Zankyou no Terror – 10

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Twelve deals with the guilt of betraying Nine, while trying to have fun with Lisa. Nine rolls the dice and surrenders to the police. Five makes one last desperate grasp at Nine, who “belongs to her.”

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Shibazaki comes face to face with Shunzo Mamiya, who orchestrated the Athena Project and the investigation of whom led to his demotion. An atomic bomb is released into the sky, to go off at 10pm. This episode isn’t messing around, expertly setting up the endgame.

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Interestingly, this episode is Five’s last. For those of you who tired of her relatively petty and nebulous vendetta and terrible English, rejoice, for she ends up doing herself in. Physically deteriorating, she senses the end is near, and after a harrowing chase and crossing the line with her American handlers, all that’s left to do on that highway is thank Nine for being the reason she stayed alive this long at all; to pursue him.

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She has him in her sight, but doesn’t pull the trigger, knowing she’s been beaten. Instead, she gives Nine a chaste parting kiss and ignites the pool of gasoline she’s standing in. This explosion was brought to you by the number Five.

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With Five now gone, all that’s left is for Nine to expose Athena to the world, if that was indeed his plan. The only problem is, the press conference he demanded the police allow him to hold is interrupted by Five’s meddling, and the atomic bomb is loosed, unable to be stopped by anyone.

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While meeting with Shunzo, who was convinced the spirit of Japan was “that of a loser, without a shred of dignity”, and thus pushed forward with Athena, Shibazaki can fathom the scale of the backlash, which looks tenuously close to being realized.

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In his final broadcast, transmitted automatically when Nine doesn’t get to the Hyatt at 8:00 PM, Sphinx One warns that nothing can stop the bomb. If he’s right, then we’re in for a catastrophe in the finale. But I’m not entirely convinced he’s not bluffing at this point.

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I’m not even sure his entire plan from the start was to draw out Five so that she could, well, finish herself off. Also, Twelve even ends up redeeming himself somewhat by interfering in Five’s pursuit of Nine, and I like how he does so on Lisa’s urging, telling him how happy she was when he saved her, and how Nine will probably feel the same way. Five may be gone, but there’s a lot left to sort out.

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Glasslip – 12

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The snowy world where the combination of Kakeru’s mom playing the piano and the way the light passes through the glass vase isn’t the future, nor the past, but an entirely different world altogether; one in which Touko, not Kakeru, is new to the town and thus the odd one out as the fireworks near.

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I must confess, I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on, but it has a nice dreamy “off-ness” to it, with Touko acting as if everything is perfectly normal, right up until it isn’t, at the Fireworks. There she’s aware that things are different; that she’s alone in this world. How and why are anyone’s guess. College professors will be talking about this episode for some time to come (no they won’t).

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My intermittent confusion aside, I simply enjoyed the weird, alternate universe ride, with everyone pretty much acting the way they do in the world we’re familiar with—including the pairings of Yuki/Yana and Hiro/Sachi—and only Kakeru and Touko’s relationships swapped with the seasons, but both they and their families remain drawn together by fate.

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At one point before Kakeru told her it was all in her head, I entertained the possibility this alternate world was just as real and legitimate as the “normal” one, and that perhaps circumstances had fully unlocked Touka ‘s “ability”, to the point she could travel between different realities at will (or by accident).

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Even if that’s not the case, this was quite a leap in prominence for what started out as a very modest supernatural element. We’ll see if it can be satisfactorily resolved in the finale. One thing’s for sure, the music was particularly powerful this week in establishing a very dreamlike, melancholy atmosphere. Will Glasslip take the rare step of ending unhappily?

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Rail Wars! – 12 (Fin)

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Rail Wars! was never going to win any awards, but it was, for me at least, a consistent source of entertainment, but also offered something unique and quirky in its extensive train-lore. With the royal assassination attempt arc resolved, the show is free to sit back and relax a little with an episode that nicely encapsulates many aspects of its run.

Oh, Rail Wars...you just couldn't resist...
Oh, Rail Wars…you just couldn’t resist…

For one thing, Takayama Naoto has always been passionate about trains to the point of good-natured meddlesomeness. Even aboard a train where he has no jurisdiction, he can’t help but want to help when he spots a little hiccup of trouble. Nothing severe like no brakes, mind you, just things that would mar an ideal train ride. But also, he just can’t seem to sit still on a train, and Iida is swept along with him.

