Double Feature: Death Parade 8+9

If I ran the toll booth at the River Styx…

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I am dreading how long this review will get.  Because we still have a lot of unfinished business with this series that the show seems to want to move away from.

Central to this story, beyond the characters that are introduced, is the function and facilitation of judgments.

In the past weeks, we’ve tried to discern what the “rules” are supposed to be.  For example, why does Machiko get sent to the eternal dark for sleeping with someone who wasn’t her BOYFRIEND (remember, they weren’t married yet, they had no “sacred vows” or anything), yet her husband, Takashi, is given a pass to reincarnate because he wants to throttle his WIFE.

Why does Miura and Mai’s game not feature any Arbiter dickery?

Why does Yousuke get reincarnated yet Misaki get eternal dark, when both were as sorrowful and regretful over their lives? Because Misaki hit Yousuke during the game? How is that different from Takashi literally BEGGING Decim to release him so he can “hit the bitch”? Maybe it’s because Misaki did it during the game, and the game is the only part that counts?  No, wait, we see from this week that isn’t true either.

In short the judgments so far have been very confounding. Perhaps that is the point, but this set of episodes is going to behave like there are ACTUAL rules here.  Rules that we REALLY should have an understanding of before the characters begin picking them apart.

Now we’ve understood the part about “drawing out the darkness” for some time.

But I always figured that it was a sort of “you don’t truly know someone until you fight them” motif.  Lots of people hate that phrase, but I subscribe to it. Perhaps more eloquently, “you don’t understand the content of a person’s character until they are your enemy”. The difference between the “good ex” who parts amicably and you still talk to, vs. “the bad ex” who texts you death threats for weeks and weeks following your break up. That sort of thing.

I always felt that was what was at play here.  Break someone down without social constraints restraining them, and see the true content of their soul when they have nothing to hide behind, no excuses to make.  See what a person must do when they are entirely self-contained emotionally and see their sides emerge.

But this story seems intent that, no, the darkness itself IS the scale we’re using. Which is an entirely different animal. Not only is that the opposite of a method that exposes someone’s base nature, it obfuscates everything about their personality.

Even Mr. Rogers on his worst day might not pass this test. WHATEVER THE HELL IT’S MEASURING.

There’s a lot more to say, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Let’s examine the episode properly. Continue reading

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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

Madan no Ou to Vanadis: Act 3

AT&T sucks.

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Our blurb has nothing to do with anime today. Just expressing the past week of dealing with the internet.

Our cliffhanger was so many lies. The new priestess Battle Maiden almost instantly retreats.  Her “badass exchange” with Roland isn’t anything to really preen about either. (“Is this wall of light magic?” No shit, Roland.)

But it’s okay, honestly, as this plays into her archetype, as she was just buying time before vanishing like a ninja. Two things of story signifiance then happen (right?), we flashback that Roland is oh-so-obviously being misled about his King’s intentions. Seems the old guy’s been sick for a while, so his evil viziers are basically running the show. Coming on the heels of this is that a new minor lord has joined the fight on Tigre’s side, outflanking Roland and forcing him to pull back.

Seems our new lord, Mashas, met Sophia, the preistess Maiden, when she saved him from assassins.  They came here as a unit to tell us “the king’s off his rocker”.  Tigre is not recovering well from his wound. Follow this up with some harem nonsense.

Roland is having second thoughts. He’s clearly a cautious man, demonstrated by his tactics.  Studying the political landscape more thoroughly, he is told Tigre has no real affiliation to Zchted beyond their recent alliance. This raises his eyebrow, as does the information that Thernadier is moving troops against Tigre’s lands in his absence dealing with Roland. We all see where this going, but at least to mix it up, Roland is consistent with his position as a landless general in that he is more concerned of the presence of a foreign army in his kingdom than he gives a shit about the nobles’ game of thrones nonsense.

Tigre, meanwhile, has arisen from his bed, compelled by his weapon to find this…misty temple thing. The resident goddess possesses Titties, because sure. Even goddesses want Tigre’s dick.

Actually she’s presenting him with a test. Shoot Titties, gain unfathomable power.

