Friday, December 21, 2012

Zetsuen no Tempest - 12

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If I know anything, it’s that when two trees throw down, you do not want to get in the way.


If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to th' welkin’s cheek,
Dashes the fire out. Oh, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer. A brave vessel
Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her
Dashed all to pieces. Oh, the cry did knock
Against my very heart! Poor souls, they perished.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have sunk the sea within the earth or ere
It should the good ship so have swallowed and
The fraughting souls within her.
 
The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2



 
I’ve waxed (in)eloquent at length about the way Zetsuen no Tempest fits the style of BONES perfectly, to the point where I can imagine no other studio (except perhaps golden-era Gonzo) adapting it.  But I haven’t talked much about Andou Masahiro, and his role as director is certainly of paramount importance too.  He was probably the ideal choice among the BONES stable, having shown with Mukou Hadan that he has an innate talent for anime that’s grand and dramatic.  Andou fundamentally gets the art of spectacle, and Zetsuen is all about spectacle. 
 
I guess the headline for this week would be that the main characters actually moved, after having been frozen to the spot for the better part of four episodes.  In a funny sort of way I’m a bit worried now (and not because of that last voice in the preview – mostly) because to say this series has found a groove would be an understatement.  The last arc has been truly magnificent, and I kind of hate to see the show undergo the massive sea change that occurred this week.  But then, it’s not as if it wasn’t inevitable given the parameters of the story.  When you’re dealing with fantastical entities that can change the fate of the world, plot twists are going to be pretty much par for the course.
 
I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything in anime quite like that final sequence.  With Beethoven’s ethereally beautiful “Tempest” sonata as a backdrop and Aika reading Miranda’s speech from the play, chaos and devastation rain down everywhere – including upon our two main characters.  What a synergy – Beethoven, Shakespeare, and anime at it’s most imaginative and grandiose.  If stuff like that doesn’t make you glad to be an anime fan I’m not sure what would – there’s certainly no other art form in the world that could have given us what we just witnessed.  Maybe it’s rose-colored nostalgia but it feels as if this sort of soaring ambition was more common in anime once than it is now, where the focus has shifted so heavily towards a very narrow subset of interests and studios have become so much more risk-averse.  I’ll give full credit to BONES – they may have had some swings and misses lately, but they’ve never shied away from taking chances.
 
I must confess that my gut still calls me to side with Samon in his eternal battle with Hakaze, though I have no doubt that she intends the best for humanity.  In simple fact, both of them are dealing with forces beyond their control in the Tree of Genesis and the Tree of Exodus so it’s all relative – it seems to be an exercise in vanity for either of them to think they can control the tree they seek to use to their own ends.  But somehow Hakaze’s route seems more grounded in arrogance than Samon’s, which strikes me as pragmatic – at least from his perspective.  It doesn’t make a difference if they’re wrong, of course – and the jury won’t return on that question for a while. 
 
As well, we likely won’t know for a good while the truth of Aika’s death – if in fact she’s dead – and which great entity was behind it.  The whole “Mage of Exodus” theory still sounds like just that, a theory – it still seems at least if not more likely that the Tree of Genesis engineered everything to bring Mahiro and Yoshino together with Hakaze.  That argument seems bolstered by the fact that it’s able to plant a missile on her island (two years in the past, mind you – I wonder if Samon’s hidden offering will come into play later) and seems to have disposed of Mahiro and Yoshino now that their role in its grand design has been fulfilled.  In fact everything is going to hell in a handbasket – Genesis is breaking out all over, the two Trees are going at it like giant coniferous sumo with flying blades and Samon’s forces are under assault – and perhaps destroyed – by the awakening Tree of Genesis, leaving him no choice but to meekly follow Hakaze’s instructions.  I hate to see him reduced to that, to be honest.
 
That Mahiro and Yoshino will be saved (by Samon and Hakaze respectively, it seems) is a foregone conclusion, but it’s not just about main-character armor – in the end, the two boys will likely be at the center of the plot’s ultimate resolution.  If I were to guess, I think the story will cast a pox on both the great trees’ houses and both warring Kusaribe factions with them, declaring that both sides were wrong in different ways.  As interesting as that is, though, in truth it’s secondary to watching the grand spectacle unfold – the plot of a great opera is certainly important, but ultimately the magic comes from the act of experiencing the performance as a whole.  Zetsuen no Tempest goes into intermission having given itself a very touch act to follow – if it can pull it off, it stands to rank as one of the best anime of 2013.

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14 comments:

  1. I wish I were better read on Shakespeare so I could catch all the references, but unfortunately I've had limited exposure.

    I think the only problem I have with the series is that they're translating Hajimari no Ki as Tree of Genesis, because every time I read it, I instinctively think, "Dammit, I don't have a tree!" Which just goes to show I really like it, since that's what bothers me most.

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  2. And I don't have a Genesis, but here I am commenting!

    I am lucky to be able to catch some of the references, but the ones the creators "want" you most to catch are also the most obvious (and depending on your subtitles, a sudden lapse into Elizabethan helps).

    I can't help but feel Aika is the mage of exodus and she killed herself. That or Yoshino is and he did (he's pretty good at "lying with a casual face"). If the latter is true, the very fact that he seemed to be "siding with Hakaze" is a gigantic red herring.

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    1. Meh, being a Genesis is overrated anyway. I'd rather be a Tree.

      I can catch them, but then I'm mostly clueless as to which play is being referred to. I read the Tempest an eternity ago, and I've not read Hamlet yet. I had the same English teacher all of high school, and he hated Shakespeare, so we only read Macbeth with him, and I've tested out of university English so unless I stop being lazy and actually look for my copy of Shakespeare's works, I'll forever be lost here.

