Ongoing Investigations: Case #175

I think I have always had a bit of a heretic opinion when it comes to the Space Battleship Yamato. I realize the enormous impact the series has had on the industry. It changed the game for anime on a variety of levels. It certainly helped cement the idea that anime was not just for kids in Japan. I just don’t think it is as timeless as the old school fans. But that aside I feel that if you have any interest in the history of anime it is an important show to at least be familiar with for how much of it inspires what comes after it. So with that in mind I decided to watch the first episode of the new Space Battleship Yamato 2199 OVA.

Space Battleship Yamato is now almost 38 years old. Anime has come along way since the first voyage to Iscandar. I was curious to see how much they could modernize the story while still keeping the magic that made the original so popular. It is far too easy to make something bland when you reinvent it for contemporary audience. There are a pile of 90s OVA rermakes that will attest to that fact. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 changes certain things for the better, one or two for the worse, but most of them are lateral moves that have a very “Your mileage may vary” feel to them.

The most notable are the animation changes. Being a show made in 2012 all the ships are CG. It is never brilliant but it is usually serviceable. But gone are the hand-drawn feel of the original. The other major shift is in the character design. The more realistic the character design in the original they less they changed. Captain Okita is pretty much untouched from this original design while Kodai and Yuki have the distinct sheen of modern character design but are still instantly recognizable as their originals.  But some characters like the very cartoonish Dr. Sado get a complete makeover. Sado looks more like Heaven Canceller than his original design. They also seem to have added a bunch of new character who look much more like modern anime characters than updated Leiji Matsumoto characters. Shockingly enough there might be more female characters than just Yuki now.

The beats of the plots so far are largely unchanged. It is all in the details that the difference lies. I found it a good move that they upgraded Yuki from being a bridge bunny nurse to a more Misa Hayase styled military professional. Also Kodai is still impulsive but a great deal less whiny. When he confronts Okita about the death of his brother it comes off as much more natural. At the end you know he still takes issue with how his brother died but he comes off much more as a military man than a bratty child. He is still running off with experimental fighter craft during an emergency but even then he seems a bit more properly restrained.

I will say that one scene near the beginning where that one young engineer dies calling out for his mom is tremendously ham-fisted. It just comes off like amateur hour drama. And it is not like the series can’t pull off cheesy but strong. The part where Mamoru’s crew sacrifices themselves while singing comes off more like a WWII movie tribute than cheap emotional ploy.

I am curious what the die-hard Yamato fan think of the first new episode. Since I am not super attached to the first series I think I can be a bit more objective about the changes. Where they go with the show from here? I think it has some distinct potential to be a strong re-imagining. The real question is how much the fan base approves of the modernization? Do they still think it contains the heart and soul of the original?

I watched the live action movie adapation of Kimi ni Todoke and it renewed my love for the series.

I haven’t read the manga yet, but the movie covers roughly the first season of the anime with some minor changes. We see the girl that everyone is scared of slowly make friends and open up. We see Kazehaya fall in love with her and Sawako learning what love is. You also get more of a solid conclusion between Kazehaya and Sawako happily. It is a simple story that is very satisfying.

I really liked the casting for everyone especially Sawako and Kazehaya. Haruma Miura is not only a good fit for how cute Kazehaya is, but his expressiveness really added a lot to understanding how Kazehaya felt. He also has a killer smile which is essential! Mikako Tabe also lights up when she smiles so they really fit together.

I cried the last 15-minutes and while I don’t measure all films based on this, it proves how very much it got into my heart. It was really lovely.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #134

I started watching Ashita no Nadja on and off in between other shows, I’ve seen four so far. It is a shojo series with a small following. I’ve always been curious about it because it has a It also boasts a fabulous opening. Nadja is a young orphan girl who receives a mysterious package on her 13th birthday which contains a letter revealing her mother is still alive. This sets her off an adventure where she joins a traveling troupe and becomes a dancer, as she searches for her mother she meets various people along the way including many suitors, and she is pursued by villains trying to stop her progress. Nadja is a hard-working dear girl, the troupe is a colorful bunch, and there is a blond prince plus a phantom thief so far! This is such a children’s wish fulfillment show and it is utterly charming in its execution. It also has a bit of a Masterpiece Theater feel. I’m looking forward to watching more.

With a morbid curiosity I decide to brave the first 4 episodes of the 2011 reboot of Thundercats. The original Thundercats is distinctly one of those show that you might have liked as a kid but does not age well at all. The new series is produced by Warner Bros. Animation but the animation is done by Studio 4°C so I also watched for the tenuous anime connection. But make no mistake while some of the visual fair has an anime feel this is very much an American cartoon. It is closer to Avatar: The Last Airbender than Bleach. And that is not a bad thing. The story telling for children of all ages make entertainment that has the ability to stand up over time. Some of it dips into the just for kids cache at times but overall it is a fairly smart remake. The reboot wisely keeps many of the things that people remember fondly about the original and jettisons some of the more frankly stupid parts at the same time. I mean Snarf is now a clever pet as opposed to his old annoying nursemaid persona which I am sure earns the show a metric ton of goodwill. The first episode setup the main cast, had them soundly beaten, and gets them on the run. I will say that Mumm-Ra plan that involved assault mecha, a turncoat, AND a Trojan horse seemed a bit overkill but it does show you that he is a credible threat. The next two episode have been fairly entertaining with a Moby Dick story and the tale living for the day. I think I will keep watching to see where it goes. Be warned no matter how this series turns out it will  be a furry generation engine like the original. This is just an unavoidable fact.

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