Amagi Brilliant Park – 01

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Amagi Brilliant Park is a fantastic show I thought Preston or Zane was reviewing but now I learn it’s all mine!  Seriously, this is the best heartfelt comedy I’ve seen this season, magical high school slice of life sub-tags aside.

What’s more, ABP’s steady stream of witty banter (and relationship red herring) is the perfect fuel for date-night style anime. I mean I love it, but my wife loves it even more.

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Our story opens with slightly aloof but handsome and possibly brilliant Seiya Kanie being asked on a date by Isuzu Sento, a persistent transfer student he’s never even spoken to. When Seiya tries to decline her request, Isuzu pulls a muzzle loading flint lock from no where and makes the request a bit more forceful.

What follows is a mostly terrible date at an amusement park, where everything is run down and Isuzu seems to have way too much specific knowledge…

ABP_2Nope. That is a love hotel.

From it’s bus stop being the wrong name (the bus stop with it’s name is actually a stop for a love hotel that’s castle themed) to the light-gun game in the happy candy shop where you must ‘kill’ mice, to the unaligned rails in the flower-love ride that threaten to kill the riders, everything wrong with the park is chuckle-worthy and pretty charming.

It’s certainly clear to Seiya that the park is managed by someone who doesn’t even know what’s wrong about what they are doing.

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Cutting to the chase, Isuzu introduces Seiya to Latifah the park manager, a lovely little girl who is the princess of a particular magical kingdom. She needs to get 250,000 attendees over the next 3 months or the park will close and, without a place for her people to live and collect the happy energy of people as food, all her people will die.

And an oracle has chosen Seiya as their savior. As the next manager of their park.

ABP_7try these croquettes. they be AMAZING!

Seiya isn’t ready to accept this responsibility anymore than he is willing to accept the existence of magic. So Latifah kisses him and blesses him with magic.

And a vague flash back to young Seiya being mean to young Latifah in the past.

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The next day, he awakes and then walks in on Isuzu changing in the bathroom. Then he learns that he’s telepathic, but that it only works once per person he uses it on.

ABP_11I love it when a mascot spits in disgust when asked to take my picture

Seiya is voiced by Kōki Uchiyama, who voiced Banagher Links in Gundam Unicorn and he brings a solid, grounded voice to the character. Thank goodness he’s a less whiny character than Banagher though. Ugh. Banagher!

Isuzu is voiced by Ai Kakuma, who did Nina in Aldnoah.Zero last season. I swear she did work in Bakemongatari (that would be Saito Chiwa – ed.) but she has not. But man, she does that pseudo-tsundere voice well and has great banter with Uchiyama-san.

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Episode one was full of delightful dialogue and precious details in its setting. Additionally, of all the ‘accidentally sexually objectify women’ moments in this season, Seiya’s interruption of Isuzu was the most natural, surprising, and least objectifying.

After three boob grabs a day last week, I really appreciate that.

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Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 02

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Before picking up where it left off last week, Vanadis back-pedals a bit to give us a peek into House Thenardier. They’re pretty much empty villains, with eyes on the throne and no real interest in Alsace.

They simply want to burn Alsace to the ground and pillage it before another powerful house has the chance. It’s also a good chance for their heir to grind some easy experience and break in his new dragons…

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“I’m so evil I can’t control my emotions face, face”

Okay, so there are a few (unconventional) signs I use to predict whether an anime is going to be crap over time, and this episode just trotted out one of them. Again, this may seem strange, but when a character makes the above face, I know a show is trying too hard to make someone evil in the most starkly black-and-white way possible.

Characters like that exist to shock us but usually don’t, because they are also usually quite incompetent (yet hard to kill for stupid plot reasons) Such characters also give us no drama and no nuance because they are what they are: pure, irredeemably evil, which is very boring to watch.

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Flashing forward, that ‘look’ is part of a pointless scene where Zion Thenardier decides to go to Tigre’s house alone and then decides to torture/rape Titta, Tigre’s maid because…evil reasons.

Why he’s there alone or cares at all about Tigre is not meaningful. He’s the villain this week, and probably in the future because he’s non-fatally shot with an arrow before he can do anything rapey-er than rip up Titta’s clothes. It’s dull and predictable.

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As far as plot developments, we learn Eleonora’s sword’s name, and that she can control the wind by slashing it. We also learn that she and Limalisha had a bet over how Tigre would respond to being kept from his fiefdom, and that he chose an option neither expected.

Ultimately, the result is Tigre giving Alsace to Eleonora in exchange for troops and then a brief overnight ride to save his (or now her?) lands. They somehow avoid (or haven’t noticed) the two dragons overlooking the town for now but…next episode.

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Tigre also ends up with his family’s magic bow. It’s black. Probably powerful. Nothing exciting here.

