I know, it’s halfway through the season already–but one more very late set of first impressions, shall we? (This is what happens when you have a limited amount of time…)
Himitsu: The Revelation
What is this show trying to be? The plot description that I gathered from Hashihime suggested a Minority Report-like sci-fi series, as memory and crime solving both figure into it. It turns out that the sci-fi element, in which another Section 9 (no relation to the folks in Ghost in the Shell), largely takes a back seat to the mystery solving…and to the shoujo drama elements. If I named them, they would be spoilers, so to keep it a “secret” (har har har), click only at your own risk: [spoiler] the suggestions of brother/sister incest and BL with the main character. Oh yeah, and the American President–a religious, upstanding Democrat who is inexplicably called “The Great Father” of our nation, as if Americans would ever go for something so totalitarian sounding–is a closeted gay man. WIth a bishie terrorist whose lips look real feminine-like in the Commander in Chief’s eyes. It almost sounds like something Oguie would dream up.[/spoiler]
The theme of “secrets, kept and revealed,” is thrown at the audience over and over again, and forms the protagonist’s main moral dilemma in being part of a group that pokes around dead people’s memories. The thing is, though, if memories are so subjective–as we see in one case where the murderer literally looks like a monster–how can it be the only or purely clinching factor in deciding a case? Is it all that much better, in some ways, than a sworn testimony given by the same person if he or she were alive, especially if memories and perceptions are formed in the midst of fear and terror (these are all murder victims they’re dealing with here)? I suppose this introduces the same element that we saw in Minority Report, where the fallibility of the procedure takes center stage as a plot mover–though so far it’s being used as a pretty effective tool.
I’m going to try to keep watching this show to see if they develop the SF themes a bit further. I’m a rather big fan of Minority Report and similar types of stories, and if they do something thought-provoking with it and not just use it as a backdrop for the, uh, relationship dramas, it’ll be worthwhile. But there’s a lot to suggest–starting from the opening sequence–that that’ll be a pretty big feature, at least when the two main male leads are surrounded by roses like that…
Toshokan Sensou (Library War)
I admit: I picked up this show purely based on its title. I love anything where librarians, humanities scholars, and bookish types save the day, just like in Read or Die (the OVA; the TV show wasn’t nearly as appealing). That wish was fulfilled, but in an odd way that is at once absurd and yet, strangely addictive. I’ve already watched 5 episodes of this!
Usagijen has very helpfully provided some real-world context behind the show that somewhat–but only somewhat–eases the absurdity of the premise: two armed government agencies are battling, literally, with bullets, over what books can be censored or preserved in the nation’s public lending libraries. Each cites various laws in their favor. The protagonist, a rather ditzy young woman named Iku, is assigned to the front line special forces unit in the “Kanto Library Force”–she excels physically but is a terrible librarian, and is prone to fits of teenage mood swings. (At least that’s sure what they look like to me.) She is caught almost immediately in a simmering love triangle between her short superior and the best cadet in her unit, and is called an “idiot” by pretty much everyone in the show, including the show itself.
I honestly find her character grating at times, though not enough to stop being at least mildly amusing. This is a fairly typical “fish out of water” comedy scenario, and were it not about a library war it could have been just another somewhat-sexist comedy about a girl trying to join the male-dominated army. The setting is what makes this show unique, and it is also the setting which is sometimes the hardest part of the show to believe in. Despite what is essentially a low-level civil war between two government factions, and despite widespread suppression of the free press and free speech, Japan still looks like it has a functioning, flourishing commercial economy untouched by the conflict. We only see censorship regarding physical books–not the Internet, and seemingly not even magazines, if a reporter is still able to “embed” herself in the library forces and publish a whole story in a major news magazine. (If people are worried about the corruption of youth, especially these days, they’d do much better to go after the Net, not books! The number of people who read books on a regular basis is in steep decline, after all.) The milieu needs a bit more consistency here. I suppose it could be explained that the Media Enforcement Division’s power has not spread throughly or completely across the country, though at the time of the story, it has been going on for 30 years–an entire generation! Wouldn’t society be much more fundamentally altered over that time period with this sort of thing going on? (I realize this is a comedy, and a rather slapstick one at that. But sometimes it’s just asking too much, even from me.)
Now, as a bookish person myself and future humanities scholar, I love anything that defends intellectual freedom and the right to read. But the library aspects honestly seem half-baked and incidental to the rather ordinary comedy plot that is happening on top of it, and so upon reflection the show seems frothy at best. But, again, there’s the other side of me that couldn’t stop watching it, to the point where I’m caught up to the current fansub. It’s an “easy to watch” show for the season, I guess, rather than the glorious celebration of literacy that I was hoping for. Perhaps, then, it is a comedic allegory about how freedom of the press is always going to be “at war” with the forces that would censor, and how we must always be vigilant against efforts to take away that freedom?
Maybe. I’d like to learn a bit more about what kind of things inspired the censorship in the society portrayed in the show. Or at least have Iku grow up a little.
Only one episode has been released thus far in English, and it’s another Production I.G. cyber–or should we say, seapunk excursion into metareality, diving (literally in water as well as in the meta-verse), and the boundary between the virtual and the physical. We even have a sexy female android who kicks the crap out of one of the characters. However, the focus quickly shifts from the lead researcher trying to discover the “biorhythms” of the planet and why the sea “burns” to an old man who was a witness to the phenomenon many years ago. He has a 15 year old high school girl as an attendant when the android goes on leave for a week (hah! as if they could get “tired”) and, who is inexplicably the object of some fan service and is entirely too cheerful and optimistic for my taste.
There are some neat ideas in this show, to be sure: though I thought the whole “biorhythm” thing was more a relic of the 1970s. Something is down there in the water, and the scientists have been studying for decades to find out what but with little luck. So far the story is shaping up to be more like one of those stories about an old man and a young girl who inspire one another to be better people, but with cybersea diving added on. The two halves of the show feel a bit clumsily joined to each other, but the concept at least is interesting. This looks like one of those shows though that could get real Anno-ish later on, all abstract and vague and metaphysical–and while I like that sort of thing when it’s done well, the first episode felt a bit rough for some reason, as if it were still trying to find its voice. It better not use that sort of thing as a cop out later on.
I’ll keep watching a couple of more episodes to see where this heads.