FIGURE 17 is a recent anime TV series currently being fansubbed by AnimeCo.
Executive summary: Charming, slow-paced story of a shy girl growing up in rural Hokkaido... who in her spare time fights monsters after becoming transformed into a superheroine by merging with her alien twin. Huh? Well done and enjoyable, but a rather odd show.
This is a charming, but very odd show. It seems almost like two completely different shows, an anime odd couple sharing the same house, but having nothing in common. Part of this show is a gentle, Miyazaki-like tale of Tsubasa, a shy 8-year-old girl. She has moved from Tokyo to rural Hokkaido with her father because of his job; her mother is apparently dead. Tsubasa is having trouble dealing with her new surroundings, the loneliness of separation from her old friends and difficulties making new ones, the frequent absence of her father because of work responsibilities, and the usual peer group frictions among her class at school. Tsubasa must grow up, learn to work as a member of a team, and cultivate her own strengths, standard bildungsroman stuff, with a Japanese flavor. In addition, we get a strong feeling for the beautiful surroundings in which she finds herself, and the immediate presence of Nature in the lives of everyone in the town.
One night a light passes over her house, and her dog runs after it. Tsubasa chases after the dog, finds a crashed UFO, and is attacked by a rather dumb-looking monster (see below). By chance, she comes in contact with a vial of...something...which transforms her into a muscular superwoman (see below), and the monster is handily defeated. But when the vial of something wears off, instead of becoming a proper vial again, it becomes a doppelganger of Tsubasa, a girl who calls herself Hikaru. Hikaru has all of Tsubasa's memories, but is a distinct personality: in a way, she's an idealized Tsubasa: lacking her shyness, fearless, curious, ready to take on the world. She becomes Tsubasa's personal cheerleader, and helps her deal with the challenges in her life.
I've only watched four episodes of this (I think there are twelve or thirteen total), but I'm enjoying it so far. One of the most amusing parts of the show is that Hikaru's bildungsroman, her conflicts with her classmates and her growing pains, is being given more attention than the story of how she fights aliens. In one episode, she is having trouble playing a team-oriented schoolyard game something like basketball (see picture below), mainly because of a lack of courage to stand up for herself and challenge others. Through her battle with the alien-of-the-week, she discovers she is capable of being aggressive, and goes on to master the challenge and win the game for her team. Wellington said famously that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. Figure 17 tells us that the cricket matches of Eton were won on the battlefield of Waterloo. It turns the conventional version on its head. It's quite hilarious, once you realize what's going on.
Now, this isn't exactly new, in a way. Anime shows often use fights with monsters and aliens to symbolize inner conflicts and struggles. Figure 17 is just more explicit about it. In fact, I wonder if the whole doppleganger/fighting aliens thing won't turn out in the end to have just been Tsubasa's fantasy life, that she conjured up to help her cope with her emotionally difficult circumstances. Sort of like Eros and Muse to Silky.
No, it probably won't. But on some level, clearly that's what's going on in this show.
There are other unusual aspects to Figure 17. The format, for one, which as you can see from the screen caps is 16:9. And the length. The fansubs run about 45 minutes, indicating the original show probably ran for an hour, a very unusual length for TV animation. The alien monsters, as I mentioned, aren't very impressive, and look dumb rather than threatening. We get no insight into their motives or meaning, they're just cardboard villains. The fighting sequences are only so-so. The character design is good, the animation is satisfactory, but not as good as the best of other recent shows like Juuni Kokki or Princess Tutu. I get the impression that the show was designed an choreographed by people who weren't used to doing action shows. The rural settings are well done, and quite different from the usual urban Tokyo setting of so much anime. The music is very good, the OP song, 'Boy' and accompanying animation are wonderful.
I'm enjoying this odd show, I'll be watching it to the end. You might like it, too.
|Lame lookin' monster.
|Who are you? And why do you look exactly like me? And why
aren't you wearing any clothes?
|All my fighting of Earth-threatening aliens has only been preparation for this moment of challenge in the schoolyard!|
meaning: mix, exchange
交通 == koutsuu == transportation, traffic
交番 == kouban == police box
|Originally a pictograph of a person sitting with crossed legs. 'Crossing' gave rise to meanings such as 'mix', 'intermingle', etc. Henshall suggest taking this character as 'six' (六), and a cross, and as a mnemonic: 'Mix six crosses.'|
meaning: people, populace
市民 == shimin == citizen (of a town)
国民 == kokumin == citizen (of a country)
|Origin obscure. Henshall suggests taking it as a 'more substantial' version of 'clan' (氏), as a mnemonic: 'Populace is more substantial than clan.'|
meaning: house, shelter, lodge
宿屋 == yadoya == inn
宿題 == shukudai == homework
|The top radical is 'building/roof', the lower left one is 'person' (人), and the lower right one was originally a pictograph of a rush mat. (Now it is 'hundred' (百) through miscopying.) Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Hundred people lodging in one house.'|
meaning: iron, steel
地下鉄 == chikatetsu == subway
鉄道 == tetsudou == railway
|Left radical is 'metal' (金). The right radical once meant 'big', acting phonetically to mean 'black', i.e., 'massive black metal'. Henshall suggests taking the right radical as 'lose' (失), and as a mnemonic: 'Lost metal proves to be iron.'|