March 9, 2005

In other news, here’s Raph Koster’s keynote speech at the 2005 Game Developers Conference, in which he posits that “fun” is a fundamental human response to learning patterns and necessary for human survival.

[Future Boy Conan image]

Been watching a lot of anime lately.

Hayao Miyazaki’s first original work was a little-known TV series named Future Boy Conan, a post-apocalyptic environmental adventure story. I’ve been watching the first few episodes, and it’s been interesting to watch.

Miyazaki is a genius now, and in Conan his genius is hinted at. But, really, it’s only hinted at. I expected an obscure work of brilliance, but thus far it’s “merely” a strong adventure tale thus far. Of course, I’m still only four episodes into it.

Meanwhile, I have to admit: I don’t like Fullmetal Alchemist.

Not that I hate it. I just don’t find it particularly engaging thus far, two episodes in. The main character’s a punk and his brother’s a pacifier. The world looks like a fantasized version of Trigun‘s, and the characters’ main secrets are revealed in the first episode.

I don’t like the characters, really. I could live with the rest, but unless the brothers get much more sympathetic soon—and they’ve already played the “paying for a tragic mistake” card—I’m going to have to pass on this show. I may even sell the DVD, which I’ve only done a handful of times.

[Zeta Gundam screenshot]

Why spend my time on a show I don’t like when I could spend more time with, say, Zeta Gundam, which just improves with each episode? Oh, I have my quibbles with it, but they’re quibbles.

I suspect that the most recent plot twist is an attempt to make the main character more relevant. See, about ten episodes in, Amuro Ray (the protagonist of the original Mobile Suit Gundam) enters Zeta‘s plot. And the problem with that is that he’s a much more interesting character than Kamille, Zeta‘s supposed protagonist.

Amuro was always a bit of a bit of a spoiled kid. In contrast to Evangelion‘s Shinji, who is more of an average depressed teen, Amuro is a privileged boy who’s spent most of his life tinkering around with robotics. He’s frankly unused to work. Much of his character development in Mobile Suit Gundam revolves around his growing acceptance of his responsibilities.

Once Zeta rolls around, seven years after the end of Mobile Suit Gundam, Amuro’s slid back somewhat. He’s nowhere near as whiny as he was at the beginning of MSG, but he’s living comfortably in a large estate under the watchful eye of the Earth Federation, and he can reasonably start making excuses for his natural passivity.

[Zeta Gundam screenshot]

Of course, the story of Zeta forces Amuro out of his comfortable little shell (though it would have been interesting if he’d remained there and directed things secretly from afar), and he joins the main cast.

Kamille, on the other hand, has largely come to accept his responsibilities. He’s a pretty stable character now, which was a wise story decision on the creators’ part—the fans don’t want to see Amuro’s progression all over again. But because he’s so stable, Amuro’s conflict—Do I want to fight again?—is much more interesting than anything going on in Kamille’s life.

So they added something to Kamille’s life. In this case, it’s the beautiful enemy pilot Four, whom Kamille meets essentially by chance. They almost immediately fall in love, which conveniently sets up opportunities for pain and tragedy for both of them, as they’re forced to fight each other.

To the creators’ credit, this romance does not feel contrived; even Kamille and Four aren’t sure if this is really love. They at least have a strong chemical reaction, like two high schoolers meeting by chance at a dance, and talking the night away, and afterwards thinking about each other over and over.

Of course, it’s too early to tell whether this is a stunt, or another step in Kamille’s character development. If this is integrated with the rest of his storyline, I’ll accept it without reservation. The show is that good.

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