Tag Archives: Mecha

Giant robots do battle, often with a pilot inside.

Moonlight Mile – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Moonlight Mile: Lift Off

 

Similar: Space Brothers

Planetes

Armageddon (Hollywood movie)

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Adventure Drama

Length: 26 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Science and engineering detail.
  • Some tense dilemmas.

Negatives:

  • Disjointed storytelling.
  • Characters don’t have time to develop amidst the dilemmas.
  • Junk animation and CG.

(Request an anime for review here.)

What made me curious to watch this anime? Was it a) space, b) the engineering, c) premise, or d) sex? The answer is a), of course – I love space! Alright, I admit, it was the sex, okay. Happy? But no, in all seriousness, when I was at the Kyoto International Manga Museum, they had an exhibition spotlighting civil engineering in manga – infrastructure, architecture, development, etc. – as the Japanese take great pride in their civil engineers (when you watch them build a house in a day, you can see why [turn on captions for subtitles]). I picked up Moonlight Mile because it had an astronaut on the cover (I am serious about the loving space part), but was struck by how sexually graphic the opening scene was. If I hadn’t seen the cover first, I would have assumed this belonged in the section you wouldn’t mention to your parents. This scene is so graphic that I was curious if they got away with it in the anime adaptation. Spoiler: they don’t.

But first, the story. Two climbing buddies, Gorou from Japan and Jack “Lostman” Woodbridge from the US, make a pact atop Mount Everest to see each other in space as they look to the sky above. They soon part and set about achieving this goal in their own manner. Gorou takes the path of an engineer, while Lostman goes the air force route (two-thirds of US astronauts come from the military). Becoming an astronaut is no easy journey and each will face trials and setbacks, even more so than real astronauts, for Moonlight Mile loves to throw one disaster after another at the protagonists.

Now, you know me, I love conflict – it’s the engine of fiction – but there comes a point where you need to allow characters to grow. In fiction, scenes follow the rough pattern of action and reaction. Something happens in a scene (action) and the characters react/reflect on this action in the next scene (reaction). Moonlight Mile rarely stops for the reaction. All space movies have those disasters – oxygen leak, broken thruster, power failure, etc. – for the astronauts to solve. These moments are exciting edge-of-your-seat tense, yet if you have nothing but this, as Moonlight Mile does, the tension wanes. The characters, while decent, feel like mere nuts and bolts to this story, rather than driving agents.

The first episode is nothing but a disastrous climb up Everest to establish the characters. This should have taken a few minutes. Well, there is Gorou’s butt as well.

As for my initial curiosity, while most episodes have a sex scene, it isn’t graphic. Still certainly not for kids, though is a far cry from the manga. It also doesn’t add to character, for Gorou falls in love with a new girl faster than a shooting star. This wouldn’t be an issue if he grew from each relationship. Alas, a new girl means a clean slate of development, so what’s the point?

In regards to the engineering, Moonlight Mile succeeds in taking care to do the math and science in a disaster. I’m not a rocket scientist, so someone more qualified may find great flaws here, but Moonlight Mile doesn’t try to convince us that training oil drillers to become astronauts is easier than training astronauts to operate a drill.

Art – Low

The 2D animation is junk, whereas the 3D sees overuse for vehicles and sweeping shots. Even the ground is CG in these scenes – so distracting.

Sound – Medium

The Japanese script is a bit dry, so go with the English, which added more banter and a natural flow to the dialogue.

Story – Medium

Two friends and rivals vow to meet each other as astronauts in space. This is their journeys to meet that goal. Moonlight Mile suffocates its characters in disaster after disaster for them to resolve, giving little room to develop. At least the disasters are tense.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For space fans. Did you like Armageddon? If yes, then Moonlight Mile is the anime version. If you thought that movie needed better science, Moonlight Mile will also satisfy in that regard.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Ugly Artistic Design

Mobile Police Patlabor TV – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Mobile Police Patlabor: On Television

 

Related: Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie (sequel)

Mobile Police Patlabor: Early Days (shorter alternative version)

Similar: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Full Metal Panic!

Dai-Guard

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Contemporary Mecha Science Fiction Comedy

Length: 47 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Well aged visually.
  • Mech designs.

