Day 9 of ’12 Days of Anime’ – [See other posts in this series]
I haven’t made it much of a secret that I used to be active user on /r/anime before I switched over to blogging. During this part of prehistory I would participate in seasonal anime talk, rewatches and among other things, theory crafting. The latter was generally a progressive build-up over the course a series, until I had a solid enough understanding of where the plot would go. However one of my earliest points of reference would be the OP, which I’m sure as you are all aware, can contain a fair amount of detail about the plot of a show.
Some of my career highlights include guessing the nature of the EVA in Neon Genesis Evangelion, and also the ‘transmutation circle’ plan and parts of the führer’s involvement in it from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
So I thought today I’d revisit that old hobby of mine. I recently asked friends both on and off twitter what their favourite series were, in an attempt to find quality shows that I hadn’t already seen. I appreciated all of those responses I received, but ultimately the list was shortened down to just three shows. These three are as follows:
- Eureka Seven
- Poco’s Udon World
- Magi: The Kingdom of Magic
If your favourite show didn’t make the cut then it’s probably because I’ve seen it before, or I checked out the OP and it was either too obvious or just character reels. Sorry about that. Unfortunately this concept doesn’t work terribly well with many OPs out there. I’m also unaware if any of these shows have multiple OPs, so you should assume for the purposes of this post I am analyzing only the first one.
We start off with who we can presume to be the protagonist riding on some kind of hover board. He meets up with a mecha doing the same thing and they begin spiraling up to the sky in unison. This is a fairly obvious allusion to the mecha’s pilot being the boy himself, and that perhaps there is some kind of ‘link’ between man and machine. At least I think that’s the case, the idea is quite common thanks to prominent series such as Gundam and Evangelion popularizing it.
At the same time we also get our first shot of civilization, which seems to have a formed a town around a giant black twisting spire. Given the scale and design of the structure, it seems clear that the people who built it are not the same as the human population surrounding it. At first I thought this might mean there is an alien species present, who perhaps hold social and technological advantages over humans, but on second thought I think it could be a past civilization instead.
As you can see in the following shot, the boy is sat in a strange looking field, with bizarre pickaxe-looking objects protruding out of the ground. They certainly seem man made, however their purpose isn’t clear, which makes me think it is technology that has been lost to time. What exactly happened to the creators is unclear, but it probably has something to do with how people can be stuck in rural towns yet still have giant operational robots.
We’re then given a character reel and it gives us some idea of how they all feel about each other. It’s mostly familial, with some hints at potential relationships further down the line. One girl stands out however, who is quite plainly an outsider. Her outfit and mannerisms betray an unfamiliarity with the rest of the casts culture, and while this could again signify an alien civilization, I think she’s actually a clone.
The reason for this is the rapid series of flashing images that follow. The girl appears to reminiscing about someone long since dead, given the traditional past/future tense sepia filter, and the unnatural nature of her birth. That being the weird egg-like incubator, that shows her being fully grown before coming into the world. Another potential clue as to her genetically constructed nature is the following shots of classified documents, broken syringes and clearly antagonistic government officials.
One thing that stood out to me was a book called “[The] Golden Bough”, which from a quick web search reveals that it’s a study on magic and religion created in the late 1800’s. There is obviously a heck a lot to unpack here, and I think if anything spoils the story, it would be this book. There is plenty of talk on the divine rights of kings, fertility cults and the inner conflict between magic, religion and scientific thought. The themes hint towards the main character being of sacred bloodline, and that the girl may be the key to unlocking some ancient power.
After that there is very little shown that isn’t just action shots and generic world-building for the mecha side of the show. One thing I did notice however, is the presence of a glowing substance inside the cockpit, which seems to act as the power source. This makes me wonder if only certain people can activate it, or whether the material is artificially controlled to keep lower classes out of power.
Ultimately it’s obvious that the main character will come into conflict with the owners/creators/relatives of the girl, and that this will start a larger power struggle across the world. It will probably only be later in the story when royal heritage gets brought up, and the main character can make some sort of claim beyond just being a revolutionary. How this happens in the interim, I don’t know exactly, but it looks like it could be a fun story with Code Geass type vibes.
Poco’s Udon World
From just the key visuals alone you can see this show has a much lighter tone. You instantly get slice of life vibes, but it could potentially have more to it than that given my experiences with stuff like Usagi drop.
Opening shot; young child in a yellow rain coat turns around and we get to see the reflection of a older male character in their eyes. I mean I suspected as much before even clicking play, but so there’s no confusion, the show instantly brings up the connection these characters have. They evidently see him as a father figure, or at least someone very important to their life, and the glistening in their eyes makes it unquestionable that this is happy feelings not sad feelings.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THAT TAIL THOUGH. WHAT ABOUT THOSE EARS THOUGH. WHAT ABOUT THAT NORMAL HUMAN LOOKING MAN THOUGH.
