DRAMAtical Murder – 01

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Bodacious. Stylish. Crisp. Zany. Rad. These kinds of words swirled through my head during the OP (with a catchy theme by techno rock band GOATBED) and those descriptors served me well all the way through a very introductory episode to the ED (also a catchy theme by techno rock band GOATBED). On further research (Wikipedia) I learned this show is based on a BL visual model, which explains the lack of any female main characters, along with the reliable attractiveness of all of the male characters we come across.

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The gender of the various players isn’t of much consequence in the first episode; but what is evident is that they all cultivate extremely elaborate, colorful looks; clearly a lot of effort was put into giving them very memorable, eye-popping appearances. One could even throw around the word flamboyant without fear. The setting is similarly impressive; as the protagonist Seragaki Aoba and all his pals live in the somewhat rundown”old city” (let’s say it has “character”) on an island now dominated by a massive, pristine arcology-looking thing.

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We follow Aoba through a pretty typical day in which he crosses paths with many different folks, from a trio of neighborhood urchins, to his hairdresser friend Koujaku, to his gang leader friend Mizuki, two the non-twin brother yakuza duo of Trip and Virus, and finally, some big dude he bumps into who drives off on his motorcycle without a word. There’s also a kid with a gas mask on, Zvezda-style, but Aoba doesn’t run into him. The whole time, his pet Japanese Spitz Ren is by his side, who happens to be able to talk, serves as a mobile computer, and takes human form in game fields. Everyone seems to have a little mecha-animal on their person. Wish I had a mecha-animal…

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While Aoba’s clearly done a few unsavory things in his past, he seems content with a quiet, honest living at the Junk Shop “Mediocrity” and living with his battleaxe Grams. But he’s also a lad being pushed and pulled by his pals to doing something more with his life; something he’s capable of doing. The final straw comes when he’s drawn against his will into the VR combat game “Rhyme” that’s all the rage in the city. While he pleads with the guy who instigated the game that he’s never played Rhyme, he’s clearly played something before, because he uses something called a “Jubilation Set” to defeat him.

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Keeping track of so many new faces on new shows is often, to borrow a word from Aoba, a “hassle”, but DMMd at least makes it easier by making them so distinctive, and there’s a nice flow to Aoba’s travels around the huge, surging city. I can’t say much about Rhyme, except that Ren looks really cool in human form and their evil bunny rabbit opponents were lame as hell. Between Grandma throwing death flags and the gas mask guy, I’d bed on Aoba’s quiet, unassuming life getting a bit louder and more assuming in episodes to come. And by all means, keep rockin’ those moon boots.

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Barakamon – 01

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When an esteemed curator tears into Handa Seishuu’s conformist calligraphy, calling it “a copybook clone”, “award bait”, and “completely lethargic”, Seishuu thinks the old man is full of shit and slugs him in the face. His dad exiles him to a remote island village, where a nosy little girl, knowing nothing about the incident, says almost the exact same things about his writing. The world seems to be telling him something.

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Some people just can’t take harsh criticism. I know I can’t sometimes, particularly where art is concerned. Seishuu is the same. He’s sticking stubbornly to the fundamentals, and the rest of the world is wrong, not him. The weight of that fabricated world of his is slowly crushing him. He needs to get out from under it and gain some fresh perspective. That’s what Barakamon (“Cheerful Child”) is all about: getting over yourself, lightening the hell up, and having fun.

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Seishuu’s bad attitude and stubborn ways are no match for the fundamental kindness, decency, and joviality of adorable lil’ Naru and the rest of the townsfolk. They’re not there to judge him on why he’s there or what he’s done; he’s a new neighbor, a rarity in the town, so they help him move in. That outpouring of hospitality doesn’t just soften Seishuu’s hard edges, but snaps him out of a creative funk he’d been denying he was in up until now.

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Repeating the cold open, but this time with context, we watch Seishuu take to the paper like a lion to a gazelle; and his giant, wild character “” (“FUN”) is far more passionate and expressive than anything he’d written up to that point. More to the point, he had a lot of fun writing it (almost too much fun, as he creeps out the mayor). After scaling a literal wall with Naru to get a better look at the island’s spectacular sunset, he’s started to scale what the curator called the “wall of mediocrity.”

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I’ll end with one the many great lines in this episode, delivered by Seishuu’s friend Takao:

“You don’t get any sympathy after punching an old man with a cane.”

