Aquarion Logos – 02

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This week follows much the same pattern as last: Sougon weaponizes another “Word of the Week” (it’s “illness”), Kaibuki Akira commandeers a Vector, goes into the Logos World, and forms an Aquarion with Maia to defeat it.

But in between the problem and the crisis was a part I found much more interesting: when the captured Maia breaks free, she’s kept from flying off in her Vector by a team of tough-as-iron cleaning ladies whose practiced, precises motions, synchronization, strength, and ability to read minds has the sheltered Maia assuming they’re DEAVA’s elite guardian force.

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They assume she’s the new girl, so they set her to work, and Maia learns about the “sacrifices” her master Sougan said were “inevitable” in order to bring about his “Utopia Without Words” (whatever that is). It struck me as a Spirited Away-style situation in which an ignorant, arrogant girl gets a lesson in humility and humanity by putting on another skin for a spell.

Still, if the ladies knew Maia was an escaped prisoner, they’d have probably called security. Why is there no security in the hangar containing the Vectors? Ya know what….never mind.

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Once Akira arrives at the hangar deck and spots Maia, he tells her he’ll “do as he ought, by his own will”, reinforcing the dissonance between her beloved Sougon’s ideal and the price people like the nice ladies she befriended pay for it. She comes to her own opinion on the matter: that any word that starts hurting people is a mistake (even though we know it isn’t a mistake, but exactly what Sougon intended it to be).

Her faith in Sougon’s ideal doesn’t match who Sougon really is: a social networking tycoon trying to make a new world without regard to the casualties that result from the destruction of the old one. As such, her will doesn’t run parallel to her master’s, so perhaps it’s good that he doesn’t let Maia come back to him, but orders her to continue observing Akira.

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Working!!! 3 – 02

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Family, vision, and dating are the three main themes of this week’s Working!!!, starting with the Takanashis who are neither royalty nor do they possess superpowers. They’re a pretty fun and eclectic bunch, however, so the occasional episode where Souta deals with his four sisters (and in his case, his masochistic former brother-in-law).

Souta’s talks with Minegishi as the authorized representative of the family, along with the sight of the somehow-still-twelve Nazuna pushing her shut-in sister Izumi along on a cart, were both highlights of this segment.

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When back at work at Wagnaria, Popura and Takanashi collide, and Popura and Yamada remark on how strong and durable Takanashi’s glasses are to have survived not only the occasional collision, but countless punches to the fact from Inami. Unfortunately, when Yamada play-taps the glasses with her stuffed animal, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s glasses.

Takanashi’s attempts to work despite not being able to see, resulting in a very hazardous situation in which he gets far too close to Inami without warning her first; fortunately for him, she faints on her feet rather than clobbers him into the stratosphere, a nice subversion of the usual bit.

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Finally, Satou continues his meandering, half-hearted courtship with Todoroki, who mentions she’s never had alcohol but would like to try it, if only she had someone to drink with. Souma can’t believe it when Satou adds “sometime” to his offer to take her out for a drink, rather than setting a place and a time.

Unlike Minegishi, Souma isn’t the kind of masochist who likes watching this kind of persistent futility, nor am I: we need an episode/segment in which Satou and Todoroki go on a legit date. For that matter, I hope this season allows Takanashi and Inami a date, as well, building off the first two seasons of character work rather than leaving it to gather dust on the shelf.

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GOD EATER – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: Set in a post-apocalyptic 2071, the organization Fenrir and its God Arc-armed “God Eaters” is humanity’s only chance of survival against the monstrous Aragami. Utsuki Lenka is a newbie whose CO forces him to sit on the sidelines and train, but when a multi-pronged Aragami attack breaks out on seperate sides of the city, he chooses to deploy. Initially in over his head, he is saved by Fenrir’s famous First Unit, then demonstrates his God Arc can transform from blade to gun when he shoots and destroys a straggling Aragami threatening a woman.

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Why you should watch: Well, for starters, look at it. This show is drop-dead gorgeous, as everyone expected from a ufotable joint. And yet, it’s not just the same successful, exact and exacting style that made Unlimited Blade Works such a joy to behold. There’s a bit more of the artist’s painterly stroke in the character design, and the futuristic setting allows for more creativity in terms of production and mechanical design.

