「目覚めた場所」 (Mezameta Basho)
“The Place He Awakened”
The first four episodes of RErideD have actually already pre-screened on Crunchyroll (they partially bankrolled this show, so I guess they’re just getting their money’s worth), but the actual broadcast only started yesterday. This means if you’ve already watched RErideD 01 through 04 you’ll have to wait until November for 05. That’s a bit of an awkward schedule for a weekly blog like RandomC but in the age of binge watching I guess it’s not unnatural for viewers to make large initial episode investments into a new show. Rather than covering all four episodes all at once right now, though, let’s instead explore a tangent and talk about science-fiction.
Anime is a medium uniquely suited to science-fiction. Science-fiction is about futures imaginative yet possible, and a hand-drawn medium allows for both large infusions of imagination yet still maintain a unique level of plausibility. Even as anime doesn’t look real it can still feel real, sometimes even more so than live-action; there’s not bad CG that when compared to live actors may feel ‘fake’, and there’s not issue with the uncanny valley. With this strength, anime has produced many notable sci-fi titles, and arguably it’s the sci-fi classics (like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Voices of a Distant Star, inter alia) that put anime on the map for Western audiences. These weren’t just strange Japanese cartoons with questionable applications of tentacles, it was actually serious business. Sci-fi is great at, if nothing else, provoking thought, and anything that provokes thought is hard to dismiss. So, after sci-fi (…and Miyazaki, I guess) blazed the way to international anime recognition, you’d think it’d be anime’s big thing and every season we’d be rich with sci-fi series.
While proper, hard sci-fi do rear its head above the sea of cute-girls-doing-isekai-light-novel-things anime once in a a while, they still seem rather rare for something anime should be so good at. My own hypothesis for why this is so is that it’s simply a matter of profitability. Sci-fi is more niche, and in an industry that has up until very recently been driven by BD sales to dedicated otaku wandering even a few steps from the mainstream can lead to disastrous flops. On top of that, good sci-fi is simply harder to do. The extra resources needed for design, art and writing further chips at the bottom line. Even if there is money there may not be the talent, which brings us to issues of storycraft and RErideD.
Sci-fi is always full of interesting ideas, and that’s a great thing. But with many ideas comes great bloat, and with bloat comes execution challenges. RErideD is bloated with ideas. Just in this first episode we have a future of war. We have killer robots. We have corporate bollocks. We have time travel (or whatever that is). Consider how much time RErideD had to spend in this pilot just setting all that up, and that’s not counting all the other plot pieces like Mage being a lonely girl with no friends (if only one friend, your dad’s colleague and your robot attend your birthday party I don’t know what to tell you) and Derrida’s daddy issues. To RErideD‘s credit it does get a lot done in 20 minutes but it’s still a clunkier affair than you’d really want for a pilot.
It doesn’t help that the animation also possesses a similar clunkiness and perhaps there we have a metaphor for the entire series already. But, I’m optimistic. For one, I’ve looked into the future and can tell you that RErideD does get better. And, despite its clunkiness, RErideD is also capable of moments of beauty. ABe’s still got it. As I mentioned in the preview RErideD has some sci-fi pedigree behind it and its producers obviously care about their work. And, perhaps, even if RErideD turns out to be less than brilliant, it could be a sign for the future. With foreign investment pouring into the anime industry, perhaps it can find some slack in its shackles. Perhaps it will be able to nurture more of that adventurous, science-fiction spirit again. And perhaps more passion projects like RErideD will be viable. Even if RErideD is not great, hopefully it’ll be the least of many to come.