Koufuku Graffiti – 01 (First Impressions)

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I see no better way to wrap up my evening docket than a cute, lighthearted, salubrious slice-of-life comedy about one of my favorite things to do: cooking and feeding people. It also isn’t afraid to show its protagonist Ryou (Satou Rina, the Railgun) essentially having a foodgasm over a plate of delectable-looking inarizushi.

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It’s brought to us by none other than Mister Shinbo and Shaft, eschewing a lot of the usual Shafty quirks like head-kinks, word cards, and dramatic shifts to other art styles. Still, his exacting environmental aesthetic and delicate attention to character gestures comes are present and accounted for.

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That being said, it’s a very richly-produced show, and its style is such that one could easily see this show taking place in the same world as the Monogatari series, only in Tokyo, and without any supernatural stuff.

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Ryou and her visiting second-cousin Kirin, are an immediately likable couple of kids. Both have a problem: Ryou is lonely (parents abroad, grandma passed), thinks her cooking tastes awful, and wants to get better; the pint-sized Kirin is lonely, thinks her mother’s cooking is awful, and wants to learn how to cook herself. It’s a good match.

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Ryou assumes she’s losing her touch because her Grandma is no longer around to coach her. She’s only half-right. She actually hasn’t lost her touch; her food simply doesn’t taste as good when she’s eating it alone. That’s remedied with Kirin’s visit, and Kiri, an independent adjudicator, assures her, her cooking is da bomb.

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Shaft doesn’t skimp on the sights and sounds of the food (some decent ASMR moments), and each dish Ryou prepares carries a special meaning. But the bottom line is, food tastes better when you’re eating with someone, period. We catch a glimpse of a third girl ordering some kind of take-out…which she’s going to eat alone and it’s going to be miserable, so she needs to come over to Ryou’s.

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This is the first food-focused episode of anime I’ve watched since the Girl Friend BETA about the substitute cafeteria staff. Koufuku Graffiti is FAR more polished and better looking, and has FAR fewer characters. That’s a winning formula for my ‘kick back and relax’ show of the season.

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Juuou Mujin no Fafnir – 01 (First Impressions)

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Juuou Mujin no Fafnir is terrible. There’s no avoiding that and no value in digging deeper than that. It has one of those narrated openings that tells us that monsters showed up for now reason and without warning and that people started to gain abilities like monsters…

…and then dumps us on an island with a teenage boy who’s drawn like he’s twelve stumbling on a girl who looks about the same who’s naked on a beach for no reason. His sister is there, though not naked, and she’s the student council president at the all-girls school that he’s enrolled in 120 seconds later. JMnF is a cliche, pure and simple.

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If you liked World Breaker last season, and if this show’s dialog eventually manages  irony, without sounding forced, then maybe you would like it. The art is sub par. The effects are sub par. The animation is sub par. The voice actors are doing all the can but the writing is a smelly turd.

If you can get through all of that, or if you are massively desperate for loli no-nipple boobs, loli-harem, then maybe. Maybe you would watch this.

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But realistically you wouldn’t watch this. Even in a slow season, there are shows you’ve missed in previous seasons you can go back and watch or games to play or for God sakes go read a book.

Don’t watch this show!

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Assassination Classroom – 01 (First Impressions)

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Well, my first impression was, “This looks exactly like Danganronpa but with more toned-down student designs.”

My second was “Whoa, that’s a whole class of kids pointing assault weapons at their teacher!” It’s a pretty bold, intense image, rather let down by the fact the teacher is about the furthest thing from a human being it could possibly be: a banana-yellow octopoid…thing.

Also, the bullets are pink pellets, and the dude moves so fast not a single round hits him. Which led to my third impression: this show has a ‘Sanitized for Your Protection’ feel about it that Danganronpa managed to avoid, even though it featured pink blood.

