Thursday, May 5, 2011

Three Shows Make A Post: Reincarnation or Madness?

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006): I'm probably the last person on Earth who expected to be charmed by the highly polished surface of this combination of high school comedy, SF, ironic wish fulfilment, ironic formalist experimentation and every Japanese pop cultural obsession ever, great love for it from every direction be damned, but I am as charmed by it as I'm impressed by the sheer amount of enthusiasm and cleverness on display here.

It's the sort of show obviously completely conscious of every problem with the pop culture it so loves, but instead of deconstructing it completely, it has decided to playfully embrace everything, the low-brow, the high-brow and the inexcusable, and let its audience's brains sort out the difference. Who am I to argue with love?

Witch Hunter Robin (2002): Young Italian witch hunter with pyrokinetic powers works as part of an organization that solves crimes committed by other people with supernatural abilities in contemporary Japan, until she begins to doubt the morality of her mission and the motives and goals of the people she's working for. That might sound somewhat awesome, but the show sabotages itself - at least for my tastes - with the slowest narrative tempo I've ever witnessed. It's not just the extremely slow development of the show's plot that's the problem here, it's the slowness of everything: most scenes run twice as long as they need to just because everybody is animated and voiced in near slow-motion, as if the whole cast were on valium. Supposedly, this is a technique to emphasize the basic melancholy and sadness of the whole affair, but snails aren't necessarily melancholic.

Iria - Zeiram the Animation (1994): This is an animated prequel to Keita Amemiya's loveable tokusatsu Zeiram, and - as prequels do - provides us with a retcon that doesn't fit what's happening in the movie (you'd think Iria would have mentioned that Zeiram is something of an archenemy of hers), and gives us an origin story nobody ever asked for (nope, I didn't want to know what Bob the Computer did before he became a computer, sorry). Nonetheless, the six-part OVA is a perfectly entertaining early 90s anime with all that entails - including (on the negative side) spiky-haired orphans and (on the very positive side) a heroine who neither suffers from amnesia, nor moe, nor a case of the whininess. I'd call that a win.


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