GONZO is totally like Tottenham Hotspurs. The joke might be lost on you American readers, but Spurs are a football club that was good for a couple of years sometime in the last century and since then, its fans have been delusionally waiting for the next era of success even when it’s pretty obvious the board of directors is screwing them over, nobody likes them and they’re a laughing stock.
Likewise, GONZO’s been pretty much living on the reputation built up over that short period of 2000-2004 or so, and nobody likes them anymore, yet a few still stubbornly cling on in the hope that they might just do another Last Exile-scale masterpiece. I’m one of the few, sadly. How joyful I felt, when I saw that Shangri-La, set for the Spring of 2009, was going to be epic, designed by the Jesus of Japan, Range Murata himself. However, I regain my footing in reality by considering how utterly rubbish GONZO has been, and to make matters worse, they are as broke as Merill Lynch and have sacked all but the coffee lady. So how can they make it a good show? I find it logically impossible, and statistically impossible as well. I don’t think they now have the resources to animate a sci-fi fantasy world properly.
What is truly galling is how Kyoani manages to piss away buckets full of cash making Munto’s animation as godly as the OVA Diebuster. Why in the world would they do that shit? I just don’t get it. Surely if you have loads of money, you would want to animate Range Murata’s designs along with some story that’s better than a shit version of Escaflowne. But that’s another issue altogether.
Instead, today, we shall talk about the pitfalls GONZO should avoid if they are to make Shangri-La a success.
But first, a quick summary. To stop global warming, Japan makes their cities full of trees, like jungle cities. BUT THEY DIDN’T BECOME PARADISES! That’s the literal translation of the website lol. It’s actually an adaptation of a novel, with the same title. It says there are different classes of citizens in the city. The upper class are happy, and the lower ones live in fear of the land sinking. There’s this bunch of jungle guerillas, lead by 18 year old hottie Kuniko who uses a giant boomerang, who are fighting to overthrow the government. Kuniko has awesome physical fighting skills too. There’s this also 8 year old upper class mystery citizen girl character that’s basically Alvis from Last Exile.
Ok, the setting, characters and story are satisfying. I like the sound of these. So what can go wrong?
Come on, ALL of GONZO’s recent anime have used their unique brand of rotten CGI. No other anime studio uses it this much and this badly. The catch is that, GONZO saves money and still gets very good cinematographic angles, fighting choreography etc. For the unenlightened, look at Blassreiter, Linebarrel, Druaga, Strike Witches etc and you’ll see clunky polygonal undetailed crap that sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the anime environment. However, you’ll also see that these polygonal chunky monkeys move around almost as fluidly as the likes of Munto. A good example of how not to animate battle scenes can be seen from episode 7 of Birdy the Mighty Decode 2, by A1 studios. They make Birdy look like a square cockroach! Sometimes, if you don’t have time or money, the way GONZO does it is actually pretty efficient. But that doesn’t mean it looks good though.
I think pretty much it’s the studios with the really deep pockets that can afford to have awesome CGI these days. Sunrise in particular, with their MS Igloo series, have really set the bar high. Even Production IG, who were once famed for this, have turned rotten. Anyway, I wish for lush background scenes, fluid fighting sequences, beautiful robot design and animation etc etc. Ok, I wish for something that’s just better visually than Blassreiter and Linebarrel lol.
For some reason, I suspect it’s cocking sucking or money, Ali Project is commissioned to do OPs and EDs of anime way too often for their own good. If the market was fair, the number of times they would’ve managed to land such gigs would be ZERO. People say, "BUT ALI PROJECT’S SONGS ARE REALLY THOUGH PROVOKING AND DEEP!!" I agree completely. Ali Project deeply provokes the thought "WOW THESE GUYS SUCK" in me.
Half the desire to watch a show comes from the awesomeness of the opening, which explains why Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo and Linebarrel are not exactly looked forward to until the shocking disgustingness of their opening has been forgotten. So yeah GONZO, do not, I repeat, do not, touch Ali Project even with a long pole sharpened at the end and stained with the poison of a thousand pufferfish. Wait, Ok, you can touch them with the abovementioned pole. Just not anything less.
While I’m in favour of blooding fresh talent, the director for Shangri-La appears to have no prior experience doing a full series. In any case, the rest of the staff appear fine.
Fanservice, at least the blatant kind that seems to pervade anime these days, may be lucrative in drawing the otaku crowd, but if Shangri-La is to be a proper show, it ought to be tastefully done. While we hotblooded males are lusty and like our 2D girls, we don’t like them interfering in our serious scifi. Can you imagine like in the middle of say, Dark City, busty girls start stripping and bathing in front of the camera, or start falling and slamming their massive mammaries into the male characters’ faces? I think Last Exile had the right amount of fan service. It had Sophia fanservice similar in style to Star Wars’ Amidala kind, the regal sort. Considering ShangriLa’s protagonist is a girl, chances are slim that it’ll be tasteful fanservice.
The recent episode of Sorakake (the baseball one) really shows how annoying episodes that disrupt the main storyline are. It’s not like Gintama, where these type of episodes help bring comedy in. A cohesive story with the right pacing, without any rushed ending, would be most desired of course, but highly unlikely. Thus, one can only pray that no stupid sidequests are involved. Unless of course these are as well done as Vandread’s! Vandread had some really good sideplots, especially Bart’s when he had the planet full of sick people.
By "adaptation", GONZO always means "butcher". Therefore, I pray to sweet Jesus of the Watermelon that GONZO doesn’t try their hand at editing the plot of the original material. This is always their weakest point and if you look at their track record, all their adaptations have been appalling. Maybe except Basilisk. Their original stories have been the better ones, which is why I was slightly dismayed to learn that Shangri-La was an adaptation.
Kyo-ani’s by far the best studio at making the adaptations, while Sunrise is almost as good. The latter’s adaptation of Planetes and Gintama are actually far superior to the source material. AIC is also good at this adaptation business, having made Asu no Yoichi and Ga-rei far superior to their manga source. In other words, shit, I think if Range Murata were to be hired by Sunrise or Kyoani, I would have an instant sex wee.
I’m sure I’m missing more issues, but if the above are avoided, then Shangri-La ought to be really good.
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