Thursday, May 26, 2005

Not Something You See Every Day

This, from robotech.com: In honor of the United Nations' 60th anniversary this year, the United Nations (UN) will debut a special Public Service Announcement (PSA) at MIP TV 2005. The 60-second spot, produced by Harmony Gold, is part of a broader effort to increase awareness of the work of the UN during this special period culminating with the 60th opening session of the UN General Assembly in the Fall. All grumbling about the UN aside, this PSA is something I'll be taking a look at when I can get it downloaded. "[The UN] feel[s] this is a unique way of contributing to the UN's message of peace at a time when the world really needs it", said Harmony Gold (owners of the Robotech franchise) Chairman & CEO Frank Agrama. Somewhere in there is Irony with a capital I. Being lectured on peace by the wardens of a series where approximately six to seven billion people are slaughtered in a few seconds and a thirty-year interstellar war pretty much blowtorches Earth is going to be interesting. On the other hand, the Robotech franchise (or more properly, the early Macross line) has an odd relationship with the UN, as does other mecha-centric anime from the late 1970s and early 1980s. A common thread running through the backdrop of several series is the unification of Earth's government, be it under the "Earth Federation" of Mobile Suit Gundam or the United Earth Government/United Earth Defense Council of Robotech. Something that you're likely to see pop on a not-intermittent basis is the phrase "UN SPACY". What does that mean, you ask? I had to learn it from a Gundam type, who made it pretty simple: U.S. Navy U.N. Spacy It's a contraction of sorts, for United Nations Space Navy. A lot of Gundam stuff for the Earth Federation sports this decoration, especially that by Kunio Okawara. More or less enthusiasm for the UN (or its general concept) and (in the case of the early Gundam series) a deep loathing of militarism would appear to be a common thread in a lot of the late 1970s/early 1980s stuff I tended to watch. One can understand both of them, because Japanese people were writing the scripts. I suppose these folks weren't too happy about having been hit with atomic bombs, and they were likewise unhappy with the glorification of the military, which I suppose led to the militarist party of Tojo et al being put into power. That, of course, wound up in 1945 with two wee little events in the skies over a pair of Japanese cities. Why Japanese nationals would be inclined to like the idea of a singular global government is beyond me, but then again, I'm in Virginia, which is close to half a world away from Japan, in more ways than one.1 Go figure. I've got a frame of this thing downloaded, and it appears that the initial characters are going to be something I've not seen before, apparently from this Shadow Chronicles project that's supposed to be the latest entry in the Robotech universe. Me, I'll stick with the Macross Saga, 'cause it has Lisa Hayes. 1 On the other hand, the Gundam universe seemed to establish, at least indirectly, that the Earth Federation wasn't exactly the nicest government either, at least by objective standards. Forced deportations from Earth were reportedly a facet of its social policy. UPDATE: I've now seen the ad. Here goes: BEGIN TRANSCRIPT TITLE CARD: "ROBOTECH salutes the work and people of the United Nations on its 60th anniversary". We see a seemingly ethereal woman drift down from the heavens while your average anime fighter PILOT stares up, goggle-eyed. He is standing next to a Veritech Alpha fighter in Guardian configuration. PILOT: Ariel! This world is not safe for you. Many humans will still have to be convinced that we can all live together in peace. ARIEL: Peace. It's amazing how beautiful this world can be when it is at peace. PILOT: Yes, and how violent it is when it is at war. As these last two lines are spoken, the camera pans from a green mountain range with pine trees and the like, to a shattered urban landscape, covered by reddish clouds in the sky. ARIEL turns her head back towards the PILOT, placing her right hand on the left side of the PILOT's head. The camera zooms into the PILOT's face as he closes his eyes. ARIEL: Humanity has the greatest potential in itself, to educate, to heal, to provide. Together, you can do this. Together, you can succeed. Together, we will survive. There are many voices, but it is all one world, a world where there is a need for peace now. And in the future. As ARIEL speaks, the scene transitions to a sepia-toned static illustration of a classroom with children being instructed from a chalkboard. A UNICEF sign hangs prominently over the chalkboard. Transition to a medical tent, where a WHO logo adorns a tent pole as a man sporting a blue "UN" armband treats a patient. Transition to an airfield(?), where men in what appear to be blue ballistic vests carry blue boxes, apparently food. One of the men is handing a blue box to an individual. The ballistic vests sport a wreathed insignia---half of the UN logo---surrounding an unidentified emblem. The letters "WFP" appear above the emblem. The static illustrations switch back to the PILOT's eyes as ARIEL begins the "Together" part of her speech. The camera cuts to ARIEL's eyes, which are a shade of purple as are her hair and eyebrows. The camera then cuts to an external view, sweeping past two mounds---potentially the final resting places of SDF-1, SDF-2, and Commander Khyron Kravsher's vessel?---to ARIEL and the PILOT, who is now sitting on the foot of his Alpha. Two forward-swept wing transport land in VTOL fashion in the background and the camera pans upward to a trio of the same aircraft flying in a vee formation. Camera continues panning until the blue sky turns to black. The black sky then displays a color illustration of the planet Earth, wreathed in the UN leaves. The caption reads, "UNITED NATIONS IT'S OUR FUTURE.", along with www.un.org END TRANSCRIPT. All intellectual property rights remain with the holder, ostensibly Harmony Gold. No claim is made against those rights. The use of names and other indicia from other Harmony Gold properties is solely for identification purposes and does not constitute a claim of right against the holder of the property. OK, now that the ersatz legal disclaimer is out of the way---don't sue me---a bit of response. I don't get this ad. Harmony Gold's intent was to reach children with this message, but I am not convinced that it succeeds. Do children these days know what UNICEF is, and are they going to catch it in the illustration? Ditto the World Health Organization and the World Food Program. The images are kind of quickly displayed, and obvious to me only because I have the luxury of starting and stopping the PSA with QuickTime. Of course, the closing message is absolutely unmistakable, but it's sort of presented as a definitive conclusion, without a whole lot of support. Of course, I don't know how a kid thinks, and they'll probably catch up on what the message wants them to get pretty easily: UN gooooood. (Napster baaaad!) If I were a UN officer, I would appreciate the thought, but I'd also thank my lucky stars that the organization didn't (apparently) pay for it. A quick bit of surfing confirmed a suspicion I had, and provided some additional information: The pilot made me think of The New Generation's Lieutenant Scott Bernard, for some reason. That stands to reason, because a source I've found says that it is a "redesigned" Lieutenant Bernard, and that the woman is Ariel, also redesigned from The New Generation. Of course she looked a little strange; she's an Invid---evil alien race---given human form. (The Invid can do that. Considering that their leaders are apparently able to, sort of like the later Zerg of StarCraft fame, able to warp space and time to travel around across interstellar distances simply by thinking about it, reshaping mere flesh and blood wouldn't be too hard.) Also, The Shadow Chronicles takes place after the end of the "Third Robotech War", wherein Earth is liberated from Invid subjugation. If I understand things right, the series will cover Lieutenant Bernard's search for the Robotech Expeditionary Force, a powerful group dispatched some twenty-five years earlier on a mission of armed diplomacy. See here and scroll down for a description of the effort; whoever's writing that site is not amused. Me, I'm just looking forward to seeing Admiral Lisa Hayes again.

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