Sunday, 1 December 2013

Clearing Through The To-Watch List #3 - Jinki: Extend (2005)


Dir. Masahiko Murata

"Do I have to write about this? " "Yes, because you're a crazy completist!" "I'm wasting my time." "But you're a cine-masochist..." "But-" "-and will write about any anime you-" "But I didn't write about Cospley Complex (2004) and that was atrocious..." "Ignore that one." "Fine," I think to myself having this internal debate, "But I'm going to strop about it while the series is still warm in my mind." I found a science fiction anime series for cheap. Giant robots. Front cover of the first volume is two girls, one with black hair, the other blonde hair. First scene of the first episode is them, older, fighting each other in "Jinki" war robots in the centre of Tokyo. The blonde girl, drawn like a very cutesy, moe character, is the villain. Even in bad anime, how characters, especially female ones, have their eyes depicted when they've lost their sanity or moral compass is always artistically effecting. The stereotype of female character with eyes bigger than their heads has use when you can exaggerate emotions for potent effect. The other girl is the heroine completely outmatched. Clearly the series is going to skip back to when they were younger, together in the same training camp as friends, maybe as close as sisters, maybe a tragic back-story. It's obvious but you can get good powerful drama from the idea. This is not what you get.

The series is actually a mashing together of two separate manga into one narrative. It tries to be clever by juggling two different time periods but with a lacksidasical tone. The first is in 1988. The black haired girl, Aoba, is shipped off to a Jinki defence base against her will in Venezuela by her evil mother. Nonetheless she shows a superhuman ability, and enthusiasm, to pilot one of the Jinki that needs to be honed out of the unatheletic girl who was more interested in plastic model kits before. The time period is never told to us, and with any reason for why this alternative dimension is as it is for this advanced robot technology to exist in the eighties. The blonde haired girl, Akao, appears in this segment, but she exists more so for the part set three years later in Japan. A more advanced version of the Jinki defence force exists, with a whole group of girls and women piloting multiple Jinki. With no memories from before those three years previous, Akao also has superhuman powers of her own which are of interest to a dark group. Completely off topic for a moment, the main villain is a rather bland, height stunted masked man who is so much of a void I wished one of his barely seen minions stabbed him, Julius Caesar style, and taken over the world domination plan for themselves. But he exists and he's interested in Akao, with plans to pervert a girl who refused to fight into evil. A girl so much of an innocent that, unfortunately, to depict it there's one of her flashback memories, of how happy she's been with the Jinki pilots, of her being completely unable to open a packet of crisps without someone's help. Yes, some packets of food are a bugger to open but as characterisation of a female character I wouldn't be surprised if anime was dismissed as misogynistic for this sort of thing and an insult to crisp packet manufacturers. This moment happens long after it becomes clear that Akao, along with all the other characters, even the more sparky Aoba, are pretty one dimensional. In the first few episodes the white elephant already went to sitting on top of me refusing to be ignored. The young, innocent Akao, turned into a killing machine, piloting a leviathan sized red robot, with dead eyes is a starring character of a badly put together, cheap looking series.

At thirteen episodes, there's far too many characters and plot points to cram into them, especially as this is two manga set in the same world being combined together. The story actually had to be finished on the twelfth episode, the final one an epilogue as a DVD extra. It is a complete mess. It might have worked regardless of the squashed length. Hades Project Zeorymer (1988-1990), giant robot sci-fi too, was four episodes with far too much plot to cram into them, but not only was it good hand drawn animation, with great robot designs, but the plot was an amazing dramatic sucker punch regardless. Jinki:Extend is bland. Generic plot. Paper-thin characters. Beyond Aoba, the female characters, who dominate the show, are less like real female characters then strange perceptions of femininity written by isolated males. The girls are submissive, despite being pilots of city destroying war machines, easily breakable or/and mentally nonexistent. It comes apparent too this series is trying to rift on Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) in being dark, but never succeeding. I'm flabbergasted, despite having legitimate problems with it, that I could have hated that acclaimed series  at the same level as something like this. "Why?" I ask myself, "Because I'm an idiot."

