Buddy Complex Episode 1-2

Nice coupling

Too often in anime you’re watching a well animated sequence — the lights, the smoke, the action, the tension… Then all of a sudden they throw a cultural faux pas curve ball that sounds so silly it will make you giggle like a 13-year-old school girl. And that’s exactly what happened here, although with a title like Buddy Complex, you saw it from a mile away. Despite how much some anime earnestly try to be good, they are almost defined by the writer’s bad taste, like how Jim Carrey will always be associated with the most annoying sound in the world. Whether Buddy Complex comes to dispose of its dirty laundry remains to be seen, but I’m not holding my breath. I think it will just be the next in a long line, a descendant of Vividred Operation’s docking and Star Driver’s Galactic Pretty Boy. Will Buddy Complex come down to these 22 seconds?.

Feeling Match number is rising!

Matching with Dio is extremely high!

Who the hell is Matching with me?!

Nice coupling.

Robot eyes glow.

Oh, yeah.

To give Buddy Complex a fair shake, let’s rewind to the beginning: we see a humanoid robot sucked into a wormhole and end up in a different time-space, very reminiscent of the intro sequence from Suisei no Gargantia. Then the main character, Watase Aoba, is strangely introduced by his sister addressing him by his full name, and this will be a recurring trend. Watase Aoba is a high school student, a basketball ace, and he’s about to be pulled into an alternate reality by a mysterious girl. Honestly, we’ve seen this plot device a bazillion times and it’s become one of those things in anime that we just have to accept, like why does Rock ‘n’ Roll always have that same rhythm? It just does.

Aoba goes to school.

Watase Aoba heading off to school. I love the detailed backgrounds.

But where Buddy Complex succeeds is, if you could take your mind off the plot for a moment and focus on the in-betweens, there’s beautiful animation, well-placed CGI effects and directorial techniques that give it a sense of urgency and immediacy that many anime shows overlook. Chase sequences mimic a shaky handheld giving life to explosions and robot dynamics, and characters are often running towards the screen from our vantage while dust and debris fly. Motion blur gives us sense of acceleration. These are techniques that pull us into the fray so that we are so enamored with all the energy that we lose track of the details — this is what makes Michael Bay movies forgivable and more anime should learn from it if they don’t want to take the pains of writing original scripts.

High school students run for their lives.

We feel more involved and in danger when they are running towards us rather than off to the side.

Robot intercepts hero.

The distortions and dust that settle around the robot after it comes crashing in front of Aoba in a quick cut is exciting.

Aoba borrows a bike.

Once again, the character is riding towards us, the frame is turbulently shaking, and the soft blur depicts speed and confusion.

Debris flies in your face.

Debris flies everywhere as the robot lands right in front of us. I love it!

Aoba narrowly dodges a spear.

He is riding towards the safe confines of your room when burning metal drops from the shortest distance above his head.

Machine activated.

How does this thing work??

Waking up to a war.

I love the lighting, the shadow, the smoke, the chaos.

Déjà vu

With plots like these, episode 2 is when it really starts. The main character is whisked away into this fantasy land like fish out of the water as he tries to deal with the unfamiliar situation in front of him. Aside from Inuyasha if I correctly recall, most stories of this stripe conveniently forget about the real world — what happens to his parents? Etc. Episode 2 is also where the supporting characters are revealed. I had a feeling of déjà vu throughout this episode, and it’s not because of the plot, which is thus far cliched as we’ve already established. But in a different way, I felt that I’ve seen something before, that this episode reminded me of something. It took about a minute to reach that “ah-ha!”. Gundam Seed! I mean the characters aren’t an artistic pixel-for-pixel rip-off, but the character archetypes between the two shows are so similar — the role they play and their general looks. Are they too inspired by Gundam, or am I just grasping at straws?

character deja vu 1

Lieutenant Lene Kleinbeck vs Natarle Badgiruel, both following protocol.

character deja vu 2

Alfried Gallant vs Gilbert Durandal, both commanding the antagonists.

character deja vu 3

Lee Conrad vs Mu La Flaga, setting examples as the older pilot.

character deja vu 4

Dio Weinberg vs Athrun Zala, ace pilots with standoffish personalities. Different hair color, but spiritual siblings.

character deja vu 5

Annessa Rossetti vs Meyrin Hawke, both serving on the ship’s bridge crew.

I don’t have high expectations for this one but the technical direction just about offsets the generic plot. There is potential in the plot, of course, from a sci-fi time-travel angle, but given what I’ve seen so far, I am just sure that I will not be seeing any romantic twists of Aoba trying to save Hina like Steins;Gate or Noein meets Gundam SEED. This show, I speculate, is more about feasting your eyes on spectacular light shows than about the political intrigue of a real Gundam show or anything complex. The OP is Eurobeat like Gundam OP’s, shows the main character standing in ruins like Gundam OP’s. And I’m sure there will be a shallow shounen-style romance stuffed in here somewhere, but the tone of the show does not indicate even an ounce of darkness or feels. I expect that the show will hover around mediocrity.

