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

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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

Madan no Ou to Vanadis: Act 2

Boobs are one hell of a drug.

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Catch up continues here on DDA.  And it opens with Wonder Woman mounting Green Arrow…

No, bad Doll, play nice. This is the series that at least pretends it has aspirations.

So after a bit of “how AWESOME is Tigre?” from the girls, we actually get consequences for what’s occurred so far.

Yes, you do have permission to take a breath. We might not be so lucky in the future.

Both Tigre and Ellen are on the Thernadier radar now.  And as bad guys would have it, they’re no longer considering Tigre “warm up” practice for the inexperienced men.  He’s now a legitimate military target, as is Zchted. To counter Ellen’s power as a battle maiden, Thernadier will be sending its own Battle Maiden. Escalation!

Unfortunately for the bad guys, they don’t have the self-awareness to realize they’re in a harem series. Sending anything with a vagina to take care of the protagonist is like trying to send a twelve year old girl into a mall alone to go to church.  If you’re lucky, she comes within sight of the target before being distracted by the cutest plushie in Build-a-Bear.

Ellen’s having a hearing with her king.  Yes king. This is unexpected. How is Tigre going to win a GUY over with the power of his dick? And not an attractive one, at that.  This is ruining all of my immersion. Continue reading

Inou-Battle: Act 2

 

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Yes we’re playing catch up. This seems like the best compromise because I don’t have the hours to throw at this stuff right now.

Episode 4 begins well enough, focusing on Chifuyu. And as you’ll recall, she is one of only two actually funny characters here.

This episode starts off rather silly. It has a good “Chifuyu abuses Andou with superior intellect” gag, passable cosplay humor (but nothing really funny), and some interesting character study emerges about Chifuyu. There’s some shots fired at socially-directed peer groups, and a good examination of jealousy and friendship.

Of course this is wrapped up in several layers of pedophilia jokes so take what you can.

Chifuyu’s reactions are pretty good.  Slightly flanderized, but this can be attributed to her age and her well established personality. The way she hides behind her plushie on paper sounds like too much, but as played across from the blunt and intimidating Satomi, it feels incredibly natural. So good on that high water mark.

In all, not an offensive episode. Probably because this managed to focus on Chifuyu’s personal drama and not how she was a harem hen. Let’s see if they can go another 22 minutes without fucking this up. Continue reading

Double Feature: Gokukoku no Brynhildr 5+6

@#%$ the pain away.

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We’re starting a new theme today when discussing Brynhildr. Because even lumping the episodes together like this, my wordcount was woefully small. You know how there’s just too many easy shots to compare this show to Elfen Lied? We’re taking that a step further.

Episode 5 begins where we left off, with Kotori making rounds as the new girl. And lots of boobies jokes.

Is it possible for a character with a large chest to ARRIVE without someone commenting on it? I’m not saying it would never come up, but does it have to be the first impression every single time? Damn, what show didn’t go for those gags right away….Right! Elfen Lied. They went for the limb chopping.

So, now that we’ve got, well, an actual astronomy club, it’s time for a field trip! They’ll be observing some stars. Yay! …Are you buying my enthusiasm?

Along the way, Kuroha makes some observations about constellations and such similar to Kuroneko did years ago.  Look, guys, you already told us.  Really in the most unnecessary way. Just the information that Kuroha loses memories was enough of a warning light.  But now you’ve done the moles, the mirror dialogue, it’s too much.  Will Ryota learn?!?! Oh course he will. Of course.

Elfen Lied tried a similar trick with its foreshadowing.  We knew from very early on that Lucy knew Kouta.  But we hadn’t an idea why.  Then it became tied to whenever he thought of his dead family.  Oh shit.   We had that figured out pretty well.   But you know what made the actual on-screen revelation really stick? The part we had no indication of.  That it was, arguably, because of the way Kouta lied to Lucy that sent her on a rampage. Not only had he blocked the memory, he’d done it to block the GUILT.

But the mystery element here? We already know the answer.  Stahp. Stahp with this already.

Well it comes out really quick that Kotori is a witch.  And cue vision! She will kill Kuroha! DUN DUN DUNNNNN!

So we test Kotori’s powers.  She can swap places with another person. But she uses it once and she burns out.  Well they can just let down their guard now.

A cute bit, the girls latch onto the star gazing. I liked that.  And as people who grew up indoors, it’s kind of fitting that star-gazing would be amazing despite their expectations.

There’s more talking about if they can trust Kotori, but soon they’re called by another witch, Shino. She’s being hunted by a AA+ and in dire straits.