Negatives:

  • Out done in every way by contemporaries.
  • Protagonist’s immaturity.
  • Flat dub.
  • Not particularly interesting nor funny enough.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I’m not sure if I am disappointed with Mobile Police Patlabor TV. On one hand, I was looking forward to it. On the other, it wasn’t bad nor did it have anything of particular annoyance. I don’t know how to describe how much nothing there is to this cult classic anime.

Mobile Police Patlabor TV focuses on Izumi and her motley police crew, who use mechs called Patlabors to fight crime and protect the people. Labors – heavy mechanised robots – are everywhere in society from construction to military, so it’s important for law enforcement to know how to handle them.

Izumi is the feisty new girl assigned to piloting the latest ‘patrol labor’ under the mentorship of a veteran from the LAPD. Izumi is also the first and main reason for Patlabor’s nothingness. She is too immature to be believable as such an important member of the police. Her immaturity isn’t the kind to make you beg for a merciful death within a few episodes – it’s simply results in a whole lot of nothing in terms of conflict, development, or anything really.

It’s common to have the protagonist of a comedy be a goofy character, even when in a demanding job. The key, however, to sell us on the goofiness plus the professionalism is to have a professional quality that makes us believe they can do the job. An example that leaps to mind is Jake Peralta, protagonist from TV comedy Brooklyn-Nine-Nine, who puts Izumi’s goofiness to shame. No matter the hijinks he gets up to, the one thing he is good at is being an officer. Yes, Izumi gets the job done (because the author wrote it that way). I still never bought that she was the right choice or even qualified to be a part of the mobile unit. She doesn’t have a professional quality to compensate. As a result, the conflict doesn’t feel serious because the writer didn’t send a serious character to face it.

Most episodes feel like daily life at the police station, goofing around with little conflict and mostly training. For the comedy, Patlabor has its fair share of good jokes, reminiscent of the Police Academy movies, though none had me in pain from laughter. Most jokes tend to be amusing but not ‘lough out loud’ funny, and yet not eye-gougingly bad either. Again, mostly nothing. Full Metal Panic executes all this comedy better.

For an alternative take, Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie has Izumi as a mature character and the conflict has more weight, both at the expense of humour, which does remove much of Patlabor TV’s identity. Even so, I found the movie more engaging (the shorter length didn’t hurt either). I almost feel bad for not recommending Mobile Police Patlabor TV due to its friendly nature.

Art – Medium

Patlabor looks good for its age thanks to a remaster. I like the mech designs.

Sound – Medium

The dub is flat (“Why you!” – listen to Izumi’s delivery on that line), owed in part to the middling script, but the Japanese actors worked much better with the given material.

Story – Medium

A mobile police unit uses mechs to fight crime and try to live a normal life. A bit too ‘normal’ to excite much interest, yet not exactly disagreeable either.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Skip it. Mobile Police Patlabor TV is remarkably unmemorable, which is in itself quite memorable. Watch Full Metal Panic if you want the better comedy side or Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex for the serious side.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Eureka Seven – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Eureka Seven

 

Related: Eureka Seven AO (sequel)

Eureka Seven – Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers (alternative version)

Similar: Gundam SEED

Xam’d: Lost Memories

Gurren Lagann

Guilty Crown

Neon Genesis Evangelion

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Romance Action Adventure Drama

Length: 50 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Art is quite nice.
  • Some cool mechs.

Negatives:

  • Keeps changing its identity.
  • A chore to finish.
  • “Eh-oo-wreck-ah”
  • Romance lacks believability.
  • Crying!

(Request an anime for review here.)

Eureka Seven, what a ch— Sorry, Ehoowrecka Seven, what a chore to sit through. How can an anime about air surfing mechs be this tedious?

Our arduous journey starts when a mech known as Nirvash typeZERO crashes in 14-year-old Renton’s small town of Bellforest. A girl called Ehoowrecka Eureka pilots Nirvash, a unique mech capable of controlling Trapar waves like no other machine, and being the first girl he has probably ever seen, Renton falls in love with her. Infatuated and desperate to escape his small town life, he joins her in Gekkostate against the military.

Gekkostate? Trapar? Nirvash typeZERO? Ehoowrecka? Lore is the first of Eureka Seven’s problems. As is evident, it bombards the viewer with specialist terms (nouns often made up for lore) within the first episode, never giving a chance to let them sink in. All these terms featured in the official blurb – a bad sign (Tip: the best blurbs mention no names). On top of half the characters having made up names, every sci-fi object has an unintuitive sci-fi name that if looked at on paper, you wouldn’t guess its purpose. This world didn’t have questions I wanted to explore further – I just wanted to get out.

