Aquarion Logos – 03 Review
And risking her life in mecha-battles against evil word-monsters will definitely bring her one step closer to achieving that goal!
This time I review:
Aquarion Logos 03: The idol-business, as it turns out, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – especially if your resume ends with you barely having left kindergarten. Karan is one such girl and her mother is the kind of dragon you definitely don’t want to have for your childhood-experience. But thanks to a supernatural catastrophe the mother realizes just how much of an asshole she has been to her daughter and Karan can forgive her for being an asshole (seems like kindergarten teaches kids a lot about adult-regrets these days). Also, Maia establishes her tsundere-position and gets lost in the city…
Guess, someone thought the Google-Watch would become a big thing. Why else would you turn something that’s essentially just a really good phone into a wristband…? A more hip solution would’ve been to just tell all the members of the Daeva-project to download an app that would allow them to communicate using a secure line which also would work if other phones don’t.
What is more important to a series? That which makes it special or that which makes it familiar? In general the answer would be of course the former but producing a series that aims to have a broad appeal is usually better off aiming for the latter. This series is a good example as the more we learn about the setting and the characters the less strange the whole high-concept plothook seems as more familiar tropes keep getting introduced to make us relate to the high-concept-stuff. With the third episode we’ve already reached a point where the familiar is about to bury the specialness of the series, thereby rendering it to be more or less just a gimmick.
The way this series manages this as it leaves the abstract level of supernatural linguistics behind and instead commits to the value of the voice as a symbol for more commonplace shounen-show-tropes. It starts with the concept of Kanji being living things that control reality, then turns corrupted words into villains and the way the good guys fight them is by shouting words that are meaningful to that particular character. And here the series brings it around to the bottomline of it all being the usual shounen-show mentality of being honest, passionate and whatnot. The bottomline is that beneath all this high-concept-stuff you don’t find an intelligent discussion of that stuff but instead the familiar machinations of a typical mecha-show.
Distancing itself from the main-story, the third episode turns into a character-introduction-episode for the newest team-member, a little girl called Karan who “wants” to become an idol. Her mother is there to check on her and force her to pursue that dream. But as the word “dream” gets corrupted she becomes insane and Karan is forced to enter the battle against the “evil word-monsters”. There she learns to stand up for herself and be honest about what her actual dream for the future is and her mother also realizes how selfish she has been in pushing her kid this much because secretly it has been her who always had wanted to become an idol.
I never like these kinds of episodic stories in animes where real-life-issues get mixed up with supernatural stuff and in the end it all gets a happy ending. The first problem with those types of stories is how the story usually downplays the severity of the real-life-problem. You got a character with a very real problem and the supernatural isn’t just the solution but it also reveals the problem. The supernatural is used as an excuse to not tackle a real problem in a realistic manner. Here, the problematic relationship between Karan and her mother gets telegraphed from the start but it’s only the corruption of the word “dream” that actually motivated Karan to act. Until then you’ve only got one scene where the Savior has pointed out the obvious to Karan (who, let’s not forget, is a little kid).
Apparently the Savior doesn’t like the concept of acting.
What these sort of episodic stories are usually interested in is pure escapism. Despite the very real and serious plothook, the actual story quickly devolves into a sappy, personal story that completely ignores the big picture. Here the drama between Karan and her mother quickly distracts from the general attitude of mothers objectifying their daughters as mere trophies-in-training and makes it all about both Karan and her mother not having been honest about what their dreams are. There’s a scene where Karan’s mother talks with three other mothers who are just as horrible as she is and that whole thing never goes anywhere in this episode. When the corruption of the word starts, you don’t only see Karan’s mother freaking out but the other mothers from earlier start to fight each other talking about how their daughters are better than all the others. Once again, the episode just focuses on the mothers being horrible to their daughters – but of course, that isn’t the whole story. On one side you got these horrible mothers objectifying their children but on the other side you got the industry ready to devour those kids for the sake of profit and not all of those kids will survive that experience unscathed of course. You could make a whole series about the life of someone like Karan but here all those details of her life don’t matter as the supernatural takes over and makes any sense of realism disappear.
