Akuma no Riddle – 11

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With all of the assassins defeated save Nio, the rhythm of the show changes this week. Instead of trying to figure out who’s going to target Haru and when, she and Tokaku are rewarded for their victory with a “true orientation” that reveals big, hard truths, most of which had been hinted at, but now brought into the light.

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Now theres no more doubt: Class Black wasn’t assembled to assassinate Haru, but to test her readiness to take the reins as the “Queen Bee” of the ultra-powerful clan that “controls every aspect of the world.” That last bit sounds kind of silly, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a good test, and she passed it.

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Unfortunately, the power and potential she exhibited in the process aren’t going to entitle her to the normal life she wants so badly (and apparently had earlier in life), but condemn her to serve. A Queen Bee isn’t designed to live for herself, but to ensure the survival of the hive, even at the cost of her life. Nio drives the point home by taking Haru to a massive clan graveyard deep below the school, full of people who died for the clan’s survival.

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Nio continues to glare and bare her teeth from time to time, but her true motives are still a mystery. Could it be she too is a potential queen, who will kill Haru and ascend if Haru refuses to accept her fate? A few moments of apparent sincerity aren’t enough to make me forget about all the two-faces we’ve already encountered and trust her. She’s still dangerous. Otherwise, why would she have those awesome tattoos?

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Tokaku doesn’t take these new revelations well. She’s been lost all this time trying to figure out the toughest riddle of all; why she wanted to protect someone she was told to kill. She has no way of knowing whether her relationship with Haru was nought but an artifice built by Haru’s innate charisma. Whether she used it to manipulate Tokaku consciously or not is beside the point; it’s possible; likely even.

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It’s with that in mind, and with a great appreciation for the things Haru made her feel and think about for the first time, that she decides to turn on Haru after all. Kaiba tells her the riddles he’s sent have no right answers. Really, they were meant to spark independent thought. After a life of completing tasks and following orders to the letter, Tokaku’s time with Haru and the other assassins has taught her a great deal.

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This wasn’t just Haru’s initiation, then, but Tokaku’s as well. Haru’s purpose was already determined from the start, and Class Black was just a means of validating it. But for Tokaku, Class Black helped her define herself and her purpose. Haru never really needed Tokaku’s protection, but becoming allies facilitated Tokaku’s advancement to where she is now: in the ideal position to eliminate the target.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 10

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With Shizuka either dead or no longer human and thus more or less out of the picture (for them, anyway), Izana and Yuhata are both committed to spending as much time with Nagate as possible, even if it means they have to reluctantly do so as a trio. There’s only so much of Izana’s whining I can take, so it’s a good thing they half-intentionally stumble upon a secret lab.

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That lab houses the incomplete masterpiece of one Dr. Ochiai, someone who’s name has been darted around now and again. He fused human and Gauna material together into a war machine, and that machine is being used to manufacture new experimental weapons to fight the Gauna. Nagate isn’t in trouble for his trespass; on the contrary, he’s named the test pilot for all this neat new stuff.

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Between this reveal and the first character Gaunazuka writes on the glass looks like a Christian cross, this episode had a serious Eva vibe. It captured the dual-sided loneliness that both the one learning all these secrets and the ones being left out of the loop experience. But no one’s more lonely and frustrated than Izana, who is neither the XO, a Gauna replicant, nor the clone of Sidonia’s ace.

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Punctuated by her very natural reaction of fear and dread upon learning she’s been made an official Gardes pilot—fully aware of the attrition rate of late—Izana has been consistently portraye as a thoroughly “normal” person. Despite the status of her grandmother, she leads a relatively normal life, and has normal fears: fear of being left behind; fear of dying before she’s done and said all she’s wanted to. It makes me feel like there is some kind of crucial secret about her we just haven’t found out about yet.

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Meanwhile, her best friend continues to visit a product of the enemy on the sly. It’s worrying to me that Nagate seems to get more and more excited about the prospect of getting his old Shizuka back just because the being behind the glass is writing his name with magic marker and manipulating the shape of her placenta to make a kind of maid outfit. The fact she snapped that marker into jagged shards was a nice way to show that she’s still very dangerous and it’s fairly clear no good can come of having her aboard.

