As promised, here’s the follow-up to yesterday’s post about three more TV series I’m currently watching… Plus a little bonus at the end!
I’ve already expounded on my love-hate relationship with Code Geass, and so instead of wasting your time, dear reader, I’ll tread new territory.
Code Geass works on two levels. First, like a giant amoeba straight out of Akira, it seeks to devour and incorporate every anime stereotype into itself, but in a (mostly) coherent way, with the avowed goal of turning itself into an irresistible fanboy magnet. A delicious pizza featuring every single topping in the universe, if you will. The good news is that if you enjoy such a mishmash, you’re in for a treat! Here’s a synopsis of the storyline so far: the leader of the underground rebellion that threatens the existence of the most powerful feudal-style empire of the 21st century – whose Emperor happens to be the rebellion leader’s father – is a high school student endowed with magical powers by a hot woman with a mysterious past who takes a liking to him and rides a giant robot to protect him while every single secondary character in the series rushes to join said leader’s high school so that wacky hijinks, political betrayals and panty shots can ensue.
Whew. There. Did I miss anything?
The bad news is that if some of those anime genres irk you, then you’re bound to encounter them at some point and they’ll spoil your Code Geass fun. High school harem shows have always ticked me off (except for the awesome School Days), and so my blood pressure skyrockets whenever Lelouche, the main character, finds himself yet again in the sights not of Britannia’s soldiers but of a gaggle of teenage lovestruck bimbos from his supposedly “upper class” high school. What the hell do they teach those kids? Whorehood 101?
The second part of Code Geass‘s one-two punch is the plot twist. Remember Killer Instinct, the arcade beat-em up game? Remember how you could break your opponent’s combos by timing a counter and the game would yell “C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!!”? Good. Now imagine that sound looped over a techno background for twenty-five minutes while someone shoves doujin mega-cleavage shots in your face. Congratulations, you’ve just watched an episode of Code Geass.
The series is an exercise in oneupmanship (and fanservice, but I won’t get into that here). Lelouche devises a devious strategy, then Suzaku jumps in to foil his plans… Only to realize too late that Lelouche had set a brilliant trap for him! Except yet another random character appears out of nowhere to defuse the trap so Lelouche has to sweat for a second or two before Karen or a mysterious rebellion sponsor pulls his chestnuts out of the fire, and so on and so forth.
Don’t get me wrong: it works, but barely, since you’re constantly jostled between both sides until you can’t figure out who you should be rooting for, and that makes me see the worst in every primary character. Are we supposed to be happy for Lelouche the manipulative douchebag when he cockblocks Suzaku the self-righteous prick? Probably. It’s fortunate there’s a gallery of morally ambiguous and equally interesting secondary characters to get me through.
And yet, despite its obvious flaws, I recommend Code Geass. If only so you can be part of the cool kids’ gang and bitch about which girl Lelouche should end up shagging. (Save Karen already, for fuck’s sake.)
Straight from the cortex of Masamune Shirow, creator of Ghost in the Shell, comes this neat sci-fi series about a diver who wakes up from a coma after fifty years. It’s now 2061, and the world has changed after his best buddy Kushima, the scientist who accompanied him on his fateful last dive, has developped the Meta-Real Network (the Metal for short). Imagine the bastard child of the Internet and the Matrix without the whole hassle of being a slave to robotkind. And it just so happens that the men and women charged with investigating the Metal’s hiccups are called divers! Jeez, I wonder if our protagonist’s former diving skills will ever come in handy. That is, once he regains control over his bladder.
Sounds like a sweet setup, right? You bet. But Real Drive never quite lives up to its premise’s potential. The first four episodes are indeed riveting as you find your footing in that world the same way that Haru-san, the formerly comatose diver, struggles to. But past the episode four mark, it’s a one-way trip to Filler Town, baby. There is no overarching storyline to speak of: it seems the show can only come up with random encounters with Metal issues and bugs, which Haru-san and his partner Minamo the cute chubby high school girl must fix.
