Aquarion Logos – 01 (Part II)

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Okay…so I was right: THIS half of the hour-long special I watched was the actual first episode of Logos, representing a clean slate, with no cameos from past shows, just a recycling of terminology (e.g. sousei, vectors, gattai, Aquarion, etc.)  Logos’ new angle is that kanji are possessed with great power that, when unleashed, can be extremely destructive to the fabric of the world.

The “Word of the Day”, if you will, is “Maki”, the kanji for which also means “twist.” Every instance of the kanji in written or digital form comes to life and starts wreaking havoc on modern-day Japan, leaving it up to a special few young people to fight back with the Aquarion hardware we’re familiar with. I must say, this is a pretty clever idea, if a bit Sesame Street.

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That organization is called DEAVA (Division of EArth Verbalism Ability), fronted by a cosplay cafe. When one of those members, Kikogami Kokone, calls out for help when an old lady’s purse is stolen, a dude named Kaibuki Akira answers the call and retrieves the purse. Akira is a bit of a cipher so far, who is fond of calling himself a savior, but also probably happens to be correct about that assertion, as crazy as it sounds to everyone else.

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So sure is Akira that he’s meant for greater things, he follows Kokone into DEAVA and steals her vector to deal with the beastial manifestation of maki in some kind of undefined dimension where one normally does battle with words. In that space, we also have a pair of individuals, one of whom is sure to become one of Akira’s love interests, Tsukigane Maia, who seems to be on the side of the guy who released the word and considers this an important mission.

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Somehow, Akira manages to disconnect Maia’s vector from her partner and dock it to his own, resulting in their transformation into an Aquarion mecha. Maia isn’t sure what’s going on, only that it “feels wonderful”, and she and Akira pair up to blast the maki back into submission with the patented Infinity Punch.

So we have a technicolor cast of characters, an elaborate, often hard-to-follow action that sometimes makes you feel like you’re on some kind of animated Gravitron, yet everything is pretty neatly summed up as “words are power”, and can be used to create as well as destroy.

I wouldn’t exactly call Logos greatit’s awfully helter-skelter and demanding to the senses—but I’ll go with “good” for this first outing. It’s certainly like nothing else this Summer. I’ll just have to see if I have enough time to keep up with it.

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Aquarion Logos – 01 (Part I)

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Gosh, has it only been three years since Aquarion Evol? I’m getting too old for this shit. Now it’s apparently the tenth anniversary of the Aquarion franchise, the first installment of which I never watched. Evol felt kinda like Macross Frontier’s younger, less accomplished, more sex-obsessed red-headed cousin, complete with mecha battles set to pop ballads.

I assumed Logos wouldn’t have anything to do with Evol or the first Aquarion, but this first half of the first episode would seem to be a kind of commemorative prologue/forward/episode 0 before getting into Logos in earnest. It also seems like an attempt to squeeze a feature-length movie into 26 minutes. It is packed, and it rarely makes sense.

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But Aquarion has never been about making a whole lot of sense, it’s about shoving as much stuff onto the screen as possible as youths do battle in elaborate CGI mecha with super-elaborate attacks with goofy names fueled by love and/or lust. Casts from both previous shows appear as though from different dimensions, along with a couple new characters residing in a third in 1966 Japan, Yuno and Shin, who look just like Yunoha and her dearly departed friend Jin from Evol.

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The reason for the dimensional merging/out-of-whackness revolves around an old book in a language only Yuno could read, until Shin came along and read it. They accidentally tear the book in two, and we’re off to the chaotic races, with the two of them being whisked from one bizarre, trippy inter-dimensional setting to another, all while some old fart lectures about tadpole awareness as they grow into frogs in his hand. Are you getting all this?

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Anywho Yunoha’s stuffed frog travels to a dimenison and forms a froglike Aquarion with Yuno and Shin, who combined with the other Aqarion crews, manage to zip up the dimensions and get everyone home (or kaeru, which also apparently means frog.) Yunoha wakes up to see her hand being held by an apparition of Jin. I kinda wanted everything that had happened before to be her dream, but nope, all that stuff happened.

But now what? This first half reached dizzying heights of nonsense masquerading as profoundness, but l was frankly pretty disoriented throughout, having been just thrown back into a franchise I hadn’t watched in over three years, and which I thought would be moving on from what I had watched. The preview for the second half suggests it will do just that…so maybe this was just one last curtain call for the last two shows? I guess I’ll find out.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 01 (First Impressions)

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In a new re-imagining of the fairy tales of yore, in which Shirayuki (Snow White, voiced by Hayami Saori) is perfectly content with her life as an herbalist until the unscrupulous prince of her territory, Raj, learns of her rare red hair and decrees she is to become his concubine.