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On that note, all the demilitarization people were finally granted permission to emigrate to a planet, but their exodus is interrupted by a Gauna attack. I really like how Kobayashi half-wanted them to get their comeuppance for opposing her, and while she allows Nagate to sortie in the experimental equipment (a quick but awesome battle in which Nagate fights his own frame as much as the Gauna), she considers a possible future in which she doesn’t let him do what he wants, and he does it anyway, and she can’t stop him.

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The immortals who rule Sidonia in the shadows are faced with quite the conundrum: they resent Nagate’s very existence, but need him to assure their own. The more powerful he becomes, the more effective their defense against the Gauna, but at the cost of their absolute control over everything. To whit: a Gauna mass eight thousand times the size of Sidonia (which isn’t exactly small) is bearing down. Nagate would have to become terrifyingly powerful to defeat that.

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Stray Observations:

  • I wasn’t a fan of the sound Izana’s sandals made either, but they were cute. And her shiny new black Gardes uniform is badass.
  • In a conventionally animated show, the punishment Nagate’s face receives from Izana in the dark would have constituted a stack of bumps. But here, in CGI land, Oh my God, his injured face is fuckin’ scary as hell. It was very jarring to see it back to normal a couple minutes later.
  • I liked Yuhata’s willingness to immediately abuse the power and security clearance she’s been given now that she’s XO by exploring restricted areas. But when it comes time to send Nagate out to fight, she doesn’t hesitate, despite her feelings for him.
  • Was it just me, or were Sasaki’s boobs a little too big?
  • Maybe we’re wrong: maybe Gaunazuka is perfectly harmless, and in time, will develop back into a fully-functioning human much like Shizuka was. Maybe…but I doubt it.
  • After a smoking start, Sidonia’s in a bit of a “9” drought…perhaps next week’s huge-looking battle will end it.

Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: The 08th Mobile Suit Team

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Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: the 08th Mobile Suit Team is a 12 ep OAV side story that takes place during the 3rd act of the original Gundam series. The story is set in South America’s jungles, following the defeat of Zeon’s earth-side forces in the middle east. The focus is on Gundams and lesser mobile suits as every day military weapons, used by every day soldiers. There are no New Types and no space battles (after the introductory episode). Just solid military action.

Is it good? Yes! Really good!

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 Sniper Gundam with massive cooling tubes. Standard Gundams with gigantic parachute packs.

Shiro Amada is our hero this time and, thankfully, he breaks the Gundam mold. Shiro is a seasoned Federation officer leading a small mobile suit unit around the jungle in search of a Zeon base. Along the way, Shiro befriends guerillas and kills more Zeon troops than he would like. His emotional journey gets rockier along the way and he quickly discovers Aina Saharin, a female Zeon pilot he saved early in his career, is piloting an experimental mega weapon that he will ultimately have to defeat.

08th looks good. Really good! The mechanical design takes the goofy over the top style of original Gundam and makes it more complex, dirty and believably lived-in. Even Guntank, the stupid tank-treaded suit gets an official nod. (a trio are used to shell a Zeon base but are considered fragile and difficult to defend due to their sluggish mobility) I loved seeing such a silly design reworked to make sense in the war’s context — truly, it retroactively lends the original even more credibility.

More importantly, I can’t stress how important it is that 08th MS ignores the New Type plot thread and focuses on real people, fighting real wars without magical intuition and psychedelic dialogs. I found it much easier to empathize with REAL people in stressful situations and do not miss the ‘psychic POV’ that cropped up (and slowed down) battles towards the end of original Gundam.

I enjoyed how likable almost everyone is on both sides too. As before, we cared about nearly everyone, regardless of faction, and appreciated how evil and responsibility could be the same thing under different contexts. In 08th, the likability factor is even more pronounced — so much so that even the show’s characters don’t want to kill each other too.

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Unfortunately, not everything in 08th MS smells like roses. As in many Gundam tales, the romance feels abrupt. This is understandable but lobbing an ‘I want to live my life with you forever’ speech the second time the heroes meet made us wince. The Zeon arch villain is unnecessarily evil too. (Its never even explained why he kills his own scientists at the end) So thank goodness he’s just a cripple! Ugh!

Its a testament on how well rounded everyone else is in the show, and how believably the show handles the total collapse of Zeon’s forces on earth — from emotional and logistical states of scattered troops on the run, to generals abandoning their humanity to win the day. The urgency and the grim sense of defeat is very effective.

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