October 07, 2007
There's yet another Gundam series beginning now, and there's a description of it here. Which reminded me that I hadn't mentioned that I'm not even slightly interested in the series.
It's everything that's wrong with mecha shows, as far as I'm concerned. It's everything that's wrong with anime which is designed primarily to sell toys. It's been sequelized so much that the thin soup is now indistinguishable from distilled water.
Have you seen how many Gundam series and movies there have been? (And I thought DBZ went on interminably long! Sheesh.) And every one is 14 year old boy wish-fulfilment. Even when I was that age I would have known how stupid it was.
I'll give them points for including at least one battle mecha on tracks instead of on legs in the original series. But it's still a stupid design. Tall, with a short footprint, is still easier to hit and easier to knock down than short and flat like a tank. If those guns are anything like reasonable weapons, the recoil risks knocking that thing on its backside. And why, oh why, oh why has it got arms? Dumb, dumb, dumb...
Not interested, not curious.
Posted by: ubu at October 08, 2007 06:48 AM (dhRpo)
In most Gundams (I am not a Gundam expert, but this is my understanding from what I have seen and read), there is generally a nominal "good" and "bad" side. The heroes are introduced as working for the cause of the "good" side, if not always directly for it. However, as the series progresses, the line between the sides blurs, and the "good" leaders are shown to be stupid and selfish. The heroes then begin fighting for "themselves", or "their buddies", or "because that's what soldiers do", with no mention of strategic goals or an end state besides a cease fire. Psychobabble gets tossed around about a soldier's fate, and why wars are horrible, but we have to have them so that soldiers have something to do, or somesuch. The series then wraps up with some big doomsday weapon, while distracting the viewer from the bigger picture with personal/romantic plots with the heroes.
About the only character I really enjoy from any Gundam is Duo from (gasp) Gundam Wing; as portrayed, at least, he almost seems to know he's in a poorly-written anime and is determined to have some fun as he gets shuffled from plot device to plot device.
The sad thing is, the original concept--Earth blows billions setting up space colonies, space colonies make massive amounts of money but are unhappy with Earth ownership, racial factors (in some series, the colonists will have Space Nazis, while Earth has the Klan), lots of tension and no clear way to satisfy parties that *should* otherwise be able to get along with each other--fascinates me. Because, whether the writers know it or not, there are a lot of parallels to the American Revolution (which is not exactly a boring story), and a tight story written with fewer cardboard villains and less pacifistic moaning could really be neat.
But, instead, I expect we'll get more of the same, and my participation will be limited to reading episode summaries and laughing at them.
Posted by: BigD at October 08, 2007 10:21 AM (JJ4vV)
Posted by: Toren at October 08, 2007 11:06 AM (a7WnG)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 08, 2007 02:18 PM (+rSRq)
The problem is, we're hardwired to be skeptical of anyone claiming to conquer anything, anywhere, anytime for the betterment of mankind. But in that universe, the UM is shown to be racist and xenophobic, through their constant propagandizing about the Abh.. It's also noteworthy that the Abh may intend to conquer the galaxy, but they're patient. The Triple Alliance attacked them, not the other way around. I read it to mean their policy is "anytime you're stupid enough to attack us, we'll expand by defeating you. Eventually we'll rule everything, and that will put a stop to this nonsense."
The Abh generally don't care what the planets they rule do; they basically finance the Empire not through taxation of the planets or citizens, but by the Empress' absolute control of all shipping. She owns all civilian ships outright, and only Abh crew interstellar-capable ships. The nobles then finance themselves through selling fuel to the Empress' ships. (An open question is acquisition of raw resources. Are planets required to supply anything, or do the Abh buy from them, or do they only mine asteroids and dead planets? I don't see how they avoid the first.)
The control of trade should make it possible to gouge the planets mercilessly, but the Abh seem to be practicing supply-siders. We never see anyone complain that the Abh are bleeding them dry with taxation or gouging them in trade fees. Grounders are pretty much left to do as they please. While Febdesh's may exist, they would appear to be the exception.
