Psycho-Pass – 16

Those don't work, remember?
Those don’t work, remember?

As they approach the Nona Tower and a gauntlet of untold helmeted baddies, Kogami asks Kagari if he’s scared. This question interrupts Kagari’s monologue about becoming an enforcer not to protect the people who took everything away from him when he was five, but simply because being a hunting dog out in the world is preferable to hell as a lab rat in a facility. That is all. Well, that, and he has friends in the CID who he’s loyal to.

Very Akira-esque machinery
Very Akira-esque machinery

That loyalty is tested when he descends alone below Nona’s four official basements and into a cathedral-like anechoic chamber where Choe Guseong is attempting to break into Sybil’s core. Makishima ascends to the tower’s top floor as a decoy for Kogami and Tsunemori. They go after Makishima despite knowing he’s a decoy, because their primary directive is to capture him alive. Well, that, and they both have a score to settle with the bastard.

The cityscapes on this show are so sweet
The city vistas on this show are so sweet

All three detectives are slowed down by helmet guys armed with dangerous tools, but Kagari and Kogami show they’re not afraid of a little hand-to-hand combat and manage to charge through; Akane gets hit in the leg by a nailgun and has to hang back, and we finally come to the scene that starts the very first episode, when I had no idea what was going on. Well, now I know: we were getting a tantalizing glimpse of Makishima’s cornering and ultimate capture.

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We had no idea what had led up to that showdown high atop the Nona Tower, or the costs exacted to allow it to happen. Nor did we know how things would go down after literary pleasantries were exchanged (apparently one parries (Blaise) Pascal with (Jose) Ortega (y Gasset). I tellya, sometimes Psycho-Pass is like a Holiday Inn: just staying there makes you feel smarter, or that you should have paid more attention in that Civilization and Its Discontents elective.

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Putting aside academic discussion on the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual, Kogami and Makishima have one heck of a physical fight, and as the helmet-men had softened him up—maybe even if they hadn’t—Makishima seems to have the slight upper hand, but in his desire to punish Kogami for forcing him to end things less entertainingly than he hoped, he neglects the possibility Kogami isn’t alone, and gets stoved in the head, ironically, by one of those damnable helmets.

POW!
POW!

Kogami tells Akane to kill him. Personal vendettas aside, Akane probably should kill him. But she lowers the helmet and pulls out the cuffs; returns to being an inspector of the MWPSB, and arrests Makishima in the name of the law. It’s another great victory marred by great emotional and practical cost. Meanwhile, far below them, Kagari finally finds Choe, who is finally in. Both of them look at something bright we don’t get to see, like the contents of the suitcase in Pulp Fiction.

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Then both Choe and Kagari are swiftly eliminated by Chief Kasei, who AAAAUGH SHE’S A CYBORG! Honestly that’s not that surprising, as there was a noticable coldness to all previous scenes with her. And if he wasn’t already, let there be no doubt any longer that Makishima is hardly the greatest adversary in the show. Hell, he isn’t even the greatest adversary in the building! Kogami was ready and willing to kill him; he just wasn’t able.

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That Akane was able to hold back murderous rage at her friend’s murderer just may have given both her and Kogami a fighting chance against the true enemy, if they ever find themselves on its bad side…if they aren’t already. Until then, this episode was a thrilling tour-de-force from start to brilliant finish, one of the best of the show yet. Still kicking myself for not watching this much sooner.

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Psycho-Pass – 15

…What Ron said.

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Once the mass-produced helmets are distributed to larger numbers of would-be criminals, they begin roving the city in bands, brutalizing the rest of the populace, who are believed as vulnerable and ineffectual to resist as those who were born in a totally sterile environment are more susceptible to pathogens. Once area stress levels rise to a sufficient point, something happens: the people start fighting back. The violence spreads mercilessly like a virus.

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Professional and social media explodes with news, rumors, and increasing panic, as the first half of the episode simply lays it all out for us, with no particular narrator or emcee. The MWSPB is caught completely off-guard, and because it was thought the Sybil system would eliminate the possibility of mass riots, they have no resourcs to deal with the chaos tearing the city apart. It’s a pitiable scene in the briefing room, with a grand total of 17 CID inspectors and enforcers mustered and tasked with taking on the riots by themselves with what few effective weapons they have.

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I can’t recall a police department being in such dire straits, and it’s frankly exhilarating. Their response to the vast unrest in the city seems almost comically inadequate, but this is what happens to a society that puts all its eggs in one flawed basket. Makishima appears to have found the man who will give him the best show, a master hacker who determines the Ministry’s Nona Tower is the probable location of the Sybil system. What’s so diabolical is that the riots were only meant as a decoy to draw all human MWSPB assets away from HQ, leaving it ripe for attack by some particularly tough-looking helmet guys.

