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

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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!

Episode 10: Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade and The Company of Wolves

In this episode we discuss urban planning and transformative pubescent experiences. Also we talk about the movies Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and The Company of Wolves. Both adapt the story of Red Riding Hood, with the former being about an alternate history fascist Japan and the latter being a magical realist feminist take on the traditional fairy tale. We had a couple of technical issues during recording, but we soldiered on for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

Episode 9: FLCL and Tank Girl

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In this month’s episode, the Podcastle in the Sky crew take a journey back to an era when alt-rock ruled the world and ennui was in by watching two cult favorites, Gainax’s sci-fi infused coming of age story FLCL and the 1995 film adaptation of Tank Girl. Does FLCL stand the test of time as a classic piece of animation, does Tank Girl’s box office failure mask a hidden gem? Listen in and all will be revealed!

Episode 7: Ayakashi – Samurai Horror Tales and Tales of the Dead

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Celebrate Halloween the PodCastle in the Sky way – by watching Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales and reading Tales of the Dead. We discuss the two horror anthologies but also talk about horror in general, what scares people in the age of Twitter, and Steve Urkel (a.k.a., the greatest horror villain in fiction). Turn on, tune in, and drop dead tonight!

PS

The book mentioned in the podcast is Peasant Uprisings in Japan: A Critical Anthology of Peasant Histories.

Episode 6: Fist of the North Star and The Road Warrior

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It’s Mad Max and the Musclemen on this month’s post-apocalyptic podcast! In this episode, the PodCastle crew takes a look at two of the 1980s’ most extravagant pieces of end-times fiction with George Miller’s 1981 sequel The Road Warrior and the 1986 anime movie adaptation of Tetsuo Hara’s manga, Fist of the North Star. The narrative mysteries of spontaneously exploding tables, spooky men on stilts, and so much more are explored, so find a parking space for your skull-laden Doom-Buggy and listen along.

I Done Fucked Up

Ranma 1/2 as Rose of Versailles

Yeah, sorry about that. We had a pretty good discussion last weekend about Rose of Versailles and Marie Antoinette but none of that was recorded due to mysterious technical reasons. I, Jesse, as the person in charge of recording, offer my full and heartfelt apology to you, our fans. We decided not to redo the episode since a large part of our podcast’s appeal lies in the spontaneity of our discussions, which means you will never hear our unrehearsed thoughts on these media products. In an attempt at redress, herewith follows our conversation as pieced together from my memory:

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Both the show and the movie treat figure of Marie Antoinette ambivalently
-based on contemporary historical consensus that Marie Antoinette was not a malicious figure but neither was she actually a good co-ruler
-To what extent does one hold her responsible for her own, real or perceived, ignorance and excess given being raised in a highly structured and ritualized world
-Marie in Rose has a clearer arc of tragedy and descent into excess born of sadness and malicious hangers on, Marie in the film is surrounded by an enabling entourage but is largely a creature of stasis and ignorance, film has less overt ‘fall from grace’ narrative

Marie Antoinette as indie movie – exchange between Marie Antoinette and husband as being out of Wes Anderson movie: “I hear you enjoy making keys?” “Obviously.”
Marie Antoinette as Hollywood product – hard to disambiguate actors from role; i.e., Rip Torn as King of France? “Dialogue is contemporary with period elements”

Insularity of show and movie
-nothing exists outside of Versailles and Paris
-jarring in Rose of Versailles when Fersen suddenly leaves to fight in American Revolution
-sudden reminder that other countries exist
Marie retains its insularity up through its final moments, Rose starts similarly so but gradually expands its viewer’s understanding the show’s world and the plight of its people alongside its characters, namely via Oscar

Marie Antoinette as slice of life drama
-barely any conflict in movie
-French Revolution does not happen until movie more than half over
-film is about boredom of being in ruling class. Coppla’s general thematic interest in isolation
-Film received some criticism for surface level depiction of aristocratic life, but film does contain some pointed satirical elements (Marie’s country estate and ‘back to the countryside’ lifestyle there representing an idealized and sanitized vision of rural life clearly at odds with the reality of abject poverty, Amber compares it amusingly to modern artisanal/organic hipstery affectations
-no boredom in Rose of Versailles, characters always obsessed with personal dramas and intrigues

Rose of Versailles treats du Barry issue as great crisis, but treats character in more nuanced way than the film
Marie Antoinette treats it as minor snag at Versailles, Du Barry viewed entirely through the intentionally narrow lens of Antoinette’s coterie and du Barry’s outsider status

Amber: do not personally like aesthetic of 70’s anime due to cheesy music and general aesthetic, but quickly adapted in the case of Rose
Jesse: agreement and do not normally watch older anime as well, Rose of Versailles is on personal Crunchyroll queue but kept passing it over for contemporary, watchable crap like Konosuba

