Mobile Suit Gundam is the pinnacle of the mecha genre and has been astonishing fans for decades with classic after classic. Whether in the “Universal Century” canon or the numerous alt-universe spinoffs, Gundam has explored so many different possibilities and stories, all under the care of one studio: Sunrise.
It is surprising, then, just how long I went without having ever completed a full Gundam series. I remember watching Iron-Blooded Orphans on Toonami when it aired, but I didn’t get too far into it before moving on to other shows. To be honest, I’ve held off for so long because the Gundam series, as important as its reputation has made it out to be, has always appeared rather daunting.
Just as the Fate series can seem overwhelming from the outside, I was never sure where to start with Gundam. Thankfully, at the recommendation of some friends, I found myself falling in love with a comparably short but oh so deep entry to jumpstart what I’m sure will be a longtime fandom. From Kazuhiro Furahashi, the director of Dororo, Hunter x Hunter (1999), and Rurouni Kenshin, this is Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn.
After writing for the cult classic, Serial Experiments Lain, Chiaki J. Konaka took to scripting The Big O, a 26-episode mecha series for the premier studio of mecha anime, Sunrise. However, given Konaka’s now-revered talent of writing bizarre, psychological dramas, this show was anything but ordinary.
Over the years I have come to know it as a stylistic blend of art deco film noir and sci-fi mecha. It took clear inspiration from Batman: The Animated Series, with the original concept by Keiichi Sato likening the setting to Gotham. After the original 13 episodes, however, the show was canceled, or, more accurately, it was given a shortened season by producers.
And then it aired on Toonami in 2001.
The international reception alone pushed Cartoon Network to co-produce The Big O‘s final 13 episodes. The demands of western producers were limited. Sunrise was still animating it and Konaka was still writing with seemingly as little restraint as possible, so long as he added more action and was more forthcoming with the mystery plot.
This is yet another cult classic I have been meaning to watch for a while, considering it seems to be right up my alley. Whether it be allusions to film, or it’s stylistic similarities to my childhood obsession Batman, this review was bound to happen. And yet, I can’t honestly say I was prepared for what I was in for.
How do you follow up a classic? Better question, how do you follow up a classic that concluded so perfectly as to deter any attempt at a continuation? You can try to advance the narrative beyond the conclusion but the result may be so different as to not attract the same audience or so similar it gets called derivative. For instance, Studio Sunrise’s Cowboy Bebop has received no shortage of praise, but what about the film from 2001?
Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door, was not a continuation of Bebop. It featured the same characters doing what they do best for two hours, but never feeling like a cheap cash in, but rather just… Bebop. A lesser studio may not have pulled it off, but this was no ordinary studio. As it turns out, it wasn’t even Studio Sunrise, but Studio Bones. Only fitting as its three founders were former members of Sunrise. So, how was the follow up to one of the most legendary anime when given the Bones treatment? Continue reading →
When you think of your favorite anime, which shows come to mind. Maybe it’s a sprawling epic like Fullmetal Alchemist or a feel-good nostalgia trip like Ouran High School Host Club. Perhaps you prefer to watch a shonen series like Soul Eater or a comedy like Space Dandy. Otherwise, you might be more interested in recent projects like Mob Psycho 100 or Kekkai Sensen. Either way, it’s pretty cool to think that every single show I just mentioned was produced by the exact same studio. Bones.
Bones was created by Masahiko Minami, Hiroshi Osaka and Toshihiro Kawamoto who previously worked at Sunrise, the studio that gave us Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. Ever since the early 2000’s, Bones has established itself firmly as one of the biggest and best animation studios in Japan. They have made some of the most beloved anime and are still making masterpieces today. It was around the time that I watched 2015’s “Akagami no Shirayukihime” that I concluded that Bones was my favorite animation studio. I wondered then, could Bones be the best animation studio in the world?