Issue #192: Palm Tree Weekly

I’m on vacation, so this is a short one. Wish you were here.

See you for a more detailed engagement with philosophy and pop culture (may I interest you in some writing about Dave Chappelle?) next week.

2021 Fall Anime Season ‘Highlights’

So, these two shows aren’t really highlights. They’re just the shows I’ve watched. But, to be honest, me taking the time to watch any new anime is a rarity. Each had something about them that caught my eye, but neither has really delivered. Still, I found them both interesting enough to write a little something about.

AMAIM Warrior at the Borderline

Sunrise launching a major mecha franchise is an event. They are the studio behind Gundam (1979), Ideon (1980), Votoms (1983), Escaflowne (1996), and Code Geass (2006) just to name a few — but also no shortage of stinkers like Cross Ange (2014) and Buddy Complex (2014). So it's no guarantee the show will be good, but it's always interesting. In the case of AMAIM, named for the mecha used in the ongoing global military conflict, it seems like it's more Code Geass than Buddy Complex, but to what degree remains to be seen.

The series is part of a major marketing push to turn AMAIM into a franchise, something which always puts me off of a show. But no expense has been spared when it comes to staffing. Ken Okuyama, designer of the Enzo Ferrari and Ferrari P4/5, is in charge of the AMAIM's mechanical design. His work also includes a number of Japanese rail trains, including Shinkansen designs from 2013 until 2024 — when his newest train will enter service. Enthusiasm for Japanese trains is rarely matched, and Okuyama has largely succeeded in his work on the AMAIM.

They are as sleek as one might expect, but something is a little bizarre about the head in profile. Nonetheless, I think the machines occasion enough visual intrigue and are distinctive enough that if the show that houses them is strong enough, they can sell enough model kits to keep everything moving.

As for the plot, AMAIM is a product of contemporary anxieties in Japanese society. Japan is divided and colonized as a result of foreign intervention to aid Japan in dealing with their "economic crisis and collapsing birthrate." Protagonist Amō Shiiba is an Amuro Ray style otaku, with no real interest in the repression of the Japanese citizenry. Shiiba moves in the lowest rung of society, entitled to barely any rights whatsoever and orphaned. His only interest, however, is rebuilding an AMAIM in secret that he eventually uses to wage war against the occupying forces of "Oceania."

Shiiba also pilots his AMAIM, an anachronistic feature of his mecha. Piloted AMAIMs have been replaced by autonomous ones, controlled in the fashion of the military drone. Despite the obvious social commentary of this disparity, (the poor rebels risk their lives fighting against a legion of empty iron machines with pilots safely behind a screen) there's also a generic motivator for this premise. AMAIM can partake of the tropes of mecha anime as well as "isekai" or "different world" anime and manga. Shiiba is also joined in his insurgent efforts by a cute looking AI construct called Gai. AMAIM doesn't seem to be as fully committed to the structures of the isekai as, say, Gundam Build Divers (2018), but the olive branch to that fanbase is hard to miss.

My guess is, when all is said and done, AMAIM will be a watchable but forgettable run-through of standard mecha tropes with some modern anime sensibility thrown in for good measure. The setup hardly seems equipped to fully reckon with the political ideas it evokes. And the show seems, at least at first pass, derivative to a fault.

I plan to keep watching, but I am not too high on AMAIM. With the field of mecha anime shrinking, though, sometimes we need to draw deep from the well.

PuraOre! ~Pride of Orange~

No, that's not a typo. Yes, the name of this show really does have all those tildes in it. What I thought I was getting into was a typical sports anime about girls playing hockey. Instead, PuraOre! is an idol show in the style of The Idolmaster (2011) or Love Live! (2020). These types of shows also seem to persistently include diacritical marks in their names.

PuraOre! probably isn't for me. And like AMAIM, it's an attempt to launch a multi-media franchise. This anime is, supposedly, a glorified advertisement for a forthcoming mobile game. The show is cute enough ("moe") and brings together an interesting suite of influences. But, I'm not sold. I need the excitement of the matches and characters with an obsessive drive to win. So far, none of that has made itself felt in the series.

The Ontology of Running Into People

Here’s a little vacation inspired writing for you. Imagine you are somewhere that’s pretty big. Say, Key West, for example. And as you are going about your day, visiting tourist attractions, stopping to eat, walking around, and you keep seeing the same people. I imagine if you’re reading this and you’ve been on vacation, you’ve probably had an experience like this. There might be a couple or a group of tourists or whatever collection of so-and-sos who you see over, and over, and over. It becomes a little uncanny, right?

Perhaps a little. I’ve always found this fun, but relatively unremarkable. I might be in the minority in this evaluation. But hear me out. Whatever factors cause you to go from one place to the next, there’s at least some possibility whoever you are around at any given time will make decisions based on those same factors.

There’s a geographical constraint to consider. If you go from point A to point B in a certain amount of time, that means anyone could do the same thing. There’s also the consideration of the quality of an activity. A savvy tourist like yourself, I’m sure, only picks the best destinations, right? Well, we all have access to google, tripadvisor, various circle and star based rating systems. Starting to think about things like this, I would argue it becomes just about as likely that someone you saw at one place might make the decision, weighing the same things as you, to end up where you’re going.

Even knowing this intellectually, though, there’s still something about it — isn’t there? Is this simply another instance of apophenia? Or the (not unrelated) propensity for humans to believe in something like gang stalking? Films and television have instructed a generation of viewers that if they keep seeing the same person in different places, they are being followed. There seems to also be some relation to the notion of “main character syndrome” and the less overt issues human beings have with object permanence even as adults. But people still continue to exist and act even when you can’t see them — they might be taking an Uber to the Hemingway House Museum while you’re walking there.

All of this is to say I’d like to continue to give this some thought. In some small way, it seems feeling confused or taken aback by running into some random individual in different places over and over again is a (again, very small) failure of empathy. If we make a choice to do something, why wouldn’t someone make that same choice?

The Food of Key West

I’m no Jonathan Gold, but I have to remark very briefly on the fact that while visiting Key West I have had some of the best meals of my life. This is not a joke. The first place I ate after getting there was called Lost & Found and I had a very profound emotional experience while eating their food. I don’t typically get chips and salsa at random bars — an opinion I may now revise, because it was very good here. I also ate a fried chicken sandwich with some of the best spicy bbq sauce I’ve ever had.

For lunch the next day, I stopped by a taco place called Amigos. It looked a little suspicious. I hate any sort of ‘elevated’ expensive tacos. But, despite the price, and the reduction of the degree measure of the tortillas (theirs are square), I was very impressed.

I also ate some delicious pizza at a place called Clemente’s. This shit is so serious it doesn’t even have a website. I think they used to serve their pizza out of a repurposed trolley, but now it’s a hole in the wall on Fleming Street. There were dudes in sleeveless shirts and Adidas slides throwing pies into a brick oven like three feet away from where I was sitting. Truly unmatched ambiance.

There are a lot of logistical issues when it comes to running a restaurant in a relatively remote part of the world like Key West, so I am all the more blown away by the quality of what I’ve eaten here. Definitely worth the trip.

Weekly Reading List

Harry Ambrose is back. Wednesday.

Until next time.