We find out that the witch after Shino is someone named Kikako. She can scream-cannon.  Or, ghostly wail, if you will.

Yeah, Shino’s dead.  Kuroha and Ryota are about to run, when in wanders Kotori yelling at the top of her lungs.  I almost thought that this boneheaded behavior was supposed to be some sort of trap. Nope. Turns out she’s the shortest of the short bus. Because not only does she draw so much attention to herself when the team is here trying to save someone from a super-witch, but ALSO! Her plan to save Neko’s life is to swap places with her during her fight with Kikako.  How will she do this?  By tying her hands to a lamp post so she can’t interfere with the transfer.  Yeah.

I’m loathe to make another short bus joke but we never saw the vehicle the witches were being transported in when they escaped, did we? Continue reading

Akuma no Riddle: Episode 5

You need to kill the bird? Don’t you need the cage?

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It’s a shame we played this card so early. Yes…Haruki.  Best girl is gone.  How do I know? It’s like a macabre imprinting, the first assassin you see will be offed this episode.

This week opens on flashback. Tokaku is ignoring her aunt, whom Tokaku’s grandmothers calls the disgrace of the family. Whatever. This development is coming so slowly because we have to focus so hard on the assassins.  Like Black Bullet, pace is hurting Akuma no Riddle.

In class, it’s festival time! The girls are going to do Romeo and Juliet.  And Shiena is just adorable, taking the director’s chair and just bossing people around…so cute…

Haruki is helping Haru with props, and she seems to be legitimately bonding with her and Tokaku.  Tokaku confides that it’s silly when they’re all murderers.  Haruki seems to agree, but says there’s nothing wrong with fun.  Well that’s cue for the pathos machine, she gets call from her siblings.  She looks back despondently.  She’s going to have to kill Haru.

Poor family is a good motivation.  It’s enough to get us to understand why Haruki might be a good person ultimately, but feels compelled to partake in this game.  It also is simple enough that it doesn’t require a lot of exposition.

Haruki confronts the pair in the bath, implied she purposefully is trying to force a bit of a confrontation.  While Otoya (episode 3) went after Haru’s emotions, Haruki seems to sense that it’s Tokaku’s emotions that are easiest to prey on.  Get her angry at Haru, let her make a mistake when her compassion feels strained.  She says she heard about her history from Nio.  She asks how Haru can smile after people have died all around her.  Haru says she has to, what else can she do?  Haruki laughs at this, telling Tokaku “You hear that? She’ll smile even when you’re dead.”

Tokaku takes Haru away, but in their room it’s clear she is pissed.  But she can’t express it.  She tells Haru to get angry for once, but Haru, as always, is able to shrug it off.  But Tokaku is pissed.  And really it’s hard to blame her.  Protecting Haru was an impulsive decision, and Haruki basically just said Tokaku wasn’t special to Haru, just the latest in a string of dead friends.  And Haru did not disagree.  It’s a good strategy by Haruki, because this IS an emotional commitment by Tokaku.  It’s not logical, and it’s not her mission.  There’s wiggle room here beyond professionalism. Which leaves enough room for Tokaku to make a mistake. Continue reading

Double Feature: Knights of Sidonia 4+5

It cures what ails ya.

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Sidonia begins with one of its huge recaps.  This is becoming a hallmark of the series, and it really confuses me when so much of the exposition is being handled in your imagination.  We could have Shinsekai Yori style flashbacks for the introductions of these episodes, showing us the history between Humanity and Gauna before the credits…I dunno, it just feels like the biggest waste.

So, if you’ll remember last time, the Gauna has dodged the mass driver.  So in order to avoid it, the commander orders uneven acceleration.  This is terrifying.  But more terrifying is the idea that a Gauna will smash into Sidonia, and if you’ll recall, only two Gauna were involved in the last “war”, and that nearly destroyed Sidonia.  Sure, they will probably beat it, but it will be a Pyrrhic victory.  So the alarms go off, time to use those gravity harnesses!

Unfortunately, this seems to be something that Sidonia was ill-prepared for. Buildings are ripping apart from the stresses involved, and people are falling out buildings to their deaths, splattering into little puddles of blood.  That’s a little much, guys, don’t you think?  It’s almost comical in how the Humans just…vanish to be replaced by blood splatter.  Kind of undermines the horror of this scene.  Another issue is, while there may be enough harnesses for the inhabitants of Sidonia from the pure mathematics…no one seemed to take into account some areas will be high traffic, so our heroes spend a pants-soilingly long time looking for a brace.

But they come through more or less unharmed, though even with the harnesses, some people are badly bloodied and bruised.

