Donten ni Warau – 01

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It’s a Castle…well, not In The Sky, but In A Lake!

Donten ni Warau whisks us back to Meiji 11 (1878), on the surface a much simpler time than the present day, but truth things are quite turbulent. With western customs encroaching on tradition, and a government that forbids the carrying of swords, crime is starting to rise as the change resisted.

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Despite its Meiji setting, the irreverent, cheeky comedy is distinctly Heisei.

The three Kumo (Kumoh?) brothers seem to have adapted to this tricky situation: Tenka, Soramaru and Chuutarou are members of a shrine family, but have taken up the duty of ferrying all the new criminals to the frightening (but also kinda cool-looking) Gokumonjo; a Meiji-era Alcatraz on Biwa Island with a Laputa Tree topper.

This woman is too cute not to be a villain, right?
This woman is too cute not to be a villain, right?

Strong, confident, and easygoing Tenka, serious, self-conscious Soramaru, and the quick, precocious, cheerful Chuutarou: the brothers make a striking trio in their traditional garb (each has their own distinctive look). Soramaru believes he needs to be stronger, and is surprised to find out he actually is—just not enough to bring down a nasty ronin.

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But his initial losses to the rogue are less about skill and more about experience; the ronin gets the upper hand because he’s playing dirty. Soramaru learns that fighting isn’t always strictly-adhered to dance; sometimes your opponent will do whatever is necessary to win, regardless of honor.

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I haven’t yet mentioned the titular clouds that loom over the city, never clearing. The cops say its an omen that portends a great calamity. Gokumonjo certainly casts a large and sinister shadow over the otherwise placid historical setting. But for now, the three brothers (well, two of them, anyway) are laughing under those clouds, and trying to stay strong at the dawn of a new age for Japan.

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Psycho-Pass – 17

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The Cybil System: “It’s not something worth putting your life on the line to protect,” Makishima warns Kogami by phone. As a member of society not under such an invasive system, I knew this intrinsically, and that was before I knew what Sybil actually was. Now that I know the horrifying truth, my revulsion has been galvanized. Now it’s just a question of whether the “good guys” (Tsunemori, Akane & Co.) will catch on.

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Wait…there’s a Division TWO?

After killing Guseong and Kagari, a repaired Chief Kasei propagates the fiction that the latter ran away, and pins the blame on Ginoza. But even if Ginoza himself followed Kagari down to the Sybil Core and saw what he saw, he’d have been eliminated too, and the circumstances covered up as neatly as Kagari’s. For their part, the rest of Division One doesn’t think Kagari ran, but that something happened to him. They just have nothing to go on.

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Kasei tells Ginoza that Makishima is now out of the MWPSB’s authority, and tells him he will be disposed of as a “research specimen”, if he hasn’t already. This is some truly devious shit, because even at the time, when I had no clue Kasei was part of Sybil, this just felt like the higher-ups doing the dirty work that needed to be done to deal with those who fell through the system’s cracks: the criminally asymptomatic. You know, just good old-fashioned corruption at the top.

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I had no frelling idea what was really going on…not until Kasei shows up in Makishima’s hospital berth and talks to him like an old friend, because he’s actually Touma Kouzaburou, that teacher who made body part sculpture and disappeared. This is when shit starts being revealed even Makishima couldn’t have fathomed, for all his literary efficacy. Touma is one of 247 disembodied human brains working as one that form the network that is the Sybil System. Shudder.

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Even more incredible, those brains were all selected for those with “irregular personalities” that don’t fit mankind’s “conventional standards” for emotion. In other words, Japan is being ruled by 247 psychopaths. As Makishima says, that is one hell of a joke, and he breaks out a nifty Swift reference about the brains of those who disagreed being halfed to alleviate conflict. But the more Touma talks about it, the more he sounds like he’s just doing it to Play God.

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Cruelty, megalomania, lack of remorse: they’re thinks Makishima has in spades, and he’s immune to cymatic scans too, which is why Touma uses this opportunity to welcome him into the fold. But while both Touma and Makishima are criminally insane, their goals are completely different. In short: Makishima isn’t interested in becoming Umpire Number 248. He doesn’t want to officiate the game; he wants to keep playing it.