Well rather than just NOT shoot her, Tigre has to kaio-ken his arrow to explode JUST as it reaches Titties, blowing away all of her clothes. Of course, of COURSE that’s what would happen. For whatever reason, Tigre passes her test.

Why? What did THAT show that just NOT shooting her would?  Unless she was specifically testing if he HAD that ability to control his power so delicately. But if it’s, as she says, just showing his resolve, how is shooting an arrow KNOWING it won’t kill Titties any different morally from just not shooting Titties? Continue reading

Inou -Battle: Act 3

I already told you, I don’t have any money! 

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So, Andou has a sister. I adore her because she kicks him. We need more of that in this series to offset the awfully cliche harem.

We’re getting some insights into Hatoko’s relationship with Andou this episode. They’ve been close for a very long time, arguably best friends, though we have had no inclination of this prior to this episode. Yeah, that’s what I’ve come to expect from you, Inou-Battle, just raise a plot point you never bothered to work on, and expect us to give a damn.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Tomoyo stuff is actually MORE interesting because at least that stuff has something resembling a dramatic backstory. Tomoyo’s constant bitching about Andou’s fantasy-oriented head and the reveal she was an aspiring author, that’s what we call development, such as it is.

But the Hatoko stuff? It’s weighing this episode down like an anchor.

And THEN she goes crazy, because wimminz, Amirite?

No, I’m gonna count. Three minutes. That’s 180 seconds. Of Hatoko screaming her crazy pet peeves about how Andou doesn’t appreciate her company.

We then follow it up by showing us the foreshadowing to this meltdown….after the meltdown.

Tomoyo? You’re fucking doomed if you’re being taught to write by the people who wrote this shit.

And more cliche harem drama. You know how it is.  Andou thinks for a moment that he was a bother to one of his harem hens, and the other harem hens slap him out of it, because no, NO harem hen could be unhappy with Andou’s penis!

The one saving grace of this episode is the return of Vampire-senpai.

This is, quite literally, the worst episode we’ve had. At least we’re more than halfway through this crap. Continue reading

Double Feature: Gokukoku no Brynhildr 7+8

…No, just insert your own joke. They’re all good.

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Yeah, more double features for this show. Can you blame me? It’s so boring.

One of the elements that made Elfen Lied work for me (and the twisted people like me) was Lucy’s nature as an antihero.   Not even antihero, she was an outright villain protagonist.  This helped drag the plot along because, while the situations themselves were quite average, it was basically a sequence of new opponents trying to kill her/capture her, the fact was that Lucy was a loose cannon and her reactions to these intruders was never what you’d expect.  Add in the Nyuu personality to the mix, and her behavior was downright unpredictable through the course of a fight or even a normal day in the life.

Lucy wasn’t the only one like this (though certainly the best example), many of the other characters had dimensions to them that spoke against the archetypes they filled.  They were still recognizable (Kouta as the kind-hearted harem lead, for instance) but there were always details threw wrenches into the tired storyline (Kouta, not one of the love interests, being the traumatized damsel in distress).

Kuroha, as Lucy’s counterpart in this series, does not have those shades to her.  She is quite average as the superpowered teenage girl, and quite average as the kind hearted protagonist.  There is no dynamic element to her character that could elevate the cliche plot beyond what it is. Because the story is not wowing us.  We desperately need an angle, any angle! to save it from the dustbin and it just is not happening.

So Ryota…you know I had to look up his name? That’s how average he is. Anyway, Keanu is talking to his gay his scientist friend. He needs to manufacture pills.  Sadly the process of doing so will take about six months.  The girls only have enough for one.  So he makes his top priority to check if the pill is a crystalline compound, in which case it will be much simpler to determine its components, maybe even in time for the girls.

So about seven minutes he later he calls Ryota to say that it is NOT crystalline, we just waved that in front of you so it would seem natural for Kuroha to hang out with students for no reason.  Don’t look so glum, though, Ryota, now Lore can’t use the pills to destroy the Earth, so that’s good news! Continue reading

Knights of Sidonia: Episode 8

Hoshijiro is love.

