November 12, 2009
There are shows which reach out and seize my imagination. I can't stop thinking about them. They're rare, but I think they're also the ones that keep me coming back. It's what I most want from anime. Sadly, they really are rare.
Shingu did it. After I watched it the first time I immediately watched it twice more. I spent time thinking about the characters and their motivation. I found myself trying to fill in pieces of the story, though I didn't really need to because the story is very tight.
Tenchi Muyo GXP did it. It's a fan service comedy; it isn't trying to tell any kind of great story. Yet the characters became very tangible for me. For instance, I eventually figured out what Seto was really doing and how Seina fit into her plans. She isn't just raising hell for the hell of it; she's genuinely working towards something really big, something really important, and something really worthwhile, and she sees Seina as the critical tool which can make it happen.
Macademi Wasshoi did it to me. Many were repelled by the character designs, or thought that the series was stupid pandering. But the characters and the story spoke to me; they became people I liked and wanted to know more about.
Banner of the Stars did it to me. The technology worked better for me than is usually the case in space opera. The original author really thought through what he was doing, and his various ship designs and they way they fight really make sense in terms of his assumptions. The characters are vivid and totally believable, as well as being very admirable.
It's such a rare experience, unfortunately. Last summer I hoped that Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou was going to be another one, but I lost interest in it after about 5 episodes and never went back.
Last spring, I thought Saki was going to do it. But in the end it simply dragged too much, and didn't maintain the things that had made it work.
But last week it happened to me again. This time it was Mai Otome Zwei. I'm not really sure just why the magic happens, but whatever it is, this series has it.
Actually, I have at least some of an idea about what makes a show do this to me. In most cases it's not so much what it has as what it doesn't have: tropes, shortcuts, stereotypical characters, stories that don't really merit the name, characters that are cardboard cutouts. Spectacle as a substitute for substance. Filler.
And angst. I hate angst.
Anyway, Mai Otome Zwei works for me. I've watched it about five times now. It really caught me by surprise, especially considering how uninteresting Mai Otome was for me when I tried to watch it.
On my first viewing, I wondered why the hijacked-bus sequence took so long, but now I think I understand. It was for fans of the TV series; it was so we could spend a lot of time with Haruka and Yukino. And I came to enjoy that pair, since they are so radically different in temperament. Yukino is quiet, thoughtful, and brave. Haruka is brash, loud, and fearless.
Even so, their partnership works for them. And it has to be noted that Haruka is a real crowd pleaser, within the show (the people of Aries) and, I would wager, among the fans.
The story moves so fast that there isn't time for angst. Yeah, Arika and Mashiro quarrel, but there isn't any time to focus on that, which suits me fine. And the action in the show is awesome.
It just grabbed me. I wish more shows could do that for me.
UPDATE: Aika Zero sure as hell hasn't done it to me, but I still wish someone would sub the second episode of it. It's been out for a week and a half!
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Also, I hate unsolicited suggestions and advice. (Even when you think you're being funny.)
At Chizumatic, we take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately.
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