Saturday, 12 November 2011

First Look Reviews Vol 1: Magical Girls, Cyborgs and Mechas

What I mean essentially by a 'First Look' review is simply one that is incomplete - that is to say, one in which the subject matter has not been completely consumed by my brain, and hence cannot be completely reviewed. If that's not completely clear enough, I'd say for example that I've watched only X episodes of Y - therefore, I probably have the gist of the form of media, but cannot state anything based upon total knowledge. Note that in terms of foreign media, I will generally be commenting on subs, not dubs, and will try to find the least censored and most original form of the work possible. This applies immediately to Cardcaptor Sakura, my first entry, as this was so bowdlerised upon its dubbing and 'translation' that "Cardcaptors" is a show not only entirely different, but unwatchable in its mutilated state.
Cardcaptor Sakura 
This doesn't completely count as a 'First Look', simply because I've already read the manga form of this work. But still, there are a few changes that I'm guessing could sway my opinion a little as to which adaptation was superior that I can't really express here, not having watched enough to do so. In any case, I'd say, Cardcaptor Sakura is probably only one of two anime that have left me with this really strange feeling. Happiness? Contentment? It's around about there. Now I really don't expect others to have my opinions on this, but I'd have to say that ARIA and Cardcaptor Sakura easily constitute a rebuttal of anyone claiming that Utopian fiction is impossible, because these works are devoid of any kind of evil at all. And yet, to me at least, they remain entirely interesting and engaging. But putting on my 'different person' hat, I would expect that some people could be a little bit bored by this - and really, a lot of people would be put off by its target demographic: preteen girls from the get-go. Regardless, it's one of those top anime that I will probably watch quite a few times in my life,I wager. As for the antinatalist side of things here, I guess one could say that Cardcaptor Sakura is so fundamentally utopian that it should act to show people how messed up our world really is.
Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex
I've watched the movies already, so I've got a good idea of where this is heading - and let me tell you that the first film was one of the best I have ever seen in my life. Still, it's too early to tell, I think, but the themes expressed already - the abundance of computers integrated into humans, the blurring of the lines between machine and human, and the strange nature of human and artificial intelligence - are enough to keep me engaged for a long time indeed. And don't think it's too 'cold' either. There is quite an abundance of comedic relief in this show, and not enough to hurt any of the plot. From an antinatalist perspective, this is really a show about the early stages of transhumanism, and as such, should bring up that battle again in your mind "Is it better to wait for the advent of the technological singularity and transhumanism, or is it better to simply end suffering now?". I'd definitely vote for the latter, but I don't really think it'll happen anytime soon - whereas the former might.
Mobile Suit Gundam
I've watched Wing and SEED before, so already it's hard to express to you how good this show is, simply because I have a huge bias in this matter, in that I like mechas, and I like war-themed shows - especially how suffering on both sides is often portrayed, along with the fragility of the human condition. So far, things seem pretty good. The morality is quite grey, which is nice, and it doesn't skip out on the detrimental effects of the war either. Regardless this really is far too early to say anything about it - while another war anime I've been watching, Saikano, I could give a definite opinion on in my next post. Suffice to say, it is a brilliant portrayal and deconstruction of every major theme in war fiction out there. As for the antinatalist take on things, I'd say that war-themed fiction really helps people see that this world isn't as ordered as they think. There isn't much meaning here, actions are hard to judge as moral or immoral, and your kids are going to get conscripted and mutilated if they're born during a time of war, which is why you shouldn't have them in the first place.


  1. I don't think CardCaptor Sakura would make most viewers reflect upon the discrepansies with a human world: people want to suspend their disbelief about a life that causes little to no harm and an innate goodness to humanity.

    Of Ghost in the Shell, I've only watched Second Gig and the latter episodes of the first season leading up to it; but the transhumanist world depicted in it is both seductive and frightening: while augmented bodies suffer none of our physical hardships and can be nigh-indestructible, assassination has become as simple as succesfully downloading a virus into a cybernetic brain, either overloading his neural interface or manipulating the host's thought patterns towards murder-suicide.

    If one looks past the trees of strife and voctory, the forest of Gundam Wing shows how futuristic tribalism thrusts the whole of humanity towards military apocalypse. The "heroes" in the series contribute to little more than escalating the conflict to include millions of civilians between hammer and anvil.

    If you're looking for a hopeless take upon humans, you might want to find the Gilgamesh series.

  2. Wow, I really didn't expect anyone to actually have watched one, let alone all of these things.I understand completely what you mean about CardCaptor Sakura, though from personal experience I definitely don't react towards it in the way that most people would react. I think the very first time I watched an anime I was overpowered with these feelings of wanting to escape and live in 'their world' - though most people, I suspect, have a few too many neurological filters and social norms to make them yearn so much to be in another world.
    I'll definitely check out the Gilgamesh series. I'm sure there have been a number of series I've watched somewhat like that, though off the top of my head the only one I can really remember is School Days - though it's a little over-the-top with regards to the humanity-bashing, almost to the point of laughter.