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That’s when he enters Awesome Makishima Mode. Taking advantage of the fact that is Touma is alone and vulnerable, ambushes the cyborg, breaking its limbs one at a time, and making sure Touma knows why Makishima’s not joining their little zombie buffet. When last we see Makishima, he’s looking out on the city from a crippled aircraft, but I’m going to wager he somehow survives the crash.

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Just in case, Makishima contacts Kogami, right after Kogami espies a vision of Makishima in his office. As Kogami says to Tsunemori, every battle a detective faces has been lost, in that victims have already been created by a crime. That’s true in that the entire country is presently being victimized by Sybil, but it’s false in that they don’t come upon all crimes after the fact. The crime is still in progress. They can stop it, prevent more victims from suffering, and save themselves while they’re at it.

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Kaitou Joker – 01

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To be truly fair, KJ is a kids’ show and absolutely not intended for me as an audience. In that, it’s silly, slap-stick, and over the top. When taken in that context, it’s a bubbly romp that feels somewhere between Lupin the 3rd, Inspector Gadget and Dark Wing Duck.

To be completely unfair, it’s awful and poorly timed with Kaitou 1412, an adolescent yet-still-more-adult show that is also about a masked magician thief. It’s comparatively deformed, simplistic and grating.

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KJ looks like it will be a crime-an-arc formula show, where each crime will be initiated with a challenge letter to the police and the owner of the soon to be stolen item.

Episode one introduces us to Joker and, eventually, his ninja side kick. We also meet the police, who are bumbling and shouty. Suffice it to say, their interactions are straight forward — adversarial, but also playful.

Nothing here for me though. Moving on…

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 01

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A little girl summons Kokkuri-san, the fox spirit with a (Japanese Ouija board?) and, unexpectedly, Kokkuri arrives at her window. Then, in total dead-pan-mode, the little girl closes the window on him. Thus began Kokkuri’s bewildered relationship with an odd little girl and many somewhat humiliating scenarios.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san adds to this season’s already long list of shows that pull a great bait-and-switch, with it’s supernatural horror opening quickly and completely reforming into a comedy. And a great little witty comedy it is!

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See…Ichimatsu Kohina, the little girl, claims to be a doll. Energy efficient, unhindered by feelings good or bad and driven by a love of junk-food-style cup noodle, she utterly confuses Kokkuri. She is un-frightened and uninterested in his ability to answer questions (unless she’s making fun of his short comings).

Yet she lives alone in a huge, shrine-looking house, which also happens to be haunted.

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Appalled and lonely himself, Kokkuri barges in and takes up the challenge of fixing Ichimatsu. Or, at least, getting her to eat 3 meals a day with 50 ingredients minimum!

As they get to know each other, the become friends. Sort of. Ichimatsu has Kokkuri dragged off by the police for appearing naked when he was summoned from his bath and Kokkuri throws away all of Ichimatsu’s junk food in an attempt to make her a healthier person.

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say they become family, more than friends…

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Excuse me while I hang myself in shame…

Kokkuri-san is voiced by the Daisuke Ono, who voiced Handa in last season’s Barakamon. Ono won Best Voice Actor at the 4th Seiyu Awards and it’s clear why. Gugure! Kokkuri-san’s tight banter owes a so much to his precise comedic timing.

I love whoever is delivering Ichimatsu’s lines too. The understated robot-addicted-to insta-noodles routine is a bowl of chuckles. Likewise, the female narrator, who is used sparingly, lands many solid punches. it’s all very cute.

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Hmmm… guess we’ll learn more about this guy next episode?

Gugure! Kokkuri-san really captures the core of what made Barakamon so good: a child teaching an adult about life through clever, often embarrassing means. As with that show, our protagonist’s genders are opposed… though I don’t think Gugure! Kokkuri-san will entertain any romantic scenarios.

Will it have legs without the grounded villager cast of Barakamon? Hard to say. The opening and closing credits show many supernatural beings so I imagine there will be plenty of cast, effective or not.

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san is an adorable show. While I’m not sure it will manage to surpass the quality of Barakamon from last season, nor that other wayward god show from winter season, it has my attention now and MAN! It makes choosing my 5 shows to review this season even more challenging!

And that’s a challenge I’m quite happy to have.

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Nanatsu no Taizai – 01

NNT1“It is decided! This is Bullshit” – Lord Twigo

Nanatsu no Taizai (Seven Deadly Sins) is guilty of so many fantasy genre sins: it’s crudely drawn and cheaply animated, its protagonist is a vacant perv who’s got a heart of gold and is indestructible and unbeatable with a sword, and the protagonist’s companion is a talking pig.

It only needs a princess and a mission to save the kingdom to be complete.

Oh Wait! It has that too.

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10 years ago the Seven Deadly Sins (7DS), seven of the Sacred Knights’ best soldiers, rebelled and killed like a bazillion knights all at once. At least that’s what most people think happened.

In present day, a mysterious girl passes out in a bar, wearing what could be a 7DS’s ‘rusty armor.’ Later, she wakes to being fondled by a mostly vacant blond boy who wears stupid clothes and has a weird-looking (and broken) dragon-looking sword. He’s the bar owner and his friend is a talking pig.

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Knights show up and chase the girl. Then they realize she’s the princess and their lord tries to kill her because there’s been a coupe and the Sacred Knights are now the bad guys.

Unfortunately, it turns out the bar’s owner is a 7DS and he beats the crap out of the Knights’ lord and takes the princess with him to find the other sins. Oh yeah! His bar is the ‘hat’ of a giant pig made entirely out of grass.

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Nanatsu no Taizai reminds me of Chaika, if Chaika had to manage with half its budget. Nothing is surprising, nothing is interesting, the drawing is bland and the story has no potential to go anywhere.

That said, I appreciate that several characters shout “No Freaking Way?” and “This is bullshit!” as if they too couldn’t believe this show was actually happening.

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While Nanatsu no Taizai may well be superior to Chaika, in so far as it doesn’t appear to plan on wasting time with an utterly pointless side cast for 12 episodes, it is, without question, very, very dumb. So much so, that I can’t even score it a measly 7.

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Magic Kaito 1412 – 01

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Magic Kaito 1412 has a quirky, almost ugly look to it, but don’t be fooled! This show runs with absolutely everything its got and produces some fun visuals. And above all else, it’s pretty entertaining!

Here’s the gist:

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Kaito is a showy, smart ass magician in high school. He loves to tease his childhood friend and classmate mercilessly (especially about her panties) but, at the end of the day, people respect him because he’s freakishly brilliant. And so is she.

Meanwhile, a magical criminal is running amok and Kaito’s childhood friend’s detective dad is out to stop him! Interestingly, the magic criminal ‘The Kaito Kid’ hasn’t been seen for 8 years, just about the time Kaito’s dad was killed in a freak roller coaster escape challenge accident…

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Kaito boasts that he will take down the criminal and then quickly finds his dad’s lair hidden behind a poster in his bed room. Armed with his dad’s old things, Kaito sets out to stop the impostor Kaito Kid and has a lot of fun in the process.

We’ve certainly seen these elements before and Magic Kaito 1412 makes no claims to be totally original nor overly serious. It’s just fun, peppy, and dare I say charming?

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I would also give Magic Kaito 1412 some credit for running 14 minutes before rolling it’s opening credits. That’s a little ballsy in our modern ‘spoil every character appearance before they appear via the opening theme’ standard and then to dive straight into a second act? Well done.

If you aren’t already overwhelmed by this season’s surge of fantastic shows, Magic Kaito 1412 is well paced, features clever magic trickery and a light heart. If you can get past its frumpy character design, I think you too will find it praiseworthy.

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Grisaia no Kajitsu – 01

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Protagonist Yuuji Kazami is transferring to a new school. An ordinary school. Something he’s always wanted. Unfortunately, the defense ministry has sent him to Mihama Academy, which doesn’t seem ordinary at all. Not even on the surface.

