Review-Roundup: Heavy Object 01, Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry 01, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans 01, Young Black Jack 01
Heroism ain’t what it used to be, eh? She’s literally suffocating in front of him and that’s all he’s thinking about…
This time I review:
Heavy Object 01: An Object is a big war-machine. Wars have become “cleaner” and more commonplace because now everybody has this stupid Object and starts fights with every idiot and his dog because every idiot and his dog have an Object. Also, the hero lands in the middle of the war trying to find a way to become rich quickly.
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry 01: A dude who is SUPER-SPECIAL but is the underdog regardless because if a school gives you an F it’s just a sign of how shitty the school is. He lives together with a girl who is also SUPER-SPECIAL but she only gets As because she’s a princess and does nothing exceptional whatsoever (except, you know, just being exceptional). Turns out the dude is stronger than the girl which doesn’t unnerve her because she actually wants to fuck the dude. A hurray for complicated relationships! Also, it’s important for these two to help the school become REALLY prestigious again (since this is a thing you supposedly care about as a student)!
Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans 01: A Martian princess fights for Martian independence by trying out being a diplomat. She hires some idiot-orphans to be her bodyguard for very idealistically offending reasons (meaning she means well but still comes off as pretentious) and immediately gets to experience her first battle because as it turns out she’s more valuable to the bad guys if she’s dead than if she’s alive. Luckily said orphans just sort-of happen to own a Gundam – and one of those orphans is of course a genius-pilot.
Young Black Jack 01: The 60s… Hot times in a hot city named Tokyo and one hot doctor takes care of one… hot accident as brakes running too hot can’t stop a train from running over a boy. But Black Jack’s on the case! Boy lost some limbs but Black Jack sells his miraculous healing for a couple thousand yen to his parents. You know, because that’s what good doctors do. Good medicine is mercenary-work as we all know.
Heavy Object 01 Review:
Greed is always a sympathetic motivation to have for a character we are supposed to cheer for.
Heavy Object is indeed an appropriate title because if anything this series has one of the most heavyhanded first episodes imaginable. It already doesn’t inspire confidence if your series feels the need to open with a voice-over. But when you do it for four minutes, FOUR GODDAMN MINUTES, you already start to lose the interest of the audience. And what is the nail in the coffin here is the very next thing you hear characters mostly talking about in the episode is WHAT JUST HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED BY THIS TORTUROUS VOICE-OVER!
I get it: It’s the future, wars have changed because these giant warmachines have been invented and because of that we now got “cleaner wars”. Of course, I know that because the series is completely unable to not continually badger you with this information. And when it hasn’t been talking about that, the episode actually delivers some other information like… why the Object the series focuses on is white for example. Yeah, because we were all dying to know whether it was because they’re in Alaska or whether it was simply a lack of effort to design the exterior. And it’s the latter, just so you know. Also, did you know that there are standard-Objects and specialized Objects for air-, water- or desert-combat? And that the latter have gotten more popular than the former? The series just keeps spewing all this crap that has NO payoff whatsoever and was never an answer to any sort of question I had during this episode.
What I would’ve liked to see more of would’ve been a more thorough discussion of how fucked up the world is in this series. As far as I understood from this episode there are a few coalitions in theory but it’s more like every territory has its respective Object and people constantly start little wars with the help of these Objects without feeling too bad about it – because war has gotten “cleaner” now. Amazingly this episode can be VERY detailed in some aspects of its worldbuilding but other parts are just terrible. Like, who are our protagonists fighting for? And who are they fighting against? There’s barely any context for the bigger picture here and instead you get to hear for the millionth time how the main-guy became a soldier because he wanted to study Objects (and later start a career of designing new ones).
The little glimpses you get of personal moments are a downright depressing experience for how broad and predictable they are. Of course the pilot of the Object is a girl and of course she’s doing the whole emotionless-routine while indirectly showing interest in the main-character. And the series quickly spells out what exactly the relationship is between the main-guy and pilot-girl because when they first meet… it’s hard to tell what exactly is even going on relationship-wise. Their dynamic is vague and broad at the same time. Aside from what the series is spelling out for you barely anything is going on in terms of characterization in this episode.
