Death Parade: Episode 7

Yeah I had a boss like that, too, Nona.

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We open on Master Roshi-sama practicing his billiards game.  He lays out the three rules of arbitration.

-First, Arbiters cannot cease giving judgments, that is their very purpose. Their dharma, if you will.

-Second, Arbiters must not experience death, because the experience would make them too Human. Arguably too sympathetic? Lose their impartiality? Or would such an experience give them bias of a different kind?

-Third, Arbiters cannot experience emotion, because they are dolls.

Kurokami stumbles into the book among the many books about alcohol that populate Decim’s shelf. Yes, that book. That one she has dreamt of and her mother read to her as a child, so the flashbacks would imply.

But Decim has no idea where the book came from. He guesses it to be the property of Quindecim’s previous arbiter. Sparking flashbacks!

We meet Quin, who is leaving the job. Decim will be taking over for her.  Ginti and Decim are having a sort of orientation, similar to Kurokami’s in Episode 2, only they will be participating, having the buzzers which can cause mayhem with the game. We don’t see much about this particular arbitration, but they are playing billiards, a nice shout out to the original form of this series.

Decim makes up the drinks, and this convinces Quin that’s he’s perfect for the job! Oh Quin, I love you. Of course it’s very clear she’s overeager to be done with this job.

But Nona has a question. Why did Decim fail to use his device?  Decim apologizes, he was too distracted watching the pair’s behavior and what they were thinking.  Ginti laughs this off as Humans are idiots and even if you could discern their thoughts, it wouldn’t matter, it wouldn’t change anything.  But Decim thinks otherwise, and says he feels respect for anyone who has lived a full life.

Nona admires this, but as Decim was unable to discern their thoughts, she advises him to use their artificial means to create conflict in the future. It’s obvious she wants him to develop this skill, but she is the boss still, and needs a job to get done properly.

Quin offers one last piece of advice. Find something you treasure, no matter how small. Continue reading

Yuri Kuma Arashi: Episode 8

Warning: Doll yells at lesbians.

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This week begins with the cut off from last week. Kureha’s put together that Ginko is her childhood friend, and is about five seconds away from molesting her on the porch. Until, that is, she sees that Ginko is carrying the pendant her departed mother left.  This railroads into straining our patience.

See, Kureha already makes the observation “Only the bear who killed my mom should have that”.  And Kureha has been ADAMANT to tell others who she thinks will believe her that bears have taken Human form and have infiltrated the school.

But she doesn’t make this connection, not on her own.  Being generous, we can say she secretly thought this, but was trying to rationalize this away. Because…because a friend so unimportant to her life she COMPLETELY forgot about her by the time she was five has suddenly reappeared and that’s just SO SPECIAL she can’t bear to feel betrayed? I’ll get into this business later, but keep this info filed away.

The rigging on the good ship Yuri Kuma is starting to buckle. It’s being forced to carry far more weight than it is designed for, and these little issues which hurt a little have become too obvious to our gaze as we head towards wrapping up Act 3.

It’s time for Sensei’s backstory, much as Episode 4 was Lulu’s. Though this will be more of an interwoven narrative than a cut-away.

She was an orphaned bear, and taken in by the former headmaster of the school.  The headmaster explains that “only the unsullied have value here”, which is probably something we should be keeping in mind as the revelations pile on in the coming weeks. Translations have referred to the headmaster as male, but I don’t think that’s the intent. If anything, the headmaster is a nod to the manga-version Court, where the judges (collectively here though I realize only Life Sexy is judge) are totally androgynous, rather than their “femboy” stance with male voices as presented in the anime.

Or at least that’s assuming it’s based on a female using “bokuwa” (which happens all the time). If this is just because she’s wearing a shirt and tie I’m pulling this internet over and giving everyone a stern talking to.

I have no idea if this trivia will influence how we see the headmaster at the end of the series, or if she’s even meant to correlate to the Court of Severance,  Maybe one of you is more clever and sees a connection there though, so there you have it. Continue reading

Double Feature: Death Parade 5+6

Yeah yeah, we get it, Shinji-kami, enough already.

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These two episodes are rather light, so let’s get to em.

Kurokami is having a dream in picture book style. It’s a little story about a boy who sees a constantly smiling girl outside, goes out to play, falls through the snow, but is rescued by the girl he came to play with.

