The Superversive From Japan: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

It’s been a while since I recommended a series for Superversive seekers, and once more I bring a series from the Gundam franchise to your attention. This is one of the “alternate continuity” series from the 1990s, one that hit big in the United States: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.

It is now remaster for HD, and the folks running the Gndam Official channel have made the entire series available for free to view in the hopes that you’ll head over to Amazon and buy the Blu-Ray disc collections.

This is one of the Superversive entries in the franchise, as the pretty boys who form the core of the cast are expressly out to liberate the world from a corrupt and oppressive world-state. What they do, and how they do it, vary greatly. Their opposition isn’t stupid or hamstrung, and the series’ antagonist is himself motivated by high ideals that contrast well against the heroes’ own. For a show aimed at boys entering adolescence (just a few year younger than the heroes), that’s some heavy storytelling.

You get a lot of philosophical conflict over the morality of government, of artificial intelligence, of the centralization of power and authority into an elite vs. decentralization into autonomous communities, and of the possession of warfighting capabilites by private individuals. (Alas, it also has one of the worst Straw Pacifist tropes in world fiction, but they can’t all be perfect.)

If your household has youths of roughly that age, or a little older, this is a perfect series to use to get them talking about things that they need to handle as adults- this is a story that is timely despite being over 20 year old, featuring concerns that they will have to deal with sooner than later.

And in the end, despite significant missteps, it is an overall Superversive series. Recommended.

Hackjobs & Horror Shows: Finding the Superversive in Anime

I’ve talked a lot here about the wonderful stuff Japan has to offer, and I’ve got something in that vein below, but first let me talk about something I hear a lot about people who complain about anime and manga- and have for years: genre mashing.

The West’s establishment, for commercial reasons as often as not, divided up fiction into genres generations ago. Today we’re conditioned from an early age to think in categories that are only appropriate to someone selling a product at retail on a shelf- where space is finite, and thus precious and scarce. The consequence is that our popular entertainment–including popular written fiction–got increasingly siloed into commercial categories and we see this as How Things Are, instead of conveniences for commercial ends. Fantasy here, Horror there, and Don’t Cross The Streams.

It’s not quite so severe over in Japan. Be it comics, games, or film/TV you’ll find blends that would never happen in the West become successful (e.g. Neon Genesis Evangelion)- and it’s been that way for generations. Some of it is cultural, some of it is down to individual preferences by the productions, and some I can’t explain because it tends to cross into what TV Tropes calls “Fridge Logic” (i.e. just coherent enough to hold up while watching or reading).

And sometimes, when something out of Japan comes West, we don’t get the real thing. This isn’t so much of an issue now, but back in the 80s and 90s that involved wholesale rewrites and hackjobs that neutered the original’s content- including its themes, motifs, etc. such as what happened to Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross, Super-Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber MOSEPEDA to make Robotech and what happened to King of Beasts GoLion to make part of Voltron.

This is a shame, because when I’ve seen the real thing I find that often the excised elements–while horrific, and often tragic–can lend dramatic weight to a narrative that is ultimately Superversive. The aforementioned GoLion starts not on an alien world, but on an occupied Earth, and the series (being an ’80s production) doesn’t pull punches on what it takes to defeat Evil and rebuild what is Good. The Galaxy Express 999 series has full-on horrific elements that seem tame due to presentation, but rightly chill to the bone when you think about it, and yet the heroes go what needs be done anyway despite what they suffer and lose along the way.

Of all these blends, none work so well as Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. It’s gothic, romantic, Romantic, horrific, and so very tragic- down to the viewpoint character as well as our protagonist (who are not the same individual), with the point driven home in the epilogue.

So go give our friends in the East another chance, especially the older stuff in its pure form, and eschew the Flanderized and Bowlderized adaptations because sometimes the real horror isn’t the story, but rather the story about what was done to the story when butchers got their hands on it as it came to the West.

Wonder is the Fire Fueling the Superversive

You’re wanting to come join to the party, eh? Well, this pool gets pretty deep, so you’re going to want something to use as a diving platform, and that something is “wonder”.

