Thursday, October 4, 2012

Science Fiction and Anime Connections (サイエンスフィクションとアニメの接続)

Classic Sci Fi Rocketship  Flickr / sandwichgirl
I read up on the history of anime as I'm fascinated by how popular it is and its impact on Japanese culture and the western world.  The Japanese cultural influence on anime, the things that make it uniquely Japanese, are also fascinating too.  Then you throw science fiction (SF or サイエンス·フィクション ) into the mix for some real fun.  Otherwise, anime would just be about everyday life (or maybe just high-school hijinks) or almost normal everyday life if it isn't just plain fantasy (based off medieval Japan or the Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons).
With science fiction, something that isn't unique to the western world, anime really opens up.  There has been much cross-fertilization between east and west for both ideas and themes and not just from science fiction. Ideas have bounced one way then the other way (to the benefit of the audience!).  I'm not going to trace the history of this, but you could write a pretty darn long book about it. Examples sharing ideas include:
  • Star Wars - C3PO and R2D2 were based on characters from the samurai move The Hidden Fortress. George Lucas was influenced by the Akira Kurosawa films.
  • The big eyed style of animation originated with Disney but it is a staple of manga and anime that was rediscovered by the west.
  • The movie Battle Beyond the Stars is based off of the Magnificent Seven, and even further back, The Seven Samurai. Then there was the anime SF remake Samurai 7.
  • Akira was influenced by Blade Runner, and Ghost in the Shell was influenced by both of these, and the Matrix probably looked at all of these movies.
  • William Gibson was quoted as saying "... Modern Japan simply was cyberpunk..."  Eastern reality here influenced the creation of western cyberpunk.
Having said all this, examples of SF in anime include robots like Astroboy, and Gigantor in the early days of anime.  Alien invasions, dystopian, cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic visions of the future are especially well represented in SF anime.  There are even futuristic science fiction with space colonies and even more robots in space such as the popular Gundam franchises.  There's a great deal to like about this facet of anime as it visually presents SF in a manner that still doesn't really get portrayed that well in Western SF movies and TV.

Also see 10 Visual Motifs that American SF Borrowed From Anime at IO9! 
and How Disney Created Manga at Escapist

In Japanese anime you have big robots or mecha (who doesn't like big robots?) but the worlds they operate in have the high-tech ideas that I like in them.  These are ideas such as space academies, orbital elevators, space colonies in the form of O'Neill Cylinders, etc.  Western SF shows such as the Star Trek franchises and Babylon 5 are really good but these tend to be the exceptions.

Space Elevator    Flickr / FlyingSinger
While the Gundam franchise had a lot to do with selling model kits the end product turned out pretty influential on Japanese mecha anime. Gundam had spaceships, space colonies, solar power satellites, orbital elevators, and more.  I've pretty much liked all of the Gundam series I've seen, especially the later Gundam Seed and Gundam 00 series which were reboots of the franchise.

I'm also writing military science fiction that tries to blend the best of both hard SF and anime mecha elements in my Exocrisis Blue series of stories.  You can head over to my author's blog over here if you are interested in stories about an alien invasion and high tech weapons including mechas called HARMs.  The stories are published as ebooks for the Amazon Kindle and have received good reviews and I hope you'll like them too.

There are many more wonderful SF anime and I'll list a bunch here along with some SF categories and western SF analogues. And it goes without say, this isn't an exhaustive or maybe even the best cataloged list.  Most of the anime have been released in North America at some point, and of course the books / movies are available over here as they are "western".  I haven't included Japanese science fiction novels in general as I don't know much about them, but would love to know more one day.

