Episode 15: Mobile Suit Gundam and Star Wars

gundam
In this month’s episode the PodCastle crew looks back at the humble origins of two iconic science fiction mega-franchises with 1977’s ripping space opera Star Wars and the three film theatrical compilation of Yoshiyuki Tomino’s 1979 television mecha series Mobile Suit Gundam.
In the years subsequent to their release, the aesthetic and narrative conventions of the science fiction and mecha genres would each be irrevocably transformed by the imprint of these two pieces of art. Is it now possible some 40 years later to disentangle and appreciate their value as individual pieces of art from their larger cultural legacy? How does one guide a Zaku into a death pose when being cleaved in twain by a giant beamsaber? Will Bright Noa’s urge to slap his underlings ever be satiated? All this and more on an exciting episode of Podcastle in The Sky Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!
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No, we have not been arrested for sedition

Contrary to the rumours going around the anime podcast community, no one in PodCastle in the Sky is currently being detained in Guantanamo Bay, only some of us are communists, and at worst, only half of us have ever been suspected of planning to overthrow the US government. Don’t believe everything you read online.

So what’s with the delay with releasing the latest episode? Well, your sound editor, Jesse, lives in Ontario and was distracted by the provincial elections. Also, his laptop is busted. Don’t worry, there are backups and shit. It’s just going to suck to start over at the beginning again.

Just to whet your appetites, here’s what we’ve got in the pipe:

  • Episode 15: The Mobile Suit Gundam Trilogy vs. the original Star Wars trilogy
  • Episode 16: Ms. Hokusai vs. Artemisia (1997)

These episodes are already recorded, they just need sound editing. For the next episode we’ll be recording we are covering the anime Run Melos and comparing it to the poem Die Burgschaft (The Hostage) by Friedrich Schiller.

Anyway, that’s what’s up with us these days. Keep it weird, listeners.

Episode 14: Little Witch Academia and The Worst Witch

Witchcraft is the name of the game in our latest episode as we cover Studio Trigger’s  Little Witch Academia and the 2017 CBBC/ZDF children’s TV show The Worst Witch – two contemporary throwbacks to a simpler time in the media landscape.

Do you remember getting up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons and running home after school to catch Full House? Do you remember what it was like to believe in magic and to think that the world would never stop being your oyster? Do you remember when your body didn’t get weird aches, seat belts were optional, and people smoked everywhere? Even if you don’t, you should listen to this podcast.

I Should Have Saved That Pun For This: The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Book One: Deus lo Vult

A very fine look at the Youjo Senki source novels by ‘The Futurist Dolmen’ Blog.

The Futurist Dolmen

The Saga of Tanya the Evil - LN1 Cover

When I said I wanted to start reading alternate history stories again back in January, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. About a month ago, I was browsing a small hole-in-the-wall forum and was intrigued by a few scattered mentions of a recent animé series set in a magically-charged version of the Great War. Since I’ve always been a sucker for alternate histories centered around the First World War, I threw the title into Google and was surprised to find a show from the Winter 2017 season that somehow managed to combine about a half-dozen of my interests into one package.

That said, this rambling post is not a review of that show. The Saga of Tanya the Evil, henceforth abbreviated to Tanya, started life in 2013 as a web serial written by the pseudonymous “Carlo Zen” with illustrations by Shinobu Shinotsuki. Since then, it has…

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Dear Podcast Listeners

We love each and every one of you. Every single uptick in our numbers gives us nigh-sexual pleasure. When we’re feeling down, or up, or neutral, checking to see the latest change in our analytics makes the lows go away or make the highs even higher.

However, there is a fundamental question we have been obsessing over since attesting like starting this podcast: Who the hell are you people?

We’re clearly filling a (very small) niche in the anime podcast community, and presumably it’s the niche for “overeducated hipsters analyze anime”, but we don’t know that for sure.

We get that. Thucydides and The Battle of Algiers rarely ever get mentioned in anime podcasts. We think that’s the gap that we’re filling. But are we correct?

Please tell us. What brought you to our corner of the Internet? What do you like about our thing? What don’t you like? Anything you say, including incoherent gibberish, will be read.

So tweet us, maybe.

 

PS

We also accept blog comments, Youtube screeds, iTunes reviews, and Bitcoin.

Episode 13: One Punch Man and The Tick

We go beyond good and evil as we discuss two superhero comedies: the anime One-Punch Man and the 2017 live action Amazon series The Tick. The nature of heroism, the ungratefulness of the common man, and the underemployment of Millennials are all things we cover as we solve all of Japan’s social and economic problems in episode 13 of our podcast. Sometimes we need a hero and sometimes we can’t hold out ’till the end of the night. In those times, we could really use heroes like the ones from these shows.

