Ongoing Investigations: Case #200

To celebrate getting to the 200th Ongoing Investigation (which I’m still pretty sure only like half our readers understand) we decided to open up what we talk about in the post to the readers like we did with the 100th. This time we had a poll to help reduce the number of suggestions of shows one of us has already seen (and avoid having people suggest we watch Little Busters!, Oreimo, or something equally repellent). We still got a bunch of requests for Oreimo, but luckily other things won out.

narutaki Future Boy Conan (eps. 1-4) was the oldest series (1978) on the list and a very popular choice by readers which kinda made me happy.

The series style will seem very familiar to any Ghibli fans; character designs, flying machines, etc. Future Boy Conan immediately felt very proto-Laputa specifically too, especially the relationship between Conan and Lana. This was definitely not a bad thing.

At the beginning, Conan was living on a tiny uncharted island with his grandfather after the world had gone to hell. Lana washed ashore after escaping from some baddies. But then they showed up and stole her away leaving Conan to try to find his way to her in wide open ocean.

The world outside is a harsh but exciting place as Conan sets off in his small handmade ship which brings him to another island and one step closer to Lana.

Things progressed at a rapid pace and not at all in the ways I expected for the show. I’m certainly curious to see where it is headed.

What I liked best about Future Boy Conan was the true spirit of adventure that was present in each episode. Conan was fearless, resourceful, loyal, and damn strong! Heck, he took on (and kills) a shark in the first scenes we saw him in.

Random note, we watched the BD version which looks really crisp and the color was great.

I have always been curious to watch Future Boy Conan if for nothing else to see what Hayao Miyazaki could do when he was still in his prime when he worked on his only full TV series. The show itself has always had a bit of a legendary reputation in a small circle of people in America who revere it as a little known classic. On the other hand in Japan it seems like one of those series that inspired a whole generation of current animators. With a strong pedigree and the knowledge that Isao Takahata was balancing out Miyazaki it seemed like a good choice for the list. Thankfully the show has lived up to the decently high expectations I had set for it in my head.

The first thing to note is the budget and animation on the show seems quite high for a TV series. It is not quite at the level of a full on Ghibli movie but for a 26 episode TV series it impressive. You can tell a good deal of love and care went into animating this show. And since we were watching the Blu-ray version it came through looking crystal clear. It probably did not look this nice when it first played on TV. But the character designs, character types, and themes clearly mark this unmistakably as a Miyazaki directed TV series.

Conan (the Future boy not the detective) is your stock plucky but naive shonen hero. He is also crazy strong but I suppose you can’t be a 98-pound weakling in a post apocalyptic world. Conan  kills a giant shark and throws car size boulders with only a small amount of difficulty. He is hardly the most original character in that respect but he is fairly likeable in a very Monkey D Luffy fashion. His first friend on his journey Jimsy is a bit more of a burden than an asset but thankfully while being a bit rough around the edges he is a decent counterbalance to Conan.

Captain Dyce is definitely an odd duck in his mood swings towards Conan. He goes from being indifferent, to straight out trying to murder him several times, and then settles on rather harsh but considerably less homicidal when he finally captures him. If Captain Dyce killed Conan it would have ended the series rather abruptly but it seems odd for Miyazaki to make the Captain so blood thirsty and then dial it back just as quickly.

You can see that much of the series would go on to greatly influence Castle in the Sky. While there are many significant differences between the two the echoes from Conan that go on to shape Castle in the Sky are unmistakable. The relationship between Sheeta and Pazu was clearly a refinement on Conan and Lana’s relationship. And the post apocalyptic vibe and themes or environmentalism and the futility of violence are very much the same even if Laputa’s world has recovered to a far greater extent. I’m curious to see how much more Castle in the Sky borrows from its older brother as I watch more Conan.

But I assume that out of the three series we watched we are most likely to continue watching this series. I’m curious to see how well Miyazaki does with a longer form of storytelling. So far he has done a good job of it. I hope he can keep it up.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

narutaki This was a great time to put Steins;Gate (eps. 1-4) on the poll which would the void it from future Secret Santa suggestions. You see how my devious mind works?

The series focus is on a club who stumble upon real time travel which starts messing with the world around them in various and complicated ways. I didn’t really pick up on all the details yet, since I assume they are slowly revealed over the course of the series.

The time travel focus of Steins;Gate is really cool. I ended up looking up a bunch of things about John Titor who they reference a lot. I really wanted to like it because I find time travel a really fun fictional concept, it is Back to the Future’s fault.

And I did end up liking parts of it but the characters I found to be a real turn off. Everyone is insufferable and/or annoying as they play up disagreeable parts of personalities and/or fetishes. I couldn’t connect or get on board with anyone.

Dear Kris, who wears a coat in that manner? Maybe if you are like half-asleep it would make sense or some super casual setting but teaching a class? I almost burst out laughing.

I actually really wanted to know about the mysteries of time space in the series, but the characters in this show made me want to die. So it is pretty doubtful that I’ll ever continue on.

Steins;Gate was more of a biting of the bullet than me choosing a show I wanted to see. I HATED Chaos;Head with the blazing passion of a thousand suns. I was indifferent to Robotics;Notes. But I was assured that Steins;Gate was the good anime based on a 5pb. game. So with a free copy of the series I decided to throw it on the list so I could kill two birds with one stone. And now I realize one thing. I really don’t like 5pb. games. Which is a shame because there is always a really solid core there but something about their characters always gets under my skin.

I want to like Steins;Gate. I really do. It has a very solid premise of a slowly building story where time travel elements are omnipresent but slowly become more apparent as the show progresses. But that is the case with all the anime based on  5pb. games. They have some clever ideas that would make series that I would love. The problem is their main characters are always just grating.

