Tag Archives: Maleficent

Zoids: Chaotic Century – A Series Review

Technically, I already did a review of the Japanese series Zoids: Chaotic Century. But not too long ago I became curious to see if Zoids had become a topic of conversation on WordPress. After all, that was the raison d’etre for my Spotlight! posts; I started them to put the word out about not only my favorite Japanese “mecha,” but to start a conversation about my much loved anime.

At least, that was what I hoped would happen. Aside from a few likes, nobody seems really interested in discussing Zoids, whether it is Chaotic Century’s zoids or any of the other series. So I sort of let the matter drop, going back to my usual Spotlight! posts and remembering the show fondly, as always….

Then I had the trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion recommended to me, and my Zoidian fervor re-engaged itself – with a vengeance!

Not that my love for zoids is ever very far away from me. One of the things I have learned about the stories I enjoy is that, no matter where I go or what makes me set them aside, my favorite characters in fiction will reassert their importance to me when I least expect them to do so. They also seem to like doing this to me when I need them most.

One of the reasons that Chaotic Century has a special appeal to me is not simply because I was young and impressionable when I first saw it. I associate certain things with how the show makes me feel. A beautiful autumn day, an open horizon, a certain tangy, alluring bite in the air – these are triggers which still make me itch, even now, to find a zoid and hop in its cockpit.

I know that zoids do not exist. I have known this for years. But there is still something that I can sense in the air sometimes that makes me feel as eager as I only did when I watched or thought about Zoids. The trailer for Field of Rebellion not only intensified that childish wish, it made me hope for a film based on at least the zoids themselves, if not on Chaotic Century.

If Takara Tomy or another Japanese company is actually thinking of turning Chaotic Century into a film, then all I can say is: “Go for it! Go For It! GO FOR IT!!!!” I have wanted a zoids film – or a series of films about zoids – for as long as I have been a fan of Chaotic Century. But as I grew older and watched other shows I enjoyed made into films, seeing how they were abused and mangled by Hollywood, I began to fear that a film about Chaotic Century would destroy the story and the characters I loved so dearly.

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For this reason, I have decided to inaugurate a series of Spotlight! posts that will focus on the characters from Zoids. I do not want these great characters who still visit me when I need their encouragement to be destroyed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers, and other childhood friends have been. No amount of CGI zoids or fantastic storytelling would save a film that abused these characters, and this is something I wish to make perfectly clear to anyone who may be considering creating a film based on Zoids: Chaotic Century.

But before I get to those posts, I thought it best to review what makes Chaotic Century such a powerful series. It is not the music (which is stellar); it is not the artistry (which is appealing), and it is not the English dubbing (which is not perfect but still works quite well).

It is the characters, the zoids, the plot, and the themes of the series that make Zoids: Chaotic Century such a magnificent story worthy of the best efforts of those who paint pictures on the silver screen. There are four main plot points in Chaotic Century that MUST be present in any film based on the show. These are:

Friendship, Love, and Redemption

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I will touch on this more in the character posts, but one of Chaotic Century’s biggest selling points was its character growth. Though the story starts out somewhat slowly, the friendships between the characters develop so well and so thoroughly that you do not notice just how far they have come until the stakes begin to rise. Then you suddenly get jerked into a position that lets you realize that these characters have grown due to their contact and interaction with each other. You realize that they would never have become the people they are in X episode if not for the fact that they fell in with each other earlier and have been traveling together since.

The love aspect is present in the main romance in the series, which lasts from episode one to episode sixty-seven. We never see the end result, but we are left to believe that the main characters do indeed live happily ever after when the credits finally roll. A few side romances are shown as well, and these are all handled with an adroit touch. The main couple only exchanges one kiss, and that was not a smooch of the physical variety. If the writers for the movie will not honor these relationships in any film about the series, I will not be watching that movie.

Redemption is a big part of the series as well. Many of the villains in the story turn over a new leaf during the course of the show, while several remain evil to the bitter end. These redemptions never feel forced, as the one for Helmut Zemo did in Avengers Assemble’s “House of Zemo.” They never feel tacked on, either, as the redemption of Doctor Octopus in Ultimate Spider-Man’s series finale did.

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Best of all, there are no saving twists for the villains, such as we see in Maleficent. The bad guys either reform or they croak. A couple of villains do kind of reform before they die, but that is probably for the best, as their redemption arcs weren’t likely to last beyond that episode.

Redemption in Zoids takes place gradually; it is natural, the result of progressive character growth and discovery. It is not a spoonfed, hamfisted “let’s all sing Kumbaya and admit that our dads were jerks” moment. (Now that I think about it, not one of the fathers in the series was even a mild jerk, let alone a horrible, horrible person. Score another point for Zoids: Chaotic Century!)

