VOTOMS: Case; Irvine (of the Rebellion) Kind of Sucks

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For what it’s worth I think VOTOMS: Case; Irvine is a pretty accessible show that provides a fast-paced robot spectacle and lightweight grimdark melodrama. Database animals can tick off their boxes from their checklists (worldly temptress girl with big boobs, who would wear twin-tails later; moé-moé supportive little sister (Donna is the Ranka to Ishruha’s Sheryl); and the robot action fanservice comes like punches in bunches.

I think the contemporary robot anime fan who grew up enjoying Mobile Suit Gundam SEED/GSD, Gundam 00, and Code Geass will find much to enjoy in the robot battles here; which serves as an access to the kind of less-sparkly but grittier robot battles of ‘80s anime at the same time enjoy the production values that exceed most contemporary robot shows without the beam spam.

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Under this light, VCI is worth watching given that the time investment isn’t much. If you haven’t seen it and you like action, stop reading and watch it for yourself. After the jump there will be spoilers as I talk about how the show runs at odds with my own particular tastes.

[gg]_Armored_Trooper_VOTOMS_-_Case;IRVINE_(BD,1080p)_[D8B60815].mkv_snapshot_36.05_[2011.03.04_06.32.19]

SO MUCH YAKKING, SERMONIZING, & EXPOSITION WHILE SHOUTING AT EACH OTHER IN THEIR COCKPITS.

I like robot fights and I like high-tension dialogue but I don’t like them happening at the same time. Paygun was doing his best to goad Irvine to fight him. I get that. The net result is for VCI to remain so ordinary sounding like the lamest of robot battles.

In the end, we find out about the source of Irvine’s trauma because Paygun so graciously narrated it for us while he fought Irvine in their ATs. This is as contrived as the melodramatic near-simultaneous breaking of their helmets (so as to make visible their dramatic facial expressions), and the poetic justice of Paygun’s deathface awash in blood.

The Gladiatorial Arena had no protection for its live audience.

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This is the dumbest thing ever.

First, credit where it’s due: I truly, truly appreciate how VCI didn’t make Paygun hold the paying crowd hostage to force Irvine to fight him. That would be so lame. Instead he went straight to shooting at the crowd and wrecking the arena. He was transforming the game from an inauthentic spectacle (that Irvine perpetuates with his rigged fights) into an authentic battlefield where both combatants and civilians get killed. Paygun knows how to force “war is hell” into the picture.

But, seriously! While I don’t expect Gundam Fight level audience protection from the combat (Mobile Fighter G Gundam), I don’t get a sense that the crowd is even protected from stray shots! Even if there was some barrier that protects the bleachers, it was a simple matter for Paygun to breach it with conventional weapons.

Maybe there’s a better explanation how this is the case with this kind of entertain—nah, fuck it. This is the dumbest thing ever.

Shiraf fails, gets killed; but is hardly a tragedy.

[gg]_Armored_Trooper_VOTOMS_-_Case;IRVINE_(BD,1080p)_[D8B60815].mkv_snapshot_29.46_[2011.03.04_06.18.23]

Shiraf sold Irvine out and perhaps deserved to die because of it. For extra melodrama, he dies trying to save Irvine by piloting an AT to get in Paygun’s way. The thing is, at this point it’s already beyond doubt that Paygun is dangerous – nigh unbeatable by anyone except Irvine, and is armed with so many customizations and other weapons. By all means Shiraf should’ve just shot him since he had surprise on his side.

BUT NOOOOOOO. VCI isn’t a Shiraf redemption story. So Paygun has plot armor and Shiraf can only manage to find grenade bandoliers to kill Paygun with in a suicide attack (no guns!). Predictably, Paygun overwhelms Shiraf and kills him. It sucks because VCI had to show how Shiraf actually had the advantage, and all Shiraf did with it is to appeal to Paygun’s sense of morality, sympathy, sensitivity, or gullibility. This scene is so stupid.

Now what?

VC:I is a throwback to action movies from the 1980s, wherein the lead has a dark past he wants to leave behind but the bad guys force it back on to him. The result is a bunch of big fights and action set-pieces. This show, its constant yakking from within the cockpits aside, has lots of exciting action.

The ATs moved with more agility than Knightmare Frames from Code Geass, and Irvine even did a version of Kururugi Suzaku’s spin kick from that show. It does feel like Sunrise’s Code Geass team did this show (especially Lelouch : Paygun, Lloyd: Shiraf in terms of voice actors). I didn’t mind most of the ridiculous moves that made the robots seem more like super heroes than fighting weapons even though I do feel that this is a big departure from what makes the VOTOMS franchise appeal to its older fanbase.