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You really feel the vastness and weight of Fenrir fortress, and we’re treated to it at different times of day and in different weather. There’s also a lot of real-life-imitating fancy camerawork employing flash zooms, snap zooms, and lots of pretty slow-motion.

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You also get a feeling of the non-physical weight of the people involved in Fenrir. The stern, all business Major Amamiya suffers no argument from her underlings, but much rests on her shoulders as God Eaters go out and don’t always come back in the way they left…or at all. The Amagami won’t stop coming, but there’s clearly a shortage of capable fighters.

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Enter Utsuki Lenka (or Renka), your typical shonen hero haunted by his past and thirsty for revenge against the Aragami that presumably killed his family and destroyed his home. He seems increasingly restless in being force to train, and ultimately the major can’t hold him back. That’s good, because once he’s out in the real world—a rainy night, no less—the show really gets to flex its visual muscles with some truly gorgeous, fluid combat.

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Why you may not want to watch: I don’t know why this would be, but perhaps you’re tired of ufotable’s intricate, almost too-fussy animation. And while the struggle against the Aragami is felt and the characters are suitably cool-looking, there’s nothing that god-eatingly original about the scenario or any of the characters;  Lenka himself is particularly broad and dull so far. It wasn’t that much in doubt that Lenka would be saved by the Elite Unit of Badasses and be given the opportunity to show them he can be one of them too, if seasoned properly.

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The Verdict: GOD EATER was worth the slightly longer wait than other Summer shows: it’s the best looking by a fair degree, and as long as everything else is serviceable, that’s enough for me. The colorful supporting cast look like they might be able to pick up the slack of a rather limp Lenka. It’s a simple and well-worn Kill-the-Monsters / Avenge-Your-Past tale elevated to sophisticated anime art.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 02

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This episode is called “Life is But a Dream”, which may not come from the most sophisticated or subtle song, but does manage to encapsulate the lives of Harima Mika and Yagiri Seiji. Considering everything these two have been through, having an ordinary life where they can go see movies and eat sushi together must feel like a dream. Too bad for Mika, then, that Namie isn’t done trying to wake her beloved brother up from that dream, and turn Mika’s into a nightmare.

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This episode also focuses in on the Namie-Seiji-Mika triangle that wasn’t really visited in the Shou cour, telling a relatively self-contained story that nonetheless depends on little assists from the rest of Durarara!!’s sprawling cast who are periphery this week. With Izaya in the hospital and his sisters feeding her good intelligence about her brother and Mika, Namie decides the time is right to lure Mika into another dark warehouse where she can rid herself of her once and for all.

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What neither Namie, nor I, expected was for Mika to put up such a good fight. Not only is she more athletic than either of us thought, she’s a lot shrewder, self-aware, and well, abnormal, to the point that Namie accepts her as a worthy rival rather than just trash. She ends up on top of Mika and is about to pour acid on her face, but Mika is able to keep her distracted long enough (by reciting all the secrets of the show, the protection of which keeps everything status quo) so that Seiji can figure out where Mika is, rescue her, then give Namie a calming not-kiss and scold her for “going too far.”

The status quo is maintained, Seiji and Mika remain an item, and Namie is appeased by the not-kiss for the time being. But both Namie and Seiji (and we) are also now more aware of what kind of person Mika is: the kind of person who would eat Celty’s head if it meant being able to stay by Seiji’s side.

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Aoharu x Kikanjuu – 02

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After a clever and fun first outing, things get a little more tedious as Matsuoka whisks Hotaru off to an airsoft field, where she proceeds to have a lot more fun fighting and gradually making a new friend than I had watching her. We’re introduced to Matsuoka’s antisocial friend Yukimura, who calls Hotaru “prevert-san” and bristles at Matsuoka’s bringing in of a third person. He doesn’t want anymore friends, because he was betrayed by so many of them before.

