#228 : Megazone 23 Part III

And I thought this was a 90s anime… goes to show I need to read the release dates more carefully. Megazone 23 is supposedly not done telling it’s cyberpunk mecha storyline just yet. The original from 1985 is a personal favorite of mine and the 1986 sequel is quite good as well, but I thought the story was over? As much a sequel as well as a reboot, Megazone 23 Part III would bring back the legendary red Garland motorcycle and virtual pop star Eve Tokimatsuri one more time to finish the decade of the 1980s with this third installment in the guise of a two part OVA.

M23_3_1Here is a question… can you have too much of a good thing? In terms of Megazone 23 I sometimes say yes. I was satisfied with the original as a complete stand alone story. I accept the second part as a possible alternate ending to conclude the first, but where do we go from here? Into the even farther future after mankind has resettled onto the Earth and yet similar problems have re-emerged, such is the fate of humanity. The more we change, the more we stay the same? Potential is possible here, but much of Megazone 23 Part III feels like borrowed re-hatching from the initial installment of Megazone 23 from a certain point of view. The dynamic of young man on a motorcycle meeting a girl and a stoic rival and unraveling a mystery of the underpinnings of the structure of society are very, very similar. So how much is truly brand new here?

M23_3_2Welcome to the world of Eden, the new civilization for humanity, and meet a new face Eiji Takanaka. Our new protagonist has been hired by EX, a large tech giant, for his computing skills as well as his exception abilities in the arcade galleries. Eiji’s game of choice is the big hit of the moment, an immersive cockpit shooter that makes the SEGA classic Afterburner look like amateur child’s play. The name of this game he dominates with his friends is none other than… Hard On? (yes you can laugh here) Yet there is another name that seems to follow Eiji’s high scores and that name is Sean, a name that seems to be familiar to the girl Eiji just met, Ryo. Eiji’s later meetup with Sean would become a twist of fate where Sean parlays to Eiji to meet Eve in the heart of Eden. And when I mean meet Eve, I mean the real Eve… wait a minute… I thought she was a virtual idol?

M23_3_3Design consistency is something this series needs to learn. Following the trend from the previous two incarnations of Megazone 23 we get yet another character designer to join the group and new directors to run the show. Hiroyuki Kitazume would lend the his hand to character designs and as a fan of his work (Starlight Angel, ZZ Gundam, Char’s Counterattack as examples) I welcome it, but I miss the originals from Toshihiro Hirano. Directors Kenichi Yatagai and more importantly Shinji Aramaki would run the show behind the cameras. Aramaki had been with Megazone 23 since the beginning, as a mechanical designer (a skill he is quite good at), but now he flexed his directorship muscles which for this OVA came out pretty good… just don’t give this guy CGI films, the are really a snore fest (my opinion).

M23_3_4There was a song and album by the band King Crimson known as Three of a Perfect Pair and how fitting it is for this final installment of Megazone 23 as this was the third part and comprised of a pairing of episodes. But is it perfect? Well… It’s a sharp looking OVA, perhaps one of the most polished looking cyberpunk stories I have ever seen. And by being polished I mean very fashionable. Cyberpunk usually gets a little gritty, or has an air of danger, but Megazone 23 Part III is like a mix of Vogue and GQ stylings circa 1989, gamer and hacker culture, a sterile dystopian fantasy aesthetic, that could pass in Hollywood, and mecha fighting in the even farther future. Megazone 23 Part III parlays a whole lot of style and even adds to the progression of the history of the Megazone 23 universe. So in its own way, Megazone 23 Part III is kind of perfect. …except for Hard On, lol.

#25f : Robot Carnival : Starlight Angel

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCf_1Hey!! You know what Robot Carnival needs? A simple little shojo story. And we have it with Hiroyuki Kitazume’s Starlight Angel. One of the more popular and familiar segments, Starlight Angel brings a breath of fresh air with a lighter, more innocent story. In a Disney World like theme park (Robot World?) two girls are having a good old time one evening… seeing the sights, riding rides, having a snack and enjoying a goofy photo opportunity or two. In the process of all the fun, she drops a star shaped pendant, which is found by a robot who works at the park. Comically he does his best to return it to her.

