Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 02

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There’s been some super sketchy stuff going down behind that big KUNATO logo, especially now that Ochiai is in the mix. We see the fruit of his labor in full display this week in the Human-Gauna hybrid “Chimera”, Tsugumi Shiraui.

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The newest enemy Gauna with its “Onion Placenta” is proof the Gauna are not standing still when it comes to developing new weapons with which to attack Sidonia, so it makes sense that the humans should innovate or die. Competing factions among the humans clash over the best way to do this.

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At least here, the ends justify the means, as Tsugumi is able to destroy the enemy Gauna, finishing it off by blasting straight through it. Yuhata and the Guardians are more confused than anything, but it’s Nagate who decides Tsugumi isn’t their enemy, allowing her to do her work unfettered.

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There was probably a better way to sell Tsugumi to the crew than a King Kong-style unveiling, but Kunato has never struck me as being very good at P.R., and the fact he’s now a host for Ochiai made him even worse. Tsugumi is uncommonly courteous and friendly, but when she gets excited upon spotting Nagate in the crowd, her sheer mass shakes the entire assembly hall, scaring the masses and turning them against her.

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Tsugumi is huge and extremely creepy-looking. But in good sci-fi, one can never judge a book by its cover when it comes to aliens who look or act differently from us. Nagate, being the decent sort of chap he is, is willing to keep an open mind, and even visits her at the Kunato lab, convinced she could use some human company, as she is half-human.

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She greets them with a more human-sized but still very alien appendage, and Tsugumi is overcome by glee when Nagate allows her to “touch” him, which she takes as carte blanche to lift both him and Izana up with numerous tentacles and grope them both thoroughly.

But again, it’s not scary, despite the awesome destructive power she’s capable of, because she’s so gosh-darned earnest and adorable. Not sure about the goofy music that announces this is a comedic scene, but whatever.

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As for those factions I mentioned earlier, Kobayashi makes a decisive move against the ruling Immortal Ship Assembly, sending Ochiai’s clone to murder them all, including her would-be replacement, after they vote to impeach her from the captaincy.

While the good old-fashioned acquisition of power is probably a motivating factor, Kobayashi was also diametrically opposed to their defensive posture and refusal to entertain innovations such as Tsugumi. With her and other Chimeras, she’ll be able to take the fight to the Gauna, and presumably start winning the hearts and minds.

Even if she doesn’t manage to achieve the latter (Nagate, for instance doesn’t like how Tsugumi is being forced to fight and kill right out of the proverbial womb) it’s Kobayashi’s ship now, and those who oppose her will do so at their peril.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 02

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While last week was an exploration of two very different people finding common ground in each others bodies (that sounds kinda wrong, but bear with me), while a third supports them, while this week explored the ironies and misunderstandings inherent in suddenly throwing a fourth member into the club, Ito Miyabi, complete with her own set of charms, and neuroses. She’s voiced by Uchida Maaya, no stranger to playing weirdos.

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Itou joins and proceeds to thoroughly clean the supernatural club room. The others don’t tell her they’re in the room because it’s a safe place to switch bodies—which is far more supernatural than materia stones and UFO photos. Instead, they simply accept her intermittent existence in the room without explaining anything.

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So when she inevitably walks in on Ryuu and Urara kissing, she gets the very reasonable impression that the others never intended to start the supernatural club back up, but only wanted a place to make out. Slowing her roll and telling her the truth from the start might have been tricky, but now they have a scorned Itou out for revenge, which is worse.

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Itou’s campaign of vengeance consists of distributing posters, fliers, and rumors about how Yamada and Shiraishi are an item. When Yamada sees that the rumors are isolating Shiraishi again, he takes the rash step of cornering a hostile Itou in the clubroom and coming clean the quickest way he can: by kissing her.

This is actually played as a pretty uncomfortable scene, with Itou’s face a flurry of expressions from fear, nervousness, bashfulness, to acceptance, and then the face of Itou (in-Yamada’s body) before Yamada (in-Itou’s body) clocks her.

Chalk the discomfort to Yamada feeling he neither has time or the wherewithal to properly explain, and Itou her hostile state wasn’t going to listen.

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After the obligatory check of Itou’s body, Yamada proceeds to try to undo all the harm Itou’s rumors caused, only to find no one took them seriously, because she’s known around school for making stuff up, like UFOs and such. Shiraishi even admits she was alone because it’s close to exams and she asked not to be disturbed!

So Yamada’s desperate measure turned out to be completely unnecessary, while switching bodies had far greater consequences, as Itou (in Yamada’s body) disappears after being spotted posing in the mirror, striking poses, and performing finishing moves.

