugata, but also feels a strong attraction to Takuto. And yet despite the love triangle and various other trials, their friendship remains strong. As long as Wako has her maiden’s seal, she is unable to leave the island.

Fujoshi Level:
While Wako feels torn between her feelings for Sugata and Takuto, that doesn’t stop her from imagining the two of them together. When given the opportunity, her imagination will drift towards conjuring up steamy scenarios for her two attractive male friends, and though she might deny it, everyone around her knows what she’s thinking.

Preventing Anime Burn-Out

Every so often I’ve been asked how not to burn out on anime, but I haven’t been able to formulate a proper response. Sure, I’ve talked about how to not burn out on anime blogging, but nothing tackling the beast itself. With the new season starting up though, I figured now was as good a time as any to address that malady which afflicts so many otaku and their disposition towards anime. It won’t be a sure-fire guide to preventing burn-out, but I think it’ll at least help get you somewhere in the realm of a right mind.

I’ve never really burned out on anime, so in the sense that I have never hit the bottom and risen back up to fight another day, I may not be entirely qualified to talk about avoiding burn-out. However, I do have times when the act of watching anime can seem overwhelming, as well as times when I just don’t feel like watching anything or feel myself not enjoying what I’m watching as much. One such moment occurred a couple of months ago, as I found my attention was drifting away while watching Creamy Mami. I had some other shows I was watching at the time, but I was feeling a stronger desire to check out competitive Starcraft II matches. I had to ask myself, was it really happening? Was I really getting tired of anime?

Then I remembered that just the day before I was being riveted by Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I had an untouched full series of Ojamajo Doremi Sharp that I know I would enjoy but hadn’t gotten around to yet. The fantastic Heartcatch Precure had just finished or was about to finish, and I’d just been enjoying Star Driver since the fall season. I also knew that some of the shows I was ignoring in favor of watching Nada siege tank someone to death were not shows I was chomping at the bit to follow…at that moment. Things could change given a couple of days. Rather than finding myself in the beginning stages of anime burn-out, I realized that I was simply being incredibly short-sighted.

It’s easy to trick yourself into dwelling on the negative experiences. Remembering the bad more than the good, it then can cause you to create unfair demands for anime because they’re based on a desperation to be knocked out of your funk, and when the next batch of shows don’t rescue you from yourself, the burn-out becomes that much worse.

So then, how do you stop that from happening?

If you’re worrying about the shows in the here and now, I think it’s a good idea to just take a mental step back and look at the shows you’d been watching previously. I know that on the internet and among anime fandom there’s a tendency to quickly forget anime after it has finished airing, but don’t be like me and get caught up in your own myopia. One year ago isn’t that long a period of time, let alone three to six months ago.

Don’t be afraid to stop watching those specific anime that seem to be dragging for you and to replace them with something you think you’d enjoy more. If you’re not sure whether you actually dislike a show or if you’re just not feeling it, put it on the back burner for a while. If it’s a current show that you’ve been keeping up with week after week, don’t get so attached to the rat race that watching it becomes more of a chore than anything else. See if you can come back to it a few weeks or even a few months later, when you’re feeling sharper. If you must keep up with it as it airs, and I have to again recommend you not fall into this trap, let it run as you’re doing other things. A lot of television in general is made with the assumption that its audience will not always be paying full attention.

Anime burn-out is largely psychological. How you define it is ultimately up to you. If you find the amount of shows you’re interested in dwindling, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not enjoying anime anymore, it can just mean you’re watching fewer shows. If you’re not feeling any of the shows currently running, don’t be afraid to look backwards, to older anime. If you’re really finding nothing to watch, perhaps think about what it is exactly you’re looking for. Whether you’re following ten shows or just one or are even deciding not to watch any anime for a little while, the quantity of anime doesn’t have to define your interest in anime or your identity as an anime fan.

And Then Takuto Will Catch a Bullet with His Teeth

A Star Driver-themed video uploaded to Tumblr, I expect it to get glowing reviews.

Spoilers for those who haven’t seen Star Driver.

Inspired by this tweet.

The Mystery of Ivrogne

Of all the characters in Star Driver, Nichi Keito, alias Ivrogne, has intrigued me the most. With the revelations about her in episodes 17 and 18, I feel like my attention towards her is pretty justified. Before the next episode hits and we learn even more, I want to look at some of the elements to her that made her stand out as a character worth attention, even before the most recent episodes. Before I begin though, I want to state that I am not going to be scrutinizing every little detail about her character by combing through prior episodes. Nor I am trying to shed light on any obscure hints. This is more my observations from watching the show every week, and noticing her behavior somewhat in passing and how it piqued my interest. Naturally, there are spoilers in this post. Continue reading