Ongoing Investigations: Case #222

narutaki_icon_4040 I enjoyed reading up through volume 4 of Dengeki Daisy but it does have me questioning the ability of the story to continue for so much longer. It is still running.

At this point, Teru has discovered that Kurosaki and Daisy are in fact the same person (which we the audience knew all along). But she doesn’t confront him with this knowledge nor does Kurosaki realize Teru has figured out the truth. Each has admitted their growing feelings to confidants, with Kurosaki failing miserably to push his aside. Their closeness and the precipice of love is very obvious now.

I found the growing friendships, especially in vol. 4, to be particularly satisfying. Especially that of haughty Rena who is quite hilarious in her feigned indifference to Teru’s life and problems. Kiyoshi having the upper hand (since he knows Daisy’s identity as well as Kurosaki’s affections for Teru) when it comes to Kurosaki is also quite entertaining.

As I’d hoped, more haunts from Teru’s brother (and maybe Kurosaki’s) past turn up at the end of the volume. I am also starting to suspect Teru’s brother may not be dead after all.

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hisui_icon_4040 Never say that I won’t listen to a decent recommendation. Recently I had several people directly and indirectly recommend that I watch Girls und Panzer. I’m not exactly sure what exactly about me says, “This guy would love Girls und Panzer.” Is it that I come off as a person with an open mind and broad tastes? It is because I’m half German and therefore must love Blitzkrieging? Or do people just think I’m some sort of horrible icky moe fanatic?

Then again I’m not sure I want to know what about me says that to my friends. It might just be a secret that is best unexplored.

Girls und Panzer exists in an alternate timeline where tanks warfare is VERY different from what we know. For one thing it is a competitive sport descended from a military science like fencing or jousting. Tanks fire nonlethal shells which set off sensors that gauge hits. The major difference is that tankery is almost exclusively considered a pastime for women.

The shy Miho Nishizumi comes from a long line of tank commanders but goes specifically to a school without a tank program to escape her panzer related fate. Despite her timid nature she makes two fast friends on their first day.  But the student council president blackmails Miho and her two companions into join the tank club under the threat of making their lives horrible otherwise. Can Miho love to love the roar of an M1 Abrams? Can she lead the school tankery team to victory?

Girls und Panzer is a better show that I thought it would be. I’m hardly amazing but it is far better than it has any right to be. That is both a mixture of faint and legitimate praise. Overall the cute girls doing things genre can be pretty awful or just plain tedious so a show that is neither is an accomplishment. But “It is not complete torture” is hardly a ringing endorsement. Beyond that Girls und Panzer has some actually parts that are enjoyable and fun.

Miho is your fairly standard shy but warmhearted female protagonist. She has trouble making friends but is a good person who supports her friends when the chips are down. She is likeable if a bit bland and most of her character beyond that comes from her checked past with tanks and family. Hana Isuzu is a very Yamato Nadeshiko styled character to the point where she comes form a family known for flower arrangement. She is actually be a rebel by being in the tank club. And the main trio is round out by the best member of the team, Saori Takebe. She thinks she is a Gentlemen Killer that is a mixture of Mine Fujiko and Lum Invader that all the men can’t help but fall in love with. In the end she is mostly just a cheerful dork.

Later on the team is rounded out with Yukari Akiyama who is a crazy tank otaku which makes her insanely popular with the show’s target demographic-. If anyone is an audience surrogate character it is her. Mako Reizei is the last to join the team and she is brilliant but lazy.

The girls mainly stick to broad archetypes which is sort of the broad personalities the genre is known for. If you’re looking for innovate characters the closest your going to get is Saori with her odd delusion of being this hyper sex goddess despite being horribly naive. But if you’re sick of the standard cute girl tropes you are mostly going the be massaging your head the whole time.

There are four other groups that make up the other teams at school. They mostly seem to be there to get hit and show how formidable the other teams are. Since there are a lot of them they generally have a group personality with each member having a strong quirk more than distinct characters. The Student council team is there to move the plot and have the President be a manipulative bastard especially to her two underlings. The former volleyball team is filled with girls with “Hard Work and Guts” emblazoned on their souls. The Reki-jo team has to be the oddest bunch of them all. They are obsessive history fan girls who cosplay historical figures. Narutaki put it best when she said it was like they were what would happen if a group of Hetalia fangirls got a hold of a tank. And the six freshmen girls mostly seems to exist to be the absolute worst. At everything. They are distinctly NOT the team made up of Strong Female Women™.

