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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Car Cameos:

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 14

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Mahouka’s second cour picks up right where the last one left off: in the midst of a magic high school competition procedural. While ending the NSC at the midpoint would have been a bit cleaner, as things shook out there was still some things to take care of before closing the book on the arc. Perhaps most important among those is also the most predictable development: Tatsuya being asked to compete as a player.

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First, the less predictable developments: Honoka wins in the Battle Board finals with a nice bit of shadow-casting magic that confuses her opponents, turning the dark shades they wore to avoid her optical magic against them. First High’s rookie girls placed one-two-three in Ice Pillars, eliminating the need for a final, but Shizuku decides to take on Miyuki anyway. Shizuku loses decisively, and it isn’t really a fair fight, nor did she ever think she had a chance. Note to everyone else: never challenge Miyuki to anything.

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Another act of probable sabotage by the No-Head Dragons takes out First High’s three-man rookie Monolith Code team. Thanks to the girls—and Tatsuya—the First High rookies are assured at least a second-place finish, but Saegusa wants to take first. When the stewards allow her to form a new team to compete, she choo-choo-chooses Tatsuya, who now gets to go up against Third High’s Crimson Prince and Cardinal George, the first people to come around who actually resemble real competition.

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In a nice move, he picks Mikihiko and Leon as his teammates, meaning if First High is going to win the NSC, it will be thanks to Weeds. Those two (and all the guys, for that matter) have been on the sidelines for a long time, so I’m looking forward to seeing them in action. By giving their second course ringer so much leeway, Saegusa and Juumonji are asking the rest of the students to bottle their pride and outrage for the good of the team, which is a lot to ask a bunch of emotional teenagers.

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Stray Observations:

  • Little Miss Muffet Azusa seems to have pretty much figured out that Tatsuya is Taurus Silver. So yeah.
  • Ichijou Masaki was killin’ Commies and Kichijouji Shinkurou was teachin’ college courses when they were both thirteen. Here’s hoping they don’t disappoint in giving Tatsuya a run for his money.
  • I wonder who the third member of Third High’s team will be? Character #678…
  • We also finally see some Mirage Bat; definitely the silliest-looking of the events.
  • New OP and ED! New Tatsuya+Miyuki imagery, too.

Sword Art Online II – 01

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Aside from a few brief glimpses of the scale and majesty of the new online world of Gun Gale Online (see above) and a few flashbacks to more energetic times, this was a pretty quiet, unflashy opening to a new season of SAO. Yet after more than a year and a half since we’ve seen Kirito and Asuna, I rather appreciated a less hectic, more introspective start that catches us up with what’s been happening in the world.

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For one thing, both Kirito and Asuna (who are the focus of the episode) seem to have more or less retired from gaming. While neither seem to be in the throes of PTSD, they did endure quite a few horrors, and four thousand people did perish in SAO, so I could understand if they decided to be totally done with VMMOing. Still, Kirito wants to transition from playing to R&D, so the virtual world can be made even more like the real world, where holding hands with Asuna conveys a lot more information between them than in current games.

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There’s a definite sense of peace and contentment between the two as they walk hand in hand through Tokyo’s Imperial Gardens, maintaining the subtle but warm romance they started in the virtual world. Having been there myself, I can relate to the deep, inscrutable aura of a 2km x 1.5km area of land virtually untouched by time in the center of the world’s biggest urban conglomeration. It’s a nice nod to their past that the two show up for their date wearing the colors of their SAO avatars.

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Of course, Kirito isn’t really done gaming. In the classic “pulled in for one last job” scenario, he’s lured into a swanky cafe and given free rein over the dessert menu by one Kikuoka Seijirou of the Advanced Communications Networks Promotion Division Section 2 (“Virtual Division”) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Telecommunications Bureau, which is a ridiculous title, but sums up what he does, which doesn’t sound all that different from what Kirito eventually wants to get into.

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Kikuoka wants to employ Kirito’s very particular set of skills to infiltrate GGO and investigate a set of player deaths whose hearts stopped in the real world after they were shot in the game by the lamely-named “Death Gun”. Since people can and do make their living playing GGO, it’s a tough game for an amateur, but if anyone can quickly pick up a game, it’s Kirito, and as the OP (here the ED) suggests, he may well bring a (glowing purple) sword to the gunfights and still kick ass.