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When…heck, if this enormous mess gets resolved, the Ministry, the city, and possiblythe country will owe a great debt to Kogami Shinya and Tsunemori Akane. Among the paltry ranks of the CID, they were the only ones to identify the riots for what they were and had the initiative to race back to the Nona Tower. Even then, as I said, the team raiding Nona look like tough customers, so simply identifying the enemy’s true intent isn’t enough. They have to stop them somehow.

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Terra Formars – 02

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Well, I was right: the show entered its element, as after thirty-eight days of milling around, flirting, and playing catch, on day thirty-nine all hell breaks loose aboard Annex One, as terraformars appear out of nowhere and start wrecking up the place (and the people). Now it makes sense why U-NASA recruited a guy who could hold his own against a bear in a Thai cage match!

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But herein lies the catch, and it’s a pretty big one: this show wants to show a lot that the network censors won’t allow. As a result, so much of the dismemberment and gore is totally blacked out, you can barely tell what the heck’s going on, which kind of kills the intended intensity of those scenes. I’ve a strong constitution for television violence, and can’t help but feel like I’m not missing out on the creators’ vision.

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As for the terraformars, they’re exceedingly dumb-looking. They manage to be terrifying anyway due to their size, strength, and inability to be brought down by huge guns, but they’d be a lot more terrifying if they didn’t have such goofy designs. For the record, I prefer Aliens to Predators, because the Aliens are just less humanoid in characteristics, and thus scarier to me. Ditto the briefly-seen aliens of Independence Day.

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Still, once the bugs appear, things go downhill quickly, especially when they destory all the precious medicine required to fight them. It’s all very bloody and hopeless…and I reiterate: they’re not even on Mars yet! Meanwhile, back in Japan, U-NASA employee and JSADF Major Hiruma Shichisei, finds a researcher from the Bugs 2 Project tending bar in Saitama, seeking information he’ll use to “protect Japan.” Major, after seeing what those bugs can do, good luck – you’re going to need it.

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Karen Senki – 01

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Karen Senki, the titular female hero of this post robo-pocalyptic show is a bad ass blond who can dodge lazor mini gun fire with ease — even when they are fired at her back when she is running in a straight line, from 5 feet away in her tiny mega-urban apartment!

This show is freakishly terrible.

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Set in a world where robots have risen up and killed everyone they deemed to be unworthy (including Karen’s kid sister), we’re treated or punished to constant action without context and red/brown hued visuals.

Sure, by fully 3D rendered show standards, it looks and moves decently enough but the action is all so ludicrous, we’re lucky it only runs for 10 minutes.

That’s right! Karen Senki is only 10 minutes long.

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Funny enough, for a show that is extremely simple, I had a hard time understanding what was going on. Karen seems to be fighting robots — even to the point that they just blast through the wall or rain bullets down on her at random moments of slow dialog, but I’m not really sure why?

Did she some how survive the cull? has she pissed them off enough after the cull that they want her dead now? WHY DO THE ROBOTS GROWN WHEN THEY GET SHOT??

Also, robot hookers!

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Honestly? I have no idea why so much effort was put into this show. It truly does look pretty good, when you compare it to other CG shows but pew pew pew ten minutes episode over is not enough.

Certainly not enough to care about the character if I don’t know what’s going on or how the flash backs play into anything. Good lord skip this one!

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 01

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I like how the Astronomy Club of Uchihama Academy is the de facto “mediator” of interclub scuffles; as they’re always up in the stars, they’re literally “above the fray.” Of course, in both mediation cases we witness, the Astronomy Club ends up resolving things by beating up both sides, suggesting they’re capable of being in any number of clubs that make better use of their prowess; they just choose not to be.

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That is a good thing from my perspective, as the club is made up of likable if flawed members with nice chemistry and an easy rapport. We’ve got the sarcastic, dense Akiyama Sou, his childhood friend Sasaki Kaori (who also lives with him and is in love withhim), the lovely combat specialist Hasekura Airi (who also likes Sou), the mischievous, conniving senpai Hanamiya Nagisa, and the American exchange student Kenny (who is not killed here, you bastards!).

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It’s a good group, and they all exude distinct personalities and motivations, and their interactions are fun to watch, helped by a tight and efficient script. The characters appear to be CGI in design, but far subtler and smoother than, say, those of Ars Nova or Sidonia, and every scene is carefully, beautifully established and shot. In this regard, the show is already calling to mind the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise; not a bad start.

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What I also liked about this first episode was how close it held its cards. It painstakingly builds this placid, if somewhat wistful, portrait of a club of quirky but warm characters, and an unfortunate love triangle. Then Airi defers to Kaori, who finally, nervously confesses (a fantastic job by her seiyu Takada Hatsumi) to Sou, then proceeds to head home without getting a straight answer and gets squashed horribly by a runaway bus.