Sci-fi/fantasy often invents specialist terms, but it is crucial to introduce these elements with memorable impact. If you call a fire spell ‘Schinezarcher’ and don’t introduce (and repeat) it in the right way, the viewer will simply say, ‘what’s it called? You know, that big fire spell.’

Think of Star Wars and how not confused you are in that film. It doesn’t throw Jedi, Midi-chlorians (shudder), Ewoks, Endor, Lando, and the like at you within five minutes. Star Wars uses a mix of intuitive terms (Lightsaber, Death Star) and unintuitive terms with proper introduction. When they threaten to destroy Alderaan, we see the planet Alderaan on the screen. You don’t want Alderaan confused for a battleship. They don’t have to point and say, “That’s Alderaan!” We get it through context. Eureka Seven will have two characters talking as a new term enters the lexicon – no visual aids, no context assist. Not all words need immediate explanation, of course, but there should be a point soon after that cements the meaning. The more unintuitive a term the more emphasis required. Gekkostate is the name of the mercenary/terrorist group they are a part of, by the way. At least the anime ingrains Eureka’s name by kicking you out of the experience each time someone uses it. Elements that are supposed to be cool or significant leave no impact because we don’t have groundwork to stand on first.

Why is this hater rambling on and on about bloody lore, you ask? Well, dear reader, this problem with the lore applies to everything in Eureka Seven. The sudden romance between…Renton (took a moment to remember his name) and Eureka has no establishment. Sudden infatuation from a teen boy towards a teen girl? Happens more than you know. A lasting romance we are told is profound? That requires foundations and work to build up. Why are these two kids so into each other? They have nothing to love about each other. If he wanted to bang that receding hairline, biology suffices as explanation, but life changing love? Sure thing, mate.

Renton spends most of the series crying while Eureka looks after a batch of kids. These kids! Bloody hell, I have never hoped more for child characters to die off each episode (not even Carl from The Walking Dead demands such loathing). And it almost happened too. Eureka’s backstory is that she was a mindless soldier and killed the parents of these kids before she snapped out of it, which raises yet another poorly established point. These kids love the woman that killed their parents without any story selling us on the idea. Maybe it’s just me, but loving my parents’ murderer would take more than ‘just because’. Show us this backstory instead of a recap in episode fourteen (!).

Eureka Seven just throws stuff into the story and hopes you care on instinct rather than merit. Dislike an element anyway? Don’t worry, the show veers off in a random direction every dozen episodes to haphazardly grab your interest again. The final villain’s plan when the whole shebang comes out is a good idea, but that don’t matta’ cause Renton gotta get his bone on.

Eureka Seven does not respect your time as a viewer. It’s like that person we all know who asks for a lift, is late to the pickup, and then expects you to have known they would be late. Screw that guy.

Art – High

Good art and animation – I like the mechs. Why does every character have a receding hairline?

Sound – Medium

The acting is good, but the music is forgettable and the script leaves a lot to be desired. Renton’s every line seems to be in question form. Also, the naming scheme is arse.

Story – Low

The sudden appearance of a girl and her mech sweeps a boy on board a mercenary group’s adventure. With an empty romance, a whiny protagonist, annoying kids, and an identity that changes every arc, Eureka Seven takes iron concentration to finish.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Fifty episodes is a lot to ask of your time for such an unremarkable series. The likes of Gundam SEED and Gurren Lagann use your time better than Eureka Seven does.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: 

DissapointingUseless Side Cast

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kidou Senshi Zeta Gundam

 

Related: Mobile Suit Gundam (prequel)

Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (sequel)

Gundam Neo Experience 0087: Green Divers (side story)

Similar: Gundam SEED Destiny

Aldnoah.Zero

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 50 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Surprising consequences.
  • Good conflict and turns.
  • Cements the UC Gundam art style.

Negatives:

  • Unlikeable protagonist.
  • Several idiotic characters run rampant.
  • Poor execution of ideas.
  • Where is the security?
  • Mediocre dialogue and acting.

(Request an anime for review here.)