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If your exposure to Sidonia has been primarily through reviews such as this one, this is the part where I tell you to go watch the show already. This week was excellent and lost none of the momentum, in fact, doubling down on us with awesomeness of basically answering those lingering questions at once.  There are still a few things that remain unclear. but at this point they exist to drive the action now, because the answers are bound to be so big they will lead to new threads.

In short, Knights of Sidonia snuck up on us with the tapestry it was weaving and now it’s starting to look damn awesome, but we know it’s only 2/3 finished. Even if the ending is trite and WTF, hey, since when have we really held Evangelion anime to account for that kind of thing?

Of course this all comes as no surprise to the manga enthusiasts who assure us it’s even more amazing in print.  Perhaps, but this week was very visual and the cell-shade style has really done wonders for the choreography here.

Recalling last time, there are three Gauna alive still, and all in the form of Hoshijiro’s frame.

Oh, it gets better. Continue reading

Akuma no Riddle: Episode 8

The son of Episode 1.

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Yep, back to back! And how.  Night and day, cats and dogs, Englishmen and Frenchmen…uh…poetic antonym #47.

Spring 2014 is turning into the season of second pilots.  This episode was completely unlike anything in the series so far.  Actually, scratch that, this feels like it follows naturally from Episode 2.  There’s meta plot, there’s character development, and the interpersonal politics are starting to show.  Best of all was the atmosphere, where there really are some exciting fights and thriller moments.  It did a great job of selling the dread of Haru and Tokaku against the world with no allies to turn to, in a sea of ruthless murderers who are after Haru’s pretty little head.  Episode 8 works because it’s about what Akuma no Riddle was supposed to be about in the first place.

In short, this show is ACTUALLY entertaining for once. It’s just a shame it took us so long to get here.

Isuke is on the phone with mother, Eisuke.  And if you’ll remember Episode 2, her mother is a man.  He’s in the middle of a job, and as we surmised, it’s a family business, even casually shooting people while he’s on the phone with Isuke.  Effective is that Isuke is shy of admitting Tokaku outsmarted her once, saying her poison was lost, rather than wasted. This flies in the face of what she used to badger Haruki for, saying family was stupid and pointless.  But I don’t think it’s character inconsistency, it’s sold more as a blind spot that Isuke either doesn’t notice or want to admit to.

And after her display of insight last week, I’m even willing to entertain the possibility her lazy sociopath valley girl (but I repeat myself) personality is just a front she wears to keep others off balance.

After credits, Nio is speaking with the Chairwoman, or Organizer, we’ve never really pinned down a title for her just yet.  Point being, she’s now speculating on who will attack next, Banba or Isuke.  This is a good move because it sets up an audience expectation that it both fulfills and subverts in the same pass, and I’ll admit I wasn’t looking too terribly closely yet because of this show’s history.  She speculates that Hanabusa will be last, “due to the content of her wish”.  So it will probably be Isuke or Banba.  Isuke wants money, and it’s implied she wants to use it to set her parents up comfortably for a leisurely retirement, but being Isuke we really can’t be sure. Continue reading

Black Bullet: Episode 8

Bring it on, shitcan. I’m ready.

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What woman will throw herself at Rentaro’s pants this week? Whose smiles will be protected? Find out in this exciting installment!

We open on a soldier spotting a Gastrea at night, a defensive garrison on fire, and little bug Gastrea ripping him apart to blood splatter.

…Well, damn. Go on.

So Rentaro has been roped into being an elementary school teacher.

…Damnit.

Naturally, Seitenshi has nothing to do with her day except visit this school in rubble.  I saw episodes of Mr. Rogers’ trips to the Land of Make Believe that didn’t challenge my suspension of disbelief as much.

Okay okay, she’s ACTUALLY here to see Rentaro since an emergency has cropped up.  Which kind of brings into focus the inanity of having your top Promoter as a schoolmaster. Not ONE person wanted to do this besides Rentaro?

What? Go on. I dare you to say it. Say it. “But you can’t take a random person off the street, they wouldn’t be qualified…”

Yeah. See? Continue reading

Sakura Trick: Episode 8

Alright, back off, it’s official we have adults.