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So, we had to sit around in a cafe for some time, but the table has been set for the adventures to come. The player deaths will probably prove not to be mere coincidences Kirito and Kikuoka hope they are. At some point Kirito will meet Death Gun, along with the New Girl, handle “Shinon” (Sawashiro Miyuki), who has Eureka-like hair, a nice bum, nicer aim, and uncertain loyalties. Will they warm to each other, or butt heads? I’m guessing the latter, at first.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 01

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I’ve neither read nor watched any other iterations of the Sailor Moon franchise, nor do I plan to. When I first heard it was being rebooted for its 20th anniversary, I wanted to go in as green as possible, unfettered by prior knowledge or expectation. Even so, I was aware that Sailor Moon was an immensely popular and iconic cultural phenomenon that directly influenced countless newer series I’ve watched and enjoyed. That carries its own expectations.

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To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece here, and I didn’t get one. But I was pleased with how pure, elemental, and straightforward the storytelling was. That’s kind of a given when you’re dealing with a show that isn’t just “a take” on the quintessential magical girl stories, but is the quintessential magical girl story, full stop. To that end, it sticks with a charming throwback aesthetic that you don’t see very often in contemporary anime.

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That simple story can be summed up thus: pretty but clumsy and unfocused girl steps on a cat on the way to school, removes band-aids from her head. The cat shows up in her bedroom window to bestow a magical talisman that turns the girl into something resembling a heroine. She defeats the villainess, frees the jewelry-grubbing ladies under her thrall, and catches a glimpse of the Dashing Prince of her dreams.

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I liked how Tsukino Usagi’s initial weaknesses ultimately worked to her advantage. Her abysmal test scores meant she wouldn’t be able to ask her mom to buy her any jewelry, without which she didn’t fall under the bad guy’s spell. And because she’s uncoordinated and late for school, she ends up stepping on a cat that gives her the tools to fight the bad guy. Heck, even her quickness to tears turned out to be a useful weapon.

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Usagi doesn’t just look like no one else in the current anime spectrum; she sounds like no one else, too, thanks to the veteran Mitsuishi Kotono, who has always voiced Usagi. Don’t get me wrong, so much of Usagi’s dialogue is sooo stupid, but Kotono’s line delivery is a wry blend of syrupy guilelessness tinged with wry irony. Whether she’s happy or sad or falling down the stairs, Usagi always puts on big, over-the-top productions, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at them.

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That theatricality is put to good use when she transforms, which is the episode’s big visual set piece, employing elaborate CGI that heralds the show’s official arrival to the 21st century. It was a nice surprise, akin to when the cartoonish-looking Panty & Stocking suddenly adopt realistic character designs when they transform. Usagi’s somewhat cumbersome sailor fuku accentuates her clumsiness, but in Sailor Moon kit she cuts a far sleeker, more mobile figure.

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Which is why her first moments as Sailor Moon are so funny: she looks the part, but has no idea what to do or how to do it, and is suitably flustered. Thankfully, Luna is there to tell her, and the bad guy is dispatched; perhaps too easily, but it’s only the first battle; it couldn’t be too hard. And for a few shining moments, Usagi shed the “hopeless dumb girl” act, believed in herself (and in the stuff Luna was telling her), and stood up against evil to protect others.

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This episode was a nice introduction to Usagi, her ordinary life, and the more exciting and trippy life that awaits her. She still has lots to learn, including how to juggle these two lives, but we know she’s going to meet allies, allowing for more interesting battles with tougher enemies. To conclude, despite harboring zero nostalgia for the franchise, this reboot stood pretty well on its own freakishly long, slender legs, and left me looking forward to the story continuing in two weeks’ time.

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Car Cameos:

Tokyo Ghoul – 01

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This show wasn’t on my initial Summer list, since from the admittedly very little I saw and read of it, I’d already seen it’s like before, with similarities to everything from Ao no Exorcist to True Blood. But with nothing else to watch, this first episode was to enticing to pass up, like the flesh laid out before Kaneki Ken. While it was impossible not to notice its many derivative elements, it was still a bloody fun romp.