A film about this series has to include these elements; it has to build the friendships and the romances smoothly and quietly. It has to be just as soft on the redemption arcs for the villains as well. Any movie about Chaotic Century that does not do this will not do the series justice, and I will NOT pay to see it.

I know these character arcs would not be easy to condense in a film (franchise), which is the other reason I have been leery of the idea of translating the TV show into a film (series). But if a Chaotic Century movie (series) is in the works somewhere, or on someone’s mental backburner, this character growth is going to prove a challenge for them. It will be a worthwhile challenge, but they may not get the necessary thanks they deserve for this work – even from a Chaotic Century fan like me, unfortunately.

Never Give Up Hope – Or the Fight

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Mostly, it is the main character, Van Flyheight, who has the never give up/never lose hope attitude. This attitude is passed on to his friends by him, thereby infusing the entire story and tying it tightly to reality. We have all faced moments when the going gets so tough, so nigh unbearable, that we cannot stand to think of dealing with the pain for another instant.

Zoids: Chaotic Century shows that even Van is not invulnerable to these moments. What makes him different is that, for him, these moments are rare and they do not last. This allows him to inspire others to hold on to hope when it appears that the battle is already lost.

I cannot tell you how valuable this plot point in Chaotic Century has been for me during my life. I am as weak as the next person; there have been moments when I can see the bottom of the pit of despair, when I have thought life would never, ever get better.

Chaotic Century has been, in some ways, a life-saver for me in these moments. Sure, I have had the “it’s-a-cartoon-and-has-nothing-to-do-with-real-life” thoughts about it. But Zoids taught me that you only really lose the fight when you give up hope. Maybe you cannot always feel hope, as Van seems to, but the show taught me that quitting simply is not an option. Through this show you learn that giving up simply cements your loss while holding out in spite of the pain means you might actually be able to turn the tide of the battle.

A film (or series of them) based on this TV show has to reference tenacious hope as often as its progenitor did. Otherwise, it will not be based on Chaotic Century but on the producer/director/writer’s agenda. The only agenda for a movie (series) based on Chaotic Century should be that hope is more powerful than despair, no matter how grave matters appear to be.

Pursue Your Full Potential – As a Pilot and as a Person

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A sub-theme, if we can call it that, in Chaotic Century is that in order to become the best (or at least a competent and good) pilot in the world, the pilot and his zoid have to reach their full potential as a fighting unit. As one wise character in the series told Van’s friend, “Zoids can sense [their pilots’] feelings and emotions and use them to enhance their own capabilities [in battle]. Once [the pilots] recognize that, the possibilities are endless.”

Anyone who has ever watched zoids remembers the “awe and excitement” we felt when we first saw these enormous, mechanical “spirit animals” running across the screen. We wanted to be that strong, that fierce, and that able to fight. We wanted to be the heroic pilots of our favorite zoids.

The problem Chaotic Century addresses is that zoid pilots can lose sight of this potential in the thick of battle, and thus they lose sight not only of why they became a pilot, but of who they are as people. This leads them to consider their zoids and everyone else’s to be “ordinary” fighting machines which are only useful as tools, pets, or weapons. They stop seeing zoids for what they truly are and see only what they can get out of them.

The challenge Zoids: Chaotic Century presents to its characters – and thereby to its viewers – is it asks us whether or not we have kept our eyes on the prize. The prize is our “full potential” which, while it can never truly be reached in this life, is the only thing worth striving after. Money, power, luxury – these are distractions, in many cases deadly ones. The true potential of a man (or a woman) cannot and should not – must not – be gauged by these foolish categories. What matters is whether or not you are striving after your full potential. Because it is only by chasing after your full potential in this life that you can actually achieve it in the next.

This theme ties directly into the fourth premise any filmakers who wish to bring Zoids: Chaotic Century to the silver screen must keep in mind….

Wonder

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This theme is so obvious that we fans tend to forget it. Wonder radiates palpably from Chaotic Century; but we viewers become so accustomed to the zoids that, like their pilots, we tend to stop marveling at these magnificent mechanical creatures as we should. We become so used to the vast desert vistas, the high mountains, the plateaus, the hills and plains in the series that we forget how beautiful they are. The music – which still sends tingles along my skin and inspires me to smile like a maniac – becomes so much a part of the background that we hardly notice it.

The way Chaotic Century keeps us on our toes is by having the characters point out the wonder of these things. Time and time again, characters remark on the beauty and splendor of the zoids, reminding us of how special these creatures are. The appreciation that the ordinary village folk in the series show for the countryside they live in reminds us that these vistas are available to us wherever we live. We simply have to actually look out the window and see them as they are. The sacrifices the characters make for each other, the little gestures of friendship and romance sprinkled throughout each episode, call on us to realize how valuable our own friends and families are to us.