The melodrama, being aligned with the tradition of cheesy 80s action movies won’t win over many viewers except perhaps irony-fetishists and/or nostalgiafaggertroopers. It is however, not without things to appreciate.

It’s an authenticity angle: Paygun wants the gladiator set-up to have the legitimacy and feel of a real battle. This is why he kills his enemies. Without the real threat of death for the loser, it’s not real battle. Irvine tolerates the gladiator set-up because it’s just a (role-playing) game where in he gets to play the loser and nobody has to die.

Paygun takes Irvine’s approach as an insult because Irvine is clearly a foe with skills worth beating. In Paygun’s value system Irvine is someone worth getting killed by. Irvine wants to run away from his survivor’s guilt – he killed friends, foes, and the children of his foes (they were firing RPGs at him) and wants no further part of Paygun’s dangerous indulgences.

So yes, VCI kind of sucks, but it doesn’t totally suck. I don’t know if the gamble to appeal to contemporary robot fans will pay off – or if going about things this way is the best course of action. I don’t think this show will fulfill the aspirations of the core fanbase, and if the younger viewers don’t feel compelled to watch the older fare, I would be more than tempted to think of this show as a failure.

BUT, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy a robot show like this exists and I enjoyed it in my own way. I am not as averse to mediocre anime as most people claim they are.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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22 Responses to VOTOMS: Case; Irvine (of the Rebellion) Kind of Sucks

  1. Hums says:

    “The Gladiatorial Arena had no protection for its live audience.”

    Did you even watch the original series? Half the excitement, as we’re told, comes from the stray shots into the crowd. Of course that’s when the fighters aren’t going kill crazy. Me being a nit-picky nerd aside I do agree with most of your points. Though, I came to different opinion in that I liked what I saw.

    • I think that’s extremely dumb, as it makes for collecting bets and the like ridiculous (winning tickets lost), not to mention needlessly decimating your own target market. As far as I know, the arenas aren’t altruistic enterprises existing for the entertainment of the masses.

      I’m 32 episodes into the TV series, and I may have attempted to take it far too seriously. It really can’t be for the most part, as much as I like Chirico, Fyanna, and the gang.

      In any case, I don’t actively dislike VCI, I just don’t think it’s beyond ordinary.

  2. Jack says:

    Well, in the original VOTOMS it wasn’t a problem because you never had melodramatic Code Geass style villains in the arena. Maybe they were bastards or kind of stupid, but they where never so ridiculous.

    I won’t repeat too many of the complaints I’ve mentioned elsewhere but I do feel the Irvine’s “moral code” needs to be addressed.

    Irvine doesn’t want to fight and kill people because of his ‘past trauma’, he doesn’t want to murder people. Which is fine, I suppose. Until Paygan starts indiscriminately killing everyone in the arena. Irvine lets all those people die because of his warped world view, even though nearly every culture in the world wouldn’t consider “self-defence” murder.

    It would be justified if he killed Paygan right there and then. But he doesn’t. He let’s Paygan kill all those people even though he has the skill to stop him.

    Of course, right after that fight there’s a huge continuity problem. Paygan and Irvine are duelling in the arena and then the very next shot is Irvine, with the agent, driving away from the arena in his truck with Paygan right behind them. How did that happen?

    Did Paygan stop shooting Irvine long enough for him to go back to his truck, open it up, carefully store his Scopedog, close his truck and then drive away before he started attacking them again?

    • Hums says:

      Running away from the maniac with heavy weaponry is a completely valid form of self-defense; what sick and twisted world view do you have that encourages people to shot it out in a crowded setting?

      • Jack says:

        Well, they are in an arena where people come to watch robots attack each other with heavy weaponry. Irvine is as well armed as Paygun, he has no need to flee.

        Fighting in a city or some other environment where non-combatants are present is very common in robot shows. The heroes often don’t have much of a choice about the matter and so they have to fight knowing that they might cause additional casualties. Soldiers can’t politely ask terrorists to leave a city so that they can fight some where safe. You have to work where you have to work.

        For all Irvine knows, Paygun could run around destroying half of the city and killing hundreds of people if left on his own, because he’s totally crazy.

        However, if Irvine had been paying attention he would have noticed that Paygun has little interest in killing others. All he’s ever wanted to do is have a “real” fight with Irvine and defeat him. If Irvine had accepted earlier then no-one else would have got hurt. Irvine’s unexplainable pacifism prevented that from happening.

        • Hums says:

          First stop calling it pacifism. Pacifism is a choice made by people not to fight. Irvine very clearly has psychological issues driving his actions.

          Second the first thing any competent self defense instructor will tell you is to if at all possible remove yourself from the situation. Also you are no more responsible for the actions of others than you are for the rain coming from the sky. You say “he has no need to flee” like Irvine is some kind of gung ho action hero when his directly set up not to be.