  • n. One that arouses awe, astonishment, surprise, or admiration; a marvel: “The decision of one age or country is a wonder to another” ( John Stuart Mill).
  • n. The emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or marvelous: gazed with wonder at the northern lights.
  • n. An event inexplicable by the laws of nature; a miracle.

You’ve got to bring the wonder. It’s part-and-parcel of the Superversive, and the audience you’re looking to court wants it, seeks it out, and cherishes it as if it were a newborn child. Wonder is priceless, and in that moment of wonder you can do something so profound for the reader that–in satisfying their desire for entertainment–you give them something True and Beautiful, even if your work is a tragedy.

Go back. Look again at all your favorite stories, artworks, music, etc. and pay attention to those moments of wonder. Remember how you felt the first time you experienced those moments? Take another look above at those definitions; that’s your desired outcome from the reader. Pay that experience forward; give them the wonder that your predecessors gave unto you.

Don’t worry about how you’ll make that happen. You’ve got friends here, and you’ve got friends elsewhere who are no less dedicated to bringing that wonder back. Just ask, and we’ll find a way to help you learn how to bring it to the people.

Wonder shared is wonder multiplied, so share yours today. Join the Superversive chorus.

The Superversive In You: Joining The Chorus

Now that you’re aware of the Superversive’s existence in popular media across the globe, and you’re already sold on it, you want to join the choir and add to the chorus. Good. Welcome to the party.

But you’re wonder how, aren’t you?

There’s something you should keep firmly fixed in your mind, and that something is this: Two Hands.

In stage magic, the magician wants you focusing your attention on one hand while he does his thing with the other. The idea is that you engage your audience with one thing here and how, while you work on the other thing to get it ready for the reveal. This means having a short-term and a long-term operation going simultaneously; it’s the same thing as an A-plot and a B-plot in an on-going serialized story told on television or in comics.

That means that you’re wise to have something you can do right now while you work towards something you can contribute down the road.

Your long-term is your novels, your illustrations, your music, etc. that requires time and persistence to get up to professional standards prior to putting it out there for others to buy (or not). Even for the writers that post here, it’s still a hustle and will remain a hustle for years on end. Keep at it.

It’s the short-term stuff that I’m going to talk about here, because that’s how you can contribute here and how while building up that long-term thing.

  • Blogging: Especially if you want to make it as a writer, get into blogging. Post daily, and spread your posts as far and as wide as you can. From this point, many other short-term things are easily executed.
  • Reviews: Good God, the writers need book reviews. Illustrators need reviews. Podcasters need reviews. You’re already reading/watching/listening to this stuff, so take the time to turn your opinion into an essay and then your essay into a review. Then post that to your blog, and repost it to the relevant Amazon page (or other online store) page (as applicable).
  • Hyping: Spread the word about the things you love. Link to them on your blog early, often, and repeatedly. That novel? That movie? That picture? Find the creator, link to whatever their landing page is, and tell all who will hear that This Thing You Love is done by That Guy.

The reason for basing this out of a blog is that, once you get into the habit of daily posting, you will build up an audience over time. That audience will then be there for when you start doing reveals for your long-term projects, whatever they are, and you may be invited to guest-post to other blogs as well as become a contributor to a group blog (like I have, here). Your posts need not take a lot of time to do, especially once you’ve learned just enough HTML to not need to rely on a visual text editor to do the markups for you.

Your short-term hustle will also help you learn the basics behind getting the word out on your own long-term stuff when it becomes ready for prime-time; by helping those you love get the word out, you learn how to spread the word (and the love) for your own in turn, and the audience you garner will do the same for you when you take your turn at bat and swing for the fences.

If this sounds a lot like how a healthy community cultivates and regenerates its talent and productive capacity over time, building up its culture from below and building upon the deeds of their forebearers, you’re not wrong; it stands to reason that to achieve a Superversive culture, one must resort to Superversive methods. It seems so small, so humble, yet it moves mountains. Do it, keep at it, and take joy in the process; you won’t even notice the time go by before you see the results.