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Many shows of this genre we’ve seen feature huge sprawling casts of various factions vying for power, but in the interests of easing us into its blood bath, the actors are thankfully kept as few as possible. There’s Ken, an utterly unremarkable bookworm of a kid with bangs that make him look ten years younger than he is, and there’s Rize, his gorgeous date, the true side of whom we see in the episode’s prologue, where she’s nude, enthusiastically gorging on flesh, and escaping a pursuer.

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With Rize, Hana-Kana gets to use both the cute/innocent and bad-ass/crazy/evil sides of her versatile voice. A ghoul—a vampire by any other name—she lures Ken somewhere secluded and attacks him with lustful vigor, totally throwing him, but not us, for a loop. He survives the assault when some steel girders fall on Rize, apparently killing her, and a doctor manages to fix him up, apparently by transplanting some of Rize’s still-intact organs.

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You can guess the rest: he becomes a ghoul himself…or rather a half-ghoul, which makes him unique (so far). Earlier in the episode he’s a bit of a tiresome pipsqueak, but watching the shadows literally close in upon him as he puts the pieces of the puzzle together, is nicely done. I particularly liked how all normal food and drink (given to him by his devoted best and only friend, Hide) now make him retch; now only human flesh will do.

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Like Haruto in Valvrave, he must choose to “resign his humanity”, although fate kind of chooses for him. When his nose leads him to a relatively kindly ghoul tucking into a fresh kill, their encounter is interrupted by Nishiki, an experienced ghoul and a heel who is ready to take over the dead Rize’s territory. He’s about to kill Nishiki when a girl named Touka shows up (Amamiya Sora in her first “tough girl” role).

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Touka was a waitress at the cafe where Ken meets Rize, and whom we imagine to be part of a more disciplined sect of ghouls than Rize or Nishiki. After dispatching the latter, she doles out some tough love to Ken, who is full-on Dr. Strangelove with his human side keeping his ghoul side from eating. Quick as a cat, she shoves the flesh right down Ken’s gullet, deciding for him that this is the way things are going to be.

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This is good, dark, twisted stuff; well-executed if not 100% (or even 50%) original. I liked how realistic, busy and richly-detailed the Tokyo backdrop appears, portraying the metropolis as one massive, seething buffet for Ken & Co. I’m hoping this episode wasn’t an anomaly in terms of either animation quality or amount of blood and gore for this show, because both were at a good level. I also appreciated that political claptrap was kept to a minimum.

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Car Cameos:

Rail Wars! – 01

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I’ll confess my relative ignorance of the particulars of the Japanese rail privatization-vs-nationalization debate, but considering the rough time the government has had in the past few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if some pro-nationalization entity tossed some cash at the relatively new studio Passione and told them to explore the question “What if the Japanese rail system was never privatized and broken up?”

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I’m not saying Rail Wars! is some kind of insidious pro-nationalization propaganda—it’s not that sophisticated. But the introductory narration goes out of its way to paint the picture of a kind of “railway utopia” that young Japanese can aspire to join and be ensued of comfortable and tranquil (if not particularly ambitious) lives. So far, the show’s characters are more interested in being part of something larger than themselves than becoming bigger than everyone else. I can relate!

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I may as well also confess my love of trains and in particular the Japanese rail system. Private or not, its efficiency and competence impressed me deeply on my travels there, and is definitely a system to take pride in, though it may not be perfect. In the world of Rail Wars!, that system is under the complete control of the government, and we see it from the wide and exuberant eyes of Japanese youths who want to share in that pride.

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Things get off to a shaky start with the dull Takayama Naoto (Fukuyama Jun) serving as a step-stool for the fiery, man-hating Sakurai Aoi (Numakura Manami) then earning her ire for possibly glancing at the comely features of Koumi Haruka (Uchida Maaya). That’s right, Zane: Yuuta and Rikka are reunited as a couple here. Rounding out the quartet is Iwaizumi Shou (Hino Satoshi), the physical, enthusiastic male sidekick.