Kurokami awakes with a start. Seems this is a dream she’s been having for some time.  She spies a dress in her wardrobe that seems unfamiliar, but doesn’t really pay it much mind.

She goes to greet Decim, and they have guests coming. But something goes wrong with the memory transfer.  Unlike previous guests, one of the guys here just wants a drink. To which Decim shrugs and obliges. Neither of the contestants has any memory of their lives.

Nona is playing pool with…god, I guess? He calls himself the closest thing to. Presumably high judge of the damned, or something, as he’s likely Nona’s boss, overseeing all the departments of the afterlife. He actually makes a rather serious aside that God is long gone. He makes several comments over the course of their game, such as how Nona is like Decim, how he’s surprised she lasted as an arbiter because she lacks self control.

Back in the bar, the big guy panics. He has flashes of memory to the bar, rather than his life. Decim restrains him fairly easily, and Kurokami tends to the boy. But she collapses, drawing Decim’s attention.  The boy is a bit abrasive, but Decim eventually manages to subdue him.  He identifies him as Ginti, a fellow arbiter, and his disguise melts away.

Seems Ginti is confused by Kurokami’s presence, the fact a Human is long term helping with judgments baffles him. They fight and fight, when Nona arrives, clotheslining Ginti in the most adorable way.  She comments Decim usually never rises to Ginti’s bait. Implicit is that Kurokami is becoming something of a blind spot for Decim. Continue reading

Yuri Kuma Arashi: Episode 7

Black helicopters!

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This week begins with Kureha’s mother telling her the final bit of that story, about how the girls live happily ever after, and we get confirmation that it was supposed to be Kureha and Ginko.

Back from credits, and Kaoru is sleeping with the teacher…I MEAN, THAT MYSTERIOUS BEAR THAT WILL TOTALLY KUMA SHOCK US ONCE SHE’S REVEALED! Speaking of, she eats Kaoru.

Kureha is keeping vigil over Ginko.  Like a human keeping vigil over a shrine guardian or something.  The pair are now officially accepted as a part of Kureha’s home, she trusts their good intentions.

In a reversal of previous episodes, it is now Kureha that has random fantasies about sex with Ginko.

But this seems involuntary.  Could these be visions produced by Kumalia?  We could write off Ginko’s that, maybe, she was too into Kureha, too prone to daydreaming.  But this is much more “against type”, and Kureha, while accepting Ginko and Lulu’s good intentions, still doesn’t harbor ROMANTIC feelings for either.  So the fact she has this elaborate dream sequence which tries to tell her enlightenment can be found in Ginko’s vag is a curious conspiracy theory.

Adding to this conspiracy theory of Kumalia’s influence, we see Kureha CONVENIENTLY start to piece together her past, that she once had a “special friend” before Sumika and that she might have been the girl in the story. Continue reading

Yuri Kuma Arashi: Act 2

Sure, Hunnylingus is a word.

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Let’s embark on a tour of plot entering this series.

Episode 4 begins as a backstory episode.  It’s rather cute, with the Judges narrating Lulu’s life.  She was nobility, apparently royalty if the tale is to be believed as 100% accurate, but again, you can’t trust everything you see as is. She was doted on by her parents. But as soon as her little brother is born (see: the new heir is born) she begins to miss her old life of privilege as everyone’s attention turns to the young prince.

And credit where it’s due, this little story takes on the form of a western fairy tale, even incorporating the “trial of three”, something modern retellings generally abandon.

Speaking of our trial of three, it comes in the form of Lulu putting her little brother in a box and kicking him down a cliff to his death. From which he returns almost completely unharmed.  He does this to earn Lulu’s “promise kiss”, because he wants to marry his big sister (he is like, three).  This is the first mention, but it will recur many times from now on, and it seems to be something within Bear lore similar to “true love’s first kiss”.  And yet, the choice the judges present her is the following.

“Will you give up on love? Or will you give up on kisses?”

So is the kiss PERSONAL love, while love in general is just the concept? Or what? Who knows, still up for debate.

Lulu’s little brother dies trying to bring her a pot of pure honey.  Ginko, however, is the one who returns it to her.  She is a “criminal bear”, and is off to the other side of the Wall of Severance. Lulu, feeling a combination that she owes Ginko a debt and that she must repay the favor of a promise kiss by helping Ginko claim hers, will join her. Continue reading

Death Parade: Episode 4

Being a dick, because it’s god’s work.

