The Kowloon Standard Date Plan and How Aquarion EVOL Continues to Show the Best Hong Kong in Animation

[gg]_Aquarion_EVOL_-_05_[8FA2AB73].mkv_snapshot_13.08_[2012.02.01_00.49.06]

[The Complete and Ultimate Post on Aquarion EVOL Episodes 1 & 2]

First, it was Neo Venezia… It’s a challenge for me to rewatch Aria the Origination now (even worse is Aria the Animation) because Aquarion Evol illustrated and animated a Neo Venezia that looks so stupefyingly pretty compared to anything Aria did with all its poignant silences, mood music, and sighing moé girls. I was actually incredulous when I read that the city was actually supposed to be based on Hong Kong.

After this episode, I’m convinced. The skyline is unmistakable. That ferry is unmistakable. You see I never got out of Southeast Asia. Outside my archipelago I’ve only been to Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. I love Hong Kong more, and by far. Kawamori Shoji used Macross Frontier Sayonara no Tsubasa – level production values to depict the backgrounds for a TV anime. This is crazy.

There are two other shows that depicted a science fiction version of Hong Kong in a real pretty way: Cowboy Bebop, and Ghost in the Shell. If you’re not easily convinced, watch Edwin Lee’s video.

No, Mobile Fighter G Gundam did NOT depict a Neo Hong Kong in a pretty way. It was butt ugly, but that’s fine. That show did not bank on looks to be its primary value. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight also has a sequence in Hong Kong, albeit focusing more on the skyscrapers than any actual immersion or exploration of the city. In any case, Aquarion EVOL’s ridiculous fifth episode succeeded in one thing, at the very least: it made me want to come back and visit.

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In Hong Kong you see building rise up from the hills and mountainsides. If you live near the top you open your window to the very face of the mountain amidst the fogs. It’s quite a thrill to take the tram up Victoria’s Peak and look out the window and see living rooms and kitchens as you go up the mountain.

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Aquarion as a franchise is distinguished by a level of cheese in its love triangles, mecha dynamics, fanservice, comedic hijinks, and hippie environmentalism far beyond Macross. It makes Macross look GRIMDARK SERIOUS in comparison. I can only take so much of it, but so far the outright prettiness of Aquarion EVOL makes it easier for me to take.

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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33 Responses to The Kowloon Standard Date Plan and How Aquarion EVOL Continues to Show the Best Hong Kong in Animation

  1. Matt Wells says:

    I read something once that described Hong Kong at night as “Like New York, but built against a mountain”. I really should go there once before I die.

    And Neo Hong Kong WAS pretty developed in G Gundam, if only because the first half of the show portrayed how much of a shithole the rest of Earth had become. It merely looked good by comparison. London in that series looked like Birmingham, Paris like Calais, and New York looked like fucking New Jersey. Against that, how could Neo Hong Kong not look good?

    • I don’t want to talk about G Gundam LOL, with all those junks that are all gone now.

      I’ve never been to New York to make that comparison, but the green hills and mountains do make for a spectacular backdrop to the skyscrapers, not to mention the ability to look DOWN on the skyline from on top of the mountain.

  2. ToastCrust says:

    Yeah, that skyline and city bisected by water, crossed by a ferry.

    Pretty unmistakeable. That is home for sure.

  3. Kherubim says:

    10000 years later and they haven’t turned HK Island (or at least the Central region) or TST into a giant pyramid? Anyway, I find that there’s more character in HK than in Singapore, despite HK being a newer city, probably due to the sterility brought about by Singaporean urban planning.

    • WhatSht says:

      Singapore is just… high rise buildings everywhere, almost everyone lives in a high rise building, the skyline looks great at night though, especially the CBD.

    • I definitely love Hong Kong a whole lot more. The character and vitality is a lot different. Also, it’s impossible to layer clothing in Singapore being right on the equator and shit. In Hong Kong come winter you can really dress up, which I love to do since Manila is is humid armpit of Satan.

      • WhatSht says:

        Wearing multiple layers of clothes in Singapore is crazy, unless you’re in the shade most of the time.

        • Yes, even in Manila it gets insane most of the time.

          Let me give you a scenario:

          “Winter” morning = rain, you wear a jacket… but by 10AM you’re getting nuked by the sun, then by midday … SOUL DRAINING HUMIDITY, by 3PM, GOD KNOCKED OVER HIS BATHTUB AND SPILLED WET FURY ON YOUR PART OF THE CITY… as soon as you travel out of it… SOUL DRAINING HUMIDITY ONCE AGAIN…

          You cry if you have to be somewhere at night instead of enjoying your second or third shower at home.

          • WhatSht says:

            Singapore has some funny weather these days, global warming messing things up, it used to be warm at night, and now, its cold, like someone switched on the air-conditioner.
            The weather seems to be the same for a few days already, the morning is perfect if its not raining, then it has a chance of raining in the afternoon, especially around 12pm, after the rain, it remains that cool for a few hours, by then, its evening already, and the temperature drops more. Some weird weather, good thing I’m staying indoors.