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I’ll be blunt: there’s not much to these characters; not yet, at least, and we could do without the very lazy cliches of bouncing boobs (wear a damn sports bra for physical activity!), looking up skirts, or falling atop each other in intimate positions. But while the characters are broad and prone to cliche, together they have the makings of a highly capable public safety crew. Haruka is the brains, Aoi and Shou are the brawn (Aoi being the more precise brawn, but she can fly off the rails…pun intended.)

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Naoto is the average kid who has an above-average knowledge in the equipment and its operation, plus he’s a decent, cool-headed fellow. While less immediately evident than the others, his skills prove essential on more than one occasion, first when the quartet must get an vintage steam locomotive up to speed (COMBUSTION EFFICIENCY!), and again when purse-snatchers try to get away by train, leading to a brief but fun (and not bad-looking) Railgun/Index-style combat sequence.

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Rail Wars! mirrors the efficiency of the rail system at its core by propelling the introductory story forward with similar efficiency and confidence, getting the core team assembled, throwing diverse challenges their way and combining their skills to get the job done, if not precisely by the book. The episode also doesn’t skimp on the trains, showing us an eclectic array of machines and letting Naoto geek out.

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In the end, the “wars” in Rail Wars! aren’t about the privatization debate, but the wars within the characters themselves, over whether they have what it takes to be Japan National Railways public safety officers; the myriad challenges they’ll face in their new positions, and the competition they’ll surely have between other crews. Oh, and the occasional rumble with hoodlums.

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Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory

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Week five of Hot Summer Flashbacks drags us back to the early 90’s with Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, a 13 episode OAV set in (you guessed it!) UC 0083. For context, MSGSM is a ret-con of sorts, and attempts to show us what exactly happened between the original Mobile Suit Gundam and the first sequel: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Thankfully, MSGSM does this job quite well and, while I wouldn’t recommend giving it a watch without prior Gundam experience, it’s definitely worth your time if you liked the 08th MS Team OAV that precedes it.

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On the surface, Stardust is the tale of vengeful Zeon survivors from the final battle of the One Year War run off with a nuke-loaded experimental Gundam and it’s up to a young test pilot and a rag tag force of heroes to stop them before a mega catastrophe can happen. However, since Stardust has to explain the mess that is Gundam Zeta (spoilers), it is also the story of multi-faction politics, characters who admire the ‘double cross’ and the collapse of the Federation’s moral high ground.

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Our hero is Kou Uraki, a 19 year old test pilot and mecha-phile. I use the term ‘hero’ lightly here because Kou’s motivation bounce between revenge, hate, mecha lust, girl lust and momentum more than a meaningful sense of duty or hope in a better future. I didn’t find much to like about his regular scowl, selfishness but what really spays Kou as a central character is his total lack of agency in the plot. He’s just a pilot, and not that good a pilot if I’m being honest, and his powerful Gundam is powerless against the politics going on around it.

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By comparison, Anavel Gato is far more compelling. At first he seems like a ho-hum villain with an ax to grind with the Federation. As we get to know him, and see the string of bureaucratic and/or evil Federation admirals up to no good, he won my sympathy in a way original Gundam’s Char never did. Gato also gave us a smile for shouting at Kou for being inept, and then again for shouting at Kou for earnestly thanking an enemy for lessons as if Gato were just another instructor. In short, where Kou is our proxy for feeling like an angry teenager in the Universal Century, Gato is out proxy for feeling trapped by politics and wanting to take meaningful steps to fix things.

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Unfortunately, no Gundam would be complete without an extraneous maybe-love interest female character shoved in and, while Nina Purpleton isn’t completely awful, I didn’t like her much either. Like Kou, she’s emotionally all over the map. Worse, the abrupt nature of her moods makes her complex loyalty chart less interesting and less meaningful to us.

For goodness sake! Nina is a civilian engineering stuck on a Federation battle ship, responsible for testing Gundams for a private military manufacturing company based on the moon, which is selling tech to both the Federation and Zeon in an attempt to stay neutral, and she has a hate/love relationship with the Federation pilot who flies her Gundams AND a long lost love interest in a Zeon pilot who has stolen them. This should be interesting as hell but it’s not!

