It’s the year 2206, and a bright pink spacecraft has made an unauthorized launch from Pluto Space Base #17, and is sporting its hyper rocket engines with intense haste. As authorities seek to control, and perhaps even down the runaway craft, a crucial baseball drama is unfolding. With perhaps the Tigers’ 200+ year losing streak at an end, their winning play is thwarted as the troublesome pink streak fouls up the game, rendering a mob of spacefaring fans ready, and eager to destroy the speeding interloper. Not even the denizens of Macross, or Yamato can stop this intergalactic bullet from causing all amounts of nuisance to all in her path. Seriously, she’s a real pain.
Such is the life of headband wearing, pendant-sporting Micchi, pilot of the Pink Shock. Her mission is not very complicated. And it isn’t concerned with your space wars, your losing streak, your culture. She’s having none of it. She’s seventeen years old, and speeds on for love. And not you, nor any militaristic regime can do anything to stop her from reclaiming it.
How is this hard for your to understand?
OVAs in the 1980s are pretty much a wasteland of VHS nonsense, often highlighted by your random Bubblegum Crises, or Megazone 23s, and offer very little in the way of viable historical context. Even in Japan’s anime on home video heyday, these were the shelf stocker equivalent to today’s Asylum Pictures release. They were a dime a dozen, and often made on the quick and cheap. New studios opening, and new studios closing. It was a new market, and something rife with mental images of airborne yen signs just itching for a slice of this new home entertainment pie. So why in the world do we want to talk about 1986′s Cosmos Pink Shock?
Quite frankly, because despite everything in it that is typical, there is also a potent, and perhaps even frightening sliver of prophecy embedded within. From the wet-wafer thin nature of the aforementioned “plot”, there is both a reverence for the era’s legendary love of space war tales, as well as the burgeoning of that now all too worn concept of moé. The show makes every effort imaginable to play into the fetish, and does everything possible to justify its existence. In fact, the entire point of Cosmos Pink Shock, is just that: “Space Wars are annoying, this is the era of the cute girl-STEP OFF.” It has no compunctions saying that the space heroes of the past will have to make way for all the petulant cuteness, as if the show itself were Noah’s dream of a flooded planet, and we had to prepare for the inevitable.
It even goes so far as to introduce a possible foil in the form of woman hating, Gatsupi. A handsome ball of noble whom the ladies like for his looks, but are constantly rebuffed by his declaration of disinterest. Even when the assumption is that of a slashfic narrative, he contends this isn’t the case. Yes, even fangirls of the 1980s were quick to assume this guy to be prime fantasy material. But this Sho Hayami-voiced character holds within a simple reason for his standoffish ways. Perhaps leave it to the newly captured Micchi, to weave her tale of woe, thereby thaw Gatsupi’s frozen heart?
You see, Micchi’s one true love, a boy she was fond of at AGE 4, was abducted by a UFO during the night of the matsuri. Yes. And noone seemed to remember who he was, nor was motivated at all to find him. So naturally, she stowed away on a space shuttle in hopes of finding him. Again. How is this not getting through? Are you just being stubborn?
Looking back at it now, it feels like this was a sentiment that had long been festering until it finally saw a ray of legitimacy with the original Superdimension Fortress Macross series. And from that point on, it became standard practice to keep that element as an integral part of the space war genre. That is until the conditions were right. Cosmos Pink Shock feels like a light handed back slap against the decade preceding it in all its need for hard edged militarism and samurai propriety. Featuring some neat character design work by the always terrific Toshihiro Hirano (of Fight! Iczer One & Vampire Princess Miyu fame), and some impressive animation direction by Keisuke Matsumoto & Yasuo Hasegawa, there is some visual charm happening here. Especially worthy of note are the scenes involving hardsuit armor and even a robot baseball game. There is much to see as mere distraction in Cosmos, that many may see as your typical benign japan toon, but there is just enough moxy, and outright raspberrying to all things Gundam and Yamato, to make it into something of a manifesto. A harbinger of the future.
A future that was barreling closer toward us.
Whether we wanted it..or not. Get out of the way.
Oh yes, and it features quite a nod to fans of the Hanshin Tigers, granting it a Kansai aura that must have been bubbling in lieu of their once rumored “cursed” state. A running gag that screams “you had to be there”, but is mildly chuckle-inducing regardless.
One Week Friends and How To Remember Love
Is it possible to forget how to be a friend? Spend enough time in isolation, and it almost seems like it is. Even for those who aren’t hikkikomori, for some who have had lengthy bouts of loneliness—through a break-up, work circumstances, travel, depression, or just a desire to be alone—the art of being with others is something that has to be relearned. To remember that others see you when you go out with bed head and the stained hoodie. To not mumble to yourself out loud when you have a thought. To show up on time when you agree with your coworkers to go somewhere, and to tell them if you are going to be early, or late. To look people in the eye when you are speaking to them.
Perhaps more importantly, to have an open heart and not assume the natural, suspicious huddle of someone who always thinks that the world is out to hurt you. To not push people away, rejecting in anticipation of rejection.