It doesn’t help either that the episode has some very tiresome fanservice. You get actual lines like the main-guy’s buddy saying about their commander “Man, for an 18-year-old she has REALLY large boobs, you know!” and when the main-guy is trying to save the pilot-girl’s life he doesn’t because he has a big problem with having to touch her boobs. Yep, a girl is suffocating in front of him and his big problem is that he may have to touch this girl’s boobs if he wants to save her. And OF COURSE he needs to make a comment à la “Huh, never knew she had such big boobs…”.
This episode’s storytelling is SO thin and dull that I can’t even imagine how this series is planning to fill an entire season. I can only assume it does so by delivering even worse writing than what this episode has shown us.
In any case, as far as first episodes go, this is one for the trashcan.
Rakudai Kishi no CavalryReview:
As far as catchy lines are concerned, I don’t think this one quite hits the mark. It’s mostly because it’s cheesy for the sake of being cheesy and has no depth AT ALL!
If there’s a place in this universe where creativity goes to die this series would feel right at home there. Someone apparently thought “So people can do magic in modern-day Japan and… I don’t know… Guess it’s time to bust out the tropes!” and then this stuff got turned into an anime. Of course nobody mentioned how creatively bankrupt the premise and this first episode is because nobody in the production remembered the series long enough to do anything about that.
And it isn’t even the worst thing ever. It’s that boring and mediocre! You got your guy who plays the underdog-rule but is actually a “reelly speshial dude” (I believe the episode has its own made-up bullshit terminology but let’s go with that one) and you got your girl who has a lot of talent and is a princess – but of course she immediately becomes infatuated with the guy and she’s weaker than him as well. And they’re at a school, a VERY prestigious school (only comedies and slice-of-life animes occasionally bother with depicting average schools, don’t they?) which needs to win some fighting-tournament in order to regain its prestige-status.
There are indeed a couple things here you could do something interesting with but the episode immediately plasters it with tropes in every case. It isn’t unfair to say that it often feels like the series is drowning in its own tropes as characterization, plot and story are the artificial sum of a variety of tropes and the direction makes you feel like a powerless observer of a car-crash. The little joy you’re left with is of the memory of roads regularly travelled by many other series which have in most cases done the same thing better than this series did.
Now as for the obvious romance-subplot between the main-character and princess, I imagine the writing-process involved a heartattack or two because I can’t imagine other than the most traumatic kind of shock to force a writer to be fine with such an obliviously stereotypical depiction of romance. I say oblivious because there’s more to this atrocious writing than just having a pretty girl fall in love with the main-dude. First, there’s the whole idea that you need to fuck your way up with the choice of your romantic partner. The knight who slays the dragon can’t just save some girl who falls in love with him, no, it must be a princess because otherwise the romance won’t seem like a worthy conquest. For example, Star Wars does it too as Luke becoming a Jedi makes a romantic relationship with Leia not a worthy conquest and instead it’s Han Solo the rogue who ultimately wins Leia’s heart. And then there’s the whole idea of the male being the dominant one and this episode doesn’t mince words when establishing the dynamic between the main-dude and the princess. The dude is the hero and she’s just along for the ride. Maybe she gets her own battles (but only when the main-chara is busy otherwise, I imagine) or her role will be that of a female sidekick/tsundere-lover forever.
A lack of tangible motivation is this first episode’s biggest problem as it’s uncertain why the audience really should give a shit. A lot of the scenes are a bland form of wish-fulfillment as you’re supposed to enjoy the main-dude’s power and chance-encounters with a girl who’s into him. And the princess’ tsundere-tendencies feel the same way as this stereotypic routine is so bad at disguising its underhanded intentions that the princess’ tantrums are full of Freudian slips showing how much she wants to fuck the main-dude. The writers are obviously not even trying anymore to make her seem like a tsundere if the bar has dropped that low. It’s so blatant that you could actually imagine it becoming subversive when you have a girl-character who’s genuinely interested in the other sex but is too shy and nervous to express that interest openly – but with the big difference that it is less perversion but a mixture of innocence and curiosity that motivates her. This episode, though, doesn’t have the same restraints as the girl’s blundering responses include all sorts of specific fetishes that aren’t based on any foundation of sound characterization. It’s just a gimmick for the sake of titillating fanservice.
