Thursday, December 15, 2016

Intro to the 2016 12 Days of Anime/How To Run Away In A Mecha Series

As I said in my post the other day, it's time for the 12 Days of Aniblogging again and I am jumping into the fray once more this year! (and we're already a day behind because of a minor migraine, maaaaaan) In also following a past tradition, the idea is that you blog about things you saw this year with the implication, but not rule, that they should be from the current year as well. But I am going to toss this suggestion out the window and talk about two shows that are most definitely not from this past year and one is actually older than me!

As I believe I've elaborated before, over the past few years I've been slowly getting more and more into Gundam, starting with Gundam Build Fighters and then with this/last year's Iron Blooded Orphans and along the way I've also had the chance to read a large chunk of Gundam the Origin. This summer I was surprised to see that the JICC was showing  the three compilation films that covered the entire original anime series and took advantage of the screenings to see them (apparently this is how some folks recommend you check out original Gundam series these days since the original was a 43 episode series, although the three movies together are about 7 hours long so it's still a big endeavor either way!). I already knew about half of the story thanks to The Origin but after seeing the story again I turned to my friend and went "is it just me or does this remind you of Eureka 7?"

Obviously the 2005 Eureka 7 series (we are NOT going to be talking about Eureka 7 AO because it was a hot mess) came two and a half decades after 1979 Gundam (henceforth referred to as Gundam 0079 in this review) so it's clear who was inspired by who but you know what I think there are some moments that Eureka 7 does better! There are plenty of little details that aren't "better" than the others, both the White Base and Gekkostate are pretty cool flying ships each crewed by a semi/formerly military group and the respective leads Amuro and Renton both come from similar, disconnected backgrounds. At the same time however the shows are wildly different, Gundam 0079 is supposed to be a mostly-serious depiction of a war and Eureka 7 has aliens* and the way Amuro and Renton fit into the story at the beginning is fairly different as well. Amuro literally falls into the cockpit of the Gundam and he's the only one who can use it so of course he's vital to White Base. But the titular Eureka can use her mech, the Nirvash, perfectly well without Renton, even if it seems like he's supposed to be the other person in the Nirvash's puzzling two-person cockpit and ends up coming along for mostly that reason. Both Amuro and Renton however are miserable in their new areas and while I've never fully been able to understand Amuro's psyche here (it seems to be a combination of resentment and built up angst) Renton's frustrations were always much more understandable to me (for one thing the members of Gekkostate are far crappier to Renton than the crew of White Base was to Amuro, although both involve some face-slapping!). So I could understand why Renton eventually jumps ship and runs away from the Gekkostate and surprisingly enough Amuro did the same years earlier!

When Amuro runs away, both in the compilation movies and in The Origin, it feels a little weak. If I didn't quite understand his motivations and frustrations before then I really didn't understand them now, or at least not understand his extreme reaction to other crew member's comments, and he's back at White Base quite soon regardless. Renton however goes AWOL for quite a few episodes and this really changes some of the character dynamics as a result for the rest of the series. I'd actually argue the fact that Renton WASN'T as vital to Gekkostate as Amuro was to White Base is what helped change so many things, they could afford to shift that status quo around on the Gekkostate afterwards but the White Base needed Amuro and the Gundam to act fully under their orders or everyone would die. I remember thinking that this part of Eureka 7 really dragged when I watched, especially since the story starts dropping some plot bombshells the first episode that Renton is reunited with the crew, it but it was certainly a much better take on this plot line than Gundam 0079 did and you really couldn't remove Renton's journey wholesale from the story. Plus it introduces the series most blatant Gundam homage in the form of mercenaries Ray and Charles Beams. They have a rather different background from Ramba Ral and Hamon from Gundam 0079 but their interactions with each other and Renton/Amuro all take the same tone.

For the record, my friend agreed that yeah, they'd noticed the same things I had! It was funny to me since I've seen plenty of series compared to Gundam and one or two to Eukera 7 but never the two together. Again, they are really different shows in terms of stories, themes, characters, and even pacing-wise but I still find it funny that someone on the Eureka 7 staff must have looked at the original Gundam 0079 and went "hey, I think I can do this better!"

*I'd say that Gundam basically doesn't have aliens in it but wait, nope, Gundam Build Fighters for one. I wonder if it says something that the most normal setting is the one with aliens....

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