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Cutting out the middle man, we’re already at the part where the couple are trying to break open the doors.  It fails, obviously, but we’re quickly shown our characters.

On the whole I must compliment Death Parade’s establishment of character. They are rather predictable, but at least they’re done strongly.

So our pair, Yousuke and Misaki, seem to be unrelated completely. Misaki is a reality TV star. with all the arrogance and presumption that comes with it, and Yousuke seems to be a nervous office type, or possibly some kind of computer programmer.

Misaki is convinced they’re on a reality, hidden camera show. Candid camera, she basically means.

…Which, to her credit, isn’t entirely off base.  They ARE being watched for specific reactions to unusual circumstances. So good call on that one.

..I like the bar’s transformation sequences.

It’s video game time! In an amusing bit, each character is on the “character select” screen, and it’s entirely themselves.  The afterlife is nothing if not amusing itself at humans’ expense. Continue reading

Death Parade: Episode 3

You ride upon perfection; You ride upon the tears of newbs.

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This week begins with a scene of two little kids waving goodbye to each other. I’m sure this won’t end tragically for them.

After credits, wake up with your male lead this episode, Miura. They get the same explanation as Takashi and Machiko did last time, with the added bonus of the intern counting down the rules. She’s been here for some time by now, it seems.

Our lady protagonist, though, can’t remember anything. She doesn’t know her name, nor what she was doing before she died.

A good time to use this card, by the way.  Last time, Decim had said this game only exists for souls who died in the same related incident.  While we have no reason to presume he was lying, we still don’t TECHNICALLY know if we can believe that point yet, so it’s a little thing to stir the suspense.

Decim tells her she will probably remember more of her life’s details if she plays the game.  She concedes, and Miura, having the hots for her, goes along with it.

Bowling! And each bowling ball is the opponent’s heart. Complete with body temperature and pulse rate. Generally, things go amicably, and we see that, at least for Miura’s end, he was the boy we saw in the opening scene, but that girl he played with disappeared long ago.  This girl reminds him of her, but that’s probably impossible.

Miura makes a wager. If he wins, will she go out with him? How cute. This certainly won’t spiral into a bout of homicidal rage.  At this, the girl begins remembering things. She remembers Miura, vaguely, but as an adult. So that’s curious.

But her next flashback is that childhood scene. It IS the same girl! Well don’t that beat all.  They’re both overjoyed for this. I’m sure this won’t end in obsessive stalker behavior for either one of them. Continue reading

Double Feature: Death Parade 1+2

I dub thee, Gindecim!

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Death Parade’s one of those shows that, I am very tempted to write “you guys all know the premise”, because it feels so very familiar. And yet, off the top of my head, I’m having a difficult time pinning down a specific series or movie that adheres to this plot.  Like little phantom memories that elude me from childhood. So feel free to add your own parallel at the bottom.

This is the QuinDecim.  It’s the gateway between the living world and the “afterlife”, for lack of the appropriate term.  Naturally, it’s a night club. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the religious symbolism to you.

Our bartender, Decim…well…someone saw Mushishi and said “That’s it! Ginko is St. Peter!”.  That’s his job here.

Takashi and Machiko are a wed couple, in fact, on their honeymoon, when they find themselves in the QuinDecim.

Decim tells them quite calmly that they cannot escape, and must play a game where they stake their lives.  The game is darts, because…shuttup.  Presuming the guy to be a serial killer of some kind, Takashi and Machiko capitulate for now.

Ah, but the twist! The dartboard is drawn with various organs and body parts.  When a dart strikes the board, the opposing player will feel pain in that region.  But a helpful hint from Ginko…I mean Decim (this is so confusing with a different Ginko in this season) tells them they’re free to totally miss the board. Which they do happily. Until the final two darts, and you see the betrayal coming from 30 seconds into the episode. It comes in the form of overhearing a conversation on their wedding day regarding “Matchi”, who’s clearly having an affair because all women do in bathrooms is high five each other about who they’re cheating on their husbands with.

So Takashi “slips”, and Machiko (probably legitimately) hits the very edge of the board. Machiko tells Takashi that she’s carrying his baby, so please be super not careful to hit her in the uterus.

So Takashi hits Machiko in the uterus. Not that this matters, as Machiko has finally realized the truth: They’re already dead, this is so much pomp and circumstance. Decim agrees, this is arbitration to decide who gets sent to Heaven, and who gets sent to Hell. Continue reading

Yuri Kuma Arashi: Act 1

With 31 flavors of lesbian.