This isn’t the worst first episode I’ve seen this season but it’s no surprise. When you rely that heavily on tropes you can’t make any big mistakes but doing anything amazing is beyond your reach as well. Therefore the series settles comfortably a notch beneath mediocrity. What makes it a little worse than just being mediocre is that it employs a couple outdated tropes without any hint of self-awareness. Also, even the most mediocre series will at least try to have some sort of identity to make it distinguishable from other series. Here, though? Nothing! This episode is a massive exercise in not writing but copying from a ton of other series and tropes.
Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans 01 Review:
What a pretentious thing to say when you’re a rich princess…
When Heavy Object shows the audience everything you could do wrong with a first episode of a militaristic mecha-series Gundam’s new series does everything right in this regard. It immediately has to be added, though, that this first episode does nothing genre-breaking or otherwise revolutionary. Instead it’s a mixture of good voice-acting, directing and a pretty fast-paced first episode. Just remember Heavy Object’s first episode that actually NEVER got to the action in the first episode! And here it’s the last third of the episode that immediately pulls you in with an intense battle!
This first episode introduces a ton of characters and plot-threads as well. We’re talking here Game-Of-Thrones-levels of plots happening at the same time in different places with very different characters. The writing is good enough to at least give you a slight sense of what each character’s deal is but I did sigh around the midway-point when the little girl in the rundown shop got introduced. I really did start to feel tired out by how many characters got introduced in this first episode who weren’t even in the same place and all had their own little problems.
The actual characters are fine. I mean, I mentioned already that there’s a ton of things going on in this episode solely because of its capability of how often it could cut to an entirely different setting with entirely different characters who were talking about an entirely different thing. All of the characterizations are pretty broad thus far but since we got right to the action as well that’s forgivable.
Another thing that preoccupied a lot of characters’ talking-time was exposition, of course. The series seems to focus on Mars’ ambitious bid for autonomy story-wise. So far Mars has been a colony for Earth but the daughter of the “aristocratic” family Einsbern is going to Earth in order to find a diplomatic way for making Mars independent. And this princess-figure has become a public figurehead for the independence-movement on Mars. The princess being a very naïve idealist has ordered for a scrummy-looking second-rate company filled with Martian orphans to serve as her bodyguard. Of course said group of orphans not only includes incredibly talented people but they just so happen to also keep a Gundam in their garage. Y’know, because why not, right…?
The formula at the heart of this episode will sound very familiar to anyone who has seen a Gundam-series before: There’s a genius-pilot, there’s a highborn young lady and there’s a complicated war going on… also, mechas, LOTS of mechas! Some attempts are being made to break away from the formula with the worldbuilding the series does here for the company of orphans and their interactions with the rest of the world. But the last third does seem to throw it all out the window as the series jumps the shark with the main-girl’s enemies attacking the base only hours after she arrived at the base. It’s the inciting incident which starts the adventure and gives it a sense of urgency but you can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed that the series won’t spend more time on actually exploring the social dynamics on that base while also adding more depth to the characterizations. Then again, maybe they shouldn’t have done that. It’s hard to say whether what this episode has done has been the right thing or not. This may only become clear in retrospect after the series has ended but right now it does feel like something got left behind by rushing to this violent incident.
The episode does make you curious about what happens next and in that regard it’s a success. And the writing/voice-acting is strong enough to cover the many exposition-related lines of dialogue allowing the episode to quickly cover a lot of ground and immediately get to the action in the last third of the episode. It’s too soon to tell whether the characters are genuinely good or how far the series is willing to go with its story since this is a first episode with very fast pacing but the episode hasn’t suffered from any missteps here that would make you think that it can’t be good. This is a promising first episode with a lot of interesting elements and a good amount of action as well. If this is really any indication of what the whole series will be like this will certainly become an entertaining experience.
