Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Super Japanese Time Travel Adventure Type Show

It's been long in coming, but I'm finally writing up a quickie report on the anime series Zipang. I came by this one by accident while cruisin' the quick list of my favorite anime bittorrent aggregator. I'll let the plot line speak for itself:
A modern aegis cruiser of the Japanese SDF was on a training mission when a strange storm transports it back in time 60 years to the night before the Battle of Midway in World War 2.
If that plot line sounds familiar, then you're thinking as I was of the movie The Final Countdown, which in my humble opinion, is not the best store from which to steal ideas. Although I liked it as a young'un when it came out, later years revealed it for the cheese fest that it was. What was the crew trying to accomplish? What if they did accomplish it? Where was that friggin' tub going to get supplies from?

These questions, and others, are dealt with a little more...er...seriously in Zipang (which is actually pronounced like 'Xipaing' in the show). Although the crew shows up before Midway, it's basically used as a forum from which to see some fabled, long dead Japanese vessels, and as a memorial to the four trashed Japanese carriers. It's interesting at first to take in the reactions of the Japanese crew. Some crew members want very much to help their fellow Japanese, while others worry about upsetting the balance of history. This goes a couple laps before it starts to sink into the crew that they're pretty much a people without a country, that the Japanese people who exist in the era are (hopefully) a different breed. A comment is even made a couple episodes in about how the whole idea of the Japanese occupation in different areas was a bad idea that was never going to work. The ship then resolves itself to keeping the loss of life on both sides during the war to a minimum while combating the efforts of a renegade Imperial officer who wishes to defeat both Americans and militarist Japanese (yes yes, groan now).

I can understand the mindset at play though. Post war Japan has worked out pretty darn well for the survivors and their children, but....

The best allegory I could cook up was if an early twentieth century battleship that was stocked with Southerners found themselves traveling back in time to the Civil War. Yes their sympathies would lie with their fellow Southerners, but why would they want to be a part of such self destructive behavior? Why would they want to threaten a decisive defeat that arguably worked out better than any 'victory' could have?

Anyway, all the Japanese navel gazing in the show gets boring after a while; what I found to be more interesting is how the Americans are depicted in the show. Below is a shot of an American sub captain that is getting ready to fire two dud torpedoes at the state of the art missile cruiser (the word 'cowboy' came to mind).

Later, at Guadalcanal, the U.S. Marines are depicted as mildly racist (not that the Japanese harbored any such beliefs!) while they talk about the savage Japs on the island (in which the Japanese are depicted as fanatics who would fight to the last man; huh? oh yeah...). But most humorous of all is the artwork drawn up by one of the Marines (sub is from the show):

It's quite distracting as well when the 'Americans' in the show speak fluent Japanese. It was probably a bit much to ask to have English voice actors for what is supposed to be a Japan only show, but I know of other anime where Americans are voiced by Japanese actors using very broken English. As it is, the equivalent would be watching a WW2 movie and having the Japanese on the ship speaking with Brooklyn accents ("are they spies or something?").

Lastly, I'd like to point out what I think the true point of the show is: Japanese Military Porn. The show features sweeping shots of various ships, but the Yamato in particular, and much is made and shown when it comes to the capability of the cruiser (not to mention much fawning of Saint Admiral Yamamoto). No opportunity is missed to show missiles, guns, shells, and whatnot. Although the show has one female character (a medic), the creators wanted to make no bones about what the show was really about and drew the character as ugly as possible. A typical anime female lead from a different show appears on the right...


As a note, just to be fair I'll mention that I've only watched up to episode 15 (of 26 or so), that being the number translated so far. It could be that the series will go off in radical directions, which is quite possible; but the plotline isn't something I'd care to sit through to find out.

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