Vividred Operation – Unknown Enemies and Talking Ferrets
January 26, 2013 6 Comments
Vividred Operation is an astonishingly self-aware series, it fully understands the absurdities of the whole premise surrounding the characters, setting and enemies and often deliberately plays to that. We know by now that the Manifestation Engine, while providing 95% of the world energy is also somehow inexorably drawing these strange, faceless monsters called The Alone towards it. We also know that such an attack was predicted by Kenjirou, who was inevitably let go and considered a bit of a crazy old man by those in charge of maintaining his invention, thus ignoring his warning and potentially dooming the world to oblivion. The way the series heroines attack these unknown and strange foes is somewhat reminiscent of Strike Witches, with their ability to fly and the absurd strength and power that their suits provide them. The way this series deals with the unbelievable power that these girls possess, and their ability to effectively smash the alone into the ground is rather interesting.
Instead of approaching things in an incredibly, or perhaps overly serious manner, we are instead provided a relatively light-hearted series full of absurd situations that can easily be shrugged off by out main characters. So many other series would have jumped on the opportunity to produce a dark story about the apparent destruction of humanity at the hands, or perhaps sharp prongs of a faceless foe. Muv-Luv for example produces far more serious stories with taught political and social situations, all the while the BETA are gradually encroaching on the last remnants of humanity. In this situation the stories are all far more serious despite the elements of humour that certain characters can insert into the situation. Vividred Operation on the other hand approaches such a situation from an entirely different direction; with the characters acting in a very light-hearted manner, despite the obvious danger that The Alone signify. Throughout these first few series we have seen conventional weapons utterly fail to even scratch these great monoliths, and yet, with the help of a couple of middle school students with the ability to fly and hit things with boomerangs and hammers.
There is a certain absurdity about the whole series from the school uniforms involving hot pants through to the ridiculous, yet also brilliant transformation sequences. But when watching Vividred Operation, these absurdities seem entirely deliberate, the staff know as well as we do that much of this is silly, and that is precisely what the series plays to. Brilliant transformation sequences are sorely missing from many of these series, with the various changes often happening far too fast, and opportunities being missed. By focussing on these sequences we are provided with a spectacle, one that involves wonderful music and brilliant visuals, coupled with ridiculous catchphrases that further reinforces how silly everything really is. Rather than be worried about what these faceless enemies may do during this time, the series instead decides to focus on the transformations and interactions between the characters, pushing them to the centre of the story and using the enemies as background decoration to help demonstrate the power of these mechanical suits. Furthermore, the names of their attacks further reinforces how silly and light-hearted everything is, with Akane throwing around her ‘Naked Rang’ and Aoi using her ‘Naked Impact’, reinforcing the idea that regardless of an impending attack, everything somehow goes on as normal.
Much of this series ability to bring together brilliant action, with absurd situations and attack names rests upon the characters being interesting and engaging. The way Akane decides to transform when she is late to school and her flying bike ‘Wanko’ breaks down despite being a closely guarded military secret helps to demonstrate this. She does all of this as if it were second nature, only to be confronted by Wakaba Saegusa and challenged to a duel that she would obviously win in her transformed state. That Akane seems to believe that a pair of orange sunglasses (reminiscent of Kamina’s awesome orange shades from Gurren Lagann) seems a little absurd, and clearly doesn’t work since Wakaba immediately challenges her to a duel and chases her around the school. The way the character interactions work helps to reinforce that despite the apparent danger of the Alone, it is a light-hearted series that fully understands what it is doing. All of the butt shots and semi-naked girls kissing during the ‘docking’ sequences further reinforces this, and demonstrates this series ability to have fun regardless of what is going on.
Ultimately the series is about friendship, with the central character of Akane making friends with a variety of different people, all of who have their own special powers and abilities. This is opposed to the faceless enemy who are the ‘Alone’, and only ever seem to appear as a single giant unit, one without the ability to speak, and for all intents and purposes should perhaps be viewed as little more than a brainless monolith. Furthermore, the character of Rei Kuroki is particularly interesting due to her ability to increase the power of the Alone, even going so far as to manipulate their shape and what they look like. Her solitary existence, coupled with her bow of black feathers marks her out as a fascinating character that helps to symbolise the differences between the enemy and Akane. As we have seen during these first three episodes, Akane is a character brimming with life and energy, her willingness to help others regardless of the apparent danger marks her out as special. It is these sorts of characters that help to bind everyone together and are especially present within these sorts of high energy series. Wakaba and Aoi are inexorably drawn to her, and become a part of her social circle, it is through this interaction and the special bond that they share that arguably allows these characters to have their own key and power suit.
During the latest episode we see quite clearly how powerful Akane is, not necessarily in terms of fighting ability, although her strength, speed and power and clear for all to see, but in her willingness to get to know others regardless of what they may at first think. Despite the misunderstanding that she and Wakaba have during their first meeting and the apparent shame that Wakaba feels from being defeated by an opponent, Akane is still willing to accept her as a true friend. Indeed, as we watch Wakaba chase Akane around the school the images suggest something akin to a game of ‘it’, rather than a desperate attempt to challenge Akane to a duel. The very notion that they would willingly stop this supposedly serious chase to help a teacher with his supplies, only to start the chase up again once their task is finished shows us how unimportant the chase itself is. This is also shown when they eventually duel, with Wakaba and Akane smiling and enjoying themselves, completely forgetting about the apparently serious nature of the original challenge and living in the moment. Akane does take it seriously, but in her own way; it becomes a fight that is fun and exhilarating, one where winning isn’t as important as taking part. Through this duel, both characters come to a shared understanding of the other, and we see Wakaba finally realising that through her overly serious attitude towards her families dojo and kendo has meant that she had lost an essential part of herself. She had forgotten about the pure, unadulterated joy of duelling, and gotten too caught up in her obsession with winning and proving that her families’ style is the best. Akane, and the joy that she brings with her helps Wakaba realise that, and realise that no matter how many competitions she may win, she has yet to put everything on the line to help others the way Akane does when the Alone shows up.
Akane is the owner of the original key, but through her consent and apparent joy the powers of her key are replicated and given to those who she trusts with all of her heart. This important bond between friends is further reinforced through the necessities of ‘docking’, and as we are showing in episode two, whenever the two who are attempting to join do not share the same thoughts and feelings they are unable to fully merge. Aoi, through her own lack of self confidence, and worry about what turned out to be a rather ridiculous lie rejects Akane at first, fearing that through their shared memories Akane would come to hate her. This necessity to accept everything about each other and sharing thoughts and feelings further reinforces the difference between the heroes and their foe. Akane, Aoi, Wakaba, and Himawari (well, next week at least) have to understand each other, and through their mutual bond and the conditions for docking cannot keep secrets. This then shows that it is this sort of deep, and perhaps for many, sappy, friendship that allows them to gain such overwhelming power. When we see this in relation to the character of Rei Kuroki who is clearly a loner and a mysterious one at that, along with the faceless monoliths that keep attempting to reach the Manifestation Engine we see that ultimately Vividred Operation is a series about the power of friendship and naked boomerangs.