Archive for the ‘anime’ Category

Christmas means a lot of different things for different people. For me and other mecha fans it signals the yearly rewatch of Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket. Why celebrate Christmas this way? Well, I’ve watched 0080 over Christmas and New Years for the past two years and I plan to do so again this year because it’s by far my favourite Gundam series and since the last episode is set on Christmas Eve it seems appropriate. It also never hurts to have a little heartbreak and some tears to go along with the happy times that the holiday season brings.

0080 has often been called the “Gundam for people who aren’t Gundam fans”. I can see where this comes from because it is different in the scope of the story and isn’t a packed with the usual narrative clichés used in Gundam. It isn’t about a protagonist who is special and gets to pilot a giant robot and change history. Instead of the usual protagonist we have Alfred Izuruha, who is an ordinary 11-year-old who likes giant robots and because war hasn’t effected his pocket of space he thinks it is the cool stuff of movies (Basically, he is the perfect audience avatar). The extreme ordinariness of all the characters, not just Al, is pretty a huge difference from Gundam-as-usual. There isn’t a single ace in the whole show and, while I don’t want every mecha show to go this way, it is refreshing.

At the same time, 0080 is still very much a Gundam show in theme because war is still hell and the way to show that is through children or teenagers suffering and coping with it. Al doesn’t just around doodling Zakus and dreaming about piloting, through a series of coincidences fueled by his eagerness to be a “hero” he manages to meet a Zeon soldier, Bernie, and play out his dream. Of course, he ends up realizing that war isn’t a game he gets to play with no consequences in the worst possible way.

The ending is pretty brutal and heartbreaking in part due to the way Al comes to learn about the real cost of war. However, the full brutality — and also what makes the entire show for me — is the shear pointlessness of Bernie’s death. The moment I realized that Bernie will die trying to save a colony that doesn’t need saving went beyond simply tragic irony to making me feel the a touch of absurdity. Everything Al and Bernie did is futile, despite all heroism and sacrifice we see that the world really is out of the control of the protagonists. There isn’t inherent meaning in Bernie’s death and all the meaning is in what Al and ultimately the audience take from the story.


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Some of you might read the title and think, “What the balls is LostMarbles smoking?” Today is the start of a new year for me. I know the calender still says 2009 and will continue to say that for the next 4 months, but having spent the last 15+ years in in school I’ve been convinced that the year begins sometime in the first week of September. So in the grand tradition of setting up goals you’re unlikely to accomplish because it makes you believe that you are planning ahead, here are mine:

– Stop wasting so much money on meaningless trinkets. Yes they’re shiny and I’m a magpie pie, but I should try.
– Get into grad school
– Stop eating skeezy candy from the bulk store during exam periods
– Read more than 2 works of original fiction
– Finish building my RX-0 Unicorn Gundam before the anime is released.
– Learn some awesome things from my fourth-year project course
– Come up with awesome pie ideas that don’t end up looking like chocolate soup in a pie crust
– Keep on track with reading for my classes
– Kick ass at life…
– … so I can buy a pet unicorn. A gal can dream, right?

So for all of you who still think the year starts in September, what do you want to achieve and/or change about your life in the 2009/2010 year?

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…Or may be not.

I was going to write something completely different this week, but reading comments on We Remember Love got me thinking about the topic of AI stories and Sharon Apple in particular.

Ghostlightning writes,

I actually don’t favor ‘cautionary tales’ as the cases of Macross Plus and Macross Frontier
suggest. When the AI of Sharon Apple becomes too human, or when Grace O’Connor becomes too powerful via her ‘on-line’ existence and her robotic bodies — bad things happen. But these are cases where these characters are more plot devices rather than explorations so I’m not that bothered.

The “cautionary tale” plot about an robot/computer/etc. becoming too human or too intelligent or too powerful leading to “bad things” is modern-day mythology. It’s the type of story we tell over and over again. From the Terminator movies to half the sci-fi books ever published we see it used. This is such a prevalent yet simple myth that it can be used for various purposes. Sometimes you get explorations of what it means to be human when intelligence can come in non-biological forms (as is the case with the Puppetmaster in Ghost in the Shell) and sometimes it serves as a plot device for a compltely unrelated message (Grace O’Connor’s wacky plans in Macross Frontier). The former are interesting because of what AI brings to the table; the latter could work with almost anything replacing AI. It’s a fine plot, but too often it’s used as lazy writing by simply using the formula of “sentient robots = bad things” without explaining why that’s the case.

So what about Sharon Apple? Well — I have to say, I disagree with ghostlightining’s interpretation. I don’t see her as as simply a plot device. It’s just not as simple as that, especially not in the context of the Macross universe.

Music and love are the leitmotifs of the Macross universe. You can’t have a Macross series without singing. You can’t have a Macross series where love and romantic triangles aren’t a major plot point. And in almost all cases the singing reminds the us, and the various warring factions, of love and through that understanding. We’ve given culture back to the Zentradi through Minmay’s songs, we’ve made entire islands bloom with life through song, we’ve even made space whales listen to our song.

Seriously, he is singing to fucking space whale. How fucking awesome is that?

