Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Linebarrels in two dimensions

What the heck is wrong with cartoons today?

The other day I began watching an anime called Linebarrels of Iron on the new-and-improved Crunchyroll (which now has legitimate authority to stream anime and drama in HD for the North American audience). It's a relatively recent anime from the well-known animation studio Gonzo.

Playing out like a prepubescent male fantasy, Linebarrels begins with fourteen year-old protagonist Kouichi, a dismal failure of a character. He's a useless, uncool, self-pitying wreck of a child. Enter Linebarrel, a giant mecha robot from another dimension that drops on Kouichi from out of the sky along with a DD-chested naked girl - instantly killing him.

By the advanced, quasi-magical technology of the Linebarrel, Kouichi is brought back to life, but at the cost of being tied to the Linebarrel as its pilot as well as being endowed with super strength... wait, that's a cost? Kouichi takes the opportunity to play out his self-indulgent dreams of being a "hero of justice" without realizing that he's a few screws short of a full set. Kouichi turns into a vengeful, destructive, nonsensical monster drunk on power.

Kouichi overcomes his initial idiocy through the death of his best friend and a little bit of prompting by his less inane colleagues; yet he remains a brash, cocky, crude little shadow of a man. I began to consider this new trend in cartoons - having arrogant, whiny, misdirected little jerks as protagonists. This line of thinking instantly conjured thoughts of Bleach's overzealous Kurosaki Ichigo and Gundam Seed Destiny's most hated Shinn Asuka. I presented this conundrum to Evey:

Andy: I was thinking about this new plot thing, with jerkish little kids being heroes. And I was thinking, it's kind of common now - like Bleach and whatnot. It's changed a lot since we were little I think. Used to be like Captain Planet and Power Rangers...

Evey: Yeah...

Andy: Spider-man. Sailor Moon. Teenagers get power, and they're all good and righteous.

Evey: They say they're 2D - they need more depth and all. Except it's not really depth in their character, so they make them mean so that they're not all goodie goodie, but I say those are just as flat as good old Captain Planet.

It made a lot of sense. Characters today are jaded so that they're less predictable, but their brokenness doesn't make them less typical - it just makes them more detestable and less amenable as a role model to children. I realize that some of these characters are supposed to have redeeming qualities that make you sympathize with them, and in a brilliant story arc (i.e. Code Geass) this can work. But in most cases, my repugnance remains irrevocable. That's bad TV. Bring back our heroes!

As an aside, Linebarrels is also rife with sexual innuendo and half-naked DD women à la Love Hina. While that's all good and well, Kouichi is a middle school student, so the show is likely intended to target children of about the same age. That's kind of messed up. When I was Kouichi's age, the kinds of television characters that were in the same grade as me were people like Pepper Ann Pearson.


brutalturtle.blogspot.com said...

having arrogant, whiny, misdirected little jerks as protagonists. Girls like bad boys. I even read a thread where girls admitted that they liked the assholes, because they like the chase of getting them and the poise is cool. Some guys wrote "how could being mean be a requirement for women" and the women had no answer for it but remained adamant to their obnoxious standards. Life sucks. That's why I need and ear ring and tattoo! If you can't beat em join em.

Michael said...

First of all, Pepper Ann sucked. She sucked real hard, and not in the good way in the least.

Second of all, you clearly have not watched enough anime if you think "half-naked DD women" is gonna be even the slightest bit offensive to Japanese middle school kids (it's the Japanese equivalent of Sunday sermons, seriously... I mean these are the kids who kancho each other and, according to one female friend who works as a teacher there, will do "handjob" motions on purpose to make you flustered.)

Now I think Bleach is awesome but I think evil-Ichigo >>> good-Ichigo so it's not really the morals that matter, so much as the action :P

But I think to be fair, some of your examples (Pepper Ann notwithstanding) I think have even worse problems.

