Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Real Drive 17-19: Of Families and Trees

This series should have been done months ago. Maybe that's why Ureshii and Saizen are working double time. They've been tirelessly releasing back-to-back episodes, which I'm glad for. Actually, I think it's easier this way because it's made everything clearer somehow.
EPISODE 17: Home Sweet Home - Inherit

Minamo's very busy family unexpectedly comes home for a rare, impromptu family get-together.

So this is what Minamo's family is like. One can immediately see that Minamo takes after her grandmother in their illogical reliance on intuition, a rarity in this technology-centered world. This is also the first time (and probably the last) we get to meet Minamo's mother. She's very pretty but she feels even more of a cardboard figure than Minamo's father. Apparently, she's a nano researcher and has to stay on the field most of the time. Minamo's parents do not seem to have any relationship, other than through their common children. That was a truly awkward -- cold even -- moment at the elevator.

Seeing the family relations for myself, I think I'm beginning to understand Minamo's attachment to Haru and why Souta is having an affair with his boss. The disconnect between them is so palpable, you can slice it with a knife. And yet, you can sense that despite this, they are all still connected in one way or another. Maybe that's what the phrase 'blood is thicker than water' means.

But the most interesting point in this episode is very subtly played out between Minamo's grandma and Haru. I'm not really sure but Minamo's grandma may have had a thing for Haru a long time ago and now she's seeing the same sort of feelings in Minamo. I like that she doesn't try to discourage Minamo, despite knowing that Haru is oblivious to the whole thing and that because of this Minamo might eventually get hurt. I like that she's perfectly willing to let things happen. Exactly what I think a truly intuitive woman would have done in that situation.

What this episode brings out is Real Drive's acute sense of realism. In the real world, people don't always talk about stuff. They just try to do their best because all too often, the real stuff is what's going on underneath.

EPISODE 18: Tjuta Forest - Ion

A strange noise is causing a disruption in the Metal. In order to investigate the source of the noise, Kushima sends out Haru and the gang to a far-off jungle island where they meet up with the park ranger, Umuran, who serves as their guide. At first, the trip has all the appearances of a fun jungle adventure, for Minamo at least, until the ionization effects of the rainforest take its toll on Haru and Souta's cyberbrains.

Nothing much happens, except Minamo goofing around in the jungle, which is cute and I don't really mind. But to make up for the lack of action, we get a dose of social commentary on the environment and people's general apathy towards what's currently going on. Plus, we learn something about the Artificial Island. Apparently, that's exactly what its name means. All the trees in it are fake and are just simulations, their purpose only to catch microwaves. I wonder what the microwaves are for. Probably as a source of energy or something?

Also, we get a bit of subtle romantic tension (still one-sided at the moment) between Souta and Holon, although you have to pay really close attention in order to get it. Holon is sooo cute when she's not being an android. Other times, she creeps me out, although that part where Umuran asks her if she's cold and Holon's all: "My body is made to withstand even Antartica" made me LOL. Imagine using that response to a lame pick-up line.

EPISODE 19: Rain Drops That Return - Ichor

As the group moves deeper into the jungle, Holon collapses and goes into maintenance mode. Souta volunteers to stay with her while Haru, Umuran and Minamo trudge on to finish the mission.

The story behind Real Drive mainly happens in the background of Minamo's random daily experiences so it's understandable how it can be quite frustrating for those looking for a hard sci-fi story. Word: you ain't gonna find that here. True, Real Drive is about technology and the fascinating, bombastic world inside the Metal but that is just one aspect of the whole series. The Metal merely provides the setting and the perfect background to make subtle social commentaries about THE PRESENT, which is essentially what sci-fi is about. So there. That's Real Drive.

That said, I think the slice of life storytelling approach serves as props to help make the transition from our present Internet mindset to the more dynamic Metal easier and therefore make us see that something like Real Drive might not be entirely impossible in the near future. Of course, I'm not saying that Real Drive will most definitely happen. I'm saying it's not impossible. Or at least, that's the feeling that the story gives you, in its attempt to make you understand how the Metal works by showing you things as they happen and how there are plausible reasons why they happen in the first place.