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This looks like Danganronpa because it’s from the same director, Kishi Seiji, who has done a lot of shows we’ve watched and reviewed here on RABUJOI, including Angel Beats!, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Kamisama Dolls, and Persona 4. He’s kind of a high-concept extraordinaire.

Still, right off the bat this doesn’t have the makings of his magnum opus, competent-looking as it is. As I said, more toned-down character design could also be described as ‘dull and uninspired.’ Not only that, but this classroom has thirty students, double the number in Danganronpa. That’s…that’s just too many! I’m not remembering all of these rubes!

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The story of how the Yellow thing, later named “koro-sensei” in a play on words (because he’s ‘unkillable’), came to be this class’s teacher starts with him blowing up 70% of the Moon. They’re very particular about that number: 70. Thank god there aren’t 70 characters.

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After the military fails to kill him, he requests to teach a class, this class, by name, for reasons that escape everyone. The military then decides they’ll use the students in the class to off him, since they’re at close range all day long. Someone’s got to get a lucky shot in somewhere, right?

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Well, not so much. He can move at Mach 20, which means nothing hit him unless he wants it to, and he heals very quickly. The class has to be inventive. They also have to kill him before the term ends in March, or he’ll do to Earth what he did to the Moon. Even though he’s from Earth. The more patently ridiculous exposition I heard, the more I turned my brain off.

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The wimpy protagonist Nagisa (who is not a girl, as it happens) has self-esteem problems, to the point he agrees to go along with a much older, obviously very held-back n’er-do-well’s plan to kill the teacher with a suicide attack, providing another dark, disturbing image. If our protagonist is in this much of a hurry to leave the show, should we really be sticking around?

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Of course, if he had been killed in the failed assassination attempt, making the first of many deaths to follow, that would have been something. But after the blast the teache r is fine, Nagisa’s fine, everyone is fine.

The teacher even changes the palette of the classroom and morphs in to a scarier but still-not-very-scary ‘Furious Mode’, but he’s furious not because they tried to kill him, but because nobody was looking out for Nagisa, even Nagisa himself.

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Yes, Koro-sensei is threatening to destroy the world…but what world? This entire episode takes place in a ramshackle classroom apparently full of downtrodden misfits whose lives suck. Why not let him blow up the world and start fresh? He also threatens to kill the families of anyone who fights dirty, but unlike him, none of these threats have any teeth.

I know, I know, I should stop being a wet blanket; this is supposed to be a comedy, nothing serious. But I think I groaned more than I laughed, especially as the episode winds down and we get some super-corny feel-good music accompanying Nagisa’s super-corny feel-good monologue. The tone is all over the place, and it lacked an defined ‘edge’.

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Death Parade – 01 (First Impressions)

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If you can’t guess exactly what is going on in Death Parade in under two minutes, I won’t spoil it for you. However, it’s pretty straight forward and, if you’ve ever watched an episode of The Outer Limits or Twilight Zone, not at all surprising.

In fact, my immediate concern for Death Parade is how quickly it’s formula will run out of gas. It is, after all, a narrative show and even if the core cast’s plot spices things up from week to week, it lacks the new twist potential of one-off shows likeThe Outer Limits.

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As spoiler free as I can make it: the story opens with a couple getting off individual elevators at a lounge called Quindecim. Neither partner has a clear memory of how they got there, or really much else. Notably, neither notices the devil and… not devil mask hanging over each elevator…

An unnamed guy with white hair and blue cross-pupil eyes runs the bar and informs them that they must play a game where their lives are on the line. They agree, partially because he shows them tortured shriveled corpses hanging in the shadows and partially because they have no idea what is going on.

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The game is darts, the player with the lowest score wins, and each time a player ‘hits’ a target, his or her partner feels pain relative to the value of the score. Things go off the rails quickly, as fear and memories take over and then, with a winner finally chosen, the game ends.

The couple is put back on the elevators – one person per elevator — and the credits roll. Then some more characters, obviously staff at Quindecim, exposition a little for god knows who because the plot and outcome are brutally obvious but hey, better safe than confusing to 1% of the population. At least it’s after the credits.

