Island Episode 3: The Wrong Way To Spin Narratives

Setsuna continues to try to figure out the secret of the island in episode 3, “The Right Way To Spin Dreams”. However, no matter which way you look at it, this episode is a mess.

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Hands up who wants to watch dreams sequences without a context in the opening, followed by the story openly acknowledging it’s own trope by attempting to subvert it in a sequence that if executed correctly might have at least drawn a chuckle but here just fills up screen time? Setsuna’s ploy to get Rinne outside is childish at best (let’s pretend to have fun on the beach and she’ll join us) and the transparent excuse for beach fan-service as Rinne dreams of a far more adventurous romp on the beach for Setsuna, Karen and Sara than they could possibly have really just falls horrendously flat, as does Rinne when she finally venture out into the sand.

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Of course, we could still gain something from this overly long sequence if they had then done something with Rinne. She claimed to believe she had Soot Blight Syndrome and was apparently at risk of death from sunlight. And yet immediately after her fall on the beach she’s sitting under the umbrella with Setsuna and just kind of shrugs it all aside with an, ‘I kind of knew’ line. However, with one potential plot line (the mysterious illness Rinne might be suffering from) shot in the foot, the girls stumble upon a shack and when they go to open it Rinne freaks out and collapses.

This is not how a story should develop. If we then follow this up with a hot springs sequence where Rinne once again decides to sing, for no apparent reason, and then we get her singing over a whole bunch of still scenes that I guess are meant to be the group getting closer together or something but its so boring I kind of zoned out. Then we get more drama with Karen and her father before a quiet heart to heart with Sara who pretty much calls Karen on her childish behaviour and lack of planning, only to Setsuna and not Karen.

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There’s not one interesting sequence in this entire mess and while there are ideas that link all of this together, it really doesn’t feel worth the effort to think about. Honestly, in a season where I had more on my watch list, I’d drop this at this point, and even without a replacement show, I might still drop this. It is just not particularly interesting.

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Karandi James

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Island Episodes 1 + 2: Amnesiac Protagonist Alert

What makes for a better mystery than a guy washing up on an island without a memory and then finding himself caught up in some ancient island legend? Probably lots of things but here we go for island.

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I’m really glad I watched both episodes of this together. The first episode is intriguing enough but really doesn’t do much other than have ‘Setsuna’ walk around and meet the various characters who will probably be important later. He thinks he’s from the future but doesn’t really remember and even the name Setsuna is a name he remembers but he isn’t sure if it is him. Of course all the people he’s meeting are cute girls who live on the island and belong to the three great families or whatever and there’s a bunch of legends and folklore surrounding them.

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Part of me really wants to enjoy this story and the other part of me is calling this show out on its extreme lack of originality. Amnesia, time travel, a harem of girls, ancient legends, there’s nothing here that hasn’t been employed before and while I’d like to think this anime was going to do something original with the cocktail it actually executes it all fairly by the numbers. possibly worse because it seems to be laying out a lot of explanations early on so unless we’re just getting mis-information I’m not sure how much mystery there’s going to be. Then again, MAL doesn’t list this as a mystery but as a drama/sci-fi and I haven’t seen much sci-fi yet so who knows what this will do going forward.

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Despite my misgivings, these first two episodes have made me interested in finding out what is actually going on here so I guess they served their purpose. That said, the characters are so far pretty ordinary and while it is visually quite pretty that isn’t going to be enough unless the plot really steps up its game.

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Karandi James

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Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 1 Series Review

Overview:

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: The world has been divided into three large blocs; The Human Reform League, The Union and the AEU. Each group is in control of on the orbital elevators that goes to space and is responsible for providing solar energy to the earth.  In an effort to end war, a group named Celestial Being begin carrying out armed interventions using the mobile suits known as Gundam.

Review:

I will eventually get around to rewatching the second season of this and finalise my thoughts. Like most Gundam shows when you only watch the first part it is kind of incomplete and wholly depressing. Rather than the only half-kind of depressed you end up when you watch the entire thing. That said, Gundam 00 is among my favourite of the Gundam shows out there.

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If you’ve never watched one of the Gundam shows they all more or less come down to war is inevitable but no one really wants war and war has terrible consequences that trigger yet more violence. The morals and themes are contradictory as are the actions of many of the characters but if you ever want to look at the human condition and how we seem doomed to continue our cycle of violence, Gundam has you covered. It also has giant robots and fairly cool fight sequences so will keep you entertained while it destroys your faith in humanities ability to ever overcome their basic nature.