          Then again I guess you would totally hopped into an AT and kicked Paygun’s ass because that’s just how you roll.

    • I don’t think Irivine is acting on moral grounds but rather manifesting a psychological hang-up in a big way. He doesn’t want people to die, but that’s not what I think inhibits him to fight — it’s something more like a sickness due to the shock (as far as we can speculate re PSTD). He may sound like he’s acting on principle, but it could very well be that he’s really gypped.

      But I understand how difficult it is to give contemporary Sunrise anime the benefit of the doubt with regards to forcing a pacifist “war is evil” message into its narratives, so it’s not invalid to question Irvine’s moral behavior. I just don’t personally think there’s much to gain doing so.

      Plot convenience is the easiest way to answer the latter concern (I didn’t say it’s a satisfying answer LOL). I personally am still wondering if the girls were in the same truck, which was flung in the air at some point.

  3. Camario says:

    For the sale of the record, one of the mechanical animator directors (Kiyoaki Maeda) and one of the mecha designers (Kenji Teraoka) from Code Geass (and they both worked on Gundam 00, while we’re at it) are listed as working on this OVA but the rest of the creative staff -including the director and the writer- have no such background or connection (the choice of voice actors is really just a coincidence as they’re not part of any so-called “team” as it was apparently suggested).

    In other words, the proper blame and credit should be assigned where it is due, particularly in this day where staff listings aren’t difficult to come across.

    Ironically enough, I’d say that much was a good thing because the mecha battles were actually the best part here. They were pretty detailed and generally well done, even if also more acrobatic than the usual Votoms stuff. Then again, these are supposed to be customized machines for flashy gladiatorial fighting after all and we don’t have any specific frame of reference in terms of chronology…or anything else for that matter. It’s set somewhere in the Votoms universe at an undetermined point in time. Technology (or, for that matter, animation techniques) isn’t supposed to be forever static.

    But still, this isn’t exactly a new criticism either, considering similar comments have been made about the other “new” Votoms productions (including the ones where the robots are all 3-D CG and not even drawn), compared to how ATs originally moved and even sounded back in the day , in the TV show and its own immediate spin-offs.

    As for the story and characters, they were predictable and not very interesting. Which is, in my mind, perhaps the worst possible sin for a melodramatic production. Code Geass, for all its flaws and for all the exaggerated hate it gets, was more compelling in the first 50 minutes than this, but I suppose that’s still an unfair comparision considering one’s a TV series and the other’s an OVA. But you know, if there really had been an “of the Rebellion” story involved here instead of what we got….I would have been more enthusiastic about it. As thing stand, I don’t blame it for being a flawed production or for being melodramatic but simply for being boring and mediocre.

    Though one good thing is that at the very least in Case Irvine is continuing to move away from the sickly obssession with further complicating and retconing Chirico’s past and future for no real purpose, an overly restrictive legacy which was plauged the Votoms franchise from the beginning as even the most hardcore fans should be able to acknowledge, at the very least, if only grudgingly .

    • Camario says:

      Oops, didn’t notice I had a few typos up there. My apologies.

    • Thanks for the production details (never an important enough pursuit for me, though I appreciate it when others make the effort).

      Yes, the battles were well animated and effort was made to make them interesting. Anything further is subject to the whims of personal taste.

      Having not consumed the other shows in the franchise beyond 32 eps of the original TV series, I’ve little reaction to make re your concluding point, though I think I see the value in it.

  4. Kaioshin Sama says:

    This may be the most difficult to follow article I’ve ever seen you publish in your current era of blogging that I’m not as in sync with but damn if it doesn’t make Irvine sound interesting. I need to get on this shit….like tonight.

    • Simple:

      1. I don’t think this show is good.
      2. There are still things about it to appreciate.
      3. In the end I’m glad it exists.
      4. There are some people who may like it a lot, for some of the reasons I’ve stated (and that’s cool).

      • Gorilla says:

        Totally agree with the 1,2,3,4 but I ‘d prefer watching Case Irvine than 2 episodes of the original series, at this point.
        It’s a mecha anime in the right direction and still better than some of the ova /m/ glorifies.

        • If I’m honest I’ll look forward to more Irvine-like fare from the franchise than actually finishing the rest of the TV series. As much as Irvine bored me (more so in the rewatch with friends), the original TV series bored me a lot as well.

          What would you say is the right direction? And do say more about what you mean re OVA /m/ glorifies.

          • Kaioshin Sama says:

            So that’s why you’re dodging the simul-watch with me. I had a hunch that your penchant for specific battle portrayals might be getting in the way again. Man that….kind of sucks honestly cause the show is pretty damn good if viewed in an “it was the 80’s” sort of fashion.