I honestly don’t care that much about the male protagonists in One Week Friends. Yuuki is the standard male naif, perhaps even more innocent than usual (this is almost Kimi ni Todoke levels of guilelessness here), and while he’s the one seemingly learning the lessons, he’s not the one who faces the greatest struggle. His friend Kiryu briefly introduces some tension but is ultimately the faithful wingman, the best bro who will help him get the girl.
No, Kaori, the girl with memories of close friends only a week long, is the one I feel for. It’s a shame that the source material mainly uses her selective short term amnesia as a moe charm vehicle, bolstered by her perpetual blush and her soft features. So far in the anime the poignancy of her situation is not allowed to go too far down the subtext that it suggests, which is: for some people, friendship is hard, so hard that it takes a deliberate effort to not forget how it’s done.
The cruel irony is that sometimes it’s the ones we yearn to be closest to–not just potential romantic partners (as is the case here), but anyone who offers genuine vulnerability and emotional intimacy–that we treat with the most fear and confusion and hesitancy. It’s why, not very long ago, I had no trouble giving gifts to my friends–except for the one I had a crush on; why I have such a hard time opening up to my family whenever I am in trouble, and turn to isolation instead; why some phone conversations with certain people are the ones I most want to avoid.
Kaori’s plight reminds me of the desire to make life easier, just by convenient forgetting, or perhaps resetting is a better word: a constant wiping of the slate clean and reliving of the most fun part of friendship—its beginning. She has to write everything down in order to do otherwise, and when I wondered why she hadn’t thought to keep a diary and a reminder until Hase suggests it, it dawned on me: because, in a way, it is easier for her not to. She can sidestep the inevitable pain and confusion of young friendship and love. It is as close as life allows her to have a do-over. We have all wished to undo a mistake in our lives sometimes, to start a relationship over or to unsay those words.
And yet, as time passes, and she starts to record her fleeting memories, connections begin to form in her mind. That something is important about this chain of thoughts and time, reaching past the limits of her immediate memory. When she loses the diary, she feels the growing absence in her heart, even though she cannot name it until the end. To get those memories back—rain-stained and perhaps blurred over—is, by then, a gift. Because friendship, as hard as it is, is a gift, and it is sustained by the good and bad memories created by that relationship.
And so we were made. Isolation is a kind of forgetting, a kind of amnesia. Isolation does offer a kind of predictable safety, but the kind of person it creates is, as CS Lewis wrote,
If you want to make sure of keeping [your heart] intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
Some of us have been there, in that airless room. But eventually, if we are not to shrivel inside, we have to remember, by writing on the tablets of our hearts, that the reward for loving others is to love itself.
Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. –1 John 2:9-11
I was reading about a reporter’s visit to Chernobyl a few weeks ago. It’s fascinating for many reasons, especially given the fact that one probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience it. I felt the same way about karuta after having seen Chihayafuru. It’s a sport played in the land of the Rising Sun that I figured I would never have the pleasure of playing or spectating.
That is, until this past week.
Braving the snow and freezing temperatures, a few dozen people gathered at the JICC on Wednesday for a karuta demonstration. I sat in the front row and toyed with my shiny new karuta cards when it caught Ms. Stone’s attention. She became more intrigued at my getup as I was wearing a medical mask. I sighed heavily inside, like all the other times where no one recognized my Arata cosplay at conventions.
Her voice was fading in and out, but a sudden tilt of her head coupled with a twinkle in her eye ignited a glimmer of hope in me. She continued to nod her head and at that moment, my heart probably skipped a beat. She got it!
Ms. Stone heads the DC Karuta Club. Yes, there is such a thing. She began with a lecture about the origins of karuta. It was highly informative but I was getting impatient staring at the tatami mats behind her Powerpoint presentation.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long. Entering on stage was Kyoko-san and Nanami, both attired in hakamas. It’s as if Chihayafuru magically materialized before me! I had to pull my mask down to intake more oxygen.
What proceeded next is best told in motion pictures. (Kyoko-san is on the left.)
Sugoi ne?! The only complaint I have feels unfair. Ms. Stone aims to educate the audience on karuta so her interruptions are only natural. It did interfere with my enjoyment of the match given that I am familiar with the sport.
After the lovely and amazing demonstration where I witnessed karuta in person (yeah, I am still excited), Ms. Stone insisted on dividing the audience into two groups, where those who could read Hiragana would play kyogi karuta, and those who couldn’t moved outside for Obosan Mekuri.
The latter is a karuta variation that requires pure luck. Fortunately for me, luck is just one of my many skills. Round one included three groups where the winner advanced into the championship. Needlessly to say, I trumped two others to take first place ^_^ The best part was the prize, as shown on the left.
I take that back. The best part was learning the game from Kyoko-san, who just flew in from Japan the day before. And my insistence on explaining my cosplay after she inquired about my shirt. I think I took her apathy for misunderstanding XD
This would be the end of the story except the reader can see that more words follow.
Anohana sold out before I got to the theater, so my Saturday began on a sour note. Mere hours later, I got an email that would not only turn around my day but bring more delight than I ever thought possible. Kyoko-san wrote hoping that I could attend the New Year’s celebration hosted by the JCAW on Sunday where she and Ms. Stone would have another karuta demonstration. An invitation one cannot refuse.
