Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Zegapain: Style over Substance - the Sunrise way

Every anime studio has some sort of reputation associated with it, and a certain style they try to go by. For manglobe, it's highly stylized shows with a strong thematic base, whereas GONZO is known for putting together very appealing beginning and middle portions of series before faultering at the end. And Sunrise - they do giant robots, whether it be in the traditional sense or the extremely-out-there sense. However, along with the whole: "we do robots," reputation, there is also a certain stigma associated with Sunrise - this stigma being that their mecha shows are all style, no substance. And to some extent, this holds true.

More than many other companies, Sunrise has always put a great deal of effort into maintaining a crisp, clean feel to their animated productions. You can see it in any of the Gundam series, all of which have very clean styles (particularly 08th MS Team). Strong, bold lines, punctuated by a bright color palette are the norm for a Sunrise production, and Zegapain doesn't stray far from this. It's an appeal to the eyes of young males, as Sunrise has its hand in shows mostly targeted at a teenage male audience.

For such a blatantly merchandise-driven show, Zegapain surprisingly doesn't fail to deliver a compelling story. The tale of humanity wiped out, but stored on quantum servers recalls the Wachowski Brothers' Matrix Trilogy. The hero of the show, Soguro Kyo, lives in one of the few quantum computers still functioning on the planet that have stored the human race. All people exist only as data, wiped out by a mysterious enemy (most likely machines of some kind). Kyo's struggles with his discovery of the real world, one in which the human race has been wiped out, and his existence as data within a computer system. As he tries to come to grips with the fact that all that he "thinks" and "feels" may in fact just be parts of the virtual world, he is forced to do battle with the machines who wiped humanity from the earth.

Zegapain presents its storyline with the right mix of drama and comedy to create a compelling cast of characters mirrored between both the real and virtual worlds. Most characters in the "real" world have counterparts in the virtual one. Kyo's interactions with both groups is very human, and show him to be a very well-thought out character. However, where the Matrix Trilogy attempted to go deeper than just surface level examinations of the concept (albeit with too much of the philosophy hammer), Zegapain stays in the shallow end of the pool.

Kyo's questions concerning his humanity, whether the fact that he is simply data being transferred between machines renders him a cognizant machine himself, are never answered. In fact, they are simply brushed aside in order to force his character to get back into the Zegapain cockpit in time for the next episode. The "I am me," response is used as a copout to avoid the question, acting as a typical red herring. There is still plenty of the show left for me to watch, but if it follows the path of Ergo Proxy (of which I have finished fourteen of the twenty-three episodes), it probably won't make significant progress for a while.

It's because of shows like Zegapain that Sunrise is known as the purveyor of merchandise-driven anime. There is so much promise, and so much quality in there productions. Everything is done well. But when push comes to shove, they aren't willing to step up and tackle the hard questions, which is why their work will always remain that "good show of the year," and never take ranks with works of art like Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, and the like.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

HYDE concert, Anime Expo 2006 (and why it doesn't matter to you)...

Long post. Haven't posted a real good solid post in a while though, so this should make up for my lack of activity.

So first, the HYDE concert (sadly, I did not bring a camera with me to this, so instead I present you with pictures from the DVD that comes with the FAITH album).

So yeah. Just imagine that guy, on a stage, in a relatively small venue (with a couple hundred people packed inside), speaking the most amazing broken english ever (if you're a squealing fanboy/girl, which I am not).

Overall, it was a good concert. HYDE definitely displays all the attributes of a veteran performer, able to whip the crowd into a frenzy, and pausing and giving his little pep talks at just the right moments, when the audience is losing its energy. All the songs were from his FAITH album (unless I'm hard of hearing, or just didn't catch a song in there), and he performed them all very well, with plenty of guitar strumming, dramatic jumps, and head shaking to fuel the crowd's fervor (I haven't heard that much high pitched squealing since I went to a Hansen concert...which has never happened, but I've heard stories).

My one complaint rests with his performance of the song, "Season's Call," the opening theme to the anime Blood+, and my personal favorite HYDE song. I got psyched when he started playing it (it was the first song that he sang that had any Japanese lyrics in it), but as the song started, I realized that he just didn't have the full ensemble of instruments necessary to capture the feel of the recorded version. And he was offbeat slightly. And he missed some of the high notes. Damn. Well, you win some, you lose some.

And now for the Anime Expo 2006, with an aside on "why it doesn't matter to you" (which is a play off of the post done on ANN blogs - you'll understand the correlation in a second). But first, pictures of cosplayers.

So Anime Expo was yet another great experience if you're into cosplay. There were also a great deal of exhibitors this year (an amazing amount, actually, compared to the last time I went - 2002). The artist's gallery displayed some decent stuff, but there were only a few artists with exceptional talent present. Highlights on the workshop side include a "how to make sushi" session, as well as "how to make a model" sessions.

Well, that's cool and all, but the main thing that I care about is anime itself. When it comes down to it, the shows themselves are why I come to a convention...and sadly there's nothing new to hear about. Everything can either be found out by checking out ANN, or even better by checking out fansubs or raws. This is something that's been addressed before - by the very nature of the anime blogging community at large, we are at the "cutting edge" of anime news. So in the end, anime conventions turn into nothing more than glorified gathering places where likeminded people can get together and discuss their favorite pasttimes. Which isn't a bad's just that it used to be so much more.

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