Sword Art Online II – 13

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Yaaay, stuff happened in this episode! Lots of stuff. Some of it great, some of it very unsettling. First of all, BoB is over. It was excitng at first, and ground to an irritating crawl in the middle, but got exciting again at the very end, which had the effect of restoring our patience for the show, at least for now.

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When Kirito is locked in a tough battle with an estoc-armed Death Gun, a scope-less Sinon tries to figure out another way, any way, that she can help him out. She finds one in a bullet trajectory aimed at Death Gun that distracts him just long enough to give Kirito an opening to halve him, right after finally remembering his name from SAO: Red-Eyed Zaza. (He remembered the red eyes that matched that name in a briefing).

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With Death Gun dealt with, the focus moves to his real-world accomplices. Kirito and Sinon exchange their real names, and Sinon tells him where she lives so he can rescue her later. Sinon then ends the BoB by pulling the pin on a grenade, tossing it to a totally freaked-out Kirito, and then pulling him into a big hug. They both explode at the same time, making them co-winners of the BoB.

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That was a pretty funny and happy scene, but things would get far darker and more messed up from there. Kyouji pops by to visit Shino and “congratulate her victory”. When she opened her door to him I knew things wouldn’t go well at all, as the loose screw in his brain gets a little looser when he’s alone in her bedroom with her, and he starts to force himself on her, his fixation having come to a breaking point. It’s skin-crawling, claustrophobic scene.

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Kyouji actually sought her out because she killed people with a real gun, and decided to use the same Type 54 she used to do it in GGO. Now he’ll kill her before he lets anyone else have her. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Shino has to be the would-be sexual victim of a demented psychopath just as Asuna was in the first series, but we knew Kyouji was no good and had a bit too much of a one-sided thing for her, so it was only a matter of time before he popped.

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Fortunately, when she half-heartedly declines to have Kirito visit her, Kirito had no intention of staying away. Shino helps her own case by going into her mental cave, communing with Sinon who tells her not to give up, and gives Ryouji a fight that keeps him from doing any permanent damage when Kirito finally busts in and takes him down. As he was her knight and pillar of strength in GGO, so he is now in the real world. Only much less girly.

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Terra Formars – 01

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Curiously enough, this show begins with an underground cage match between a very muscular human (not a maiden fair) and a giant bear, held deep beneath Bangkok for the amusement of the super-rich. Hizamaru Akari isn’t doing so well, until he remembers why he’s in that cage: so his beloved childhood friend Yuriko can get a life-saving organ transplant, but even when he “hulks up” and wastes the bear, almost Ghoul-style, his handlers don’t do it. Yup, even in the 27th Century the rich are still assholes.

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Instead the richies “sell” Yuriko to a couple of sunglasses-indoors-wearing characters, Komachi Shoukichi and Michelle Davis of U-NASA, who regret to inform Hizamaru that they tried to save her but simply got to her too late. Hizamaru is wracked with guilt and grief, but they give him an opportunity to see to it no one has to go through what he and Yuriko did again, while saving the world in the process. That means traveling to the place where her virus came from: Mars.

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Upon resting and recovering from a surgery to toughen him (more than he already is) for what lies ahead, Hizamaru meets some of his colleagues, about half of whom are statistically dead already, including the trio of friends Marcos, Alex, and Sheila, along with negative newbie Eva Frost. They make up part of a group of one hundred that comprise the third expedition to Mars, the first two having ended in failure. The virus is believed to be capable of eradicating all of humanity, so developing a vaccine is of utmost importance, which explains the not inconsiderable resources of U-NASA.

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Of course, Mars isn’t just red dust; it’s been partially terraformed over the centuries by shipping algae, moss, and the highly resilient cockroach. Naturally, those cockroaches have evolved in no time at all into gigantic terrifying monsters who’d just as soon squash a human as a human would squash a roach back on Earth. So it would seem both the virus that threatens extinction and the titular “Terraformars” they must fight were originally created by humans in the first place. It’s a big mess, and it’s up to Hizamaru and a ragtag group of tough guys and gals to clean it up.

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We’re in for something totally different thematically speaking next week, be it the space voyage or their arrival on Mars, so as this first episode was more about introductions and exposition, I’m delaying my decision to review this show until I’ve seen it in its element. That said, this wasn’t a bad start, if TF keeps maintains its irreverent tone, “aw shit, what now” milieu, and amusing U-NASA camaraderie, I’ll forgive the uninspired character design and highly-censored (and thus somewhat pointless) gore.

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