Mark Simmons (scorpio@best.com)
Fri, 1 Oct 1999 17:08:00 -0700


Eddie writes,

> DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY!

  Words of wisdom. So, deep breath, and let's venture again into the
fray. Looks like we have a couple of miscommunications here, some of them
mine, so let's make like newtypes and try to resolve the confusion in a
spiritually advanced manner. :-)

First off, there's the whole Tomino thing. I'd brought him into the
discussion since, first I heard it, the "national disgrace"
characterization was a quote attributed to Tomino (evidently incorrectly)
by Japanese fans. Since Eddie traces it to Image magazine, which used it
as a general characterization of the Japanese audience reaction, then my
assumption that he was attributing it to Tomino was incorrect - hence,
Tomino's involvement in the Turn A's design is irrelevant to the discussion.

  Since I wasn't invoking Tomino's approval in order to defend Turn A's
design work, I won't take Eddie's criticism of fans who do so personally.
(And, referencing the point above, one shouldn't do so anyway. It's just
a cartoon.)

  Next, the Phantom Menace thing. Yes, this does make for an instructive
parallel with Turn A, and many of the same things could be said about the
defenders of each long-awaited sequel. I do recall Eddie at one point
drawing up a point-by-point chart illustrating how Phantom Menace was
superior in every respect, before seeing either, but we already went
through the "let's dredge up everything Eddie's ever written and complain
about it again" thing. I just hope nobody ever does that with my old
postings. :-)

  Lastly, back to Turn A. It's not my intention to defend the series; as
Eddie points out, I'm in no better position to defend it than he is to
bash it. (In fact, since he's seen three episodes, he's 50% better
qualified!) For the record, I don't have an opinion on the show yet. If
you can find postings in the list archives in which I appear to take an
unequivocal stance on the actual merits of the series itself, then please
keep it to yourselves and mark down a couple of points under the Mark
Simmons column of the Gundam Mailing List Grudge Scorecard.

  Okay, that about covers it. Sorry for flaring up, Eddie.

Now that the big-picture stuff is out of the way, let me digress on a
couple of specific points from Eddie's last missive...

>An exact quote from p17 of the July 1999 issue of Image magazine:
>"Even the Japanese initially called the design (Turn A) a 'national shame'."

  I'm curious about the qualification "initially" - do they still
consider it a national disgrace?

>Judging by the well-researched articles published in the magazine (one of
>which has been translated by yours truly earlier this week which few read)

  Really long messages don't normally generate much response from this
list (as I've often found). But I read and enjoyed it.

>I *did* see the first three episode already, and things haven't been
>promising enough to make me following up on them (unlike Eva, for exmaple)...
>even you, the annointed Gundam guru, who sticked to your guns and followed
>through G and V when they initially aired, have admitted to seeing only 2
>episodes so far.

  I've only been able to get my mitts on the first two - if I could find
more, I'd watch 'em. (After all, I forced myself to stay awake through
the last episodes of Gundam X so I could uphold my claim of having seen
all of Gundam!) But yeah, I've often passed on a series after seeing the
first few episodes. I didn't make it past the first four episodes of G
Gundam when it originally aired, and I blew off both Evangelion and Brain
Powerd after a half-dozen or so.

  That said, I've often returned to a series later and found it's picked
up immensely in the interim. I really enjoyed the second half of
Evangelion, and even the last few episodes of Brain Powerd were pretty
awesome. As for G Gundam, after having a year or two to get over the
shock, I went back and watched the whole series and loved it to bits...

>And FYI, that Lucas movie you so casually refer to as a "pile of trash" has
>made more money than any movie to come out this year

  And that drives me nuts too. :-)

>I think what it really boils down to is the cultural clash. You have no
>problem being critical on a fellow American's creation, but when it's an
>American-design made for Japanese standards, any critical observation
>automatically becomes an attack on American pride, whether you are
>subconsciously aware of it or not. The self-defense mechanism just kicks in,
>whether you admit it or not.

  Interesting point, and not one I'd dismiss out of hand. However, I'm
British by birth, so perhaps you should accuse me of a generalized
pro-Caucasian bias.

  But as best my self-examination can reveal, I don't think I have any
particular pro-Mead agenda. I'm actually kinda underwhelmed by his
efforts on Turn A - there are a couple of interesting ideas in there (and
I actually like the Flat's feet, which are hella impractical but nicely
suggestive of spacecraft landing gear), but overall he hasn't brought
much glory upon us carpetbagging Westerners.

So, for the record, my current views on Turn A:

  Story, series, character development, etc.: Insufficient data

  Character designs: Nice, if gratuitously Ghibli-esque

  Mecha designs: A wasted opportunity. Broken out by designer:

    Syd Mead: Some interesting ideas, a lot of stupid ones.
      Generally seems too influenced by classic super robots.*

    Kunio Okawara: It's good that he's departing from his generic
      Gundam style, but what's with the tails?

    Other (Shigeta, et al): Love the Cannon Irfute. Best of both
      worlds - modernized but not goofy-looking.

* Interestingly, this was an early complaint from the celebrity guest
judges on Animerica's annual mecha challenge. The first year, Imagawa was
really disappointed that the entries seemed to be just imitations of
anime designs, and said he was hoping to see stuff that was more
reflective of a uniquely American point of view. I've managed to make the
judges happier by coming up with design challenges that are less
suggestive of anime cliches, and consequently inspire less anime-esque
entries. I can't help but think that Mead might have done more
interesting work if he had _less_ exposure to anime...
            

-- Mark

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