On October 3, 1982, the first episode of SDF Macross was broadcast on Japanese TV. Of course, I wouldn’t have known that; I was too young to remember. It’s strange to think though that one of my favourite shows, and one that had such an influence on my fandom, is as old as I am.
I wasn’t sure how to mark the anniversary, but since my previous post was looong I’ll make this a short one. Why is Macross so good, and so important? Much of the historical context is lost on me, but I’ll try anyway.
TV series recommendations are dangerous things unless you have a good measure of the person recommending them to you. Since most of my friends’ tastes lean towards the awesome or awesomely hilarious (the “so bad it’s good” or Terribad categories, usually) I didn’t know what to think when one of them recommended me Strike Witches. It’s one of those shows whose reputation precedes it, and not in a good way either.
It’s fair to say that I wasn’t sure if this little viewing experiment with the Skirtless Wonders of the 501st would even pay off, so I did the sensible thing and marathoned both seasons in the space of two evenings, accompanied by numerous bottles of real ale. Which turned out to be a wise move, since it’s actually really quite good.
Groups of friends often develop in-jokes and running gags over time, like memes on a localised scale. One of the most well-used in my experience crops up when a fictional character dies in tragic, dramatic and heroic style: we refer to such an admirable and Manly Tear-inducing exit as getting the ‘Pineapple Salad’. It’s given a passing reference in TV Tropes under Fundamentally Funny Fruit, but there’s nothing funny about getting the Pineapple Salad. Nevertheless, it’s the best kind of tragic.
This accolade is never given lightly. Given its origin, it demands to be an award of the highest order as a recognition of epic courage, selflessness and sheer badassery; spoilers for Super Dimensional Fortress Macross are coming up, by the way.
Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and Good Luck Yukikaze are two offerings in the diverse and well-trodden region of speculative fiction in which humanity tries to come to terms with, and survive, an alien invasion. Although they have not directly influenced one another as far as I know, they do share a similar level of care and attention devoted to showing how the events affect individuals.
Macross is renowned for being a character-driven romance rather than a political space opera; for all the loving detail lavished on the hardware and military tactics Yukikaze still has plenty of time for humans and their relationships (even when the relationships are with machines!). The war is of course for the whole of humanity, but often for the combatants very personal issues are what matter.
Maybe I’m stating the glaringly obvious here, but since it wasn’t obvious to me until recently I might as well set out my thoughts on it. I’m not saying that the Unlimited Blade Works is a great movie but it’s worth stopping to think about the broader context or what the movie itself is trying to accomplish. Similarly, there are a few things I could say about the Yukikaze OAV but now I’ve read the original novel I feel a bit different about it. Feelings concerning the motives behind, and effects of, adapting stories from one medium to another mostly.
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An extreme example of the importance of context that I stumbled on is William Gibson’s Neuromancer. It’s an enjoyable enough cyberpunk novel but not as enjoyable for me as I expected: I’m finding it tedious in places but when I remind myself that it was written before any of that stuff related to the internet, VR and even the cyberpunk genre itself were commonplace, I admire it more. Not that it makes the book itself more fun, but it makes its limitations at least understandable.
I’ve been hearing rumblings about this one for quite some time but since my brain makes connections in the most arcane and awkward ways I attached a bizarre preconception to it (something to do with it sounding similar to Cat Soup, which is a show I’ve considered watching for the Yuasa factor but never summoned the courage to try…go figure). It turns out to be nothing like whatever I expected, anyway. It’s all about rabbits with guns.
Cat Shit One is very, very different from pretty much everything else around right now, which is reason enough for me to recommend it on its own. The idea of anthropomorphised rabbits rescuing hostages from armed terrorist camels is indeed absurd but it was surprisingly easy for me to forget the sight of cottontails twitching prior to an all-out firefight because it was, with this quirk aside, hell of a lot of fun. So much so that I was able to accept the concept and simply enjoy the action.
I’ve been interested in twentieth-century history for as long as I can remember – before my fascination with Japanese popular culture even began I was drawn to the issues surrounding the atomic bombings of 1945. Fumiyo Kouno is one of many writers and artists who have taken on the subject but her approach is one that conveys the human cost of the events in an unusual way. Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms is a short, surprisingly sweet but nevertheless powerful work.
Her graphic novel is not an historical document. The whimsical slice-of-life angle doesn’t prevent it being meaningful though: fundamentally, history is about people and the relevance today of the events that occured then. This story is therefore very relevant even though the individual stories of this event are fictional; it also manages to convey hard-hitting subject matter with subtlety and restraint.
If I said that the opening theme tune to Sora no Woto wasn’t part of the reason I watched it, I’d be lying. I recall that I started watching ef -a Tale of Memories because of the music too, so it’s hardly the first time. I’ll admit part of me just wanted to see the K-on! comparisons crash and burn in front of the fandumb’s eyes but more than anything the premise was one of the best I’ve read in ages.
As I read down the staff list I realised that none of the K-On! staff were involved in this at all; hell, it’s not even a KyoAni production! I stand firmly corrected on that point then. The background artwork was still stunning though – even when not much was happening there was always something nice to look at and let my imagination fill the gaps in the narrative. I still got a sense though that the series was suffering from some sort of identity crisis.
Being the dutiful fan I am I prefer retail copies of DVDs over downloading as long as they’re available in English but when I’m paying for something I want to be confident it’ll be worthwhile. Keeping the receipt is the easy answer but when shelf space and money are at a premium I want series and movies to be ‘rewatchable’. I’m kinda elaborating on this comment, at any rate.
I can watch some stuff, such as The Place Promised…, Laputa and Paprika over and over; I’ve watched others once but they’ve sat gathering dust ever since. There are one or two purchases that I actually regretted, despite the titles themselves being very good. Actually, they were…too good for their own good.