Alien Invasion
This category is much like the Dystopia category.  Most Japanese anime seem to happen after the invasion which causes a massive apocalypse so I'm going to put them in the post apocalypse grouping. For example, Neon Genesis Evangelion will be classified under post apocalypse.
  • East -> Strike Witches - an alternate WWII with moe anthropomorphizations of military airplanes fighting against the Neuroi.  You have to like some moe to enjoy this with the first season having much less fan service than the second season (I didn't like season two as much at all). 
  • East -> Sky Girls - Invaded by space organisms called the WORM and girls in skimpy outfits pilot mechs to fight them.
  • East -> Stratos IV - Girls and Boys fly fighters to intercept meteors from space, or are they just meteors?
  • East ->  Gunparade March.  Giant mechs verses poisonous bugs.
  • East -> Could I fit Godzilla movies in here? There are space monsters at least.
  • West -> The Day the Earth Stood Still - even though they came in peace and it was our fault.
  • West -> War of the Worlds - the classic novel by H.G. Wells! The 50's movie was good too.
  • West -> Battle L.A. - thought this was pretty good.
  • West -> Independence Day Movie - big mothership.
  • West -> Footfall Novel - we get beat bad but make a comeback!
  • West -> The High Crusade Novel - aliens meet knights
  • West -> Worldwar Series of Novels - what if the aliens attacked during World War II?
  • West -> Looking Glass Novel Series (legally free download at 5th Imperium) Support these authors!
  • West -> Posleen War Novel Series (legally free download at 5th Imperium) Support these authors!
Space Opera / Epic Galactic Empire
  • East -> Crest of Stars / Banner of Stars
  • East -> Heroic Age
  • East -> Toward the Terra 
  • East -> Gunbuster
  • East -> Gurren Lagaan. Kind of starts out post-apocalyptic after an alien invasion then turns into over the top space opera with big mechs.
  • West -> Space Above and Beyond
  • West -> Star Wars Franchise
  • West -> The Fifth Element 
  • West -> Forbidden Planet
  • West -> Earthclan Novels - we uplifted the primates and dolphins.
  • West -> Foundation Trilogy
  • West -> The Lost Fleet Novels
  • West -> Honor Harrington Novels (legally free download at 5th Imperium) Support these authors!
  • West -> Night's Dawn Trilogy and Commonwealth Saga (this one even has space trains!)
  • West -> The Stars At War Novels (legally free download at 5th Imperium) Support these authors!
  • West -> Star Trek Franchise, Original Trek, STNG, Voyager, DS9
  • West -> Stargate Movie, Stargate SG-1 TV Series.
  • West -> Andromeda
  • West -> Firefly
  • West -> Farscape
  • West -> Babylon 5
  • West -> Jack Vance world building novels in The Alastor Cluster Series, Taschai Planet of Adventure, Dying Earth, The Demon Princes.
 Mecha Action (Near Future and Far Future)
  • East -> Flag - U.N. Peacekeeping Mecha
  • East -> Full Metal Panic - my favourite near future battle mecha show - more like Gundams with the ARX-7 Arbalest. Go Mithril!
  • East -> Gasaraki - battle mechs
  • East -> Code Geass - Britannia has conquered most of the world and Japan is a subjugated Area 11.  Heavy use of mechas called Knightmare Frames (nice name as English royalty is still around).
  • East -> Macross - we find alien technology and use it.  JPOP start with Lin Min Mei
  • East -> Patlabor - construction, police, and battle mecha
  • East -> Rideback - transforming motorcycles.
  • East -> Bubblegum Crisis - powered battle suits (much like the Starship Troopers novel)
  • West -> Aliens - Powerloader
  • West -> Bolo novels - These are big cybernetic tanks that can attack orbital targets. Some are even called "continental siege units." The Ogre games probably had some inspiration from this source.
  • West -> Avatar - Powersuit or Amp Suit
  • West -> District 9- Alien Mech
  • West -> Robocop - ED109
  • West -> Saturn 5 - Bad Robot
  • West -> Stealth - Robot Fighter
Space Academy
  • East -> Stellvia - I like this space academy the best.
  • East -> Infinite Ryvius - lost in space on a big ship
  • West -> Space Academy Series
  • West -> Starship Troopers - boot camp and mobile infantry power armour
  • West -> Ender's Game - battle school
  • West -> Tunnel in the Sky - survival game
Post Apocalyptic
The Japanese stuff seems to involve a lot of mecha. Zombie and other undead apocalypses not allowed here.