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Having Iida as his companion for most of the episode was an interesting move that I agree with for the last episode. The flirty Iida has never shown to have a serious romantic interest in Naoto whether due to age or her status as his superior, or because she’s just not interested in him in that way. That doesn’t change here, but Iida still admires Naoto as he jumps from one problem to the next.

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We still get a fair share of all the girls who are into Naoto, but because they’re back at D4 headquarters, the episode can focus more on the minutiae of simply enjoying a long train ride, but also have Naoto solve a few more problems without it involving intimate contact with Aoi or Koumi. He does borrow Iida’s still-warm panyhose, and she presses against him once or twice, but these incidents are pretty inconsequential. Most of the time, the trip was less rom-com, more slice-of-(train)life.

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But Naoto doesn’t fix everything by himself. He’s become much stronger thanks to the combined talents of the rest of his D4 team, including Iida, and he’s cognizant of that while acknowledging he’s very much the center of attention at the surprise get-together in his room. The harem situation isn’t resolved (nor should it have) and everyone raises their drinks to Naoto, “The Womanizer.”

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We really only hate it when a guy is liked by many gals without a good explanation, but it was always clear here (he’s bright, kind, and brave when he needs to be), so it wasn’t that bad, though we remain Naoto/Aoi shippers to the last. The show also made every one of the trains it featured characters in and of themselves, and the impressive gas turbine-powered KiHa 381 “Bulldog” was a fitting final “guest star.”

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Final Average Rating: 7.25
MAL Score: 6.58

Majimoji Rurumo – 11

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This was a lovely, upbeat little episode, and a nice way to close out the “ordinary time” of the show before things are sure to go down in the last episode. The events of this week reinforce everything we know: that Rurumo has brought out the best of Rurumo, that Rurumo is fare more than her skill shortcomings, and they’ll always have each others’ backs.

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Those truths are reinforced through an unexpected vehicle: the occult club, seeking recruits and notoriety, enters a band competition, of all things. Not being musically gifted, the lads lean on Tanako, who recruits a crack musical group consisting of Sawashita (guitar/boobs), Inoue Sumiko (bass), Izumi Kyouko (drums), and herself (keyboard). Rounding out the all-girls band “FHK” is Rurumo.

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That’s another surprise: Rurumo has the voice of an angel. She even throws some work and goodwill Masako’s way by telling everyone she’s good at making clothes; she designs witch outfits to go with Rurumo’s get-up, and senpai writes more lyrics to Rurumo’s haunting tune. It’s a classic case of a plan coming together, and it was very enjoyable to watch.

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As it does come together, Ruru-chan notices Kouta is happy, and wonders why. He answers as you’d expect: he’s happy because she’s happy, and having fun doing something she’s never done. FHK is a little too good right off the bat but as soon as they have to perform on a stage Rurumo can’t do it, and Kouta, knowing it’s because she’s so naturally bashful takes her place, covering for her as best he can.

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Of course, Kouta can’t sing worth a damn and FHK washes out of the competition, but getting to the finals was a pretty big achievement, and in any case mission accomplished: the club got a lot more noteriety. Most of all, Rurumo and Kouta exhibit their great regard for one another. And no magic tickets are used! We’ll see how the last episode treats them.

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Psycho-Pass – 08

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The perpetrator of the previous four “human sculptures” had a sick poetic irony about them, like the case of a corrupt politician who had his hippocampus literally shoved up his ass. The newest two pieces both showed up in a park. They’d be sure garner attention there, but the setting is boring and the message is weak. That tells the super-sleuth Kogami (who’s not supposed to be on this case but is anyway) the present perp is someone young, impressionable, and not particularly ravaged by life. He’s not bad, this guy.

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With the killer’s profile in mind, Kogami pays a visit to an art conneusser in a correctional facility where latent criminals wallow in cells but are at least allowed to live, and it doesn’t take long for the name Ouryou to be dropped. Ouryou the father, whose daughter attends the same school as the past two victims. Game Over, Rikako! Makishima all but called it when, in the art room, he questioned her decision to choose victims from her own school, and her response was…impractical, to say the least.

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Essentially, I was right that Rikako was never really thinking about what would happen if she got caught; she just wasn’t wired that way. Instead, for her subjects she drew from a school that she deemed nothing but a vapid Stepford Wife factory, and each girl she “liberated” from that hamster wheel of a life was a favor done to that girl, as far as she was concerned. She realized the world she lived in was fucked, but didn’t realize how easily her plans could fall apart.