Rather than face that future, Shirayuki flees, and by chance meets a trio of young swordsmen led by Zen. After healing his bruised arm, he offers her shelter at an abandoned house they use, but it isn’t long before a basket of apples from Prince Raj arrives. Zen eats one and is poisoned, and Shirayuki is captured and brought before Raj. 

Shirayuki is about to relent to Raj in exchange for the antidote for Zen, but a healthy Zen bursts in, revealing himself as the second prince of the neighboring Clarines and getting Raj to agree not to pursue Shirayuki any further. Shirayuki chooses to go with him to his kingdom and continue writing her own story.

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This was an exceedingly well-polished, gleaming, rich and verdant outing; one that felt like a movie in miniature (one produced by Studio Ghibli rather than Mickey), with a well-developed arc from start to finish. Things look peachy for Shirayuki but her fortunes fall fast and she snips that seemingly accursed hair and runs…out of the kingdom of a pig and into the company of someone willing to view her not as a piece of property, but an equal.

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I like the idea of Shirayuki wanting to write her own tale, and that tale is to be the best damn herbalist she can be. It’s what she’s trained for and it’s what she wants to do. Whatever Raj wants (and I have a fairly good idea), he won’t let her decide her fate. There’s no future there. So it’s a good thing she ran into those who appreciate her for who she is.

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In Zen and his two mates Shirayuki gets some security and structure, but I knew at some point someone from Raj would come calling, and the use of the poison apple was, while not altogether surprising, novel enough in execution. Shirayuki comes to Raj offering what she knows he wants—her—which is all she has to bargain with for what she deems to be Zen’s life.

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But Shirayuki, like me, made a few false assumptions about Zen: one, that he has built up a tolerance for poisons, and two, that he himself is a prince (which explains the need for the tolerance, and the fancy steel). Turns out she of the hair the color of fate ran from one prince into another, only Zen is a good guy who has an “amazing way of thinking about things”, who offers not captivity, but a chance for her to practice her herbalism in a more official role (as the ED montage indicates).

The show can be a little preachy and obvious at times, but hey, it’s a fairy tale; I’ll cut it some slack. On the whole this is a earnest, well-made episode and a fun fantastical ride, and I can’t help but root for Shirayuki as she continues to write her own story.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 01

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After a half-length, action-packed zeroth episode, GCI’s first full-length episode feels a lot more leisurely and filler-y. In fact, the true-feast-for-the-eyes OP and ED showed more action than the show in between. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its notable events. First we meet the girl who will by episode’s end become the newest Gatchaman, the energetic firework crafter’s apprentice Misudachi Tsubasa (voiced by Ishihara Kaori of Rinne no Lagrange).

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The Gatchamen have arrived in Tsubasa’s hometown of Nagaoka, Niigata to find their newest member when an alien spacecraft suddenly soft-lands in a rice field, bearing a new, red-skinned, blue-haired alien: Gelsadra (Hanazawa Kana). Gel has the rather interesting ability to place social media-icon like symbols above people’s heads showing their present state of mind.

As those states shift, the shape and color of the symbol shifts too (except, notably, for those Hajime and Tsubasa’s great-grandpa, which remain neutral gray). Did I mention Berg Katze now resides within Hajime’s bust, where I assume he can do no harm? Well…he does.

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Meanwhile, Sugane is at college and extremely popular with the pastel-haired young ladies, Hibiki Jo now works for the PM’s office, and O.D. has his own variety show, in which his cameras just happen to descend on Tsubasa’s hometown to get info on both the alien and new Gatchaman. Oh, and the next national election will be open to everyone 16 or older, and people will be able to vote by smartphone.

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Tsubasa is somewhat frightened by her encounter with JJ, but once she gets her Gatchaman notebook and is able to transform as a result of her frustration with the gaggle of reporters, JJ’s prophecy turns out to have made sense after all: “A delicate ray of light (the UFO) falls upon a land illuminated by fireworks (Nagaoka) near the North Sea (Sea of Japan) where it will meet wings that are still blue (Tsubasa’s notebook is blue). 

Despite the length of time spent in her town and her house, we didn’t learn that much about Tsubasa, except that she seems to have made quick friends with Hajime and Gel, doesn’t like big gray guys with claws or reporters, and should make a nice addition to the Gatchaman corps, just when Red Crowds attacks are on the rise.

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