Riding into the Sunrise of a New Year with Serazard

Happy New Year!  I wish everyone the best over the course of the next 365 days.

I had some pretty awful moments last year, mixed in with a couple of wonderful ones.  The worst part of it is that I’m getting a feeling this year might bring more of the awfulness with less of the wonder 😦

But let’s hope I’m totally wrong 😉  Anyway, the rest of this post is on Leiji Matsumoto’s manga V2 Panzer so read on if you like!!

V2 Panzer came out in 1988-9.  This is right in the middle of a conjectured Dark Age for Leiji fans, that spans the years between the inglorious end of the SSX anime in 1983 and a new GE 999 film plus Harlock Saga OVA in 1998-9.  I guess it’s best to lay it out like this:

Golden Age: 1974-1983

Dark Age: 1983-1998

Renaissance: 1998-2005 [or you could argue we’re still in this period]

These Ages are determined by anime and not manga, and in the case of the international fandom this specially makes sense because so little of Leiji’s manga has been translated.  Works like V2 Panzer, however, give strong evidence that there was never a Dark Age at all (at least in terms of Matsumoto’s own skill as opposed to his reception by production companies and audiences).  Alas, V2 Panzer has never been translated out of the Japanese!

Serazard fights.

I read this manga over the holidays and I summarized the whole thing on a page called V2 Panzer – Rough Ride and Guide on this blog’s sidebar on the right.  In this post I’m going to comment on interesting aspects of the manga, and SPOILERS will definitely abound.  If you really want to do this properly then, you might want to read the summary page first and then come here and read my comments.

First off, a brief synopsis.  At the end of the 30th century the world is in a mess.  There is a dictator called Zera Tsender who rules it all by means of battle tanks.   The main character here is Savior Serazard, a typically beautiful Leiji woman who in typical Leiji fashion has been orphaned (both parents died in a great motorcycle vs. tank battle against Tsender).  Serazard, along with two men who were also veterans of the big battle against Tsender, rides on a vintage British motorbike (with sidecar) to defeat the dictator once and for all.

Japanese Power

As I said, this manga first came out in 1988-9.  These years witnessed the very peak of Japanese power in the world.  Leiji Matsumoto does, in my opinion, address this in the manga and what he says may or may not shock you.  One of Serazard’s new friends is Gen Daiba, who is Japanese.  As soon as she hears this she tells him:

“The Japanese are only good at commerce, they stick like bats everywhere and suck up to everyone, famous for being the least trustworthy of the world’s races.”

Serazard criticizes.

Now, Serazard is the heroine and is throughout presented in a good light.  Daiba doesn’t contest this at all.  He sits lost in thought.  Later on a couple of other characters reference Japan and always in a similar tone.  I think Matsumoto is clearly complaining about Japan’s activities in this period and later on when the tale is told of Japan’s destruction at the hands of a great enemy fleet I almost get the feeling there is a karmic tone to the story.  Leiji is a patriot, sure, but he was no friend of the economic superpower of the 1980s.

Engines

The “V2” in V2 Panzer is pronounced Vee-Twin and it’s a classic engine employed in motorbikes and elsewhere.  The BSA G-14, Serazard’s bike, uses a V2 engine.  BSA stands for Birmingham Small Arms Co.

“Panzer” refers to a German tank.

Serazard’s other friend, Serlock Maybach, shares the name of the Maybach-Motorenbau company famous for its vehicle engines, including specifically Panzer engines!

So what’s with this title??  V2 engines weren’t used on Panzers.  It would make more sense to call the manga “V2 BSA” or “Maybach Panzer” or “V2 BSA vs. Maybach Panzers”, since Tsender’s forces are mainly tanks or Panzers.

[UPDATE: Chapter 14 shows Tsender’s forces in detail, and after careful study I can announce (I am 99% sure) that Tsender’s main battle tank is the Leopard 2, the main battle tank of the German Army today!!!]

The bike (V2 engine visible in the middle).

Well, the origin of the title is explained at the very end.  After Serazard and co. triumph over Tsender’s forces, they are dubbed the “V2 Panzer”.

The title is a victory name, and so I think it’s reasonable to assume that it works like Roman victory names.  For example, there is a famous general and statesman called Scipio Africanus.  “Africanus” doesn’t mean he was born in Africa, not at all.  He received this name when he defeated the Carthaginian Empire in Africa.  The conqueror appropriates the name of the conquered.  Since Serazard and her V2 engine defeated the Panzer force, the heroine can be dubbed “V2 Panzer” meaning “V2 (which defeated the) Panzer”.

