Rolling Girls – 05

rg51

The Rolling Girls’ next mission comes from a letter asking for help bringing peace to “Mie-Aichi”, also known as “Aichi-Mie”, a new country made up of those two very different prefectures united around the fact that both claim to be the birthplace of a certain kind of regional food, but both former prefectures have vigilante groups that constantly battle each other, while all the public roads double as racing circuits.

rg52

In the midst of such a large conflict is Uotora Himeko, prodigal daughter of Aichi’s master carpenter, the one repsonsible for the city’s famous “shachihoko” fish sculptures, guardian gods that protect the roofs of buildings from fire.

Himeko is back after getting bored with playing around on the road, just when every shachihoko in town explodes. The Mie Motors vigilantes are suspected, and while there isn’t proof, the Aichi tenmusus want to duel them on the circuit to determine who rules the country once and for all.

rg53

The Tenmusus’ captain, a tough dandy and cafe owner, tries to keep the peace, but the young pups are getting restless, and he has to rely on his absurd brute strength to keep the Mie Motors’ vice-captain at bay (in a running gag the vice-captain is constantly revving his engine, so you can never clearly hear what he’s saying). Negotiating peace seems like a tall order for Nozomi & Co.

rg54

The Old Aichi townsfolk, however, are more concerned with getting all the shachihoko repaired. The only problem is, Himeko’s stubborn dad claims he’s lost all feeling in his arm and is thus no longer able to create. This puts the onus on the long-estranged daughter to do the work. When she was a little girl, she wanted nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps, but girls grow up and the paths they want to take change.

rg55

It’s a tough spot for Himeko, made worse when she learns her dad’s arm is actually fine, and that he was faking it to make her take on the responsibility. She pays him back with words harsh enough that he slaps her, an action he instantly regrets but only pushes her away further.

rg56

Meanwhile, the Rolling Girls have determined that Suzuka Tomoki, the captain of Mie Motors, reigning circuit champion, and only “Bike Taxi” in town, sent them the letter asking for help, in Himeko’s name (the fact he called the country Mie-Aichi instead of Aichi-Mie gave it away).

But when he zooms by to drop off a fare, the girls don’t have a change to catch his attention before it’s taken away by his loose-cannon vice captain, itching for a battle. Tomoki won’t allow one, but when a squad of Tenmusus arrives, they clash with vice-captain’s squad anyway.

rg57

In all of this, Tomoki and Himeko both seem to be caught up in things far bigger than they are. But these two share a past, and perhaps they share a future in restoring peace to their joint country.

rg58

After all, Tomoki seems to have the equivalent of a moonlight stone, and while shachihoko sculptures are merely symbols of peace, symbols are powerful things. Himeko may be rusty, but she and Tomoki may be the ones who help cooler heads prevail over hot ones. But first…dinner!

8_ses

Advertisements

Aldnoah.Zero – 17

az171

This episode was titled “Dawn of Intrigue: The Turning Wheel”, and not for nothing. A/Z went into full-on Space Opera Mode this week, as in a soap opera in a sci-fi setting. The enjoyment you derived from this episode depends on how much you like this kind of thing: beautiful people wearing their hearts on their sleeve, clashing plots and motivations, intrigue, betrayal, tests, tears…all delivered with a slightly amplified emotional intensity.

az172

I for one enjoyed it immensely. For all the lack of physical action, this episode kept me happy with ample duels of wits and wills everywhere you look, and a number of character expressions oozing with depth, starting with Rayet’s look when she’s locking Count Mazuurek away.

Yuki finally tracks down Inaho and asks her straight up why he’s come back to the Deucalion. She became a soldier to protect him, but she can’t very well do that when he’s a soldier too. But he tells his sister he knows Seylum—the real Seylum—is still alive. She tried to help him, and now he’s going to help her. It’s a simple as that. If Yuki has to find a new reason to fight, that’s her problem.

az173

Frankly, of the two Kaizukas, Inaho is the more resourceful and versatile soldier, which he proves in his talk with Mazuurek, during which we hear my favorite musical theme from the first season for the first time in the second.

