What is Aoi Kazuya doing here?
He was annoying in the first season, but he had something resembling an arc. He was a terrible character, but he was a character. Here, he’s an empty shell that does nothing. There are episodes where he hardly appears and he contributes nothing to the climax. Remove him, and the only thing that will go away are the two worst episodes.
Freezing always had a funky relationship with sexualized violence. It boasts some of anime’s sexiest characters, but isn’t it more fun to see them swing their cool weapons with swooshing backgrounds? This could have been a really fun series about warrior women. In fact, that’s what it is at its best. I don’t mean this in the pseudo-feminist, give a woman a gun and she’s strong way. There’s a big cast of female characters, each with her quirks and potential to be fun. Talk about fanservice all you want, but here the women are the leaders instead of sexual options.
Along comes Kazuya though, and a funny attempt to bring us to the dark ages. Satellizer’s story had to come to a close, but the way it did was disgusting. There is putting a woman in a weak position, and there is letting the camera linger on her breasts as the rapists fondles it.
This is what people criticize about Game of Thrones. It’s not the presence of violent sexuality that’s the problem. It’s the way it’s presented on the screen. Satellizer’s sexiness didn’t need to be emphasized during her moments of abuse. There is nothing sexy about a man raping a woman. Our dear rapist is also given a position of power so solid it makes no sense. A lot of sexual harassers are sexually attractive. It’s that quality that enables them to continue. Yet, women have a limit. Some women may forgive you for a little harassment if you look like Justin Timberlake, but Holly Rose’s devotion was completely unbelievable.
It’s not connected to something in her personality. If there was something in her psyche that made her forgive such behavior it’d develop both her and the rapist, telling us what kind of women he’s into. She’s devoted to him just to make the situation harder for Satellizer. This is no longer pushing characters to the edge and seeing how they react but abusing them for the audience’s pleasures. No one has yet put a good argument for how rape can be a decent of form aestheacized violence. All I could see was the strings behind Holly Rose, and all I wanted was to grab her hand and run away with her to a world where there are no Novas and teenagers don’t have to join any military.
I can dream, can’t I?
It gets a little better once you move beyond that and to the other characters. Vibration is more ambitious than its predecessor. There are more characters, more of them are important to the plot, the story is more about people against people rather than humanity vs. an unknown enemy and the fanservice is often forgotten.
So long as Vibration stays ambitious, it’s a lot of fun. Like Date A Live, though, we see another case of good ideas remaining undeveloped because the creators are too afraid to break the chains.
There is an interesting story here somewhere about how we get lost trying to save humanity. It’s a good topic, considering the series feels like another response to Evangelion. By the time Vibration reveals its main theme, it reaches a climax that aside from being huge has no direction.
You don’t expect a cozy climax from this, and the climax shouldn’t be. It’s a series built on visuals, but it can’t ride on it completely. You need to focus. You need to decide what you’re trying to do and make sure every thing points to it. Vibration decides to be a drama, which is a great change from the first season. It’s not sure what’s the dramatic core it revolves around.
Maybe this mess could have been excused if they put more effort into the charactrization. There is humanity and personality lurking beneath all these great looks. These great looks actually help attract attention to the people beneath the skin. Freezing boasts a very sexy character design – something I will elaborate in a different essay – but it’s also creative.
They don’t just stick boobs on women. There is attention to the whole body structure that will look good. There is also variety in the facial expression and hairdos. This is not the dullness of Sekirei. The personalities that are hinted at are varied enough – Cassie is warm and accepting. Elizabeth is an uptight, judgemental moralist. Rana takes everything lightly and remains unaware of what’s around her. Roxanne is down-to-earth. Amelia is a well-intentioned girl who came from nothing and is afraid of returning there.
The series never takes advantage of this varied, charismatic cast. Most of the character development is handled by the voice actors. The script is too busy moving the plot forward. It doesn’t give us enough moments that show us how they feel and react to everything. Things happen everyday, everywhere. The only thing that grants them meaning is how people perceive them, and isn’t art and entertainment a way to examine various viewpoints?
The big climax is solved not by realizing how strong you are, but by the characters coming to a realization. That’s great. The creators decided to take the hard way out and not prove that one side was right via violence. I can’t stress how important this is. If the hero chops up the bad guys to pieces perfect for grilling, it doesn’t prove he was morally right. It proves he was stronger. By the time the big epiphany comes, the characters are wasted. So even if the idea was good in theory, it doesn’t offer much in the execution beyond not succumbing to cliches.
How exactly this failure happened is a mystery. Chop the two episodes where they ruin Satellizer, chop the occasional moment of fanservice and you’re still left with plenty of time. Maybe they were just insecure. Maybe the creators were so busy not succumbing to cliches that they forgot to develop the good stuff. It ends up being defined more by lack. When you view the glass as half empty, it’s a sign of pessimism.
There are fun moments, and there are cool ideas to borrow if you’re writing your own story. Overall, though, it’s a series that tries more to avoid being cliched than developing its unique ideas. It wins the award for sexiest character design, but I can’t help but wish for a little more. I would have forgiven more fanservice, or more Kazuya if the cost was learning more about Amelia, Cassie, Roxanne and all the rest.
2 mutations out of 5