June 10, 2007

Ubu Roi's perfect series

Ubu Roi talks about his perfect series (and includes numerous big-time spoilers, like revealing the ending of Cowboy Bebop).

I just got through watching his perfect series. It's called Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars.

Here's what he wants:

He wants the main characters to grow. Nayuta, Hajime, Moriguchi, and Harumi all grow a lot. Muryou doesn't, but he's something of a cipher.

He wants the story line to be unpredictable. Hoo boy; I can't think of a series that's crossed me up more than this one. It seems like they were constantly surprising me, and yet none of it was contrived.

He wants sympathetic major characters. No problem there; one of the most distinctive things about this series is how likeable the characters are. Hajime is strong, competent, and caring. He's got guts. Nayuta is complicated and conflicted -- and she's got guts, too.

He wants a good OP and ED. Well, I guess this series isn't outright perfect after all; the OP and ED completely suck.

He wants humor. Shingu is fundamentally a comedy, though there are periods of action. He wants the humor to be intelligent -- and it is. No slapstick here. No "walking in on the girls in the dressing room" jokes. No "get caught in a compromising position" jokes. Nothing like that at all. Humor in this series derives from characters and their failings, which is why it's usually at the expense of Nayuta or Moriguchi. But it isn't mean; we're laughing at them, but at the same time we like them for it. We're not laughing at them because they're stupid, we're laughing at them because they're human.

One particular source of warm humor is Nayuta's "No! No. Yes. A bit." act. She keeps denying things she's feeling and someone else sees right through her and tells her exactly what she's really feeling. Early on she keeps denying it, but part of her growth, and something of a turning point in the series, is when she starts admitting that the other is right. A couple of her childhood friends do this to her, and one person she's only recently met ends up being particularly good at it. None of them are doing it maliciously.

Ubu Roi wants it to defy the tropes. That's almost a hallmark of Shingu. For instance, there's a love triangle at the center of the story -- only it isn't, because none of the three falls in love. Nayuta isn't a tsundere. She isn't a genki girl. Hajime isn't hapless. Harumi isn't an emotionless girl. I can't count the number of tropes they telegraphed and then subverted.

He says that fan service isn't necessary -- and there isn't any. He doesn't like the camera to dwell on bishies, and that's not a problem. The girls are cute but they don't emphasize that; not even with Setsuna, Muryou's college age older sister. (It did seem to me that as the series progressed that Nayuta and Harumi seemed to get drawn with larger and larger bustlines, but only by a bit, and it never came close to the level of fan service; I think it was just art drift.)

He likes high quality animation. In Shingu the character designs are unusual and my initial reaction was negative, but I soon got used to it and came to like it. The backgrounds are outstanding, and the battle sequences are great. This isn't high budget animation but it's competent.

They didn't use any standard graphics devices. No "worry drops", no "pulsing veins", no "ocular gushers". No superdeformation. No chibis. That's all to the good.

He wants tight plotting, and this is where Shingu shines most strongly. It's an outstanding story, rich and deep and well conceived. Part of why they were able to keep surprising me was that they understood their world so well, and I didn't understand it at all while I was watching the series the first time.

He doesn't want excessive brutality. No concerns; it isn't. No blood, for instance. This series isn't dark and isn't intended to be dark.

He doesn't want stupid major characters. Moriguchi is stupid but he isn't a major character. (Besides, he gets better.) One of the most impressive things about this is how smart and competent Hajime is. He's the major character and he isn't a hapless nerd.

He doesn't like series where there's no character growth. I think Hajime grows a lot in this series, but it's Nayuta who really changes the most. The final scene of the series, showing Nayuta with two of her friends, demonstrates clearly without dialog just how much she's changed from the beginning -- and it's a happy-making moment. (But not a lump-in-the-throat moment.)

He doesn't like a series with "thin, unbelievable or missing backstory." Ahem; not to worry. Already talked about that.

I told Ubu Roi that Divergence Eve and Misaki Chronicles were outstanding, and he found them to be so. Now I say that Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars is even better. It's a series with an excellent story to tell, that doesn't feel the need to pander while telling it. So the only real question is, when's he gonna order his copy?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in People at 05:15 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 872 words, total size 5 kb.

1 Yeah, yeah.  I was already working out what to package with it to get the order over $100 for super saver shipping yesterday, lemme alone.... Sheesh..  My previous order had all the "pre-release" stuff and I requested Robert hold it until complete, so I won't get it until July.   

This is going to be something like $300 of animé in two months. My aching credit card!  I haven't even finished Outlaw Star, Planetes, or GITS:SAC.  Which is more wrong; wasting money by not watching animé I bought, or wasting time by watching something I'm not interested in?  Sigh. I think I'll be indecisive about that for a while. Or maybe not.

And I put better warnings up and blacked out more stuff on the post.  If you've seen the series, no problem, you'll understand my points.  If you haven't, just don't uncover any of them. 

Posted by: ubu roi at June 10, 2007 08:22 PM (e1/7B)

2 I keep forgetting that I have Proxomitron rules set up to override all your colors, so I don't see your blackouts. I should have looked at it with Proxomitron disabled before I worried about the spoilers.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 10, 2007 09:26 PM (+rSRq)

3 If I knew enough php to hack the template, I'd create my own spoiler tags. Hmmmm. Maybe someone's already done that  I'll search for WP plugins tonight.  I've been wanting to hack the comments page for some time to add a formatting bar like the one on your site.  You get it if you edit your comments at Mahou, but not when you're creating them for the first time.

Posted by: ubu roi at June 11, 2007 05:13 AM (dhRpo)

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