Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars
It's the year 2070, and the world is awakening to the presence of aliens; the Japanese government is beginning to admit it, though the native residents of the town of Tenmo seem curiously unsurprised about it all. 14-year-old Hajime Murata, who now lives in Tenmo, is a bit startled by this, and even more by the amazing superpowers wielded by some members of the junior high school he attends, Misumaru (AKA "Mischu"); his new friend Muryou Subaru seems to have these powers as well. But soon he gets deeply involved in it all, for he discovers that he actually has a critical role to play himself.
"Canceling the athletic festival because of aliens would be pretty lame"
If you can accept the thinking of the quote above- or at least take it in stride- and overlook a few slow spots (mostly in the school festivals themselves) and a couple of annoying characters, then you might have a pretty good time with Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars, just as I did. It's an innocent sort of school/sci-fi show, with an attitude toward its subject much like World of Narue's. And even more, this one has an ambitious plotline, based on the "zoo" theory of why we've never been contacted by aliens- in that theory, the aliens DO know we're here, but perhaps feel we're not yet worthy enough to have their presence revealed to us. Shingu is set at the cusp of a change in that condition, complicated by some rivalries between the aliens themselves; by some secret defenders of Earth; and by some colorful and mysterious characters, human and alien, with their own agendas.
The alternate titles of the series feature Muryou's name, perhaps indicating that he might have been intended as the featured player in the opener of a longer saga. He doesn't completely dominate here though, which is just as well, for he's just a bit too perfect for my tastes. Besides being invariably cheerful and optimistic, he's apparently adept at every kind of athletic activity, has quite an ability at magically blasting aliens, and can fly at ludicrous speed (as they put it in Spaceballs) through the vacuum of space, no problem. He's very coy about just what he actually IS. He has a sister named Setsuna, one of several characters whose eccentric character design, and equally idiosyncratic behavior, I found very appealing. (I actually liked her a bit LESS when we find out who and what SHE actually is.)
Hajime was easily my favorite character, though. He wears glasses and is very bright, and like Muryou an optimist, but unlike Muryou seems completely human otherwise; but his exceptionally kind heart turns out to be a superpower itself when mixed with the personalities of Misumaru's student council.
Although she's not its president, the most forceful character in that student council may be Nayuta Moriyama. She's a little... well, either take-charge or overbearing, depending on your perspective, and before you shout "Tsundere!", in her defense she has a pretty heavy burden to bear. Her problem is, in fact, that she has too much desire to bear it all herself, even though, as they say, "It takes a village to repel an alien attack" (or something like that.) She initially gives both Hajime and Muryou, as outsiders, a hard time, and I was a bit worried for Hajime's sake, since he's a lot less able to defend himself, but things may change...
Among the student council we also have Kyoichi Moriguchi, the hotheaded president who, like Nayuta, has an almost paranoid fear of outsiders; his apparent opposite in personality, Harumi Mineo (a clue: she's a bit more formidable than she seems); a calm-and-gentle giant named Hachiyou; and Shun Morihata, a diminutive, afro-coiffed kid who loves to spread gossip. Among some aliens quietly moving events behind the scenes, we have one named Jitosh, who wears Hawaiian shirts and seems to have no compunctions about doing whatever the hell he pleases. (There's a reason for that, which the show will give you toward the end.) Another alien of note is named Weinul; a resident of a planet called Zaigle, he has a rather simple, unnuanced idea of right and wrong that's effectively used in some philosophical disputes he has with Jitosh, who becomes Weinul's sponsor and closest friend.
There are numerous other characters in our cast, and with any large cast of course you have a few duds. For me, these included a classmate named Jirou, whose-uh-overbite was kind of distracting (one wonders how he is even able to speak clearly); and Futaba, Hajime's kid sister, who can be totally obnoxious, particularly in a crush she develops on Muryou.
While there are a few poor artistic choices (Jirou), this show nevertheless has numerous character designs I loved- I've mentioned Setsuna, for one- and some more quirky, and equally interesting, designs for some of the robots in particular, as well as for the Champion of Tenmo, the Shingu itself. (To say more about that would just spoil everything.) The show's opening ballad is stately and quite beautiful.
An innocent sort of show, yet one that tackles some heavy themes; it doesn't always work, but it has a lot of charm, and in time opens up all its characters' hearts, even the most jaded and cynical ones. There's at least one actual romance in here, too, between two very disparate personalities. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Essentially fanservice-free. Honestly. All the girls are modestly proportioned (as it should be, since they're mostly middle-school age), and only one girl is seen in a (very conservative) swimsuit. Some suspense and violence (not bloody), though there are mature themes about loss and sacrifice. But it never gets too heavy for even a younger viewer. The storyline is rather involved, though, and there might not be enough fighting to keep the interest of, say, the Dragonball crowd. We'll say about 13 and up.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars © 2001 Madhouse.
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