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You’ll like Death Parade if the plot around the central concept improves over the next few episodes. You could also like it if you just want nicely drawn, gothy characters executing so tragic it hurts stories for your entertainment.

Even if it doesn’t improve, or the season-spanning plots turn out to be laughably silly (which is possible based on the style of the opening credits) Death Parade stands out visually from everything else I’ve seen this season. Honestly, I wish Tokyo Ghoul looked more like this or this was written more like that…

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You may not find Death Parade all that interesting if grim is not the constant mood you want to set. You may also find it predictable, if this week’s plot is any indication of a formula.

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Its like Danganronpa and Gad Guard had a baby, in structure, tone and aesthetic. If you haven’t seen those shows, it’s dark but richly colored, with slightly odd human figure and facial proportions. “Stylish” is a safe description. Also bleak.

Unfortunately, my first impression is mixed. It has potential and it was very well crafted. Truly, there was nothing wrong with it but, like Absolute Duo, nothing was original, interesting, or surprising either. That’s a hard sell but this season is full of hard sells so maybe Death Games at the Bar has a chance.

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Note: I almost gave it an 8 due to the crisp visuals, solid voice work, and error free script but it’s just so gosh-darn unimaginative a setting and concept for a show! 

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 00 (First Impressions)

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Man, considering Violin Girl had a down week, I kind of regret not watching this last night instead. Saekano is rip-roaring fun, a show that has the audacity to analyze and review itself as it’s going on. I know what you’re thinking: “It self-references itself? Zane, that sounds awful!” But here’s the thing: it just isn’t. It’s glorious. 

The episode begins with character decrying a “lame harem anime with loads of panty shots and nudity”; the anime’s advocate praises its consistent artwork, fluid motion, and cute characters; then the first girl says “it’s the people who worship any anime with good artwork as a classic who are behind the decline in the anime industry”.

I don’t think I have to point out that this is a harem anime with good helping of fanservice, but also looks frikking fantastic, as A-1 anime are wont to do. But it’s not lame. Saekano has LEGS.

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What so great about this show is its LAYERS. There’s the standard harem surface layer; there’s the fact that they’re all very talented members of a doujin circle that have come to a remote, serene hot spring for inspiration; there’s the layer of all the girls going after him (or not) in very different ways; there’s the fact that their intricate discussion of the dating sim they’re working informs anime they’re in.

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Saekano isn’t just throwing skin at you (though the skin is plentiful and lovely), but it’s also reaching through the screen into your brain and heading off whatever reservations you may have for it. It also lays bare its process, and yet wields a kind of inscrutable magic in entertaining you. This is a show that wants you to love it. And I do.

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But my love extends far beyond the bones of the show or its deliciously meta technique, to the brilliant cast. We have the half-British loli childhood friend (Eriri Spencer Sawamura), an exacting painter; the elegant raven-haired maiden (Kasumigaoka Utaha), the scenario writer; the athletic, flirtatious cousin (Hyoudou Michiru), the musician; and the rather plain, quiet one (Kato Megumi), the heroine.

The episode shuffles the protagonist Aki Tomoya’s encounters with them nicely, fleshing their specific personalities, roles in the doujin circle, and particulars of the harem dynamic with a seemingly effortless deftness. Not a single line of dialogue or scene is wasted.

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The four girls express their hots for Tomoya in different ways: Eriri by pining for her one true love, stolen by the interloper Utaha; Michiru gets super physical, but in a teasing way; and Utaha hides her sweet nothings behind the conceit that she’s only using him and her in order to come up with scenarios, and can thus be forthright and fearless in going after him.

These three girls are certainly the loudest and most flirtatious through most of the episode, essentially cancelling each other out when they accidentally get drunk on alcoholic chocolates and in their shameless state, prepare a sexy prank for Tomoya.

