A Few Thoughts on Vandred

Well, rather a lot, actually. I got on a bit of a roll. (Edit: I’ve come back to this post and put some of the spoilers in blackout. If you haven’t seen this show, you probably shouldn’t read them before watching it!)

Owing to the technical difficulties we experienced, and plenty of time spent doing other things, we didn’t get to finish Vandread while at Dr. H.’s this weekend. We saw Dual!, and the first 8 episodes of Vandread, but I had to finish watching that final DVD at home today. So, while it’s fresh on my mind, I’m going to put down some semi-random and disjointed thoughts. There’s going to be major spoilers here, so the bulk of this article will go below the fold. If you’ve already watched the series, or don’t care about spoilers, head keep going; otherwise veer off now. Also, this is going to be a straight text article, with no funky pictures to screw up the formatting any further, so I hope you’re not too disappointed in that.

If you had to ask me which series I enjoyed more this weekend, Vandread or Dual!, I’d probably have to answer Dual! It was more of a comedy with a touch of drama and a lot of harem (let’s see how many women we can put under one roof with a guy), whereas Vandred was more of a drama with a touch of comedy and some harem. If you asked me which one was the better series, then the answer is Vandread, all the way. While Dual! suffered from some logic errors, Vandread had a very well put together backstory that was revealed bit by bit. Except for the weird changes made to the Earth, which really didn’t make any sense at all, but I was willing to give them an artistic pass on that.

I wish I hadn’t read the spoilers on Chizumatic, but I made the mistake of reading Steven’s TMW, which gave away that Earth was behind it all. The things that did surprise me were pretty good though. I knew BC was a spy, but I was shocked at for whom (I should have seen it though), and how it was given away. I “knew” what the solution to that problem that forced her hand was, and I was completely, utterly, surprisingly wrong. I was also surprised and a bit disappointed to see Gasconé show up for the final battle. Another animé trope: Not Quite Dead Yet. It was awfully convienent how everyone else showed up in the nick of time as well, but it made for a good final battle, and several minor characters had good moments in it. It was no Aptic Gate, and the first season’s was better, but I’ll give it thumbs up.

Things I thought that were done very well: the changes in Meia and Hibiki, as the story went on. Hibiki grew up, and “learned to speak with his own words.” I think the cave episode was possibly the single best; to me that is the one where he really passed into manhood. Meia, on the other hand, never had a sudden change. Although her near-death experience was supposed to be a similar moment, in reality, her changes were more subtle and took longer to be obvious. They definately came as a shock to friends she’d left behind when the Nirvana was hurled across the galaxy.

Dita didn’t change a whole lot, although she got more serious and less silly towards the end of the second half-season. Once she acknowledged her reason for being such a clown was because she hated seeing the people around her be unhappy, it seemed like she didn’t feel it was necessary to act that way all the time.

Jura was the oddball in the beginning, in my opinion. She was shallow, vain, and self-centered, but after the battle in which she nearly died, Jura grew up a bit too, and stopped taking her relationship with Barnette for granted. She also started thinking seriously about having a baby, but she became absolutely facinated with the whole idea of doing it the “old-fashioned way.” It seems obvious from her lectures to Hibiki at the end that Jura has ceeded him to Dita and is looking for a male that would be compatible with both her and Barnette.

Meia’s bonding is still a question mark; like the other two women, she retains her link to the Paksis, Hibiki, Pyoro, and the others, but her eventual pairing is still up in the air. Emotionally, she’s adopted Misty as a younger sister, but I see no reason to assume that will progress any further (nor, given Majele society any reason to assume it won’t).

Doctor Duero had long ago paired off with Parfait, and Bart was probably with B.C. at the end, even if B.C. hadn’t acknowledged it yet–verbally, anyway. And we finally meet the fama of Ezra’s child. (Or is it ohma? I forget the roles.) So pretty much, not only is every member of the harem paired off (or potentially tripleted in Jura’s case), but so are the other guys and various minor characters as well. Hell, even Rabat’s paired off long before the end, and he only appears in what, 5 episodes? Gasconé isn’t, but I always got the feeling she wasn’t the loner she pretended to be, so I think she’s got someone at the pirate base, like Ezra.

Animé-wise, it’s not surprising to see that the (pre-Paksis) pirates had the ability to defeat elements of both space navies, but it is strange, otherwise. I originally suspected it had a lot to do with the relationships among the planetary leaders, the captain, Hibiki, and Gramps. (I need to re-watch that meeting; I think there was an in-law relationship that got translated as if it were blood; it sounded like Hibiki’s parents were brother and sister! Or I might have just misunderstood the reference.) That entire angle was unexpected, and I still don’t understand the reason behind the split in population between the two planets. Did the leaders cut a deal with Earth and keep their populations in the dark? And was it Gramps idea to wake Hibiki, or was the Paksis meddling, that far back? “Hibiki woke up fourteen years ago, and then things began to happen,” said Gramps. So…….question: were the four people (and one machine) who ended up linked to it chosen by the Paksis, or was it just the random chance that they were still on the men’s ship? I don’t think it’s the latter, because Bart and Duero weren’t; they were on the women’s ship by then. Bart was the only one who could steer the Nirvana (even before he modified it during one battle). The doc’s connection was far less obvious, but when the Vandread was boarded, he knew it would be possible to hide Hibiki inside the Paksis, and that the Paksis would keep him safe until necessary. With his tendency to repress his emotions–assuming he has any; he could do a passable Spock–it makes sense that he’d be the least connected. I thought at first that Pyoro’s connection was strange, considering that it was apparently a fairly old, low-level AI from the colonization period, but then I realized that the red Paksis had to be connected to several hundred (or even several hundred thousand) AI’s in order to run the harvester fleets.

