The importance (or lack of it) of Gundams in my favorite Gundam works
I am generally not a mecha fan, Gundam included, but I've wound up seeing some Gundam works that have genuinely impressed me and stuck with me; right now I'd say that my two top works are The 08th MS Team and War in the Pocket. For reasons that don't fit in the margins of this entry I recently wound up thinking about how important the presence of Gundams is in those two shows. Could you take the mobile suits out and replace them with something else without fundamentally damaging or changing those shows?
(This question makes more sense for me than for a Gundam fan, because what I like about these shows has almost nothing to do with the Gundams in them.)
I think that The 08th MS Team is actually surprisingly dependent on mobile suits in specific, because to make the whole feel of the show work you need a specific combination of attributes in your military machinery. They have to be ground based, because it very much matters that the MS Team is down there slogging along in the mud instead of flying distantly over it all. They have to be single pilot, because the whole dynamics of the situation would change if the pilots (especially Shiro) were working in a close team with other people in their vehicle instead of being alone. And they have to be powerful because people react to this; things would feel very different if the team was using, say, armed motorcycles instead of something that dominates the battlefield.
(That they dominate the battlefield also gives the MS team's actions special weight and their position special importance.)
War in the Pocket is a more ambivalent case. A lot of the situation and impact are not particularly dependent on mobile suits in specific so it feels like you should be able to swap them out for something else, but at the same time it's hard to figure out any alternative that leads to the crucial final confrontation while keeping Al so involved in it. To keep him so involved in the confrontation you probably have to keep it on the ground, so once again you need ground-based military machinery that has a single pilot and is sufficiently scary to force the defenders to sortie expensive and rare experimental hardware instead of relying on standard military vehicles and forces.
(Of course the background and settings for both shows are completely entangled in the Gundam Universal Century mythos as it is. But I think you could contrive some relatively similar setting that removed the mobile suits. After all, mobile suits are arguably an analogy for aircraft in the first place, although if we take this too far we wind up saying that the Federation is the US and Zeon is Japan in World War II.)
Looking back at the Summer 2014 anime season
As before, it's time (and long past time) for my usual retrospective look back at the season to see how well the final result matched up with my early impressions and my midway views. This has been delayed partly because the summer season turned out to be an almost total bust for me; I only managed to watch one show all the way through as it aired.
Watched and finished:
- Aldnoah.Zero: This was a reasonably entertaining show but I wouldn't
call it particularly great; however, the show did manage to make
watching it be enjoyable (for all of its absurdities). Following my
usual rule that whoever gets the most character
development is probably it, Slaine is the real protagonist; sadly,
I suspect that the show disagrees with me. This is the only show I
wound up following on a weekly basis through ths season.
If I took this as a serious dramatic work, it would be a failure; it simply has far too many flaws. As popcorn entertainment I rather enjoyed it because I could laugh at all of the crazy and nonsensical bits and admire all of the ways the show found to make Slaine suffer. I agree with all of the people who say that it's impossible to believe that the show is serious about the events in its first-half climax.
(Also, if this was a serious work it would be an extremely grim one given how large the show's onscreen and offscreen body count is.)
I'm looking forward to the second half although it may well turn out like Valvrave, where the magic and charm wore off very fast.
(Yes, this is a lot of words in an attempt to justify both sides of Author's collected impressions at once. As usual I see both the virtues and the flaws of the show but I weigh them in my own way.)
- Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2wei!: In the end I got bored enough (and desperate enough) to pick this up again after dropping it in the hopes that I would at least get some nice mindless action. I more or less got that, but it was competent instead of spectacularly stunning like I was kind of hoping for. I should really just resign myself to the fact that nothing in Prisma Illya will ever top the episode six fight from the first series and leave it permanently dropped. See also my Twitter capsule summary.
- Zankyou no Terror: I realized that I had essentially no interest in finding out what happened next to the characters or what was going on with the whole situation. So I stopped watching it.
Towards the end of the season I tried out two highly praised series that I had not previously given a chance to. My reactions:
- Barakamon: After three episodes my overall reaction is that I
find the show charming and I can see why people like this a lot, but
I don't find it compelling enough to drive me to watch more with any
particular urgency (especially now that it's not a currently airing
show). Part of it is certainly that the show is a bit too obvious and
heavy-handed with its moral lessons for Handa. The segments when it
wasn't concerned with that were much more enjoyable but unfortunately
not all that frequent in the first three episodes.
- Sabagebu: The highest recommendation I can give this is that it makes me laugh on a regular basis (which is not common, most anime comedy fails for me). However in practice it's fallen into the same problem as Seitokai Yakuindomo, which is that plotless humor doesn't have much to strongly drive me to see the next episode. See also eg Evirus.
I expect to watch more of both of these shows, but in practice neither has grabbed me by the labels and demanded to be watched. Someday, when I feel like it or I want something to fill in a block of anime watching time.
I also tried out Strike The Blood for vague reasons, partly in the hopes that it would be another Tokyo Ravens. My capsule summary is that it hasn't proved to be anywhere near as compelling a watch as Tokyo Ravens was and is otherwise a perfectly ordinary shonen fighting show. I suspect that I'm not going to wind up watching much more of it; I just don't find it all that compelling.