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25 January 2009 @ 02:25 pm
Gaia Ramblings  

It took me a while, but I finally got done. And by "a while", I mean the DVDs have been sitting on my shelf for almost two years now. I plunked down the cash for the whole set 'cause after seeing the first few episodes I was pretty sure I'd want to see all of them. Happily, I was right -- though it took a whole lot of episodes for me to confirm it.

I like that this series isn't just a collection of monster of the week fights, the way many Ultraman (and, let's be fair, tokusatsu) series are. There's an overarching story, even though it doesn't always seem like there is. Things from the past come up and have relevance by the end far more than in most of the Ultraman series I've seen so far, and I like that. Folks who seemed to be one-shot, throw-away characters came back by the end, and in some cases proved to be important. Stuff like that will always get my vote, no matter what. Add in a bit of secret identity fun and just a bit of character work and I'm a happy fangirl.

Gaia's an interesting show for me... Style-wise, half of it feels like Tiga to me (largely the earlier parts, which is probably part of why it took me so long to get through them.) The other half showed where a lot of elements that I liked in Mebius came from. And there were several bits that are, I think, largely unique to Gaia that made me happy.

Finding out where George's name came from gave me a long, loud giggle fit. (Japanese pronunciation having no distinction between "George" and "Georgie". The part Japanese/part foreigner was just the nail in the coffin.) Agul was undeniably lifted and changed for Hikari, as was the whole red Ultraman/blue Ultraman dynamic. (Minus the racism theme that came up in Mebius that wasn't possible really in Gaia. And they had other fish to fry. And typing red Ultraman/blue Ultraman makes me want to write a book entitled "One Ultraman, Two Ultraman, Red Ultraman, Blue Ultraman". Good thing I'd get sued from multiple sides for copyright infringement.) I probably like Commander Ishimuro so much because he shares traits in common with Sakomizu. (Though some of it is just that he's cool. And is clearly not a hologram projected by the coffee pot.) The overall flow of the series is very similar to Mebius -- more than once I would compare what was happening in a given episode number in Gaia to what was happening in Mebius at the same point in the series. Gamu, like Mirai, gets publicly outed on TV. (More on that in a minute.) Oh, and I found out where Takato's name comes from. (He'd be the kid from the Ultraman Moebius and The Ultra Brothers movie. I'm pretty sure this is it, since there are strong similarities between his story and the movie Takato's. Just lots of little things that were familiar or similar or made me go "oh, is *that* where that's from?" made the series just that much more fun for me.

Oh yeah, and the mechanic guy who is so clearly Araiso's precursor is just hilarious. "Sorry, am I interrupting...?"

Speaking of the news reports... (Which I was, peripherally.) I was surprised how useful they were, and how much they integrated by the end of the series. I'd heard before watching the series that Gamu got outted on TV, just not how. At first I assumed that they would be chasing him around the whole series and one day just catch him at an inopportune time. By the time it actually came down to the last few episode I began to doubt what I'd read, things had changed so much. I like seeing the media being portrayed as reasonable people with some sense of decency. (Yes, that is a slam against Hirukawa -- but also against other media folks IRL who sometimes aren't particularly respectful of other people.)

This one's weird, in that it's the only Ultraman series I've seen before where it's very clear that the Ultraman is separate from the human host. It amuses me that Gamu sticks his Ultraman is a little Technogizmo (tm), and makes me want to quote Disney's Aladdin a bunch. "Great cosmic powers -- itty, bitty living space." (That, and saying "dude, you stuck Ultraman in a bottle. Srsly.") It's very Heisei, since I think most of the Showa hosted Ultramen at least had the courtesy to introduce themselves. Heisei's all most down to business. No time for dinner and a movie first, here.

I love that Gamu's a techno geek. It's a nice contrast to Daigo/Tiga, who's on a team of supposedly very bright people (who rarely show it...) and is Very Clearly Not. Besides, how can I resist a series with a geek main character? Yeah? Come to think of it, technically Fujimiya is kind of co-main character, and he's a geek too. (Though a geek with a bad case of Grumpy.)