  • East -> Aquarion.  Hero that has a sensitive nose and mecha that combine for different abilities.
  • East -> Appleseed.  Shirow's techie future universe (dystopian and post-apocalyptic).
  • East -> Argentosoma.  What is it that is strange about our mechs?
  • East -> Blue Gender - invaded by bugs.
  • East -> Blue Submarine No. 6
  • East -> Fafner.  People said this was an Evangelion clone, but it was pretty good.
  • East -> Final Fantasy The Spirits Within.  Sad movie with amazing CG for the time, but I didn't mind it unlike many reviewers.
  • East -> Freedom - set on a lunar colony to start.
  • East -> Neon Genesis Evangelion and the Rebuild of Evangelion Movies.  This is my favourite giant mecha series with giant alien monsters to fight around Tokyo III.  How many times does Tokyo have to get destroyed?
  • East -> Rahxephon. Probably my next favourite apocalypse mecha show after Evangelion.  Great art, Tokyo Jupiter, and mecha designs make this show better than most.  The movie version was quite good too with a nice spin on the original series, which is unusual.
  • East -> Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Miyazaki
  • East -> Origin: Spirits of the Past - happens way after the collapse.
  • East -> Zegapain - quantum computers are involved and along with mecha. The concept behind this series was pretty good - almost original.
  • East -> Tideline Blue
  • East -> Disaster movies. E.g. Japan Sinks!
  • West -> Disaster movies.  E.g. Deep Impact, Armageddon, Meteor, 2012
  • West -> Damnation Alley Movie / Book
  • West -> Mad Max, The Road Warrior
  • West -> The Ember Novels - juvenile fiction, but I really liked the first book. I liked the movie too.
  • West -> Emergence Novel
  • West -> The Postman Novel.  The movie was kind a bleah, kind of like Waterworld which was more fun and campy.
  • West -> Empire of the East Novel
  • West -> Lucifer's Hammer Novel
  • West -> Terminator Salvation
  • West -> Shiva Descending Novel. Memorable scene where they launch a Saturn V while the maddened doomsday cult horde overruns the NASA perimeter to try and stop it.
  • West -> Malevil - after the war.
  • West -> Fall of Northgap (Pelbar Cycle) - long after the war.
  • West -> Mad Max Movies
  • West -> Terminator Movies (pre and post I guess).
  • West -> Vault of the Ages Novel
  • West -> Wall-E Movie
  • West -> Role-Playing Games - Twilight 2000, Gamma World, The Morrow Project
  • West -> Lots and lots of bad movies / books.  Lots of good ones too.
This is a tough category for anime.  Most of the anime that have attributes in this category I would lump under post apocalyptic as many of the dystopias start after the great 'pocalyps!
  • East -> Appleseed Movies - great CG animation and future world.
  • East -> Battle Angel Alita - famous, but I haven't seen it.
  • East -> Battle Royal - Japanese teens are randomly chosen to battle to the death as a lesson.
  • East -> Bubblegum Crisis - great powered armour suits, rock and roll and a big bad corporation.
  • East -> Burst Angel - girls, guns, mecha and a big bad corporation.
  • East -> Dominion Tank Police - pre-Ghost in the Shell hijinks for Shirow.
  • East -> Ergo Proxy
  • East -> Ghost in the Shell - more cyberpunk / Neuromancer / Snow Crash than dystopia though. One of my big favourites, and the anime series are excellent too.
  • East -> Technolyze
  • West -> The Hunger Games (Running Man type scenario)
  • West -> The Windup Girl - biotech gone ridiculously bad.
  • West -> Bladerunner
  • West -> 1984 - novel and movie
  • West -> Brave New World 
  • West -> Gattaca - I think I worked here once...
  • West -> Logan's Run - "Run Runner!"
  • West -> Matrix - our world is fake we are all being farmed for power.
  • West -> We
Space Future
  • East -> Cowboy Bebop - this series is just really good.
  • East -> Geneshaft - genetic engineering and a society mostly composed of women.
  • East -> Gundam Franchise. I like Gundam Seed and Gundam 00 the best!
  • East -> Kiddy Grade - terrible title, but some good solid SF fun with spaceships, mechas, and earth to space launch catapults.
  • East -> Macross  Plus (and the Macross Frontier series) More wonderful JPOP and great transforming mecha / fighters.
  • East -> Planetes - a realistic space anime where you are cleaning up orbital trash
  • East -> Robotech.
  • East -> Space Battleship Yamato.  This could fall under post apocalyptic too, but most of it happens in space.
