Spring 2015: Part 2

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Oh, it’s been a month. Quite a month! Lots of things to say and lament, and over much fewer shows than the first installment.

But let’s not wait, let’s just get to it!

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Arslan Senki

Now that the show’s starting to get into the swing of the story it’s picking up a bit from the plot side of things.  Characters remain the strong point along with presentation.  In all the atmosphere of Pars is wonderfully realized, and I love the palatial life they’ve constructed even if we’ve only been exposed to it very briefly.  It has a strange, first-person telling of the history-book presentation we had back in Madan no Ou to Vanadis.

I think that’s the big reason the simplicity of the narrative is easier to swallow now than it was earlier in the series.  As time progresses, this is almost like a direct adaption of a story by Herodotus, very straightforward and embellished, yet methodical and plodding event by event.  And yet it hasn’t needed to fallback on a narrator or other transition device to get this across yet.  In all I think it comes across rather elegantly in this manner.  That’s not to say the narrative has been flawless, it’s still been following a rather predictable formula (Oh, Arslan is going to beat an entire army with his four guys by outwitting them with a simple trick, how unexpected).  The strong parts remain the character interactions as they go about their rather pre-ordained roles, the banter in this series is fantastic and keeps it all rather elevated.

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Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha: ViVid

This show’s suffering from a lot of the pacing issues we had in early StrikerS.  The edge here is that I’m fairly certain the series will always be ABOUT Vivio, so we won’t just siderail a cast change mid-stream. I think. I can’t be entirely sure.  But it does tend to drag from time to time. But the action remains top notch.

I do admit I’m intrigued to see how Nanoha handles the Tournament Fighter format going forward. Or at least I assume we’ll get a few more episodes out of the current arc before the bad guy attacks, we’ve all seen this before, right?

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Knights of Sidonia: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki

Ugh…where to begin with this one?  You’ll remember how in my recap of the original series I mentioned that the character stuff is the weakest aspect of this series?  Well they decided to make an entire season out of it.

Knights of Sidonia has become a harem series. And a bad one at that.  The glorious parts of Sidonia still pop up from time to time.  The Graviton Cannon scene was spectacular, suspenseful and full of that human hubris that so marked the morality of this series. The looks on the crew’s faces while Kobayashi stood behind her mask, only admiring how powerful she now was despite the abject horror of the weapon she had unleashed, and how everyone was too afraid to challenge her on the matter? Brilliantly directed, acted and blocked, it was a magnificent example of the kind of work that made this series stand out in the first place.

But NONE of that changes the fact that we are now spending 15 out of 22 minutes each episode exploring the day to day slice of life antics of teenagers supposedly on the brink of extinction.  Anyone who wants to make a defense of this series needs only look to the image of A GAUNA BLUSHING LIKE A TEENAGE GIRL.  REMEMBER THIS IMAGE. Any time you want to defend this series’ science fiction elements, remember this image: Brainless Harem flick.  Even a Gauna, the mighty, flesh devouring, apocalyptic Lovecraftian horror….blushes when the protagonist says something nice to her.

I won’t be dropping it, I have history with this series and still want to see how it ends. But if there’s a third series rest assured I won’t be covering it unless I feel it’s been too long since I ranted about harem bullshit.

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Kekkai Sensen

Still an enjoyable series, all told.  There isn’t a whole lot to say now that didn’t apply last month.  Stories are still solid, comedy is still strong, characters are still adorable.

