batman gundam chalupa

Prologue to tomororow’s post. Think of it as the 800 word short program to tomorrow’s 2,000 word long program.

So I was on a long, uncomfortable flight over the holiday (Frontier Airlines makes Sailor Moon Crystal and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches seem like big budget productions) where I got to binge read some Batman and play some Hungry Cats Picross.

I was thinking of the appeal of Batman. For me, he is a human– granted someone of above average resources, durability, intelligence, deduction, and physique, but still human. Yet, despite being an above average (maybe even three sigma) guy, he hangs around Gods. He pals around with Superman, an indestructible lady with an invisible jet, a bunch of dudes with secret decoder rings, a token black guy, and a guy who can talk with dolphins. Batman fights supervillains with superpowers (with Joker being retconned into some immortal being during Scott Snyder’s run).


So fast forward a few days, and I am marathoning Iron-Blooded Orphans. I’m watching the episode where Vidar is slaughtering some blue light special mobile suits to build him up as a threat to Mikazuki and his Barbatos. Superhuman piloting Godlike mecha fighting another superhuman (totally not a certain character “killed” in season one) piloting another Godlike mecha. I thought about Gundam 00 where Graham Acre, who is a normal human with an awful name, fought almost equally to Setsuna F Seiei, who is not a normal human with a cool name. But he tried to out-pilot Setsuna and relied on his Overflag designs to shorten the technology gap between a non-Gundam frame and a Gundam frame.

Then I had a thought, “What about a giant mecha anime that has Batman fighting Godlike mecha?” Instead of trying to out-pilot a superiorly-equipped rival, the protagonist uses deduction, insight, and elbow grease to win.

But then I got sad. Really sad. We had this show. The first few episodes of Aldnoah.Zero were fantastic and refreshing because it was Batman vs. Godlike mecha. Inaho and his intuition and deduction were taking down Godlike mecha much like Batman against his superpowered rogue’s gallery. Each battle lasted multiple episodes and had palatable tension and suspense. You kind of knew Inaho would win, but how? At what cost? When Inaho eventually prevailed, it felt like a hard earned victory with a satisfying conclusion. Maybe he lost some friends. Maybe he took some big hits. The battles and resolution to them had weight and were immensely satisfying to witness.


Then Gen Urobuchi got booted off of the show, and it turned into Code Geass because Code Geass sells since the audience understands OH GEASS NO. Fights were trivialized into fifteen minute (or shorter) affairs with Inaho’s Godlike eye winning the fights. I wonder if it is because A-1 got terrified of doing something different. If for your whole life, you read Superman, Justice League, and Wonder Woman, and I just came buy and made you read Nana, wouldn’t it be jarring? Wouldn’t it be scary? I wonder if A-1 chickened out of Urobuchi’s original vision because it wasn’t an expected anime norm. A-1 wanted Gundam with Slaine and Inaho saying each other’s names much like how Kira and Shinn would do. They wanted nonsensical battles with flashy missile trails and purple explosion clouds. They didn’t want a boy Batman taking down Godlike mecha with a squirt gun, a fire hydrant, and some pocket change. How do you sell toys of the villainous mecha if that mecha can be beaten by a mere mortal? How do you sell toys of the protagonist mecha is the protagonist doesn’t really need a mecha? That’s the thing though: they had a chance to move the giant mecha genre forward, got scared, and went two steps back. It makes Aldnoah.Zero even more disappointing because we got a glimpse of something better.

(Heavy Object is a similar concept for an everyman taking down superior foes. I just can’t take the Objects seriously. They look like some sort of bad drawing of a battle egg a kindergartner kid might come up with.)


Unfortunately for A-1, they didn’t realize a bad anime with “marketable” toys makes no money. We aren’t exactly inundated with Aldnoah.Zero plastic figures. If A-1 had stuck with the original vision, who knows? Maybe Aldnoah.Zero would still be discussed today as revolutionist the giant mecha genre much like how Madoka introduced darkness to a genre that was pretty much all sunshine.

Aldnoah.Zero experimented with something new and different and exciting and got cold feet. It is a shame. Anime is generally bad at breaking through its stereotypes, and, when it tries to, it has to be some sort of comedy or parody or wink nod towards the original stereotype (like Girlish Number). But once in a while, anime does produce something that not only destroys the stereotypes that constrain anime, but it makes it look as effortless as a triple axel into a triple toe loop.

4 Responses to “batman gundam chalupa”

  1. I remember watching the first season of A-0 and just getting totally pumped. My fervent wish was for hollywood to turn it into a gargantuan live-action movie series. Can you imagine seeing the final battle on an IMAX screen?

    Then I watched the second season … and just wished I hadn’t.

  2. I remember being impressed with the first few episodes of Aldnoah… Just a shame about the laughably terrible second season.

  3. The show you’re describing is *Starship Operators*, with Shinon emerging from the simulator after three grueling days with a plan that just might let them survive to fight the next battle.

    Yeah, the reality TV school was a little weird, but the 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration was spot on.

  4. Madoka was never the beginning (nor the end) of dark magical girl shows. It simply popularized a particular brand of that formula, thanks to good execution, but it wasn’t breaking new ground in terms of giving more bleakness to the concept.

    Based on interviews and other materials, Urobuchi wasn’t really “booted” off Aldnoah though. It was a planned departure and in any case he left behind an entire outline for the rest of the story that the staff mostly followed.

    Thus the claim that Urobuchi had some sort of radically different original vision in mind might make for compelling speculation, but it’s not strongly supported by the facts. That said, I can also assume he might have helped the remaining staff execute those ideas in better ways, but it’s extremely unlikely that he wouldn’t have raised the stakes and instead somehow kept everything frozen at exactly the same level for an entire show.

    Not to mention that Inaho, even right at the very start of the narrative, was showing signs of being too overpowered even by Gundam or Code Geass standards (Lelouch got himself defeated or countered a lot) in addition to not having much of anything resembling charisma thanks to his excessively stoic personality. I kept expecting that he would develop a more emotional side. Batman can be cold when facing criminals, sure, but he’s rarely THAT cold all the time.

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