It’s Winter and Here’s Some Anime

It’s that time again, a new season of anime bullshit is coming our way.

This past season was a damn near embarrassment of riches both in terms of the expected (Kekkai Sensen, Magus, Garo) and wild cards (MMO Junky, Konohana, Anime-Gataris) among a number of others that all ended up being worthwhile.

This coming season will probably be a return to the standard equilibrium of seasonal quality, but there’s some promising stuff on the docket and some of last season’s strong outings (Magus, Garo) still have their second halves to play out.

As always, some shows that look generic at first glance will probably end up being great and some of the flashier ones will end up just being O-K. So here’s a bunch of preview trailers and dubiously accurate commentary on what you can expect.

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Do you like KyoAni but bore of earnest high school girls chasing their dreams?* Well if so you can look forward to Violet Evergarden, the studio’s fantasy-drama about an earnest young war veteran lady robot-doll finding her way in the post-war world by putting the experiences of others into the written word.

It looks, characteristically, pretty great on the aesthetic front. Paying your animators living wages pays off, who knew. In a sign that this is the winter (anime season) of our discontent, Netflix grabbed up Violet Evergarden for the U.S market, so if you want to to watch in a timely manner you should probably go to [REDACTED]

Trigger and A-1 collaborating on a mecha anime, named with classic anime incoherence as Darling in the FranXX. It’s definitely got the Trigger look, but we’ll see if the plot and action also match the energy of their best stuff.

Citrus, a rather successful recent Yuri manga in the English speaking world with a fairly large fan base, is getting its turn at an adaptation this season by Passione, the studio that brought us Rail Wars! (oh no) but also Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers (Pretty good!). Prepare for all melodrama that comes with Forbidden Love! at a straight laced girls school between non-blood related sisters.

Record of Grancrest War is here for all your probably overwrought strategic war fantasy bullshit needs. Dastardly nobles are using the power of the netherworld to oppress the common people, so do our heroes set out to end their tyrannical ways. Characters will probably reference Not-Machiavelli but also there will be battle meidos.

Pop Team Epic is a very peculiar comedy manga. Here is its preview, of sorts, for its adaptation. We will never forget your sacrifice, Croatian Otaku guy.

A kidnapping in the family unearths long forgotten powers in Kokkoku, spiritual tomfoolery and supernatural horror ensues.

 

Robots aren’t people, unless they are, and especially if they are cute anime girls, in Moe Runner 2049  Beatless.

Japan in the near future has become a crime infested dystopia. Killers are on the loose, but also killers of those killers that are maybe good? Nevertheless, stylish detectives are here to unearth the truth and also enjoy ramen probably, in Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens.

Do you have a thing for older gentlemen? Well, if so, here’s the romance for you in Koi wa Ameagari no You ni.

Yuru Camp. It’s a low key comedy about camping, there will be big coats and everything will be very cozy.

Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho. Girls doing antarctic scientific research things and probably chasing some dreams. It looks nice.

Tiny fantasy people living in a big tree, doing slice of life things for you and for me.

A manganka was struggling to decide which of his fetishes, monster girls or muscles, would be the focus of his next work and then he just combined them into Killing Bites.

Masaaki Yuasa of The Tatami Galaxy, Mind Game and Ping Pong fame has his latest project dropping this season and that’s never not welcome. Yuasa’s spin on this source material it should promise to be quite the ride.

Cardcaptor Sakura’s back and in pog form to reboot the franchise for the youths, I hope you all enjoy Pogcaptor Sakura.

There’s still a bunch of other stuff, shonens, idols, a second season of that zombie webcomic show that people apparently watched, plus shorts. These could be good, or perhaps bad. (Some of them will definitely be bad.)

*Sometimes KyoAni is said to also make other things.

 

 

Episode 12: The Saga of Tanya the Evil and Wonder Woman

For the 99th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, Podcastle in the Sky looks at two fantastical versions of that war from this year – the feature film Wonder Woman and the anime series The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Women with supernatural abilities, godlike beings engineering conflict, pop culture memory of a war from a century ago – we have all!

Transcript

William: Welcome to this episode of PodCastle in the Sky. In this episode we’ll be looking at two pieces of pop culture from 2017 that deal with World War I in a fantasy way. The anime is The Saga of Tanya the Evil, also known as Youjo Senki, and the other piece is the film Wonder Woman. I’m William.

Amber: I’m Amber.

Tom: I’m Tom.

Jesse: I’m Jesse.

A: All right. So I would like to kick things off by actually commenting on both, because one thing I really appreciated about both of these was they both – and maybe because it was both of them are about war – but they both really bring in the idea of humanity being kind of incredibly sucky and reliant on vengeance and things like that. It seems like it’s two characters coming to terms in different ways with the worst aspects of humanity.

