Tuesday, May 29, 2007

MS Igloo

(Originally 11 November 2006)

Speaking of fight scenes, I actually marathoned all six episodes of MS Igloo 0079 (Hidden One Year War and Apocalypse), then got to talking to the friend who wound up recommending Macross Zero. I suppose it's a bit easier to pay attention to detail when everything is computer generated 3D (the aerial combat in Macross Zero was also CG) , but for me that doesn't detract from the impressiveness of it all.

I'm not one to comment on character design, but the female lead, Monique Cadillac, was excessively pale. None of the other characters were, so it was a bit jarring. She looks much healthier behind the tinted glass of a flight helmet's face shield.

Even though even the most prominent characters didn't see much in the way of screentime, let alone character development, I liked the captain for whatever reason. And the guy who amounts to an XO. Maybe there's something fitting about Russians in command of a ship. At times, the captain's exchanges with the rest of the crew made it seem like they were on a submarine, or destroyer/aircraft carrier, not against the backdrop of space.

Monique has some moments that indicate she embodies the "revolutionary communist fervour" traits. There are tons of communist propaganda posters with women with bullhorns, or weapons, cheering on the construction worker, or the peasant, what have you. I'm talking about that kind of image. Of course, everyone gets jaded by the end, as engineers tend to do even before graduation *cough*.

The "main" character, engineer Oliver May was reduced to talking about weapons, and narrating the technical reports he writes at the end. Maybe that's why engineers shouldn't be main characters. For someone who sits on the sidelines a lot, you'd think he'd have something more insightful to say, but his comments aren't anything we don't already know. Zeon is losing, they're getting desperate, and this engineering unit is given the unenviable task of doing work that will receive no recognition, ever. A lot of people might relate to this situation (and you'd bail out of that sinking ship of a company if you happen to be in one), but ultimately bleak situations make for uneventful stories.

Speaking of which, the plot is fairly contained in the episode, but there's not much there. I don't think it's a spoiler to declare that the episode inevitably goes something like the following: Engineering Unit 603 receives some weapon for "evaluation." The field test inevitably turns into a live-ammo firefight with Federation forces, and one has to wonder if the 603rd is really a suicide squad, except someone forgot to tell them. Anyway, said weapon does impressive amounts of damage, for one weapon, but ultimately the scale of the battle is that of a small skirmish, and the test pilot/gunner is killed. The weapon in question never gets deployed again, at least not in any serious way, because they never appear in any of the other 0079 series.

This is ultimately a series about failure, and it's rather depressing to watch if you focus on what little story there is. In terms of story, 8th MS Team does quite a bit better, with more fleshed out characters to boot. What you should really be watching MS Igloo for is the well done fights.

As a sidenote, someone on the Animesuki forums suggested that the use of Igloo might have been an indirect reference to a personal Siberia of sorts, a place you get assigned to where you have no effect on the direction a company takes, or in this case, have no effect on the outcome of the One Year War.

Everything moves a lot faster in these engagements. When I look at some of the older animated mobile suit series, like 0083 Stardust Memory, I don't buy into the superior speed and maneuverability of a mobile suit. That, and their seeming invincibility against anything that is not a mobile suit.

In these fights (as well as the 8th MS Team ones), it's a lot easier to suspend disbelief, just because there's more details animated, as opposed to freeze frame "speed lines". Mobile suits are also quite vulnerable, getting taken down by tank shells, cruiser plasma fire, or autocannons.

My favourite scene is from the second episode, which features the tank engagement. Maybe it's because it's the only land-based combat scene, and it makes use of cover, ambush, and team tactics that remind me of pretty much all combat scenes from 8th MS. The use of current (as of 2007) tank ammunition was a nice touch, like Armor Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) kinetic energy penetrators, and HESH rounds.