Captain Planet - dear god, what a giant douche. Captain Planet never once fought for good, he always fought for "environmentalism". Despite the propaganda involved, it wouldn't be a big deal if all he fought were polluting supervillains, but he also constantly over-turned trucks and destroyed machinery. He practically founded eco-terrorism, that asshat. And also, can you imagine if you're working a shitty 14-hour/day job cutting down trees in Brazil to feed your starving family back home and a bunch of bratty kids came along with magic rings and FUCK IT ALL UP. Like, seriously, WTF. These people are not villains, they are just TRYING TO DO THEIR GODDAMN JOBS LEAVE THEM ALONE MULTI-ETHNIC ASSHATS. And don't get me started on the fact that Native Indian guy's power is "Heart". Because indigenous peoples, on account of their noble savagery, are more in tune with ~Mother Earth~, get it??? Goddamn racists.

Sailor Moon - I love Sailor Moon (seriously) so I gots nothing bad to say. I mean, a) it's based on Greek mythology and I don't just mean the God-planet-powers thing. If you've read the manga (or seen the live-action xD) it actually follows much more closer to this myth, at least in the beginning.

Spider-Man - I love this guy too, nothing wrong with him, but it should be pointed out Peter Parker makes many many bad decisions. Like, letting his uncle die, hello? What an ass. Letting his love Mary Jane be sucked into a black hole? Letting the symbiote merge with his body? He certainly isn't a jerk, but he can be an emo dumbass... which I think is why we identify with him, he's only human.

Power Rangers - dude, you clearly forgot about Green/White Ranger (original Bandai series). He was my favourite because he was a) clearly more powerful than the rest and b) an asshole that turned evil many many times. HE ALMOST KILLED ZORDON. I hate Zordon. What a paternalistic ass. :(

Michael said...

Upon re-reading it, I realized I forgot a b) for Sailor Moon. Here it is:
b) People in Sailor Moon die. Admittedly, many of them get resurrected, but some of them say dead, esp. Prince Endymion's servants... err if that's confusing, in the actual manga, the first batch of villains are just under the spell of Queen Beryl. They used to serve as Endymion (Darien) as his loyal protectors. Which kinda makes it suck when you have to kill them for the greater good. Also I think Rei's lover dies. And Ami doesn't get to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor because her responsibility is to save the world omfg :(

a_ndy said...

I'm not saying that cartoons need to be two-dimensional. It's always nice when characters have a little depth - and yes there is going to be conflict, and mistake-making, and maybe even death. But heroes like Peter Parker really try, and they're quite likable.

What I am saying is that I like my characters to be likable rather than arrogant pricks with no brain. If it's a toss up between good and evil characters because "good" characters are more two-dimensional, then that's a crock. All that'll make me do is brace myself to hate the main character.

P.S. Yes, I've watched my fair share of anime, and no I am not surprised. I just felt like commenting on it because Linebarrels is a tad more explicit than most anime starring fourteen-year-olds.

a_ndy said...

P.P.S. I loved the Green/White Ranger best too, but he wasn't a jerk, he was just well brainwashed. I have to admit though, the reason I liked him initially was because he had that neat-o shoulder thing that reminded me of Piccolo from DBZ.

sandlot said...

lol. First, i can't bring myself to watch anime. I know western culture still needs to improve in regards to creating a more realistic image of women, but in terms of japan, not only do they REALLY OUT DO THEMSELVES IN OBJECTIFYING WOMEN BUT (from what i've seen and/or researched for courses) MOST OF THEIR STUFF IS JUST SOOO PERVERSE. Ugh. I mean does every woman need to have DD boobs?!!!!! Or have sex with a giant jellyfish?!! WTH.

Anyway, reading the comments, made me laugh so hard. Although, re michael: i'd have to disagree with sailor moon. She did little to nothing when it came to saving the world. Sure, maybe did she appear at the last minute to wave some wand to help abolish "the bad guys" (whom i'd rather view as being misunderstood), but this was after ALL THE OTHER SAILOR SCOUTS DID MOST OF THE WORK.

Also, seriously, if she didn't spend so much time either pining over: 1) Tuxedo Mask/Darren or 2) Taking her sweet ass time to transform into her Superhero identity not only in public but also in mid-air (?!!!!), i'm pretty sure they could cut down the show from 30mins to 10 mins max. and 3) I heard that this cartoon was based on porn.... which wouldn't be surprising either.