Yeah, call it a hunch, but I don’t suspect that these two characters are related. I’m surprised because nothing else about this shot (or the ones following it) suggest that this a parallel universe type setting. Of course we don’t see cases like this in real life, but what I mean is that the young animal child appears to be the only one of their kind. For a show ostensibly about udon, I wouldn’t have expected such a supernatural twist.
Interestingly, the next time we see the kid they are poking their head around a shrine statue. These objects look modeled after Shiba, but the child doesn’t, so I wonder whether these two things are connected or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if my lack of knowledge on Buddhism and Japanese wildlife is letting my interpretation down here. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the older man discovers this child here, and chose to adopt it because of the apparent ‘destined’ encounter at a holy site.
Following that we get a shot of an animal that more accurately connects to the young child. It’s unsure whether they are related, if the child can shapeshift, or even if it’s just a scenic shot with no in-story connection. The similar pattern on the ears makes me lean towards the middle option, but it’s certainly not a closed case.
Next we see what appears to be the older man from before, pausing in the rain to reflect on something. Given that the chronology is unclear, he appears to remember events from in the past as well as the future. In one shot, his relationship with the child seems to have brought him into contact with another child and woman in the same situation. In another we see what could only be scenes from his own childhood, with the death of his sailor father clearly weighing heavily on him.
After that reflection, the weather has apparently shifted to bright and sunny, which tells us that his newfound relationship with the child has helped him find peace and happiness beyond his troubled circumstances. Again we see the animal version of the child which is wearing the same raincoat, so I guess they can shapeshift? Or perhaps it’s still symbolic? I’m leaning more towards the former now.
Most of the remaining shots are character reels, which if anything, tell us that there is a community building aspect brought about through the main duo. I don’t know if the final snapshots are meant to tell us that the child is feral, and that these people help civilize the poor thing, or whether they instead find connection with nature thanks to its animistic nature.
It’s slice of life. It almost certainly has a happy ending. There is probably comedy elements too. I think the most plot-heavy the show would get is when the man is forced to confront his inner demons, and the concessions he has to make for the sake of his adoptive child.
Magi: Kingdom of Magic
If a character was actually flying on the flute we first see, then the similarities between this and Eureka Seven would be uncanny. Instead however, it makes patterns in the sky before flying off in the shape of birds towards our main characters.
They at first appear to be a ragtag band of adventurers, but their individual character introductions suggest the taller pair to have some royal or religious connections. They wear lavish jewelry but fairly plain clothing, which could point towards either of those possibilities. Perhaps once again we have a case of lost/forgotten heritage.
The shorter boy is wildly different from everyone else. His meek stature and possession of magic instruments point towards him being the ‘Magi’ or whatever magic force operates within the universe they inhabit. The return of the magical birds suggests that he is guided by destiny, probably to defeat your standard bad guys with the rest of the team.
As he ‘runs’ through the world, we’re introduced to about 50 different people. In case any of you have aspirations to becoming an anime director, don’t do what this OP does. It’s disorientating, and so the only thing I can possibly say about them is that they certainly don’t seem to be allies, but might not necessarily be enemies either.
One thing of note is how there seems to be a cultural crossover at some point. While previous characters take inspiration from middle eastern history, the following ones adhere more to Chinese influences, which may bring about the possibility of a wider war being waged that the main cast have to navigate through.
There is distinctions between many different factions in fact, although the roles they will play is never 100% clear. I did notice that the wizard/witch group wear the same clothes that the ‘magi’ boy is later seen in, so if he doesn’t turn to them for training at some point I’ll be shocked.
During a dream like sequence the boy falls down into a pit, and is pulled back up by arms of what could only be his two partners in crime. This is actually one of more interesting shots because of how much it reveals beyond what we already know. So at first we can say that he (at some point) has to face a challenge that requires him to overcome his shortcomings as a person, and avoid falling into darker temptations. But secondly, we have some idea of the origins of his friends. One pulls him up wearing a bejeweled bracelet, while the other wears nothing except the scars on their arm.
By the skin tone, I can guess that the lavish arm is the blond man, while the labored one belongs to the girl. While they could both still be religious figures, their history from before that point obviously deviates a lot. He likely had a noble upbringing surrounded by entitlements and excessive comforts, while she was likely a slave who had to fight to survive on a daily basis. In the sense of them reaching out to magi together, it is not improbable that the boy helped mediate their differences, and got them working towards a system that values them both equally.
Finally, the birds fly off together, making it explicit one last time what this story is about. That being three fate driven adventurers with aspirations of changing the world. Whether they stop the war, defeat the powerful agents behind it, or simply fight against the odds, it will clearly have worldwide implications in-universe.
And that’s all we have time for today folks! I hope you enjoyed this breakdown of opening themes. If you’ve watched any of these shows, please feel free to pop in and tell me how close I was. I understand there is a limit to how much you can learn from a few short clips, so I likely missed a lot of nuance, but I still tried to be as through as possible. If I have got most of the key elements right, then expect me to gloat for days. It’s only natural…
Thanks for reading!