The first half of the series I felt the character development on everyone except Gamu was kind of lacking. So while on the one hand, I was glad to see that The Earth Will Be Saved by more than just a team of six folks, on the other hand they were kind of distracting at first. Too many people, too much hassle keeping track of them. And Kajio seriously Needed To Pull The Stick Out. Happily, the character development did eventually kick in, and by the end Kajio was one of my favorite characters. And the rest of the teams eventually formed up into a cohesive group, thus addressing my irritation with the unrealistic Lone Uber Team Saves The World. (Tiga pulled this just as much as Mebius did, and it frustrated me both times.) By the time they got to nearly killing characters I was to the point of actually caring -- and even yelling at one of them that he does NOT get to get himself killed, 'cause that would just suck.

It was fun reading through the credits and seeing names familiar from Mebius -- and seeing what they used to do, Mebius being 10 years later, some of the folks who were senior on it were just starting out in assistant positions. A little over a third of the episodes had writers who are still with Tsuburaya, and half the episodes were directed by the same people.

I like that this series made a clear effort to show that Saving The Earth From The Monsters is an international, global effort. That's something that bugs me in the other series (for all that I can understand why it happens that way, and it's not like US TV doesn't do the same thing.) On the flip side, oh my word, the number of people speaking Japanese who shouldn't. I mean both shouldn't in terms of it being unrealistic for them to be doing so (who knew there were so many Japan enthusiasts in Canada?), and also who are clearly just non-native speakers. (Yes, I know. Rocks. Glass houses. Nonetheless, I groaned every time Katherine showed up, because her accent makes it so hard to understand what she says. For all that the blonde chick in black leather sporting a bazooka amused me.)

I am amused yet puzzled by Tsuburaya's urge to throw the fangirls bones. There were multiple points where I wondered if they could make the interactions between Gamu and Fujimiya any more slashy. Or the bit where everyone's getting kisses, with the montage ending with Gamu and Fujimiya staring at each other. Yes, you know you want to. Just get on with it, really. You'll feel better after you do.

(For all that, while I certainly wouldn't object to the pair of them being slashed, it just doesn't scream at me the way certain other pairings do.)

That all said, I still think my favorite part has got to be... that I got the handsome guy! *snerk*

And for reference (and my own accounting), Ultraman series I've seen all of are: Sho-man (though so long ago that I need to go back and finish re-watching; I got derailed at Ultraman vs. the Giant Twat Monster), Tiga, Gaia, and Mebius. (*sweatdrop* I should get watching more...) Man, I'm a Heisei girl. :P Must get cracking on watching some of the older series that I have copies of.
Nikki's Corner: Cold Blue Texturesennetari on January 26th, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
So "George" and "Georgie" really do have the same pronunciation in Japanese. I'd wondered about that, but not sure.

I also like Commander Ishimuro so much. Not even really sure why, story-wise, since he's usually sitting or standing and not really out fighting. (Well, he does get involved in, imho, the most dramatic fight, but I like him long before that.) Maybe it's also because the unspoken pact he and Gamu seems to have going on regarding Gamu's secret identity ('don't ask, don't tell' kind of thing). And I really enjoy seeing his actor in a few other toku shows.

I'd heard before watching the series that Gamu got outted on TV, just not how.

Me too. However, I also knew exactly how (worse for me since I would rather not have spoilers). But I still liked that scene very much the first time I saw it and it remains my most favorite secret identity outing ever. (The secret outing in Mebius seems rather passive. I'm pretty sure if anyone else has seen Mirai transforming, he would still get to keep his secret.)

This one's weird, in that it's the only Ultraman series I've seen before where it's very clear that the Ultraman is separate from the human host.

I'm honestly curious why you believe that. Apart from episode 1 (and maybe 25?), I never really feel like Gaia is a separate entity.

I like Gamu because, apart from being a geek (which I also like), he seems so much like a normal human being. It feels to me like almost every host I've seen from the Showa Ultraman series is a hero and kind of larger-than-life. Gamu has doubts, is selfish where most everyone would, has tempers, makes mistakes, etc. To me, he is, to put simply, alive.

I'm kind of two minds about Fujimiya. On one hand, I think he should stop stealing Gamu's spotlight and just get his own show. On the other hand, it wouldn't be half as fun without him messing up things for Gamu to fix.

All in all, I'm glad to hear that you like Gaia, even if it took you almost two years to finally finished it. :)

...And hopefully I'm not being too forward in asking this, but would you consider subbing Gaia at some point in the future? It's totally fine if not, though. I was just wondering.
Sandpanthersandpanther on January 28th, 2009 06:37 am (UTC)
Ishimuro... I think it's just the subtlety of his reactions. He doesn't say or do much, but he managed to express a lot of character even so. Or maybe it's just that he reminds me of Sakomizu so much, and he's such a totally cool character.