Above all, Chaotic Century prompts us to keep our eyes on the prize. It constantly reminds us to strive after hope in hopeless situations, to fight to maintain our urge to discover our true potential. We may not be zoid pilots (no matter how much some of us wish we were!), but we are people who are gifted with different talents, different purposes in this life.

Are we pursuing these vigorously, working to find the “endless possibilities” open to us as we work on these things that we love? Or have we become “jaded” and forgotten what made us want to be a mother, a father, a football player, a Marine, a piano player, a writer, an artist, etc. in the first place? Are we striving for the good, the beautiful, and the best that we can achieve – or have we completely lost our sense of direction?

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Many of the characters in Zoids: Chaotic Century have lost sight of the real reason they became zoid pilots. They have lost sight of the real reason why they wanted to get in the cockpit. As the series progresses, they relearn this – allowing us to learn to look at our own lives with new eyes because we have seen the characters do it.

A film – or a series of them – based on Chaotic Century must have these four qualities. If it (or they) does not, then it has failed to give homage to its progenitor franchise, just as the new TMNT movies and the first three Transformers films did. But a zoids film (franchise) that acknowledges its source material, that shows an appreciation for it, can only be pursuing the series’ full potential on a grander scale.

I leave you to discover Zoids: Chaotic Century for yourselves, readers, as I did in my last post. In addition, I also leave you the longest trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion. If they could make this video (which is ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR FROM A VISUAL STANDPOINT), then they can make a film out of Chaotic Century!

I do not know if they will do this. I want them to do it, as long as they do not try to rewrite the series when they make the film(s). If they can tell this story, whole and entire on theater screens, I will be in seventh heaven. You will have to tie me to the seat and gag me in order to get through the movie, but I will be happier than a clam if Zoids makes it into theaters.

But that is not my decision to make. I can only watch the TV series and the trailers for Field of Rebellion – and dream. For now, that is enough.

See you on the battlefield, readers!

One More Point in Saving Mr. Banks

You may or may not have seen a post I did a little while ago about the film Saving Mr. Banks, readers. In it, I spoke about a line Walt Disney uttered in the film: “See, that’s what we storytellers do. We bring order to the world. We give people hope, over and over again.”

I wrote then about the way this statement affected me personally. (Among other things, it made me cry quite a bit.) Thinking more about this scene, and the movie in general, another line in the film struck me.

Throughout the movie, which shows Walt Disney doing his utmost to convince Mrs. Travers to allow him to make a film out of her Mary Poppins book, Disney again and again says that he wants to “make something beautiful” out of her story.   And he does not just want her permission to do this. He wants her help to do it.

How many of us use the word “beautiful” in conjunction with a film? Really, how many of us do that? I know I do not use the word “beautiful” to describe a movie. In fact, listening to Disney say it, I was inclined to squirm a little. How can a movie be “beautiful”?

I guess the better question is, “How could it not be beautiful?”

We do not use “beautiful” very much these days, readers, with regard to stories. Whether they are in print, song, or on film, “beautiful” is an adjective rarely attached to a story. Or, if it is applied, it can sometimes be applied to a film for the wrong reason.

A viewer might say that he thinks films such as Pacific Rim, Star Trek (the latest reboot), or Noah are beautiful. By this he could mean that he believes the CGI effects are beautiful. I will not disagree that CGI effects are impressive. I like Avatar simply for the CGI effects, and I would indeed call them “beautiful.”

I cannot say that about the story in Avatar, which is simply cowboys and Indians on another world. And the Indians win. I believe that I have watched Avatar a total of two or three times since a friend sat me down to see it first.

In contrast, I have watched Mary Poppins too many times to count since I was introduced to it as a child. Of late I have not watched it as much, but compared to Avatar, I would say that the story of Mary Poppins is a “beautiful” story. The story in Avatar I would call, politely, “mediocre” – at best.

So why would Disney call a prospective Mary Poppins film “something beautiful”? He would say that because a good story, just like a good photograph, painting, or song, is an expression of beauty. Beauty lifts us up. It reminds us of what is good, true, and permanent. That there is more to life than what we see, and that we rarely experience the “permanence” we can often feel but are rarely allowed to see with our eyes.

Parents often complain – laughingly – that their children almost endlessly watch a particular movie or movies over and over again, until they (the parents) are well and truly fed up with it. Why do children do this? Why do they watch the same film(s) time after time, when they know every line by heart?

I would guess it is probably because children have a sense that attracts them to beauty, which is crushed – or tamed – out of them as they grow up. I remember watching lots of films several times in the same week as a child. I never got tired of them. I enjoyed new stories, but the older stories were my close friends, and I did not want to leave them out of my fun.