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Actually, neither did Makishima, or me, for that matter. Kogami connects the dots and corners Rikako so quickly, it kinda takes her down a couple of notches. Even though I never pegged her for an evil mastermind, I underestimated how vulnerable her absolute devotion to her art made her, as she did. It all ends so quickly. Hearing her work being pilloried by Kogami also lessens her grandeur somewhat. I guess like all her peers at school, I was bewitched by her initially composed veneer.

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Rikako’s sudden but probably inevitable fall means the obviously very fickle Makishima becomes bored with her and shifts his enthusiasm over to Kogami, which is probably super-bad for Kogami, and Akane too. But I guess they’re really only in danger—and risk having him recite Shakespeare as he sics his horrifying robotic dogs on them—if they bore him.

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Psycho-Pass – 07

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Note: This is a review of the first half of the fourth “Extended Edition” episode; for all intents and purposes, the seventh episode of the original run.

Whoa…this show likes to talk! But when the stuff it chooses to talk about is so fascinating, who am I to complain? For most of the episode, we’re spending time either with Rikako or Makishima, chattering away like the awesome evil bastards they are. Their monologues are important keys into what makes them tick, as well as the stifling nature of society under the Cybil system. The likes of Makishima and the criminals whose crimes he facilitates is a direct product of Cybil.

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Why not, let’s toss some necrophilia in here.

Rikako would argue that the serenity Cybil provides is a pox upon the world; a false resolution to the fundamental human question. One must look no further than her own father’s plight: a “double death” of talent and soul by science, technology, and the society that embraced both. Cybil gradually eliminated most of the “bad stress” that led to pain, suffering, and despair, but also eliminated the “good stress” (eustress) that stimulates the immune system and serves as our “will to live”; without it, we become walking corpses and our organs eventually shut down.

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Makishima is enabling these, ahem, unique individuals in part because he believes humanity is fast regressing into a mass of walking corpses. As the other member of Makishima’s conversation remarks, mankind has gotten so good at taking care of itself, all the beneficial effects have come all the way around to become harmful and destructive; decreased life expectancy (not known to the public) is direct proof of it. Makishima’s chat reveals that Cybil has caused much more than segregation and subjugation among those of differing psychological make-ups – it is quite literally killing us all.

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As a member of a free society, I hate Cybil system. A certain arrogance can spawn from the belief of “knowing better” than most of humanity in Psycho-Pass, and it’s very unnerving that a lot of the problems with the world they live in, spewed by depraved villains such as Rikako and Makishima…actually makes a little sense. Still, there is a happy medium between total psychological sterilization and hedonistic chaos…or at least I hope there is. Wait…that’s the world we live in, isn’t it? Alright, enough talk…here’s Beethoven’s Ninth, brilliantly employed during these discussions.

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Poor girl was doomed the moment she decided to talk to Rikako…

Now let’s talk plot: Makishima is providing RIkako with the plasticizing liquid necessary for her sculpture. The cops have discovered two of her works, which combined with the four committed three years ago in the Specimen case, makes six total. The fact that the victims are from the same school give Gino, Akane & Co. a place to snoop around. It’s worth noting that Rikako, as “talented” as she is in her particular gruesome field, isn’t exactly a criminal genius, or she’d pick more random victims.

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She’s either confident of completing her father’s work before she’s caught, or getting caught isn’t even on her mind. Hey, she is staring into another dimension, after all! Finally, Gino takes Kogami off the case altogether, dismissing his cold case reports as “delusional”, and orders Akane to keep an eye on him. Of course, Akane obliges, but takes the opportunity to avail herself of Kogami’s insights, as well as apologize for prying into his past. That’s so Akane: the person closest to ourselves, here in the real world: keen to bridge the light and the dark.

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Psycho-Pass – 05 & 06

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Some of the characters in Psycho-Pass are so clever and perceptive it makes you wonder how a society with such minds allowed itself to come under the heel of something as stifling as Cybil system. After assuring Akane she doesn’t have to check the net for Rousseau’s teachings because they’re in his head, Masaoka gives her the basic rundown of human communication as a positive asset to human development: two hunters are better off working together to bring down bigger prey than going after smaller prey alone.

Yet even as an idea like this can be used to justify the massive networks of communication that have led to civilization growing and prospering as much as it has, that same devotion to increasing cooperation and efficiency has led to things like Cybil and criminal coefficients, and also assumes civilization is the only natural state of humanity, a point on which not all philosophers agree, for a certainty. With advances in communication come complications and unnecessary details Theoreau would have frowned upon.