It’s well-placed here, as Inaho steadily brings the arrogant count around to his line of thinking, not with brainwashing, but just by knowing and saying the right things at the right time. As Inaho puts it so eloquently, a man who doesn’t look or sound at all like a man who would sell out his country is the perfect man to ask.

az174

Meanwhile, Slaine is a little drunk on power, as he’s already using visual aids from David Attenborough’s The Life of Birds in his monologues to his audience of one (Eddelrittuo, unless Asseylum can hear him in that tube). He talks about flightless birds (like he used to be) being well suited to survival without flight, and the pity that must be bestowed upon birds who can fly but are placed in cages.

While Slaine is partly correct that birds are put in cages “because they are so beautiful”, in Lemrina’s case she’s a bird in a cage because she is the key to Slaine’s power. Right now, she’s feeling restless, useless (or at least under-utilized), and in the dark about far too much.

She hoped for an equal partnership, but she just feels used right now…and she’s not entirely incorrect, because at the end of the day, she is not the princess Slaine is most intent on protecting. If the real Asseylum wakes up, Slaine will have another key, a no need for Lemrina.

az175

When Rayet hears that Inaho is interrogating the count, she comes down to offer her own two cents and proceeds to have all her buttons pushed by said count. Inaho gets her out of there, but Rayet’s point is that she’s no different than that count, or Saazbaum, or any other Martian, which is why she’ll always hate them, and herself. Inaho thinks otherwise, and is prepared to prove it.

az176

Lemrina uses Count Marylcian’s desire to speak with her (believing she’s Asseylum) as an in to the intrigue she’s been missing out on, and also to assert her authority; with Asseylum in a coma, she is the senior member of royalty in orbit. She avails herself of that fact, granting Marylcian an audience, and the wheels start to turn…against Slaine.

az177

For one brief moment I thought Mazuurek had broken out on his own, but then I realized that was unlikely after they had given him a full body search. When Rayet is the first person he encounters, I thought for another brief moment that Rayet was going back to the side she hated to punish herself, or something.

Then we see Inaho is in on it, and it’s all clear: Inaho knows Mazuurek wants to preserve Earth at all costs, so after convincing him Asseylum is an impostor, he sets him free, where he can be far more effective than if he remained a captive, because he can find out where Asseylum is, keep her safe, and learn what Slaine is up to. It seems mutually beneficial. Mazuurek seems sincere in his interest in earth beyond conquest; we’ll see if he honors the agreement.

But Inaho also involved Rayet, who’d be alone with the count as part of the plan, and thus in a position to kill one of the Martians she hates so much, like she tried to kill Asseylum many moons ago. She doesn’t, and that, to Inaho, says that despite what she says, she’s not the same person she was, and she’s not someone to be hated.

az178

So Slaine should expect Mazuurek to invite himself over at some point, he already finds himself outmaneuvered by Count Marylcian, who arrives at the base with Cuont Barouhcruz to challenge Slaine to a duel. There’s so much win in this entire situation, what with Lemrina, the scorned princess reduced to Slaine’s pawn, believing she’s controlling this chess game as Queen now.

But she could just as likely have fallen for Marylcian egging her on about being a caged bird, as I seriously doubt Marylcian cares about her beyond how much power he can gain by being her Royal Guard. Heck, he doesn’t even know she’s an impostor; I wonder how he’d react to learning he’d booted out the earth mongrel to take his place protecting a bastard princess.

Like sand through the hourglass…

9_brav2

Durarara!! x2 Shou – 05

drr251

The tone of the close of last week’s episode was clear: playtime is over, and this week largely renewed that tone by setting the table for the impending war, albeit with a healthy dose of both comedy and the overarching cynicism and disgust of Namie, who tosses away Izaya’s soul manipulation video journal and occasionally remarks on events through her unique lens I’ll call rubbish-vision.

drr252

It starts with a newbie to Ikebukuro, Rokujou Chikage, or “Mr. Paternal.” He doesn’t hurt women, physically or emotionally, and severely punishes anyone who does. He’s also the leader of Toramaru (the white zebra-suit gang), and wastes no time throwing his weight around, protecting a damsel from a shoplifter but going so far in taking revenge for her sake that he ends up alienating himself (and having to run off with his harem before the cops come)

drr253

Ironically, Rokujou is in town to voice his exception to be Shizuo’s overblown reaction to his men picking a fight with him. Rokujou is under the mistaken impression Shizuo has a low setting, but finds out pretty soon when he lands a right uppercut to Shizuo’s face, and while it knocks out his lit cigarette, an unfazed Shizuo simply continues the sentence he had started. With this utterly ineffective punch, the real war begins.