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On the up side, Stardust pulls some neat twists and explains the political mess that follows in Gundam Zeta far better than Gundam Zeta does. Right or wrong, the Federation is a totalitarian fist willing to work with villains and sacrifice its own to solidify its power. Right or wrong, Zeon is the space-born’s only hope for independence and Axis (a semi-neutral post Zeon colony in the asteroid belt) is going to pick up Zeon’s torch. Right or wrong, People are willing to shift alliances to save the ones the love or even just save their own skins.

It’s also a good looking show with a solid render quality. Be it pin ups above the pilots bunks, or trash in the corner, Stardust pays close attention to the details.

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On the down side, Stardust has THE WORST MUSIC OF ALL GUNDAM EVER, I hated the protagonist and really most of the Federation cast (the pilots are bizarrely girl crazy, antagonistic and mostly just background fill), and the romantic pacing was jerky.

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In closing, I give the show credit for making its super power Gundams less powerful than the political change in the end. I also enjoyed that the story took its time to unfold and didn’t spell everything out. Still, given how many characters appear in the show, and what the show is ultimately about, I would have preferred the POV being told entirely from Zeon’s point of view. Hell, they have their own internal struggles, villains and heroes without having to focus on the bland bunch of jerk-teens we see in the federation.

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MAL Score: 7.56

Glasslip – 01

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Welcome to the Summer 2014 season! I’m starting things off by plunging right into the vat of glowing hot molten glass that is P.A. Works’ Glasslip. As the “slice-of-life” genre label indicates, this opening episode is basically a bunch of stuff that happens, specifically what would happen any given summer day in a quiet, peaceful port town. It starts with a festival and fireworks, and ends in a cafe with…different fireworks. And it’s all sumptuously presented.

With slice-of-life there’ usually going to be some stuff that happens that’s more important than other stuff, and Glasslip is no exception. One notable event that breaks up the otherwise ordinary existence of our female include the female lead Fukami Touko (newcomer Fukagawa Seria) meeting a new transfer student Okikura Kakeru (Ohsaka Ryouta) who looks and acts a lot like Tsumugu in Nagi no Asukara (a show I watched along with Preston and also enjoyed quite a bit).

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Touko and Kakeru notice each other at the festival during the actual fireworks, but don’t actually meet until Kakeru encounters Touko drawing chickens (her family runs a glass-blowing studio, and she likens his pose to that of David, so she’s artistically inclined), and they get into a mild philosophical debate about what’s best for said chickens. Free range is well and good, until predators arrive; his comments are enough to spook her into rounding up the birds and distributing them among the houses of her friends.

This action is as good a way as any to map out the ensemble and give us a glimpse of their personalities. After all, you never truly know someone unless they’ve taken care of a chicken, right? The rest of the ensemble consists of Imi Yukinari (who likes Touko); the pretty somewhat uptight Takayama Yanagi (who is annoyed that Yuki likes Touko); Nagamiya Sachi (frail but serene), and Shirosaki Hiro (who likes Sachi and has an older sister Momo who is a newly-licensed but not altogether good driver). Touko also has a little sister, Hina.

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That’s a lot of cast right out of the gate, but their introduction was organic and by the end we generally knew who everyone was; hardly a certainty with some anime! The core five of Touko, Yuki, Sachi, Hiro, and Yanagi are all longtime friends, but seniors in high school who are become very aware of the very real possibility this could be their last year together as a group. In particular, some members of the group who’ve sat on their hands for too long may be thinking about making their move.

The element that threatens to upset the delicate balance of the quintet before it even has a chance to self-destruct is Kakeru, who has a knack for showing up around the places Touko and her friends are (though it’s a small town). When Touko introduces him, their collective reaction edges on hostility. Like Nagi’s Tsumugu, he’s the catalyst that will have a crucial role in shaping the final months the friends have with one another.

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Interestingly, a show with “glass” in the name and glass-blowing integral to a main character’s life, there was precious little glass-blowing, but that’s really okay. What we did see was nicely-animated, and it looked to me that Touko knew what she was doing, even if she didn’t seem overtly passionate about it. I found that refreshing too, actually: while more enthusiastic than the others, Touko wasn’t going off about glass every waking second. But like Kakeru, we’ve only scratched the surface of who she is.

