By Michaele Jordan: Yes, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving, thank you. I hope you did, too.
But – I blush to admit – I spent a great deal of it in a happy huddle with cousins significantly less than half my age. Like pretty much everybody else, we were talking about our favorite TV shows (having done little but watch TV during the pandemic). And my fellow adults just don’t seem to appreciate my beloved animé. So, if you’ll permit me, I’d like to preach a little, please.
If you’re not a fan, then there’s a real chance you have no idea how much range animé encompasses. And I’m not even talking about the entire range of kid shows, sit-coms and drama. (I’m aware there may be limits to your tolerance. I’m talking about the range within SF/F. Let’s consider just three examples.
We’ll start with The Dragon Prince, created by Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond, and animated by Bardel Entertainment. It’s very accessible and reasonably well known.
The Dragon Prince (or after the 4th season launched, renamed as The Mystery of Aaravos) is classic high fantasy. There are elves and (of course) dragons. There are kings and mages, good guys and bad guys, and numerous forms of magic. It’s clean, and simple enough to share with the kids – if they’re old enough to watch sequels to Lord of the Rings, then they’ll be fine with Dragon Prince. There’s even a kid major character, and a fair amount of humor.
But I promise it’s not so childish that it will bore the grown-ups. It’s an excellent show. Rather than spending millions on special effects, they’ve invested in quality animation – every frame is eye-catching. And it’s well written – the story does not break down under careful examination. And it’s right there on Netflix. Please give it a try.
Next we have Exception, (or e∞ception, as it says in the titles). It’s based on an original story by Hirotaka Adachi with character designs by Yoshitaka Amano, and directed by Yūzō Satō. It is pure SF, and pretty hard SF, at that. It’s also dark. Very dark.
The story revolves around a pre-colonization team sent to prepare a planet for terra-forming. There are only five of them, but their ship is enormous. You almost wonder how they find their way around, because they haven’t been living on it very long.
The ship made most of its very long journey on automatic. Only when it neared their destination did it print (yes, I said print!) bodies for the crew and implant their memories and personalities, which were recorded back on earth.
And that’s where the trouble starts. For reasons unknown, one of the bodies misprints. The resulting person is so malformed it does not look human. But it is alive. It almost immediately shows signs of mental derangement. The rest of the crew has no idea how to handle the situation. Should they just kill the monster and reprint their friend? But once it has recovered from its disorientation, it becomes evident that it is intelligent, if not entirely rational. So wouldn’t killing it be murder? A moot question. They can’t catch it. So they go ahead and reprint their friend, who emerges normal.
That’s just the beginning. This is an edge-of-your seat story, highlighted with creepy, angular imagery. Check it out – it’s on Netflix
So, having taken you all the way from high-hearted fantasy to SF horror, what can I possibly offer that is not simply somewhere between them? Easy! I’ll transform that line into a triangle with a tale of gleeful nonsense: The Tatami Time Machine Blues. It’s based on a novel by Tomihiko Morimi. Sources inform me that it is a sequel (of sorts) to The Tatami Galaxy, a show I’ve never heard of, from twelve years ago. (I’m looking for it. Haven’t found it yet.)
The story is ridiculously simple but endlessly convoluted. In a small, crowded apartment during a brutally hot summer, a gang of students loses the remote to the air conditioner! Then they find a time machine, and decide to go back in time to find it. Except won’t that change the past? And wouldn’t that destroy the future! Trust me, friends, this show is hilarious. It’s on Hulu.