Lazy Fake Thursday Evening

*Nothing all that thrilling to say until tomorrow (aka: later tonight), but I did notice one interesting tidbit buried in the San Diego recaps and memories and such - apparently, Warren Ellis is watching (or recently watched) the 2005 television anime series Speed Grapher, and enjoyed the experience.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Speed Grapher. It’s one of GONZO’s productions, so it’s easy to get things lost under the heap of mediocre-looking (if fan-friendly) projects they crank out at breakneck speed. But unlike with many GONZO television productions, I actually made it all the way through Speed Grapher, all 24 goddamned episodes of it. Trashy, disposable, compulsively watchable entertainment all the way through. Which is generally the reason given for the existence of a lot of anime I completely hate, but Speed Grapher is different.

The character designs didn’t make me want to break my own neck, for one. The first episode gave off the bizarre feel of a David Quinn/Tim Vigil comic translated to television anime form, with a spiritually ruined ace combat photographer wandering through a dirty city and into an underground orgy club for the rich, only to be confronted with a somnambulant teenage sex goddess who descends from the air, kissing him with her tongue, which grants him the useful superpower of having everything he takes a photograph of immediately explode. Headshots included! Metaphors ho!

It doesn’t stay like that kind of comic. No, it promptly transforms into a sort of anti-capitalist adventure comic that might have slipped into 2000 AD at some point, with Our Hero whisking the aforementioned teenage sex goddess (actually an exploited, caged-in-luxury rich girl) away from the wicked world of big money, as assorted supervillains follow close behind and melodramatic complications arise. Hilariously, many of the villain-of-the-week-or-two antagonists seem to be designed as takeoffs of Western comic book characters, like an evil dentist who skitters around via drilling tools, in the manner of Doctor Octopus.

It’s the sort of show where the hero will flee through the sewers while having a vigorous debate on the effectiveness of the press in a capital-driven society with a man who’s transformed into a walking humanoid audio amplifier. There’s some ‘down’ episodes, yes, and too much unconvincing quasi-romance, and the animation gets shitty enough at points to sabotage major action scenes, but it’s hard to stay mad at a show that climaxes with a surprise werewolf attack in a skyscraper full of money, and has the guts to present extended conversations in full English, despite virtually nobody in the cast having more than a rudimentary talent for even reading the stuff aloud, let alone acting. This makes dramatic exchanges between the President of the United States and his Cabinet all the more excellent.

Oh, if you're renting the R1 dvds, there's a pretty amazing documentary spread across the last three volumes that covers the online search for an unknown voice actress to play the female lead, and the chosen woman's subsequent adventures in being a voice actress. Dressing up in the show's revealing costumes (it's made pretty clear that physical looks went into the casting a great deal), passing out promotional flyers on a street corner, recording a stunningly awful pop single and performing in front of a glowstick-waving horde of excited otaku... I was glued to the screen.