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And even this has a practical purpose: they’ve been worked to the bone for six months without a kind word from Tomoya, the game creator, and they’ve come to collect their due, ignoring his impassioned speech about his dreams for the doujin circle as they play rock-paper-scissors to determine who takes what position (though Eriri is a sad drunk, and so just watches and broods all the more).

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Eventually, it’s the calm, sober, sensible Kato who saves Tomoya; a character who had so nimbly lurked within the background of the frames, not making a bit production of her presence. Machiri calls her “stealthy”, which is apt, especially since she shares her name (if not the spelling) with the Pink Panther’s wily assistant.

Kato is the titular “Boring Girlfriend”, and Saekano’s secret weapon. She’s is the heroine of the dating sim because, well, she’s Tomoya’s heroine. He never looked as natural or comfortable as he does strolling down a gorgeous bamboo grove, their wooden shoes softly clop-cloping, complimenting her longer hair.

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These two are on an entirely different wavelength as the other three, and they both like it there, Kato is also patient, not really paying the other three girls any mind and even letting them have a bit of fun with Tomoya, knowing when the dust settles he’ll want to walk and talk with her and her alone.

This just a brilliant, funny, and touching twenty-two minutes of rom-com goodness…and it’s just the damn prologue. I assume episode 01 will rewind to the time Tomoya first assembles the doujin circle. If it can keep up the quality in its less secluded school setting, I will be a very happy camper.

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Junketsu no Maria – 01 (First Impressions)

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Junketsu no Maria is a little difficult to describe. On one hand, it’s clearly an ‘ecchi’ bit about witches who lose their powers if they lose their virginity, with all the hyper-sexualized imagery, would-be suitors and meh-level sex jokes you’d expect.

On the other hand, it’s a peasant-level perspective on medieval politics and warfare in northern France. It has admirable attention to detail, un-stylized (realistic?) combat, and an unexpected degree of sincerity for it’s characters. The peasant-soldier is terrified and useless, without a moment of cliché bravery or tragic death. The mercenary understands a little more about what’s going on, but doesn’t spell it all out for us. Anne, the farmer’s daughter’s innocent questions fill us in on the church and culture of asking witches for favors in private for fear of retribution.

I was not expecting this at all.

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The story opens with Anne going to Maria’s forest cottage for this first time. She needs medicine for her grandmother, who’s known Maria for a long time. We get a bit of detail told to us about the church and the world, and some meh-comedy moments when Maria’s owl / succubus shape-shifter reveals that Maria’s actually very young looking.

It’s a strange double-show, really, because Maria’s world continues to be a bit silly after that. She talks to Joseph, a royal messenger and love-interest and their interaction comes off as mostly silly, exposition, and world building. They look a little silly, design wise, too.

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Yet the show quickly jumps back to Anne’s peasant family, who are drawn more plainly and are grappling with Anne’s father’s conscription (and likely soon-to-be-death) to fight the English occupying the north.

Even Joseph’s world shifts. Where he comes off as a goofy elf-guy after Maria’s loin (in honorable marriage I’m sure) during his Maria scenes, his ‘I’m about to march to war” scenes have a quiet thoughtfulness to them.

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The episode continues bouncing back and forth from a slow paced, authentic feeling battle and the poor sods fighting in it, to the sexy/silly/over the top witches watching the battle from a tree on the side lines.

The two worlds collide, finally, when Maria halts the battle by summoning a Dragon and blasting so much fire the armies had to retreat. She does this for her side of the story’s reasons (she’s worried Joseph was about to snuff it) but the dragon is drawn in the harsh, gritty style of the realistic world and it’s fire didn’t strike me as over the top.

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I’m not sure anyone will entirely ‘like’ this show. It has plenty of nudeless skin and great knights-in-armor design but the battle was very authentic feeling: slow, no one is really a grand hero, no narrator is telling us the deep strategy going on behind the scenes.

