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GreenCine Movie Talk
Anime
Discuss all topics related to anime.
561

The Return of What's So Great About...
Topic by: ahogue
Posted: August 3, 2006 - 6:10 PM PDT
Last Reply: August 4, 2006 - 1:07 PM PDT

author topic: The Return of What's So Great About...
ahogue
post #1  on August 3, 2006 - 6:10 PM PDT  
Maybe this doesn't count, since as far as I know it's not especially popular, but based on the first episode (the only one I intend to watch), it's really for little boys. Bleh.
ahogue
post #2  on August 3, 2006 - 6:11 PM PDT  
> On August 3, 2006 - 6:10 PM PDT ahogue wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Maybe this doesn't count, since as far as I know it's not especially popular, but based on the first episode (the only one I intend to watch), it's really for little boys. Bleh.
> ---------------------------------


Er, and by that I meant The Big O.

Meh.
hamano
post #3  on August 3, 2006 - 7:13 PM PDT  
I think quite the opposite... The Big O was really tailor made for someone like me who grew up on Gigantor and maybe the later giant robot shows like Mazinger Z and stuff. I think if you take it straight you might have the reaction ahogue had... But it's really a very dry, very arch homage to those old shows. There were clues everywhere that the show meant to be a loving camp parody of all the things that made a young male anime fan HAPPY back in the day... the faux-Queen OP song, the spot-on film noir stylings, the protagonist's oh-so-serious narration, the hilarious deadpan one-liners from R. Dorothy.

The show aims straight for the part of my heart that used to think "the bigger the better" when it came to robots. I got giddy every time The Big O had a showdown with another Mega Deus... those giant piston punches... so lovingly retro.

If you were a giant robot fan as a kid, I guess there are two ways to take the nostalgia now and twist it for humor. One is the way they used an old giant robot show as a running theme in Nadesico. I much prefer the way they did it in Big O, which was very stylish and very deadpan. In Nadesico the homage was framed by the devotion of the characters who were fans of the show, but in The Big O they pretty much feed you a show without any explicit "external" frame of reference.

I think it's possible to watch The Big O as a straight on robot anime series. But if you do I think you'll just miss out on what the show is really about. The Big O is a very strange comedy, it's NOT an update of Giant Robo. The proper frame of mind to enjoy it is somewhere between FLCL and School Rumble. Personally, it was one of the funnest shows I've ever watched (especially if you discount the more serious and straight-on second season) and it made me laugh much harder than Excel Saga ever did. I thought Excel Saga tried very HARD to be funny, and mostly succeeded, but The Big O is funny in a breezy, offhand way that I just found endearing.

I think if you love the genre enough to understand that the "R." in R. Dorothy comes from Isaac Asimov's robot stories, and were a fan of cool (big) mecha as a kid, and NOW you're at the stage in your life where you can appreciate the inherent humor in the concept that "bigger is better" when it comes to battling robots, The Big O is an almost perfect show for you.
hamano
post #4  on August 3, 2006 - 8:06 PM PDT  
> On August 3, 2006 - 6:10 PM PDT ahogue wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> it's really for little boys. Bleh.

Hmmm... the more I read that line, the more I get the feeling that an essential point of The Big O was that a certain segment of those who take anime a bit too seriously wouldn't "get" the joke. I've previously encountered greenciners on these very fora that just didn't seem to understand how funny this show is. Maybe it IS a kind of "inside joke" sort of thing, and it's impossible to explain the appeal to those who don't get "it"...
hamano
post #5  on August 3, 2006 - 8:20 PM PDT  
A recent show that came my way last week (thanks to Battie) that I think has some of the same sense of humor as The Big O is The Amazing Screwed-On Head. Of course Screwed-on Head has a much more overtly political slant to its jokes. However, stylistically it does the same take on SteamPunk that The Big O does on giant robot shows.
jross3
post #6  on August 3, 2006 - 8:35 PM PDT  
For me, Big O and another (favorite) called Overman King Gainer were both good stand-alone Big Robo anime that have a nice (ironic?) extra layer of humor when you look at them as a sort of parody. (but I think Gainer was a bit better as a stand-alone than Big O). They have their own thing going, but they share a lot with other animes in the genre.
"Parody" doesn't quite say what I mean, though. Imagine if they made "Scary Movie", a parody, but actually made it scary instead of funny. They would still make fun of other scary movies, but it is also a good (or so I would hope for them, lol) scary movie itself. You see?

