Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Urobuchi Gen and Uno Tsunehiro on Reconguista of G

Source: コンプティーク 2015年8月号 増刊 TYPE‐MOONエースVOL.10
Comptique (August 2015) zoukan, Type-Moon Ace Vol. 10
Voice from Type Moon Relations / Urobuchi Gen no Yaritaizakari

A story is a method with which one separates things into good and evil via their imagination. It is a system needed for people to keep themselves sane and deal with the unreasoning chaos of reality. Religion offers the story of salvation, for example. Likewise, morals and ethics could be defined as the most popular story of the people of the age. But while these stories are harmless as long as they're used to keep individuals calm, this changes when they're used as tools for a country or race. Stories like "jews are an inferior race that have to be purged" and "capitalists are devils and if you suicide bomb them you can go to heaven" brought about tragedies due to their popularity. For an example on a smaller scale, it's not uncommon that a story that one person regards as a "small love story" turns out to be to the world at large a kidnapping of a minor. At times, stories are a poison that can drive a person mad. This presents a dilemma to us creators: If there are infinite possibilities in writing, is it possible to write a story about the potential danger of stories? A story that renounces stories? Yes it is. Reconguista of G did it.

The villains of G-Reco are the people who take the simple event of "the Crescent Moon Ship is coming from Venus" and add their own interpretations to twist it into a story with which they can move the world. The exact same thing  that dictators and cult leaders have done throughout history. Belri stops them by going along with the flow and doing his best to handle only what's in front of him. That's why there's no intentional dramathurgy to be found in the story which is shown from his viewpoint, and instead it's like reading a replay of a tabletop RPG or watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel where you're left in a vagueness free of undulations with no clear rhythm. The easiest example of someone fooled by the danger of stories is Mask. As a passionate revolutionary who seeks to free the oppressed caste of the Kuntala, he at first seems to be more of a hero than Belri, who just wanders around with no clear goal.  However, in the show itself, discrimination against the Kuntala is only mentioned, and not once seen. In other words, in the world of G-Reco, discrimination against the Kuntala exists only in Mask's imagination, and this is his "story". And in order to complete said story, he forces onto Belri the roleplaying of the villain. This is solely because Belri's lineage and surroundings contain elements that would make him a good villain for Mask. That Belri doesn't respond by arguing with his old friend dramatically is what makes G-Reco amazing. In the end, Belri doesn't commit himself to a greater good or fate or anything above his personal level, and at each point in time only does what he thinks he ought to do at the moment. No matter how much his ex-friend runs around going crazy, Aida's more important to him. And at the end of this one-sided game of tag completely out of place between a robot anime's protagonist and his rival, the final episode concludes with the unthinkable, in which he just abandons the fight and runs off in his core fighter. All that's left are people who are strong enough to live without the lies of stories. They are freed from the boring curses known as "catharsis" or "conclusions" and head towards the future. When I saw the end credits I was just moved, and exclaimed " they did it!". I had been worried about the limits of storytelling, and was just thankful for this slap from a veteran creator to me. Reconguista of G made me genki.

Asahi Shinbun Digital, Subculture Commentary by Uno Tsunehiro
"It's made to be hard to understand." (6th June 2015)
Tomino Yoshiyuki's latest work, Gundam: The Reconguista of G, which ended in March, continues to draw controversy even months after its conclusion.
The far future of Mobile Suit Gundam's Universal Century. After numerous space wars, civilisation on Earth regressed, and only by using the technology of the Universal Century to a limited degree are people living on. The story follows a boy and girl on Earth as they're thrown into a war surrounding remnants of UC technology, but it's nearly impossible to understand the entire story at one glance.
Conversations between characters don't seem to fit together, and the most basic of explanations about the situation have to be deducted from the most nonchalant of lines. A massive amount of information that you can only begin to understand after rewatching recordings several times while taking notes, and a miniscule amount of explanation lead to many viewers saying that they don't understand it. It is in my opinion however that it's made to be hard to understand.
The real world we live in doesn't have a narrative with an all-seeing point of view to organise and record all events. Every single person has their own separate, detached experiences. Fictional worlds, however, are organised; Seen and put together through the eyes of their creator.
In other words, the 20th century was an age where we found out that while localised contexts have to be understood for three-dimensional real experiences to be shared, organised two-dimensional realities (images) could be shared widely through society easily without a need for this. It is a result of this that the media expanded, and it became an age where massive societies of unprecedented scale could be managed. Animation is basically an organised, unified reality where nothing exists on the screen that the creator(s) didn't intend to put there. It is no coincidence that animation and SFX dominate Hollywood's charts. Animation is the ultimate form of two-dimensional expression, with the widest and furthest reach.
So why did Tomino Yoshiyuki chose to create, in such a medium, separate, detached spaces?
What we have here is a strong untimely message. In the present day, information and visuals flood the networks, and anything that you don't know can be searched for and understood instantly, and it is starting to be that the complicated detached realities mankind faced in the 20th century can only be found in media with high amounts of freedom to fabricate, such as anime. It may be that due to a dependence on information technology, humans are starting to let go of the intelligence used to connect, organise, and understand detached realities.
This theme, critical of civilisation, can be seen in many other works by Tomino, but in Reconguista of G this is found not just in the story but also in the execution. At the same time this is also an act that questions again the power of anime as a form of expression to provide criticism in this modern age. If you think of it this way, it's rash to simply treat Reconguista of G as a failure that didn't manage to explain it story.
In the end, the Newtypes Tomino once showed us may have been people with intellects able to understand detached realities without relying on networks.

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