All hands are launched, every available GARDES is being deployed to block the Gauna.  The trainee squad, that is the ones on the ice-mission (seems they’re considered skill enough to be full pilots, of a sort) will be retrieving the spears lost to the Akai squad’s death.

Tanikaze is having a flashback to Akai and the others…but am I the only one who really hates these kind of flashbacks?  You’ve met the guy TWICE, so to fill out any meaningful memory of ALL of them, you’re just going to use the SINGLE time you interacted with them. It just bothers me.  It should either be ONE image in his head, something he latches onto as “symbolizing” Akai, to him.  Or you need to only pull these out in characters with long histories.  But a montage of the three hours you spent with them?  That’s just silly in all the wrong ways.

Meanwhile, the full-fledged pilots are forming a defensive screen with their GARDES. This is a pretty visually impressive scene, and we meet the new field commander, rank 5, Samari.  I like her, she emotes, and in just the few seconds we see of her, watch her deal with the responsibility of keeping morale up, and yet harboring doubts about their capability.  In just twenty seconds she is way, way more interesting than most of Tanikaze’s classmates have gotten in three full episodes.   Continue reading

Blade and Soul: Episode 5

Remember, if they don’t stop coming, save the last bullet.

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It’s been a long time since we were graced with something truly awful.  I mean, offensive to your senses.  Sure, Black Bullet, Brynhildr, Space Dandy even, they have weak moments, and we poke fun at those moments. But this is off the edge of the map.  If you told me that Gonzo’s plan for this series was now to generate so much interest because of how truly awful it was, I would believe that more than the idea that a bunch of “professionals” could screw something up so royally.

We have officially entered the So Bad It’s Good territory.  And the glory is, we aren’t even treated to a healthy sense of self-awareness on this point.  Whether or not it’s intentional, it is so. Fucking. Funny. that the show still feels like it’s genuinely trying to be the badass kid on the block.

We open on a young woman in bed with a snoring old man.  She has…well…ladies we all regret fucking at least one person, don’t we? Yeah.

She gets up in the middle of the night, and we see Alka murdering the guards surrounding the mansion our mystery girl is inside.  She even makes eye contact with Alka at the last killing…but luckily for her, the mansion’s mistress isn’t on the list of targets, I guess.  But you do get the sense there is some sense of…I dunno, awe, destiny, between the pair.

Will Alka save her from this life?

Oh, you poor, poor bastard. You don’t even know, do you? I hope you’ve been saving your tears.  Not for the story, for the studio.

At daybreak we see an interesting sight.  We’re in an arid (arguably, desert) canyon, with fields of BLUE surrounding a tiny town.  Yes, Heaven’s Spirits again. DRUGS FOR ALL!

Cutting inside the, what I now assume to be the mayoral palace, we see the old guy and his mistress entertaining Alka and a dandy dressed man.   Really, he looks like a pirate in this over the top getup.  The old man, who it turns out is the mayor, accuses the pair of killing all his guards.  And they don’t even deny it.  They just openly say “LET THAT BE A WARNING!” like they just captured his pawns or something.  The reason is the Heaven’s spirits.  Dandy Pirate wants them to stop farming them.  The mayor refuses. It’s the village’s lifeblood, and how most of their inhabitants make a living.  Mayor slaps Pirate down, saying he’d gladly stop farming Heaven’s Spirits…if the pirate will kindly point them in the direction of a new industry they can all make a living off of.  Pirate answers he will, because it’s justice.

It’s like watching two people hold different conversations on their phones.  They aren’t rebutting each other’s stance at this point than just throwing cliche debate talking points at the script. Continue reading

Black Bullet: Episode 5

I’d use the phrase ‘backdoor pilot’ but only because it has the word ‘backdoor’ in it.

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Welcome to Black Bullet’s second pilot! Or something…Our heroes are training, and this is the first chance we have to see Kisara show off her skills. I don’t…I don’t entirely think the Isayama Yomi jokes are uncalled for at this point. In fact I’m pretty sure we even crossed the Asian demarcation for infringement.  Naturally, no training session would be complete without a panty joke.  Thankfully we don’t have to SEE the panties.  Black Bullet’s at least keeping its leash on.  Even more impressively, the fact Enju can block bullets with her varanium boots will come up later in the episode, even though, and this is a shocker, we didn’t actually draw the audience’s attention to it as a super important point. I know right? We can do the business of Chekov’s Gun AND make loli jokes, how crazy is this?

Some days I feel more jaded than others.

What’s important is that Kisara has a job for them. Rentaro has been requested to be Seitenshi’s body guard.  Specifically, there will be a visiting dignitary, Saitake Sogen, President of the Osaka zone.  Seitenshi suspects his visit is meant to coincide with the fact that Tendo is off visiting China.