Grilled by local security for not allowing his bag to be screened, nearly killed by air-head school principal Chizuru Tachibana along their drive, and ringed by a school wall dotted with ever watching cameras, its all rather puzzling the Chizuru keeps up the charade. It doesn’t seem to be fooling anyone.

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Upon arrival, Yuuji sets out to make proper introductions to his fellow students. The first of the 6 VIPs who reside in his dorm — who make up the entire student body — is Sachi Komine, who’s dressed as a maid for rather odd reasons.

Grisaia no Kajitsu really shines in the spacial effects department. Many shots have great depth of field, subtle shifts of focus, relative plainer rotation and dynamic scaling. it’s actually masterful work. However, Grisaia no Kajitsu also uses simplistic 3D generation for many of its hallway walking shots (and the driving scene) which isn’t bad, just strange. Noticeable.

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The following morning, Yuuji encounters Amane Suou, a buxom and easy going bombshell, and Makina, who is a crybaby. Again, Yuuji introduces himself through some clever banter but Amane appears to be the one controlling the scene. Also: lots of fanservice.

Throughout this and the previous scenes, ‘unease’ permeates everything but what truly jacks up the tension here is a happy, generic, shopping mall-esque music looping in the background. I never realized typical anime BG music could amp such a creep factor…

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Finally, Yuuji encounters Michiru Matsushima, who appears to be practicing her introductions and other social interactions in the classroom. Of all the initial encounters, this was the quirkiest and most amusing. In no small part because the characters (and their banter) click so well.

Michiru is fantastically awkward… but you also get the sense that every introduction has been staged for Yuuji. It’s subtle, but the feeling of his discovering each girl seems fake. I wonder what they’re up to?

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Which brings us to Yumiko Sakaki, a girl who only comes to class at night to read and doesn’t socialize. Fortunately, Yuuji is skilled enough and strong enough and wary enough to prevent her from slashing his throat.

And until the credits roll, and we see what some of the girls are up to in their rooms, bomb making and such, I still had no real idea what this show was going to be about. Following the credits, I’m a little hesitant but hopeful. I’ve seen plenty of bad assassin high school dramas in the past, but the masterful art and weirdness of this show may well carry it far above those dull expectations.

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Grisaia no Kajitsu’s bizarre nature is difficult to capture through description, so I’m excerpting my favorite thread from Yuuji’s constant internal monologue as an example:

  • “I’m sure they’re all in their rooms, doing homework or something. No, Wait. We didn’t get homework today, which means the theory that they’re in the rooms doing homework doesn’t hold.”
  • “So what are they doing? The only other things students do while secluded in their rooms is…”
  • “They’re masturbating?”
  • “Well, whatever they’re getting off to in their rooms, I’ll just pretend I haven’t noticed.”

Tribe Cool Crew – 01

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Peppy dance music, free running, stylish and detailed character designs and a stylish world too: Tribe Cool Crew lays on the charm and happy energy as thickly as its plot is thin.

Honestly? I can’t complain!

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Part Sonic the Hedgehog, part arcade rhythm game, part ’80s throw back, Tribe Cool Crew is such a mash up of things I wouldn’t normally like that I’m completely stumped why I don’t. It just takes itself seriously about not being serious at all. It owns its goofy world and that world is fun, friendly and full of happy people.

That happy vibe is stunningly infectious.

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What are its blemishes? We’ll, the sudden shifts into rendered 3D during complex dance routines both work and are jarring. Also, the plot is about Haneru, an all energy 7th grader who loves dancing in a private place and Kanon, who appears to be a wealthy over achiever who watches him through a one way glass and also dances and has fallen for Haneru.

It’s also about Haneru loving a dance sensation and having tickets to go see that sensation’s live show. So… the plot isn’t very interesting or important.

I just found watching Tribe Cool Crew cathartic. The constant movement is a treat and the show just revels in its characters do that without dialog. Without interruption. If only the post Sonic & Knuckles Sonic games had been this much fun!

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