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Gun Parade March

Entry updated 10 May 2021. Tagged: Game.

Kōkidō Gensō Gun Parade March ["High Mobile Machine Fantasy Gun Parade March"] Videogame (2000). Alfa System. PlayStation (2000).

In the closing days of World War Two, the world is invaded by the genjū ("phantom beasts"). Fifty-four years on, Japan has instituted a military draft of teenagers in order to pilot its Humanoid Walking Tanks (see Mecha) in the continued war of resistance against Aliens who have occupied half the planet. The narrative focuses on the 5121st HWT platoon in training, combat, and mawkish off-duty flirting.

Gameplay offers cinematic views of mecha combat, and also an AI that gave non-player characters strong interactions with the player – both vehicles and characters can be tuned up, while the "dating simulator" aspect of downtime conversations feeds into Japanese Fandom's increasing interest in romance itself as the great undiscovered country (see Women in SF). The sandbox is broad, allowing players to aim for the established goal of staying alive until the armistice, or to tinker with combat robots, or to elicit declarations of love from NPC girls – thus unifying several disparate groups of fandom, and allowing Gun Parade March to become the first game to win a Seiun Award.

The game was followed by a three-volume Manga, Gun Parade March (graph 2001-2003 Dengeki Dai-Ō), and two Anime seasons, Gunparade March: The New March (2003), and Gunparade Orchestra (2005). It is these later iterations, with the variant single-word rendering of the title, that reached the Anglophone world. The Gunparade anime did not suffer in the divorce from its gaming roots, although the teens-in-machines-fighting-aliens high concept has been a hoary Cliché in Japanese sf since Tetsu Yano's 1967 translation of Starship Troopers (1959). It was also well-trodden in Japan a generation before the game's release, by Gainax, and the Alternate History angle that shies away from 1945 is old news in the genre (see Masaki Yamada; Haruya Yamazaki; Hitoshi Yoshioka; Yoshio Aramaki). One is tempted to point out that Japan already had a teenage draft in 1945, and was on the brink of starvation even then, leading the historian to question the sturdiness of the Jonbar Point as anything more than a convenient excuse for combat and the gamification of female characters into attainable objects. It was in reaction to narratives such as Gun Parade March, that fetishized war itself for a generation that had known nothing but peace, that led Mamoru Oshii to make Sky Crawlers (2008). [JonC]

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