Gundam 00 focusses on a terrorist group that were set up by a scientist 200 years ago and have been given technology that at the beginning of the series is far superior to anything the major military powers have. Essentially that means they decide who is causing conflict and then wipe them out to make the point that people shouldn’t be fighting. The fact that the 4 chosen pilots are all opposed to war even while they carry out armed interventions, and they are all aware that they are walking contradictions, makes some of the dialogue intriguing but lacks any kind of subtlety.

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What makes this particular Gundam work for me, where others don’t, is Setsuna. Taken by himself he is a fairly bland individual but in the context of the show, his history, and the relationships he creates with the other characters, he becomes fairly interesting to watch and to see the small changes that occur in him throughout the first season. Part of this is to do with meeting Marina but a lot of it has to do with his choices to find a real purpose behind his being chosen to pilot a Gundam. For a character that outwardly seems fairly passive, he is probably one of the more self-aware characters I’ve come across. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and he second guesses his actions but keeps driving forward. His existence amongst the other Gundam pilots brings out the best, and worst, in them.

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Lockon is a really fun character to get to know, but that’s about as far as it goes, until we get to the final third of this first season when Setsuna’s past is revealed. This triggers a change in Lockon that has a profound flow on effect and forces the viewer to reconsider these characters yet again.

Tieria on the other hand, just hates Setsuna from the get go but even he manages to find common ground when the thrones show up and the two learn (briefly) how to work together. Admittedly, this is a short lived truce as both Setsuna and Tieria have some more growing up to do before they’ll actually find common ground.

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The pilot who has the least to do with Setsuna is probably my second favourite character(s). Allelujah (or Hallelujah depending on which personality is in charge) gives us some of the more entertaining moments and is strangely the most human of the four gundam pilots (despite being a modified super-soldier reject harbouring an inner psycho). That said, Allelujah is the first to deviate from the carefully laid out plan when he goes out of his way to rescue civillians and is also regularly the voice of reason amongst the group. He also provides one of my favourite moments of character progress during the final battle sequence in season 1 but I’ll leave you to watch that for yourself.

In honesty though, there are too many characters. We have representative pilots from all the major blocs as well as independent movements, the leaders of the different countries and organisations, and almost everyone has an aide or a friend following them around so they have someone to talk to rather than monologueing all of their inner thoughts. The vast majority of these characters fall into the trap of becoming caught up in an endless cycle of vengeance and having no personality outside of ‘I’ll get him for…’. After awhile it becomes easier not to remember who they are or to care too much about their stories and the series allows you to not care about them.

Even those characters not actively involved in the fighting are all setting up their own agendas and while it kind of feels believable in that all of these people are out for their own ends, it doesn’t make for compelling watching.

And if you haven’t watched it, stop reading now because I’m about to spoil the end of season 1 without any kind of filter.

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Why do we not care? Because the vast majority of characters that we have met will either be dead or irrelevant by the end of the first season. Yep, we go for an all out space battle and knock off so many of the minor bit players it makes you wonder why they even let them get that far. We also take out a few major players in an attempt to elicit some real emotion from what is otherwise a cold spectacle that serves no purpose other than to reinforce the overall message that violence doesn’t stop war.

Then of course we skip 4 years and get to see where some of the survivors have ended up and that’s where the season ends and we’ll pick it up next time, but don’t worry, we already know who the new main antagonists are going to be because they did knock off the last one.

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Before I give my final thoughts though, I also want to point out that Saji and Louise get my vote for most annoying ‘civilian’ representatives in a military anime. I get that they are trying to show how innocents get caught up in events and how lives are ruined and I also get that a lot of why these two are annoying is because they are trying to show us a happy and uncomplicated life prior to war ripping it apart, but if I could go back and remove every scene involving these two I would. Saji is a pathetic doormat of a character and Louise does not allow you to feel any sympathy for her when tragedy strikes because she’s been such an overbearing drama queen prior to that moment. I really disliked this pair and felt they added little to the viewing experience.

As I said in the beginning, I will rewatch the second season and then finalise my review but if you like mecha anime or if you are wanting to try one that has some interesting characters, the core cast of this are entertaining enough and the story works even if it does try to be too complicated for its own good some times.

What are your thoughts on Gundam  00?