Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Phoenix (In Watercolor)

My efforts to paint continue.

I had wanted to do something from Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972-1974) a.k.a. Battle Of The Planets (1978-1980). I had really wanted to paint the G-2 or G-4, but ultimately settled on the queen mother of all mech equipment on the series in the form of The Phoenix, also a mad favorite.

As you can see I have added the nose accordingly. For a time I played with adding the G-4 operated by Keyop, but decided against it. These things are always imperfect, because it's ultimately an artistic expression. Even animators express a creator's design. These are just fun interpretations of some of the most wonderful designs in animation and a great way to create something personally rewarding. Anyway, see for yourself.

The images I took note the progress over a few weeks. It's not an overly complex piece but it's vibrant. It's always fun to see it come together and this one went as quick as transmute to the fiery Phoenix herself.

Once it was completed, I looked at a few potential mattes for the painting (as noted at the bottom in samples), but settled on the final product (the last image), which included a kind of red velvet matte with a terrific frame made of stars. I thought it looked a bit patriotic with all of the red, white and blue despite the irony of it being a Japanese-created design by Tatsunoko Productions.

Anyway, onto the next one. G-Force!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Falling Skies S1 E3: Prisoner Of War

"And no matter how each of us survived maybe we owe it to those who didn't... to become the best of mankind."

Experiencing Falling Skies (2011-2015) again through Falling Skies, Season One, Episode 3, Prisoner Of War, I'm reminded how terrifically thrilling this little science fiction series was in retrospect. Like a lot of things in this life I'm not sure I/we fully appreciated just how exciting and dramatically rich this series was during its time on the air. Prisoner Of War (the skitter capture episode) is pretty damn awesome war science fiction. There's far more character depth here than could be mustered for the action fare of Black Hawk Down-inspired war sci-fi Battle: Los Angeles (2011), released just a few months before the arrival of Falling Skies. It's truly night and day how much more effective television can be as a medium when it's written well. The scripting work here in its first season is wonderfully engaging and dramatic throughout. It's worth the revisit.

For the most part, it's almost inspiring to see humanity pull together for a common cause as it does mostly in Falling Skies. Though it has its share of internal conflict amidst the alien invasion and those disturbing moments are handled quite affectingly.

Since it finished airing, in a matter of roughly five short years America has become bitterly divided, succumbed to the freight train disaster that is woke and cancel culture and generally lost its ever loving collective mind. It will be interesting to see if we can unite as a nation and push back against this madness.

So for pure escape, this science fiction outing remains a blessing and a testament to the kind of aspirations humanity should and could rise to again. Star Trek imagined a world of diversity, free ideas and justice, but even that is and was radically different from what's in play today.

Falling Skies is the culmination of everyday Americans joining together, despite many differences, against an evil, alien scourge, now if we could only eradicate the poisonous ideologies that continue to separate and plague us today. But to get away from mixed messages on the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, woke politics and anti-American disdain that seems to be on the upswing look no further than the spirited, scrappy, patriotic fighter that is the faithful of Falling Skies. The series is by no means groundbreaking science fiction, however what it is does offer relatively awesome, epic and actually rather refreshing excitement away from our sometimes even scarier reality.

Director: Greg Beeman. Writer: Fred Golan.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Knights Of Sidonia S1 E9: Empathy

"If a Guana not only recreated a person's form, but also their complete personality and memories what would be the difference between that and the original person."

Things get that much more interesting with Knights Of Sidonia, Season One, Episode 9, Empathy.

Experiencing the anime adaptation of the Tsutomu Nihei manga is a wonderful thing for science fiction and anime fans. Layered, complex and loaded with little details as characters populate the fascinating seed ship Sidonia makes for a hell of a dramatic ride. Nihei genuinely crafts his worlds. Somehow they interlock too. Blame! Biomega, Aposimz all seem to spawn from the same mental universe and that's due largely, of course, to the creative genius and mastery of Nihei's ability to envision these worlds within worlds. It's something to treasure because science fiction anime, of the more mature variety, is a rare thing. If it's any indicator all of Nihei's work is almost the only Japanese manga, outside of some Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann, to actually populate my book shelves. They are visionary, visual works that are consistently enjoyed and returned to simply to escape and immerse one's self in the details of his masterful images.

Knights Of Sidonia, the anime, draws from the series quite successfully, and perhaps much more so than the singular Netflix film Blame! was able to do.

The focus here in Empathy is the revelation of the captured Gauna's Ena resembling the form of Tanikaze's former friend and pilot colleague Hoshijiro, captured earlier by the Gauna.

Though particularly alluring as alien creatures go, this is an incredibly deadly retrieval and is kept on the exterior of the Sidonia seed ship herself housed in an exterior location called the Extraterrestrial Research Division (ERD) and behind three barrier walls. Despite its beauty and resemblance to Hoshijiro herself there is plenty of concern. It's simply not her.

The alien specimen elicits strange sounds and is limited in its communication, but quite beautiful looking spectacularly like a replica of Hoshijiro. It begs the question when does a clone become so perfect that they are no different from the original? These existential examinations of life through forms begs one to question ourselves and our humanity? But is there a soul and does is that the critical piece of what makes us human? Despite the questions laid out in Empathy, Tanikaze does empathize and establish a connection with the creature. He does so because he is human with a soul and feels. But does Ena Hoshijiro have those same empathies or is it simply learning, projecting, manipulating and ultimately probing our weaknesses?

By episode's end the suggestion is that the Ena is still somehow connected to the Gauna Garde-shaped life form and communicating with it in deep space. Ena Hoshijiro 's gaze is in one direction on Sidonia and that is to a compartment deep within the ship that stands as a weapons' depot for Kabizachi spears. Is it instinctually driven as a Guana out of survival to exploit humanity? Does it have the ability or empathy to be something more toward Tanikaze and the humanity aboard Sidonia? Time will tell but Empathy raises the stakes as the Ena is brought aboard the Sidonia seed vessel.

There is the typically wonderful animation, the terrific touches to details and location shots to give us a truly awesome sense of place that springs from the mind of Nihei.

The entry discusses talk of colonizing Planet Seven, but we have just three episodes remaining of Season One of Knights Of Sidnonia before reaching its Season Two sequel series, Knights Of Sidonia: Battle For Planet Nine.

Knights Of Sidonia continues to mine the world and manga work of Nihei to great effect while also immersing itself within a thrilling, fascinating and conventional science fiction saga. While the proceedings may be a little strange to the uninitiated, as anime can be, embrace them as this may perhaps be Nihei's most accessible work. Knights Of Sidonia, like Battlestar Galactica or Falling Skies, is a wonderful, space-based science fiction yarn that continues to propel us forward like some of the most memorable sci-fi survival series concerning the remnants of humanity.