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

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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

Ore Twintails ni Narimasu: Episode 2

Kind of a chore this time.

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Well this week starts off simply enough, with Twirl and Soji in his room, with Aika bursting in chasing the pair after being left behind on the battlefield.

Here we get a slight explanation as to the motives of the villains (while seamlessly sidestepping “Why must Soji turn into a girl?” question yet again, hopefully this isn’t a set up for a very lame joke).

The aliens are after a power source called “elemela”, which Twirl calls an “Attribute Strength”. Twirl defines it as a person’s love for something specific.

But why  a twintails fetish and NOT something stronger, Aika asks, like love?  Twirl’s answer is rather ingenious.  Love is an instinctual process, it is a product of evolution and thus common to all people. But the Ultimagill are psychic vampires, and they feed on mental energy.  Thus, this attribute strength, being more learned behavior and thus more conscious in nature, is something they prefer as an energy source.

Which, in a moment of this show being better than it deserves to be, ties into last week’s points about the Tailred powers being tied to Soji’s wishes, tied to his will. Conscious desire trumps knee-jerk reaction.

Now the exceptionally goofy part, of all attribute strengths, the love for twintails exceeds all others in power.

*Glances over her ecchi folder*

No argument here. Continue reading

Double Feature: Madan no Ou to Vanadis 1+2

Savor it while it’s…not rotten.

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Some quick observations about Madan no Ou to Vanadis:

I do like the OP. The animation feels rather genuine, as if someone actually cares about the product they’re putting out. (Or maybe it’s comforting because the last battle ballad we had here was in Blade and Soul)

So far, Vanadis has been holding its harem cards pretty close to its chest.  The cliche elements are still there, but they aren’t as obvious as in Inou-Battle, so that’s something.

The horses in this series are ENORMOUS. Jeez.

So we open on prologue. Skipping that.  We meet our hero, Tigre, most skilled archer in the land.  He’s the lord of this province, Alsace, and for whatever reason is fighting a battle against one of the Vanadis, Ellen, of Zchted.  I’m gonna be throwing around a lot of names here, because it’s…well we have to learn this Japanese overnight.  Alsace lies in the kingdom of Brune, and it’s really unclear why we’re having this little war yet, other than the penile compensation reasons.

Tigre is captured in the battle and brought to Zchted.  Yeah I just skipped a lot of opening exposition. It hurts my brain.  Ellen wants to take Tigre on as a hostage, it seems.

Now, I know that the protocol for such relationships is very different from the concept of a POW today, but I really find it odd during all this stuff that Tigre, not once, really considers that by teaching Zchted soldiers how to be better archers, he’s ultimately making them more efficient at killing his countrymen.

We have some harem anime antics involving Tigre catching Ellen bathing and her daring him to look, because all women secretly want to be watched while they bathe by strangers.  But one of Tigre’s retainers, Bertrand, arrives quite suddenly to tell us the bad guys are invading Alsace.  And they are ARE WE SUBTLE ENOUGH IN BEING EVIL bad guys, too! Because if there’s anything that tells engaging storytelling, it’s arbitrary black and white sides.

In a moment that actually works, as Tigre tries to sneak out to defend his homeland against the invaders, despite his “contract” of sorts as a prisoner, Ellen confronts him, and he begs her to allow him the use of her forces to defend his home (which, right now, is across international borders).  Ellen is so amused by his audacity, she consents.  And I admit it’s a pretty good moment for Ellen. And she quickly turns it around on Tigre that he must swear Alsace over to her banner.  So essentially, from her end, she’s setting out to conquer it before the BAD GUYS do, and for Tigre, he wrests an agreement from Ellen that the people of Alsace will remain relatively self-determinant, only the international border will now be crossing them. Continue reading

Double Feature: Inou-Battle 1 + 2

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Watching this series, one thought enters my brain over and over again.

Welp, that’s definitely Trigger.

I mean this in good and bad ways.  Take Arms, for example, whom we last met in Gokukoku no Brynhildr.  They have an identity, inescapable and universally recognized. The theme is tits. Or examine Gainax, who struck gold with Evangelion and have spent the last 20 years desperately trying to recreate that notoriety.