There's a possibility that they aren't supposed to be self-referential or parodic, in which case I'd have to say that their characters are all rather unoriginal (Gainer's battles would still be very original, but we're not talking about that one).

But in the case of Big O, there's the very retro styling (which helps set the tone for the parodic side of it), and the whole allegorical theme about the last city on earth where nobody has any memory or record of the world before 40 years in the past, and how people are always searching for memories. I didn't really understand quite where they were going with that, though - and IMHO Big O would only rate a fair B. I liked its style and characters (although they may be largely derivitave, depending on your opinion), but its battles and story confused and bored me.
I know we're not talking about it, but Overman King Gainer is really the opposite. Its battles were fantastic (one enemy freezes a blizard in time as a trap for the hero) but its characters weren't that three-dimensional and its story... was kinda... hm, what WAS the story? But I think it's still good enough to get a nice A-. (not that anyone asked)
ahogue
post #7  on August 3, 2006 - 9:09 PM PDT  
> On August 3, 2006 - 8:20 PM PDT hamano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> A recent show that came my way last week (thanks to Battie) that I think has some of the same sense of humor as The Big O is The Amazing Screwed-On Head. Of course Screwed-on Head has a much more overtly political slant to its jokes. However, stylistically it does the same take on SteamPunk that The Big O does on giant robot shows.
> ---------------------------------

This one looks like fun. I see what you mean about the similarity between it and the Big O, at least in theory. I won't say anything more about BO since I have only seen one episode and never will see another.

When I was little I loved Ultraman. But for all I know there's some elaborate reason why that doesn't count.

What I'm enjoying most right now apart from the usual (S Champloo, Cro High (now sadly finished), etc.) is Ebichu The Housecleaning Hamster. It's the only series I care to watch on fansub, since I can't imagine it'll ever be licensed. Luckily I downloaded the entire thing in one swoop. It's so crude but so cringingly funny. I take it this one never really caught on...or am I wrong about that?
Battie
post #8  on August 3, 2006 - 9:34 PM PDT  
> On August 3, 2006 - 8:20 PM PDT hamano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> A recent show that came my way last week (thanks to Battie) that I think has some of the same sense of humor as The Big O is The Amazing Screwed-On Head. Of course Screwed-on Head has a much more overtly political slant to its jokes. However, stylistically it does the same take on SteamPunk that The Big O does on giant robot shows.
> ---------------------------------

Heh, it's too bad there hasn't been a second episode since they premiered it. *sob*

I don't think I got the whole parody thing of Big O, but I didn't find it as seriously as it first appeared to be. I wasn't incredibly found of it, but nor did I particularly dislike it. :P
hamano
post #9  on August 4, 2006 - 4:23 AM PDT  
> On August 3, 2006 - 9:09 PM PDT ahogue wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> This one looks like fun. I see what you mean about the similarity between it and the Big O, at least in theory.

The big difference between the two shows is how they're paced. Head goes pretty fast, throwing jokes at the viewer every few seconds... very American... On Big O the jokes are more subtle, dry and spaced farther apart. The rest of the show has a dreamy surreal feel to it, like one of those waking dreams you can't snap out of.

What jross said about Scary Movie is right, too, I think. It's also like how Play it Again Sam with Woody Allen is both a loving tribute to Casablanca and a satire at the same time.

> I won't say anything more about BO since I have only seen one episode and never will see another.

I think you should at least see the episode with the lounge pianist robot before you totally give up. You'll see how this series is really a comedy with some bits of poignancy stewn in. In another episode there's a whole plot arc with Roger and Ms. Angel trapped in an underwater city that's very beautiful.