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I was originally going to just catch up this series one by one in the traditional manner like a beast. But…it had to be THIS show. Only now, at the Ep. 3 mark, is the form of the series taking shape. And even then, it is JUST the shape, the shadow on the wall as the pieces assemble together.

Which is, to be sure, a serious weakness in this first act. And it comes down to intent. One phrase was used in the marketing of Yuri Kuma Arashi that raised eyebrows and palmed faces the world over.

“Intellectual fantasy”.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of symbolism as a story-telling medium (not as a narrative tool, that’s different). Saying your piece is “intellectual” is often an easy screen to hide behind because, duh, it’s not SUPPOSED to make sense! It’s SUPPOSED to confound you and make you wonder who’s dick got blown to get it on the screen! Just as often, it’s an easy defense screen to hide behind, “It’s intellectual, you dope! You wouldn’t need it explained if you were who it was MEANT FOR!” like certain anime whose title rhymes with bill la bill.

Yuri Kuma Arashi may not be this type of show exactly, but you’re probably driving through that neighborhood to get there.

But, it’s still early. Perhaps it won’t be this bad looking back. Perhaps there will be a Madoka effect where the most seemingly innocuous, distracting conversation takes on a whole new shade on second viewing.

And in that vein, I will describing things as they appear from hindsight, not as the information is originally delivered, because that would be two episodes of me saying “Then X happens…for some reason.”

Some years ago a planet exploded, raining fragments on the earth that caused bears to rise up and begin preying exclusively on humans.  Because of this, Humanity has begun to build, well, what the Funimation dub has chosen to call “the Severance Wall”, but it could just as easily go “Extinction wall”…again, TOO MUCH SYMBOLISM to determine which translation works best for now. So I’m going with the guys in a somewhat official capacity.

We are in the land of Yuri. Is it all of Humanity? Or a bubble universe where this small town of Yuri is what constitutes “Humanity”? Hard to say. I mean we SEE a map of Japan in news broadcasts but then why is the world this…weird way? But in this world every girl has a “Yuri-” name, as either given or surnames. Every one, except one of the protagonists BUT I’M GETTING TO THAT! The entirety of Humanity is female, and every girl is a lesbian it would seem.

Again, this is just what’s on screen. But hell at least Sakura Trick ACKNOWLEDGED (and later, showed us) fathers and other male attachments. No such luck yet in this series. So it’s confusing.

But not only that! Apparently there are STILL social pressures about BEING lesbians…for some crazy reason.  I have two theories about this, one hilarious and one glare-inducing, but I’ll get to them. For now, just keep that nugget of info to yourself. Continue reading

Madan no Ou to Vanadis: Act 4

Fumble, foul, or failure?

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So, we open on an impressive ambush tactic.  Tigre castles his refugees and soldiers, so when the Muslin forces attack, they are met with swords instead of helpless villagers. Nice move.

Unfortunately, it only wins them the spearhead. Two thousand guys isn’t going to outfight 40,000, there’s just no way on an open field.

And…and…okay, this fight is just goofy. Tigre and Ludmila are having their mid-combat heart to heart, which is made all the sillier by the fact the Muslin soldiers are encircling them in some form of interpretative dance until it’s time for one to enter the foreground and get killed.

Well, wouldn’t you know, when you kill the most respected knight in the entire kingdom for backing Tigre, turns out the other knightly orders don’t respect you enough to remain in your control.  Three of Brune’s knightly orders arrive just in time to bail Tigre out of this jam.

This is where my historical perspective kind of kills the mood for me.  Barbarossa is just laughing off the fact 5,000 knights have arrived to kick his ass.

To put this in perspective, when the Roman Emperor sent for reinforcements to the Pope (the event that launched the Crusades) he was expecting about 300 knights.  That is to say, he thought he could beat the entire Seljuk Empire with just 300 of the mounted destroyers, even though his army had suffered it most horrific defeat a matter of years earlier. That’s how badass these guys were.

Barbarossa laughing off “Well what’s 5,000 against my 40,000 men?” is…ugh…it’s so unlikely I can’t form a proper simile to express it.

And we now understand why he’s losing.  Barbarossa thinks the mastermind is the Battle Maiden.  Oh, you poor, horribly un-genre-savvy fool. You have no idea what show you’re in, do you? Any normal universe, sure, she’d be the hero. But not here. Continue reading