Ask John: Why Isn’t Gothicmade More Anticipated?
For all the complaints that there are too many moé, ecchi, and fanservice shows and not enough sci-fi, action, and mecha shows why is Hana no Utame Gothicmade by Five Star Stories’ Mamoru Nagano being ignored by the western fandom? I mean they were hyped over Redline, so naturally this should have gotten their attention.
Mamoru Nagano is one of Japan’s more eclectic “mainstream” manga creators. His epic Five Star Stories can be called a manga parallel to author Frank Herbert’s Dune series in scope, scale, and complexity, and that character elevates the work to a rarified strata of intimidating, alienating sci-fi literature for a very select audience. Furthermore, Nagano is a unique writer in the regard that his narratives concentrate precisely on conflict, not necessarily action. Nagano’s signature series, Five Star Stories, includes dynamic monolithic robots and interstellar war, but much of the story focuses on very personal relationships and rivalries, and the battles are depicted in terms of opposition – the idea that two forces fought – rather than the literal depiction of the fight itself. The Five Star Stories anime film is a striking, otherworldly masterpiece, but it includes relatively little conventional action, and nearly all of the giant robot combat is either off-screen or depicted in a stylized way that suggests blinding speed and overwhelming power. In both Five Star Stories and Gothicmade, Nagano’s giant robots are so fast and so powerful that they frequently exceed the human eye and can only be piloted by superhumans or bioengineered pilots, thus the robots have to be depicted at standstill or in slow motion just for them to be visible to the naked eye. In other words, Nagano’s vision of giant robots is so unique and different from the conventional Japanese manga/anime mecha that it tends to alienate readers and viewers expecting conventional mecha anime that focus on robots that move and operate roughly like cars or tanks, not like guns.
Nagano introduced his “Gothicmade -Hana no Utame-” project in 2006. The first anime footage didn’t appear until four years later. Considering how many years have passed, a very limited selection of footage has been revealed to the public, and that exhibition has been fairly limited. The longest trailers have been officially limited to Japanese viewers only. Nagano’s unique tall & lanky character designs, his emphasis on depicting worlds that utilize giant robots but not directly focusing on the robots themselves (even the five-minute trailer includes only roughly 15 seconds of giant robots), the lengthy delay in seeing Gothicmade come to fruition – the anime film finally scheduled for release this spring was delayed until release this coming November 1st – and the limited amount of exposure the title has had outside of Japan all contribute to muted awareness and anticipation for the film among American viewers. Furthermore, the fact that the film is Nagano’s debut as an animator and director contribute to some viewer unease. As expected of Nagano, the film’s early trailers reveal lush art design but some stilted animation, especially in character facial expressions. Presumably that animation will be smoothed out by the time the film hits theaters.
Five Star Stories was never especially popular or successful in America. Although he contributed to the 1984 Heavy Metal L-Gaim TV series, the show has never been especially well known in America. In effect, Nagano has always had a very rarified audience in America, and the minimal exposure that Gothicmade has received in America so far has done little to expand interest in either Nagano’s work or the title itself.