Posted by: ubu at October 08, 2007 03:51 PM (6LwAg)
The problem is, the Abh Empire is... an empire. Sure, they're expansionist out of an old fear of being wiped out, but that just makes it all the more tragic. The fact is, the Abh routinely threaten to wipe out all life on entire worlds if they don't knuckle under, even if those worlds are no theat and have no FTL capability. To harm a single Abh is to see your planet burn.
The Abh impose hereditary dictatorships on their worlds. The *only* protection billions of people have from a Febdesh--or a Spohr--is the Abh sense of aristocratic nobility. That's a dang thin veil to stand between you and planetary anihillation. And as the Abh expand across space, tearing down democracies and dictatorships alike to impose their own feudal monarchy, the number of planets that *will* be oppressed, or outright destroyed, will grow. Against that threat, signing on to even a racist and xenophobic nation sounds like a good idea.
Posted by: BigD at October 08, 2007 04:23 PM (JJ4vV)
In general I've enjoyed little of it, but the short OAV's 0080 and 0083 were quite well done and the off the wall Turn A, despite the silly Syd Mead mech designs, tells an engaging and upbeat story. (Syd Mead should NEVER do mechs..never ever.)
On Ubu's comments regards CotS: I think the Abh may be based on the ideas of Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihin. The constitutional monarchy with bit checks on the Monarchy (multiple royal families) to prevent a King George or Ivan the Terrible situation is intriguing.
I think that the Abh should be able to completely supply themselves via asteroid/ comet mining possibly supplemented by mining uninhabitable worlds for, say radioactives or other very dense materials.
One point on the propaganda of the UM,
Posted by: Ken Talton at October 08, 2007 04:25 PM (f+fMU)
Posted by: metaphysician at October 08, 2007 04:47 PM (KVPNK)
Ubu, the Abh were involved in a long-term campaign of conquering and pacifying human worlds even before the war began. Part of why the Alliance started the war was that the Abh had been nibbling away at them for decades.
Martine wasn't part of any of the empires when the Abh showed up, but the Abh found them because the Abh were involved in conquering that section of the galaxy anyway.
And BigD's point is a good one: a noble in charge of a planet has virtually complete autonomy to do whatever he wants with it and with his people. Just look at what Febdash did with his little mansion, and how obsequious all his retainers were. That's not a life I want to live. (Not that he'd have me, of course, since I'm not a young, beautiful woman.)
The Empire gets its revenue from interstellar trade, but I see no reason why the noble who owns a planet would be forbidden to tax it, to whatever extent he feels appropriate. It's true that he makes money from selling fuel, but I doubt that's the full extent of his source of wealth.
I'm not convinced that interstellar trade is the sole source of tax revenue for the Empire, either. You can't finance the kind of war we see being fought through just that. The Empire lost more than 5,000 ships just at the Battle of Aptic Gate. That's a tremendous amount of wealth, yet it was hardly a scratch on the combined fleet that the Crown Prince commanded in that campaign. I think that the Empire must levy taxes on the nobles, who are told "Raise it however you want."
The basic problem with the empire is that it is absolutist. The lowest level of citizens, subjects of some noble, are effectively slaves. It happens to be the case that in many, perhaps even most, worlds it's a benign absolutism but that could change. Anytime there's a generational turnover in the nobility for a planet, you could get a Caligula or a Nero. And the Empire wouldn't care.
Subjects of a planet can escape by joining the Navy, but as soon as they retire they have to return to their home world, and resume effective slaveship. It's only grounders who become officers (like Samson) who are freed from that. Technically they become knights (of which there are millions) and Abh. Any kids Samsom eventually has will, by law, have blue hair and the extra sense organ.
This page talks about some of those things.
(Sigh, topic drift. This was supposed to be a thread about Gundam.)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 08, 2007 05:21 PM (+rSRq)
By chance Syd had a table next to me at one of the San Diego Comic Cons, the same year he was working on the Gundam mecha designs. He had a sketchbook filled with ideas, and after swearing me to secrecy, he happily showed me page after page of ghastly designs. Syd is a really, really nice guy, so I plastered a smile on my face and nodded brightly, all the while hoping the Japanese designers could salvage something from the wreckage.
Alas, they could not...or chose not to. He's kind of a god over there.