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The brute force of that event, followed by the hospital scene shot in near darkness that follows, is straightforward but powerfully staged stuff that gave me a sinking feeling in the stomach. Still, I kinda new the weirdness wouldn’t end there, so wasn’t too shocked when time rewinds to the day the club decides to build a planetarium for Nagisa’s last festival, there’s a boom that shakes the school, and Kou finds a wet, naked, silver-haired girl upstairs.

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That, and the very first shot (which doesn’t make much sense at the time) of the episode shows us that very girl, apparently the subject of a failed experiment. Suffice it to say, strange things are going on at initially normal Uchihama Academy, which is generally what we expected of a show whose title is based upon a 4,000-page Proust novel.

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Sword Art Online II – 14

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I was initially a little disappointed that yet again a Damsel in Distress would be rescued by the valiant Kirito, and then Kyouji proceeds to pin him down and inject him. In that moment, he’s the damsel now, and it’s Shino who saves him by knocking Kyouji out with her boombox. Sure, the lethal injection didn’t enter his body (Kyouji just happened to shoot into an electrode on Kirito’s chest which is lucky to say the least), but Shino still saved him, and herself, from the psychotic Kyouji.

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In the next act, Shino shows how much she’s grown since meeting Kirito and winning the BoB: when three bullies ask her for money, she politely refuses; when they pull a gun on her, she freaks out a little at the sight of it, but recollects herself. When the girl can’t pull the trigger, Shino disarms her, turns off the safety, and hits a can dead on from pretty far away, revealing it’s a BB gun. Then she puts the safety back on and hands it back to her terrified would-be tormentor.

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It’s an immensely satisfying exchange, escpecially when Shino’s out of sight and nearly collapses from anxiety afterwards. She didn’t suddenly become Rambo in the real world, but she’s taken the crucial first small step, and she’s going to keep taking more. It’s also pretty funny that Kirito picks her up from school in his motorcycle, which creates a small sensation from Shino’s classmates and likely raises her stature in the school a couple of ticks, simply because they don’t know that Kirito’s actually a bit of a dweeb.

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What follows is unapologetic exposition about the three people who together were Death Gun in and out of GGO, and how they planned to take out powerful players. Both Kyouji and his older brother were fueled by envy of those more powerful, while Kyouji himself dealt with the additional stress of being the heir to the family hospital after their dad gave up on his older brother. As their plan to kill elite players got more realistic, the virtual world became his reality.

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Here, Shino shows a different kind of strength when she insists on talking to Kyouji as soon as it’s possible. Even though he did terrible things to her, he was a broken person, and she doesn’t want him to keep on being broken. She herself once sought power in GGO, and risked having that world become more real than her own. Her apparent willingness to forgive Kyouji may be more than he deserves, but its her right to bestow that forgiveness if that’s what she wants.

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The final and most powerful act of the episode that redeems the somewhat boring Death Gun infodump is the sort of intervention-light that follows. At first it seems like Kirito is just going to introduce her to Asuna and Rika, but then he reveals (and apologizes for) his true intent: for her to meet the post office worker whose life she saved by killing that gunman. The worker comes with her adorable four-year-old daughter, whom she was pregnant with at the time of the incident, so Shino saved two lives in one.

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One can weigh the pros and cons of one’s actions all they want in one’s head, but having grateful beneficiaries of your actions staring right at you, thanking you profusely and giving you a drawing is another thing entirely. Because she saved lives, she has the right to forgive herself for taking one, as much she has a right to keep blaming herself. While certainly a delicate and highly personal situation, Kirito went through a very similar thing, and because he and Shino became friends, he did all he could to help her, as did Asuna and Rika; before they even met her.

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Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 01

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While I’m already busy with Akame ga Kill and planning on watching Chaika’s second season (among other shows), Madan no Ou to Vanadis makes a relatively strong case for itself joining those two on my list to form a Fantasy Triad. It won me over not necessarily with its setting, plot, or fantasy elements, but primarily with its characters. The show looks to become more jumbled as more and more cast are introduced, but I was frankly fine with the first two we meet: Count Tigrevurmund Vorn (Ishikawa Kaito) and Ellenora Viltaria (Tomatsu Haruka), or Tigre and Ellen.

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It doesn’t really matter why Zhcted and Brune are at war, they just are, and after an Ellen-led Zhcted routs the five-times-larger Brunish army, she’s disappointed, having hoped for a more entertaining time. Enter Tigre, who isn’t done fighting and even takes out the horse of Ellen’s lieutenant Limalisha, and aims his last two arrows at Ellen herself. Ellen being one of the Vanadis (war maidens), she cuts them easily away, but Tigre has her full attention, and her disappointment turns to exhilaration.