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A search of Itou’s phone reveals she was being hustled for supernatural objects by some thugs, and decided to go after them in Yamada’s body. She gets her ass kicked, but Yamada (in Itou’s body) shows up and takes the thug trio out, introducing us to the idea that Yamada’s stronger body wasn’t enough to fight her enemies; Yamada fights with his spirit, so even in Itou’s body, he kicks ass. I really like this concept.

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After switching back to their own bodies, Itou is content to withdraw with dignity, but Yamada shows her her completed club application, re-welcoming her into the supernatural club. At the end of the day, Itou was lonely and looking to become more popular at school, and while the path to get there had a few corkscrews and switchbacks, she’s now in a club with far better caliber people than she first imagined when she saw them kissing.

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Itou also puts the possibilities of the body-swapping into high gear, testing out every possible combination between the four of them. I’ll admit I lost track watching the scene the first way through (which I think was kinda the point), but the order goes like this:

  1. Yamada switches with Shiraishi (when Itou shoves him into her).
  2. Miyamura kisses Yamada (in Shiraishi’s body).
  3. Itou kisses Yamada (in Miyamura’s body).
  4. Miyamura (in Shiraishi’s body) kisses Yamada (in Itou’s body).

That right there is some big-league comedic complexity. It’s a wonderfully absurd sequence and all the voice actors do a great job imitating each other’s voice patterns and modulations.

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In the end, we finally meet more witches, though they’re not identified as such. I’m not sure where this whole power struggle for class president between Miyamura and Odagiri Nene (Kitamura Eri) is going, but nor do I really care…yet. 7-nin will have its work cut out for it integrating stodgy politics into the far more fun body-swapping narrative.

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Denpa Kyoushi – 03

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Kagami’s voluntary dismissal from school seemingly ended the “weekly student project” format I had become comfortable with and fond for, and all for reasons that didn’t do Kagami any favors in the likability department.

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Still, like me, Hiiragi Koyomi (later nicknamed “Options” by Kagami because she herself says she’s loaded with them) has enjoyed watching Kagami improve the lives of his students with amusing methods, and wants to see more of that at her school.

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Only Kagami doesn’t want to teach, so Hiiragi formulates an elaborate military operation, using all of the resources and connections at her disposal to track him down. I think the overarching joke is that Kagami isn’t really on the run, but just has a very busy schedule of YD activities in Akiba.

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t dig the whole chase sequence. I’ve seen super-rich people put on much better shows than Hiiragi did here, and the show’s animation bordered on the putrid this week, and really didn’t do Akiba justice. Hiiragi’s minions also seemed particularly incompetent, and I wasn’t buying Kagami’s hacking prowess.

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Am I being overly pedantic with a show not intending to be that serious? Perhaps; especially when the chase ends with Suzune literally throwing a big net over Kagami and then tossing him in a burlap sack. Still, it’s good to see Kagami brought back down to earth by his little sister (who knew he liked a certain voice actress) after he was able to defeat the might of Hiiragi family, Jack Bauer-style.

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Hiiragi brings Kagami to his sister’s school, Icho, where he’ll teach first before moving up to Hiiragi. But even if its the poorer of the two schools, it’s still pretty fancy. There, Kagami meets Hiiragi’s No. 2, the mirthless twin-tail he quickly nicknames “Irregular Twintails.” Momozono resents Hiiragi recruiting this NEET “thing” just to make things more “amusing.”

Kagami can absorb Twintails’ barbs, but when she turns her ire on Shikishima Kiriko, a student being expelled for having a part time job at a maid cafe, the situation suddenly becomes YD for Kagami. He agree to take the job if Shikishima is reinstated, and vows to teach Momozono about the dignity of maid cafes. And jut like that, we seem to be back in the “weekly student project” format I didn’t mind. Denpa Kyoushi can keep its chase scenes.

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Plastic Memories – 03

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Oh dear…last week’s revelation that Isla has only 83 days left (and quite a few days fewer than that now) had rekindled our interest in Plastic Memories, but after a total dud like this third episode, I don’t see how I can ever trust it again. I mean, seriously, three eps in and we get a hokey, uninspired moving-in/living with a girl episode?

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Rather than anyone telling Tsukasa what should be obvious to anyone who’s been around her for a few years that yes, indeed, Isla will meet the same fate as all the other giftia they retrieve every day, the guys in the office instead offer him increasingly ridiculous advice that Tsukasa carries out Wile. E. Coyote style, to no avail.

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It’s cliched, repetitive, and boring, killing all urgency and goodwill created last week. Worse, the fact several days go by as Tsukasa struggles to connect with Isla in their dorm where she used to live alone. He never bothers to wonder whether Isla prefers to keep professional distance despite the fact they have to live together, a stipulation for which there is never any good reason given, so all we have is the implication that “well, if they’re not in the dorm there’s be no opportunities for lame comedy.”

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Things take a turn for the dark and pathetic when Tsukasa, now just treating Isla like a normal human girl, which she clearly isn’t, insists on shopping for clothes for her, unaware she has so little experience with street clothes she doesn’t know how to put them on. It’s nice to know Isla wears panties, but I don’t think that was the reason we were welcomed inside her changing room.

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The most irritating part of all of this is that Isla likely knows her time will soon be up too, which is probably why she’s trying to avoid making happy new memories or getting closer to anyone. She really doesn’t seem to want Tsukasa in there for that purpose…though I would hope she’d reconsider whatever feelings she has for him after witnessing his unbelievably stupid hijinx.

By the end, he realizes the only thing she’s really comfortable doing is serving him tea. We apparently had to waste a whole episode for him to learn that.

As unflattering as Tsukasa was this week, we also learned that Yasutaka and Kazuki, the two people we know without a doubt know Isla will be gone in less than 80 days left, are petty cruel people. What do they have to gain by keeping that info from Tsukasa…Productivity?

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 03

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By formally introducing the main character of the Haruhi franchise in just the third episode of a spin-off starring a meek bookworm, Nagato Yuki-kun seems to be issuing a challenge—to itself—can Yuki hold her ground when a charm factory like Hirano Aya’s Haruhi crashes her show, or will she disappear, as the title suggests?

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I would imagine most of the audience turned off by all the show’s changes have already checked out (unless they’re hate-watching). Now it’s up to the show to deliver for the cautiously optimistic viewers who stuck around to see where they’re going with this.

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In terms of Yuki being replaced as the protagonist, that isn’t going to happen, nor would I want it to: Haruhi is a supporting character who just happens to steal every scene she’s in with her charisma, and instant chemistry with Kyon. Their half-hostile, half-flirtatious sparring on display here is nothing new for veterans of the franchise. And listening to two true pros at work in Hirano and Sugita is always a pleasure in and of itself.

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As it has every episode thus far, the show doesn’t forget to give Yuki and Kyon a romantic moment or two to keep their romantic potential active. Here, Yuki gives Kyon an extra-formal thank you for helping her this year, and then prays at the shrine for the courage to tell him her feelings—her real feelings, not the word salad she dropped on Haruhi and Kyon in that cafe.

That being said, I loved how her melon soda refilled when she realized she could call Kyon a friend without anyone thinking it’s weird.

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The new year brings with it more Haruhi, and when she infiltrates North High with her transfer student pet Koizumi Itsuki (who doesn’t appear to be an esper) and moves right in, getting Yuki to agree to make them members and make her Executive President. In an odd moment, it seems like Haruhi heard Kyon’s inner monologue. Was that just an easter egg, or a sign things could get more supernatural?

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That’s going to be another big question: assuming Nagato will still have the greater share of screen time as the official protagonist, how much will the people Haruhi has amassed change? Does she have the same godlike power to make her delusions reality she possessed in the original series? Did the show start out like a conventional, non-supernatural rom-com as a feint?

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I’m skeptical of that. I see this Haruhi as no more a god here than Yuki is an alien or Asahina a future-girl. I’m not saying there’s no way they’ll become those things under extended exposure to Haruhi, but I doubt it. The challenge remains, the lit club is now much louder and livelier (the whole cast does a great job creating the aural chaos of such a club), and Yuki must become louder and more aggressive in order not to be left in the dust.

The good news is, Nagato doesn’t need to grow her hair long enough to put it in a ponytail…though if she really wants to, Kyon won’t stop her.

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Kekkai Sensen – 03

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Leo isn’t one to freak out when confronted by a ghost, especially if she’s cute. Instead, he takes her picture to confirm if she’s a ghost, but she shows up in the photos. White tells him she likes him and draws nearer, only for Leo to wake up in his apartment. The transition has us wondering how much of his interactino with White is in his head, but there’s no time to ponder such things, as he’s being evicted and has forty seconds to vacate or, presumably, be eaten. Just another day in the ‘Lot!

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From there, we see him dozing on the couch in Libra HQ, refusing a stipend any higher than the standard rate even though he’s still delivering pizzas and sending money home. But this week Leo is on the sidelines, as the bulk of the episode follows Klaus on his quest to satisfy his fix of Prosfair, which is perhaps best described as “Chess on Acid”. It’s a game as intricate and bonkers as the world that conceived it.