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You’re going to hear this a few times over the next two weeks, if it wasn’t obvious already: this fall season is stacked with excellent shows and there are simply too many to watch. Unfortunately, given it’s decent-but-not-astounding opening, and now a stumbling, uneventful, second episode, I can’t imagine Vanadis will make the cut.

Should it? That’s up to you and Preston, who will get to review it next week. For now, tell me why I should stick with it and I’ll lurk in the comments below.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 01

Action Akane! (Don't worry; she's just shooting a robot)
Action Akane! (Don’t worry; she’s just shooting a robot)

After a long wait of approximately eight hours, Psycho-Pass is back, and is as velvety dark and cerebral as ever. Things start off with a bang, from a demolition expert’s bomb, in a return to the early part last season’s criminal-of-the-week format. But while in that season’s first episode, the innocent, impressionable rookie inspector Tsunemori Akane tried and failed to defuse a situation, shooting her own enforcer in the process.

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This time, she’s a little older, and a lot wiser, takes full control of the situation, and with one eye on the future she wants to build and another on the desire to preserve life whenever possible, gets a much more favorable outcome. It helps that her innocent, impressionable rookie Shimotsuki Mika (Sakura Ayane) doesn’t get in her way or muck up her plan. She does what she’s told and complains a little, is all.

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She has no idea of the horrors and struggles her partner has seen, or the secrets she must bear. Mika is content to rush in, point the Dominator at the target, and shoot. In the culprit’s present state, that would mean death, which Mika is fine with because it’s what Sybil recommends. But it’s not fine for Akane. She is patient and thoughtful in the application of her duties.

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She also studies the culprit throughout the episode. He seeks to minimize innocent casualties. He’s purely concerned with punishing MWPSB, the agents of the system that sentenced him to a life of mediocrity. While others dismiss his online screeds as paranoid nonsense, Akane sees someone genuinely concerned with society’s direction, not someone who has totally turned his back on it.

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Culprits’ Crime Coefficients rarely go down, especially in the heated rooftop standoff that occurs. But as long as there’s a slight chance of saving an individual’s life, Akane is going to give it her all to make that happen. It’s a great moment when she finally succeeds in getting his CC down below 300, activating the Non-Lethal Paralyzer. It feels like justice, administered by the one holding the gun, not the gun, itself.

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After the crisis passes, Mika doesn’t seem convinced. She’ll learn. In one of the better touches of the episode, Ginoza tells her as much in the same way his late father Masaoka coached Akane, even calling her “Missy.” The show also ends with the expected twist to reveal the villain behind the villain, in this case, someone who isn’t just criminally asymptomatic, but whom technology doesn’t even recognize as a living being. Interesting.

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Psycho-Pass – 22 (Fin)

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Akane doesn’t believe the law protects the people so much as the people protect the law. The law in the culmination of mankind’s amassed hopes and dreams for a better world to live in; without that collective input, the law—and society—cannot exist. When the will of the people is usurped by a system like Sybil, the momentum of human progress towards that ideal goal is arrested.

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I said all Akane cared about was saving Kogami’s soul, but once it became clear after a heartbreaking sequence of events that she wasn’t going to be successful, I realized I was wrong about her becoming lost if she did fail, or that her desire to save Kogami was selfish. To her, no matter how vicious Makishima’s crimes were, on-the-spot execution is a crime, and she does everything in her power to prevent that crime. She just came up a bit short.

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She wasn’t being selfish; she was being patient. She doesn’t like Sybil anymore than Kogami or Makishima, but she knows society as it is can’t live without it; not yet. So she’ll continue being one of their ideal poster girls. She does exactly what she’s done every time something horrible has happened in her life, whether it was her first traumatic experience as an inspector, losing Yuki, or losing Kogami, twice: she moves forward.

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Sybil is disappointed that Akane couldn’t deliver Makishima to them, but that doesn’t mean they cut her loose. They “lower her ratings” a bit, but they’re sitll all outstandingly high. They want to someday reveal themselves to the world as they did to Akane, and when that happens, they want the people to accept them and be happy about it, and they think Akane and people like her will help pave the way to that. Faced with that grotesque hubris, sucking up her pride is actually quite selfless on Akane’s part.

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Two months pass, and we’ve got some changes, all of which do a decent job of setting up the second season that arrived a couple days ago. That’s right, because of the timing of my watching of Psycho-Pass, I will not have to endure a two-plus year wait, but will jump right back into it. Ginoza is now an enforcer, Shion and Yayoi still seem to be having pretty okay sex, and Akane is now in charge of the division.