Actually, I think Roger Smith really represents the segment of viewers who are clueless to the appeal of what's going on. He takes his job as "negotiator" very seriously and he doesn't realize that he's the butt of all the sharp jokes directed at him from all sides, especially from Dorothy and the weird old butler guy.

> When I was little I loved Ultraman. But for all I know there's some elaborate reason why that doesn't count.

Well, it's a different genre (kaiju/kigurumi) but there's less and less of a clear dividing line... I was watching Ultraman Nexus (the one from a couple of years ago) with Kboy, and a lot of the monsters and effects were CG rather than people in rubber suits and actual sparks and smoke. It reminded me a lot of the live action Sailor Moon series.

> What I'm enjoying most right now apart from the usual (S Champloo, Cro High (now sadly finished), etc.) is Ebichu The Housecleaning Hamster. I take it this one never really caught on...or am I wrong about that?

Actually that show has a pretty big following I think. It's from GAINAX after all. I just gotta be careful about watching it around here, because it looks so kid-friendly (there's Hamtaro, and my daughter also loves Dietlof Reiche's Freddy the Hamster books as well.) I'm a bit puzzled by the lack of interest in putting it out on DVD here. There are 24 9-minute episodes which would fit neatly on one or two DVDs.
hamano
post #10  on August 4, 2006 - 4:34 AM PDT  
If nothing else, Ebichu is worth watching because the incomparable Kotono Mitsuishi (Sailor Moon, Excel) does Ebichu's voice. There's actually an intersting story behind her involvement in the project.
ahogue
post #11  on August 4, 2006 - 9:21 AM PDT  
> On August 4, 2006 - 4:23 AM PDT hamano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
>
> > I won't say anything more about BO since I have only seen one episode and never will see another.
>
> I think you should at least see the episode with the lounge pianist robot before you totally give up. You'll see how this series is really a comedy with some bits of poignancy stewn in. In another episode there's a whole plot arc with Roger and Ms. Angel trapped in an underwater city that's very beautiful.
--

Sigh. I should know better by now than to give up after one episode.


>
> Actually, I think Roger Smith really represents the segment of viewers who are clueless to the appeal of what's going on. He takes his job as "negotiator" very seriously and he doesn't realize that he's the butt of all the sharp jokes directed at him from all sides, especially from Dorothy and the weird old butler guy.
--

Come to think of it, the butler was really odd. But the whole fake batman thing was a big part of what annoyed me so much. Okay, I can see how the eyes of that little statue lighting up when the butler talks over the intercom is funny in a way. I do remember thinking, "Waaait a minute!" when I saw that.

I really thought the animation was pretty flat. This is another one that reminded me of the shows I used to watch after school. That's always a big turn off for me, intentional or not. I'm assuming the quality of the artwork is consistent for the whole series.


> Well, it's a different genre (kaiju/kigurumi) but there's less and less of a clear dividing line... I was watching Ultraman Nexus (the one from a couple of years ago) with Kboy, and a lot of the monsters and effects were CG rather than people in rubber suits and actual sparks and smoke. It reminded me a lot of the live action Sailor Moon series.
--

That is a shame. It's like those revamped Tom and Jerry cartoons where they replaced the great orchestral score with godawful synthesizer music. Technology has made everything cheap and easy.


>
> > What I'm enjoying most right now apart from the usual (S Champloo, Cro High (now sadly finished), etc.) is Ebichu The Housecleaning Hamster. I take it this one never really caught on...or am I wrong about that?
>
> Actually that show has a pretty big following I think. It's from GAINAX after all. I just gotta be careful about watching it around here, because it looks so kid-friendly (there's Hamtaro, and my daughter also loves Dietlof Reiche's Freddy the Hamster books as well.) I'm a bit puzzled by the lack of interest in putting it out on DVD here. There are 24 9-minute episodes which would fit neatly on one or two DVDs.
>
> ---------------------------------

I'm assuming it has something to do with all the word play and cultural references. Most of the second or third episode, for instance, would fall completely flat if you don't know the Japanese words for "squirrel" and "chestnut".