Today, however, many storytellers – whether they work in the medium of print or film – are running away from beauty. There are others who embrace it, such as those at Disney, if only because it is their bread and butter. Others continually try to tear it down and destroy it.

Do you want proof of this? Check out the films that have come out recently. Along with the latest Marvel films, Disney’s Maleficent, Cinderella, and Frozen, we have such movies as The Purge, The Purge 2, The Hive, Gallows, and other trash. Yes, I called those films trash, and I will do so again. They are garbage, the vile refuse of small minds that take pleasure in “tearing the old world down,” to quote Alexander Pierce of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

These “storytellers” are not telling stories. They are not making films. They are propagating nihilism. They are worshipping destruction, death, and horror. And they have the temerity, the unmitigated gall, to call it “art.” “Art doesn’t have to mean anything except to its maker,” they howl hoarsely. “We’re giving people what they want. We’re giving them reality!”

Pardon me a moment, readers, but this is nonsense. No, actually, it is worse than nonsense. It is lies.

Art is not a collection of carpet fluff glued together to resemble a poodle. Art is not a bed covered in empty vodka bottles or a canvas someone spilled thirty cans of paint onto, and art is NOT anything like The Purge or The Hive.

Art is a manifestation of beauty. Everyone can see and recognize beauty, and they can either love it or hate it. Everyone who loves beauty is gifted with expressing it in some way, from a waitress smiling at a customer to a director doing his utmost to turn a great book into a remarkable film.

And everyone who hates beauty will try to destroy it. They will try to destroy those who use their talents to express beauty. One of the first targets, therefore, will be the painters, songwriters, storytellers, and others who make beauty visible for all to see.

These haters of beauty try first to shout and beat these great artists into submission. Finding that shouting does not work on all, they instead whisper and sneer, making themselves look reasonable and more real than the beauty these artists portray.

Everyone says they can make art. And someone who makes a good movie, writes a good book or a song, or paints a beautiful picture, has proved their worth. But those who paint death, horror, destruction, and malfeasance of every kind yet call it “art” are liars, cads. They are the Wormtongues of our age, the useful puppets of the Sarumans that feed them the falsehoods and monstrosities they then display for all to see.

No longer is a storyteller believed to bring order to a chaotic, brutal world and give people a taste of what true reality looks like. No longer is a storyteller expected to bring hope to the people again and again, to give them characters that will live forever, safely cherished in the viewers/readers hearts.

No. Instead, the Sarumans say storytellers are supposed to revel in the transient. They are expected to give form to passing feelings, fleeting fads, and to lift up the slime at the bottom of the gutter and proclaim it art. This is now the anticipated path of an artist.

G. K. Chesterton said on his deathbed that there was only the light and the dark, and every man had to choose which he would serve, for which he would live and die.

What do these sides, the light and the dark, look like? Look to your heart, readers. Who rides there? Captain America? Aragorn? Luke Skywalker? They are the emblems of the light, the ideals of those who choose goodness, right, and truth. They are what these people truly strive to be. All who live according to the light, who love the day and the stars at night, they fight for the light. They are the true Avengers, the real Fellowship of the Ring, and the living Jedi Knights. To believe in beauty, to fight to keep it present in the world – that, readers, is choosing and fighting for the light.

What do those who serve the darkness look like? Whom do they carry in their hearts? Loki, Saruman, Hannibal Lecter, Thanos – these are examples of the outriders of evil. It is these who are carried in the hearts of those who serve the darkness. They, like these characters, have rejected the light. For them it is better to rule in the dark than to serve in the light. Non serviam, they say. Those who are minions of evil resemble these wicked characters in some manner.

It may not be an obvious resemblance, of course. Does not Crossbones wear a mask? Do not Saruman and Thanos hide behind useful puppets like Gríma Wormtongue, Loki, and Nebula? Does not Hannibal Lecter do his work where none can see and stop him? And was it not Loki who was told by Coulson, “You’re going to lose.”

“Am I?”

“It’s in your nature.”

“Your heroes are scattered,” Loki answered, “Your floating fortress falls from the sky… Where is my disadvantage?”

“You lack conviction,” was Coulson’s prompt, true answer.

Why would evil wear a mask if it were so utterly convinced that it had nothing to fear? Evil wears a mask because it does have something to fear, something far greater than itself. The Light is what it fears, and for that reason true storytellers serve the Light.

This is why I blog about stories which I know are beautiful. This is why I blog about characters and songs I know to be beautiful. This is why I write. There is no other reason for this blog. If there ever was another reason, it has long since passed away. Writing about beauty is one way of making beauty visible to the world again and again. Of bringing order, if only for a few paragraphs, to a chaotic society. Of giving hope, however small, where it is needed most.

Excelsior, readers!

The Mithril Guardian