Two things. First, it is a shocker to me that international travel is even POSSIBLE judging by how packed the outer-barrier was last episode for a region that was, supposedly, a place where varanium magnetic fields would be disruptive to Gastrea.  You mean to tell me it’s completely safe to fly from safe zone to safe zone over the vast expanses of wilderness? (and with fifty foot kaiju running around, I’d consider five miles to be ‘vast’, personally). This must either take a HUGE escort or perhaps the world isn’t as dangerous as we thought. I mean that was the whole reason I was easily able to swallow this city-state business: the idea that zones were relatively isolated from one another.  But apparently, as we’ll learn, not only is there a loose sense of a “Japanese Confederation” between the five safe zones, but frequent talks, trade, and travel to foreign NATIONS.  And the way they speak, yes, they mean present nations, not just the other four districts.  In short, the implications that the -head of state- is willing to put himself at jeopardy for, what basically amounts to a social visit, makes the world of Black Bullet far less apocalyptic and safely in the “post-apocalyptic” area. He apparently doesn’t assume the worst. You’d think proxy ambassadors would be the de-facto practice when getting noticed by a giant wasp gastrea will get your delegation eaten.

It’s almost like how Walking Dead ran out of time in its narrative ages ago, but we accept the fact that the dead-flesh zombies haven’t all rotted away in the Georgia heat.  Well this is the twisted evil twin of that.  Here the apocalypse seems much more dire on paper than how it’s being played out for us.

Second, this seems to mark a shift in Black Bullet’s tone.  It feels much more like…well…like Strike the Blood, really.  Vague political conflicts are developing rather than the much more focused threat that was Kagetane.  And we’ve just veered off those rails completely, it seems. Continue reading

Sakura Trick: Episode 5

I’ll taste your apple…

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Oh, bit of a reverse structure this week. My brain! It is imploded!

By that I mean our first story this week is a fluffier outing, with the more character-driven stuff coming in part 2.

It’s also…sigh…honestly the part I’ve dreaded most. Cultural festival shenanigans. Every slice of life series needs them.  Unfortunately, having gone to school in the United States, this is never something that it’s easy to glean a frame of reference for. We did it in elementary school, not high school. High school was for “real learning”, not silly little community exercises that teach you how to work in a group like para-professionals.  Group projects are designed to be single-person projects that you shamelessly assign parties to each individual function anyone with a normal functioning brain could do on their own, everybody knows that.

Bashing educational systems aside, we begin with Yuu waking up in school.  Shizuku is watching over her, and tells us Haruka has gone to the cafe.  Yuu seems crushed and begins crying (though more along the lines of her manipulative style crying), when Kotone enters.  She does more drunken monkey gags, teasing Shizuku that she made Yuu cry.  However despite complaining she is exhausted, on seeing Yuu depressed, Kotone suggests they all go meet up with Haruka and the gang at the cafe.

One of my favorite little gags is when they’re walking down the street and Shizuku sharing she feels like a family.  Blink and you’ll miss it, but there’s an important little bit of commentary here.  Kotone and Shizuku both think to themselves “and if we were a family, I’d be the wife!”

Let us offer the gay perspective.

Both in the West and Japan, there has been a habit of translating homosexual relationships as hetero-normative.  It has been quite a few years since this was prevalent in America, I only vaguely recall it from my schooling days, myself.  Over the past ten years it has become bad taste to ask, but this question used to pop up all the time when you were introducing a gay couple.

“Which one of you is the woman?” (The appropriate answer being, “Neither…that’s kind of the point”)

It’s a bit harder to appreciate that in Japan this is only just leaving community consciousness.  They are, in a sense, behind the curve in this regard.  Homosexual relationships, and you can even see this in anime and manga, particularly yaoi stuff, is strictly defined on which one’s the aggressive, dominant partner and which one is the submissive little flower.  Yuri couples are expected to have similar dimensions, and these things are in the process of being phased out, which is good, but it is still what informs many people’s perceptions.

My point being, I really like this line.  Yes, it plays off those stereotypes, that’s what makes the joke.  But more important is what it says about the characters involved: Both Shizuku and Kotone see themselves as “the woman”, and they’re cool with that. That’s how it’s supposed to be. And if I may be so bold, plays into that point I keep bringing up about Sakura Trick. It is comedy, it is played for laughs, but there is an effort to present realistic dynamics between characters.  Even if unintentional, it’s still a good thing that no one said “But which one is…?”

Okay, rant over! Continue reading