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And there’s the issue: we see his friends tearing up a notebook of what is presumably his drawings, but the exact nature of the betrayal escapes us, and Yukimura just isn’t that interesting a character anyway, even though we see several sides of him. There’s also the fact that Hotaru continued to hide her true gender from both of them, and while I thought for a sec Yuki figured it out, that was also ultimately unclear (did he give her the S&M manga because he assumed it would freak her, a girl, out?)

At any rate, it doesn’t really matter. The airsoft combat was brief and uninspiring due to their opponents being generic assholes (though they do eventually end up prostrating before their favorite mangaka Yuki), Yuki’s turnaround felt to rushed and forced, and it’s likely this show is going to keep going with Hotaru pretending to be a guy for the time being, even though the most interesting thing they could to is get the truth out there. My impatience with that major gripe will likely continue to sap my enthusiasm for this show, so it’s better if I exit early.

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Shimoneta – 02

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To borrow a couple of sophomoric double entendres from Blue Snow, Okuma is in a tight spot; between a rock and a hard place. He admires and idolizes the pure, perfect Anna (who shows no signs of being anything other than that, with no hidden dark side), but is being forced through blackmail and coersion by Ayame to undermine her.

I will say, both Ayame and Okuma are well-positioned in terms of hiding in plain sight, and Okuma’s story of how he was ostracized when his “terrorist” father was put away and met the “guardian angel” Anna in grade school (something she doesn’t remember) that inspired him to live a purer life, is a great cover story.

But Ayame is stripping the primacy of his goal away as she exposes him to more and more misbehavior, as Okuma can’t deny the thrill he gets from finding ultra-rare smutty mags in an abandoned cabin, like buried treasure. When the imagery therein is copied and distributed around school, Anna is so ignorant to its insidiousness she herself frames a picture of a girl performing fellatio in the StuCo office!

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That gets to another bigger social issue about the whole anti-dirty-joke law and PM devices: real-world Japan’s brith rate can’t keep up with its aging population; if laws were put into place to block the people’s natural sexual development and keep them in the dark about reproduction (if such a thing were even possible), it would be a de facto form of population control. Maybe the Japan of Shimoneta wants the population to decrease.

In any case, Anna’s powerful, driven politician mother is introducing a new bill that would step up the oppression even further, legalizing the monitoring of every action and conversation in the country. With no stones unturned, Ayame’s terrorism could not continue, her crusade to educate the ignorant masses would end in defeat, and most importantly, the people would have no privacy whatsoever in the new surveillance state. Ayame makes sure to impress upon Okuma that while she has her own selfish reasons for doing what she does, she’s also working in best interests of a free society.

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Thus, the fight must not only continue, but be stepped up. Ayame dresses Okuma up like a Blue Snow decoy to give students dirty word eye exams during school physicals while she steals the boys’ urine samples, hoping to start a scandal in the school when tests reveal high levels of masturbation. The operation also results in Anna yelling out the howler above.

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Anna isn’t portrayed as an idol fool here, but actually comes quite close to exposing and capturing Okuma-in-drag more than once, and presses her pursuit of him with heretofore unseen (and somewhat frightening) superhuman strength and speed. Game Over for Okuma and Ayame is rarely less than a few seconds or inches (heh-heh) away, but with one last misdirection, Ayame manages to save Okuma and make off with the urine.

The fact that the entire final exchange is witnessed by a painter in a crow’s nest—likely the same painter who painted the pure “Sound of Music”-style painting Okuma lingered on—means the ranks of Ayame’s SOX are likely to swell in the near future, which bodes well for defeating Anna and stopping her mom’s overreaching legislation.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 02

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While their party is just two and the activities are limited to exploring and traversing the great expanse before them, Adlet and Nashetania’s journey is the perfect opportunity for both them and us to learn a little more about them. Take ‘Tania: she’s so excited and giddy at the prospect of this adventure, she challenges Adlet to a fight. In fact, she uses her powers for things like cutting vegetables. She’s restless, but Adlet and she both need to be focused with a Brave Killer at large.

At night Adlet warns Tania they’ll be sleeping on hard ground under the stars a lot, and we learn she’s no stranger to that. Despite having never seen so much, she has experienced more hardship than you’d think of a sheltered princess, mostly because of the tenuous hold her late father had on the kingdom, and the execution order put out for her before she became a saint. Adlet’s not the only one here who’s had to rough it.