On the secret ID outing... I loved the next time they all meet up. "Uh, sorry about that." It was just so funny watching the reporters be all guilty.

Why I think Gaia's a separate entity... He lives in the transformation gizmo, yeah? (Esplender or whatever it's called? I guess it's better quarters than the little jar thingie he was in at first, but still...) You get to see Gamu moving him after he builds it, and every now and then they show him just kind of floating as a little spark.

I guess the other reason why I think that is Gamu didn't die. For the hosted Ultras, pretty much all of them saved their hosts' lives by sharing theirs. (Or I assume it's all the same thing, since that's what the original Ultraman told Hayata.) But I never got the impression that Gaia is sharing a life with Gamu, if that makes any sense?

Huh... I think I just realized what bugged me about Gamu in the movie is that he's too grown up. He has to be, given what the movie's doing thematically but he didn't really feel like Gamu to me. In the series Gamu always approached things with an almost child-like glee. I think it would be great to see a cross-dimensional get together where he meets Mirai. The two of them would get along like a house on fire!

Heh... I'm not sure how much I'd agree with you about the Showa guys being heroic in their own series. But then the last Showa I was watching was Leo, and he spends all his time getting his butt kicked by Seven. :) Oh, and Tarou, who is just a doof.

Fujimiya never bothered me for some reason. I think I walked into the series expecting there to be two Ultramen, so having Fujimiya/Agul get a lot of screen time was something I expected too. And I liked watching his character develop (read: getting bopped repeatedly on the head by the Clue Fairy.) Which is kind of a weird thing to say, since I was getting grumpy about Mebius getting upstaged by Hikari for a few episodes in the teens.

On subbing, I've been thinking of subbing Gaia for quite a while now. I almost started on it as a side project about a year ago but got stymied by not being able to rip DVDs correctly. I think I might have that sorted out now, so we'll see how things go from there. I'm itching to dig in, but I do have commitments on Mebius to finish up as well, so don't expect too much too soon. And no, you're not too forward for asking. :) Always feel free to ask -- the worst I'll do is say no.
Nikki's Cornersennetari on January 28th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
Now I think I understand what you mean better about Gaia being a separate entity. That little spark in the transformation item was light, the essence of Gaia. But, yeah, I guess if that's the same as Gamu it would live inside him and not outside. (The little jar thingie looked like a lipstick to me, so I would agree that Esplender is better, though not by much...)

True, Gaia certainly didn't use his own life force to save Gamu's life. Gamu was Gaia because he wanted to save the town, not because he died (in duty or otherwise) and Gaia sort of arbitrarily decided this guy was heroic and revived him. (I think most Showa Ultramen are not giving their hosts much choice. Not that I could imagine it happening, but if the potential host doesn't accept the deal to save the world, he's dead.)

Oh, I wasn't thinking of Leo and Tarou in the 'heroic' comment, but then I never watch their shows. Actually, though, I think you're right. I was thinking more of other Heisei guys, who are...well...not quite normal compared to Gamu (in the TV series; I'm not quite sure I like what they did to him in the movie either). And yeah, Gamu and Mirai probably would be really good friends (better than with Daigo, whom I think Mirai looks at a bit in awe).

I think it's not weird to be grumpy about Hikari upstaging Mebius. For me, dealing with Fujimiya (yeah, the Clue Fairy does help him learn) is more preferable to dealing with Hikari and the confusing mess (to me) whether Hikari is Hikari or Serizawa at any given time. (Fujimiya may or may not be the same as Agul, but Agul never shows up, word-wise. Every time he speaks, it's all Fujimiya.) And actually, maybe Fujimiya might not originally be scheduled to stay throughout the series; I think I'd read somewhere that Fujimiya was supposed to leave the show at the end of episode 26, but fans liked him so much Tsuburaya kind of had to bring him back.

I forgot to mention last time, but I have a 45 minute sequel episode of Gaia (took place after the TV series and, while also catching up with other characters two years later, pretty much a Fujimiya episode) subbed in English by the same people who subbed my copy of Tiga: The Final Odyssey. So I kind of cheat about understanding a little of the conversations since there are a few repeated scenes from the original TV series in there. In any case, I'm glad you are interested in subbing Gaia, and no worries, I'll wait very patiently. Thanks for taking translating the series into consideration at all.