The Decline and Fall of Mecha

This video, which was recommended to me by multiple trusted sources, endeavors to chart the course of mecha anime from its post-WWII origins through its peak in the 80s and 90s to its current malaise.

Do give it a watch.

My comment: I dropped out of the mecha scene–and anime in general–when they stopped hand-painting on cells and moved to all computer animation. Every series has a pastel, pristine sameness to its aesthetic that to me is the visual equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.

However, I was there for the height of mecha anime, and even then I noted a few quirks–which, again, mecha has in common with most Japanese animation–that struck me as inherently limiting its appeal.

  1. Most anime–and Eastern storytelling traditions in general–have never seen fit to incorporate three act structure to the same extent as in the West. Your typical anime series eschews a short-to-moderate buildup of rising action followed by a protracted period of escalating conflict culminating in a cathartic climax capped off with a nice wrap-up. Instead you get an extended intro that meanders across several episodes–the sort of mini story arc normally reserved for TV pilots in the US–which gives way to more episodic, threat-of-the-week plots before rushing into a finale that rarely if ever ties up loose ends. Honestly, you’re lucky to get anything resembling closure.
  2. Two words: tonal dissonance. Probably owing to fundamental differences in the conventions of Eastern and Western humor, a lot of anime series–especially mecha series—whipsaw between goofball antics and maudlin moments of existential angst. Picture the typical Alan Alda-written and directed episode of M*A*S*H.
Now, that’s all well and good for certain audiences, and I’ve certainly derived hours of fun from classic mecha anime like Mobile Suit Gundam, Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. The ride is usually worthwhile, even if it comes to an abrupt stop upside-down in the middle of a loop. However, I’m wondering if the venerable mecha genre couldn’t stand to benefit from more universally accessible Western storytelling techniques.
Perhaps it’s time someone wrote #AGundamForUs.

touching, slightly strange, and I wonder if it is part of the anime influence

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