      I agree, that was the first thing I thought of last week, but it also seems like too simple an explanation. Hmm, I didn't think of Yoshino, but I don't know; that seems too obvious as well. In one year Bones has made me think far more than I normally would for an anime; I literally got a headache from the sheer amount of information and implications here.

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    2. If you're interested in reading Hamlet, The Tempest or any of Shakespeare's works go to sparknotes.com. They have a whole series titled No Fear Shakespeare. You can read the actual text and if you didn't understand it (like me lol) then beside the text in another column they have translated it into modern English.

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  3. Well, that was amazing. This really has become my favorite show of the series, over the past 6 weeks or so. It's a "must watch quickly" for me.

    Still, BONES went a little tame with naked Hakaze there. They had Naru naked and flying around in Eureka 7 AO.

    But the real question, which I doubt we'll get a full answer to until ep 24, is "What is the Trees' game here?". Why does the Tree of Genesis need Hakaze? It apparently can semi-revive itself and fend off the Tree of Exodus without "help". Thus, it really didn't need Hakaze there. Unless as "Princess", she's actually supposed to merge with the tree or something. (New meaning to "commune with nature" if that's true)

    And while you know your title characters aren't going to stay dead, it was still amazingly shocking to see them offed just like that. One of the Trees ain't too happy with their continued existence. Props to Hakaze and Samon for saving them, even if it would actually make their lives easier to let them die. It's nice to see people hold true to their word, even if it is an anime.

    Finally, that last sequence was just brilliant. I think you've really hit the right word: Operatic. That's really what this series is going for, and it works quite well. On to the next cour and whoever killed Aika-chan to stop her quoting Shakespeare at them!

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  4. "there’s certainly no other art form in the world that could have given us what we just witnessed."

    Hmm, have you watched CG films lately, Enzo? It's not 2002 anymore. It's okay if you believe this, but it's not really factually accurate statement. Beethoven music+Shakespeare background dialogs+some gigantic tree going barking mad. Even film students can do this now with a little macbook pro.

    However your zeal is duly noted. I like this show, too, btw.

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    1. And how many of them have, besides anime? That's the whole point.

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    2. exactly; I agree that as of late anime has been very conservative over the last couple years but stuff like Zetsuen no tempest is really starting to show that there is still a bit of magic (pun intended) in this wonderful art form.

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  5. I side with Samon as well, Enzo!!

    My reason conveys me so. My logic against the totalitarianism dictator that is this "Tree of Genesis" and "Hakaze", which people need to obey to the absolute inform me so.

    Sadly, the red head middle-age guy, who isn't even a bishie, "a side antagonist character" has no chance of winning the argument in the end against the moe babe. Even if Hakaze turn out to be wrong, I'm sure that the moe babe still will be the hero that saves the day, not Samon.

    Not sure, knowing this full well, why I still insist on siding with him; I know it only comes in disappointment.

    It is not nor it cannot come to good. O, curse of the Japanese anime formula.

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  6. Seriously though, we got another 12 episodes anything could happen really. If they manage to pull off the ending this will be an excellent series indeed. I'm still highly anticipating Mahiro's reaction to finding out about Aika's boyfriend and whats up with Junichiro? Also the hinted romance between Hakaze and Yoshino. And though it seems too obvious I really do think Aika was the the princess of Exodus and commited suicide. Hmmm this show is really exceeding my expectations compared to when it first aired. :P

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  7. I think Aika is the Mage of Exodus. Unlike other comments I've seen here, I don't think she killed herself. Why would she take such a risk? Better to be alive and ensure her goals than place them in the hands of others. Faking her death and orchestrating chaos from the shadows is the more likely situation, IMO, which would result in much more gripping drama as the conclusion nears.

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  8. Aika quoting at the end was a pretty awesome moment.

    I think many might be on the ball with her being the Mage of Exodus. I mean she is the person that you would think has the least chance of being this person since she is dead. but in my opinion that just makes it all the more likely. expect the unexpected and all that. and plus, she seemed so mysterious and cunning that i wouldn't overlook her. the same goes for yoshino. nothing would surprise me if it came to him either.

    personally, i think she most likely killed herself. i don't know. faked her death or killed herself, either one is what i'm vouching for.

    i was suspicious the very moment i saw the picture of her dead in the chair. for me, there couldn't have been a bigger clue (i swear I'm going to make a point here.)

    look at her body language. http://moesucks.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/zetsuen-no-tempest-0104.jpg

    does that look like a person who was brutally murdered. her positioning, her expression is just all wrong. she looks calm, relaxed. her hands are around the chair, her head is resting on the chair. why would you be in such position if you are being killed. wouldn't you try and escape and most likely be sloped in the chair or lying on the carpet as a last attempt to get away. her body language just does not fit what we're being told. it's as if she stabbed herself, turned her body sideways, and basically rested her head and waited to die. i don't know. i know it sounds a little crazy but i'm just going off what i see when i look at that picture.

    it's always fun to second guess ourselves though, no? :)

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    1. Erm well that seems more like a mere aesthetic portrayal of her death scene, possibly that serenity just aims to create an impact? I mean the blood trail on the floor looks WAY to aesthetic to actually be a true one.

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  9. This is actually personally my second favorite anime of the year; Jorm. takes top, but still, this is on a level of immensive magnificence I haven't seen in a while.
    I frankly like Code Geass more - it is my favorite anime of like, all time - but this cuts a close second. It's more maginificent and dramatic, but it just doesn't have the flavor I like to think Code Geass(at least, the first season) has.

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