Trigger hits a note in…okay what the hell, we’ll do the full title for the bookends, Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de. Much like The Doctor regenerating, there is enough similarity here to see the identity beneath, but enough has changed to make it feel like you’re not just watching KILL la KILL again. There’s a definite form emerging.

Unfortunately, that form is kind of the worst aspects of the last series.

For example: Still frames.  These work for small numbers of characters, one or two, because usually they’re talking and we’re focused on their expressions, reactions, whatever.  In large crowd scenes, we, as an audience, give it a pass because it’s less about the detail so much as conveying the concept of “many people”.  We don’t think less because the stadium is full of colored ovals with smaller colored ovals on top, because that isn’t the point. The point is to express 10,000 people just died when the demon fired eye lasers into the stadium.

Inou-Battle hits the uncanny valley as far as still-frames go.  A crowd of 5-6 people is too many to animate in a life-like manner without breaking the budget, but too few to accept that everyone is background scenery.

There are generally minor points for me, but they stick out here because Inou-Battle is just so…slow. Continue reading

Double Feature: Tokyo Ghoul 1+2

Omnomnom.

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Bleach and Naruto’s newest sibling left a rather good taste in my mouth. Not…you know what I mean. We’ll be covering the first arc here (more appropriately: Whatever arc ends after episode 11 or so).

A lot of the premise relies on one thing: Your knowledge of the generic Vampire mythos. That’s basically what we’re getting here.  Only instead of Vampires, even the cute cuddly ones who don’t HAVE to kill you to feed, we have the Ghouls, a race that lives in Humanity’s shadow and eats their flesh.

In this regard it’s kind of silly. Most vampire stories in the modern day have acknowledged that yes, animal blood should be a substitute for vampires even if they don’t prefer it. Because, logically (as logical as you can approach the topic), there’s little difference at the nutritional level.  Tokyo Ghoul throws that out the window.  Only Human flesh satisfies these creatures, and we know that because there is no attempt to whitewash their actions, and even those we see who are very keen on blending into society don’t use alternative food sources. As close as we can get with science, there should be little to no difference in pig flesh or Human flesh, or any kind of raw meat.  And yet this is not an option. This even leaves aside the fact that the only reason creatures eat is to acquire carbon. The primary decider of your diet is your teeth and intestines, not the type of carbon in front of you, be that plant or animal form. Most creatures who can eat both, will eat both.  And as the family dog shows, even if they shouldn’t, they’ll eat the “wrong” type all the time.

In short, I feel like we’re being led by the nose through the pretext of horror, when we all expect this to devolve into standard shonen beat-em-up style soon enough. So why go through the effort of forcing it?  Maybe I’m just being overly picky here because there isn’t a lot of supernatural bent to this stuff yet, not really.  The speculative element is the race of Ghouls, but aside of that? It doesn’t appear to have a lot of occult trimmings. Thus, it seems to be approaching from the more “scientific” angle, so I’m probably feeling harsher for that.

Getting to the episode proper, our teaser is brief, a female Ghoul feasting on someone she’s just killed.  She’s approached by another Ghoul, who’s here to take her out.  Well before the old guy can report back to the Camarilla about how awesome a job he did…she totally kicks his ass and escapes, saying she really doesn’t have time for these little games.

Well you’ve got my attention. Continue reading

Double Feature: Knights of Sidonia 2 +3

Predictable yet rather unsettling.

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It’s been a long while internet.  Where have I been? Certainly not detained by the police in relation to my alter ego, supervillainess The Sinister Scissorer and my Aerial Simian Army.

But in short it’s good to be back and I will be doing a lot of catch up. There may or may not have been scares regarding complications in my recovery, among other problems involving the roof caving in.

Knights of Sidonia returns where we left off last time, the Gauna attacking the students.

Flashing back, we have a bit of a bonding moment as some of the trainees are warding off bad luck with a handshake ritual. Yamano is of course a snooty bitch about how it’s childish nonsense.  Mostly, she’s rather bitter about Tanikaze being made a pilot for basically no other reason than he tickles the Captain in the right places.  Apparently GARDES pilots are something of special forces in Sidonia.  Not just anyone can be accepted into the ACADEMY, let alone graduate.