As is expected of P.A. Works, Glasslip is a gorgeously wrought, and the orchestral score combined with the lushly-detailed town buzzing with activity gave the first episode a very classy, Ghibli-like sheen. Not quite sure what was going on with the visual and audio distortions during some of those fireworks…but I’m sure we’ll find out soon! Overall, I like what I see, and will definitely keep watching.

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Car Cameos:

Black Bullet – 13

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It looked like Satomi-leader had a steep hill to climb in order to defeat Aldebaran and end the Gastrea threat, but we were surprised to find that the final Gastrea battle only occupied the first half of the episode; the rest was for character stuff of a very specific and also surprising nature. That said, the first half battle didn’t feel rushed at all; it felt focused and efficient, yet epic and cinematic. The lanterns were a nice touch, too.

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The battle could have been even quicker still, but for a little hiccup with the Miori-supplied bomb that fails to detonate, a nice little “uh-oh” moment that even had us questioning whether Miori meant for it to not go off. Rentaro decides to knock out Enju and detonate the bomb at point-blank range, which he knows will kill him but he goes anyway, because giving his life to protect others is the very thing he’s lived for.

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Destiny wasn’t ready to let Rentaro bow out of the mortal coil just yet though, as Aldebaran hits him Varanium-corroding fog that destroys his leg. The necessary sacrifice falls to his mentor Shouma, whom he’d just reunited with, but who also wants to bury the dark powers he’s learned along with Aldebaran. As he sees it, his life is a small price to pay to eliminate both evils. So, who will be Asaka’s promoter now? Yeah…the show forgot about her.

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That’s okay though, because for much of the balance of the episode casts a laser focus on Tendo Kisara, Rentaro’s boss would-be girlfriend. Specifically, she wastes no time taking her brother Kazumitsu to task for building Monolith 32 with substandard materials and pocketing the savings. By “taking to task” we mean “challenging him to a duel he has no business accepting. She takes one of his legs, and he gives her information about whom to target next.

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Everyone thinks Kisara is sparing his life, but her second strike was on a delay, and he literally explodes in a gory, horrific mess. Kisara giddily embraces Rentaro afterwards, pleased with what she’s done. When he recoils at the crazy, she admits he’ll never be able to truly “touch evil”, and that his justice was never any match for the evil he’s up against. No, to her, only a greater evil can defeat evil, and if that means she has to cast away her soul and happiness—and that Rentaro becomes her enemy—so be it.

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I’ll be honest; Kisara’s fall is quite extreme and a lot to take in, especially so close to the end of the show, but I liked the shocking suddenness of it, especially since we’ve seen how much suffering and death was caused by the people who Kisara wants to kill. This darkness was always growing in her, and she finally let it out. Still, since there’s no time to explore it further, it’s more like a preface to an arc that never was, ending in an ellipsis.

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The final scene of the show has Rentaro and Enju alone on a train, headed to a ceremony where they’ll be patted on the back for their service. With the city safe from Gastrea—once more, thanks to Enju’s kind—things seem to be looking up, but Kisara’s new path is certainly unsettling. And even though Enju pledges they’ll be together forever, both Rentaro and we know she’s already on borrowed time. Neither entirely happy or sad, this ending was…cautiously optimistic.

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Final Cumulative Score: 7.85
MAL Score: 7.77

Stray Observations:

  • Kagetane’s role in this episode is limited to a couple one-liners. Shame.
  • Yasuwaki does not reappear. GOOD. Fuck that guy.
  • Building 300m (984 feet) of monolith in two days? Yeah, I’m no engineer, but even with slave labor, that’s just not happening.
  • Kisara walking barefoot through her brother’s blood…yikes!
  • Well, if there’s ever a Black Bullet 2, you can expect Kisara to be an enemy and for Enju to either turn into a Gastrea, die, or be saved but lose her powers, which is probably the most preferable choice for her well-being.
  • This is the final RABUJOI review of Spring 2014. Thanks for watching and reading, everybody.