「推参なり鐵假面」 (Suisan nari Tekkamen)
“The Unannounced Iron Mask”
I thought Concrete Revolutio was mostly done jumping around its chronology, but apparently it was just saving up for a big one—all the way back tot the 17th century. I’m guessing that the mustached gentleman is supposed to be Abel Tasman, part of Australia’s extraordinarily boring history. I happen to be Australian myself, and while I’ve been noting that Concrete Revolutio references everything under the sun, I was not prepared for it to reference us. I expect the Japanese to know as much about Australia as Abel Tasman did—something about how we’re locked by ice and our Queen’s a kangaroo. And in the anime version of our history, Abel Tasman discovers Van Diemen’s Land while shipping an anachronistic catgirl to Antarctica. As is common knowledge.
But of course, the rest of this week’s (otherwise 20th century) episode is targeted at a broader audience than Australian anime fans. Anyone here grow up with shows like, say, Power Rangers? I didn’t exactly, but I doubt you can find a kid anywhere masked heroes fighting giant monsters on television was definitely a part of my nerdy past. Well, it’s not like the B-movie special effects genre (that the Japanese call tokusatsu) died out or anything, but it’s campiness is certainly considered a thing of yesteryear, in the same way Batman continues to persist even if his Adam West incarnation may not. Concrete Revolutio celebrates all things retro, and its tokusatsu pastiches are many, and this week we have the silly Iron Mask who used to fight mutants (named Satan? Named by European missionaries? Actual European missionaries? Let’s not think too hard about that one). It seems that Concrete Revolutio was having extra fun with this one, since it was an even goofier episode that usual. Swordsman Beam? Sure. Kitty-rockets? Sure. A fart joke? Er… sure! All this I can accept because it’s obvious what Concrete Revolutio is channelling here, and it does it with no shame. I admit, though, that I’m looking at the episode through nostalgia goggles—perhaps as Jirou does too.
It’s curious for a show so thoroughly seeped in nostalgia to actually discuss it outright, and in fact almost be critical of it. To have these characters of 20th century history reminisce about 17th century history is awfully meta, and is perhaps Concrete Revolutio pressing itself against the 4th wall and staring at its audience. When I wrote about ARIA I discussed how nostalgia isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Concrete Revolutio is not nearly as positive about it. Here’s a character who has been frozen in ice for three hundred years and the first thing she does is– well, the first thing is does is smite evil, but the second thing she does in quick succession is try to undo the past. You’ll hear people bemoan all the time that, ‘such and such was better back in my day,’ and it’s an understandable sentiment whether it be right or not, since I don’t think human beings are in general very good with change. But often, when waxing nostalgic, it’s about a past that did not really exist. Jirou talks about how it was simpler back when there was good and there was evil, black and white, but the one who’s actually lived it disagrees. She fought evil in the name of eliminating war forever, but 300 years later the same wars are fought still. Obviously, it wasn’t so simple. It needs no repeating, but Jirou is naive. When he describes the dragon god whatsit‘s story as a villain turning back to the light (through the POWER OF LOVE, no doubt), and that it’s cool, it’s his inner child talking. An inner child idolising a fairy tale that didn’t really exist.
But isn’t at least part of the appeal of Concrete Revolutio, to viewers at home like us, about unleashing the inner child? About the fairy tales we used to enjoy mashed together into this one show? What are you trying to say, Concrete Revolutio?
Putting the self-reflection aside, the plot of Concrete Revolutio marches on steadily, and surprisingly chronologically. We’re following on from last week, Fuuruota is now sad, progression continues. Mostly, in a downhill direction for Japan, with its Prime Minister now deposed (in reflection of some similar corruption scandals around this time, I think). Now, it’s true that it may be no great loss, since his government was the type where a public agency would effectively secretly sell a scientific and historical artefact to a private company i.e. probably corrupt all the way through, but it’s that same private company, Imperial Ads, that seems to hold all the cards now. They are the least trustworthy folks in the whole show, and that’s saying something. Yeah, not all black and white yada yada, but I’m still not going to like them. Things are not going to get better, especially with them dastardly gaijin popping up again next episode.
What I really want, though, is a buddy cop comedy starring Detective Shiba and Jirou. Those two were great together.