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Yes, real live breathing parents! They exist!

Of all the things I expected this episode, that was not one of them.

The first episode is quite simple.  And, I am forced to admit, I didn’t particularly enjoy it, not really.

Except for the live-action Head Haruka where her father gets super protective of the prospect of Haruka wedding some punk, which she totally interprets as him being okay with her marrying a girl.  Keep on trekking, mein Pope.

Why the talk about weddings? Well Haruka’s…I think it’s her cousin but it remains a little undefined, is getting married. And since Haruka’s father can’t make it, her mother lets her bring a friend.  Naturally, she picks Yuu.

Cue lingual misunderstanding of the week.  Yuu seems to interpret it as Haruka wanting to get married, and cue the shenanigans.

I have a confession, I am not a big fan of “misunderstanding humor”.  Which is a problem because it is even more prevalent in Japanese comedy than Western.  There is just NOTHING funny to me about a Three’s-Company moment, and I avoid all such humor because I find it absolutely unbearable, if not downright uncomfortable.  An oddity in my personality I guess, considering the jackassery that passes for humor on this blog. Continue reading

Nobunagun: Episode 8

Shio, you got some essplainin to do…

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Okay…fair enough, I am willing to give you a holding action on Asao content, Nobunagun.  But the cheap dream sequence really takes the teeth out of it.

I would kill to see just a little phone call between the pair every episode or two.  Something that just reminds us how important the pair is to each other.  Which this does, certainly, from Shio’s perspective.  So I let it slide, but “real” interaction would be much nicer.

Shio’s dream, specifically, is a beach scene where her brain is trying to sort out this relationship mess.  It is a very strange concept, to me, seeing Shio is so old and these are basic feelings she must have confronted by now at least once or twice.  So, Shio’s brain definitely likes seeing Asao in skimpy swimsuits.  That’ll do, Brain, that’ll do.

One by one the cast enters, first Jack, being his normal fed-up self.  And then Gandhi, who for some reason in this dream is shipped with Jack.  Did not see that coming. Then again Gandhi has hit on just about anything he meets, it’s just his team is mostly female between Shio, Newton and Galiko.  So extending that to Jack really is not a big personality stretch.  And it’s just silly.  And it’s a dream! Silly is fine.  My favorite bit is the “Nice Couple?” label at the bottom in rainbow letters.

Asao’s reactions are nice.  They don’t actually tell us anything about HER character, so much as how Shio perceives Asao.  Or should I say, wants to perceive her.  She is doing that very, well…that very Japanese thing of whittling down “Is that your lover? Is that? Is that? No? Then…you’re single?”  And the face she makes when Newton arrives and picks Shio up in her arms…And her very dejected looking face at Newton’s arrival. “It’s okay Shio, I’ll always be your friend.”

I think it’s important to note that it wasn’t Jack, whom Asao seemed to regard with bemusement, but Newton, the other -woman-, that makes this dream-Asao take her leave. Is that subconscious? Is this actually a reflection of Shio’s brain? “Jack’s cute and all but…but he’s a guy. He’s not a real threat.”?

Just as likely it’s to make Newton obnoxiously sexually aggressive as Shio wakes up in a cold sweat…only to see Newton staring at her, lying in her bed.  So maybe all those things Newton said were what she whispered in Shio’s ear while she was dreaming. Who knows.

Cutting to the meta-plot, Vidocq has sent Team 1 to scout for an underwater passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  We’ll forgive the comic book science involved.  And boy have they found it. It’s crawling with Evos and it’s bad enough that Team 2 is going to be sent to back them up.

A nice touch as Jack’s briefing them on the details, Shio’s eyes in her contemplation are the Nobunaga eyes, those slightly rounder, more determined looking ones. I also like this scene as it’s very front-line.  The fighting teams may be the focus characters, and do all the heavy lifting, but in the end they’re just the muscle.  It’s the brains in Vidocq and the Commander who do the “important” work, and the soldiers feel content to leave it at that, Jack in particular seems to have accepted that his insight isn’t going to be very useful. Continue reading