A question I know that will be asked about any of these shows is how bad is the fan-service. While it is not omnipresent it is distinctly present. While there are no major panty shots or lingering cleavage shots there is usually one piece of distinct eye candy every episode. They will go a whole episode without anything major and then the busty member of the student council will be washing their tank in a bikini or they will recruit Mako in the bath. It’s hardly oppressive but it is still very clearly there when it wants to be.

It does also firmly exist in the pink zone. Anyone who is a main cast member is female. Men exist. We see them in the town around the school, watching matches, and interacting with the girls on occasion. But so far nothing close to a supporting character has been male. That said the yuri bait has been fairly minimal. When you have a cast like this the fans are going to make it but the show itself does not overtly cater to it too much. Binbogami ga! had far more in a single chapter than the first 4 episodes I saw combined.

So the real question is should YOU watch Girls und Panzer? The answer comes down to a simple question of “What is my opinion of the “Cute Girls Doing Stuff genre?” If you a sick of it then this is not the show to change your mind. While it executes the formula well it does not particularly innovate  other than the fact that the subject mater is hardly the standard girl joins sport team X and learns the power of friendship (and perhaps sapphic love.)  On the other hand if you still enjoy the formula then this is a nice variation of the theme.

Will fans of fans of tanks like this series? I have no idea. Those people are just weird and hard to please. But so could be said of any military hardware fanatic.

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.

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narutaki_icon_4040 I picked up the first issue of the relaunch of Quantum & Woody which touts itself as being about the “world’s worst” superhero duo.

The beginning of the first issue is a wonderful juxtaposition. It beings with Quantum & Woody on the evening news tumbling out of a building with some hilarious commentary about their incompetence. The next scene is a flashback to the boys as kids after getting in a fight at school; their father storms in and Eric (Quantum) blurts out “. . . no matter what this looks like . . . we’re the good guys here.” Pretty much sums them and the comic up perfectly.

Tom Fowler’s art nails every facial expression in every panel which lends much life and humor to each mishap, one after another.

I really like that this comic had such a family focus, Woody was a foster kid adopted into Eric’s family. Their bickering, even in dire circumstances, rings so true. As does their estranged relationship. And the crux of this story is the mysterious murder of their father as well as the nature of his research.

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hisui_icon_4040 As an early birthday gift I was given a Nintendo 3DS XL so I could play Project X Zone. I will probably have a review of that up soon as its own article but I figured I would talk about the device itself here.

The first thing you have to talk about is the top 3D screen. It is a gimmick.  It is a fun little gimmick but a gimmick none the less. Thankfully the cleverly designed screen does not require 3D glasses or it would be utterly insufferable. That and it can be turned off or merely down at any time with a simple sliding dial. It helps because you have to hold the screen at the right angles to see the effect. With a little practice you can find that spot whenever you pick up the system. But if your say in a bumpy bus the ability to keep it in that zone is much harder so being able to just use the top screen as a 2D screen is invaluable.

But overall while it is a nifty effect 9 times out of 10 you will quickly forget about it in most games. In the end most effects and control schemes should eventually be as integrated as seamless as possible. But the whole selling point is how remarkably stunning the effect is. So when it mostly fades into the background it does feel like a bit of a disappointment.  Also there is the fact that it mostly seems like a minor quirk in the new games I have played. Then again I have mostly played strategy RPGS so that might be a lot of it as well. When I played Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate demo it seemed far more integrated into the game.

But perhaps it is best that way. Nothing is worse than a gimmick that is forcibly shoehorned in just to use a gimmick. Anyone who has rolled their eyes at some unless touchscreen sequence or motion control section would probably beg for a bit of mundane game play.

The 3DS XL feels substantive. You have a good sense of weight and size without feeling heavy. Also if you have big hands it is far more comfortable. I can fit it in my pockets because I am a guy with typical male pants. It would require some sort of 4th dimensional technology to get it inside of a pocket on most women’s pants let alone jeans. This is not a Game Boy Advance SP.

But the probably the simplest but most exciting part of the system is that darn Street Pass system. There is a sort of addictive magic to be able to leave the WiFi on to 3DS on during your commute. It is not terribly complex but it makes a game of an otherwise mundane commute. It gives a lot of credence to the idea that augmented reality games have distinct legs if done correctly. I really enjoy seeing that I street passed someone on my way home from work and then being able to play a game from it. It is far more rewarding than it should be.

My roommate was just commenting how he was going to be spending a good chunk of Otakon just dealing with all his Street Pass games when we go to Otakon in a few weeks. But outside of crazy events like Otakon I never usually get more than maybe one or two Street Passes a day. And I live in NYC (albeit I have a horrible schedule) so I wonder how tough it is for people in more rural parts of the US.

If you wanted to know more about ARGs then you should watch this and this. (Also these videos also have some great cautionary moments about ARGs as well as praise for the idea.)