The first two episodes of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam had me in stitches with their absurdity. You have to see it to believe it, but I will try my best to describe the events. We first get to know what sort of a kid 17-year-old Kamille is when he jumps a turnstile to punch a stranger and superior officer in the face for making fun of his name. He even yells, “I’m a MAN!” He’s arrested, of course, receives an earful of forced expository preaching, attacks the arresting officer, escapes by luck, steals an officer’s car without objection, crashes through a military barricade under gunfire without a scratch, and jumps from the speeding vehicle for some idiotic reason – there’s an explanation, I’m sure. Next, he waltzes into a Gundam right in front of its pilot and several soldiers, and after a brief battle simply flies off with it to join the enemy. Just gifts the Gundam along with another mech to the attackers. Who looked at this start and greenlit it without question? (My suspicions fall on some shadowy Kamille-looking figure.) Gundam truly knows how to lay on the stupid sometimes.

Anyway, on to the actual review. Zeta Gundam takes place seven years after the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the war between Earth and Zeon over, though remnants of Zeon remain. To hunt them down, the Earth Federation created the Titans, an elite Gundam unit (the one Kamille stole from). Given free reign, the Titans have gone beyond protocol to become power-crazed thugs, which gives rise to the rebellious Anti-Earth Union Group. After stealing the Gundams, Kamille joins the AEUG where former Zeon hero Char works as a pilot called Quattro (poor disguise, to be honest).

Interestingly, barring Kamille and the idiocy around him, Zeta’s premise is a strong one, ripe with conflict. The protagonist joining the enemy right away is intriguing. It even redeems itself from Kamille later by having serious consequences to some of his actions. The execution could be more believable, but it’s something. And he at least has piloting experience before using a Gundam, unlike many protagonists in this franchise.

It’s a real shame they made him so bloody unlikeable – a petulant child. If he didn’t have plot armour, he would have been shot dead several times from all the absurdities he pulls. They aren’t even ‘action movie’ absurdities that fall under ‘The Rule of Cool’. His actions are simply stupid.

This stupidity isn’t isolated to him either. One character later on frees a prisoner for a stupid reason, when the episode previous he was the toughest on the enemies. What loopy character development is this? Zeta is also the origin of the Gundam trope where a character volunteers for war but refuses to kill anyone, yet imagines they won’t die on the front line. The failings may remind you of a modern Gundam. Where Gundam SEED was a throwback to the original, SEED Destiny paralleled Zeta, intolerable protagonist and the pacifist included.

Remember Kamille stealing a Gundam while no one did anything? I lost count how many times someone unauthorised gets into a mech on impulse and petulance, screwing up for everyone. Don’t these mechs have security? Zeta exemplifies why teens should never be in charge of war.

You can see what the writers wanted to do with, for example, starting Kamille as a prick before he gains responsibility and grows up. Sadly, they don’t sell the transitions, primarily because they allow characters to pull off the most absurd actions without consequence. If they want someone to free a prisoner, that’s fine, but don’t let it slide with an insignificant punishment, simply because of plot armour. When a character screws up, make them pay or the audience won’t buy the story. These consequences should be the driving force in character development, not some out of nowhere change the writers suddenly need.

Zeta has a good story when viewed from a macro level or when following the adults like Char. It’s simultaneously worse and better than Gundam 0079 – worse because it fails in more areas, yet better because its strengths are more engaging than its predecessor was. The writers seem to have forgotten what made Amuro a good protagonist in 0079. However, more happens this time around. Gone is the season-long escape from a single enemy and the flat lined third act.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam took the franchise in a direction closer to what we would recognise today – flaws included – and is well worth a watch to Gundam fans.

Art – Medium

I like how Zeta Gundam cements what would become the franchise’s art style for the next two decades, but its age shows, particularly in the animation department. The need for smoother frame transitions becomes apparent in the first scene with Kamille running. Thankfully, mechs flying in space don’t take much work.

Sound – Medium

Zeta Gundam still has the old-timey music – OP could be from an 80s prom – but the background music is more modern. The acting is a bit stiff, more so in the dub, and the dialogue could do with work.

Story – Medium

An elite mech force called the Titans are responsible for eradicating the remnants of Zeon, the antagonists of Mobile Suit Gundam, but the Titans may be just as bad. A teen boy finds himself amidst the conflict alongside a man who looks a hero of the previous war. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam has great ideas and conflict; however, the execution of these could do with serious work – start with the protagonist.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For Gundam fans. Only fans of the franchise can handle the bad Gundam tropes that bog down Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and see the qualities beneath.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Induces Stupidity

Mobile Suit Gundam – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kidou Senshi Gundam

Note: commonly referred to as Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 to distinguish it from other Gundam series.