Yamano is devoured by the Gauna.  Sucks to be you. Perhaps you should have been more friendly with the Chosen One.

Sorry, it just feels heavy handed here.  We’re going to see the recurring theme that the best of the best are no match for the power of Tanikaze’s….heart. Not his dick his heart.  Because of course.  Notable though, is that the Gauna fights after the mechs to get the tasty Human candy inside.  So either it is able to differentiate energy signals between the robot and the Human, or, the more pants-soiling option, this is a Gauna who has experience with Humans and knows how to fight them.

Sidonia readies a Mass Driver, and fires it at the Gauna.  It’s, strangely, like an oil drum that they designed for this specific weapon. The show doesn’t explain this, so I will, as while this may be a science fiction staple, many of you may not be here for the sci-fi. A Mass Driver is basically a giant railgun.  The idea is that you can harness asteroids and other space debris as a weapon.  It is a purely kinetic energy weapon, which is why Sidonia is using it to distance itself from the Gauna by altering the Gauna’s momentum.  But these seem to be engineered projectiles.  Kind of a waste of all that metal when your colony is scraping by.  The trainees are given the evacuation order.

Except for Tanikaze, who engages the Gauna even after being killed by heart failure.  This doesn’t seem to phase the commander at all.

He’s rescued from his bloodlust by his teammates, and the Mass Driver impacts, obliterating the asteroid and sending the Gauna into deep space. Continue reading

Black Bullet: Episode 2

Protect and serve.

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Our episode opens on Rentaro being summoned to the ministry of defense. It’s a big meeting.  Every civil officer in the city has been invited, only one is absent.  Rentaro gets in a scuffle with a big guy whose outfit screams “I’m an asshole”.  We’re shown how most Promoters don’t think of their Initiators as highly as Rentaro. Well luckily before Humans can start beating each other up, the bosses intervene.  Kisara reveals that of 700,000 civil officer pairs, the asshole is ranked around 1500.  She laments that Rentaro is somewhere in the 120,000s.  Damn, this really is Japan. “Top 20% WELL SHIT ON YOU!”  It’s not like this is pass/fail, either, it’s all jockeying for position, you can’t have everyone with the same score.  Nevermind Rentaro deduces this is only the best of the best, which means his skills are good enough for THAT.  Orrrrr maybe it’s the fact his adopted father is adviser to the monarch.

Oh look, that’s who’s summoned them.

She has a misson for them. A Gastrea is in possession of a case.  And the reward is enormous.  Kisara asks what’s in the case. Any idiot can see this is a job that even the normal police could handle. What’s so special about it?  Well state secrets and all.

Too bad the laughing man isn’t going to let them leave the meeting so easily. He crashes it in dramatic fashion. And really when you’re running around in that smiling mask, you have to make the most of your entrances.

Rentaro pulls a gun on him. “How are you, Satomi-kun?”  It’s a good exchange.  We are then treated to the sight of…a little blue haired Initiator. Hiruko Kohina.  She notes that Rentaro is pointing a gun at them and asks the laughing man if she can kill him.  He keeps her leash tight, though.  After all he likes Rentaro.

He announces that he and his daughter here will be entering the race.  He says he will claim “the Inheritance of Seven Stars”.  And he says, let’s make it a gamble. Let’s bet all of our lives on it!

Well the asshole Promoter doesn’t take kindly to this, but his massive varanium buster sword is deflected without even moving an arm.  The remainder of the officers are genre-savvy enough to not let him monologue about his plans or origins, and open fire with their guns, but he’s Matrix-ing them to full stop.  Rentaro asks if he’s human. Of course, he replies, just a lot of his body is made of varanium now.  He introduces himself as Hiruko Kagetane, a member of the old anti-Gastrea task force, which is apparently so top secret most of the officers here consider it a myth.

At a loud humming, Rentaro tackles Kisara to the ground as all the bullets held in suspension fire back at the officers, wounding many.  Continue reading

Double Feature: Gokukoku no Brynhildr: Episodes 1+2

 

All we need is a puppy…

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You’ll recall I dreaded this series.  I have never been a fan of “socially awkward boy and his magical female companion” series.  I could not tolerate Witchcraft Works.  People told me there was parody or subversion somewhere in there.  Well, I think I watched a different Witchcraft Works from these people because I need to break out those tiny brushes to scrape away the sediment to find it.  Going to need a Vidocq-level microscope to show it to me, I’m afraid.

