「ガリバーを縛る雑兵たち アラスカ極寒環境雪上戦 I」 (Garibaa o Shibaru Zouhyou-tachi Arasuka Gokkan Kankyou Setsujou-sen I)
“The Little Soldiers Who Tie Down Gulliver The Snowy Deep Winter Battle of Alaska I”
The first episode of a new sci-fi series means exposition, but Heavy Object manages to make the process painless, and even fun at times. Combined with big-ass war machines, some lovable rascals, and maybe even some flirting, it’s a solid start.
The Luscious Sci-Fi Backbone
Though I’m known as the fantasy writer around here (I’m not the ecchi blogger! *tsuuuun*), the truth is that both fantasy and science fiction scratch the same itch. They ask and answer the same question: What if? (What if people got sucked into an MMO, what if we colonized Mars, what if elves and orcs were real, what if women with ginormous boobs had adventures instead of back pain, etc.) That’s why they’re two of the primary vehicles of speculative fiction, with the third being horror. And while fantasy tends to ignore the feasibility of its enhancements (we all know magic doesn’t exist, just roll with it!), science fiction retains a thin veneer of feasibility. It’s not only “What if?”, but “…and maybe it could!” (Check out this short article excerpting an interview with Dan Harmon, creator of Community and Rick and Morty, for more take on that. Turns out that once upon a time, Jack and the Beanstalk would have been called science fiction.)
I tell you that to explain why I suddenly decided to blog a bunch of sci-fi shows, other’n the fact that Zephy is on hiatus, and because I couldn’t let Milinda “Princess” Brantini (Suzuki Eri) and her sexy pilot suit go unblogged. (I-I’m not the ecchi blogger, I swear!) But more than that, it has to do with how I’m going to be approaching the sci-fi elements of both this and Comet Lucifer.
I don’t think a lot of the things depicted in Heavy Object are terribly likely to happen. I’m fairly bullish on peace—or at minimum, that we’ll continue to avoid all-out wars between highly developed nations. It’s unlikely that such a complex leap of technology like the Objects could burst on the scene all at once (unlikely, though not impossible). Some of the technobabble instantly struck me as ridiculous. It would take a lot of Objects to protect “a certain island nation” from an alliance of fourteen nations, especially since at least one of ’em has ballistic missile submarines loaded with nuclear warheads, which probably means (barring other changes) that the USA, Russia, France, the UK, and/or China is involved, and you really don’t want to go up against any of them (much less, in all likelihood, all of them). Etcetera.
But I don’t care! The point of sci-fi (to me) is not to anticipate what’s likely to happen. It’s to explore what could happen. The actual feasibility almost doesn’t matter. All that matters is that there’s a veneer of plausibility (however thin!), even if those in the know (actual scientists, engineers, physicists, etc) all know that it’s patent bullshit. Most of the sci-fi elements of Heavy Object are probably unrealistic, but the idea of massive sea, land, and sky cruisers duking it out in what amounts to nation state-level duels is interesting, so I’ll be giving the show the benefit of the doubt as far as its “science” goes. That’s not the point to me. The point is, “What if?” The point is the story.
If I was too vague on that, let me summarize: Don’t expect me to get into the weeds on how this or that sci-fi element isn’t possible, or is possible, or whatever. Where the tech is concerned, I’ll let it fly unless it gets cringeworthy. It’s the storytelling, plot, and the characters I’ll be focusing on.
Real Characters With Real Personalities, Right Off The Bat
“Enough with the dissertations, Stilts. What did you think of the episode?” Turns out, I enjoyed it quite a bit, even though it was nearly all exposition. That’s because Heavy Object did what so many sci-fi series do so badly: It made the exposition painless. (Or pain-light, if I’m being honest.) And it did that by not treating exposition as a pile of cold, hard facts that need to be spewed out as quickly as possible in order to get to the fun stuff. Instead, it used the exposition to reveal character.
Why don’t more shows spout exposition by having characters complain about the pointless tasks involved in their crappy jobs? Not only does that feel more natural than sudden, out-of-nowhere infodumps, it makes characters like Qwenthur Barbotage (Hanae Natsuki) and Havia Winchell (Ishikawa Kaito) instantly relatable. Don’t just tell us that smart bullets are a thing, mention them in the context of someone wasting smart bullets (and taxpayers’ money) in the pursuit of a hot meal! Of course, the whole thing was aided by the fact that these characters are all instantly recognizable, interesting, and likable, and have real goals of their own (inheriting their family’s estate, getting rich, etc). Even Milinda, who could have easily been an emotionless girl (trope!), but is instead shown to be curious, contemplative, and even a little snarky (anticipating Qwenthur’s student comment, calling him Mr. Sleepyhead, etc). Which is another thing many stories don’t do—why not introduce us to the characters after they’ve all met? Then we get to see them when they’re already interacting (and in the case of Qwenthur and Milinda, flirting? Shipping!), instead of suffering through the awkward getting-to-know-each-other phase with them.
If this show were a speech, and the plot and the world building are what the speech is about, then these character moments show how the speech is being delivered. So far, it’s getting high grades for execution. Though that shouldn’t be a surprise, since author Kamachi Kazuma has gotten pretty good after writing all those Index, Railgun, and more.
And Suddenly, A Cliffhanger
If I have any real qualms about the first episode, it’s the bald-faced exposition during the intro (though I respect how they showed the first battle against an Object, instead of having random mooks throw themselves at one in the present day—I’d call this one a necessary evil, to be honest), and the abrupt shift to a battle-in-progress at the end. I know the latter was supposed to be the hook that brings us back for episode two, but I don’t quite care about these characters enough yet for them being in mortal peril to concern me, and it just happened so quickly I couldn’t internalize it. But a few rough-ish patches in an introductory sci-fi episode is solid work, if you ask me. They had a lot to get across, and director Watanabe Takashi and his team handled it well. A promising start.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The exposition is painless, & even fun, when it’s delivered by fun characters w/ their own goals, & even a bit of flirting #heavyobject 01
- I appreciated that the nuke was at least shown hurting the Object. I almost expected it to not work, which would have shattered my suspension of disbelief early on.
- Names like Object and Elite are ridiculous. It’s the capitalization that gets me, I think. When people name new technologies or anything, we don’t call them Guns or Tanks or Jets (unless you’re talking about the American Football team). They’re guns, tanks, and jets. We make up new words, and make them mundane. We don’t repurpose old words and capitalize them incessantly (usually). But even then, I give most SFF stories a pass for one or two silly names, so Heavy Object is easily in the clear. There’s so much thought in the world that I’ll roll with one or two things like this happily.
- This series definitely has some male gaze (trope!) going on. That shower scene was probably unnecessary, but appreciated. Milinda’s got a phat ass! (…what? I’m not the ecchi blogger, dammit!) Though I could have gone without Qwenthur hesitating to help Milinda out. Don’t turn stupid when the plot/ecchi demands it, Qwenthur.
- Itou Shizuka can be mad at me any time.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: The best content is in email, My morning routine, True Ends, and Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentals
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OP: 「One More Chance!!」 by ALL OFF