Friday, August 7, 2015

Super Robot Junk: Planet Nessus

I've been watching the anime Heroic Age on Hulu, a space operatic series which just happens to involve some weird mythological stuff and the sides deploying ultra-powerful space werekaiju as weapons.

Sadly, it's not nearly as awesome as the premise sounds, mainly because... well, because it's not particularly well-written*, and the fights aren't nearly as impressive as many contemporary series, such as the far more popular Gurren Lagann (which apparently aired on the same dates, if Wikipedia is to be believed).

Which is a shame, because the series has a lot of design work and worldbuilding that's really neat.

Case in point: Planet Nessus**.

Now, so far as I know, this neat-looking apparently mechanical planet shows up in a grand total of one (1) episode. But this series casually throws out some really neat spaceship and space station designs that it doesn't use more than briefly, and this episode has a fair number of them. (See also: Bigheaded Robots. Ironically, the series those came from shares a character designer with this one, and so half the cast looks pretty similar.)

You might notice that there's a bunch of spacecraft lined up in these shots; this is because there was nearly a space battle between the protagonists' fleet and a neutral planet, because some of the guys in charge of the protagonists' fleet are stupid jerks who shouldn't be put in charge of operating toasters, much less commanding space fleets.

The really big things in the above and below screenshots are some manner of semi-mobile space forts; I imagine that there was a certain amount of inspiration from Legend of the Galactic Heroes, an anime/novel series which is also seen by many as one of the greatest space operas of all time, which featured conceptually somewhat similar ideas to this series and probably also inspired the general way that the fleet battles and space travel are depicted. (Fleet sizes are explicitly enormous and even among the larger ships, casualties are generally pretty high; there are distinct pathways in space that create FTL "choke points" and strongly affect fleets getting from one place to another. More on that second bit in a moment.)

We also see the planet's inhabitants; I presume that they're the natives, though aspects of the worldbuilding bring that somewhat into question. The following couple of screenshots are of a control room that's the only location on the planet we actually see.

What the screenshots don't quite show you is that that odd curving stuff in the background is continuously rotating, as if they were some kind of big clockwork. It's pretty neat, though it's hard to say why it exists.

What really got my attention here was the fact that Nessus appears to be inhabited entirely by robot people.

The thing about long-distance space travel in this setting, by the way, is that there's two ways to do it. One can go anywhere but is imprecise and unsafe (the main characters' ship is noted as being unusual for being able to use this method of travel much more effectively with the help of psychic navigation; this gets them respect with many who would otherwise be their enemies, including the inhabitants of Nessus), while the other, the "starways," are pathways that are limited in numbers and only connect some planets.

And while only a handful of species reached space under their own power, many were uplifted by the setting's villains and allowed to retain control of their own worlds, in many cases because these worlds are hubs where many starways intersect, and the villains feel the need to respect their neutrality. (The above-mentioned stupid jerks among the protagonists' allies are nearly the only people in the setting who don't respect this idea.) This is actually the only reason I wonder about how natural this planet is or isn't; were these people essentially put here to serve as a waystation on this hub?

That they happily serve with neutrality makes me wonder.

It's a little hard to parse what that sentence means, but it sounds essentially like they're saying "let us be and we'll let you through no matter who you are."

That's an interesting take on the limitations of travel in a setting like this, and it shows a degree of thought many more popular settings lack.

*There's characters I like and episodes that are pretty entertaining, but it takes a while for things to pick up and the series burns a lot of time on interaction that feels kinda pointless. Also, arguably the two main characters are a bit too perfect. I gauge this based entirely on the fact that the only people who dislike and/or disagree with them are very obviously supposed to be severely hated, or are their actual enemies. Despite that, I still like the main characters, because Age, the main space werekaiju, manages to be surprisingly adorable for a guy who turns into a thing that fairly casually punches out planets and other celestial bodies, and the other, Dhianeila (...ugh, that's no fun to type out), entertains me because I learned early on that she has the same Japanese voice actress as the character Mikasa Ackerman from Attack on Titan (in fact, it was apparently the actress's debut role), and the two are roughly as different in personality as two characters can be. Heroic Age is significantly more entertaining when one imagines Mikasa's probable reactions to any given situation that Dhianeila responds to with angst and diplomacy. ("Ugh, Meleagros and Atalantes have been causing trouble again? Give me a minute and I'll stab them until they quit.") ...I should mention that Mikasa is one of my favorite anime characters from recent years because she's a really odd sort of deadpan funny***.

**I'm not sure why they named this particular planet after a centaur from Greek Mythology (who were, let's say, all horrible people). It gets really weird/kinda creepy when you think about the fact that one of the anime's major characters was named after Hercules' wife that Nessus assaulted, and said character worked to calm a conflict between Planet Nessus and her allies.

***Considering that Attack on Titan is such a dramatic anime, it's pretty amusing that a fair amount of its fandom is screwy-silly and that one of the first things I think of when I think of Mikasa (who is a character who was brutally orphaned when some kidnappers abducted her with the intent of selling her to aristocrats because she was considered exotic) is what a great comedy duo she makes with fellow cast member Sasha (whose obsession with food is played for laughs despite the fact that it was induced by her village suffering from a severe famine-and this desire to acquire food drove her to join a military organization with an incredibly high casualty rate).

-Signing off.

No comments: