Hitsugi no Chaika – 03

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The show’s Final Fantasy-like vibe continues as the trio of Chaika, Tooru and Akari arrive in the next town, where they gather info from “NPCs’ and a very secretive informant named “Guy.” The city’s ruler, a mysterious “dragoon cavalier” Dominica Scoda, is in possession of some of Chaika’s dad’s remains, so they have to seek her out, negotiate, and if she refuses to give it up, negotiate more aggressively.

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In the meantime, the Gillette Corps is hot on the trio’s trail. They’re a colorful bunch who wouldn’t be out of place as the protagonists in a side-story. While Vivi is angry that the trio defied her beloved Gillette, the rest aren’t really after them for any particular personal gain; they’re merely doing their jobs; working to the unthinkable—Gaz rising again. That they’re merely after our trio doesn’t make them villains. I also dig their messenger owl…I want one of those.

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The Corps also has something in common with the Acura siblings, Chaika herself, and us, the audience: they don’t know the whole picture, only bits and pieces from other sources. That they’re being so closely pursued is a dead giveaway that Chaika is a very “popular” individual, but she herself has gaps in her memory from around the end of the war. And their pursuers have captured “false Chaikas” in the past, none of whom gave up any useful info on the real one.

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All this mystery, and the still-disticnt possibility that Chaika is unknowingly acting as her late father’s pawn, floats over an episode in which not a whole lot happens but much is revealed. There’s also a fair amount of something that’s definitely a rarity, especially in recent Final Fantasy, and that’s subtle, effective comedy to break up all the stodgy seriousness.

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Chaika remains thoroughly endearing throughout this episode, going full tourist in town, fixing and operating a big truck, and blowing up a chicken in an ill-advised attempt at cooking. Akari’s deadpan sniping on her big brother also continue to amuse, and her “ghost stories” were great. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a tense encounter with vicious dog-like Orthros, culminating in Tooru accidentally meeting the very person they came to see: Dominica, a consummate onna-kishi, gleaming in the moonlight.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 01

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“You escapist fools.”

This is how Kunato, a Sephiroth-looking stick-in-the-mud, voices his disgust to a meager but passionate group of protesting pacifists, but it could also describe me. I’ll fully admit it: I’m an escapist fool: sometimes I ignore reality entirely search of new worlds and new systems. Due to its nearly identical cel-shaded animation style (still clinical and stiff, but also gritty), I’m reminded of a world in which humans battled sentient Machiavellian sexually-frustrated naval vessels.

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After just one visually impressive episode of Sidonia, this looks like a show I can really sink my escapist fool-teeth into. Like the third Eva film, it starts promising, in the midst of heated action: a young lad named Tanikaze Nagate pilots a mecha through space and defeats one of the alien monsters called Gauma. But then his score is tallied—a perfect 99999—and he emerges from a pod; it was only a simulation. It’s a clever way to serve up a brief taste of the action that’s sure to come.

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After a stirring OP, accompanied by an equally stirring national(istic) anthem, the show zooms out on Tanikaze’s small, dingy, isolated world deep within the bowels of a much larger world, Sidonia, a huge, hive-like mass of civilization with a highly militarized population. Tanikaze goes through quite a bit of physical punishment until he ends up spat out into the society he’d long avoided, where his latent skills as a simulation ace will be almost immediately put to the test.

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Along the way Tanikaze meets the friendly, third-gendered Shinatose Izana (Toyosaki Aki) and the friendly, definitely-a-girl Hoshijiro Shizuka, quickly establishing a potential love triangle. He totally bombs in a simulator for the new and unfamiliar Type 18 frame (I can relate, having to adjust from a Gen-6 to Gen-8 Civic!), but when he’s called to sortie on his first day—he’s given a legendary Type 17 frame that Sephiroth Kunato was itching for, thus instantly establishing a rivalry.

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The frames are very cool looking; everything is very cool looking, come to think of it. Like Blue Steel, if this kind of animation turns you off, it turns you off, but I loved the vivid hyper-reality of it all. The episode also lies in wait with a truly holy-crap-this-is-awesome moment when the frames launch into space and we finally get a good look at Sidonia: an insane-looking hexagonal beam thingy stuck through an asteroid, hurtlng through space. And of course, what should be a routine mining mission turns into the first real Gauma attack in a century, with Tanikaze right in the thick of it.

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If you visit RABUJOI frequently you’ll notice I haven’t gotten around to Captain Earth’s second episode. There’s a reason for that, while it was a great-looking, competent anime in the best Bones tradition, we found ourselves weary of delving into something we’ve seen so often in the past; something beautifully executed but lacking in the originality department. After this first episode, Sidonia was even better-looking, but also bolder and more inventive, at least to this escapist fool’s eyes.