 

Related: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (sequel)

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (side story)

Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO: The Hidden One Year War (side story)

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt (side story)

Similar: Gundam SEED

Aldnoah.Zero

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 43 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Surprisingly good.
  • A solid base for the franchise.
  • Great dub.

Negatives:

  • Art, audio, and some writing are noticeably old, if still charming.
  • Sudden psychics in the final act.
  • A tad long.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Mobile Suit Gundam doesn’t suck. That is the biggest surprise watching this progenitor of a genre. Considering Gundam anime got worse and worse the further I went back, I expected the original to be garbage. But Mobile Suit Gundam holds up for the most part.

Like the countless series that would follow, Mobile Suit Gundam starts with an attack. The Principality of Zeon broke away from the Earth Federation eight months ago, and the war has since fallen into a stalemate. However, everything changes when young Amuro finds Earth’s secret weapon – Gundam. He and a mismatched crew escape aboard the White Base spaceship and prepare to fight back against Zeon.

You can see the origins of many modern Gundam tropes here – villain with a mask, teen hero forced into war, special mech he can pilot, civilians swept up in the battles around the main ship on the run, conflict started over a weapon designed to end conflict, and many more. As a Gundam fan, I screamed, “That’s the same as the other show!” several times like a giddy schoolgirl.

Watching this after Gundam Unicorn, I realised what Unicorn was trying to do. Unicorn tried to recall the original series, not just in having similar plot points, but also in the characters. Hell, Unicorn’s white mask villain says he wants to invoke MSG’s white mask OG, Char. However, unlike Unicorn’s whiny protagonist, Amuro complains but with reason, and when it comes down to business, he delivers in the face of his problems. Whining waits until after the fight.

Furthermore, Amuro isn’t one sided. He recalls SEED’s Kira (or really, Kira recalled Amuro), where much of his conflict comes from within. He doesn’t enjoy war and killing, but must do so to keep loved ones alive, which garners engaging conflict. When Amuro preaches, someone counters his naïve argument. (There’s no Cagali – yay!)

MSG still has its problems, mind you. Amuro, despite being an engineer, not a soldier, can pilot the Gundam because the AI does most of the work. I’m still not sure why you wouldn’t couple the AI with a veteran pilot. A funny moment (probably unintentional) occurs when Amuro cracks out the paper Gundam manual for help as he’s plummeting towards Earth.

Dialogue also gets wordy at inopportune moments. “Do you really want to switch equipment mid-air while in this battle with enemies firing, is that what you are saying?” Don’t have time, lady! Characters also do too much “I’m talking to myself to make 100% sure the audience knows what my motivations are.” We can see – no need to tell.

MSG goes on a little long as well. It doesn’t have several threads like its contemporaries to maintain interest at such a length. The single track feels monotonous around the mid-point. The main ship fleeing enemy pursuit seems to go on forever, unlike SEED, which only did it for one act. The final act introduces mild psychic powers. While this trope has become a staple, it feels contrived here because it comes out of nowhere – later series built it up.

No problems prevented me from having a lot of fun with this mecha godfather. Though outdone by contemporary offerings, fans must watch Mobile Suit Gundam. How did they go from this to Gundam Wing?

Art – Medium

Mobile Suit Gundam definitely looks old, but is better than imagined – good amount of animation. It lacks the vibrant style of later series and character designs are weird. Half the characters look anime and the other half look western from the era.

Sound – Medium

The modern dub by the same team behind Gundam 00 and SEED is far superior to the old Japanese. Director Yoshiyuki Tomino thought the original recording was too bad for release with the dub initially. The music is omega old – nothing like modern Gundam’s electronic scores – accompanied by classic sci-fi bleeps and bloops. It’s not great, but it has charm in how…inexperienced it is.

Story – Medium

The Principality of Zeon declares itself independent from the Earth government and a stalemate war breaks out, cracked only with the creation of the ‘Gundam’ war machine. A classic series marked by age that is still enjoyable today.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For Gundam fans, a must. Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 takes fans back to the Mecca of the franchise, where most staples began.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Positive Recommended English Voice Track

Negative: None