originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/635876...
Hey animation nerds, it’s 18:20 on a Thursday. This week has been for various reasons a bit intense for my brain, and so I am unfortunately very behind on writing up this week’s Animation Night.
However! I have something stored up for just such an occasion.
Gainax has a good claim to being one of the most influential anime studios in history, and we’ve talked about them before when we watched Rebuild of Evangelion, and when we looked in on Hiroyuki Imaishi and Studio Trigger. At some point soon I am going to do a night of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann to check out Imaishi’s best known work. Gainax, as recounted in those posts, began as a group of otaku turned animators themselves; their earliest works were short intro animations for the Daicon convention.
Tonight, then, we’re going to pop back by Gainax. We’re gonna look in on some of the earlier work of the studio, where they were first establishing their style: the relativistic mecha war series Gunbuster, and the lavishly animated but unsuccessful film Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise. Let’s quickly introduce them…
Gunbuster! What a show. It’s a six episode OVA about an international squad of mecha pilot girls fighting a war against a vast enemy force of space bugs.
The tone is… chaotic; sometimes upbeat and taking heavy inspiration from tennis anime (the Japanese title Toppu o Nerae! (Aim for the Top!) is a riff on the tennis anime Ēsu o Nerae! (Aim for the Ace!), and characters like the Coach are almost directly lifted from there), but as often with tense scenes of terrifyingly vulnerable space battle, tragic Forever War-style time dilation tragedy, and of course plenty of like, meticulously drawn machinery courtesy of Anno. It’s accompanied by a side series laying out the fake science, but it’s really not hard science fiction. The most dubious aspect is maybe it’s got a subtle overtone of Japanese nationalism? (And don’t worry - we will definitely be meeting the animation night boob quota tonight!)
Because of all those the weird shifts, though, it’s a lot of fun and never boring - and the tragedy’s proper tragic, there’s more than enough lesbian overtones to read into. It’s pretty much the quintessential 80s Gainax anime and we can’t leave it out of the curriculum :p
The series received a much later sequel called Diebuster, about a girl who is secretly actually a giant robot, which tonally is closer to the hyper-energetic Gainax of FLCL and Gurren Lagann; it’s a blast but sadly we do not have time for both.
Our other big feature, Royal Space Force, is one of the first times Gainax got a lot of money to do a really expensive film, with Bandai hoping to get in on the otaku gunpla market that had developed around other series like Gundam. Gainax had never done a production like this, and by all accounts it was total chaos:
Royal Space Force’s collective approach to filmmaking, its deliberate rejection of established anime motifs, its visual complexity, and the general lack of professional experience among its staff were all factors in its chaotic production, while increasing uncertainty about the project led to what has been described as an attempt by its investors and producers to “fix” the film before release, imposing a late name change to The Wings of Honnêamise, and a lavish but deceptive publicity campaign that included misleading advertising and a staged Hollywood premiere.
But the result is some of the best hand-drawn machine animation there has ever been, and I want to watch it for that reason as much as I’m curious about the story :p
Everything I’ve seen of this film suggests lavish environments, inventive design, and effective staging that is totally going beyond the brief of ‘make a film to sell robot toys’.
A three hour OVA and a film is plenty of material, but I’m also going to show some of the old Daicon animations that have survived, to get a real sense of where Gainax began. And next week, I am thinking of following up with the much later Gainax: we’ll check out the film version of Gurren Lagann, which is ridiculously joyful. (Then we can return to French animation, check out Mamoru Oshii and Makoto Shinkai, and the other works of various directors we’ve covered. We’re not remotely out of ideas in Animation Night HQ - I’m just having a bit of a hard time with other things atm.)
So our schedule:
- Daicon IV
- Royal Space Force
The time is pretty much right now, or nominally half an hour ago ><; the place is twitch.tv/canmom! see you in there :3