As the main girl continues to run all throughout the park, the robot mentioned earlier continues chase. As best as he can he shows kindness in the face of her heartbreak and confusion. Then out of nowhere we get a segment with a fight featuring a giant robot… now where did that come from? The original robot fights and protects the girl as the metal armor falls off to revealing a young man… PLOT TWIST! Who would have known that this robot is her true shining knight in armor instead of that blonde guy who showed up earlier with the toothy grin? Yeah, I couldn’t trust him either! The sweetness of Starlight Angel is what draws us back as fans and evens out most of the other segments that are either very serious, darker in humor, or just abstract in concept. If one needs to start with any of the segments, Starlight Angel is the most accessible and inviting to anyone no matter your background.

Robot Carnival entry index:

    1. Opening
    2. Franken’s Gears
    3. Deprive
    4. Presence
    5. Starlight Angel
    6. Cloud
    7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
    8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
    9. Ending

#62 : Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ

The red headed step twice removed cousin that you swear has to be adopted.  Much is said about the reputation of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ as the oddball of the original Universal Century timeline of Gundam. Now I can poo-poo all over this show too, but why? It is better to see the hidden glories inside this odd release. Let us instead look at the areas where ZZ Gundam does well as well as my areas of questioning, at least from my perspective.

ZZ_1First, it is well animated. Kind of generic, but Sunrise usually gives royal treatment to many classic series and that should not be overlooked. Also the change from Yoshikazu Yasuhiko to Hiroyuki Kiazume for lead character designer is not a bad change. Kitazume has great skills as an artist, so he is most welcome as a change. What would Judau have looked like other wise? Maybe a different eye shape perhaps? And by the way, is it me or are there like way more girls than dudes in this show? Nothing wrong with that and all of them are on the cuter side. Therefore the nickname for ZZ shall be forever known as Cute Girl Gundam (thats better than my nickname for Zeta, Bitchslap Gundam… just ask Kamille).

ZZ_2Second, patience and the 20 episode mark. When I first saw this series I watched about the first 20 episodes and was a little disappointed to say the least. In response, I did a very sensible thing… I took a break from it for about a month. Upon returning, to my surprise, the series began to change (for a short period of time) back into the older dramatic flavor of Zeta and MSG. This gave me faith to continue to the finish. And even though the show is far from perfect, I did finish it. Like anything in life, get away for five minutes to clear your perspective.

ZZ_3Third, we get resolution for Zeta’s tragic hero, Kamille Bidan. And after Zeta, I was worried beyond belief for Kamille, as he is my favorite pilot and the show just stops in a dramatic cliffhanger. Thankfully we see him get out of his shock and mental issues from the final battle of Zeta, though the price he paid for what he did may never be fully healed. The price of karma and severe PTSD on a newtype is a bitch! And… thank you Fa for standing by him.

Something else to consider… not every mecha series is, or even has to be, an epic space opera melodrama. While this may be true and can work for other shows, Xabungle and GoShogun come to mind, it is a serious jolt for my view on the classic Gundam Universe. Some may blame director Yoshiyuki Tomino since he has an interesting portfolio, but I know no anime is the sole responsibility of just one individual. Miyazaki may be the lone exception to that rule (he has his genius hands in everything) 🙂

ZZ_4Now for the main problem I have with ZZ. It is not the story, or the characters, or even the bizarre comedy. It is a more fundamental issue I have with many things in our culture. It’s that it is a product of a branding machine. The sole reason for ZZ’s existence is to continue a franchise to make more money. It’s a victim of marketing and higher ups trying to bend an already established universe and twist it around to make it appeal to someone else who would care less about Gundam. Gundam, like other properties, still continues today with constant revisiting leaving little room for originality. Perhaps mecha and Gundam perhaps are just dead concepts? Love live you beautiful giant robots.

…and also sometimes when a story is finished, it should be treated as such. Sequels after sequels are not always necessary.

So in the end we have a Gundam series that starts off with an introductory episode, the second episode features a food fight, we meet one of the missing Misfits from Jem and the Holograms and we get an episode where the boys have to dress up like girls to rescue their comrades. Not my typical definition of Gundam, but who knows, it may be more to your liking than you realize. ZZ Gundam may be far from perfect (what is perfect amyways?), but it is at least worth a view for the sake of posterity.