Back again for a second week of first impressions, this time with the unique combination of Steampunk Iyashikei and Space Mecha.
Escha & Logy no Atelier
In the Season Preview from this blog I was not sure what to make of this show. The fact that it is based on a steam punk alchemist RPG game of the same name made me wary. I have said before that I want video game anime to be good, but historically they are mediocre at best. Studio Gokumi signing on to make this confused me as well. They are best known for making calming slice of life anime such as Kiniro Mosaic. I assumed the “fast paced class-based combat” boasted by the game’s website would be a recipe for disaster for them.
Yet after seeing the first episode I now see the vision behind it. The whole thing felt like the kind of calming iyashikei-like anime I would expect from Gokumi. The show takes place in the small town of Colseit, which had a rural feeling that I thought was like Non Non Biyori last fall. The story centers on Escha, a totally adorable young girl who runs an apple orchard but dreams of being an alchemist. Joining her is Logy, a “down-to-earth” young man who was just assigned to this town as an alchemist in trainer and is learning to appreciate the charm of small town life. Despite what you might expect from the game, there is almost no conflict in this episode. Escha and Logy spend most of the episode wandering the town, meeting townsfolk, and completing simple tasks that I assume could be the introductory quests of the game. Even the one part where they have to fight wolves to gather alchemy materials did not disrupt the atmosphere. The battle was over almost immediately and they did not even have to kill anything. Logy just scared the wolves off with a sword attack so Escha could pick the flowers they were guarding.
Even with all these iyashikei elements there are some obvious deviations from the formula. The protagonists are older than usual; Escha being 14 and Logy being 17. During the opening, it looks like they and other members of the cast are fighting a monster with magical attacks. Yet the way it was shot focused more on showing off the characters than highlighting the combat itself. This makes sense given how they handled the battle in the first episode. One of the hallmarks of Iyashikei is a general assurance of safety of the characters and the environment. However, in the last scene of the episode Escha tells Logy that it is her dream to explore the floating abandoned ruins near the town. This is the exact opposite of safety. However, based on the tone of the show so far, I fully expect them to highlight the wonder of exploration instead of the dangers of adventure.
Escha and Logy no Atelier feels like an Iyashikei show with a steam punk fantasy twist on the formula. If this sounds interesting too you I highly recommend you check it out. I know I am looking forward to it.
After seeing two episodes, I am still not sure what is going on. On a first watching it felt incomprehensible, or like a whole lot of “Stuff Happening”. They introduced a whole slew of characters and factions without adequately describing how they all fit together. There are some children from Daichi’s past that like to hang out in abandoned warehouses and have special powers or something. A government space program which is actually a secret defense force to save the earth from Kill-T-Gang attacks. The Kill-T-Gang, which as far as I can tell are aliens from another dimension trying to destroy Earth (but I might be wrong about that), are attacking Earth from the Moon. There is even a Shadow Council observing the whole thing, trying to find a way to undermine the Earth defense forces. This overwhelming array of story threads may be intentionally confusing, but at the moment I am left scratching my head.
The one theme that I did like a lot was Daichi’s relationship to his father. We know that his father was an astronaut and he idolized him as a child. But his father died on a space mission ten years ago and Daichi decided to leave the island all together. It feels like a major character arc for him will be discovering who his dad really was and taking up his mantle. This lead to a poignant scene when Daichi visits his father’s grave that I really liked.
Having said that, I am reading sexual innuendo into pretty much every scene. I hope some other people were thinking this too or else I just have dirty mind. There are some literal references: Libido Charge and Daichi’s own mech expansion’s ‘Combine Robustness’. But also things like the phallic nature of his mech’s ignition sequence. Also I mentally replaced every instance of the word “boomerang” with “penis” which made the second episode hilarious. I don’t know whether this was intentional and actually represents a theme of boys coming of age or if I am just crazy and it is all in my head.
Knights of Sidonia
I guess I have to start by talking about the elephant in the room: Knights of Sidonia is completely CG. I know a bunch of people who lost all interest immediately after hearing that. But that’s fine, I know where you are coming from. A lot of the appeal of anime is the art style and full CG is a different beast all together. Personally it does not bother me and I am excited to see how far the technology has come. But I will admit it is not all the way there yet. The mech battles and the tentacle aliens look great as expected, but some of the character animations and motions look a bit strange. Sometimes they are eerily smooth and other times they look jarring (specifically the awkward hug later in the episode).
The CG animation aside, the plot looks rich and complex. The focus is on a section of humanity (I estimate numbering in the millions) living on the massive colony ship Sidonia. I was impressed by how many topics they touched on that sound interesting in a sci-fi setting. There is a political struggle between the current military government and the growing anti-military movement. It has been one hundred years since the last sighting of the Gauna alien threat. The people want the military government to end the state of emergency and step down. A reasonable position but I am sure the situation is more complicated. Also an androgynous third gender has been development. This is particularly interesting because of how it might affect societal reproductive strategies as well as redefining gender roles. I hope they take the time to explore all its implications. And lastly, the widespread use of human cloning and something called the “Biothermal Reactor”. Now to be fair, they never explicitly say they are using cloning… but really though, I think it is a safe bet. I believe the Biothermal reactor to be a facility to burn human bodies for fuel when they die or are no longer needed by the society. These two practices have interesting implications about the value of human life, especially on a ship like Sidonia where resource management is paramount. There is a lot of room for the plot to explore and elaborate its philosophy and I am looking forward to seeing where they go with it.