  • East -> Starship Operators.  This was like a really solid piece of SF anime that I quite like.  It is like a spaceship on spaceship duel with different weapon systems each episode.
  • East -> Xenosaga- from the videogame.
  • East -> Yukikaze Novel and Anime - combating aliens on their turf with advanced fighter aircraft
  • West -> 2001 A Space Odyssey - Open the pod bay doors HAL...
  • West -> Space 1999.  Still like the Eagle Transporters and the HAWK fighters.
  • West -> Earth II TV series - colonization of an alien world.
  • West -> Rendevous With Rama
  • West -> The Songs of Distant Earth
  • West -> The Mote in Gods Eye
  • West -> Gateway Novels
  • West -> Integral Trees
  • West -> Ringworld Novels
  • West -> Another ringworld with HALO and Master Chief. Fall of the Reach was awesome!
  • West -> Thousands of books more... too many to count. I'm sure there are plenty of Japanese novels too, but I haven't read them.
  • East -> Aria Anime/Manga - its a wonderful life on a terraformed Mars (love this series - no violence whatsoever) 
  • East -> Martian Successor Nadesico
  • East -> Mars Daybreak
  • East -> Zone of Enders.  Idolo had some awesome mecha combat scenes.
  • West -> Doom Movie - shudder... not sure I should include this. However, there was a paperback novel called DOOM Knee-Deep in the Dead that I found very entertaining and true to the original games.
  • West -> Red Planet Movie
  • West -> Total Recall Movie
  • West -> Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars Novels
  • West -> I should be able to name more, but a Google search indicates I actually haven't read too many Mars novels - more short stories.
  • East -> Steamboy
  • East -> Sakura Wars
  • West -> Anubis Gates Novel
  • West -> Morlock Night Novel
  • West -> The Difference Engine Novel
  • West -> 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Time Travel
  • East -> The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
  • East -> Returner - actually live action, but one of the better movies out there.
  • East -> Zipang- send a modern Japanese Aegis Missile Destroyer back in time to the WWII Pacific Theater.
  • West ->  Terminator I &II.
  • West -> Back to the Future
  • West -> The Time Machine - the novel and all of the Time Machine movies (at least 2 I think - the 50's one is better).
  • West -> The Final Countdown - send a nuclear aircraft carrier back in time to the WWII Pacific Theater.
  • West -> Timerider. Low budget, but really well done time travel western.
  • West -> Anything with Dr. Who. Tom Baker was my favourite doctor.  Jelly Baby?
  • West -> Way too many other movies and books.
Lost Colony World or Ship / This is Earth?
  • East -> Code Geass - definitely an alternate Earth where Japan has been conquered by Britannia.
  • East -> Eureka 7 - I'll let you figure this out - kind of a spoiler if you haven't seen it.
  • East -> Last Exile - I'll let you figure this out - kind of a spoiler if you haven't seen it.
  • East -> Samurai 7- the city is a big crashed ship.
  • East -> Scrapped Princess - I actually really like this series.  Again, I'll let you figure this out as it is a bit of a spoiler.
  • East -> Xam'd - alternate Earth I think, but I could be wrong.
  • West -> Planet of the Apes - "You blew it up!"
  • West -> Starlost
  • West -> Hull Zero Three Novel
Giant Robot
This genre is usually over the top crazy.  Pilots announce their attacks like a Hong Kong Kung Fu movie.

  • East -> Astroboy - little robo?
  • East -> Mazinger / Mazinkaiser
  • East -> Giant Robo
  • East -> Gunbuster
  • East -> Gurren Lagaan
  • West -> Iron Giant - at least we got one good one.

I like anime, but the end of the day, for technology driven SF there is only one place to go - novels by British and American writers who basically invented and own the genre (think Ringworld, A Fire Upon the Deep, Starship Troopers or Foundation).  No other media gives the richness of ideas and narrative like that.  While there are important Japanese writers in the genre, I think media domination belongs to the west, just like Hollywood dominates the movies for now.

Other Six Favourite Anime Posts
I've also written some mecha anime inspired SF. It has received some good reviews. Visit here if you are interested.  I could always use some community support from anime fans!

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