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「仮面の男」 (Kamen no Otoko)
“The Masked Man”

After giving it some thought, I believe Ozuma can be best compared to a flag on a pole. Curiously random, yes. Madness, not quite.

Think about it for a moment. The series revolves around the Earth, so the ground can be considered representative of the story. You have Gido and Bainas, whose interactions bring each episode to heights it couldn’t have reached otherwise. Combined with the fact that each of the respective Captains fly under a different flag so to speak, the two are naturally representative of the flag portion of the analogy. Meanwhile, the pole itself is something that people don’t quite pay (or need to pay) attention to, but it’s still vital in that it serves as a structural feature that keeps the flag up by connecting it solidly to the ground. Sam is that pole. It can be argued that without him, we wouldn’t get all those great battle scenes between Gido and Bainas, as well as little plot movement. At the same time though, it can also be said that the things that Sam have done until this point haven’t been noteworthy, and in fact may have detracted a bit from the story. Thus, Sam the pole, is the vital aspect that connects the plot (the ground) and the exploits of the two Captains (the flag). Yet, his immature actions make him someone that gets left in the dust in the grand scheme of things and make him not worth paying much attention to. But hey, when was the last time you looked at a flagpole and said: “Wow, that’s such a cool pole!” (Don’t answer that.)

Not so crazy now am I!? Jokes and analogies aside, you have to say that some of the things I’ve said above aren’t quite farfetched. Gido and Bainas are indeed the highlight this episode once again, giving us Wild West standoffs, demonstrations of how negotiations should go, and some generally cool poses to top it all off. We also get the obligatory de-masking scene, which while expected, was still fun to watch and also served as an event that further developed Bainas’ character. It’s been nice seeing the build-up of her stoic armor these past few episodes and we always knew there was another side to her, but to actual see it was quite the treat.

On the other hand however, we have Sam, who seems content continuing his immature actions this episode. His failed Metal Gear style infiltration set up the plot development that followed, but it makes me wonder if the series wouldn’t be better if it focused on Bainas as a protagonist instead. In a way, it seems that even Maya might be a slightly better main than Sam. Her actions haven’t quite been noteworthy up until this point either, but it’s clear from this episode how crucial a role she plays in the overall story. Not to mention, she was the one who kicked started the story to begin with. How her interactions with Ozuma will save the world are still up in the air, but it’s no doubt that we’ll see how it happens in the culminating episode next week, and I know I’m definitely eager to see how everything wraps up. It hasn’t been quite the awesome ride a masterpiece might have been, but Ozuma’s still been worth watching every week, and has a few memorable characters to boot.

On a bit of a side note, I have to say that the Zone wasn’t quite what I thought it was at all. I suppose I should have expected this though, considering that I’m a science major and know that such a lake is a scientific possibility, even in a devastated world such as Ozuma’s. Regardless, the reveal was quite something, and some kudos have to be given to Gonzo for creating some pretty spectacular backdrops for most of the episode.

And with that, I shall bid thee adieu until the finale next week!

 

Preview

Ozuma   05   Preview 01 Ozuma   05   Preview 02 Ozuma   05   Preview 03
April 14, 2012 at 5:12 pm
13 comments »
  • April 14, 2012 at 5:35 pmSeishun Otoko

    Sam’s pretty darn annoying (and stupid) so I’ll take up your suggestion and treat him like a flagpole.
    Finale next week! More Bainas and less Sam please ;)

  • April 14, 2012 at 5:49 pmhoh

    Regarding your Pole analog, I don’t suppose any flag pole are so visible as Sam in this episode. Maybe we could take Sam out and have Mimay fall for Maya, some quality Yuri hum?

    Jokes aside, I was slightly disappointed that Bianas only recognise Dick after the mask off. But I suppose that wasn’t very important. Bianas’ emotional armour hasn’t come off completely this episode yet. Judging form the preview it will eventually next week.

    I just hope they wouldn’t over do it so that her intellectual capability also drop a notch next episode. There is the danger of them pulling that so that Sam could shine through.

  • April 14, 2012 at 6:25 pmGavrilo

    Yeah, I thought so too: these guys don’t seem to be trying too hard in making Sam a likable character. It just happens that we see the plot unfolding through his optic, which makes sense to a degree. Heck, Maya isn’t the most spectacular heroine either, but all the mystery surrounding her is definitely interesting.

  • April 14, 2012 at 8:09 pmZen

    Sam = main character = shounen protagonist = (a degree of) mainstream appeal = desperately needed sales for a niche show.

    I get that, but it’s still no excuse for how poorly they’ve executed things here; they’ve completely failed at creating a sympathetic dynamic protagonist for all the reasons that I mentioned last week. They also failed to realize that immature actions are doubly (significantly more) annoying in shows with more mature premises such as this one- you can get away with some blatant immaturity in a shounen jump series, but in a mature seinen show you really need to justify and minimize that immaturity because it sticks out like a sore thumb against the show’s dominant mature under/overtones…

    • April 14, 2012 at 8:24 pmZammael

      You’d think people would learn from the colossal failure of Last Exile with Fam, that Giant Gormless Genki Wart™

      I caught only the first episode, and didn’t see the need to watch any more :(

    • April 14, 2012 at 11:17 pmLitho

      “Sam = main character = shounen protagonist = (a degree of) mainstream appeal = desperately needed sales for a niche show.”

      So basically you’re saying that milquetoast sells?
      I’m sorry but I just don’t buy this. From what little I can recall of my psychology classes, I’m pretty sure people do not like seeing mirror reflections of themselves (this is going by the anime studio’s assumption that every shounen viewer is a RL milquetoast) in stories. We could take it a level further with those shounen romance stories. I’m confident that any real life male, no matter how much of a loser, would never put himself through the level of public embarrassment most of the milquetoast’s jump into.

