June 03, 2007

Yeeowtch!

If this site goes dark until July 1, this will be the reason why. (I don't expect it, but even so, itai!)

On to other subjects. Regular commenter Avatar, a long time correspondent, just marathoned Misaki Chronicles last night, and says:

You're right, it really turned out to be not that kind of show,
and in fact was easily one of the best SF anime I've seen.

A lot of stories where they mix science fiction and horror the SF is just a paint job on the backdrop, so that you can have vampires in a space ship instead of vampires in a castle. The heroes shoot at zombies with ray guns instead with shot guns. The ghosts are chased away with phlebotinum instead of holy water. The Divergence Eve/Misaki Chronicles series handles that much better. The science fiction elements are critical to the story.

But that's not why this is such a good series. In the end the real reason that this story works so well is the characters. At the beginning what you've got is four central girls and their commander and our main reaction is "Wow! Look at the huge tits on those babes!"

But by the end all five are distinct individuals, and they're all people we come to care a lot about. In the end this series works because the characters are well conceived and well presented. They become important individuals to us. Their fates matter.

Divergence Eve rearranged the story telling, and presented the 12th episode first. There are good reasons why they did that, and in the end I think it works, but it does have one drawback: the 12th episode, which we see first, neglects characterization in favor of action. It concentrates on the last and most important battle fought at Watcher's Nest. Someone (ahem, comment #1) who watches just that episode, for instance on a teaser DVD sent to them by ADV, will come away with an even more distorted view of the series. Not only "looka them boobs" but also a feeling that the series is disjoint and primarily about gizmos and fancy CGI. Which couldn't be further from the truth.

After you've finished watching Misaki Chronicles, what becomes clear is that the story tellers had a really good story to tell, and knew they did -- but didn't think they could sell that story on the merits, either to their studio or to an audience. So they had to hide it, disguise it, attach things to it. Like huge boobs. Things that would convince a studio to fund, and convince an audience to watch.

Things like huge boobs.

It's sad that it should be like that. But as I've said before, it did work. I myself picked up Divergence Eve because of the character art. Without my realizing it, I was actually buying a hell of a good story about amazing characters. It wasn't just a vehicle for delivering ecchi.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in at 11:59 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 492 words, total size 3 kb.

1 We'll see, won't we? 

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 03, 2007 01:36 PM (GpR+s)

2

You will. I already have.

I've heard from quite a few people who decided to take a risk on DE/MC based on my fervent advocacy, and every one of them has thanked me for it. I have never received a letter from anyone who, once they were finished with the series, thought it was a waste of time.

I'm sure that there must be someone out there who didn't like it; that's not the point. The point is that this is a series which is easy to underestimate.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 03, 2007 01:42 PM (+rSRq)

3 Oh, you mean like Azumanga Daioh, huh?

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 03, 2007 02:53 PM (GpR+s)

4 Misaki Chronicles especially is such a weird show; it never properly explained what it was doing when it was coming out, so many sites originally had it tagged as a PREQUEL to
DE based off of the first episode.  I think it's not until the 6th episode or so that you finally pick up what's going on.

I'll admit I still haven't seen the end of episode 12. >_<
Halfway through my translation of it there was news that ADV had liscenced the show, and since we'd prettymuch personally promised ADV's legal team that we wouldn't touch any of their shows that was the end of that.  For some reason I never bothered to finish watching it.

Wonderduck: I've been involved in the anime "scene" now for the past 5 years; I'm familiar with prettymuch everything that's come out in the states and a lot of stuff that hasn't.  The Divergence Eve series is easily among the top 5 shows in terms of its plot and the ideas that underlie it.  Steve isn't overselling the show, it's really that good. 

Posted by: Adam at June 03, 2007 03:20 PM (ff/q8)

5 Not top five, if you go across genres, but that kind of call is highly subjective anyway.

There's shows you like for reasons all your own and shows you dislike for reasons all your own. I enjoyed the heck out of Gasaraki because, well, my degree's in political science - all the backroom political maneuvering in the show is actually really interesting to me (especially in the Japanese context). But if you aren't specifically interested in that, it ain't a good show. Steven dislikes Azumanga because of Kimura; okay, pedophiles are creepy and a show that creeps you out isn't likely to be that entertaining. Sailor Moon gives me freakin' hives; it's not that the show is awful (well, I say it is, heh), but my specific dislike of it makes it a no-go in my book, even though I did enjoy freakin' Wedding Peach.

As an action/fanservice show, Divergence Eve isn't any great shakes - the CG animation is pretty sub-standard, considering how old it is, and the fanservice is of a particular type that I'm not all that attracted to in the first place. But it's a pretty good science-fiction story that manages to avoid gadget-mania (which I can live with a lot more easily, heh). It -was- a nice surprise, in that it could have easily been totally warmed-over crap.

I stayed away from it for a while because practically everyone that had run into the show while we were working on it had a negative impression of it - but a lot of that was for reasons unrelated to the show itself; Shoko had to take heroic efforts to resurrect the substandard translation, and she absolutely hated the show to begin with. (I'll point out that it's not -nearly- as good a show if you don't see Misaki Chronicles... yes, it's doing a good job of setting up and telling what actually happens to be a character-driven story, but the majority of the emotional payoff is in the second half.) Mistake - I thoroughly enjoyed the show, save for a technical problem that pissed me off in the last minute of the Misaki Chronicles thinpak (and that mostly because I used to fix that for a living!)