drr254

Meanwhile, the Dollars new and old are having a lively online chat, when Kida suddenly private-chats Mikado, but not to catch up: his message is simple: stay indoors tonight, because there are shadows looming. He doesn’t explain how he knows this either, but for all I know he and Saki are holed up in Saitama, where the zebras are from, and heard things from people about them being on the move.

drr255

Rokujou ends up enduring four of Shizuo’s blows before collapsing in defeat, but Shizuo doesn’t finish him and sends him to Shinra for treatment, because Rokujou told him he has a woman who can tend to those injuries, which makes Shizuo jealous. Still, unlike Izaya, Shizuo has no particular beef with him, either, and I’m sure he also subscribes to the “don’t hit women” ethos.

That doesn’t stop Shizuo from letting his guard down to an adorable little girl who seems excited to have found the guy in her photo. When he gets close enough, she zaps him with a stun gun. Another sign stuff is starting to Get Real: pint-sized assassins. Also a sign, from Namie’s perspective, that women aren’t something to be protected and treated like they’re made of porcelain.

drr256

Rokujou’s bandages now explained, he plies through the sea of Ikebukuro with his doll collection in tow. But their chatter to one another about his general idiocy and immaturity give them agency that an airheaded harem wouldn’t normally have.

They’re well aware all of them lusting after this guy means they have strange tastes, but they like what they like, and they’re there because they want to be, not because Rokujou protects them. And other than Izaya’s ramblings and Rokujou’s fight, all of this week’s major action is the work of women.

drr257

Ikebukuro is full of old-fashioned men with old fashioned ideas of what a woman should and shouldn’t be. That’s illustrated rather succinctly when highly independent badass Celty, paying the endlessly polite Shiki Haruya a visit for a new job, accepts his offer to remove her helmet, and Haruya’s henchmen wig out.

Haruya may speak like an old samurai, but his sensability is a lot more modern: when he tells his bald friend “It’s perfectly normal to remove your helmet indoors,” He’s really saying “Get with the times, cur.” This is how things are, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

drr258

Of course this is not always the case. The throng of people who witness Shizuo interact with the little girl don’t see an innocent man being attacked by a crazy urchin, they see a sweet, innocent girl being brutalized by a cowardly brute.

When Shizuo and Tom realize how bad they look, they run off before the police arrive, as Rokujou did when his scene became too hot. But the girl clings to them. She may be far to young and small and weak to complete her mission to assassinate Shizuo, but those shortcomings do not faze her, and now that she’s found her quarry, she’s literally not going to let go.

This only creates more problems for Shizuo, who is always going to look like a creep and a criminal instigator in a fight where the other participant is this little girl.

(FYI, the girl is quite fittingly voiced by Kuno Misaki, who also voiced Hoshimiya Kate in Zvezda, another tiny but tough cookie.)

drr259

Meanwhile, hopefully Mikado and Anri and the twins are safe in their homes, because Rokujou has brought EVERYONE to face the Dollars, about whom he has a very warped idea. The Dollars are high schoolers and a handful of otaku an itasha van who mostly chat online, right? Be that as it may, their territory is now officially under assault. Weathering it out indoors won’t accomplish anything, since I doubt the Zebras will leave without facing their rival head-on.

drr2510

Speaking of heads, the job the woman without one was give by Haruya was to locate the same little girl Shizuo encountered, suggesting she’s involved with the yakuza. But just before setting off (and giving her horse-bike a cute pat on the withers), another woman in a jumpsuit on a bike sidles up to her. Celty gets away, but her helmet is sheared off by a garrote the other rider had set up.

The Dollars would be a distinct disadvantage without one of their trump cards, so I’m eager to see where this goes. As for Namie, she doesn’t care if its men or women taking the lead, she remains disgusted with the number of humans continuing to increase in number, like so much rubbish being piled up in an alley.

Then again, considering how ludicrously obsessed with her brother Seiji, everything Namie says, no matter how much sense it may make, must be taken with a grain of salt.