Young Black Jack 01 Review:
Well, that father just did the same thing you did when his boy’s life hang in the balance. Truly, these are the words of a hypocrite…
Black Jack is one of those well-known franchises that I guess can only get a reboot if a) it ignores all the old stuff and just resets the setting to present day or b) it becomes a prequel. Well, obviously this is a prequel and we “supposedly” get to see how out main-character became the guy we got to know and love through the various incarnations of his figure over time. Since a lot of time has passed since the last time someone bothered to create an installment of this franchise I imagine you would need to reintroduce most of the audience to the idea of Black Jack but since this is a prequel, this series has an easier job than it would otherwise have. I mean, that’s why you usually go option a) if you want to continue a franchise after a long break. And just for reference: I’ve seen some installments and series of Black Jack but my memory is fuzzy when it comes to these, so I can’t say how much this prequel is fucking up with this portrayal.
The setting is 1960s Japan and here’s where the problems start. Okay, you have this historical setting which naturally has these events in its timeline which could be great plothooks but here it feels like the episode is trying to demonize one side of this particular historical event for the sake of plot-convenience alone. Either deal with the history or don’t but I really don’t like when a fictional series treats history like a prop without ever showing awareness for the complexity of history even in the slightest sense. A lot of it has to do with when it seems like a character’s common sense disappears and he ends up in some sort of important historical movement or place just cause that’s where “the action happened” as history-books tell us. And so the first third of this episode dwells on this historical setting without ever actually commenting on it or really talking about it. Like I said, it’s a prop and nothing more.
What the prop is used for is one of a couple weird story-details of this episode. So, let’s keep it simple and not make a big history-lesson out of it (mostly because this episode doesn’t care about the details as well). There’s a big protest-movement and the staff of a hospital gets involved in it, an accident happens and now some female intern is searching for more help to deal with the victims of the accident. She stumbles upon Black Jack who is weird but he returns with her and offers to help.
The actual conceit of the series is to show Black Jack deal with morally complex situations while offering his miraculous medical abilities as a service for whoever can pay him. And I have to say: This episode does a horrible job of selling this idea. It’s like the script-writers don’t actually understand what the idea of Black Jack is supposed to be.
So, the case of this episode is this boy who lost one arm and one leg. It’s a tragic accident and so Black Jack naturally… asks the parents for a LOT of money which they also have (I assume, Black Jack somehow knew that). Black Jack takes the job therefore and so he rushes with the kid to his friend – a doctor who’s a drug-addict (from the looks of it he was hooked on opiates). That revelation has also just followed Black Jack demanding a lot of money and so you know that this guy’s a maverick and a reasonable person would be horrified to deal with him, I imagine. A drug-addict, some novice-doctor and a female intern – and of course the doctor is mostly doing the work (which logically can’t be done).
Blood is an important topic as well here as you don’t see a lot of it – although you should. It’s clear that this series is trying to be kid-friendly but if it’s doing that I would tone down the gratuitous horribleness of the injuries in the future. If a kid loses a leg and an arm, I’m unable to suspend my disbelief regarding the operation. I simply know that this sort of thing is a bloody and messy affair. And overexplaining Black Jack’s miracle-work won’t help either. I mean, you can’t just spontaneously cut into someone’s leg in the middle of an operation! Well, unless you’re Black Jack of course!
Black Jack is a franchise with a very simplistic premise and that means it needs VERY strong writing to make it work. This first episode didn’t have that sort of writing and the result is a subpar episode that doesn’t offer anything interesting or complex in terms of story or character. I really hope that the next episode will be better and not oversimplify stuff like it did with its historical setting in this episode.
Posted on October 5, 2015, in Anime, Heavy Object, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, Reviews, Young Black Jack and tagged A Tale of Worst One, Anime, ヤング ブラック・ジャック, Chivalry of a Failed Knight, 落第騎士の英雄譚（キャバルリィ）, Heavy Object, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Mobile Suit Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans, Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, review, Young Black Jack, 機動戦士ガンダム 鉄血のオルフェンズ. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.