I want to express my gratitude towards Ms. Stone and Kyoko-san, as well as Nanami and Ms. Stone’s son (the reader!) for giving me the opportunity to experience karuta first hand. It’s a dream come true ever since Chihayafuru entered my life. Speaking of which, at the conclusion of Wednesday night, Ms. Stone mentioned that she had a dream.
“I hope in an year or ten, the U.S. will hold a karuta tournament and the winner would go on to compete in Japan.”
I am going to try to make her dream come true, just like she did for mine. But we need your help. Let’s spread our love of karuta!
And finally, to close the 12 Days series for 2013 here at Anime Diet, we bring you this year’s works written, co-written, or story supervised by Gen Urobuchi–and their increasingly cheesy 3/4 mark twists! Needless to say, spoilers abound for Psycho-Pass, Gargantia, and Madoka Magica 3: Rebellion! Leave now if you wish to remain plot virgins.
First, to start off the year, there’s Psycho-Pass. Much has been made of the seemingly omnipotent Sybil System, which determines whether a person is fit to be in society or be stuck in
brainwashing therapy. Eventually of course, we were going to find out who or what that System was. And eventually, Urobuchi gives us the answer:
The vat of brains is actually not so surprising. What makes it unbearably cheesy, though, is whose brains those are: it’s the brains of psychopaths. The Psycho-Pass system is being run…by psychopaths. Get it? Get it??? And it’s up to, uh, Kana Hanazawa to stop them. From within, of course.
Next, we have Gargantia. Actually, this twist, about the true history and origin of the Hideauze, is probably the least problematic out of the bunch this year. We were set up quite early on with the idea that the Hideauze were sacred to the people of Gargantia, that Ledo’s militaristic society was not entirely to be trusted, and that somebody is hiding something. That’s par for the course for an Urobuchi story. And the big reveal was, all things considered, smoothly told through found footage and old documentaries, though even right before Ledo sees them, this shot pretty much gave the game away:
And true to his unofficial “Urobutcher” nickname, the baby Hideauze are soon slaughtered indiscriminately, with one particularly moe one squeezed to death, Eva-style, complete with requisite scream but minus the BL overtones/fujoshi bait. This is supposed to be brutal and shocking, but for a veteran anime watcher steeped in the cliches of the past 20 years, it was also eye-rollingly typical.
Finally, we have what was clearly intended to be some kind of tour-de-force by Urobuchi, Shinbo, and the rest of SHAFT of their sacred cow: Madoka Magica 3: Rebellion. Up until the 3/4 mark, we have been taken through a thematically consistent continuation of the series, which both expands and reiterates the central themes of the TV series: the limits of good intentions, the sadness and despair that can drive a person beyond the edge, and the redeeming power of unconditional love. We once again see the grand, tearjerking irony of the protagonist and would-be savior, Homura, instead become the saved through the ministration of Madoka, the very embodiment of the Universal Law (of Cycles). It was, in short, a genuinely Madoka Magica story.
Then, we get this, at the very moment when salvation is literally at hand:
Homura, seemingly inexplicably, yanks Logos Madoka’s outstretched hand, and drags her down from heaven so she can wholly possess her, and in so doing, becomes, also literally, an incarnation of evil. (Her words.) The movie, which looked almost done, goes on for another half hour, as it slowly dawns on the audience that the story is far from over and that more movies and/or series are coming.
Granted, this twist, which upset many fans and seems driven by commercial than artistic desires, is more on Shinbo than Urobuchi. He cooperated, however, long enough to pen Madoka: Rebellion, though he appears to have washed his hands of the franchise altogether and will not write any more stories in that series. (Source: this interview, translated by feral_phoenix.) Perhaps so he can go and make more Psycho-Pass and continue, with mixed success, to gain cyberpunk cred by quoting William Gibson and Nietzsche over and over again.
Does this make Gen Urobuchi the M. Night Shyamalan of anime? Well, he hasn’t sunk quite that low yet–it would take a disaster of epic proportions to approach the depths of The Last Airbender. And Urobuchi rarely works alone, so the blame can be justifiably shared with many others. Nevertheless, judging from the stories that came at least partly out of his imagination this year, I’m going to be looking at his future work and expecting the moment where I can say: WHATTA TWEEST!
Yes I am cheating on this post with an image from season 5′s conclusion and Kondo’s heavily censored a** saying “sorry.” But where’s more of Gintama? I expected or wished for the anime to continue with a 7th season in the fall after the 6th season aired in the Spring. Did the movie that was promised in Japan for the summer flop? These are questions that, as an American fan, must be finally written about..
I do know that the manga is still continuing, but I am sad that Viz discontinued the English manga at vol 23, and knowing that the manga in Japan has released 50+ volumes frustrates me.
Granted, I do hear the seiyuu of Gintoki, Tomokazu Sugita, loud and clear in other 2013 anime like Gingitsune and Samurai Flamenco. But how I long to hear Gintoki and the rest of the Yorozuya.
I can’t help but say that I really buy into this series’s formula. Are there any other longish series that you want never to end?