Thursday, May 21, 2009

I've been watching My Otome, which is a fun example of what's known by the TV Tropes people as a Pink Bishoujo Ghetto, of the superhero subspecies. It's a SF fantasy set on a world where nations' militaries are supplemented or replaced by nanotechnologically overpowered female knight-servants known as "Otome". Think OMAC: One Maiden Army Corps.

I'm also watching Flag, which is a Real Robot super-realistic Twenty-Minutes-Into-The-Future show about a combat photographer embedded with an elite UN strike force involved in a central Asian civil war. It's stylistically exciting, done in a hard-edged "found footage" documentary style, with absolutely no compromises with narrative - every second of story is pieced together from video by the narrator character, and the protagonist is mostly heard, not seen.

It's a strange juxtaposition, My Otome and Flag, because it's so much easier to accept My Otome on its own terms. Suspension of disbelief is far, far easier when you're presented with magical nanotechnological works of wonder - it makes every other conceit of unreality and whimsy go down that much more easier, like a mouthful of milk prior to gobbling a plate full of dry cookies. Flag on the other hand, with its hypocritical officers prating on about roadmaps for peace and its M1 tanks getting ambushed in tight urban kill-zones and its photo-realism, doesn't get an ounce of consideration from yours truly. When the elite UN strike force (btw - bwa hahaha!) feels the need to perform aerial reconnaissance by piling into a Little Bird with a side-mounted "Predator drone" & *flying* into a canyon, all I could do was scream in horror and disbelief. A) Predators are much, much bigger than that silly little contraption B) the whole point of using UAVs is to *not* put your scouts in physical proximity to danger C) why were they flying *in* the canyon?

I think I'm going to call it the "Military Realism Uncanny Valley". The closer your fiction gets to actual contemporary realism, the more sensitive the viewer/reader gets to inaccuracies. Putting giant robots or magical girls into "realistic" war fiction is the narrative equivalent of robots with expressive skin-like surfaces & facial mimicry - it ceases to be "cute" and instead sets off all of our ingrained BS detectors. We cease to be amused by the rough similarities and instead are repelled by the subtle failures. The difference between watching a charming performance and feeling like you're being deceived?

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