And because the series is so episodic and doesn’t really try to character build or advance a plot, there isn’t a whole lot to criticize.  It has a narrow focus, and it performs that focus well.  I do wish we had more substance to what we were getting, but frankly they’re doing a good enough job at what they’re doing without needing to complicate it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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Spring 2015: Part 1

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Yeah, I’m on break this season, but still want to maintain a sense of life on this blog.  I have been buried in my work and barely get to watch anime this season (serves me right for trying to do pulp serial stories xD), but I have (mostly) caught up on the first month of every series I think I’m going to want to sample this season. So here’s just a brief overview of what I’ve been watching, just to keep my opinion out there. Continue reading

Series Recap: Knights of Sidonia

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Knights of Sidonia is a tough cookie.  On the one hand, it tackles a lot of great issues regarding the nature of Humanity, as all great introspective works of art do. And it approaches them from a surprisingly sophisticated viewpoint, most of the time.  If you like brain food this series won’t leave you hungry for weeks.

On the other hand, Knights of Sidonia has some problems. Specifically, that of telling a cohesive narrative.  It’s almost…almost as if someone took the idea for “rule of cool” and flipped it on its head.  The narrative doesn’t matter to Sidonia, so long as we get to big moral questions.

It’s like Roland Emmerich suddenly discovered Kafka, replacing ‘splosions and improbable chase scenes with half human ethical shouting matches.

Still this is definitely the big win of the Spring season. Continue reading

Knights of Sidonia: Episode 9

I will protect Izana’s frog face!

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Opening this week’s recap, I have to say the recap does something good. Right? But the way the sequence is fitted together, it establishes the Benisizume (the elite Gauna Hoshijiro that killed six people) as Tanikaze’s opposite and equal, a rather elegant framing of this dynamic, to be sure. And looking at it that way, it just might be the reason this fight happened. Benisizume retreats after making a statement, and this was a good recap that didn’t just feel like rehash.

Tanikaze has been summoned.  The specimen portion of the Hoshijiro frame he killed has been calling his name, unfortunately their first session is terminated after she strikes at the glass separating them. But, as Numi, the scientist studying her, points out, they still don’t actually know enough about the Gauna to be sure it was her trying to attack, and not trying to satisfy curiosity.   But in the bar, Tanikaze is despondent, not really getting into the chat the other pilots are holding, saying they’ll need to redress their tactics if the Gauna can fight like Humans now.

Kunato is taking a leave of absence, probably after wetting his pants at his dead squadmate tormenting him. And wouldn’t you know it Ochiai’s brain is housed beneath his family’s manor. The captain’s entourage is here.

And, oh snap, Ochiai’s brain isn’t being stored somewhere safe, his body is actually allowed to walk around.  They just strap him in and blast him with this device that looks like a Rube Goldberg Tesla coil.

Speaking of things begging to end in tears, the Emigration movement was successful, some 100,000 people wish to embark Sidonia and take their chances.  Apparently, despite the fact they all know they are in a region of heavy Gauna activity, the Emigrants think that if they forego the Kabizashi that the Gauna won’t attack them.

Sure. Because that’s totally why they destroyed Humanity in the first place, right? No, wait, we didn’t find the Kabi substance until 400 years after that.

I can certainly understand the theory of “safer”.  But planting an immobile colony on the Gauna’s doorstep? There must be a better alternative to this nonsense. I just see this going down like the Crystalline Entity in Star Trek, Gauna just swallowing a defenseless planet of farmers and nothing anyone can do about it.

But like it or not, it IS Sidonia law that any request greater than 50,000 people must be accommodated. And I do like that there’s SOME democratic process on the Sidonia.  It may be martial law most of the time, but they still have their principles.

But Tanikaze doesn’t give a fuck. Not about current events, not about training, not even about FOOD. Holy shit, anime protagonist not caring about food? We’re off the edge of the map here, people. Anything could happen. 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

Double Feature: Knights of Sidonia 6+7

After this I’m never trusting Japan with the giant robots who can save the Earth.

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After a recap of pee the last few minutes of the rescue plot, we see a news report being watched by Kunato.  He seems to be moving past his knee-jerk reaction to Tanikaze.  Wow, that is just swell of him for such a complete douchebag until now!

Well Tanikaze is walking down the halls and everyone’s his super best friend now that he’s a hero.  Wow, you people sure aren’t shallow at all.