Posted by: Toren at October 08, 2007 05:41 PM (/a4K5)
Well, the topic may have drifted, but it drifted to be of more interest to the readership.
What little I've seen of Gundam did little to impress me, but that was largely because I saw it long after getting into the hobby. Historically, it's significant, but the form has moved so far beyond it, that it now seems more quaint than anything.
And seeing as we've got a mini CotS discussion going...
A couple friends expressed an interest in starting a weekly anime night a couple months ago. We've completed three weeks so far. They expressed an interest in watching a straight sci-fi / space opera last week, so tomorrow night they get their first exposure to Crest of the Stars. I know at least on of them is going to be aggravated that the show it incomplete, but I can just point him in the general direction of the (slowly) translated novels.
Posted by: Will at October 08, 2007 05:43 PM (E3UGR)
Posted by: metaphysician at October 08, 2007 06:05 PM (KVPNK)
Metaphysician: This isn't really a spoiler, so I'm going to stop tagging it that way:
...unless your intended target audience doesn't consider 'creating genetically engineered slaves' to be a bad thing.
If you've studied societies which have relied on slaves, one thing you find is that the free social class considers this to be acceptable, and even justified. It is the slaves' lot in life to serve, and attempting to rise above that, no matter how, is seen as wrong.
So in fact, it would not be difficult in the United Mankind propaganda to make it seem as if the Abh not only had been slaves, but deserved to be slaves, and were not entitled to become free -- let alone entitled to ultimately own and rule all genetic humans. Not a difficult sell at all.
It's not just slaves which are seen that way. That was also the case in feudal societies. The upper classes see the existing order as being how things should be. The lowest class are not seen as equals; they're one step up from animals and they exist only to serve their betters. That was the case in Dark Ages Europe, and that's how it was in Feudal Japan, and in China for most of its history.
In fact, the feudal system as presented in Crest/Banner is patterned on the feudal system as it existed just before the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The peasants in a given fief belonged to their daimyo for all intents and purposes, who could do pretty much anything he wanted in his own domain. If he was sworn to a greater daimyo, that one might decide to interfere but generally did not do so. For all practical purposes, everyone besides a few samurai were property. Peasants who tried to flee their homeland would be captured and returned, and probably be severely punished.
That was true in Europe, too. Peasants didn't have any choice; they had to stay on the land where they were born -- because without peasants, land is worthless.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 08, 2007 06:34 PM (+rSRq)
Posted by: metaphysician at October 08, 2007 07:55 PM (KVPNK)
Posted by: Jim Burdo at October 08, 2007 10:40 PM (XLOZY)
Why machine guns? It's part of the genre. I noticed it when I watched Gasaraki: infantry never have appropriate weapons when they fight against mecha. They always use light machine guns and rifles.
Because part of the wish-fulfilment is to walk through a battlefield ignoring all the fire from the puny, weak, humans around you. It isn't very fun if you walk your mecha onto a battlefield and lose it to multiple AP rocket hits almost immediately.
That's one of several things I really hated about Gasaraki, and I gather it's a more generic thing in the genre as a whole.
That kind of assumption is not uncommon in other genres. For instance, in stories about criminals (e.g. Noir) one genre-level assumption is that the police are invariably either stupid or corrupt, and thus don't represent a hazard to the criminals at the center of your story. Two or three times in Noir, Mireille and Kirika leave a really amazing number of corpses behind in some park or other. It never leads to headlines, and they're never bothered by the police.
I'll grant that one, because the genre wouldn't be any fun without it. I assume the same logic is supposed to apply to the problem of infantry in mecha shows, but I won't grant that one. Corrupt or incompetent cops are one thing, but infantry fighting for their lives against enemy mecha aren't going to make a mistake like that.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 08, 2007 11:20 PM (+rSRq)
Last comment on C/BOTS: In the end, while I tend to think the Abh are better than their form of government (remember, they do NOT think exactly like us -- a point is made in Banner III about the "obedience gene") the key question is: "Would you want to be a serf in their empire, or in the United Mankind?" My opinion of the UM is so low, that I'm not sure. But I don't think I'd have objected to being a common person on Martine.