            Anyway so I checked out Irvine and it was alright. A quick distraction and an interesting concept that might go somewhere if they decide to turn it into a TV series or something. I’m reasonably sure the one shot OVA was a test to see if there’s an audience for it so DVD/BD sales will likely tell the fortune of Sunrise’s experiment with the VOTOMS name.

            Things I liked included the combat which varied from enclosed arena style close quarters fighting to run and gun chase sequences, Jun Fukuyama’s portrayal of Paygun (because when you need a little ham and cheese in your role there’s no better choice), The intrigue surrounding Irvine’s past, and the fact that even though the character designs were clearly by the Mai Hime designer that they still somehow managed to not look completely alien to what I’d expect from Votoms. Also the references to Votoms such as the perfect soldier like nature of Irvine and the red rain in what I’m assuming is a rebuilt Woodo City were neat.

            Things I didn’t like were the little sister character who seems written in at the last second and meant to appeal to a certain crowd (perhaps a necessary sacrifice to broaden VOTOMS appeal but nonetheless an uninteresting and annoying character), the laziness of the animation at points (there’s a surprising use of speed lines here) and the sheer overkill of the melodrama during Irvine’s scene with his sister where she convinces him to finally go fight the insane madman that’s trying to kill them all (I’m sure myself chortling when Irvine went all bug eyed was not the reaction they were going for).

            As for the plot, I kind of want to learn more about what Irvine and Paygun’s deal was and felt that they might have been better served keeping Paygun alive if they have any plans to continue this. He makes for a good seemingly unstoppable and undeniable antagonist and seems kind of like Irvine’s counterpart. If I had to guess at his past, I’d say Paygun went through a similar experience to Irvine but learned to embrace his darker nature during the war (possibly the war that picked up again after the end of the VOTOMS TV series?) and fell in love with the idea of fighting on the edge of life and death while Irvine tried to do everything to deny it and ended up suffering pretty much the same amount of trauma in the end as a result of letting Paygun go on a rampage, basically showing that he was more or less trapped in the same kind of hell that Chirico was. Paygun essentially won in the end I would say because he got to do everything he wanted, while Irvine HAD to do and witness everything that he never wanted to see or do again as a result.

            Irvine and Paygun kind of completed each other in a way in just these 40 short minutes (the show could have excised the sister character and probably the agent character and been all the more interesting for it by simply focusing on the psychological and philosophical duel between the two) and it leaves me to wonder if now that he’s dead there’s really anything they could do to continue the Case;Irvine concept and make it interesting.

            I guess we’ll see where this all leads.

          • Not dodging the simul-watch — I’m really never online at my usual time and I’ll have even less time due to more work. So apart from enjoying a saturday hanging out with 1337 robot fans with a home theater setup, I haven’t been able to watch shows from my backlog apart from the odd E7 rewatch.

            This actually makes your comment on the lack of musical triumphs telling. We had marathoned Broken Blade in that home theater set-up and marveled at the excellent score, and found ourselves quite bored with Irvine (a rewatch for me at that point).

  5. Kaioshin Sama says:

    Oh I completely forgot to mention that there were no memorable musical cues which for a Sunrise series is pretty damn disappointing. Part of the reason I find it so easy to slip into the atmosphere of shows they produce is that the music is usually really good at complementing the cinematography and IMO really good in general. Good music in my entertainment is probably as important to being fully engaged as having the right type of battles is for ghostlightning. It’s just one of those personal preferences I suppose.

  6. Gorilla says:

    Right direction= What you described in your post on THAT.
    Actually what I want from mecha anime is simple, yet engaging stories, with a likeable cast and good battles.
    And I want no kids in the spaceships. I want no kids hijacking the Gundam. I want punishment if the kid sorties or does something he wasn’t ordered to do, so the one time he disobeys orders means something. I want some realism not necessarily in the battles, but in the faction and the setting. Guerillas are guerillas, the army is the army, space pirates are space pirates etc.
    I want mecha anime to be sci-fi stories in space. And war stories.
    Star Driver isn’t in the right direction. Unicorn is.

    Glorifies may be the wrong word. But I find that sometimes /m/ overhypes many olders shows just because they are old and have no pretty boys.

    • While I think Star Driver owns, I don’t think it should be what future shows aspire to be. It’s its own flamboyant peacock of a show, replete with Nagano Mamoru designs in high heels.

      So yes, I think we’re very much in agreement. Unicorn is the way to go, and GOD MAI OH the subs should be out soon for episode THREEEEEEEEEEE

      ahem, yes I also think /m/orons try way too hard to make these ’80s shows the best thing ever just because they don’t have elements of the contemporary shows.

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