If I have any problems with it, it's that the physics in the show are confused enough that my normal "I've just seen a science-fiction show and I'm going to pontificate on the world-creation aspects of it" reflex didn't engage. The events were scattershot enough, and so poorly understood by the characters, that trying to talk about "what the Ghoul actually were" or fine points of spacecraft construction or Quantum Field generation or whatever is beside the point. In a way, though, that's a kind of excellence - it managed to take a story with a heavy SF component and tell it without relying on the audience's acceptance of technobabble; in short, it was generally easy to understand what was going on in broad strokes, even if "why" wasn't explained, and how that shaped the characters is what made the story work.

I wouldn't guarantee that not everyone would like it - there's plenty NOT to like, especially early on when the characterization hasn't come out and you're left with CG monsters and torpedo busts. And if I had a very limited anime budget, it's not where -I- would start. But yeah, that aside, it was still good stuff.

Posted by: Avatar at June 03, 2007 04:32 PM (PyY3O)

6 Sadly, this series is a low-profile, medium-budgeted production, and surely all the budget went to produce the actual animation, and not into advertising and marketing (it's amazing that nobody knows about this one, after all the investment in licensing and that stuff), so they had to add the gigantic breasts  to appeal to the masses.  I'm pretty sure the girls had more normal proportions in the original concept, and they added the big boobs later in a hurry, as a last-minute measure to sell their sci-fi/horror story to a broader and more simple-minded audience.

If you look al the medical station's computers in the variuos times they are diagnosing Misaki, her 3D-grid model is depicted with normally-sized breasts... So I'm guessing they re-did a lot of the the hand-drawn animation to "enhance" the characters after most the 3DCG was already done, and they didn't bother to re-render those details.

Besides, the character profiles in the intro make no sense: most of the girl's waist and breast measures are only 2 to 4 inches apart from each other... and that's not how they drew them in the end.

Posted by: mauro at June 03, 2007 06:32 PM (CGyUJ)

7

I don't believe that it's the case that the huge breasts were added at the last minute. The character designer has to do his work near the very beginning of a show's production, since so much depends on the character designs (e.g. all the animation), and the one they chose for this show is famous for pneumatic figures on women. Other character design credits: Amazing Nurse Nanako, Burn-up W, and something called "Shadow Skill" that I haven't seen. All of them (except maybe the last one) feature huge breasts on the women. I was told one time that his main business is doing character designs for H-games.

They chose him because he draws women that way. He would have started turning out preliminary sketches within days of coming on board. It has to have been one of the earliest decisions they made to have the breasts be huge.

The reason for the 3D image you saw is that it's a standard mesh, and modifying it to give it bigger breasts would have been difficult and expensive. Since it's only on screen for maybe 30 seconds total over the course of the series, definitely not worthwhile.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 03, 2007 06:59 PM (+rSRq)

8 Itai is right.

We won't be shutting anything down, of course.  Worst case, it will cost us about $500 in excess usage charges, which is a nuisance but hardly a disaster.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 03, 2007 07:25 PM (PiXy!)

9 Yeah, instead of a last-minute change, I'm thinking it was probably more of an "up-front condition". Some animation studio went to a TV network and said "we have this concept and we'd like to animate it and air it on your network," and the network said "why in the heck would any of our viewers want to watch this?" (Or possibly even sooner - someone in marketing asks the same question at a concept meeting, presumably with a "how do we sell this to the otaku?" attached.)

There's a lot of shows which are made like this, where there's an original concept and then the impression that extra elements were tacked on later as otaku lures. Extraneous lolitas? Maids in their serried ranks of fetishist uniforms? A couple of easily slashable guys for the ladies? Some kyonyuu for the lonely viewer? "Throw in a bunch of girls, instant harem"? Meh. Not saying that every show with some of that is bad, and some of them are quite good, but they're generally not good -because- of the moe element, but despite it. (Then again, I'm an American and they're marketing to Japanese otaku, who don't necessarily share my tastes...)

But you know, did it work? I don't know. It certainly wasn't a runaway smash hit, but that wasn't going to happen anyway. It's just a tradeoff between "how much of the lucrative but tiny otaku market did you capture with your big breasts" and "how many casual viewers did you turn away with your big breasts". In a market where the average "good seller" only moves a few thousand, making something that's utterly repellent to the general public can actually be a good move for sales, if it puts your show in a "must-have" column for that tiny minority of viewers who'll go out and spend $60-70 on a DVD.

At the same time, if it took giving Misaki huge breasts to get the show made, okay, okay, I can live with that. It's sad, but I'm not 13, I can look at other things besides breasts. (Actually, after watching Div Eve, I've had quite enough of big breasts for a while...)

Posted by: Avatar at June 03, 2007 08:42 PM (PyY3O)

10 Shadow Skill was a fairly decent fighting anime, and the women have reasonable breast sizes (pic), probably because it was adapted from a manga.

On the subject of anime with good SF themes, Noein is supposed to do a good job integrating quantum mechanics.

Posted by: Jim Burdo at June 05, 2007 10:01 PM (qk+He)

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