While the realationships among the planetary and pirate leaders might have had something to do with how tough the pirates were, I concluded there was a different reason: the Paksis itself. Curiously, over the course of the series, the Nirvana and Earth forces are engaging in a running battle of evolution. The red Paksis is obviously coping with the blue Paksis’ direct intervention; it starts improving the robots it sends out, and the Nirvana, the Dreads, and the Vandreads change several times to stay ahead and meet the challenges. In theory, by the time of the final battle, the original Vans, pirate Dreads, and various other forces should have been terribly outclassed and destroyed by the numerical superiority of the Earth forces, even with Gasconé showing up with a flagship’s AI under her control.

That isn’t what happens. The Vans have obviously been seriously upgraded, and the general in command of them is such a no-nonsense veteran survivor, I have to wonder why he wasn’t put in command of the Vans on board the Ikazuchi when it was launched. But the skills and Dreads of the pirates left behind have obviously also gotten a lot tougher; in fact their commander says so when Meia warns them to stay back. So what gives? Consider this: the Paksis was the energy source of the Ikazuchi, but Parfait knew exactly what it was and how to operate it — under normal circumstances, anyway; men’s language and the ship’s morphing were problems at first. The only way she could know that would be if she’d worked with one already. In short, I think the pirates had their own Paksis. Since the Nirvana’s Paksis never referred to any others than itself and the red Paksis, I have to conclude that it and any other blue Paksis were all extensions of the same one; exactly as the red Paksis seemed to be on board the harvest flagships and all the major sub-units. Certainly, the Paksis in the cave on the Amerindian planet was obviously aware of all that had gone before with Hibiki; it didn’t treat this as new knowledge, so I don’t think it was telepathy.

From the pirates’ original superiority to the Majerle and Tarak forces, they must have had a better “working relationship” with theirs, even when no one realized that it was alive; Parfait’s beliefs may have had something to do with it, but any improvements observed prior to beginning of the series were incremental and thought to be the result of her staff’s own efforts. Based on the improvements to the defending fleets by the time of the final battle (only 9 months after the first episode), I suspect that the Paksis might not have revealed itself openly to any of the parties back home, yet had begun making wholesale improvements across the board. Thus the same men’s fleet that the original pirate ship had singlehandedly defeated with ease before the creation of the Nirvana, was now able to fight in battle against a foe that would have crushed the improved Nirvana fighting alone. The Majerle fleet and pirate Dreads were likewise able to fight well. The other race might have had their own Paksis (they seemed familiar with the concept), but Rabat… well he just has to get a pass from artistic license.

Another oddity that Steven also noticed: BC has the same forehead jewel as Rabat and Hibiki. One suspects that has a lot to do with her change of alliegence. I also think it’s significant that she’d not had, er, corrective surgery immediately upon return home; in fact she (oh, I’m giving away every other spoiler, so ok, he) claimed to his superior that the only reason he’d not had the implants removed was that the officer had neglected to order him to. Frankly, I think a part of his gaining the forehead jewel involved the recognition that he was actually more comfortable living among women and identified as one, even if he didn’t feel sexually attracted to them. In turn, this implies that he’d realized that both societies were founded on lies. He couldn’t have been an outsider like Rabat, but in Tarak’s employ; he was too respected and trusted–and well known in the military. As a Tarakian, just to infiltrate a women’s pirate group, he would have had to overcome serious propaganda conditioning. I suspect he’d have been perfectly happy to remain a “pirate” for the rest of his life while turning in just enough reports to keep his superiors fooled; only the situation forced his hand. The casual joke made as he tossed aside his medals after rescuing Bart and Doctor Duero spoke volumes about how much they’d meant to him in the first place.

Of all the characters in the series, I think it’s BC that I find to be the most facinating.

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2 Responses to A Few Thoughts on Vandred

  1. I think Meia did actually have a stair-step change, but it wasn’t in the episode where she nearly died. It was in the episode where she got stuck in the escape pod with the baby.

  2. Ubu Roi says:

    I tried to forget about that episode, because the crisis felt so contrived. I need to rewatch it and the “Meia’s badly hurt” episode, because I had a completely different reaction; while she “mellowed” somewhat, in another way, she showed she hadn’t learned what the memories/visions were trying to teach her during the surgery. Unless I’m confusing this with what the captain was saying to kick the crew’s butts back into fighting shape, Meia recalled the captain berating her for wanting to find a place to die, rather than fighting to live.

    So what’s Meia’s reaction to a hopeless situation: being trapped in a life pod with the air running out and surrounded by red Paksis robots? Stick the baby in an enviro suit, say “I’m sure you’ll make it back somehow,” and try to walk out the hatch, sans suit! What happened to the captain’s lecture about people she knew who fought until the end, who had all their life’s plans cut short? The writers copped out and cheapend the character development just so they could go for the surprise — Meia blows the hatch only to find out she’s been scooped up by the supply tender.

    Bad form.

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