And Maria’s ho-hum “I’m a pacifist but I use a dragon to blow crap up” personality trait doesn’t integrate well with this either. Actually, it’s hard to say any of her half of the plot and show-concept fits well with the more grounded, personal storytelling style of the other half of the show…

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That said, you probably won’t hate this show either. Unlike Absolute Duo and Demon Lord Stepsisters, Junketsu no Maria‘s Medieval France setting feels grounded, unique and deserves credit. If you can get over how plain the action is, the show is actually well drawn too!

Honestly, when was the last time you saw a battle that made its participants so fearful, yet, for those of us in the future used to Braveheart-level carnage, looked so tame?

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Maria is voiced by Hisako Kanemoto, who I best know for Gargantia’s Amy but she’s done work for tons of shows. (Akuma no Riddle as Haru Ichinose and Gurgure! Kokkuri-san to name a few) While she’s certainly not going to carry the show like someone like Ono could, and Maria herself may be a bit of the problem for the show’s long-term functionality, Hisako is talented and should keep things under control.

I’m actually hopefully that this becomes a reverse harem, with multiple male characters chasing after Maria. Not sure if that’s likely, but it would be interesting and Hisako would do a good job with that scenario.

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My first impression was surprisingly good. I don’t especially care for Maria… at all… but even with her needlessly out of place character design and silly concept, the world she lives in is rather interesting.

One reviewer declared the year of ecchi-combos is upon us and, given how many shows seem to have gone that direction already, I’m willing to agree with him. However, if more of them tack the weird way of Junketsu no Maria, and if JnM stays interesting, that may not be a bad thing.

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Note that this week’s screen caps are terrible because the show was formatted with a ton of ugly on screen text and PR graphics. If I have a chance, I’ll shoot better caps when a better rip becomes available. 

Durarara!! Character Guide

Click to view full-size
Click to view full-size

Durarara!!x2 Shou is on its way. If you’re like us and haven’t watched Durarara!! in over three years, you might want a little refresher about who is who, or at least who was who. Enter this handy-dandy guide. It’s a ‘who’s who’ of popular voice actors, that’s for sure.

Note: This is a guide of the characters from the original Durarara!! and hence does not include any new character from the sequel. This guide may contains errors, omissions, or information not covered in the anime. Apologies in advance.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 12

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With only a week until the big gala concert, Kousei is having trouble with the piece Kaori is making him play: Fritz Kreisler’s “Love’s Sorrow”, a piece he has vivid memories of his (healthy) mother playing as he napped under the piano or hummed as a lullaby. Practically any other piece would have been easier for him to pick up.

Hiroko tells him not to brood about the fact he’s guilty about trying to forget about Saki. She also suspects he can’t hear the notes because they’re being drowned out by all the powerful emotions and memories stewing within him, that he has yet to figure out how to use to his advantage. It’s a gift, not a curse. Use it.

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This episode is replete with the joy and sorrow of love, starting with Hiroko’s insistence Kousei’s mom was proud of him. In that moment, his mother felt the joy of watching her son grow up, and the sorrow of watching him drift away, of ‘leaving the nest’.

Kousei also experiences the joy of his love for Kaori, as they bicker incessantly in between practices, then ride home on his bike under a starry Summer sky. The brief pause between the last episode and this gave me some time to ponder whether Kaori has been Kousei’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl so far. Consider:

  • Fairly static character with eccentric personality quirks
  • The romantic interest for a brooding, depressed male protagonist
  • In the words of the late Roger Ebert, she’s “completely available” and “absolutely desirable”
  • Only seems interested in the happiness (and growth) of Kousei
  • Does not (outwardly, at least) deal with any complex issues of her own

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Of course, as soon as those points are listed, one can start to punch holes in them. She’s not ‘completely’ available nor only ‘for’ Kousei, but ostensibly Ryouta’s girl, even though the connection between those two mostly centers on the fact they’re both attractive. Secondly, we have seen Kaori struggle, and use Kaori as a means for her to push forward with her music, even if she’s not pushing forward anywhere else in her life. She flat-out tells Kashiwagi she’s not thinking about her future, though that could also be due to her health.

