Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I've been watching Blue Seed this week, from a big pile of borrowed DVDs from Big Dave. Back when I first encountered this series, I didn't really warm to it, and to be honest, I only watched two episodes. The combination of what looked like typical schoolgirl-tentacle foolishness & way, way too much emphasis on the heroine's panties conspired to send me off in search of less goofy pastures. Those elements are still there - although the whole tentacle thing proved to be a first-few-episode sort of thing - but with age comes patience, I suppose, and the show is proving to be not bad for what it is.

What Blue Seed *is*, is a blend of the usual kind of teenage-protagonist angst-fest aimed at the high school/junior high school market, and the sort of workplace/ensemble procedural aimed at the older college-age fanboy market segment. They pull this off by introducing a miko/designated virgin-sacrifice schoolgirl, Momiji of "legendary Izumo", and inserting her into a semi-secret government anti-monster agency staffed by the usual suspects. So it's a schoolgirl *in* a workplace-ensemble show - kind of like Witch Hunter Robin, except that nobody ever thought to force Robin to go to school... ANYways -

Momiji has been raised from infancy with the understanding that she's special, and precious, and is expected to be willing to be sacrificed - literally, life & all - "for the good of Japan", in the undescribed eventuality no-one around her bothers to explain or elaborate upon. This leaves her a little unprepared when a strange, rather supernatural guy shows up and threatens to kill her, but the extingencies of plot and contrivance eventually leads said male-lead, Kusinagi, to become her monstrous knight-protector as she jets off to Tokyo to work for the government, hunting down & fighting the plant-like "Aragami" which her specialness is destined to combat. Sort of. It gets kind of complicated, in the bludgeony, ponderous fashion that -Nineties TV anime often demonstrated.

The politics of Blue Seed are pretty fascinating from a historical perspective. The manga and TV were written in the ugly aftermath of the collapse of the Bubble Economy. This was the period in which the failure of a mad speculation-fed private-sector construction boom was followed in turn by an equally mad public-sector explosion of civil-engineering boondoggles, each more wasteful than the last. It seemed from this end of the Pacific as if the Japanese government was determined to cover every square foot of their country, rural, urban & waterway, with ferroconcrete in a desperate Keynsian war against recession & desperate denial of the death of the Japan of the Future.

This scramble for construction is in every episode of Blue Seed either as part of the plot, or as busy-work going on in the background. Not that this was unusual for the anime of the early Nineties - but the *way* that Blue Seed deals with this real-estate lunacy is somewhat unusual. Almost all of the monstrous outbreaks of Aragami un-naturalness are directly or indirectly associated with "unnatural Japan" - a distinct and damning comparison of nature-loving traditional "old Japan" with drunken, busy, ugly "modern Japan". The usual episode is "construction company destroys vital element of traditional Japanese countryside, Aragami start killing people, starting with the construction workers". As the series grinds on, you get more and more of a feeling that the writers think that the humans have it coming. All the philosophical arguments get handed to the villains, who become more and more sympathetic, or at least, talkative.

I haven't finished watching the show yet, but as an eco-reactionary text, it's quite striking. Can't say that I *like* the politics all that much, but it isn't finger-nails-down-the-chalkboard irritating. At least it's the villains spouting all the "old ways are best, nature unspoiled, damn all modernity anyways, kill off most of humanity for sustainability!" horseshit. Even if you get the idea that we're supposed to be ambivalent-to-sympathetic to the monster-Luddites.

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