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Dropped: Sakura Trick

moe cliche sequence 1

Unnatural pose, short shorts, full body pan.

To be honest, I haven’t really been watching anime lately. Between a mix of the ever-present moé cliches and having responsibilities towards other things, I just haven’t had it in me to really sit down and enjoy, and much less write about, anime. Today I somehow found the time to browse my favorite anime streaming site — lo and behold, there’s a new season of unfamiliar names pushing out the list of my yet unfinished obligations. Not feeling like devoting a block of time to finishing a show, I randomly clicked on a new one: Sakura Trick. Now, if I had researched this title first, I would have known that this is a yuri (girl love) title published in a seinen magazine, but it has never been my style to read about anime instead of just watching it.

I should probably take this moment to explain something: Despite this genre falling outside of my normal focus, it is not a genre that defines an anime show, but the narrative and tone of the anime that defines what genre it falls into. Thus it makes no difference whether Sakura Trick is yuri, I still judge it using the same criteria I use to judge everything else. Great character depth, narrative cohesion, coordination, the atmosphere transcends any genre, no matter if the characters are male or female, opposite sex or same sex. On the other hand, whether it’s a romance or action, if it relies on cliches or expositions revealing the shallowness in its creativity, then that is a strike against it.

It just so happens that Sakura Trick falls in the latter, rather than the former, as a vain exercise in the Japanese habit of passive sexism which portrays women as demure, helpless little creatures that we just can’t help but protect and adore. Today, we call that “moé”, but it is actually just a very small subset of Hirohi Azuma’s postmodern moé database (that’s another topic for another day). Case in point: What do you understand about the character from the picture above? She’s presented as a typical high school student, but the peculiar contrast with her behavior triggers another set of emotions towards her. Her arm sandwiched between her thighs, the other arm raised in front of the mouth, legs in the twisted knee position, slight blush, blank stare, and in pajamas, are all a calculated attempt to depict her as the main character; in today’s world of anime, the main character must be the innocent naivete encroached upon by the impure motivations of society. This is a frustratingly inescapable truth, whether we are following Kamijou Touma from To Aru Majutsu no Index, or Takayama Haruka from Sakura Trick — different manifestations of the same thing.

The following sequence all tells the same story without apology. There is a distinct lack of even trying to present any kind of subtext that could be attributed in any way to the originality of the character herself, instead of taking references (e.g. faces, poses, etc.) from pop culture and stringing them along resulting in a character without any substance.

moe cliche sequence 2

Establishes weak, clumsy girl cliche being flustered at the trivial matter of relying on her friend with an exaggerated pose.

moe cliche sequence 3

The same exaggerated motion leads her to fall on her bed.

moe cliche sequence 4

Anxious about school, she is surprised at the phone. Her expression remains at a position of lack of control.

moe cliche sequence 5

One more exasperated pose of powerlessness in a bid to trigger the audience’s protective instinct through “cuteness” cliches.

Interspersed throughout this sequence, by the way, is another kind of thing that hopes to attract the hardcore fan base, the obsessive otakus who spend the most money in Japan buying anime-related products: “fanservice”. These are unnecessary — and by that I mean they either contribute nothing or even detract from helping us understand the events in the scene and the characters — shots of sexual nature. In this case, it may actually work in conjunction with the moé-ness in conjuring a strange untouchable pedestal for Haruka to comfortably sit on, subliminally working off both our sexual attraction and our instinct to protect. It gives this indescribable sensation that I posit has the same inner-workings as porn addiction: striving to obtain something that one knows is unobtainable. I digress.

unnecessary fanservice 1

A teasing shot of bare thighs being pushed together from the twisted knee position, signifying a child-like weakness.

unnecessary fanservice 2

A close-up of jiggling breasts.

Two-and-a-half minutes into the intro of Haruka and her friend Yuu reminding each other not to forget pencils or to wipe their mouths after breakfast (which conjures another image of picking food off of girls’ faces that only Japanese fetishists would understand), Haruka finally goes to bed and has a wet dream about Yuu:

shallow dream sequence 1shallow dream sequence 2shallow dream sequence 3And then… leading into the OP…

shallow dream sequence 4

Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

Dropped! Dropped! Dropped!

I no longer have any patience for shallow contrivances of this sort. With 3 minutes on the clock, we already know everything that is necessary to know about Sakura Trick: a retread of every other vacuous piece that sustains on moé database cliches, like reshuffling a poker hand and presenting it as a new hand. In 3 minutes, Sakura Trick’s main character, Haruka, consists of nothing besides moé and fanservice, from which we learned that she has a rack, a shiny set of thighs, acts like a 12-year-old, and has an oral fixation on her still platonic friend Yuu. And between that there’s not one ounce of originality, so why should I expect anything to change in the remainder? Someone who proclaims that one must watch a show in its entirety to judge it wholly is a masochist, and he lacks understanding of his powers of induction: to make conclusions based on experience. He does it despite his insistence otherwise, or else he wouldn’t know that fire is hot.