Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Friday, September 05, 2003

New Anime Alert

Okay, so Angelic Layer's another tournament show. It's also by CLAMP, which means the art will be beautiful but the themes are likely to be odd and Gnostic and the characters will probably include some gay guys. (Although this is a kid's show, not aimed at older audiences like their other work.) But it seems like a good-hearted show this time, and there are hints that the main character's mother is a woman in a wheelchair, who is successful in controlling battle dolls but is too ashamed of her disability to see her daughter. This is big stuff for Japan. You never see disabled characters unless they got something cut off in a war. In a society where most of the disabled are hidden away, this could be a very important step towards understanding. The CLAMP crew are weirder 'n weasels, but they've found something to rebel against that needs a rebellion.

(Other folks you never see in anime: people from "untouchable" families, Japanese of Korean descent, mentally handicapped persons, and unemployed or homeless Japanese. Granted, our cartoons don't usually show our poor, either, but I have seen folks who were laid off in kids' cartoons, or Christmas eps where people collect food or toys for the poor and homeless. Fat Albert did the best ep on this topic. We usually reserve the retarded folks for live action, but physically disabled characters have become fairly common in US kids' cartoons.)

Gundam Seed is coming soon to the US. This is a no-brainer for fans of the many Gundam universes full of giant robot mecha. Thanks to my cousin and the fansubs, I can tell you that this is a charming show and much more interesting than the promotional materials make it appear. The basics are typical Gundam: the colony destroyed, the reluctant kid with advanced genes defending Humanity Classic against his "own kind" while protecting the girl he likes, the diplomat's daughter seeking peace, and the masked, honorable leader of the fighter squadron from the other side. But the series has a charm of its own, best represented by the hero's robotic bird pet and the human friends from back on the colony who insist on being the support crew for his Gundam mech. I enjoyed the eps I saw, and hope very much it will be picked up by Cartoon Network, your source for all things Gundam.

It's been out since May but I still haven't gotten
hold of Read or Die, the four-ep saga of a bookish girl who's also a secret agent with the power to make paper into magical objects. (Swords! Chains! Ropes! Birds! Throwing stars!) It's a fun power, and the animation is beautiful. There's a very angsty moment when she runs out of currency and scraps of paper and must rip up a rare old book for the paper to save lives. (At the sf convention where I saw this, everyone in the room shuddered and groaned in horror.) It's got way too much potential not to become a series.

They're finally releasing more anime for the manga series Spirit of Wonder. Set in Canada on the fictitious Prince of Wales Island at the turn of the century, Spirit of Wonder is the story of Miss China (a tough young immigrant girl with great kung fu), her restaurant, and her boardinghouse. Her boarders include an old mad scientist and a young obsessed engineer (whom she loves). The previous OVA, "Miss China's Ring", involved a trip to the Moon through quantum steampunk methods. (Too bad they wouldn't work in this world.) In the new release, Miss China's boarders recruit a bunch of other crazy folks and build themselves a steampunk spaceship to head out for Mars. There's also a story where Miss China gets shrunk! I'm dying to see it.

Haibane Renmei is out right now. It's set in a world where some children suddenly fall asleep, form cocoons around themselves, and emerge with small gray wings growing out of their back. They are then called haibane, and give themselves new names based on the dreams they had in their cocoon. They go to live in separate houses with the other haibane children, wear secondhand clothing or things given to them, and wonder where the fully-fledged adult haibane go. They are given floating haloes that have some mysterious electronic purpose. Sinning blackens their wings, so they use bleach to whiten them again. It all sounds like an interesting use of the current convention costuming craze for tiny wings (as seen on Megatokyo's character Seraphim) combined with dreamlike sf/fantasy. After learning a bit more about the show from Newtype USA, I'm sorry I didn't buy the show when I saw it on the shelf.

Vie Durant" is an 8-ep series about the last few vampires being hunted down by future humans for their immortality properties. I'd love to see it. You gotta love the role reversal!

Witch Hunter Robin" is coming out on DVD in time for Halloween. In a world where witches (people with magical or psychic powers) wreak havoc on humanity, an international organization of witches turned witch hunters does the Men in Black thing. Their newest recruit, Robin, is a pyrokinetic with vast power and very little control, who was raised in a convent. But as Robin learns more about her new job, she finds that the organization is not quite as benign as she believed, and there's more to her coworkers than she knew.... Good stuff, from the theme song right down to the final credits. Interesting use of Catholic themes, but mostly in a Goth way.


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