Thursday, June 30, 2011

:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: Manager's Special!: Gundam Wing & RahXephon!!

Two years ago for HardDoor's third anniversary, I did a special post detailing how I got into anime, and in it I mentioned two series I considered to be my absolute favorites: Gundam Wing, which helped solidify my interest in anime, and RahXephon, which I have considered to be the best anime I have ever seen (and I don't throw that kind of praise around so lightly). As such, I think it is only appropriate that for HardDoor's fifth anniversary, I dedicate this month's Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick to the two shows I hold so dear to myself.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

Official Sites: Japanese, English
Additional Links: ANN Entry
Video [Free]: Crunchyroll

Info: Five teen boys are sent to Earth in powerful mecha called "Gundams" to free the space colonies from the oppressive Earth forces.

While I can't stand Romanticism in real world instances (i.e. politics, recounts of events or people), it can sure make for some compelling fiction, and Gundam Wing is no exception. Because of it, Wing tends to be more "theatrical" than realistic and the way everyone expounds their beliefs and viewpoints is no less so, if not overbearing at times, but that sort of storytelling and passion against a backdrop of political intrigue and mecha battles is also what makes it and the ensuing drama so enjoyable. Considering its lack of comic relief and weightiness compared to others, it is also perhaps the most "serious-minded" of the Gundam entries and has a certain air to it not found among them, either (or really anywhere else, for that matter). Kou Otani's one-of-a-kind rock/synth/classical score (with touches of jazz) is something to behold and is perhaps the show's signature aspect. It's not flawless, but Gundam Wing's theatrical flare, atmosphere, and story makes for a very excellent series, one that I have watched more times than any other (13 going on 14--matched, coincidentally, by Char's Counterattack, step-for-step).


Official Sites: Japanese
Additional Links: ANN Entry
Video: The Anime Network (Free: Ep. 1 for "Guests" (i.e. "everyone"), Ep. 2 for those who register ("Registered"); Pay afterwards for Eps. 3-26 ("Subscribers"))

Info: A Tokyo high-schooler's life, and the world around him, is turned inside-out as unknown aircraft and strange, statue-like vessels fight it out in the sky, and as an encounter with a mysterious girl leads him to a shrine housing a gigantic egg…

Now what is not only an excellent anime, but one darn near, if not, perfect, is RahXephon, veteran designer Yutaka Izubuchi first (and, so far, only) excursion into anime directing. Partially inspired by the 70's classic Yuusha Raideen (Brave Raideen), RahXephon is a great tale of love, time, and mystery with superb artistry on all fronts. Sometimes, the best mecha shows are the ones where the mecha or mecha action are not the primary focus of the story (see Armored Trooper VOTOMS, Eureka seveN, Gundam 0080, Code Geass). Instead, the main attraction is the human element and the inherent drama involved, which undoubtedly involve mecha in a central capacity. It has garnered many comparisons to the ubiquitous Evangelion--which are warranted--but it also stands very much as its own show (and I say that having seen both shows first at the same time).

Even nearly a decade later, it remains one of the most beautifully-animated shows I have ever seen (with that sort of crispness, vibrant color, and shine indelible to early-2000s digital animation), along with possessing a number of personal "best" honors in my book: best score, English dub, story, direction, and ending (my absolute, all-time favorite; all things considered, it is just perfect). I am not one to slap hyperbole on everything that looks remotely good and I say this even as someone who holds the deepest of admiration for works like Mushi-Shi, 5 Centimeters Per Second, Dennou Coil, Eureka seveN, End of Evangelion, Gungrave, Gunbuster, Only Yesterday, Sea Story, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Victory Gundam, and Giant Robo, among others.  But even so, RahXephon is executed so well and resonated with me so deeply, that even with so many great things watched--animated or live-action--only Gundam Wing rivals its affection as my all-time favorite series. (The alternate motion picture version of RahXephon, Pluralitas Concentio, is also available to Anime Network site subscribers, but…let's just say I don't like that one too much…)

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