Wed 19 Oct 2011
The mecha is probably the most well known genre of anime known worldwide. When you mention the word “anime” to a room of random people, you will probably get “is that those Japanese cartoons about big robots?” back. Everyone’s at least seen a mecha before. It’s iconic. It’s long been a symbol of Japanese animation. And it has nearly completely lost its touch.
I write this as I lumber through the opening episodes of the heralded Guilty Crown and Gundam Age. I don’t expect anything from Gundam Age; I’ve essentially given up on that franchise since Gundam 00 (otherwise known as Gundam Double lol). To go on quite the tangent — have you ever noticed how utterly ridiculous some of the names are in the Gundam series? Did the writers string together random katakana and and English word to come up with “Quatre Raberba Winner”? What about “Natarle Badgiruel”, it sounds like I’m having a seizure every time I say her name. Gundam 00 was by far the most colorful, with gems like “Allelujah Haptism”, “Setsuna F. Seiei” and the ever unpronounceable ”Tieria Erde”. It wouldn’t be a big deal if the characters didn’t constantly refer to themselves and each other by saying their full names in the most hilarious and unnecessarily dramatic tones ever.
I hear people out there are surprised that Guilty Crown didn’t turn out to be the savior to the mecha genre. Sure I expected better, but I wasn’t going to put any money on it. “But the episode looks so nice,” you say, but that doesn’t matter because we expect a certain level of quality in our mecha plots. You can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. To be honest I hate these smaller ground fighting units you see in some anime these days, like IS: Infinite Stratos and and this show. I saw them and started to lose attention and play Angry Birds on my other monitor. To me they just look like inefficiently designed tanks that shoot missiles that home in with the most stupidly curvy paths possible (conveniently missing our heroine 100% of the time). Swords are cool. Kung-fu is cool. Guns can be cool. Robots would be cool… I guess if they were more interestingly designed… and in SPACE.
What strikes me with Guilty Crown is how unoriginal it appears to be. So, Japan is under brutal, foreign, totalitarian control, and a boy with psychic powers finds a mysterious girl and she grants him power. Well damn. I know this show shares the same writing staff as Code Geass, but I thought it was Groundhog Day. Is this writing staff full of Japanese Tom Clanceys? Is the next show going to be about China occupying Japan? How about North Korea? Who else do the Japanese hate? Oh right, there’s singing. I guess that’s kind of original.
I probably judge this genre slightly too harshly compared to other genres. That’s because I view mecha as one of the founding pillars from which anime really developed in the 90′s. Compared to some old school stuff like Macross, Turn A Gundam, Gunbuster, even Neon Genesis Evangelion (which I personally didn’t enjoy, but I see its artistic value), where the show wasn’t about magical powers or combat as much as they were about characters and their struggle. I haven’t seen that in the last few years. I kind of miss it.