Speaking of Minamo’s chubbiness, Shirow decided to distance himself from the usual “matchstick girl” school of drawing women in anime, and embraced Renaissance voluptuousness as his template for every single female character in Real Drive. The result: full-figured female characters that are scaring the bejesus out of rabid anime fanboys across the Internet. Here’s a hint, fanboys: this is what most women look like, and it’s HOT. (Link is to a picture is of Holon, the sexy female-android-ninja-maid. No I did not just make that up.)
All in all, Real Drive is average entertainment at best; it fails to captivate and doesn’t answer any of the pressing questions that its premise posed. One item worth mentioning, however, is its absolute kickass opening theme, a fast-paced hard rock ballad that is the best of this season so far, in my opinion.
Kaiba begins with a nameless protagonist waking up with complete amnesia in a world where people can exchange bodies and alter their memories. As seen above, he has a hole in his chest (talk about an awesome metaphor) and his only possession is a locket containing a picture of a beautiful, smiling girl. He very quickly realizes that people are after him, or perhaps after his body, and so he is forced to run, gathering hints as to his true identity and meeting a colorful slew of characters – one of which bestows upon him the only name he has: Warp.
The first thing you’ll notice about Kaiba is how the images and music were tailored to support the outlandish world and Warp’s story. The animation is deliberately childish, with fluid bold lines, pastel tones, and nary a straight line in sight. Even the guns the characters whip out are exaggerated cylinders that fire formless gobs of yellow goo. Then there’s the light and fluffy soundtrack, except for the opening and ending themes, which are mournful and haunting, with lyrics that speak of love and loss. If Real Drive has the best opening theme, then Kaiba is #2 on that list and #1 in the ending theme category.
But the highest praise I can lavish upon what is, after all, my favorite series this season is that Kaiba nourishes the brain, the heart and the soul.
What makes a person who they are, in Kaiba‘s world? You can switch bodies if the one you started with has grown old or tired, provided you have the money for it. If you have a few too many heartbreak stories in your closet, hell, you can pay to get rid of those too and replace them with shiny meadows and happy days. So where is the ego, the “me”, if your body and your memories are accesory to your being? What remains? Maybe it’s what other people think of “you”. But then again, why should you trust anyone’s memories either? These are all questions that the show raises subconsciously in the watcher. They are never explicitly stated, always implied.
Beyond the intellectual exercises, though, are a plethora of poignant stories. There’s Vanilla the sheriff, who elopes with Warp when he meets him inside the body of a nubile young girl, never realizing that Warp was the fugitive he was looking for all along. There’s Patch, the crazed artificial body designer who lives in a Groundhog Day universe with his pet dog, both prisoners of their own bodies – but for different reasons. And then there’s Popo, who found Warp and christened him, and Neiro, the girl in the locket, who are both in way over their head. In this universe, no one is truly insane, which means everyone is a little.
Watch it. Now. Kaiba is what I mean when I say that anime is a superior medium. It’s a thoroughly adult show that you won’t be able to forget.
BONUS FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Sekirei!
I picked up the first episode of this brand new series on a whim a couple of days ago. I had zero information about it, but now that I’ve sampled the first episode, I wish I’d had some advanced warning.
Loner boy meets magical fighting girl who seems to have appeared fully formed (and I do mean fully formed, if you catch my drift) out of a Street Fighter concept art book. Magical girl then moves in with loser boy, undresses repeatedly in front of him, and finally gets him kicked out of his apartment when the landlord (by far the most well-rounded and funniest character thus far) catches them together. Oh, and magical fighting girl is part of a secret fighting ring à la Highlander where the winner gets to ascend to Heaven and OH FUCK IT ALL TO HELL AND BACK.
If you watched Fate/stay night and were disappointed that it did not remain faithful to the source material and was lacking in the “ginormous tits and ample asses” department, you’ll love Sekirei. Otherwise, I’m smelling another Kanokon. Although at least this time there’s no statutory rape involved (so far). I’ll check out the next couple of episodes, but if by episode four the tantalizing ice girl I glanced in the opening sequence hasn’t appeared, I’m outta there.
Today’s Karen is: HAPPY