Rose of Versailles is like Forrest Gump
-Oscar keeps showing up on edges of historical events
-because Oscar is not real historical figure then her accomplishments are all inconsequential
-common factor in historical dramas with fictional characters

Rose of Versailles is like HBO show Rome
-world historical events reduced to personal conflicts between small group of people
-international politics was part of consideration in real world Austria-France alliance
-big deal in world politics back then as alliance to counter Britain and Prussia but Britain and Prussia never even mentioned in show

Oscar Francois probably based on Julie d’Aubigny, La Maupin
-duelist and opera singer who lived openly as woman
-had romantic affairs with men and women

Women have always participated in men’s roles in European history
-long history of women disguising themselves as men

Hardly any working class characters died in Rose of Versailles
-perhaps Jeanne counts as working class
-all of main characters were in nobility
-the working class characters who died (Jeanne and Andre) were caught up with nobility

Oscar’s heroic death in storming of Bastille
-cannons blazing, sword in air, she can never top this moment
-as show mentions, Oscar dies before excesses of Revolution revealed
-had Oscar survived might still have died in Terror or even participated in it, then served in wars and even under Napoleon
-dying early allowed Oscar to remain pure in ideals

Oscar allowed to exist within two worlds
-Not forced to choose at story’s end between becoming a ‘traditional’ woman or abandoning all her femininity and sense of romance to simply ‘become a man’ (though she takes this approach earlier in the story) and instead grows to discover she can be both a romantic feminine woman and capable warrior and leader alike, not mutually exclusive
-Contrast to many similar works throughout literary history in which woman abandon all traditionally ‘womanly’ traits in order to truly succeed as a valuable/contributing member of rugged modern world (Fyodor Gladkov’s Cement, story progression of masculinzed ‘new woman’ Dasha versus the well-meaning but girlish Mekhova, who by the end is too weak/vulnerable to continue revolutionary work and stave off predations of less noble comrades)
-Comparisons made with female doctor character in recent television drama Versailles, set during the reign of the Sun King

Tuberculosis as cliched tragic setback for Oscar
-military protagonist with tuberculosis always dies heroically
-tuberculosis diagnosis as being out of left field
-clearly set up to provide tragedy to character, not out of organic growth in story

No Hitchcock film to mention this episode
-Hitchcock hated so-called “kitchen sink dramas”, or social realist depictions of the burdens of ordinary life
-In general, fictional depictions about peasants living their lives hardly exist
-Authentic depictions of ‘peasant’ life in fiction and cinema rare, contemporary viewers often find aristocratic lifestyle inherently less foreign (despite obvious divides in wealth and status) due to the democratization over time of elements of the ‘cultured’ lifestyle ala the arts and literacy, and in pseudo-secularized enlightenment era conceptions of the world resembling our own more than that of rural peasantry (Anna Karenina etc referenced, depicting the unknowability of authentic rural peasant life even at the time)

Everyone agrees Rose of Versailles tells a compelling narrative with fine artistry and memorable characters. Marie Antoinette has its flaws but is nevertheless a visually lush and satisfying depiction of the highly irregular and ritualized world Versailles and the isolation of the ruling elite.

Next time on PodCastle in the Sky: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Fist of the North Star (the 1986 film)

Episode 5: Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Chronicle

Madoka and friends

Tune in for our greatest accomplishment in anime podcasting – we talk about Puella Magi Madoka Magica without once using the word “deconstruction”. Also we talk about the 2012 movie Chronicle and about teenagers with superpowers, then we kind of meander to a bunch of other topics. So stop, collaborate and listen to PodCastle in the Sky’s latest episode. Excelsior!

Episode 4: Golgo 13 and Octopussy

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In this episode PodCastle looks back to 1983, a year of dueling James Bond movies – and picks one of the movies (Octopussy, the ‘official’ one) and compares it to another product of 1983, Golgo 13: The Professional, the first anime adaptation of a character inspired by Ian Fleming’s spy. Confident killers, wonky geopolitics, male power fantasies and more!

Episode 3: Diabolik Lovers and Twilight

We return from the dead to discuss the undead! Diabolik Lovers and Twilight – hot or not? Whether you’re Team Edward, Team Jacob, or Team Shoot Yourself in the Head, listen and be enlightened. Are possessive boyfriends sexy if they’re a hot vampire? Does the firmament rip in twain as we compare these works to Russian literature? Do we emerge unscathed from watching these franchises? Tune in and find out!

And if you ever find yourself wondering what the hell we’re talking about, check out our expanded Anime Fan to English dictionary.

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