And also, I wonder if Americans are really ready for the radical (by American standards) juxtaposition of extreme cuteness with sex and rather bloody violence. The Japanese idea of cuteness is really completely different, judging by the anime I've seen.
hamano
post #12  on August 4, 2006 - 11:20 AM PDT  
Yeah, "chestnut and squirrel" kuri to risu... very silly...

> I really thought the animation was pretty flat. This is another one that reminded me of the shows I used to watch after school. That's always a big turn off for me, intentional or not. I'm assuming the quality of the artwork is consistent for the whole series.

The art style was very interesting because the show followed on the success in this country of the Batman: TAS franchise which marked a definite change in style in American cartoons, probably influenced by anime as much as Tim Burton's Batman film and the Frank Miller generation of Batman comics. Story-wise the Batman:TAS show was still a kiddie show, but there were elements that adults could enjoy, much of it in the darker, more expressionistic graphic style. I really enjoyed watching this series and its spawn like Batman Beyond because I liked the drawing style so much.

I thought it was an interesting decision for the people who created The Big O to "import" so much from the American Batman cartoon (which, if I remember correctly, was animated largely by Asian companies like so many American cartoons were at that time). Roger is a lot like Bruce Wayne, Norman is like a crazy version of Alfred, Paradigm resembles a futuristic Gotham. I think this was one more comedic decision made by the Big O producers, because other than the superficial similarity the characters are very different.

Roger is vain, pretentious, arrogant and lucky. He thinks he is on the right track to figuring out the mystery of Paradigm City and his own origins, but really he's clueless. He's not Bruce Wayne at all... more like Guy Noir from PHC and even a spiritual brother of Barton Fink and Tom Reagan (Miller's Crossing). Similarly, Norman is nothing like the avuncular Alfred. He seems to have a surprisingly bloodthirsty aspect to his personality, and he's definitely quite daffy. Alfred was a father-figure to Wayne, but to think that Norman might be a father-figure to Roger Smith would be a bit scary.

R. Dorothy is my favorite character. Her deadpan, unemotional comments nail the absurd nature of the plot right on the head, along with Roger's slightly asinine personality. Once, when Roger got himself out of a dangerous situation by using her as bait, she said in her trademark monotone, "Roger Smith you are an absolute heel." Later she gets back at him by loudly playing piano etudes early every morning, disturbing Roger's precious beauty sleep.

The hilarious comedy is offset by moments of quiet poignancy... there's the underwater sequence I mentioned earlier, and there was an episode simply titled "Missing Cat" that was a bit touching. There's also the image of R. Dorothy standing like a ship's figurehead on the balcony of Roger's high-rise apartment, silently gazing over the city.

The show had some really nice music too (I'm not talking about the OP/ED themes). Aside from the de rigeur film noir smoky jazz with the wailing sax, there was a slightly funky tuba studded motif. And I loved the beautifully orchestrated battle theme that kicked in whenever a big robot battle started.

I thought the Big O was a very offbeat and singular kind of show, very different from what Japanese anime companies are usually capable of. At the same time much smarter than any American cartoon despite the similarities graphically. It's a milestone in a new "international" style that began to emerge in the 1990's, as anime began to have a strong influence on American TV/Movies/Comics artists.
NLee
post #13  on August 4, 2006 - 12:53 PM PDT  
Speaking of pre-EVA fat robot animes... how about the latest remake of "Tetsujin 28"? Based on the cover arts, it looks like a mix of ancient character designs and glossy 3D computer-generated models. Not my cup of tea, but maybe a certain highly gullible person here can give it a try.
Battie
post #14  on August 4, 2006 - 1:07 PM PDT  
> On August 4, 2006 - 12:53 PM PDT NLee wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Speaking of pre-EVA fat robot animes... how about the latest remake of "Tetsujin 28"? Based on the cover arts, it looks like a mix of ancient character designs and glossy 3D computer-generated models. Not my cup of tea, but maybe a certain highly gullible person here can give it a try.
> ---------------------------------

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