The Superversive is Everywhere. Join the Chorus!

Since I began writing here at SuperversiveSF, I’ve emphasized already-existing examples of the Superversive. The reason is simple: so that, when you’re talking to others, you have ready examples to point to of existing works that are popular, influential, or both. This matters when persuading others, because if they can associate the Superversive concept with things they already know (and, hopefully, like) then getting them to look into what the Superversive Movement has to offer becomes easier.

By the same token, we should seek out others working in those other media and encourage them in creating their own Superversive works. Comics, films, poems, statuary, paintings- whatever. As the word grows (and it will), so will more flock to the banners, and with that change comes the opportunity to make visible the invisible damage done to our cultures worldwide- and then to present the replacements that repair and rejuvenate it.

Which is why I’m making a shift in my posting topic. Rather than show you more of what is already there, I want to show you how to add your voice to that mighty chorus and sing forth again the Song of Creation that made this beautiful world possible.

You’ve seen where the Superversive exists, and have taken from there into yourself. Now? Now we make our own, here, and bring it forth unto there and harmonize with that infinite chorus to carry the music forward yet another generation and drown out the discord of the subversive that seeks to reduce one and all to nameless goo under some disposable psuedo-culture. Write, draw, sculpt, play- however you do, do here and do now. Come join the chorus.

The Iconic Hero and the Superversive

I make no bones about the fact that I prefer Sean Connery when I’m talking about James Bond movies. It’s not merely that his take on the character is consistently entertaining, but that it’s consistent period from film to film. This is a man who knows who and what he is, does not apologize for it, and has no issues with what he does; he lives for the mission, and believes in the mission. It’s nothing like Danial Craig’s Bond at all. Robin D.
Laws identifies this as “The Iconic Hero”, and explained in this 2012 post why this is a valid characterization choice:

While a dramatic hero follows a character arc in which he is changed by his experience of the world (examples: Orpheus, King Lear, Ben Braddock), an iconic hero undertakes tasks (often serially) and changes the world, restoring order to it, by remaining true to his essential self.

Prevailing creative writing wisdom favors the changeable dramatic character over his serially unchanging iconic counterpart, but examples of the latter remain enduring tentpoles of popular culture. It’s the clear, simple, elemental iconic heroes who keep getting reinvented every generation. Each such classic character spoke to the era of its invention, while also evoking an eternal quality granting it a continuing resonance. We are going to create a new set of heroes who speak to the contemporary world while evoking the inescapable power of the iconic model.

An iconic hero re-imposes order on the world by reasserting his essential selfhood. The nature of his radical individuality can be summed up with a statement of his iconic ethos. It is the ethos that grants higher meaning to the hero’s actions, and a clue to his creator’s intentions. An iconic hero’s ethos motivates and empowers him.

The first paragraph in particular is the mission of a Superversive hero: to restore order to the world. What he does is how he makes that happen, that assertion Laws speaks of, is where the variation lies. In the quoted post, Laws goes over several iconic characters and shows how you can summarize their stories in a sentence by identifying their ethos and how they assert it to restore order to their world time and again. What he doesn’t identify, but nonetheless shows, is that this summary also serves as the basis for every story outline you’ll need in writing stories about those characters that are true and faithful additions to their literary corpus that the readers will accept.

There’s something else that this post, and the concept in it, reveals: how the Enemy subverts the culture. They do resort to making Iconic Heroes into Dynamic Characters, putting them through “arcs” that denigrate their ethos and thereby degrade the characters into agents of subversion to further the Enemy’s agenda. (One need only look at what goes on at Marvel and D.C. Comics to see this in action.)

While stories that have characters changed by the experiences of the narrative are necessary and valuable, this is not a universal requirement. Just look at what’s been done with the Arthurian Mythos to see (a) that it’s not necessary and (b) it’s often done to subvert, degrade, and destroy a targeted culture- and therefore, not to be trusted anymore.

Consider an Iconic Hero when you’re next sitting down to create something, especially if you’re looking to do so as part of a series–writing, gaming, etc.–because you may find it better suited to your objectives than you might think.