Kobayashi is having a council meeting with the immortal wiggling computer jackasses.  She rather openly mocks them.

So, a few things I’m still unclear of about this council.  They SEEM to be in charge, as they believe that they can just order Kobayashi to execute Tanikaze at their whim when he becomes inconvenient.  But at the same time we see she ignored their decisions for the route the Sidonia is currently traveling, and she openly mocks them for only caring about their own immortality.

…Admittedly hard to live forever when you’re walking through the Gauna’s backyard, Kobayashi.

Still, the fact that it’s implied Kobayashi knew this was a possibility suggests something to her motives, but what those are isn’t entirely clear yet.  And we see some of those in a discussion with her secretary, saying she may need to take drastic measures to deal with the anti-war movement.  The Gauna certainly exist, no one can argue that anymore like before, but the cost with the manufactured earthquake and shit is causing lots of people to reconsider their leadership’s stance.

…I’m going to be very disappointed if Kobayashi only wants a totalitarian society she can effectively control so she can masturbate over how everyone jumps when she tells them to.

…Actually that’d be kind of hot. I’m torn. 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

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

Knights of Sidonia: Episode 1

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I had the strangest experience with the first episode of this science fiction-mech series about a post-apocalyptic universe.

I laughed my ass off for about ten minutes straight.  But this did not occur until two days after I had seen the pilot.

I was attempting to give my anime friends a quick blurb about it, when I crafted this wholly accurate sentence, “The dorm monitor is a talking bear with a robot arm”.

Realizing that this was dead serious, I completely lost my composure, almost waking up my wife in the process.  And thus I knew it had earned its place in our line up.

But not just for itself.  “Sidonia no Kishi” shares lots of common elements, it would seem, with Black Bullet, another show we’ll be getting into.  And yet they approach their subject matter from completely different angles.  Comparing and contrasting may be in our future…maybe. I’ll give it another week or two.

But Knights of Sidona wins by being a science fiction piece, and there is no doubt that it is.  And despite my blog name having origins in a camp sci-fi show, I haven’t REALLY gotten to explore the genre in great detail.  Knights offers me that opportunity, so here you have it.  It’s also combined with mecha, and I still feel bad not having  a good “comfort zone” series to test my boundaries.  So this also happens to help fill that role, a mixed blood series to ease my temperament, if you will.

Judging by a lot of the imagery and themes involved, along with one not entirely subtle nod, I think it’s safe to say this series is inspired, at least in part, by Battlestar Galactica (which, if you haven’t heard, is getting ANOTHER reboot).

You may be familiar with the premise, as Ron Moore’s version was quite popular some years back. But in case you aren’t: Humans created AI called Cylons. They rebelled, and after a back and forth conflict, the Cylons retreated into uncharted space with a tenuous peace treaty with the Human colonies.  At the start of the series, they’ve broken the treaty, and nuke the entirety of the Human race, some few thousand survivors escape with the only Human warship left, the Galactica.  They are pursued by the Cylons, trying to find refuge at a lost Human colony called Earth.

Knights of Sidonia takes that initial concept, and runs it to its most extreme conclusion. That this chase after the essential extermination of the Human race just keeps going and going, with no safe haven to be found.  There are obviously some changes, the big one being Earth isn’t a haven, but the seat of Humanity wiped out during the apocalypse.

And the enemy is not robotic, but biological.  This is mostly just a reflection of the times.  AI was a pretty big issue. It dominated science fiction from the late 60s to the 1980s.  2001: A Space Odyssey had HAL9000, there were the Terminator movies.  And even the original Battlestar Galactica itself.

Today, our fears are less that technology will overthrow us, and more directed at the biological.  Super viruses, zombie apocalypses, these are what our doomsday scenarios look like these days in media.  So thus in Knights we have a reflection of that, with an organic menace decimating the Human race, rather than robotic. They’re made of tentacles because….it’s Japan. Continue reading