The supernatural is there to reveal the problem and it does so by making it worse. Akin to the saying “It always gets worse before it gets better”, the problem is revealed on a realistic level that at least the hero is aware of, then the supernatural twists the whole thing to become a threat then the battle happens and the resolution is some sentimental heart-to-heart-talk and some straightforward ass-kicking. It’s always a marvel to watch how easy it is apparently to have a nice chat after you’ve gone through a traumatic supernatural experience. It’s formulaic and it’s a formula that simplifies and streamlines a lot of things for the story.
There’s a thing as being too positive and you definitely get the sense of that happening here. You start out with Karan’s mother treating her horribly, then you get the scene with the Savior establishing that she’s kinda aware of it and hides her true feelings, then you see the mother freaking out, then a lot of fighting happens and then… the two just make up. The mother allows Karan to pursue her dream, apologizes to her and Karan forgives her mother while also being very understanding of what her mother wanted to do. Ignoring the obvious issue of the series claiming that a young person like Karan can relate to her mother’s obsession and can show such a mature form of forgiveness, the series just reduces the whole plot-hook to a sentimental story about a mother and daughter being honest with each other while learning to love each other again. What the series focuses on is a purely sentimental resolution that eschews any sense of consequence.
What the series is slowly revealing itself to be is far less abstract and weird than what its first impression might have led you to believe in the first episode. What has to be said, though, is that as the series’ ambitions are becoming clearer, it stays consistent and it’s merely a matter of focus and expectation that kept this series from making a good first impression. In a way there was a fork in the road for this series as it could’ve focused on what words mean for society and examine what would happen to society if said word became alive and started affecting daily life. Instead, though, the series is focusing on how the good guys’ voices are what will save the world from evil. Saying something with the right kind of emotion is more important than what they’re saying. In this episode Karan is using the word “ephemeral” to kick ass and (naturally) the episode uses this to describe what dreams are but the series cares less about this word being used but about how it links to the sappy story-arc of Karan in this episode and that Karan says it with conviction.
The series just feels mediocre at the end of this episode. A lot of what could make it special has turned into a gimmick at this point. Stuff like all the verbalism-students having a dream associated with voice is as meaningful as saying that all oranges are orange. And what replaces any deeper discussion of that is a formulaic storyline about a topic the episode doesn’t really want to explore. The world of child-idols is a good plothook for a dramatic storyline but the way this episode uses its supernatural elements you’d think that its problems are solely confined to some mothers being real monsters in how they treat their kids. Less than a sense of closure, you just got one girl committing to becoming a hero and a mother suddenly changing her personality on a fundamental level for the sake of the plot.
Not only is the episodic story weak but everything surrounding it isn’t very good either. It’s like the series has only been sleepwalking through this episode without ever even trying to say something original and interesting. In fact, the most tense thing that’s happening right now is a love-triangle between shy-girl, tsundere-girl and the Savior (and it isn’t even openly dramatic!). Instead of using its unique concepts to come up with its own story, the series is just using those elements to dress up a fairly dull and unoriginal story, it seems. Aquarion Logos is in desperate need of some depth as it’s starting to become too reliant on stereotypes while leaving most of its unique concepts unexplored.
- Maia’s subplot in this episode mostly consists of tsundere-hijinks and her getting lost in the city. It’s exactly what you expect it would be.
- If the point of the mecha-battle is Karan making clear that she wants to become a voice-actor, then why does her robot do ballet-stuff (which is obviously part of the career-training-regime her mother had forced her to follow)? Isn’t it weird how Karan’s story-arc in this episode doesn’t exactly end up feeling like a story about her rebelling against her mother? Instead it’s more about accepting each other’s dreams while ignoring any conflict that may arise from the events of the past.
- The Daeva-Organization is supposed to be secret but considering what the corruption of a word does to society… how can it stay secret even? Otherwise the general population would accuse the prime-minister and other authority-figures of not doing enough to deal with this situation. But I guess this series didn’t think about that. Daeva may be a governmental, secret organization but it doesn’t seem to have to deal with red tape at any point.
- So, how often are the bad guys trying to do the same thing before realizing that they need a new strategy…?