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Third, we finally meet Kaori’s folks, and they’re awesome! Turns out they’re longtime fans of Kousei too, and stoked to meet him and stuff him with pastries. He impresses them with his manners (as they probably assumed he was still the awkward automaton of his earlier years), to the point where they may be looking at him as a potential match for their Kaori.

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Meeting the Parents is a big step in a relationship, so it’s a bit disappointing when the gang assembles at the school pool to play with fireworks, Kousei sees Kaori with Ryouta and starts to recede into Friend A territory. Dude, she’s clearly interested in you on a far deeper level than Ryouta, and Ryouta has given you his blessing. Man the fuck up.

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Kousei doesn’t have time to be worried about crap like this, even if he isn’t as aware of it as we are, having heard Kaori’s internal monologue about her not always being around. As if to punctuate that point, her dazzling sparkler suddenly goes out. Kaori is that sparkler. Her supply of fuel is not limitless.

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Tsubaki notices Kousei staring at the perfect couple, gets jealous, and launches a bottle rocket attack, sending Ryouta and Kousei into the pool. It turns out to be a boon for Kousei because here, in an approximation of the deep dark sea where he’s always ended up during performances, and with Hiroko’s advice in mind he figures things out. He’s technically proficient enough to not hear the notes, so why try? Instead, channel his memories of the music and feel it, and he should do fine. Probably!

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He’s underwater a bit too long though, and ends up losing consciousness. Ryouta brings him back, but Tsubaki reverts to Little Kid Childhood Friend Mode and cries with worry. I love how Tsubaki cannot hold in her love and responsibility for the kid who seemed lost for so long, even if he’s found a new muse in the present. And while she gets along fine with Kaori, she clearly can’t stand the fact that Kaori has come between her and the boy she can’t help but love above all others.

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On the big day of the gala concert, Emi attempts to attend incognito, but her instructor outs her. Emi reacts by denying she’s there to hear Kousei, even though she’s definitely there to hear Kousei. What kind of behavior is this, again? Ah yes..tsundere behavior. Even so, I’ve become so fond of Emi (and her seiyu Hayami Saori) so much that I don’t mind her at all as the third love interest. Emi has musical connection with Kousei that Tsubaki doesn’t, and the show has made it plain that we shouldn’t expect Kaori to be around forever.

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Indeed, Kaori totally flakes out on the concert! Her phone rings off the hook in her room, and her parents’ pastry shop appears to be closed, which is a bad sign; more a ‘Kaori has been hospitalized again’ sign than a ‘Kaori overslept’ sign. Sure, there’s every possibility this was meant to be another test for Kousei, but I can’t help but fear something out of Kaori’s control is respoinsible for her absence.

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Hiroko tries to get an arrogant little punk of a kid to move his performance up so Kousei and Kaori can play last, but he refuses, having heard all the buzz about Kaori in the lobby and philosophically opposed to her style of play. This concert his his moment of triumph, and he doesn’t let Kousei forget it.

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Kousei and Kaori’s playing time arrives, and Kaori is not there, so Kousei has to make another unprecedented move that outrages the conservative judge (even though there is no judging at gala concerts) by daring to play the piece alone. Kousei’s worries about Kaori flaking out on him and not being able to do it without her was replaced by pride and determination, thanks in no small part to that prodigy jerk’s little tirade. Worrying about why Kaori is pointless; she’s not there. The show must go on anyway.

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Steins Gate – 12

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Steins;Gate reaches its halfway mark with a disappointingly uneventful outing, as–oh, God, what am I saying? I’ll be serious, as Okabe Rintarou has started to become by necessity: this was an effing classic. It was the choice of Steins Gate that the wool be fully pulled from my eyes…and my heart be ripped out of my chest.

