Aaaaaaand, It’s a Wrap! (updated)

Finished the final episode, and the coda.

Yes, both of the “big reveals” caught me by surprise.

Yes, both are incredible clichés, absolute groaners.

Yes, I find it hard to believe they could have told that story straight.

But in the end…. I believe they were. I don’t remember if it was Toren, Avatar_ADV or Brickmuppet who said it, but that one moment where they give a sly wink to the audience… it needed to be there for me to believe this is actually a parody, and it wasn’t.

The director set out to see how many clichés and tropes he could cram into a series, without making a parody of mecha stories. He needed the twenty years of experience, not to make a great parody, but to avoid making it a parody or start mocking it, even unconsciously. Amazingly, he succeeded (I hazard to say, brilliantly) in making a story that is so over-the-top ridiculous that it has to be parody, yet it isn’t.

Update 7/26 9:39 CDT: As I said to Steven in my response:

I really do see your argument; the series is so absurd at times — it just has to be a parody. I just can’t convince myself that it is. Especially given the parallels in flavor to Godannar (which brodcast a year later, and appears to have shared no staff). Granted, the latter is MUCH higher in angst, but it’s got a lot of the same “over the top” feel to it. Camel toes, high heels, and bouncing tits, on mecha? The teams all together, manage to insert just about every fetish there is, except yaoi? Ye gads. Sometimes when an enthusiast is operating in a niche and pushing the envelope, the line between “enthusiasm for your subject” and “parody of your subject” can get awfully thin, and I think that’s what happened in both cases. I seem to recall some reviewers tried to tag Godannar as parody also, but IMHO, if there is parody, it isn’t deliberate. It’s just that mecha shows fail to make a full transfer across the culture gap. I think we can’t wrap our Western minds around the idea that someone might have actually been serious when they made these series.

I mean, hell, we are enjoying Strike Witches enormously, but try explaining that to the average person on the street. Even many animé fans are panning it.

Philistines, the lot of ’em.

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11 Responses to Aaaaaaand, It’s a Wrap! (updated)

  1. It’s Avatar who says that those winks have to be present. But I thought there were some such.

    [spoiler]One was the bridge bunnies doing karaoke of the song that ordinarily played under the combination deck, in the onsen episode.

    Another was the guy whose mecha attack consisted of kicking a giant soccer ball.

    Yet another was the Sandman character himself. I don’t buy him as a Marty Stu; I see him as one big over-the-top cliche. From start to finish he’s just too good to be true. He’s too handsome, too suave, too sophisticated, too cultured, too heroic. No way; that wasn’t serious, that was a deliberate joke!

    Yet another was the magical appearing/disappearing tits on Raven. There’s simply no way that a woman built like that could pass for being a man. Even tightly wrapped she’d stick out like Raquel Welch. And anyway she wasn’t tightly wrapped; we saw her take off the Raven suit at one point and she had a loose open-top costume on underneath.

    I also thought that the flying castle wasn’t serious.

    But maybe my problem is that I’m not fully versed in the genre canon. Maybe there are precedents for all of that in other previous series.[/spoiler]

  2. AvatarADV says:


    [spoiler]One of my co-workers, on seeing Raven’s magical mystical disappearing/reappearing bust: “Now THAT is harnessing the power of the graviton.”

    You can’t construe “hey, this is freakin’ odd” as a wink at the audience. There’s no end to how much oddity they’re willing to put into a mecha show. The wink is when an event is weird enough to make one of the characters step back and Kyon for a second. “You’re freakin’ kidding me!”

    As an example, let’s talk about Zone of the Enders. Pretty good show, much better than it lets on. But for all that it’s a comedy, it’s not a parody; the show takes itself seriously. Not once, through the OAV or a twenty-six episode TV series, does one of the characters stop and say “my god! Look at all these mecha! They all have GIANT PENISES. What is wrong with this picture?” (Uh, if you don’t get why, go look up one of the mecha designs. ANY one of them.) But no – there wasn’t ever that “meta moment”. Even though the audience is rolling their eyes at it, for the characters in the show, literal cockpits are totally normal.

    That’s where Gravion falls flat. There are no points at which the ridiculous, parody-worthy events faze the characters. Nobody ever sits down and asks Sandman “come on, man, do you really need that many buxom maids?” The other characters accept stuff like the soccer-mecha or Raven at face value.

    Same thing for Sandman. He has an emo fit of heroic proportions, then comes out in true old-school style, smile on his face, making the women swoon, flinging roses into their décolletage in mid-somersault, and yet… nobody ever takes a poke at him. Oh, Eiji doesn’t like him, but he takes this hideously overwrought fop -completely at face value- for the entire series.[/spoiler]

  3. Ubu Roi says:

    If anything could make me believe it was parody, it’s Sandman (the glinting tooth when he smiled and floodlit stage when he ordered launch), and the song. He was pretty much over the top most of the time. Needed to lose his cool or be a little quirkier at times. Mecha kicking the soccer ball? Maybe…

    It’s just that if a director with that pedigree deliberately set out to create a parody, it would clearly be a parody, and it would be clear from very early on. He’d also know how to make a parody because he knows the genre. It wouldn’t, shouldn’t, leave the viewer confused whether to take it seriously for 20+ episodes. So if it is a parody, the director did a bad job of it because he couldn’t bring himself to ridicule the genre enough. And if he was telling it straight, he didn’t do well because it’s so laughably silly.

