Spring 2008 TV Cartoon Roundup: PART 3

Four posts in a week. This must be a record for us.

Shangri-La

Apparently, this is the season for cartoons where the teenage protagonists mark the first episode with extended stays in the local correctional facility. Studio GONZO — my favorite punching bag — opens their latest sci-fi bullshit series with our bubblegum-pink-haired protagonist, who was apparently really popular in jail, getting discharged. It’s not clear exactly what our heroine was arrested for, but given that in the opening credits sequence she makes a tank explode by hitting it with a boomerang, she’s definitely a menace to society. She’s picked up by her brother Elwood in a police car several of her friends from the local guerrilla group in a jeep. The only one of them I care about is the offensive transsexual stereotype, voiced by George Nakata, who battles the army with her whip (which can slice guns apart) and her feminine wiles. “A woman must never forget her lipstick when going into battle,” she reminds our heroine.

This show’s got all sorts of bullshit to offer! There’s some sort of mystical, heterochromatic little girl who’s carried around in one of those portable shrine-looking deals the Japanese love, and her retainers use the ceremonial anti-tank rifle on some poor fuckers out for a drive on the highway when they dare to cross her path. She also has some sort of magic dagger which resonates with the ceremonial dagger of the leader of the guerrilla faction and the ceremonial dagger of the young, honorable dog of the military who resents their “shoot first, never ask questions” policy. The ominous, obviously evil people, lead by a woman who likes to be toweled off by pretty young boys, make vague commentary on the events occurring in the episode in ways that will surely important in future episodes. And there’s a ten-year-old computer genius girl who wrote her doctoral dissertation on the methods of carbon credit market manipulation her supercomputer makes possible. And for some reason Tokyo’s been allowed to get almost entirely overgrown by plant life, except in the slums where the guerrillas live and in the city where the rich and powerful live.

Visually, the show’s not bad or anything, but it is really unremarkable. Range Murata’s character designs are nice and all, but they’re translated into animation much more poorly than in Last Exile. Basquash! has way more interesting future-slum environment design, and the totally overgrown Tokyo concept is kinda overdone. The action scenes are amusingly stupid, with our heroes slashing apart military weapons with whips and boomerangs and such, but they’re not very exciting to watch. At least GONZO appears to have burnt themselves out on drawing little girls in their underwear for the time being. I’d say it’s on a similar level to, say, Sengoku Basara overall, except Basara has a lot more flair in the action scenes. Oh, and Macross Frontier fans, the opening theme is yet another Sheryl Nome song, if that’s the sort of thing that gets you hot.

I cracked up enough at the stupidity of what I was watching to warrant watching more of this show, but that doesn’t mean it’s, y’know, good. But hell, it’s a GONZO production, and that means they’re providing free, same-day subs on the Internet, so it’s not like it’s a lot of work to keep up with it.

Jeff

I’m not a fan of Range Murata (apathetic, more like) but considering how popular he is, the animated works he’s involved in are generally regarded as crap and Shangri-La‘s first episode certainly suggests it will be no different. While Basquash! does an amazing job of creating a cohesively interesting, unique looking world in terms of character, urban and mechanical designs, Shangri-La doesn’t manage to pull off the same hat trick. The gorgeous illustrations of a crumbling Tokyo covered in foliage are great, but the character designs look like complete garbage.

Outside of the main character, Hojo, who is herself a fairly generic looking schoolgirl, the rest of the character designs look like they were pulled from the Generic Anime Designs box. Combine this with some lackluster animation and the kind of first episode that throws you into the middle of a plot without explaining anything (but does so poorly), I’m left with no desire to keep following the series. The great backgrounds of decaying Tokyo are great, but everything is so half-assed and hackneyed I can’t work up the interest to even give this one a shot and see if it manages to turn interesting (but it’s a GONZO production, so it won’t).

The most praiseworthy part of the entire episode may be that for a heroine with such an impossible short skirts, there’s absolutely no panty shots. Clearly this was a glaring oversight, and expect that as ratings begin to tank in later episodes the fanservice will be cranked up to 11.

Sean

Soten Koro

The Three Kingdoms period, that perennial favorite of 3rd Century Chinese history as popularized by Luo Guanzhong, has another treatment in Japanese media by way of Madhouse’s Soten Koro, and it’s looking pretty good. Just never mind the last time I expected great, much less good, things from a recent Madhouse TV show project.

If you don’t know what the Three Kingdoms period is, it’s OK, but you should probably read more. Or at least play more Koei videogames.

I can’t comment on much of the prodigious talking in the first episode, but I can comment on the prodigiously awesome, reasonably well-animated violence interspersed between undoubtedly serious conversations about the stability of the crumbling Han Dynasty and the rising ambitions of petty warlords. Main character Cao Cao (pronounced “Sow sow,” like the term for a female pig, regardless of what Koei tells you) and entourage brutally dispatch multiple uncouth ruffians and sniveling rebels in a variety of fashions, including causing a sand storm through which they drop a hail of stone Buddha statues onto a rebel war band idling in a valley below. It all seems pretty nuts until you remember Romance of the Three Kingdoms was the “historical” novel that included scenes of disgraced assassins killing themselves by disemboweling themselves (with their bare hands) in front of the entire court after botching an assassination in front of said court.

Soten Koro is based off a 36-volume seinen manga by author Hagin Yi and artist King Gonta. The show itself is directed by Tsuneo Tominaga, not exactly the biggest name. Tominaga’s previous directorial credits include seminal classics such as Barom One and Initial D Fourth Stage; those were hot, right? But hey it’s not all bad: the guy worked as a storyboarder on Legend of the Galactic Heroes AND Overman King Gainer, two Colony Drop-endorsed series. He was also the director on the They Were Eleven movie who wasn’t Osamu Dezaki’s elder brother!

Mark

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