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Black Bullet – 03

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Just as I’d hoped, Satomi and Enju reunite quickly, when she goes to school again, trying in vain to fit back in. But the truth is, none of the kids at that school are her friends anymore; they’re too blinded by hatred of anything to do with the Gastrea. She’d refuse to give in, but it’s no use, and and Satomi knows it, which is why he suggests they change schools; start over where the kids don’t know what she is, because frankly, it shouldn’t matter.

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Still when Satomi and Enju are helicoptered to the location of the Gastrea with the case, Enju exhibits superhuman powers that are always going to turn off or frighten “normal” humans. Little girls aren’t supposed to be able to leap out of helicopters and kick giant spiders into a fine paste. Indeed, the bitterness of having her normal school life sabotaged seems to fuel her attacks. It looks like Mission Accomplished…until Kagetane and Kohina show up.

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Satomi is roughed up badly, run through by katanas, and launched off a cliff into a river to die. Had he been a normal human like I thought, he would have died. But we learn the creepy sensei who eats terrifying-looking food did…something to Satomi years ago, and as a result, he’s…something more than human, much like Enju, which explains why they get along so well. They’re bound not just by the promoter-initiator contract, but by the fact they learned to become human together. They’re family.

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The same can’t be said of some other pairs; notably Ikuma Shougan and Senju Kayo, with the former treating the latter as nothing but a tool, and Kayo following orders, even those to murder other Civil Officers so Shougan can get to Kagetane first. When Satomi and Enju find her wounded in the woods, she admits to feeling like there’s “something wrong with her” if she’s okay with such killing, and that she envys Satomi and Enju’s bond.

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Of course, with that cushy bond comes great responsibility: it’s entirely possible they didn’t meet by accident, and despite not ranking high on the official scale, it’s hinted that the two of them are the only ones who can stop Kagetane from summoning a city-destroying Stage Five Gastrea. despite how briefly they lasted in their last battle. Also adding texture to the proceedings is the mention of zealots who consider the Gastrea God’s punishment for the sins of mankind; and the cursed children as messengers between the two; Angels, in other words.

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Nagi no Asukara – 16

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This episode focuses in on the growing item that is Hikari and Miuna. Hikari may not see her as a love interest, but this episode gives Miuna ample opportunities to, if not overtly express her feelings, to at least spend some time close to him. When he bristles at the prospect of just the two of them going into town to order him a school uniform (he’s also in her class now), Miuna invites Sayu as a sort of chaperone.

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Little does she know by doing so, she turns Sayu, who has probably seen little of her friend Miuna since Hikari arrived, into an unwitting, awkward third wheel, as well as a captive audience for Miuna and Hikari’s near-constant flirtation. I personally reveled in their interactions—even though Hikari and Miuna have very different ideas about what such actions mean—but I can totally understand how it would irritate Sayu, until she can’t hold her tongue anymore.

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Hikari may not know what’s going on yet, but he does know Miuna well enough to be able to locate her at the abandoned shipyard where they bonded five years ago. Little does he know by going after her, he makes it that much worse for Miuna to let go of the possibility of being with him. When a rusty crane collapses and she’s thrown into the icy drink, half of me feared for the very worst and the other half knew Hikari would rescue her, possibly leading to a confession.

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Hikari does dive in after her, but surprisingly (as much to her as us), she doesn’t need rescuing: she grows an Ena, enabling her to breathe and swim like Hikari. Sayu is only half-right when she yells at Miuna (in their fight that ends as quickly as it starts): quite a few good things have happened to Miuna, but they’re tempered by a couple significant things that are, from her perspective, decidedly not good, namely the fact the guy she loves is her step-uncle, and isn’t interested in her in that way.

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The episode ends with a naked Kaname wandering through the town, not dead after all. That will certainly complicate matters for Chisaki (see org chart), but also means that at some point Manaka may return as well. These last three episode have me rooting for Miuna to the point where I’m dreading the date of Manaka’s return almost as much as she must be, for that could be the day all hope of Hikari ever coming around on Miuna dries up.

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One Week Friends – 03

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After a month, Kaori’s diary seems to be working, insofar as it’s allowed her to quickly learn about Yuuki and re-befriend him. She even slaves over the stove to make twenty-one different kinds of tamagoyaki, urging Yuuki to tell her which is best so she knows to make it that way moving forward. While it’s a very sweet gesture, it’s also a little strange, and it occurs to Yuuki that Kaori might benefit from other friends besides just him.