Sharon Apple takes on these characteristics and twists them into something ugly. There’s really very little to her aside from her being a singer and feeling love. She was made to do that, just that. And normally in Macross, love plus singing would be enough to save the world. However, Sharon is different because she’s not human. She might feel emotion, but she doesn’t act like any normal human being (If you think she does, I believe you might want to get your sociopathic ass checked). Despite her feeling love and pain and sadness, she’s missing something essentially human, something that prevents her from going through the usual “song + love = understanding”.

What I believe Sharon’s missing is the ability to understand others–a theory of mind and empathy. Sure she can understand other people’s simple desires, like Isamu’s desire for a thrill, but she’s not very good at the complex stuff. She simplifies Myung’s complex feelings toward Isamu and Guld into “I love Isamu a bit more, so who cares about Guld“. To Sharon this is a simple matter because she doesn’t seem to take anyone’s feelings into account; to the human Myung this decision is nearly impossible because she knows that whichever way she chooses someone will get hurt (including her). And her fulfillment of Isamu’s “desires” hardly taking his actual feelings into account. He clearly doesn’t want his thrill in the way she presents it, but she doesn’t care.

In the Macross world, where we’ve always been told that singing about love will bring about understanding between groups, a singer with the kind of power Sharon has (her song is drugs) not having the ability to understand others is more meaningful than a simple plot point. In a world where love songs are an effective weapon, we need to remember that empathy and understanding are also important. Sharon Apple, the AI that knows only personal emotions, is here to remind us of that.

I’ll leave you with my favourite scene from Macross Plus, while I go into a Sudafed and flu induced coma:

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Most mecha anime is equal parts male wish-fulfillment and a boys coming of age story. There’s nothing inherently wrong with writing shows like that and a lot of my favourites are just this type of story. There is a universal quality in the stories of Amuro or Kamille being trust into war, essentially adulthood, and realizing that their actions and inaction affect others, or Simon learning to believe in himself, or — Well you get my point. I like these stories, but sometimes the focus on men gets annoying.

The problem with a lot of mecha anime is what they do to the female characters. Since they are written about boys/men for boys/men, the women often end up being entirely defined by their relationships with men. For example, Lalah Sune isn’t important as a person because all that matters is her impact on Char and Amuro. Even worse is the tendency to make a female character’s entire inner life about romance or supporting her man (See: Ranka Lee. Everything I do or don’t do depends on how things are going with Alto).

The can sometimes become very frustrating to me as a woman watching these shows. Which is why I tend to fall in love with the few shows that do it right. One of these shows is Bubblegum Crisis. I can’t remember what made me love the show as a 14-year-old, it could have been the gritty cyberpunk setting or simply because rampaging robots are awesome, but I know that I keep coming back to the show years after because I get to see women who are as fully human as any cartoon character can be kicking ass. Priss, Linna, Sylvia, and Nene aren’t the cute girls sitting on the sidelines cheering their men. In fact, there is no romance for the lead characters. They kick ass. They have their own life, interests, and day jobs. They aren’t just there because the guys need a romantic interest or attention and I love them for it.

Oh, who am I kidding. The really important part of Bubblegum Crisis is the cheestastic 80s music:

P.S. If you are remotely interested in anime, check out We Remember Love. I’ve spend a good part of my day reading the archives of this blog and at this point I gotta say it’s my favourite animeblog.

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A warning

I’ve mention before that I’m an anime fan, right? I spend way to much time and money, by normal people’s standards, on Japanese cartoon that for the most part are aimed at teenagers. Despite this, I like it. However, sometimes I get bored of and generally feel indifferent about anime. And whether it’s that product of being busy with school (Why do I take summer courses, again?) and work or a prolonged post-exam funk, I haven’t been very interested in anime lately. I haven’t really kept up with the shows currently airing and I’ve neglected my half-built Acguy gunpla.

Last weekend, I went to a convention and, let me tell you, there is nothing like a large group of overly enthusiastic fans to get you excited about something again. So over the past week, I’ve caught up on some of the decent shows airing (Sora Kake Girl, Eden of the East, Shangri-La, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood). I’ve also made a list of older shows that I want to see again or that I really ought to have seen by now.

As you can imagine, this eats up my time. Mostly it chomps into the time I would spend on another activity I enjoy: playing on the blagosphere. As a compromise, I’ve decided that I’m probably going to start blogging the anime I watch. This doesn’t mean I’m turning into an animeblog mostly because I could never manage to stick to just one topic.

Right now I’m watching the first episode of my favouritest anime ever and I’ll probably post something on it Saturday afternoon. Until then you can enjoy this:

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More Photos

I won’t have much time to post anything of substance for the next couple of days (including the weekend) because I’ll be either preping for or attending AnimeNorth. However, over the long weekend, I went to the Royal Botanical Gardens so I have A LOT of photos of tulips, lilac, and other flora which I’ll be uploading to my flickr page in small batches and then posting here.

Tulip - Red Macro

Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan'

Tulip - Unfurl

Tulip - Purple

Flowering Tree

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Lazy evening is lazy

I’m cold, I can’t stop shivering, and I don’t feel like I can manage anything remotely approaching productive studying for next week’s midterms. Instead of even trying, I’ve decided that I’ll just curl up in bed with a metric shit-tonne of blankets and catch up on the Blu-ray releases of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. I forsee a lazy evening of tea, warmth, and PEW PEW LASERS.

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