The Setting of the Story

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this story is that only at the very end is it revealed that it takes place on Mars and not on Earth.  I actually figured it out in chapter 12 (out of the total of 17) when Serazard reached a “Kasei Ravine” and one of her friends commented that this ravine had been there back in the 20th century.  Every time Leiji references the 20th century you can be sure he is telling his audience: “hey, this is real stuff, look it up!”.  So I did and found that the Kasei Vallis is a feature of Mars.

Then I went back to the first few chapters and noticed that the Kriuse Plain where the great bike vs. tank battle was fought (and where Serazard herself begins her adventure) was nothing other than the Chryse Planitia, east of Kasei Vallis on Mars.  So I guess experts of Areography would have figured out from the start that this was Mars.  Also there’s a shift in terrain from sand to rock in chapter 9 that if I’m not mistaken mirrors conditions in Mars between the Planitia and the Vallis!

Mars (central section of the Western Hemisphere)

[Very quickly:  #1 is the starting point of Serazard’s journey, #2 is where she leaves the sands and starts riding on rocks, #3 is the dreaded Kasei Ravine that she must cross.  Soon after this she gets to ride a fancy airship to a continent named “Aidal”, the heart of Zera Tsender’s empire.  “Aidal” seems to be a made-up name, but I suspect it might be a short version of Daedalia Planitia in #4, because the Japanese pronounce “Daedalus” as “Daidalos”.]

This is not just astronomical fan-service: the realization that this dystopic story is taking place on Mars only heightens the tragedy of it, since it is stated that Earth itself is in an even bigger mess than its colony of Mars, with countries like Japan ceasing to exist altogether!!

A Different Frontier

A woman and two men ride along in the desert.  Sound familiar?  It’s the premise of Gun Frontier!!  Franklin Harlock looks just like Serlock, and Gen Daiba is quite close to Tochiro!  Actually, there’s a 15 year gap between the two series and in many ways V2 Panzer seems to be an inversion of the older work.

In GF, the two men take center stage.  The woman is part of the crew but remains somewhat of an outsider.  She is very strong and determined but very often needs rescuing.

In V2 it is the woman who takes center stage and the men aren’t even there half of the time.  Throughout the story she is the one that has to make the big decisions and implement them.

Serazard, Gen and Serlock

But the biggest difference is in the character of the two women.  Shinunora is clearly on the sexy end of the Matsumoto spectrum, whereas Serazard is on the cute end (and Maetel is on the mysterious end, can a spectrum be a triangle??).  They are both strong and confident, and they both use their bodies to achieve results [though whereas Serazard only teases, Shinunora will have sex even when it’s not actually necessary].  There’s also a small but interesting detail: Serazard has a bad habit of using the very manly “ore” for 1st person singular pronoun instead of “watashi” [I call the habit “bad” because she herself will often correct herself, saying “ore…watashi”…personally I think the usage is endearing].  Shinunora never ever dreams of employing masculine language.

I don’t think this all means that Leiji has changed his views on women.  I think he’s just portraying different kinds of women, though there’s one thing that certainly never changes: he likes women who like to get nude.

***

In conclusion, this is a great series and I’m very happy I got to read it!!!

~ by Haloed Bane on January 1, 2011.

9 Responses to “Riding into the Sunrise of a New Year with Serazard”

  1. “In GF, the two men take center stage. The woman is part of the crew but remains somewhat of an outsider. She is very strong and determined but very often needs rescuing.”

    He he he I could debate that last sentence. I would say she is purely determined – rather than strong as well. There is quite a difference :3

    Anyway interesting! I would love to see this in English! *goes to read the rough ride*

    • Determined to sleep with every man in the west.

      you know I haven’t really seen anything that would make me say Harlock is sharing center stage in GF.

      Least Serlock is cuter than GF’s Franklin Harlock

      • Well, certainly Tochiro is more of a protagonist than Harlock in GF, although I feel it’s the dynamic of their friendship that is at the center…

      • Yeah totally. I would so go for Serlock – just look at that face. You are with me right, Yami?

        And Yami. next time Vertical_Ed asks for suggestions – lets pound this into him?

    • It’s a pity and a travesty this is not in English etc etc 😦

  2. The Martian map blew my mind! As well as the Mars’ moons. The only match to Leiji’s attention to detail is your observation skills 🙂

  3. Actually something just came to me. You think the V2 name has anything to do with the V2 German missile or Velocity 2? Or does it actually say that it is the Vee Twin?

    Just happens I watched the first ep of The Cockpit and it mention the V2 Missile. That was all *shrug*

    • I guess that might have been in Leiji’s mind too, but the title clearly spells it out “v-twin” and the motorbike has a v-twin engine so…

      I need to rewatch that anime series!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: