I’ve been picking out some awfully obscure anime from 2000 thanks to that Favourite and Forgotten post series I’m doing, one of which is Platinumhugen Ordian. It’s one of the many Evangelion clones that populated anime back then, and appeared to die out once Gurren Lagann was made (although the latest episode of Eureka Seven Ao certainly had a lot of Eva to it). It doesn’t have a good reputation. Well, actually it has no reputation at all since barely anyone has even heard of it, let alone watched it, but those that have are nearly universally down on the series. However I thought the first episode was all right. A bit confusing and it had some weird dialogue, but there was some interesting directing and ideas. So I did a bit of reading to figure out why people thought it was crap.
The complaints directed towards Ordian are nearly entirely about how confusing and nonsensical it is. It fails to justify its characters’ actions, plot points come out of nowhere, and the ending ends awfully abruptly and nothing is properly resolved. There were one or two people who were positive about the series, all of whom were people who could understand Japanese. They said the subs were utterly terrible. One in particular that stood out to me was translating ‘coup d’etat‘ as ‘chocolate cake‘ or something completely ridiculous like that. Considering the difference between saying that the army were overthrowing their general and, say, enjoying some oishii cakiee with their general would have on the plot, that’s pretty damning. Even worse is the original subbers didn’t include the epilogue, which explains why the ending completely fails.
So watching Platinumhugen Ordian without knowing Japanese is a hopeless task. What I found strangely depressing was the idea that no english speaker will ever be able to properly experience this show. I thought we were beyond that in the digital age. You no longer have the instance where a Japanese VHS tape is brought into a screening room and some dude with knowledge of Japanese trying to explain what was going on to the audience over the microphone as the crowd watched the pretty pictures. We were gone beyond the stage where you had to beg for VHS tapes to trade only to discover that it had been played so much that the video quality was now unwatchable. Back when I was a young ‘un, before I knew how to download anime, or even knew that it was available to be bought, I would scour shady streaming sites, picking up god only knows how many viruses. If the anime I wanted to watch had been taken down (as they frequently were), I wouldn’t know how to watch it. But with sites like BakaBT keeping copies of every anime ever seeded, I figured there would never be an anime I wouldn’t be able to find.
Obviously though, this is not the case. Certainly when it comes to older stuff, the files may be lost and gone forever. For example there’s the stories of the earliest television programmes being lost forever, including some of the earliest episodes of Dr. Who, because it wasn’t common practice to keep copies of everything you broadcast. When it comes to english-speaking anime fans, you’ve got the double barrier of first finding the original copies of the anime, and then getting someone to sub the thing. It might not matter for most anime that are long forgotten, but there are plenty of anime with huge cultural relevance that haven’t been subbed. Saizen subs are still working away on Ashita no Joe, which is easily one of the most important anime ever made, particularly when it comes to animation techniques.Yet here we are in 2012 and there is still somehow no subs for that hugely significant scene in the final episode that has apparently been copied and parodied time and time again in anime even today.
The thing is, who is going to care? If you can’t watch Platinumhugen Ordian due to shitty subtitles, there are literally thousands of other anime you can watch if you want. Maybe if you’re a fan of the director of Platinumhugen Ordian, Masami Obari, you’d want to watch it (and why wouldn’t you be a fan of the director of Angel Blade and Viper GTS). Maybe you’re on some sort of mission to watch every Evangelion clone to see what sort of similar themes emerge from them, you’d be disappointed that you can’t figure out what’s going on here. Or maybe, like me, you’re trying to get an idea of what kind of anime were made in 2000. In that case, I’m probably never going to know what Platinumhugen Ordian is really like. And, for some reason, that made me a bit sad.