 

 

Space Dandy 2 – 01

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Space Dandy is back, baby! But as Dandy himself laments in the middle of this particularly chaotic episode, they “came back too much.” After trying to pass a cow off as an alien, Scarlett gives them a stern life counseling session, suggesting they may not be cut out for alien hunting, being the worst such hunters she’s ever seen.

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As they ponder a future in space trucking, Dandy pulls at a stray hair on his head, it gets longer and longer until it envelops him, Meow and QT and zaps them into another dimension, where there is another set of Dandy, Meow, and QT (and Honey), only this set is much better at their jobs. They notice another stray hair, tug at it, and the process repeats.

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They’re not stray hairs, but cosmic strings, and continually tugging at them zaps the crew from one alternate universe to another, in all of which some form of Dandy & Crew exist. Those forms get more and more bizarre until we end up with a scary Meow who simply stands around grinning and holding a helmet he never wears, QT as an old codger who thinks he’s a robot, and a gloomy Dandy who just wants to die, having clearly been around the other two for far too long.

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With all the alternate Dandy crews springing up in one universe, not only does the Aloha Oe get overstuffed with people, but the universe itself starts to become full of contradictory information, to the point where even the normally unflappable narrator begins bickering with other narrators over what exactly is going on in the episode. If this goes on it can’t end well.

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So the Dandys and their crews come together and decide to light the cosmic strings like fuses. When that happens, a big explosion occurs and the universe is seemingly back to normal, until it’s dropped on us that Gloomy Dandy and his two insufferably strange companions are the new cast moving forward. The show is just joking, but in the end, Scarlett was wrong about the Dandy, Meow, and QT she knew being the worst. There’s always worse.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 01

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Could I go a whole season without a mecha series? After this show’s very strong opening salvo, I’m inclined to think not. From the brain of Urobuchi Gen (Fate/Zero, Gargantia, Madoka Magica, and Phantom) comes an epic action sci-fi series in which an uneasy peace is shattered and all the humanity of Earth are threatened with destruction by…the humanity of Mars.

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That’s right, rather than Sidonia, our foes aren’t horrific monsters driven by instinct, but an offshoot of the human race that emigrated to Mars and evolved into a powerful military empire. Biologically, the two sides are all but identical. But precisely because the Martians are human, there are some of them who would use any excuse to bring the hammer down on “Old Humanity”, AKA the ‘Terrans.” Absent peace, the natural state of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”no matter which planet they call home.

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The other side of the political spectrum, Princess Asseylum (sounds kinda like “asylum”) has traveled to Earth for a goodwill visit in hopes of fostering amity and building a lasting piece after a brutal war fifteen years ago cleaved the moon in two, killing untold scores on Earth. In the new ring of moon rubble that circles the planet, 37 orbital castles run by 37 Martian lords lie in wait, sharpening their fangs, begging Asseylum not to bother with peace.

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All goodwill and hope of escaping all-out war is snuffed out when Terrans (possibly working for those lords) destroy Asseylum’s motorcade with a barrage of missiles, apparently (but probably not) killing her. The Martian lords have their excuse, and send their castles crashing down like meteors, wiping out New Orleans, among other cities. It’s a race to see which lord can gain the most territory in the shortest time.

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There’s no indication the “Terrans” have any real defense against the Martians. This is underlined pretty bitterly by a veteran of the past war, Lt. Marito, who now instructs students in the operation of relatively clunky-looking mecha that wouldn’t be fit to fuel their Martian equivalents if they were melted down and refined. Marito, drinking heavily, knows the training is bullshit, but he’s seemingly the only one who knows just how screwed everyone is, since he’s one of the few people to lay eyes on the titular Aldnoah.

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The episode is brimming with characters, but the ones who seem to matter are Asseylum; her Terran aide Slaine, whom she rescued years ago; Count Cruhteo, one of the lords. On earth, you have the stoic protagonist Kaizuka Inaho, his big sister Yuki (who works under Marito), and his various school friends. The paths of the various Terran and Martian characters cross when Asseylum arrives in Japan, where Inaho & Co. are at the parade.

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When a foe is bent on destroying you because they believe you are inferior, and more to the point, simply because they can, you can give up and die, like Lt. Marito seems content to do, or somehow prove that you’re not as inferior as your foe thought you were, and that destroying you won’t be as easy as buying reduced eggs online.

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That typically means the underdog has a secret weapon in their possession to fight on more equal ground. That weapon hasn’t been revealed yet, but my guess is it’s an Aldnoah, and that Inaho ( and anagram of “I, Noah”…) will be the pilot. We’ll see how the show gets him into that cockpit and how he fares; his unexcitable temperament should serve him well. Still, the Martians have an awfully big head start.

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