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The bottom line is, outside of arena competition, Tania has zero experience fighting fiends, who Adlet knows they’ll encounter. The “game”, if you will, then shifts from “getting to know each other” to “battle 101.”  I like how Adlet gets a very nervous Tania to laugh, thus calming her. Then Adlet gets right in the (CGI) fiends’ faces and dodges and slashes, while keeping Tania back to support him with her blades.

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Their first battle goes well, and the villagers the fiends attacked are saved from obliteration, but there’s news that one village girl didn’t make it out. Adlet is ready to go after her, but Tania stops him, telling him their primary mission is to find the other Braves, and that no matter how strong they are, they can’t save everybody.

Adlet agrees with her until she lets go of his horse, and then charges off anyway, which is Classic Adlet: after all, how can he call himself the Strongest Man if he can’t defeat the Demon God and save the people? He wants to do it all, and in this case, Tania indulges him.

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And this time, it may just get him in serious trouble, as the “girl” in the smoldering ruins of the village seems to be doing just fine taking out all of the fiends. When she notices Adlet, she introduces herself as Fremy Speeddraw, so named because of her rifle and the ability to summon bullets at will. She doesn’t like other humans, suspects Adlet is there to kill him, and refuses to lower her rifle to his non-provocational stance.

Meanwhile, more fiends arrive at Tania’s location, and while she’s able to deal with them herself, she loses her horse in the process. Then the person she’s been searching for, Goldof, who once let her win in the arena, presents himself before her, a newly-made Brave, like her. Tania says this now makes them equals, but Goldof still insists on bowing before her and pledging his life to her protection.

Then Goldof tells her the name of the Brave Killer is Fremy. This should be interesting!

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Charlotte – 02

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Yuu’s first day at Hoshinoumi Academy is fairly eventful, as Joujirou demonstrates the incredibly destructive and unnecessary way he buys lunch. But while his demonstration and its resulting wounds is played for laughs (and it is pretty funny on its face), the show delves into darker territory with regard to the effects special abilities have on the people who possess them.

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But first, Nao and Joujirou show Yuu how they operate, using the location pinpointing and power identification skills of a “comrade” to locate ability users who, like Yuu, are up to no good. In this case, it’s the archery captain, who uses his “thoughtography” ability to produce images of girls in their underwear which he then sells…to help support his struggling family.

Nao and Joujirou put Yuu to work immediately, using his body-swapping ability to get the name of the culprit and foil his attempt to blackmail Nao (who is nonetheless flattered that the culprit thinks she’s attractive). It’s clear Yuu is a good fit, and that he’s now on the straight and narrow stopping people from going too far with their powers or using them for nefarious purposes.

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The StuCo he’s now in less about punishing the ability users and more about protecting them from themselves. Those who get discovered are often taken away by the powers that be to have their brains poked and prodded. Nao knows this because her own brother, the first youth who had a power awaken in them, underwent just that kind of intrusive experimentation, leaving him a husk of the person he once was.

The importance, and indeed nobility of The StuCo’s cause is underlined greatly when Nao brings Yuu to see her brother. At this point, Nao is used to him not reacting to anything, despite his hospital being in the most gorgeous, P.A.Works-y environment possible. She even buys lunch and eats it on the train like they’re on some workaday errand, not visiting her profoundly wounded brother.

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Her casual attitude may be Nao attempting to live as normal and happy a life as she can in her brother’s stead, because she managed to escape the same fate. But however you interpret it, it’s a brother-sister dynamic Yuu doesn’t repeated with him and his beloved Ayumi. While initially resistant to all the crazy crap going on at Hoshinoumi with Nao and Joujirou, perhaps Yuu will continue to be more smart with his powers and get with the program.

After all, as Nao says, any of them could be captured tomorrow and their lives and the lives of those they love irreparably ruined. For all its goofy or laughable moments, Charlotte doesn’t fail to bring the gravity either. That combo makes sense: for those with lives almost always on the brink and an ongoing mission that may not end until they lose their powers at adolescence, one must have fun, goof off, buy beef tongue and destroy a cafeteria now and then to maintain their sanity.

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