      With regards to the show, I personally don’t think Sam’s that bad. Maybe it’s because he’s a kid surrounded by adults. His voice actor ain’t doing a great job, though (no offense if it’s someone well-respected). He’s nowhere near as annoying as that Occult Gakuen fellow, for starters.

      • April 15, 2012 at 2:31 amZen

        @Litho

        You misunderstand me, good sir. Allow me to illuminate…

        DISCLAIMER: I re-emphasize that I actually like this show; my opinions as an impartial critic are pretty much in line with those of Zephyr, the author of this post. For the purposes of entertaining the discussion on this board that is skewed towards a certain negative aspect of the show, what I write here will also follow in that direction. But it is by no means representative of my opinions of Ozuma as a whole…

        More in spoilertags…

        Show Spoiler ▼

      • April 15, 2012 at 3:24 amhoh

        Zen, you get right to the point.

        But I don’t think this kind of putting mass appeal into niche shows has any prospective of working at all. A niche show appeals simply because its niche, putting in mass appealing elements diminishes it.

        You can either be mass or niche, not both.

      • April 15, 2012 at 5:00 amZen

        @hoh

        But I don’t think this kind of putting mass appeal into niche shows has any prospective of working at all. A niche show appeals simply because its niche, putting in mass appealing elements diminishes it.

        You can either be mass or niche, not both.

        What is defined as “Niche” is a certain category of shows that are designed to appeal to a certain arbitrary category of audiences. Conversely, what is defined as “Massively appealing” is a certain category of shows which are designed to appeal to just about everybody in general. And then there is everything in between. The absolutes of “Niche” and “Massively Appealing” are merely human constructs used to enhance our understanding of this concept called “appeal” in general. The reality is that what we define as “Niche” and “Massively appealing” are simply extremes that exist at opposite ends of a wide and varied spectrum.

        What makes a “Niche” show; what makes a “Massively appealing” show? We would tend to attribute qualities that are frequently present in the high extremes to “massively appealing” while qualities that are common in the low end of the spectrum are attributed to “niche” shows. While there are certain qualities might justifiably be considered as integral characteristics of both kinds of shows, no one can say with a straight face that any one of these elements is absolutely essential to make a “massively appealing” or “niche” show. Even things that may be important 99.999% of the time are not important 100% of the time; you will always be able to find rare, outlying instances where a show clearly belongs in a certain category, but does away with one or more of what is considered to be its group’s “core” elements.

        And then we arrive at the squishy, amorphous middle of the normal distribution bell-curve (Assume, for the sake of argument that it is a bell curve since there have hardly been any studies on this matter; even if it is a skewed distribution like the income bell curve, it does not change the fact that it is a kind of spectrum of degrees) where most shows lie; the reality is that most shows are at neither extreme; they are neither “Massively appealing” nor “Niche.” Instead they contain elements of both categories, and as a result of this, their level of appeal never reaches the heights of shows on the extreme high end of the spectrum,- but neither does it ever fall to the abysmally low level of “Niche” either. In terms of general appeal, they are decidedly average.

        You are right in saying that by contextually adapting Ozuma so that Sam fits in (Or, conversely, contextually adapting Sam so he fits into Ozuma, or by doing anything in between), we might fundamentally change the nature of the show so that it no longer falls into the low-extreme end of the appeal bell-curve, which essentially brings it out of the “Niche” category. But more likely than not, it isn’t going to bring an idea that was originally so very “niche” all the way to the other high, “massively appealing” end of the spectrum. In most scenarios it will instead move Ozuma closer to the middle, into a position where it is neither “Massively appealing” nor “Niche,” a point on the disproportionately large camel’s hump where most shows inevitably lie, whether by the intention of their creators, or not. And moving the show out of the low-end of the appeal spectrum successfully will inevitably translate into a (relatively) larger audience, which will in turn produce more sales for a show that was deemed to be so risky that they wouldn’t even give it a full cour…if it works, that is, which clearly, it did not…

  • April 15, 2012 at 11:40 amDangerMouse

    Really been enjoying this show and love the visuals and the soundtrack, it’s so good seeing Matsumoto’s character designs again in a new science fiction anime.

    As already mentioned, Bainas is pretty awesome.

    Also, on the subject of Gonzo, I have to hand it them, this show once again demonstrates why they’ve been one of my favorite studios; when they get involved in science fiction you can really feel their passion in the distinctive visuals and backdrops they always at least try to be ambitious with the project whether it’s an adaptation or an original with bringing the setting to life.

    • April 15, 2012 at 3:21 pmDangerMouse

      Unlike when they work on slice-of-life or harem shows.

  • April 17, 2012 at 3:04 amewok40k

    Dune meets Hunt for the Red October, in great way… with a slight touch of Miyazaki?
    Sam, while not very strong nor skilled, provides the “purity of heart” with his relentless dedication to freeing Maya. Mimay acts a bit as a reality anchor to him, although sometimes she just isnt enough. Bainas provides the tactical acumen and leadership of “the Captain”. And Gido makes for “worthy opponent” while the general seems more of a prejudiced racist type. And Ozma itself provides “the great mystery/force of nature”.

  • April 20, 2012 at 1:13 pmNaYa

    One of the problems I have with all the sci-fi shows is that the idea of seatbelts seem non-existent.
    You wouldn’t be falling off to the ground from impact if you buckled up, y’know.