And Wonder Woman, she comes to the conclusion that even if humanity has a serious downside, it doesn’t matter, she’ll still fight for what is right because that is what is right. She believes that if she keeps fighting she can help humanity reach a better state, if you will.

Meanwhile, Tanya, her whole deal is essentially using humanity’s worst attributes against her enemies. Anybody who is too vengeful, anybody who is too angry, she flips it and uses it specifically to get ahead for herself only. Everything she does, even the heroic things she does for her team, are for her own benefit. I really like that both shows showed the darker side of humanity and showed what different personalities do with the discovery of that darker side.

J: Well, the thing is that Wonder Woman is a hero – a superhero – and Tanya is basically the villain. We’re watching the bad guy winning, basically, in The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Which, I can’t actually remember the last time an anime had the villain as the protagonist. Continue reading

On Anime and Nuclear Annihilation

It is strange days when we see Japanese schoolchildren running for their lives in simulation of a nuclear attack from North Korea. The picture in the linked article reminds me of nothing more than Cold War evacuation drills in the US.

Selfishly, as an anime fan I wonder how all this uncertainty is going to affect the anime industry. I never thought the threat of nuclear conflict would figure into my estimation of when we could expect season 3 of Attack on Titan, but here we are.

It’s jarring to think of these things when thinking of anime, which, let’s face it, is mostly just escapist fantasy, like most mass entertainments are. I’m reminded that Jane Austen joked about being tempted to include a treatise on Napoleon in Pride and Prejudice just to counteract how light and frothy her novel was. I’m also reminded of what Slavoj Zizek said about the use of the Christian calendar, which uses the birth of Christ to mark the flow of events: he called it the irruption of the infinite into the historical. Perhaps we might call the imposition of nuclear geopolitics into the logic of anime production as the irruption of the political into the inconsequential.

Of course, this statement is both facetious and incorrect, for anime is already political. It is produced in a web of politics -government grants to aid in translating content for export, industry-wide discrimination to discourage women, a regime of austerity that encourages overwork of animators, and a capitalist ideology that demands crass commercialism – and also expresses statements of political positions – women are always emotional, Chinese and foreign characters can never beat Japanese protagonists, and Koreans don’t exist.

The surprise we feel when placing anime in the same headspace as nuclear diplomacy is a surprise that has been manufactured. Being apolitical is a political stance, and depoliticization is a political action. To divide the world and say these things are of politics and these things are not is an act of power (Michel Foucault called it power/knowledge, which is the power of defining what knowledge is).

The personal may be political, but it’s inconvenient for the powerful to let common citizen remember this fact. Politics is not merely debating tax rates and talking at town halls, which is to say it’s not only for politicians and activists, but keeping it an activity of a small elite certainly makes it easier for those elites to set the agenda. Political apathy serves those who already have power.

And so we come to anime and its role in the politics of apathy. Crudely speaking, anime is just another cog in the machinery of distraction that keeps the masses quiescent in that old Roman strategy of panem et circenses (i.e., bread and circuses). Focus on your pop culture, say the masters of the world, and leave the important things to us. This was, of course, the old politics, before the divisions in democracy were laid so starkly bare, but it was a deal that many thought worthwhile, and many still do.

But even behind this wall of willful ignorance, sometimes the world of politics would intrude, as in the current case of North Korea and its nuclear arsenal threatening the home of anime. We find that we cannot leave politics because we are already doing politics. We are reminded that we live in a political world. The personal is political, but now we see that the reverse is also true, that the political is also personal. In a liberal democracy, to not resist is to consent. Therefore if we wish not to die and to continue watching anime, we must act.

Action begins in knowledge, so I ask first that you learn what is happening around you. What circumstances led to the nuclear standoff threatening our beloved hobby? What power moved us to this impasse?

After answering these questions for yourself, then ask yourself this one: am I okay with things continuing the way they are?

If your answer is anything besides “yes”, then continue asking questions, including the big one – what should I do? The answer is simple: do anything that you can. Speech is action, so even something as minimal as talking online is still a step in the right direction.

My fellow otaku, ignorance is only a temporary condition. I challenge you to look up from your TV and computer screens. Remember that you are not only a consumer. You are also a citizen.

— from the desk of Jesse

Episode 11: Garzey’s Wing and The Sword and the Sorcerer

We test our fortitude by watching two legendary works of fantasy crapitude: the 1996 OVA series Garzey’s Wing and the 1982 movie schlockfest The Sword and The Sorcerer. Incoherent writing, awful acting, and incoherent writing abound in both of the items we review. Can we actually find anything nice to say about either work of fiction? Is there anything redeeming about either movie beyond their ironic camp value? And is it possible to watch either work without feeling oneself getting dumber? Join us this episode and find out!