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Initially, the game is introduced as a little joke, with the physically imposing yet cultured Klaus getting way to into it on his original Macintosh(!), to the bemusement of his colleagues. But when Zapp and Chain’s efforts to investigate the distribution of an advanced (and world-unbalancing) new drug called Angel Scale, it rises to the utmost importance, since one of the most powerful overbosses in the Alterworld, Arlelelle Eruca Fulgrouche (what a name!), happens to be a huge fan of Prosfair.

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When he arrives with his comely colleague K.K., Klaus is shocked to find Prosfair grandmaster Ulchenko has also come to challenge Fulgrouche. In the Russian’s mind, he has risen as high as he can amongst mankind in the game, and so playing a non-human is the next logical step. Also, he wants his country to have nuclear weapons, something Fulgrouche can make happen.

Alas, Ulchenko is no match for the don, coming up two minutes short of the nine hours he had to survive in a game. The exponentialy increasing speed and complexity of the game as it drags out nearly kills Ulchenko, and as per their agreement, since he lost, Fulgrouche will take the rest of that life.

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That’s when Klaus finds his opening to finally connect these events with the mission to uncover the Angel Scale ring. If Klaus lasts 99 hours straight, Fulgrouche agrees to not only reveal the trafficking routes of the drug, but also spare the Russian. And doggone it, the guy does it! As K.K. chain smokes and Ulchenko waits in stunned disbelief.

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Klaus doesn’t win, but he hangs with Fulgrouche for the full 99 hours, and all to the lovely stylings of Ludwig van’s vaunted Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy, in an inspired use of a classic piece of music that really lends the duel otherworldly grandeur, as befits a prosfair battle taking place in the Alterworld.

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Klaus gets the trafficking routes, Ulchenko is freed, and K.K. makes sure Libra takes out all the cells pushing Angel Scale. It’s all made possible thanks to Klaus’ unparalleled strength, selflessness, and perseverance. Yet, to hear it from Leo, book-ending the episode with his interactions with White, he has no idea what Klaus did for the firm, nor might he ever know.

All Steve Starphase said is that “anything in this world can happen”, which has so far proven true. For Leo, those words must be pretty reassuring, because the one thing he wants most in the world is to heal Michella.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 15

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Shirou and Rin really have the worst timing…

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What I thought would be a thrilling battle between an unstoppable force and an unmovable object turned out to be something a bit more…one-sided: the slow, methodical slaughter of Berserker by Blonde Guy, broken down into twelve trials, just like Berserker’s true identity, the demigod Heracles, had to overcome. Heracles may never give up, but Blonde guy will never run out of weapons to throw at him.

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Ilya doesn’t fret, however, for it has been ingrained in her for years that she is the ultimate master, the product of a thousand years of research and countless sacrifices, while Berserker is the undisputed strongest servant. But Ilya didn’t always have Berserker. In fact, when she first met him, she ran away in disgust.

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Out in the woods, a pack of wolves caught her scent, but just when it looks like they’ll tear her to pieces, Berserker comes out of nowhere to save her, but not because it’s in his contract or because it’s part of his programming as a servant. He chose to protect her of his own free will. And among the people in Ilya’s life, he’s the only one to do that.

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Back to the present battle, Ilya cannot fathom losing to Blonde Guy, but when the battle moves into the confines of the castle, the symbolic walls begin to close in on the allegedly most-powerful master-servant duo. Berserker is being worn down, but isn’t able to lay a single scratch on Blonde Guy.

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Shirou and Rin can only watch in horror from the shadows as the duo they had hoped to team up with has their asses handed to them, to put it indelicately. Berserker never gives up, but Blonde Guy eventually immobilizes him with the Chains of Heaven and impales him with a giant spear.

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With her servant and weapon slain, Ilya is a sitting duck, and it’s all Rin can do to keep Shirou from yelling out and running to her aid as Blonde Guy pulls a simple sword from his treasury, slashes out Ilya’s eyes, then runs her through the heart.

After the baroque spectacle of felling Berserker, Ilya’s death is chilling in its austerity, and having learned all the trials she herself went through, and the realization she was living for herself and Berserker and not her family, caused my heart to sink into my feet. It’s a quiet yet utterly crushing moment.

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Berserker is able to break the Chains of Heaven (“surpassing his own myth to the end”, as Blonde Guy poetically puts it) and make one more futile lunge at him, but while Blonde Guy’s face betrays momentary surprise, his weapons are quick enough to finish Berserker well before he can touch him.

From there, Shirou and Rin should just wait for Blonde Guy to depart before leaving themselves and regrouping…but Shioru just can’t keep his damn mouth shut, earning him a sword in his geneal vicinity for his trouble, which destroys a part of the balcony he’s standing on.

While Blonde Guy could clearly kill the lovebirds in the blink of an eye, obviously they’re not going to die next week. So what happens next? Do they form an alliance with him against Caster? Their options are fast dwindling.

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