As a side note, it is amazing that you can just walk into a McDonalds, sit down and download a game with their free Nintendo Spot WiFi, and be playing the game by the time you finish your meal. It is hardly that remarkable considering what your average smartphone can do today but imagine going back and time and trying to tell that story to your younger self who just got the original Game Boy. (NOTE: this story is for everyone old enough to remember when the original Game Boy came out.) Crazy.

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narutaki_icon_4040 I reread Uncanny X-Men Days of Future Past and it is kind of crazy how little I remembered of the original story. Having been such a lover of the 90s animated series, that version just sticks in my mind more! The truth is they are radically different. Also Days of Future Past is a classic X-Men storyline so I was again surprised by how short is was, a mere two issues.

This storyline is also known for one of the most misleading comic covers ever which declared THIS ISSUE: EVERYBODY DIES!

The bulk of the trade is taken up by other things like Cyclops recounting the entire history of the Uncanny X-Men’s 100+ issues; letting the reader get to know Kitty Pryde more; as well as Wolverine heading back to Canada and teaming up with Alpha Flight to fight his true nemesis (not really) Wendigo.

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hisui_icon_4040 OK. So Kick-Heart is out and available to everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter at the appropriate level. While I did not throw in my cash to the project I do know people who did so I was able to watch a copy with one of them. I have already talked a bit about the phenomenon around the project so I might as well talk about the end result as well. Because no matter what the buzz around it all at the end of the day one of the most important result is how good is the actual animation produced from this project.

When a masochistic masked wrestler meets a sexy and sadistic female opponent it is a match made in heaven. But will Maskman M lose the match and deny the orphan the money they need to fix their failing home or can he overcome his desires for the greater good? Also the mysterious new nun at the orphanage looks awfully familiar.

I’m not sure what I expected with Kick-Heart. Clearly I was not excited enough to fund the project. I don’t have a distinctly unified feeling towards Masaaki Yuasa.  I liked the Tatami Galaxy but felt that Kaiba was perhaps a bit to involved with omphaloskepsis for its own good. Kick-Heart is not like either of the projects. If anything it is closer in tone with its humor and cynical whimsy to the Tatami Galaxy. But Kick-Heart does not have the hard moral message of the Tatami Galaxy at its core. It is a silly romp. While the Tatami Galaxy went for social commentary and satire with its jokes there is far more simple sexual and scatological humor here.

The animation is a very deliberate sketchy style. It allows a good deal of stretching and squashing beyond usual boundaries especially during the fight scenes. While it is mostly grounded in the mundane Masaaki Yuasa adds a lot of this slightly surrealistic flourishes throughout the short.

Actually the one title I have watched by Masaaki Yuasa that sums up my feelings on Kick-Heart is actually the “Happy Machine” segment of Genius Party. It was hardly my favorite part of that anthology (that is reversed for Baby Blue by Shinichiro Watanabe) and it is hardly the worst (the infamous Limit Cycle takes that dishonor.) It was merely there. I did not dislike it but it was not a strong selling point for the anthology as well. Part of me actually felt like Kick-Heart would have been best as party of an anthology in something like Memories or Robot Carnival. It would have been stronger as a piece of connecting material than its own distinct animal.

I have not see any major complaints about Kick-Heart so far. At this point on the Internet no major complaints in the equivalent of a full standing ovation.  Although part of me wonders is that partially the effect of effort justification. Since all the fans invested so much emotion into the Kickstarter they automatically gave it a few notches up in their minds even if subconsciously.

Still the biggest accomplishment was Kick-Heart got made in a timely fashion, was well received, and has opened about another more direct avenue of communication between American fans and anime creators. It shows that there is a small but dedicated audience for things outside of the norm that is willing to put their money where their mouth is. I’m not sure this small segment could fund a whole movie or TV series but I am sure they could get another short like this with a similar amount of effort.

The fact that could happen repeatedly in the future with niche products is an interesting new avenue for the medium as a whole.

2 thoughts on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #222

  1. lonerailgun says:

    The characterization building of Girls und Panzer is principally focused in the beginning of the series, however, an emphasis seemed to be placed more on tank warfare strategy later in the series to me. The battle sequences in the middle to latter part of the series allowed me to become enamored with the series as it shows the characters evolving into a cohesive team capable of winning matches using strategy and created a divergence from the moe trope while working on character development on the side.

  2. Charley Harmon says:

    Well, even the RNG has to smile on them at some point. I have to wonder whether the anime team actually played World of Tanks to game out their scenarios. I recall Tom Clancy and Larry Bond wargaming the scenarios for Red Storm Rising using tabletop Harpoon rules.

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