          • I love that kind of cool weather. I don’t want cold, I want breezy, drizzly weather.

  4. foshizzel says:

    Whoaaa mind blown! Thanks for sharing this Ghost! I would not have known it was based on a real location…And they used the same boats? Very nice! I know a few shows out there follow this using a real location and alter a few things here and there.

    • The Hong Kong ferry is an institution, lovingly remembered here. We love taking it, as it gives you a pretty awesome view of the skyline both day and night. Macross Frontier city on the other hand is a combination of Tokyo, San Francisco, and Singapore/Sydney (my theory).

  5. Tenryu says:

    FMP TSR did a pretty good job in animating Hong Kong.

    And ‘Neo Hong Kong’ in this episode seems way bigger than the actual HK its based on.

  6. Crusader says:

    It definitely looks more like Hong Kong, though most of my memory of it is 1995 vintage when it was still a British Colony. Going back for less than a day to catch a flight back home a lot of things seemed to have changed. I still have vivid memories of how many pirated Gameboy games they used to sell on the streets and how much more comfortable it felt knowing where I was going because the English signs made grammatical sense. I also remember being blown away by how many high rises they had there, but looking back they had less risk of earthquakes than here in San Francisco.

    Still watching EVOL makes me regret that my Chinese literacy has plummeted to increasing lows. From the pictures the only phrase I can recognize with certainty is New Kowloon. I hope that Kawamori keeps doing this because I will gladly throw money his way if he can make me remember the places I had visited and even places I have yet to visit.

    I just wonder if at any point Kawamori and the Satelight crew are going to insert homages to their favorite HK flicks.

    • I wish I was able to visit Colonial Hong Kong. It’s always been a place to visit (and work in) for many Filipinos.

      It’s funny how everyone there speaks to us in Cantonese first, Mandarin second when my wife and I visit. I’m only a quarter Cantonese but I suppose they mistake me for a local.

      If you want homages to awesome HK flicks you’ll see them in Cowboy Bebop.

      • Tenryu says:

        looking at your photo i’d do the same too. its mostly hard to tell if your a tourist and not chinese or don’t know chinese if your asian in Hong Kong, given that i’ve heard a foreigner speak fluent cantonese.
        Or that news reporter on TVB channel. Man can she speak canto

    • Tenryu says:

      It hasn’t changed that much, apart from new buildings and there being less ocean bewteen HK island and Kowloon, more MTR stations and lines, more cross ocean tunnels and even more places to eat if you can believe it.

      Oh and an important point due to this episode. If you want to take a ferry ride in Hong Kong i suggest you do it soon. Dwindling commuters using the service means that there are less routes. Certainly less than they had in 1995.

      My guess is that there won’t be a ferry service to and from HK and Kowloon within 5 years or there abouts.

  7. WhatSht says:

    I’m pretty sure they did research on Hong Kong before doing the animation(I would even believe that they went to Hong Kong to get the details right)
    To me, Satelight is the best studio when it comes to animating scenery porn.

    • Kawamori is good at this. After Macross Plus he attended a Con in San Francisco and promptly fell in love with it. You started seeing it in the ED of Dynamite 7, then you see Macross Frontier City is a whole lot of San Francisco.

  8. ces06 says:

    I love, and really admire the lengths and effort they go to make everything look pretty in EVOL. The show is pure eye candy. It’s refreshing to look at the mechs, the girls, and the backdrops. Watching EVOL has been a nice breather from all the serious grimdarks and all the crappy-low production value stuff out there.

    Speaking of effort, you know they’re serious when they design a font just for the show. When’s the last time that happened? SDF Macross? I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but the writings are actually readable, not gibberish. They’re just stylized latin fonts and they’re written in english. I’m too lazy to have a go at reading all of them though, lol.

    • Yes, the show is gorgeous, and not just “gorgeous for TV animation.” You can put it alongside the Macross Frontier films and it won’t look bad, at least for the episodes so far, which is comparable to a feature film length by now.

  9. Andaer says:

    If you love Hong Kong you should definitively watch old Wong Kar-Wai movies. Chunking Express and Fallen Angels are two arthouse masterpieces and sentimental homages to Hong Kong. Wish I could visit it.

  10. kevo says:

    Hong Kong is beautiful. I’m glad that you liked it as much as I did 🙂

    I find it amusing that after all these mech battles that seem to do significant damage to the city, Neo-Kowloon’s skyline (and other pan shots) still look immaculate.

  11. Vendredi says:

    Good choice with comparison shots. This episode makes the city instantly recognizable as Hong Kong for anyone who’s ever been there though – that last screencap of the many banners and billboards strung across the street is very familiar.

    Although there’s plenty of other contenders, like Singapore, Shanghai, and so forth – Hong Kong still seems to have an outsize presence as *the* Asian port city. I think it’s complex history and changing ownership gives it quite the unique reputation.

    • That’s one thing, and also while I haven’t been to Shanghai I know many people who went there and it’s crazy huge… the scale is beyond human experience to have a solid, consistent character.

      Hong Kong’s size is just perfect.

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