Posts tagged 'nostalgia'
Frankly, I lack the words to talk about Satoshi Kon’s passing; there are others who have said and will say things more eloquently. Instead, I offer you a diversion: FLCL.
I meant to write this post a while back, but never go around to it. Somehow, it’s been a very long, and a little bit of a crazy summer. Without many noticing, the 10th anniversary of a certain anime came and went in late April. You probably know it by one of it’s many names – FLCL; Furi Kuri; Fooly Cooly. I love FLCL. I’ve watched it so many times over the last decade that I’ve lost track.
Two years is a long time.
Just two years ago, I’d seen very few Japanese live-action films, only to eventually realise that my interest in anime was linked to a broader fascination with the whole spectrum of Japanese art; what I get from anime, I hear in Japanese music and see in Japanese film, too. This runs deep for me and I can’t explain why, but anyway, since that point, I’ve seen dozens of Japanese films; I have favourite directors and keep finding new music (the latest being World’s End Girlfriend).
Every new film is just the tip of another ice-berg, revealing only further depths of art and beauty. One of my biggest regrets about this blog is that I haven’t documented this journey into live-action nearly well enough, so, I’m sorry about that, guys, but this post, I hope, will at least go some ways to making amends, because last night I watched Air Doll and just had to write something.
The problem with writing an anime blog for any length of time is that I’m prone to repeating myself. I’ve had this ache to write about something, anything, over the last month or so, but there are only so many times I can say “this is good, that is bad” without feeling as though I’m running in circles, writing about anime for the sake of being an anime blogger. I don’t want to go down that road, I want this to be like a natural impulse, something that I’m compelled to do by an honest desire to share my enthusiasm with you. Nothing else.
That is why this post exists. I haven’t stopped watching anime, or anything as dramatic as that, it’s just that my mind has been blank. I’ve been waiting for something to shake me out of that apathy, and it turns out that that something is Xam’d: Lost Memories.
It’s not just that the animation is superb, or that the soundtrack is evocative, or even that the characters are great. It’s everything. The world-building, the whimsical adventure, the sudden bursts of brutality. I adore it because it reminds me of Eureka Seven and Nausicaa, that it makes clear nods towards Miyazaki’s synthesis of nature and fantasy, the sweeping landscapes and complex technologies of a strange new world. It’s so nostalgic for me; a story I can’t help but treasure dearly.
I’ve spent this last week navigating my way through all 26 episodes, and even then, I must admit, it has been difficult to follow. Considering its strange terminologies and complex foreign cultures, this has to be the hardest fantasy anime I’ve seen since Seirei no Moribito, and without ever pausing for reflection, it forges ahead breathlessly with the story. There is little time wasted on explanation or flashback, we’re just dropped right in to the centre of a world war and expected to keep up. In its slower moments, characters dream of their past adventures, regret old battles and wistfully sigh over lost loves, but all we have to go on are painful scars, a name or a place. That’s the thing about Xam’d, really, almost as if it has invented its own language, it speaks in riddles and poetry, and like the best of fantasies, it feels deep. One might compare it to a glass of vintage wine, a subtle taste nurtured over years of careful fermentation. Xam’d is a story in a bottle, a history fermented over thousands of years, a bitter-sweet taste.
It’s bitter because there is no easy way to save the world. Things like religion get in the way. Racism, child soldiers and suicide bombings. All of these things lead to tragedy. There is no escaping the fact that a lot of people die in this show; they inflict horrible wounds on each other and die in gruesome ways, and for 26 episodes straight, there is no end to it. Friends become enemies for stupid, petty reasons. Resentment and hatred boil to the surface. There is no logical reason for it, and only chaos that follows it.
Yet, it’s sweet because there are still people around with the heart to smile. Against all the odds, Akiyuki and Haru fall in love and are reunited, while, time and time again, Nakiami throws herself in harms way so that others may live. This one particular scene is stunning; Akiyuki’s mother runs and runs down the street, scraping her bare feet on the pavement, desperate to catch one last glimpse of her departing son.
There’s so much hatred in Xam’d, but so much love too. It’s vibrant and full of life, just look at how it has been drawn, it’s beautiful. Pretty like a fairy tale.
Some anime are dark and depressing, others are romantic and heart-wrenching. One Piece is a story of friendship, chasing dreams, and smiling; honestly, it is a joy to behold, to listen as Brook plays his favourite song; the music has a feeling of nostalgia. The Straw-Hats’ celebrations are always moments of sublime happiness, which is something that One Piece has always captured so well, as after such a long, hard journey, it’s only right to reflect on the adventure, and, of course, to smile.
But Brook cries instead, because his dearest Laboon has waited nearly 50 years to be reunited with him. Meanwhile, just a matter of days before, Zoro and Sanji offered to trade their lives in return for their friends. All of them were unconscious, Zoro nearly dies, and few know why. It’s a secret. Yohohoho.
Should I say Xam’d: Lost Memories is good? It’s better than good, and I know it’s not enough to say just that, but I have to be careful. Because I’m about ready to explode. Yes, there’s too much to say. This is what anime is capable of; it’s why I’m writing an anime blog. Ironically, I’m on the brink of incoherence, but I need order, I need someone to understand something; that Xam’d: Lost Memories is good and that I think you might like it too. But that’s still not enough.
