This Should Be a Thing: Idol Gear

This Should Be a Thing: A series of story ideas. Feel free to use them yourself.

This is a story outside the story, following an obsessed fan of the anime “Idol Gear.” It’s a show where the world is threatened by trans-dimensional aliens, impervious to conventional weapons, called “Higher Realm.” Higher Realm can only be defeated by “Idol Gears,” young girls in mecha suits who combine their flying formations with colorful pop songs.

The protagonist is a NEET who’s devoted his whole life to the show. One day, he reads an obscure doujinshi about his waifu, Nagisa. Nagia learns why their attacks are so effective against Higher Realm…also known as “3D.” The people of Nagisa’s world can’t bring any physical force against the Higher Realm, so they wage a cultural war of propaganda. Her and the other Idol Gears are that war’s vanguards, weakening the enemy’s will. Only through controlling Higher Realm can her people assure their world’s expansion, along with new territory and resources.

But now Nagisa sees the Higher Realm as actual people, not just the shapeless shadows they fought before. For the first time, she feels the emotional pain she’s wrought as an “Idol Gear.” The protagonist is one such victim. He’s a man estranged from his family, and any friend he might have once had. Now, he lives in dark squalor off a dwindling bank account, trying to find solace in the glow of a TV screen. She’s struck with pity, and also guilt. She never imagined being an Idol Gear was about sucking away people’s lives.

Surely, she thinks, there must be some way for the two realms to coexist in peace. The battle lines are crossed. She appears as a vision in the protagonist’s head, even when he closes his eyes. Their story together begins. His love pains her. They’re from two different worlds, never meant to be together. Every day,she struggles over whether she’s helping or hurting him even more. Can she open his eyes to the light beyond the blinds, or will he slide even further into isolated depression?

I envision a visual novel as the story’s ideal medium. From here, the story branches in many directions. Each branch finds a different answer to the question of whether this inter-dimensional cold war can end in peace.

Western SF and Animu’d Covers

It’s surprisingly fun to image-surf on Amazon.co.jp, hopping from cover to cover with the “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed…” I especially enjoy seeing the covers for Western SF novels. I might nerd-rage over manga/light novels getting more “US marketable” covers, but the same thing happens in reverse. I don’t reflexively prefer the original cover, though, but the one that best hits my aesthetic tastes. And these hit them pretty well.

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SF References in Anime, From Obvious to Obscure

Japanese edition of a Robert F. Young short story collection...with a really neat cover.

People have claimed that written science fiction is “dying” for decades now. Despite that, all these decades, more and more great science fiction books are being written. The classics, and even lots of modern stuff, have a huge influence on more “pop” mediums. Anime is no exception, with references to SF novels showing up everywhere.

Clannad, “The Dandelion Girl” by Robert F. Young: Kotomi reads it as a child in her arc, and it’s the source of the recurring line “Day before yesterday I saw a rabbit, and yesterday a deer, and today, you.” Japanese readers voted it the “6th best SF story of all time” in a magazine poll. In the US, it’s not well known enough to keep in print, although it was printed online by SciFiction. The story has also been adapted into a visual novel by fans.

Eureka Seven, Greg Egan/Greg Bear: The scientist character of that name is based upon the reclusive Australian author Greg Egan, who is especially popular in Japan. That Japanese poll? His “Reasons to be Cheerful” was voted the #1 best foreign SF story…and himself the #2 best foreign SF writer, behind only Philip K. Dick. The character’s nickname “Dr. Bear” also refers to the author Greg Bear.

Geneshaft, multiple books: All it’s episode title are references to classic SF stories/books. In some cases, they’re based on new names used for the Japanese publication, so they’re not obvious to English readers. For example, James P. Hogan’s “Thrice Upon a Time” was printed in Japanese as “未来からのホットライン (Hotline from the Future), and episode 6 is titled “過去からのホットライン”(“Hotline from the Past”).

In Japan, even Greg Egan's "hardest SF known to man" needs a girl on the cover.

Gurren Lagann: The subtitles for the two movies reference the science fiction novels “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke and “The Lights in the Sky are Stars” by Frederic Brown. The first book is well-known, but the second hasn’t gotten much attention in the US since its publishing in 1953.

Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, multiple books: The book-loving alien robot reads a number of SF books throughout the series. She seems especially fond of the Hyperion series; it includes the book she placidly calls “unique,” and the book she gives to Kyon with a hidden bookmark. The magazine which serializes the light novels also posted a list of “Nagato Yuki’s 100 Books,” with “Nagato’s Favorites” like “Permutation City” by Greg Egan and “Terminal Experiment” by Robert J. Sawyer…both books she could definitely relate to.

Nichijou/My Ordinary Life, episode 20, “The Sirens of Titan,” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: The book is seen randomly and conspicuously in one of the intermissions. Of course, if it’s SF in Nichijou, it has to be something like Vonnegut.

Toward the Terra, “Slan” by A.E. van Vogt: The 1977 manga shares the basic premise of (oppressed psychic mutants who live among humans, and are hunted down for execution) and main character’s name (“Jommy”) of A.E. van Vogt’s 1940 novel. Although the two stories have the same premise, they take it in very different directions. Slan is pure pulp, but it’s still an enduring classic which hit a nerve with the nerdy SF fans of its time. They took up the slogan “fans are Slans!,” comparing themselves to the evolved, imaginative mutant race persecuted by mundane society.