Fan service creeps in slowly. Aoba is caught with her pants down a couple of times. Eyes roll. There's a clear attempt at potential underage Sapphic passion that's not edgy, in this TV friendly work, not character building or romantic, but a lame attempt to keep the male otaku happy. Indeed, when they meet again, discrete under the sheets, two characters fondle each other admiring how much they've "changed" everywhere on themselves, not with an (admittedly) perverse take on horseplay between two girls, but because, hey, let's drool over underage animated girls groping each other. With an innocent casualness that's more disturbing than being explicit about it. A female character is from Nottingham, England, raising a brief smile cause it's not that far from where I actually live, but she's abruptly introduced late in the series, uselessly characterless, and is there only to have a character who wear shades, to be an adult with big breasts, and wear clothes to show said assets off without any sense of a person oozing sexuality and charisma. Then there's the creepy aspects which scuttle in through the later episodes in the Japan arc. Anime can be dubious, which I admit as a fan of it, completely offensive, but even something like The Legend of the Overfiend (1989) forced you to see the things it showed and the full horror being shown. Jinki: Extend is the first thing in a while that's made me sit up in some of the stuff it was showing, legitimately creeped out by its slapdash and casual use of some of the perverse material is references. It's even beyond having a female villain, randomly introduced later on, be represented as being evil by having her snog any girl in her vicinity, as if being attracted to the same gender is a villainous character trait on her bio. A female Jinki pilot, whose already depicted as a asinine, weak and frail archetype, is kidnapped by a man disguised as her older brother, who plans to pilot his Jinki in a later fight with one hand while the other "plays" with her. It's not played as a sickening gut punch or a trangressively potent comment, just an offhand remark that is flippantly suggested and never mentioned again along with his whole character. One girl is dunked into strange liquid which partially dissolves her pilot's suit, skin-tight as designed for male viewers, yet doesn't dissolve the ropes she's tied in, by another male pervert on the villains' side who, along with the scene, is never mentioned again too. The lack of actual explicit content and the rushed nature of the plotting makes this stuff pointless disturbing than important for the plot, which is worse than something that was being offensive on purpose. A key part of a relationship, barely sketched out anyway, is that one of the people within it was raped and she still gave birth to the child conceived. The discrete, flippant tone of the off-screen rape, and the plot reveal, barely mentioned again too like the other examples, is in all serious far and away more objectionable, when such material can be written in half heartedly because it seemed "normal" to have it done in the narrative.

Its despairing to defecate verbally on something other people worked hard on, but this is terrible. Characters look the same, confusingly, but on purpose for the plot. Some look the same but it wasn't on purpose. Major plot points and events are skimmed over, for being able to get the entire narrative gone in such a small space of time, but also for squandering it on the wrong things. The thirteenth, final episode is the one that actually has some virtue. It's nice that a character has some back-story from photos and unprocessed photo film found in her old home, memories once lost rediscovered. Its legitimately funny when one girl, too young to drink, still pretends to be drunk for fun, as every girl is firing off twenty year old fireworks that still work in a back garden, to the bafflement of others. But it's too late. It cannot save a bland, forgettable anime. And it can't save it when the characters had no personalities before and when some were pointless molested in an occasional, out-of-place sequence in a previous episode. A paradox is created. Why review something no one would want to watch?  Catharsis. To get something of worth from my wasted English pounds. To warn people off it. To cause people to remember this series, blocked in amnesia by its blandness, reading this and remember how bad it was to share the pian. If a fan of Jinki:Extend, if one actually finds this, gets annoyed, and tries to convince me to try it again, or read the mangas, although it would have to be a bulletproof argument to even consider doing so. Because I'm a masochist who will cover any anime I watch. Admittedly I did skip over reviewing one as stated in the beginning, but that might be the exception. I may stupidly rewatch it just to review it. But in this case, Jinki:Extend is just horrible even for someone fond of collecting bad anime along with the good anime.

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