OP: 「絶世スターゲイト」 (Zessei Sutāgeito) by 蒼井翔太 (Aoi Shouta)
「「はじめまして」から始まるRPG」 (‘Hajimemashite’ kara Hajimaru RPG )
“The RPG That Begins with, ‘Nice to Meet You'”
Make no mistake: despite what you may have inferred from the spacecraft and the hard light technology, this Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation is a fantasy anime. And the fantasy (spelt with a ph- if you want to be edgy) is this: in an alternate present, or maybe a future where people stubbornly refuse to upgrade from Windows 7, Phantasy Star Online 2 is actually a global phenomenon enjoyed by the cool and trendy everywhere. It’s universally popular! People play it on their ride. People play it side by side. People play it while they spam. People play it, Sam I Am!
If you’ve ever wondered what a marketing executive’s wet dream looks likes, now you know. You’re welcome.
Now, anime is but another popular medium, and has been used to sell all sorts of things. It’s routinely used to promote cities. To promote cars. To promote tabloid news apps. Promoting a videogame is nothing new. Cartoons have been used to sell toys before product placement was even invented. Pokemon is somehow still running with a protagonist who is somehow still 10. PSO2A simply replaces children’s card games or whatever with an MMORPG. But isn’t it refreshing how incredibly transparent it is about everything? You know those fabulous, popular, wholesome role-model teenagers who play this fabulous, popular, wholesome game? You know which school they go to? Seiga Academy! Get it? Get it?! They sure wink at the audience hard. ‘Oh no, please, pay total attention to the man behind the curtain’. Hey, what’s the product we’re pushing again? Oh, right, Phantasy Star Online 2. Remember, Phantasy Star Online 2! PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2!!!.
We need a new Best of Anime category this year. For shamelessness. Go for gold, PSO2A!
Some may criticise this pilot for its generic premise, forgettable characters, clunky exposition, and a cold open that does more to distract than to tantalise. But those people are anime viewers who judge their shows on things like quality or enjoyment. I’m an anime blogger, and in particular an anime blogger who hasn’t gotten enough sleep lately and really needs to cut down on his word count so he can hit the hay. In this state, I rate my anime on exactly one metric: ease to write about. Watch this: hey, I wrote a post on a show called Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu. See the various good things I wrote about it? For PSO2A, it’s not that.
Ah, that was easy. Uncanny parallels are the best. What a great show PSO2A is.
But really, to talk straight for exactly one paragraph, a generic premise does not immediately sink a show in the pilot. I am, I must note, not a Phantasy Star Online fan (just a sci-fi fan and a videogames fan in general), and it’s entirely possible that those who are will find great excitement in watching a version of a game that probably looks better than what they play. And from the OP, I’m guessing there will be cameo opportunities from some familiar faces. Even for the anime only viewer, there’s a few hints in this pilot that point to a bigger plot. There’s our protagonist having turned blue in the cold open, for starters, the highly improbably coincidence of rolling all random and getting a character who looks exactly like you, and the student council president implying that the game is much more Serious Business than what she’s letting on. And there will be a Mysterious Transfer Student next episode and she brings with her some curious virtual thing, so we may have the ‘this game is no game!’ revelation at some point. No doubt they’ll reveal that there’s more to this anime in the next few episodes.
But, again, I’m short for time, so I’ve already completely figured out this show. It’s the classic yarn about a young man who does not share the same hobby as his peers and, rather than accepting differences in tastes and being happy as an individual, realises that he was just being a smug hipster, learns the errors of his ways, and comes to love that one videogame everyone else apparently plays because it’s—trust us—totally awesome. The moral of the story, for all the boys and girls watching at home: play our game! Ah, what a heartwarming tale. I think I have something in my eye.
ED: 「レアドロ☆KOI☆こい！ワンモア！」 (Readoro☆Koi☆Koi!Wanmoa! (I dunno, don’t ask me)) by 諏訪彩花, M・A・O (Suwa Ayaka, Ichimichi Mao)