    The flying base trope also appears in Godannar, although they give it away in “second season previews” after episode 11 or 12. I’d actually half-expected it from the mid-point of the series due to its odd construction. When Hugi brought Goma up, I knew there’d be a ship battle of some sort in space, and where else was Sandman going to find a ship? (oh, on the moon, where he hid everything else….)

    Variable tit size? Thought of it, discarded it. One word: “Otoboku,” Also decided that it was a feature of the Raven mask, which Ayaka said gave her the memories of all the other Ravens.

  4. I don’t agree that a parody has to be indicated by character reaction. Kirameki Project is obviously a parody, but I don’t remember any case of a character doing that.

    Well, when Junerin first appears, Ohya’s reaction is priceless, but it isn’t the same kind of thing as what you’re talking about. He’s reacting to the fact that Junerin looks like a French doll, but that isn’t really one of the parody elements of the series.

    To me the parody-giveaway is when the director tosses in things that he knows that no one could possibly take seriously, like Nene nominally being 12 years old yet being built like a showgirl, or the four sub-superhero bishies who hang out with Krone. Those are all parody elements, but none of the characters have a “You’re shitting me” reaction to them.

    The first battle in Kirameki Project, where Big Mighty fights against the Germans, was parody from top to bottom and clearly signals that the whole series will be like that, but it’s all small things: three German pilots, one of whom is handsome and dashing and wears a scarf, one who is beefy and pilots the heavy mech, one who is a good looking girl whose mech flies. And other things, too; the whole thing reeks of mockery (or would, except that Kirameki Project isn’t vicious about its parody).

    What makes me think that Gravion is parody is the way, as you said, that they tried to pack in as many cliches and tropes as they possibly could.

  5. Ubu Roi says:

    The more I think about Sandman, the more I want to agree with you. But I feel that the parody elements really didn’t start falling into place until the second series. It was played too straight during the first half, and that’s what keeps me from saying “it’s a parody.”

    Now if they’d gone just one or two steps further into the absurdity zone, like Bridgetta actually being a 25-year old midget, madly in love with Eiji, that would have unquestionably put it over the top. Though having Toga propose to Eiji, and Ena remark that there were countries where you could do that came pretty close….

  6. By the way, Ubu, I sent you email.

  7. Ubu Roi says:

    Good thing you said that, with all the weekend visits going on, I might not have checked.

  8. AvatarADV says:

    I think the key problem with your analysis is that there’s no room for earnest pandering.

    Let’s take Eiken as an example. (Must we? Ugh…) By your analysis, Eiken is obviously a parody of shows about women with big busts, because there’s absolutely no possible way that the author could have been serious when he drew women with busts that big. But… Eiken isn’t a parody of the genre, it’s an exemplar of it, and an object lesson of “bigger is not necessarily better”.

    Gravion is the same way. It’s not packed full of mecha tropes because the authors were sending all of them up; it’s packed full because they set forth to pack it full, to achieve otaku sales success by packing in every moe-inducing element they could lay their hands on.

    And everything in there -is- a trope of some form or other. Re-using the opening song in the show is an old anime trope. “Base turns into unexpected spacecraft” was there for Nadia, and probably before that. Hell, “the Commander is secretly superhuman and kicks ass” is another old and hoary trope, even when they’re not riffing off Superman’s origin story. ;p The legion of maids, including a trio of underaged maids with unusual sexual interest in the main character? I know you recognize that one. Co-pilots in sex-bomb, loli, and extra-loli? Slashy hints between two male pilots?

    It’s ALL been done before, somewhere or other, and Gravion just has the feel that it was going down a checklist when they were assembling it. Not that the show sucks, mind you – but it would have been better if it really were a parody.

  9. Effectively, what you guys are saying is that rather than being a parody, it’s attempting to be a tour-de-force. It’s attempting to be the ultimate mecha show, rather than a send-up of mecha shows.

    And of course, the dividing line between those two is really fuzzy, which is why an outsider like me could mistake a tour-de-force for a parody.

    One argument in your favor is the length. Intentional parodies are nearly always much shorter, simply because it’s difficult to keep the joke going full-length.

  10. Ubu Roi says:

    First time I saw the “spacecraft base” trope was in the original Sol Bianca, when the bad emperor’s entire city turned out to be a giant spacecraft. The trope was repeated in the Legacy series, when the casino turned out to be an old spacedock of some sort.

    I can’t claim to be an “insider”; my experience is precisely one and a half greater than yours in that genre, but I’m in agreement with Avatar on this one.

    You know the series is a bit overdone in some respects when you find yourself wondering during the climatic fight, “Does she uses baby powder or oil to prevent those things from developing a heat rash and chafing?” I kid you not, that went through my head.

  11. AvatarADV says:

    Wow, haven’t thought of Sol Bianca in years…

    As far as “ultimate mecha show”, ehh… don’t they all? But Gravion tried to do it through brute force – “just add more otaku-friendly elements”. Probably the easiest way to contrast it would be against Gurren Lagann, which was much more successful at doing the same thing. Instead of just piling on the moe, though, that show turned “hot-blooded” and “holy freaking crap, they didn’t just DO that” up to 11.

    That doesn’t stop it from including big-breasted girls or anything. But it shows that Gainax understood what was at the heart of the robot genre. ;p

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