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In the world of Psycho-Pass, happiness is no longer achieved through free will, but predetermined courses plotted through scientific evaluation. Yet Cybil, it its twisted way, upholds the ideals of enough of the citizenry to avoid rebellion. That “enough-ness” is sustained through the Psycho-Pass System, and thus the only people who seem truly happy or free are the frikkin’ murderers, whose puppet-master we haven’t even formally met. God, I love this show. You can prattle on about it for eons.

This third extended edition episode resolves the ghost avatar case with more solid detective work from Kogami, who determines from the differing vocab that Spooky Boogie’s original owner was also recently murdered, as was a third some time ago, by one Mido Masatake, the only fan of all three whose own avatar dropped off the map at the right time. He detonates a bomb at his last known whereabouts, then hacks the holo-environment of the hotel room where Akane, Kogami, and Masaoka come to nab him.

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That’s when the “luddite” Masaoka breaks out the booze and a lighter, setting off sprinklers to overcome the visual trickery. Kogami claims one of Mido’s arms with his Dominator, and from that point on it’s game over for him, as his “benefactor” turns his beloved avatars against him, and Ginoza, Kagari, and Kunizuka finish him off. While the avatar toilet murders are over in satisfying fashion, there’s still much more to this, something that’s picked up in the second half, the best episode of the show yet.

The two halves are bridged by Akane learning that Kogami was once an Inspector; Ginoza’s partner, no less, who was demoted when his criminal coefficient spiked following a case in which he got in too deep. Now Ginoza’s warnings about Akane sticking to “doing her duty as an inspector” sound a lot less like jealousy and more like wisdom. And yet, it’s thanks to “careful” agents like Ginoza that Cybil is able to endure. The night that doomed Kogami is retold, mostly from inside a car, and involves the gruesome murder of Sasayama—an enforcer under Kogami—by plastification.

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I like how after a couple cases of flat out not being able to “get” Kogami, Akane finally makes some progress, both thanks to a reluctant Ginoza and to Kagari, who the slim Akane is hilariously able to drink under the table. Akane’s friends posit that she and this “subordinate” she speaks of may be a lot more alike, and that seems to be the case when just as she’s learning more about him, Kogami digs into his past and the case that cost him both Sasayama and his freedom.

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Here’s where the show really takes off, in that the past cases, which had had an episodic air to them, are connected both to each other and the past, still-unsolved “Specimen” case, in that all are case of someone with intent to kill being connected to the means to kill by a shadowy middleman. That middleman, of course, is Makishima, whom we’ve seen glimpses of here and there but remains, well, in the shadows, but with a long reach.

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Both the factory case and the avatar case involved sophisticated technical skills beyond those of the culprits implicated. Similarly, the Specimen case involved someone who liked dismembering bodies, but was provided the scientific assistance to impregnate them with resin in order to “freeze in time” the body parts, which he’d exhibit in public places like works of art. An intriguing chicken-and-egg arguent thus comes into play: would these people have still committed their murders if they hadn’t been given the means to do so?

That brings us to the second half’s story, which goes on independently at an isolated girl’s high school as Akane is figuring everything out and Kogami is connecting the dots. There, in an environment engineered to minimize Hue cloudiness in girls at this “susceptible” age, the queen bee Ouryou Rikako (Sakamoto MaayaHells yeah!) creates disturbing drawings that turn out to be studies for her artwork, which consists of dismembering troubled classmates, plasticizing them, and displaying them around town.

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Not surprisingly, Rikako favors the darker Shakespeare works like Titus and Macbeth and seems to be inspired by their brutal but universal human themes. There’s almost no doubt in my mind Rikako believes she is about to free her latest “subject” Yoshika, from a cursed life, helping her to realize her “true beauty”, looking upon her like a sculptor upon a block of marble. That girl in the cafeteria called it; Rikako is totally staring into another dimension. Or, at least, she sees things most others don’t.

I’ll say this for Psycho-Pass’s bad guys; they’ve gotten progressively more chilling! It has also outlined just how dangerous it is to be an inspector who cares about her enforcers and her cases too much. Your criminal coefficient is not only in constant jeopardy, but higher ups like the chief, who wouldn’t mind at all if it’s finally determined criminality is hereditary (Ginoza’s father was a latent criminal). To people like her, that would be yet another step towards perfect social harmony…but where does the witchhunt end? Like the flight of Icarus, I imagine.

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