As for stupid mechas, well, I kept trying to find an excuse for them in Godannar. I thought it was interesting that Pops admitted the design was physically weaker. And at the end, the (male) Dr. Aoi said that it was the connection with the users spirit that made it work the way it did. Aside from the enormous resources required to maintain one, that would explain whey there were only a dozen or so in the world--only certain pilots could operate one.
Posted by: ubu at October 09, 2007 05:20 AM (dhRpo)
Crew-served heavy infantry weapons would completely strip away the veneer of invincibility granted to mecha against anything but other mecha or superweapons, and prove just how stupid a concept mecha really are. Hence, the complete absence of crew-served heavy weapons.
Heck, even land mines would be perfect for dealing with mecha.
Posted by: Will at October 09, 2007 05:47 AM (E3UGR)
At one point in Gasaraki, the JDF is protecting a certain facility and they know that they will be attacked there by mechas. They prepare their defenses -- but they don't call out engineers to lay any mines. Or do anything else which actually would have a chance of stopping the things.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 09, 2007 07:35 AM (+rSRq)
Posted by: ubu at October 09, 2007 07:57 AM (dhRpo)
I would *hope* that things like Band of Brothers would help them figure this out, but I doubt it. Hollywood groks combat far less than even non-geek anime writers.
Posted by: BigD at October 09, 2007 09:06 AM (JJ4vV)
Ugh. The sins of that movie are endless. A prefab fort... under a cliff... with external supports... and no protection for the guys manning the machine guns. And that's just one scene.
But to combat topic drift...
One of the things that I never agreed with was the various Gundam's ability to either reach or de-orbit with little or no extra equipment. It was utterly absurd that they could carry that much energy. I don't care what sort of handwave "science" you use, you've got to have enough energy; if not to counteract gravity, then to cancel it with some scientific bolongnium.
In Vandred, I was pleased to note that the Vans, while being space or ground units, were not air units. They required a special "umbrella" shield or a dedicated sled to take the heat of descent, and the umbrella doubled as a (highly improbable) booster rocket to take it back up to space. The Dreads were space fighters only, and it was thought that the VanDreads were also, until Vandread Jura crashed into the water planet.
Of all the robot series I've ever tried to watch, that one was still the most unique and fun.
Posted by: ubu at October 09, 2007 09:55 AM (dhRpo)
Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at October 09, 2007 12:15 PM (9imyF)
Posted by: Jim Burdo at October 10, 2007 03:33 AM (Fg19u)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 10, 2007 06:51 AM (+rSRq)
I have seen snippets of various Gundam shows, and frankly they just never did it for me. I want my mecha shows to be either completely over the top ala Goddannar or where the mecha is really just a tool for doing a job. All of the big mecha shows, Evangellion included are let down as others have noted by the completely unrealistic tactics employed, and overall lack of realism. I have yet to find an single manga or anime that realisticly portrays combat, I know that it is hard to do but could some one at least try. Hell the most realistic portrayal of combat in anime that comes readily to mind is the battle for Lior in FullMetal Alchemist. Say what you may about the show but the director understood concepts like reconnasence, combined armor-infantry combat teams and the use of cover and concealment, etc etc.
Posted by: Raging Tachikoma at October 10, 2007 01:37 PM (hREDU)
Banner of the Stars portrays combat that I thought was completely plausible, but it's fleet actions, not ground action.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 10, 2007 02:44 PM (+rSRq)
Hmm, me thinks I will now have to add Banner of the Stars to my depressingly long list of anime I need to get. I am down with fleet actions, I always thought that was the one kind of combat that tends to get portrayed in at least a semi realistic manner in anime or movies.
Posted by: Raging Tachikoma at October 10, 2007 07:38 PM (hREDU)
I still find it extraordinary that the same people who could produce the kamikazes could produce stuff like the utopian all war is bad pacifism you find in Gundam. Although series like Gundam have characters who are comparable to the sorts of professional military officers you'd find in any western military--people who take killing seriously, but aren't lost in a state of perpetual existential angst--the focus always seems to be on the adolescent boy who's horrified by what he does, but who, always, strangely enough, is extremely good at it, while suffering from endless angst.
