Right now, my time away from work and job hunting and being a good host to Mel (currently trying to sleep in the next room) is spent watching three series, principally. The one I started watching first was RahXephon, having started that in the middle of summer. RahXephon is perhaps the out and out weirdest of these three series, relative to its setting. Don’t get me wrong, all three are pretty weird–but RahXephon is the only one that starts from a premise so widespread in Japan that it may as well be called normal or reality. And starting from reality and getting to where RahXephon has already, that’s an accomplishment.
It’s a super robot series about a kid named Ayato Kamina (or is that Kamina Ayato) who is from Tokyo. Everything’s normal, everything’s cool, some older woman comes into his life, shoots some MIBs who are all like come with us and all of a sudden, they’re bleeding blue blood and everything’s screwed up forever. The older woman eventually jailbreaks him from Tokyo–which is actually encased in a giant sphere that looks like Jupiter (so they just call it Tokyo Jupiter) that’s under alien control. His mom is an alien. All this from “boy paints a girl on a cliff”.
Also, the other primarily weird thing about this series is that the superpowered robots are powered not by fighting spirit, erections or fear, but by music. Enemies are recognized by their arias. Robots are called instruments, pilots instrumentalists, and the instruments must be properly tuned. Before a performance, you must tune the instrument, but be careful to follow the music–it is too early yet to improvise. Weird.
This series is notable in North America primarily for being seen as an Evangelion rip-off, which, upon any inspection, can be seen to be plainly false. Sure, the series share some details. A relationship between and older woman and a teenage boy is key, there’s a lot of character building, yadayada. But where Eva‘s surreal breaks from reality were an investigation into the psyches of the characters, in RahXephon, it is reality that is strange. I think I like it, but I’m 18 episodes in and have been for a month.
Next up on the docket is the one I started watching last, but also the one that’s been taking up the most time for the past couple weeks. HighSchool of the Dead is a downright weird series. And not because the story is weird–the dead walk the earth and eat flesh, our heroes band together to survive, it’s a zombiepocalypse, tada–but because of the way the story is approached. There have been a few attempts at a zombie series as of late. HotD, The Walking Dead, Zombieland. In my mind, it was Zombieland that got it right, despite being the TV pilot that wasn’t even picked up. The truth is, if you’re going to have the dead walking the earth from week to week, you have to have a little levity. A zombiepocalypse plot plays too easily into paranoid, dark drama and week after week of angst and desperation would kill any audience you develop.
HotD, however, went dramatic. It’s all well and good to go dramatic, as long as you do it well and with a form of dignity. The Walking Dead seems to be shuffling along that route currently. We won’t know until it premieres. However, HotD quickly abandons any form of dignity it builds with its occasionally superb writing and downright criminally good animation by suffusing every episode with more fanservice than you can shake a stick at. Do you like teenage girls? The guys behind this assume you do, and not in the wholesome way. There are more pantyshots than should be allowed; every girl is at least a D-cup; I can now identify characters by their underwear. I’m not the kind of guy to try to identify characters by panty-colors, but hey–HighSchool of the Dead is the kind of series to differentiate girls like that.
And I should say that I stand by this series as an example of fascinatingly flawed. It’s not good. By any means. But it does too much right to suck as bad as I feel it should and does too much wrong for me to adequately point out to parts that are actually quite well-done. At the end of the day, I’d rather watch a flawed series whose flaw is having far too much lovingly rendered flesh on display than one whose flaw is being poorly written or voice-acted. I can’t hate on it for trafficking in titties, I just wish it would stop already.
Last but most is my new favourite series, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. This is perhaps my favourite anime of the decade, and so far, two episodes have been released. It’s the new GAINAX series, dedicated to the highest gag- and wtf-per-minute ratio of any of their series to date. And it succeeds by the widest margin possible. Panty and Stocking are a pair of sassy angels who are living in the city on the faultline between Heaven and Hell, sending Ghosts to Hell to get back into Heaven. Garterbelt is their sassy black afro’d priest who tells them what to do, like Charlie.
This is the set-up for the most flat-out-of-town weird series I have ever seen. It’s styled to look like Western Animation–specifically Powerpuff Girls, Fairly Oddparents, Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy–and is the most cartoonish series I’ve ever seen. It opens with eleven minutes of non-stop poo jokes. Panty can’t stop having sex with every man she encounters. Stocking can’t stop eating every dessert she encounters. I know it’s been two episodes, but Stocking is already my favourite character of the two. Can you tell that when I play Mario, I always pick Luigi?
The series is weirder in more ways than it would take words to describe them all. But my favourite part of all is its embracing of immature humour that bars the little kids from entering. The attitude that because we’re all adults, we can laugh at poo and sex jokes without feeling lower-class or like absolute cultural monsters. It’s immature, yes. And that’s because of its great ambitions to “maturity” without sophistication.