One of the reasons that I think meta humor is as funny as it can be is because the creators are acknowledging the presence of the audience and of their intelligence when they use it. A non-anime example of the power of meta humor is the excellent book Redshirts by John Scalzi. He starts with the observation about the short lifespan of the bit part security officers (the Redshirts) from Star Trek and builds a funny and surprising deep novel. Speaking of Star Trek, as I’m writing this there’s speculation that the new villain in the second Star Trek movie will be a red shirt. I don’t see the creators tapping into that bit of meta humor but if they do, it would be awesome.
There are other ways to acknowledge the audience, however.
After finishing Aquarion Evol, Mari Okada, Shouji Kawamori, and the animation studio Satelight moved on to a new project AKB0048 which is set in the future where humanity has settled on many planets and a philosophy that anything entertaining harms the economy has taken root on many of these planets. To combat this, the pro-entertainment faction utilizes the idol group AKB0048 named after an idol group that existed on Earth long ago to give concerts on anti-entertainment planets.
It sounded kinda silly and I’m not a fan of those idol groups but, after Aquarion Evol, I was willing to give it a shot. The first couple of episodes were better then I thought possible but I was waiting for something to really convince me either way. That something happened in the third episode and is today’s moment.
In episode 3, the candidates for this year’s group of new recruits for AKB0048 had one final task to do – protect AKB0048 as they gave a concert on a certain anti-entertainment planet. This sounded like an extreme test to ask these girls to do since they had, at most, a couple weeks of practice maximum. When the military mechs and soldiers appeared, it went badly – as would be expected – and it was looking grim for our viewpoint characters until one of them realized the guns where just firing paint balls. They thought it was a bit weird and after the dust cleared it was revealed that it was all a simulation to see how the candidates would react under stress. Only a few didn’t run away and it was those few that were passed to become understudies for AKB0048.
Those few expressed disbelief about what just happened and the manager who was running things said basically – silly, we never would really throw you out like this. It was this moment that really hit me because it felt like the creators were speaking through the manager to us, the viewers, saying – relax, don’t worry, we got this, we take our absurdly premised anime seriously.
And I did relax and AKB0048 went on to become one of the best anime series from 2012. The second season is my absolute most anticipated series for the upcoming Winter 2013 season and I hope it answers the many lingering questions left from the first season.
So, to pick up from yesterday:
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a love powered mecha.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a wake up call.
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a unique form of culture shock.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a masterpiece to savor.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a shock to the heart.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a pair of comfortable old slippers.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a wink and a nudge.
Tune in tomorrow to see what’s next.