Reaching for the Stars.
Picking a new anime to watch may not be as difficult as managing a peaceful “first contact” between Earth and multiple alien civilizations, but sometimes it's helpful to have more to go on than just a description and some promotional imagery. “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here to help you navigate these tricky spaces. Each week we provide additional info and cultural context to help anime fans decide whether or not they'd like to blast off with an unknown show.
What's Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars?
Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars is a 2001 TV anime with direction by Tatsuo Sato (Martian Successor Nadesico) and animation by MADHOUSE (A Place Further Than the Universe). The series is also known by the title Record of School Wars MURYOU. Crunchyroll describes Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars as follows:
The world is about to be turned upside down for Hajime Murata. First, an alien ship appears over Tokyo, and then a mysterious new student shows up at his school. Suddenly, students are displaying psychic powers, a giant defends the city from aliens, and men armed with weapons are lurking around the school. Now Hajime is determined to discover the truth behind a world he thought he knew!
From that description, you might expect for Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars to be a high energy adolescent comedy with a lot of zaniness, something along the lines of World Conquest Zvezda Plot, but this is not the case. Instead, Shingu is a thoughtful science fiction drama that is deeply concerned with the internal lives of its characters and also a story where every conflict takes on a Hegelian structure of thesis / anti-thesis / synthesis.
Ordinary / Extraordinary.
Although Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars includes such high concept elements as intelligent extraterrestrial life and psychic powers, the series takes great pains to establish an ordinary worldview. Set in the near future of 2070 ACE, Hajime Murata and his classmates spend most of their time with mundane activities such as staging the local middle school athletics and cultural festivals.
When something spectacular happens in Shingu, such as an alien invasion or a new development that throws a monkey-wrench into the gears of interplanetary diplomacy, it's surprising every time, because Shingu always invests the effort to re-establish a baseline sense of normalcy with its characters and their situations.
Conspiracy / Community.
Shingu explores the strength of communal and familial bonds, bonds which are forged and tempered by the secrets guarded by the Tenmo community in general and by the Sanemori family in particular. It's clear that the townsfolk know more than they are telling, and their unflappable resolve in the face of constant extraterrestrial threats is humorous but also strikingly realistic. A central idea in Shingu is that people are quick to adapt to even the strangest situations.
Shingu also explores ideas of generational conflict and filial duty, digging into how the secrets and responsibilities passed from parents to children shape the younger generations' growth and character. Not every person is satisfied with the obligations laid upon them, and even the town elders don't always reach a consensus on the ideal solution for ensuring the safety of Tenmo and its people.
Religion / Politics.
Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars has a rich sense of politics. The show is filled with unexpected alliances and shifting power structures that are revealed gradually, such that the entire picture isn't always clear to even the most powerful political players. There are no cartoon villains in Shingu, merely different factions with similar goals all vying for the same resources, and finding common ground with even seemingly aggressive enemies is a recurring theme.
Also noteworthy is how ground-shaking events – such as previous contacts with advanced alien cultures and technology – are mythologized over time. Such exposure informs both the religious rituals of the people of Tenmo as well as the history and the warrior culture of the Zaiglians, for example. Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and powerful alien visitors are re-imagined as gods by the civilizations with whom they interact.
The Student Record Continues.
Crunchyroll currently streams Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Guernsey, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersery, the United Kingdom, American Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, Guam, Norfolk Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, the United States Minor Outlying Islands, South Africa, and Heart Island and the McDonald Islands.
The series is available in Japanese with English subtitles and also dubbed in English. Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars is also available on DVD in North America from Nozomi Entertainment under their Lucky Penny imprint.
Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars is a special show, one that I would best describe as Star Trek: The Next Generation by way of Ultraman. If you're in the mood for a hopeful examination of humanity's place among the stars with a large cast of characters and an understated sense of humor, please consider giving Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars a try.
Special thanks go to resident star-citizen FaithTheSlayer for suggesting the subject for this week's entry for "Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog". Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.