“Gokukoku no Brynhildr”, or “Brunhildr in the Darkness” does give some strong indications it might be shooting for more, though.  I can’t entirely put my finger on it…but I don’t have the same sense of dread I had with the aforementioned Witchcraft or any of the other siblings in this field.

Perhaps I have become desensitized to this crap.  I am not ruling out the possibility that I have gone insane.

Or, upon further research into the show, I discovered what may be the reason.  The creator of this series (though not the script writer) is none other than Lynn Okamoto.  If that name is not familiar to you…it’s the Elfen Lied guy. Yeah. In fact this project is something of a tribute band to that work, as it is an Arms production, and you can see a lot of similarities in style to that series.

Elfen Lied, as we all know, is a rite of passage for any true anime fan. Once you’ve seen it, it cannot be unseen.

Don’t worry though, we aren’t QUITE on that level.  It may actually justify a comment made by the creators of KILL la KILL that “the edgy creators of 10-20 years ago have lost their edge”.  Especially for…fucking ARMS, for cryin’ out loud, the studio that gave you La Blue Girl, Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai, and Queen’s Blade.  This is like Justin Bieber just going J-Metal one day on a whim. This is a tame, tame series.

At the moment.  Sorry. I need a disclaimer whenever the firepower might be brought out when we least expect it, and we are all kind of totally expecting it now, right?

Whatever the reason, heart or shoes, I’m finding myself enjoying this one.  And there’s plenty of room for it to slip up and piss me off, so this will be a true throw of the dice.

So we start our lead character, Ryota, talking about his childhood friend, whom he used to call Kuroneko.  She died, it seems, because they went on a stupid journey across what I think is a dam, and fell.  He blames himself for grabbing her hand when she reached for him.  He survived (somehow) but she didn’t. He never even knew her name.

This sense of guilt has followed him into his junior year of high school, where he studies to be a researcher at NASA.  Wait…NASA? Kind of dating yourself here, show. For shame.  How will you be relevant in six months? Continue reading

Akuma no Riddle: Episode 2

I admit it, I’m on the fan wagon now.

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Last week I admitted that Akuma no Riddle had held my interest but hadn’t drawn out my enthusiasm.  Well this week that’s old news.

There was movement this week, the rest of the cast wisely held in reserve until today to avoid COMPLETE bombardment. And while we were given answers we were given new questions.  What more, really, can a show do?

We open with Tokaku receiving a text.  We can fill in the blanks. In desperation or nothing better to think of, Tokaku sent Haru’s answer to the Dice Man (I guess his name’s Kaiba).  Well he’s responded! “That’s correct!”

But we see him monologuing to himself over her text, and really when you run an assassin’s school and throw dice at the drop of a hat what else are you going to do in your spare time?  This riddle, of sorts, was indeed a test, but not the kind we were thinking of.

To say “the world is full of forgiveness” is so unlike Tokaku that this was the point. Kaiba can see from across the country that she didn’t naturally think that up on her own.  Haru could have answered the world is full of bugs, or kittens, or bondage dungeons, and it would STILL have been the correct answer. The point was to see when Tokaku opened up to someone, and Kaiba has his proof.

After credits (god I love that OP) we meet the rest of the cast, whom I’m too lazy to get into.  They don’t play much role this episode at all, the only thing that will be brought up later, I’m sure, is Kaminaga Kouko, who basically puts herself in charge as class rep, dorm rep, all the official capacities that the class will need.

The students are all doing…well…whatever they want, really. Only Haru is really attempting to behave like a high schooler, some of the kids are just ignoring their assignments.  Tokaku just feels weird.  She doesn’t see why they’re playing nice like this.

Interesting.  Wouldn’t Tokaku have had training by now to help her blend in when on assignment?  Damn, do I have to cite Final Fantasy 8 as an example of a school for mercenaries being taught ballroom dancing just in case it comes in handy on a mission?

Well she’s put off by the play acting and leaves, Haru in pursuit.

Our sharkdere announces to the remainder that the REAL orientation begins tonight at a special meeting. Continue reading