Ruth's Diary


The election certainly was exciting. Instead of working on preparation for my oral exam I preferred being glued to the election news page on the bbc website waiting for any updates. I'm listening to the live broadcast right now. Unfortunately George Osborne has been named Chancellor (I wanted Vince Cable to have the position), but the Con-Lib coalition is going ahead.

I spent the last week or so watching 'Cybersix'. This is a cartoon made in 1999 by a Canadian-Japanese co-production, it never aired in Britain and only lasted a season. I found out about it on the show 'Familiar Faces'. Since I do enjoy digging up a forgotten gem I thought I'd give it whirl. All I can say is, I can see why it only lasted a season. It's a disappointment.

The animation I don't particularly like, it's not exactly realistic enough and rather cartoonish, taking the edge off of many scenes. (Seeing characters casually electrocuted really removes you from the story.) The theme playing over the end credits is very passionate, betraying a hidden maturity (as well as its lost potential). On the opposite end the opening theme is well written and epic...but the singer is very weak. She's meant to be a jazz singer, but whatever kind of singer she is, her voice weakens the song. Also daft how the cheesiest theme, which sounds like the climax of a campy romantic movie, plays whenever Cybersix appears. She needs a more heroic theme dammit!

Now those are the aesthetic elements and any kind of animation fan is fully aware that a good story can save all that. In order to go into the story more in-depth it's best to go through each character. The titular character is Cybersix, who is some kind of bionic woman with enhanced strength, balance and speed. She was a creation and finds herself fighting the other creations by the same evil creator (so at least this superhero doesn't encourage villains to spring up as a challenge to her own presence). In order to not be easily tracked down her identity by day is...a literature teacher called Adrian Seidelman. I'm not kidding. It certainly raises eyebrows.

Adrian's best friend (and growing love interest) is Lucas Amato, a biology teacher. He's a muscular blonde who loves (Association) football, not exactly someone you'd expect. In fact I have to stress that this cartoon is very good at creating characters that go against type (apart from Hashimoto the PI, who's every old bad-tasting Japanese stereotype all in one but is somehow still likeable), you see punks going to a showing of a romance movie for instance. The weird thing though is that he enjoys Adrian's company but also finds himself increasingly attracted to Cybersix. He kisses her in the final episode and there's a hint he guessed her alter ego. Unfortunately we never find out how he comes to terms with this.

Like any great hero, Cybersix has a sidekick: a black panther called Data7. What's odd is that despite their chemistry she always calls him by his full name, never nicknames him just 'Data' (or were they trying to avoid a lawsuit?). He's a sort of reincarnated version of her brother. They never actually say he's her brother in the cartoon, I'm guessing this was verbalised in the comic (will explain later).

The nemesis is the key disappointment. Her creator's name is Von Reichter (who is referred to as 'Von Richter' for some reason). Now he's pretty benevolent and does come up with some clever plans to bring down Cybersix. In case you're wondering, his ultimate goal with his creations is to take over the world (groan). Now what me makes not fear him is his goons first of all. He has a host of dumb muscular mutants as servants, that alone proves he's not as smart as he thinks he is. The other dumb thing is that doing most of the dirty work is his son Jose. He's only about 10, always walks like a cartoon Nazi and is so selfish. He's not that smart and way too easily defeated. This is a classic case of hero-villain imbalance: if you want people invested in the hero(ine) don't make the enemy so easy to defeat. The episodes with less Jose were unsurprisingly more interesting.

Now the story itself is also weak. The show follows the format of 'this is the situation now let's see what the problem is this time'. It means all the stories are disjointed and you don't care about anyone. Every episode feels rushed. In the first one the chemistry between Adrian and Lucas just sprung up and when Lucas finds Cybersix (just a few minutes later) it feels far too convenient. It's also in this episode that we learn Cybersix relies on a neon green fluid. We don't know what it is, how it's used and it never gets mentioned again until 12 episodes later. What's the point? That was a genuine mystery tossed to the side. There's also a surprisingly small amount of tension between Adrian/Cybersix and Lucas in their varying situations. Episode 3 has Cybersix watching Lucas and fantasising about dancing with him. Way to push it. Also the possible situations between Adrian and Lucas could have been more interesting, considering the gender-bending (without it being too naughty of course).

Now the show takes place in a fake city called Meridiana, which is heavily influenced by the city of Buenos Aires. The comic was originally done in Argentina, hence all the hispanic references. It's also the inspiration for the character of Von Reichter, who was a former Nazi member that experimented with genetic engineering and other biological manipulation in the concentration camps, before fleeing to Argentina. (Sound familiar?) None of this is ever explained in the cartoon, comic universe again. Now the comic is often considered to be dark and gritty, which was an atmosphere missing from the cartoon but was portrayed so very well in Batman Beyond (which took most of its audience no doubt). The story of Cybersix could have been so much better if the story arc and its direction of the episodes was so much tighter. Episode 1 we meet Cybersix and her reliance on whatever-it-is. Next episode we meet Data7. The episode after we learn about the liquid itself. The episode after that we get to know Adrian's past and 'his' education while learning more about Cybersix's escape from Von Reichter.

It's not that hard. Learning a new small mystery each episode keeps the audience interested in the character. The best episode by far was number 12, 'Daylight Devil'. Griselda could go invisible and was smart enough to figure out Cybersix's hidden identity. The entire episode became a battle of wills, personalities, with some great action choreography and the struggle to keep the explosive confrontation a (snigger) secret. I was never bored.

All I can say is that cases like this make my faith in capitalism grow.

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