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This is somewhat ironic, considering that besides Kaori, I can’t recall Yuuki hanging out with anyone other than Shogo, the person he decides to bring up to the roof. It seems at first like a decision he’ll come to regret: he immediately asks Kaori if she has Multiple-Personality Disorder, is put off by the fuzzy, lovey-dovey atmosphere Yuuki and Kaori create, and then tells Yuuki he’s being too trusting, warning him that Kaori could just be putting on an act. What’s interesting is that Kaori doesn’t instantly deny that charge; she just stays quiet.

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While he could’ve been less harsh about it, I welcomed Shogo’s fresh insights on the situation. And armed with the truth about Kaori—that act or not, she has trouble interacting with people—he even helps her out by going in the classroom where two girls are gossiping about her, shutting down said gossipers, and retrieving Kaori’s all-important “Memory Note.” That act motivates Kaori to speak up to the girls why the notebook matters so much.

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So it seems that introducing her to Shogo wasn’t so bad after all. Even better, her decision to really nail down Yuuki’s egg preference (18g of sugar) results in her recalling the memory of cooking for him and getting a pang of emotion from writing “18″ on the chalkboard. Progress is slow, but steady so far, which is why I’m weary of Yuuki’s little voice-over at the end of the episode about him feeling optimistic “at that time,” indicating that unfortunately won’t always be so.

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One Week Friends – 02

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As she had warned, Kaori’s memories of Yuuki have reset, leaving him at square one. But it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be to reonnect with her. The main reason for this is that she doesn’t remember eating lunch all last week, which means she was eating with a friend she had made. So ironically, the very phenomenon preventing her from remembering friends helped her remember Yuuki, lending credence to his story.

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Everything Yuuki and Kaori do in this second week is very similar to what the did the previous week: they chat with each other and have fun doing things, learning about each other in the process. With Kaori’s memory sure to reset next week, wiping it all out, Yuuki figures out a way to help her, while keeping score at a volleyball game: all she needs to do is keep a diary. She hints that she might have done this before, but is enthusiastic nonetheless, and starts jotting down as much as she can.

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It’s notable that Yuuki gets even closer to Kaori this week, taking her out on a date, meaning his jogging of her memory made this week more productive, friendship-wise, than the first go-around. This all seems neat and tidy untill the third week begins. Kaori reads the diary and tries to pretend as if she remembers it—that Yuuki’s plan worked—but it didn’t, as her tears betray. Yuuki blames himself for selfishly forcing matters with his enthusiasm.

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But when he apologizes, Kaori decides to write that down as well, providing more information on Yuuki for her future self; specifically that he’s in her words, and kind and wonderful person. But all of this raises the question of whether she kept a diary before, and if so, why she stopped. I can probably surmise that the more she writes, the longer it takes to read and process it all, until there isn’t adequate time to do so before her memory resets again.

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One Week Friends – 01

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This episode chronicles the sour beginning, sweet middle, and bitter end of a friendship, before starting back at the beginning. It’s almost like a time loop, only it affects just one person: Fujimiya Kaori. The premise of this show is that all of Kaori’s memories of friends made within a week are lost at the start of the next week. Needless to say, this is a heartbreaking scenario.

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The show doesn’t come right out about this (though its title serves as a sizable hint), as we approach her from the same perspective as her classmate Hase Yuuki, who likes her and wants to befriend her. She repeatedly rejects her, but he persists, without getting too stalk-y about it, and she gradually lowers the armor it’s later revealed she’d built up, layer by layer, after untold weeks of making and losing friends.

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You get the feeling the kind, honest, talkative, lively girl Yuuki comes to know in the week this episode covers is the true Kaori, or at least the Kaori that would exist if she didn’t have this peculiar memory problem. I’ve been here before: Golden Time dealt with similar themes of ephemeral happiness and making the most of the time you have. But where Banri never knew when the other shoe was going to fall, Kaori knows exactly when, and that it will keep happening, like clockwork.

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It’s no surprise then that she avoids contact with peers, leading to a reputation of coldness, which is only logical with the limited information said peers possess. Not willing to simply give up on Kaori, Yuuki resolves to make friends with her all over again every week, if that’s what it takes. Obviously, he’s not going to try the same thing every time—we’d be nearing Endless Eight territory—so I’m interested to see how he’ll mix things up. Who knows, maybe he’ll end up “lifting the curse”…or maybe he’ll just fail over and over, and may not even be the first to try what he’s trying.

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In any case, I’m fascinated, and it certainly helps that it’s great-looking show (because Brain’s Base). Kaori’s soft, gentle voice, provided by Amamiya Sora, sounds a bit like a younger Nazuka Kaori, one of my favorite seiyus. I also appreciated the show’s dexterity, taking a subtle dig at itself by having Shogo point out how corny Yuuki sounded, then building an atmosphere of dread around Kaori as the week’s end approached with equal savvy. It’s quality, and I am a man who appreciates quality…despite the fact I drive a Daewoo Lanos.

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