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Perhaps most awesomely, the show ends on a note that may not bode well for Akane’s chances of exacting the change she wants, rather than the “evolution” Sybil seeks. That’s because the show ends just like it began: with a young and eager rookie inspector arriving on a tense crime scene, and the more seasoned inspector telling her they afford to go easy on them. Only this time Akane is the seasoned one and Shimotsuki Mika is the even younger rookie in question. That’s some fantastic symmetry there.

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It may intrest you to know that even though we only saw her for a brief moment, I found myself identifying more with Mika, as I did with Akane when she was new. Considering how long this show has been around, I kind of feel like the second line that Mika represents, who can only repeat the deeds or mistakes of her forbears. Similarly, most of what I’ve prattled on about in these twenty-odd reviews may have already been said before in different forms, but better to have stumbled on this great piece of quasi-Utopian fiction late than never. Thanks for bearing with me. On to Psycho-Pass 2.

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Psycho-Pass – 21

It's Tiltrotor Time!
It’s Tiltrotor Time!

—I didn’t expect you to get here so soon.
—Don’t underestimate the MWPSB. You’re not the only one who can drive Makishima into a corner.

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Akane may as well have said “Don’t underestimate me. Don’t think I’ll stand idly by and let you become a murderer. That is not going to happen on my watch.” All great things must end. This is the beginning of the end of Psycho-Pass, and it’s a good one.

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The gap has narrowed between Kogami Shinya and Tsunemori Akane. Both have chosen their weapons for the endgame: Sybil—for all intents and purposes God—has bestowed upon Akane a righteous weapon with which to do His work: a non-lethal Paralyzer with the safety de-activated. It did so because Akane convinced them to give it to her, lest the MWPSB use “more primitive” weapons that could harm or kill their beloved Makishima.

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But it also narrows because Sybil was right: telling her the truth motivated Akane like nothing else. Her colleagues notice it; Yayoi says she’s “the most constructive of all of them, but also the most depressed-looking.” Masaka sees that she’s bearing a great burden, even if he doesn’t know what it is. But Akane’s Crime Coefficient is a calm, breezy 24. She’s been chosen, and she’s putting aside everything to save Kogami.

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This show was never really about the intense rivalry between Kogami and Makishima. That was a sideshow. Rather, it was about Akane coming into her own; it was about the tragedy of someone as brilliant and moral as Kogami becoming a latent criminal and being reduced to glorified hunting dog duty by Sybil, who now seeks the same person who put him in that spot. And it’s about Akane drawing a line. Kogami may be a latent criminal, but he Will Not Be A Murderer. Her goal is as selfish as Kogami’s, if not moreso.

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Don’t get me wrong: I love Akane to death. She’s one of the best anime characters I’ve ever come across, and her journey has been engrossing and epic. But let’s not forget a couple things: One, at the moment she’s still a servant of Sybil, which may purport to be beyond such concepts as good and evil, but by any measure, the society it maintains is by no means ideal.

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That means she’s willing to capture Makishima alive and give him to Sybil in exchange for Kogami’s life. But the more efficient way to deal with the Makishima situation is, indeed, taking him out. He would say himself, nothing is eternal. He lived life according to his own will; that is probably enough for him. He doesn’t want to join Sybil. And yet if he did, and became part of the brain trust, he could do far more harm for a far longer time.

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What I’m getting at is, it’s probably better for society for Makishima to die, not to be turned over to Sybil. That’s an assumption, of course, but let’s not pretend Akane is any purer than Kogami in this situation. They’re both driven by emotions. Whatever you want to call it: respect, admiration, longing, love—Akane feels it for Kogami. He’s all that matters right now. If she loses him, either by murdering or getting himself killed, I can’t imagine how she wouldn’t end up lost.

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But as much of a super-sleuthing dynamo as Akane has been these last couple episodes, she still makes a critical miscalculation, rushing to the control room to take control of the emergency power, assuming that’s where Makishima will go. But he’s not there. He’s where Masaoka Tomomi and Ginoza Nobuchika are. Akane is too late in warning them, and Masaoka ends up the first casualty in this final battle.

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It is, as befits Masaoka, an excellent death. When Ginoza is crushed by a booby trap, Makishima emerges, and Masaoka fights him to defend his maimed son. When he has him in a lock, Makishima, wily bastard that he is, lights a stick of dynamite and tosses it at Ginoza. Gino orders his dad not to let go of the culprit, but Masaoka can’t fight back his love any more than Akane can. He grabs the stick, which blows up before he can toss it away. We’ll miss you, Pops.

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Then Kogami arrives, bandys words with Makishima for a while. He can’t do much with the revolver in the dark labyrinth where fate has chosen their fight to take place, and it comes down to something even more primative than guns: blades. Akane still has her trump card, but can she make it in time?

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This shit’s heavy, man.

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