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For all its humble looks and composition, this thing is lit like a terrible world-upending weapon

 

Rintarou had already drastically cut down on his chuunibyou mad scientist silliness last week, when he was too damned shaken by the threatening text messages to be embarrassed about walking in on the girls in the bath.

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It’s a sudden change in his demeanor not lost on Kurisu. Even if Rintarou hasn’t told her anything, she knows. After fully explaining the completed Time Leap Machine, including the need for a living human subject—no more bananas—she turns to Rintarou for the Lab’s next move.

No maniacal laugh, no fake cell phone call: his decision is this: they’re backing out of this. They’ll announce their discovery and leave the rest to the ‘appropriate’ entities.

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It’s a tough call, and a very un-Hououin Kyouma call, but it’s the right call. Itaru agrees. On a grocery run, Kurisu sees Rintarou’s relief and admits to being a little disappointed, but she agrees too. Mayuri definitely agrees. Mayuri, whom they both agree has seen more than either one of them, and probably wanted them to stop a long time ago.

Things will be different, that’s for sure. The Future Gadget Lab accomplished something momentous. Kurisu fears her father’s reaction to her latest and greatest success; Rintarou assures her they’ll be able to visit him and work things out, because he takes care of his lab members. In this beautiful exchange, Kurisu refers to herself as his assistant, and he shoots back that she’s his dear companion. These two really were meant for each other.

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Rintarou’s decision calls for a party, and a party is what they have. Suzuha even comes along, and after some posturing and growling between her and Kurisu, Mayuri defuses the situation with her usual eloquence: “Mayushii…doesn’t like fighting…when we’re all together, I think it’d be more fun if we were all friends!”

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And so they are friends this night, as Kurisu helps Suzuha beat Rintarou at Rai-Net Battler, simply by knowing the kind of personality Rintarou has. When Rintarou skulks away in defeat, Kurisu has Mayuri go after him, telling her how both she and Rintarou believe she’s always had the clearest view of the lab.

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Mayushii approaches Rintarou on the roof armed with a lightsaber Cyalume Saber. They talk about how much fun everyone is having, and about all the things they’ll be able to buy once they go public with the discovery (Chairs! Utensils!).

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Then Mayushii brings up the Spring (it’s August at this point), when it was just the two of them, but Rintarou seemed really lonely to her, and how the club has grown so much that it’s okay now, even if she isn’t his ‘hostage’ anymore.

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As Mayuri is saying this last bit, he has a flash of his daydream from the cold open, which may well have been far more than a mere daydream: 70 million years in the future, he and Mayuri are alone in the middle of a wasteland, about to die. She tells him they’re the originals, but there are infinite other Rintarous and Mayuris in other world lines that will carry on their legacy even if they crumbled to dust then and there.

So…it’s okay. It’s all okay. Until it isn’t.

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Itaru dashes up to the roof (yes I used dash and Itaru in the same sentence): there’s a bomb threat; all trains in and out of Akiba are stopped. So the party becomes a sleepover now…Yay, right? Nay. When Itaru confirms he’s deep into SERN, Suzuha seems on the cusp of telling them to do something very important, but instead she bolts out of the lab without an explanation. That’s not good. There’s no way that’s a good sign.

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Then Rintarou notices sand has stopped flowing down an hourglass. Mayuri’s recently-wound pocketwatch stops. Something is extremely wrong.

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A group of masked gunmen in casualwear race up the stairs and bust into the lab. If they didn’t have the guns and masks, they’d look like ordinary people. Is this SERN? Was Rintarou too late in giving up the game?

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It’s a volatile situation, made even more surreal by the arrival of the apparent leader of the gunmen: Kiryuu Moeka, donning black leather from neck to toe, stylish as always, as Mayuri once remarked. “SERN will take the time machine”, she mutters softly. She’s taking Kurisu, Rintarou, and Itaru as well.

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As for Mayuri? She’s…”not needed.” Shining Finger puts her finger on the trigger, muttering “For FB…FB…FB…” and puts a bullet in Mayuri’s head. Just like that, the beating heart and warm, fuzzy soul of the lab, Rintarou’s dear childhood friend, is gone, and the fun and games are over.