9_brav2

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 17

garo171

“People may not understand what they don’t experience themselves,” says Prince Alfie, in during his surprise visit of the lands where Leon has settled into a new life. Let me preface this review by noting that I’ve never experienced so much harrowing emotional turmoil from an episode of Saturday morning animation in my life. That alone would have warranted a high score, but it’s far from all Garo No. 17 has to offer. 

garo172

I will also admit, despite all the evidence suggesting Lara would remain by Leon’s side for some time to come ever since her story didn’t end with one episode (as is usually Garo’s M.O.), every scene with the two was tinged with dread, like there was a target on Lara’s back, as well as the members of her family.

garo173

Alfie doesn’t visit Leon’s village for him; he had no idea he was there. That being said, their meeting in the lord’s manor is a fantastic scene for both of them. There’s no chest-thumping or rancor; only reminicing and apology. Leon recalls how sheltered and oblivious he though Alfie was (and Alfie admits, he was), but now he admits he was just as clueless. Furious at the world he was meant to protect as a Makai knight—because that world allowed his mother to burn—Leon didn’t feel he had anything worth protecting, which is why he failed.

garo174

Now he’s just a regular man, but he’s finally found something to protect. Lara, her family, her farm, and her simple, peaceful way of life. Speaking of which, hey, why’d you leave her out in the cold? At least invite her in for a cup of tea!

garo174a

When Lara sees that Leon knows frikkin’ Prince Alfie, she’s filled with dread that he will leave her for bigger, more important things, but she’s misread the situation: Leon has no intention of going anywhere. He’s going to stay right here, with her. My heart lifted when Lara’s face brightened up at this news.

garo175

In what would tragically turn out to be their final day together, Leon and Lara spend the eve of dusk on the roof of the house, where Leon no longer sees “nothing.” They’re no that high up, but in the countryside where buildings are scarce, there’s still a unique thrill to being up there, having a more commanding view. He sees the world he belongs in, and the person he wants to protect.

But just as Lara’s visible breath portended, the first fluffy flakes of winter snow begin to fall, heralding the worst night in Leon’s life, and a pretty shitty one for Alfie too.

garo176

Alfie is here to hunt a burrowing horror who has been eating villagers. One night Leon and the dog get a bad feeling, and the horror appears on the doorstep of Lara’s house. And the age-old irony takes form: just when Leon has found something to protect, he is powerless to actually protect it.

garo177

He begs Lara and the others to race to the fairy mound—which is really an anti-horror barrier where they’ll be safe, while he races to warn Prince Alfie. But then the horror sets the barn and house aflame and threaten their stores of food for the winter—which are no less than their very lives, to say nothing of paying off debt. Lara’s grandfather races back to their home, regardless of the futility, and Lara and the others follow her.

garo178

So often in anime buildings are leveled and crops burned and entire cities or even planets wiped out, but it’s rare when the destruction of something so relatively small as this family farm carries so much emotional weight, but it does. These buildings prove to really be not only the entirety of Leon’s new world, but the entirety of their inhabitants’ lives.

When the buildings burn, so does Lara’s family, and Lara herself is burned and crushed under the rubble. We saw that target on their backs, clear as day, but couldn’t have predicted such a bitterly awful, merciless end for them.

garo179

Even then, I held out hope that because Leon found Lara, her injuries could be healed, and they’d leave this place in search of a new home, together. But it isn’t in the cards, as Leon is forced to say goodbye to the girl he never confessed his love to, nor her to him, but at the same time never really had to, because it was plain. Lara feared Leon would leave her for somewhere far away, but it ends up being her who leaves him, and at this point my tears were falling as steadily as the snowfall.

garo1710

The final shot is of Lara and her family’s would-be refuge, the fairy mound the villagers had forgotten the true power of because their home had become so peaceful, and instead assigned a folktale to it. At this point Leon could blame throwing his powers away for this tragedy, but the truth is he wouldn’t even be here if he hadn’t fallen. And even Alfie, a full-fledged Makai knight, couldn’t be everywhere or protecting everyone at once. But the brothers must not lose heart, even though they’re broken along with mine.

10_magRABUJOI World Heritage List