It would be hard to be more unlikeable than Takumi Nishijou but that is not a goal you should shoot for. Rintarou Okabe just gets under my skin with his mad scientist persona of Kyouma Hououin. I have been assured that not only does that part of the character get toned down as the series goes on but it actually has a vital  plot reason for existing but that does not make it any of an easier pill to swallow.

I own the Blu-rays of Steins;Gate and my roommate is interested in finishing the series but it is really low on priority list. I see why people like this show. It has a great foundation but its execution leaves something to be desired.

Infinite Ryvius (eps. 1-4) is one of those I just kept meaning to watch but needed a push to do so.

An academy for training students for military posts in space is sabotaged and starts to fall from space. There is a limited time left to be rescued and things just keep going wrong. There is also a mysterious girl on the ship, is she a spirit? An alien?

The survivors must pool their talents and band together to get out alive and discover just what is going on.

Something about this show made me giggle. It is probably just that it is hard to take too seriously after the title catch with its wonky music and voice distortion. Still, I really want to know what is going on and who will survive.

After just four episodes it hadn’t gotten to any crazy survival levels where everyone is at each others’ throats but it was waiting in the wings, you could feel it.

I liked that everyone had to break into groups but it didn’t happen in the first episode, nor did it happen arbitrarily since everyone picked their comrades. It is good hey are friends going into this, instead of randomly throwing in a character that such and such hates which is what you’d imagine would happen right off the bat.

These are character design from Hisashi Hirai best known for Gundam SEED. They are much more unrefined here but you can see what he is headed though so far there isn’t a character that really looks like Athrun (which is super sad if you ask me).

Also there were space delinquents. Of course, I loved them.

Infinite Ryvius was totally Narutaki’s choice. I don’t have anything against the show. I mostly knew that it had the reputation for being Lord of the Flies on a spaceship and Hisashi Hirai was responsible for the character designs. So it was a show that I was interested in seeing but was not particularly going out of my way to watch. So when Narutaki put it on the list I though it was a fine choice as I could sit down and judge the show for myself.

The show start off interestingly enough. The first episode does a little info dump to explain the unusual situation the Solar System is in and how humanity has dealt with it. Past that point it quickly throws the audience in the thick of a disaster and how the crew has to deal with it. The first four episodes have brought up lots of questions but offers no answers. We still have no idea what exactly the plans of the terrors were, where there was a hidden ship inside their training ship, who the girl who looks like Boogiepop Phantom, or what caused space to warp the way it did in the first place. The series seems very happy in delaying any of its answers to slowly give them out naturally as part of the series. While this organic story telling will make some people happy I think if the answers at the end are poor it is has the potential to be extremely aggravating.

There are a few moment of really odd humor. For some reason in the first for episodes there have been lots of comedic scene where you see people undressing in the background. It never sexual. It is clearly supposed to be funny. It’s just a really peculiar gag with no real payoff. Also there is a scene where all the student are taking refuge in a hanger bay after the ship has stabilized but is still in danger. There is a random scene with three unnamed characters. The first guy is talking to a cute girl who is on top of a bunk bed. The guy in the bottom bunk just points at his penis the whole time. Considering its non sequitur nature in the episode the fact that this goes on for three-second makes it sort of surreal.

The show was pretty intriguing. So far the real Lord of the Flies elements have not really kicked but the crew is still pretty sane. While everyone is clearly shaken they still seem fairly certain their supplies will last and that they will be recused. Therefore the normal chain of command is being respected even if all the adults are either dead or incarcerated. I am sure as time goes on the students will get more desperate and the niceties of their behavior will begin to fall away. I mean the delinquents already have a gun. That is a powder keg on its own.

This seems like another series we will continue a bit down the road. It does not have the priority that Future Boy Conan does but it looks fairly promising. As I said before it all depends on how the mysteries they have set up eventually pan out.

I’m not sure that scientists have been able to isolate in a lab a goofier eye-catch than the music used for Infinite Ryvius’ title screens. If they could they might have some sort of weaponized video that could make people laugh themselves to death.

3 thoughts on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #200

  1. fathomlessblue says:

    While I don’t revere it as a classic, Future Boy Conan is definitely interesting as a ‘proto-Ghibli’ type feature. The more you see of it, the more you recognise the blue-prints of Miyazaki’s later features & concepts. I enjoyed it well enough as a historical artefact, but I’d also watched too many Ghibli films & seen similar stories told with more finesse. Also, Miyazaki’s stories do seem to work better as feature films than a tv show. Several stretches of the show did drag.

    Despite despising Chaos;Head & currently finding Robotics;Notes to be fairly mediocre, I personally loved Steins Gate, but it took me until the second half to get there. The big issues are the incredibly slow pace during the initial 12 eps, coupled with, in true Nitroplus fashion, the tailored archetypes of the cast. Most do evolve past their initial roles, especially the wonderful & genuinely heart-warming duo of Okabe & Makise, but others like the idol Feris, or the transgendered Ruka, are pretty much eye-candy & little else. Thankfully the story takes central focus in the second arc, & unlike the other adaptations is actually riveting. All the groundwork does eventually pay off, & I’ll expect you’d both come out of the series with an overall positive experience. At the same it probably isn’t the type to force on someone unless they’re in the mood to watch it.

    Ryvius is… excruciatingly painful to watch. It’s a great show, & surprisingly restrained in terms of visually graphic content, but that feeling of unease & tension that exists under the surface, very slowly builds up with each passing ep. By the second half I could barely watch any more from the overwhelming sense of dread, but the images my mind would concoct in the absence were equally uncomfortable! This truly is a show that gets under your skin, whether you want it there or not.

    Wonderful running gags like the naked man or the Raptor-girl definitely make up for the poorly implemented use of hip-hop in the show.

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