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Tigre may be a wealthy count, but he dresses down and uses a bow, which irks his peacock-like peers who condemn him as a coward. Were they around to see him survive the rout, they’d probably use that as evidence of him using his skills simply to survive like a craven, rather than fight and die like a warrior. But as a count, he must worry about his life, for many other lives depend on him staying alive and strong: his subjects in Alsace.

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But Ellen likes Tigre. She likes his bow and the spirit he showed on a battlefield, even though his cause to single-handedly take her and her retinue down was a hopeless cause. One reason I like her is that she reminds me of Maou in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha: powerful yet bored; willing to make common cause with her sworn enemy to their mutual benefit, and said enemy intrigues her. She’s also tough, and doesn’t even flinch when Tigre sees her in the bath. Again, she’s a war maiden; embarassment is weakness. Her baby dragon’s cute too.

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Still, as pretty as Ellen is and as pleasant a place as Zhcted seems to be, Tigre is still a prisoner on the wrong side. He can’t very well protect Alsace in enemy custody. So when Ellen asks him to join her, he must refuse, and when his arrested attendant warns of a raid on Alsace, and he has to go. But Ellen wants him to stay, and will insist as much with her sword and war maiden skills. The lovebirds are already at an impasse.

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Franklin’s Take:

Vanadis is unremarkable from a color and design stand point but it’s also not as over the top as other show’s we’ve seen. I’m especially impressed that they got the cavalry rendered as well as they did, even if we only see them charging and not actually fighting.

That said, Eleonora and Limalisha were hard for me to identify at the beginning and everyone has a terrible to remember/type name.

Over all, Vandis is most appreciable for it’s “Yes, buts”:

Yes, it’s bloated with fanservice, but that’s done with a little more finesse than most. (boobs but a surprising amount of thighs, skirts sliding ever so close to crotch lines during conversations)

Yes, it’s a simplistic romantic set up but Elen is thankfully not a cliche tsundere nor a man hungry monster nor a bubble head nor a shy girl and Tigre’s annoying blush is the full extent of his perviness. Thank goodness too — nothing turns me off like a male protagonist who’s portrayed as an honourable hentei in this kind of show!

If I have any concerns, it’s the cute dragon. That is almost always a death flag for mid/late season adolescent stupidity that could break an otherwise sensible, even keel show. It’s a doozy, but I’m willing to give Vanadis a chance in the near term.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 07

"How the heck did you figure out how to get my shoes off?"
“How the heck did you figure out how to get my shoes off?”

Because disguises are classically much better than they appear to the audience in anime, Usagi didn’t know Chiba Mamoru and Tuxedo Mask were one and the same until she woke up in his house. But in this case, she kicks herself for not realizing it sooner, and despite Luna’s reservations, decides to believe in him.

I like how Beryl doesn't really WANT her leader to rule the world...because SHE wants to!
I like how Beryl doesn’t really WANT her leader to rule the world…because SHE wants to!

Mamoru tells her his backstory, which is, like everything on this show, pleasingly straightforward: he was on a pleasant weekend drive with his folks when his dad suddenly decided to drive off a cliff (or maybe it was an accident). Mammy lost both his parents and his memories on that day, and thinks the LSC is the best way to get them back.

Whoa...
Whoa…

Usagi can’t quite explain why she’s trusting the dashing fellow so implicitly, nor does said fellow know why he told her so much about himself that he’d probably never told anyone else. But we know why: it’s because they’re falling for each other. That much is clear when having lunch with her friends, all Usagi wants to do is tell them about Mamoru; only she promised not to. She also stole his watch, and he nicked her hanky! Ah, love.

MORE brainwashing? Hasn't that proven ineffective already?
MORE brainwashing? Hasn’t that proven ineffective already?

It gets clearer still when “Usako” (Mamo-chan’s nickname for her) decides the only way to heal the hordes of brainwashed citizens and classmates programmed to hunt Sailor Moon down is to become Sailor Moon. When she ends up in Zoisite’s clutches and the other guardians are knocked down, it’s Mamoru who springs to her rescue, right as she’s wishing for him to do just that.

Usagi doesn't just fall for any pretty guy...case in point:
Usagi doesn’t just fall for any pretty guy…case in point:

The bad guy is stronger than usual, so even Mamoru needs saving; enter the real-life version of Sailor V, who’s been in contact with Luna for some time, whom I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of a couple weeks from now. If she’s the subject of the video game, then she was a sailor guardian before even Usagi. I wonder what her story is.

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Catch her! Catch her!

Finally, we also see a smidgen of nuance from Queen Beryl, who seems to regret awakening plotting her nebulous leader Queen Metalia, and plans on claiming the crystal—and the world—for herself once its found. Somehow I doubt ruling the world will be much fun for anyone, but hey, everybody’s gotta have a goal!

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