Where to begin? How about the trailer. I’ve been admiring this series since reading the trailer’s subtitle of “A nostalgic SF by Studio Bones”. Of course, a lot of anime is nostalgic, but it’s typically nostalgia for youth, for young love. Xam’d is nostalgic for science fiction. Our heroine Nakiami recalls both the rural appearance of NausicaÃƒÂ¤ (of NausicaÃƒÂ¤ and the Valley of Wind) and the emotional ambivalence of Eureka (of Eureka Seven). So, right off the bat, those are two of my favourite anime. It seems I was fated to adore this show.
The direction has an air of confidence, the narrative flows naturally, the plot is slow-building and consistent, the characters are light hearted and funny, some concealing their insecurity with a spunky attitude, others with sarcasm, none of it feeling artificial or calculated, just natural, normal. By the time the action kicks in, about three quarters of the way through the first episode, I was immersed, lost in the fantasy, in the characters, their lives about to be torn apart.
The school bus explodes, it’s a suicide bombing. Terrorism. Fear spreads. The twisted wreckage of what’s left behind is more like an open ribcage, bloodied, facing skyward. The seats have a bubbling, organic texture. Strange flying machines float high over-head, launching their organ-like pods of insectiod attackers into the city below. Akiyuki’s arm swells and twists with a strange, alien infection, his trembling body is no longer his own.
It’s a shock to transition so violently from this sleepy, easy-going slice of life into a terrible, chaotic war, a situation that reflects our own fears of terrorism and paranoia of aggression that is indiscriminate and seemingly aimless.
Akiyuki’s mum is a part of an ensemble of likable and interesting personalities. Her marriage is falling apart, but she maintains a strength of character, humour and dignity that’s really quite admirable. Akiyuki’s dad is a workaholic; a popular doctor with time for his patients but none for those most important to him, his family. They both care deeply for their son, but show it in different ways. When he goes missing, they both go looking for him, but at different times. They understand each other, but pretend not to, neither willing to compromise with the other. Little do they know, Akiyuki has embarked on a nostalgic adventure.
Flying high in purple skies, I’m happy just watching this story unfold, like some long lost fable, it’s beautifully drawn, sometimes poetically so, dream-like and awe-inspiring, a world worth exploring, with its many strange cultures, creatures and technologies. It is a fantasy in the truest sense of the word, a world of fantastic imagination, dark and light, nostalgic and exciting, would be perfect if there wasn’t so much rust in the water.
Despite being both loved and loathed by an ever collecting legion of frothing fans, the various anime derived from Japan’s own Shounen Jump are undeniably the flag bearers of anime to our mainstream generation.
As much as I like to think of myself as a serious anime fan, I must now confess that I happen to enjoy the uniquely derivative delights of the SJ adaptation; indeed, my TV recorded VHS tapes of all 261 episodes of DragonballZ attest to this horrifying affliction- intending never to watch them again, I still keep them close by as a reminder of what once was.
Alas, as a means of clearing my heavy conscience, we reach the point at which I introduce this series of articles, my “memoirs of a shounen jump fan”, so join me brave reader as we sink ever deeper into the bowls of these forbidden anime series.
Dragonball Z – My confession
Back during the desolate days of the year 2002 I wasn’t an anime fan but being your typical lazy student and all, I still had a lot of spare time on my hands. One fated summer’s afternoon, I just happened to flick past Toonami on TV… and weeks later, I realized I was addicted to Dragonball Z. That’s literally how it happened, there wasn’t some moment of divine realization, rather I just woke up one morning and subconsciously decided to become a DBZ fan.
To my unfettered eyes, it offered something new. For a start, it was my first true serial story in animated form- I loved tuning in everyday and being able to watch the next part of an on-going story. The characters too were a big draw for me; we see Goku and Gohan grow up, develop and suffer in realistic ways, being affected by everything going on around them. It had just enough maturity to hold my interest, something I can’t say for the majority of teen-aimed American toons.
For that summer, I loved Dragonball Z. It got old for me around about my third time around the block; now it’s drawn out and boring, but for those precious 3 to 6 months, I really loved it- enough to sit through several whole day marathons!
Why people hate DBZ (and subsequently, why I love it!)
As popular as Dragonball Z still is, there’s no point in trying to convince anyone its high art. Its main problem is pacing; DBZ lasted 261 episodes for a reason, the story moves so slowly that (and this is a fact) that when we are told that a “planet will explode in two minutes”, the action is still stretched out over two episodes.
After around about 90 episodes, Dragonball Z has reached its zenith. Goku has completed his fated transformation into the legendary Super Saiyajin and Frieza meets his grizzly end. The series should end here, with everything tied up- but it doesn’t, for whatever reason it lasts for another 170 episodes. Basically, Akira Toriyama’s universe wasn’t built to last this long- and the cracks start to show.
The action, if we can call it that, consists of the now familiar SJ-style face-offs in which opponents spend more time trashing talking each other and trading “power levels” than actually fighting. Characters in battle take on the look of someone squatting with violent constipation, muscles bulge and hair colour changes.
- At an emotional highpoint- Goku, mourning the death of his best buddy Krillin, goes Super Saiyajin for the first time and humiliates the previously untouchable pride of Frieza.
- Gohan inheriting his father’s legacy by saving Earth from Cell.
- Vegeta finally acknowledging Goku and his loved ones by sacrificing his life- blowing himself up- to halt the universal destruction expected of fat villain Majin Buu.
The most revered Shounen Jump anime ever, Dragonball Z set the standards for long running “fighting” anime. Despite being hopelessly stretched out over an amazing number of episodes, the story retains its power as a weird blend of science fiction and traditional martial arts. Time traveling, androids, space ships and exploding planets are but a few of the many delights DBZ offers and as much as it now looks like a blatantly tired old series, it will always have my respect!