And there's also the extremely odd portrayals of military organizations you find in Anime. The female sub captain in Full Metal Panic for me takes the cake--I don't mind, because I think she's hot--but seeing her as a "captain" is truly preposterous.
Speaking of combat realism in mecha shows, all the comments in the thread are of course right, but Mecha shows for me are like the lightsabers of Star Wars--they allow futuristic technology to be mixed with the more stylized military practices of Feudal aristocracies, i.e. the single hand-to-hand duel with edged weapons. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and I've always seen the use of humanoid mecha as an attempt to have the whiz-bang benefits of technology, while not feeling completely swamped by the machine. So give them limbs and have them fight like swordsmen at times. Even if it doesn't really make all the much sense. Now, if *that* isn't wish fulfillment, I don't know what is.
Posted by: baseball68 at October 10, 2007 08:04 PM (NFKek)
Posted by: Raging Tachikoma at October 10, 2007 09:17 PM (hREDU)
That Japanese double-think about their past is most apparent to me in how they seem to have a kind of romantic view of what things were like in Japan in the early Taishou era, say around 1921. In a lot of anime it's portrayed as a sort of golden age. There's a big military presence, but the military is viewed in idealistic terms, and the Japan of that era is seen as a world power who deals as an equal with the Europeans in a world of comity. Life at home in Japan is idyllic.
It wasn't actually like that. Japan of 1921 was a police state. Japan did deal with the other great nations but they all resented it. There sure as hell wasn't any comity, and given that everyone in Japan was constantly pelted by propaganda and indoctrination, life at home was far from being idyllic.
And even to the extent that it was like that, it got really a lot worse shortly thereafter. Civilian government was hamstrung by military intervention even in 1921, and by the end of the 20's it was a sham. By the mid 1930's even the pretense was abandoned, and Japan was ruled by the Army.
As to the "comity" part, Japan in 1921 was very, very imperialistic. American "Manifest Destiny" had nothing on Japan's aspirations.
But you won't find any of that in anime. When that era is portrayed, it's peace and happiness and bunnies frolicking in the sunshine. The first couple of times I ran into that misportrayal of that period in anime (Sakura Wars, and then Steel Angel Kurumi) I was offended by it. Now I just take it in stride.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 10, 2007 10:19 PM (+rSRq)
Raging Tachikoma, how about the combat realism in Shirow Masamune's works? They seem pretty logical.
Another anime with combat fleet actions: Legends of Galactic Heroes. It seems to be in more of a strategic mindset that cost the Japanese navy in WWII.
In contrast to Steel Angel Kuromi, Pumpkin Scissors is set in an analog to Germany after WWI (although they use Japanese military insignia). It's not a police state, but living conditions are pretty grim for most people. The titular unit focuses on war relief.
Posted by: Jim Burdo at October 11, 2007 06:19 AM (Fg19u)
Mea Culpa, I didn't use paragraphs. Originally I had ontended to keep it brief but I got going and didn't stop to think about formatting.
I totally agree with you about the highly romanticized view of Japan in the late Meji to early Taisho period, there is never any attempt made to adress the real issues of the time either the severe political repression and growing military influence in politics or the stark divide between the haves and have nots.
The duality shows itself best when ever the Japanese talk about security issues, from both sides of the isle you hear about how Japan should be playing a greater role in the world, and she has to carry her own weight. But when push comes to shove people are quick to hide behind article nine because actually doing something requires making tough choices.
As for Shiro Masumune's work, yeah some of it is realistic, but some of it is completely unbelievable. The Ghost in the Shell stuff is pretty good in some respects, but it is reaslly only ever focusing on one group of highly trained professionals. Section Nine is nothing but a SWAT team on steroids with a really loose set of rules of engagement. His portrayal of anything to do with armor tends to fall flat, there is a reason tanks have been using tracks since the first world war. A tank with legs would be much easier to diable than a conventional design. I won't even try to talk about Dominion Tank Police, which is a cool show that falls into the ridiculously over the top category.
Posted by: Raging Tachikoma at October 11, 2007 08:57 AM (hREDU)
Enclose all spoilers in spoiler tags:
[spoiler]your spoiler here[/spoiler]
Spoilers which are not properly tagged will be ruthlessly deleted on sight.
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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