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I expected something to happen in that standoff, but for the life of me I didn’t expect that. But why the hell didn’t I? It was all here, in previous episodes and all over this one: she was pulling out death flags like there was no tomorrow, because for her, there wouldn’t be.

And what’s so crushing about this is that in a twisted way, Moeka was right: Mayuri was no longer needed. As Mayuri said, “it’s okay”: now that he has friends, he’ll be alright, even if she isn’t by his side anymore. The close-ups of Mayuri in her last moments are painted with neither shock nor fear, but expectation; of inevitability. 

This is the closing of a chapter and a time of new and terrifying trials for Okabe Rintarou and the rest of the lab. But perhaps, with Kurisu by his side, he’ll be okay. But I just can’t see it yet. No one could ever see as clearly as Shiina Mayuri.

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P.S. With twelve episodes down, twelve to go, and Winter season starting to pick up steam, now is as good a time as any to exhale and take a break from the show. How long a break? I won’t be sure until Winter settles down and I have a better idea of which parts of the week are the slowest…but probably not long. In any case, I have yet to watch anything after this, so spoilers in the comments are strictly prohibited. Finally, it cannot be said enough, thanks for reading as I play catch-up with a classic—H.B.

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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TG’s first season ended abruptly with the lesson that You can’t have it all, and in Ken’s present situation, wavering pacifism is no longer an option. His survival, and the survival of those dear to him, required him to transform himself drastically, something Yamori helped him along with quite nicely.

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In this, TG’s expected second season, we pick the sprawling battle right where we left off in episode 11, and the show continues to dart from one battle to another to keep things fresh. I’ll admit my memory was a little fuzzy ( I also don’t have the benefit of having read the source material, which likely fleshed some of these guys out :P) but it’s still all very heated and exciting.

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One pertinent battle is the one between the Kirishima siblings, which Touka is losing badly until Ken appears to scoop her up and stand in as Ayato’s opponent.

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It must piss off Ayato to no end that all of a sudden Ken isn’t so easy to take down. Indeed, Ken makes it look easy with his graceful evasions. Ken isn’t here to kill Touka’s brother, though. Rather, he says he knows Ayato’s “secret”, and why he joined Aogiri Tree. This pisses Ayato off even more, because knowledge is power.

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Noro finally breaks up the fight, snatching Ayato up and retreating as a number of explosions rock the site of the battle. Ironically, I had suggested Harude simply bomb the hell out of the mall rather than commit so many men to what amounted to an enormous trap to kill as many men as possible.

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Harude’s top men can’t quite eliminate the Owl, but nor does the Owl eliminate them, and if I’m not mistaken, even saves one of them from getting crushed. I must say, with their nifty full-body, life-sapping “Arata” quinque-suit things, they definitely made their fight a lot more interesting than it had any right to be, what with the Owl going all philosophy professor on them.

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Once the battle is over, the episode lags a bit, which I’m guessing is meant to build up tension about when Ken will do next, as well as introduce a few new characters, but it still lags. That’s not to say it isn’t without its charms: there’s a couple of nicely-staged encounters, first, as Eto emerges and recedes from the smoke in several different places, almost teasingly.

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Another is when Touka is propped up against a tree, looking forward to going home, and warns Ken he’ll have to do something about that crazy white hair. But Ken isn’t going back to Anteiku, even after all the trouble they went to to rescue him. No, Ken is going to Aogiri Tree.

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It’s a drastic but sensible move on his part, and for the sake of Touka and the others, not himself. He has to see where his dark potential, brought forth by Yamori’s torture and by letting Rize out of the cage, perhaps for good. He’s through doing nothing. Now comes figuring what exactly he can and should do, now that he’s doing something. I for one am game; the warmth and comforts and easy smiles of a place like Anteiku are no longer any kind of place for this new Ken.

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