Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 01 (First Impressions)

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Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? is the title of a painting by Paul Gaugain, painted in Tahiti.  He considered the work his magnum opus, and he intended, tried, and failed to take his own life upon its completion. The title is an inscription in the top left corner of the piece, and may have been painted only after the attempted suicide. The three questions paraphrase those asked in a lesson by his liturgy teacher in school, which clearly stuck with the painter.

Those same three basic questions are asked several times in Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider, an intriguing mystery show full of precise compositions, dramatic lighting, subtle facial expressions, complicated emotions, philosophical discussion, a striking opening image of a girl sitting beside a beached and decaying shipwreck, and a cute college student who drives an slick new Alfa Romeo 4C to work at the office of her professor, whom she is pretty obviously in love with.

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The cute college student with the bob is Nishinosono Moe. The object of her attentions and affection is Saikawa Souhei. We first see “Where They Were” separately: Saikawa in some kind of awful meeting, Moe getting up and driving to work. Then we see “Where They Are”: simply coexisting in the office; Saikawa reading something on his computer and smoking while Moe makes coffee and waters the plants. Then we go back to “Where Moe Was”, when she “meets” the enigmatic Professor Magata Shiki.

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I say “meet” because Magata communicates through a video feed. But Moe’s encounter with her establishes Moe as academically and philosophically sharp. She’s in over her head with someone of Magata’s towering academic stature, but she comes in confident and with a plan of action, and Magata notices.

Back in the present, Saikawa goes off somewhere, and a lady named Gido arrives whom Moe is pretty sure is her romantic competition, and her mood changes considerably as a result when Saikawa returns. She tries to hash it out with him, but is interrupted by another student, Kunieda.

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When Saikawa goes out to lunch, he invites Moe, who reveals she spoke to Magata, something Saikawa hasn’t done, despite his esteem for the famous professor. Magata also happens to be infamous, due to the allegations she murdered both of her parents (she tells Moe what she told authorities: “A doll did it,” but then she does look very doll-like).

Once again Moe’s alone time with Saikawa is disrupted by interlopers (students Hamanaka and Kushieda). But Moe exploits their presence to plan a trip to the very island where Magata self-exiled herself and now studies at her lab in seclusion. And so now we know “Where They’re Going.”

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Once there, they’re sure to learn more about Magata, who asked the big existential questions—and asked some of her own—when she was only five. Normally, that’d be an indication Magata now has a brain the size of a planet, were it not for Saikawa’s continuing assertion throughout the episode that everyone is born a genius, and grows progressively stupider as they age and learn to interact with others.

Magata, who is a hermit, may have avoided some of that society-driven degradation, and hence Saikawa considers everything he’s accomplished (and he’s a top young mind himself) to only be a drop in the ocean of Magata’s greatness. In other words, the perfect rival for Saikawa’s intellect, as well as Moe’s rival for Saikawa’s attention.

A quiet, mature, contemplative show about very smart adults, morality, mortality, intrigue, and a weird love triangle?—I like where Subete ga F ni Naru is. Will I like where it’s going?

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 01 (First Impressions)

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This is now the third “magic academy” anime we’ve come across this Fall. But unlike Zane’s two shows Rakudai and Asterisk, TG35 focuses less on school and more on the occupation they’re all training for: which amounts to witch-hunting and preventing the smuggling of magical items. It’s the most regimental, but also the most like a typical school anime in that the titular platoon is like a club, complete with a clubroom HQ where they hang out.

Naturally, this is a club of misfits, mocked as the “Small Fry Platoon” at their academy for racking up zero points in a half a year of ops. Their captain is the katana-wielding Kusanagi Takeru, Saionji Usagi is the girly sniper, and Suginami Ikaruga is the tech whiz. The trio becomes a quartet when they are joined by Ootori Ouka, a prodigy who’d already advanced to the rank of inquisitor, but has been recently knocked back to the bottom for killing prisoners.

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Under orders from the academy director (and her guardian), Ootori makes nice as best she can, and Kusanagi plugs her into an ambitious (for the 35th) interdiction operation, which is played straight and seems to be going quite well right up until Kusanagi gives Saionji the order to start sniping…

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…Which she does…into the wrong window. Instantly, we see why this platoon has zero points. Kusanagi ends up on the wrong end of several mafia handguns, but is able to halve their bullets with his sword. Halving bullets is a great skill, but halving bullets alone can’t get you points; for that, the whole platoon needs to hum like a well-oiled machine. No slip-ups, no emotional outbursts.

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There’s plenty of both on the op, as Saionji crumbles under pressure and Kusanagi almost lets the gangsters’ barbs get the best of him, while Suginami, back at HQ, is a non-factor. They only manage to salvage the op when Ootori puts it on her shoulders, taking out all the gangsters and even quickly, efficiently disabling the culprit’s stolen Inquisition mecha. The show then manages to get Kusanagi to grab Ootori’s boob when he trips on a shell casing (groan).

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The next day, Ootori dresses down the rest of the platoon (verbally, not literally), putting particular emphasis on Kusanagi being a disgrace of a leader. When they try to win her over with a welcoming party, she scolds them for goofing off. Kusanagi catches sight of her bleeding arm wound and flags her down, making it clear that however she feels, he is her comrade, and her captain, and they’re going to make this work, somehow.

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She brushes him off, but lets him accompany her to an op she was going to take on herself. It’s a good thing she doesn’t. Sure, she has to save Kusanagi from a booby trap, but his bullet-slicing comes in handy against the henchmen. Moreover, when Ootori discovers the appalling handiwork of their targets—buckets of children’s body parts, perhaps for necromancy—she loses her cool and is about to kill everyone in sight.

Only Kusanagi, her CO and comrade in spite of her protests, restrains her. He posits that if she exacts revenge in this way, she’ll never be an Inquisitor again, and there will be more victims. Then she reveals the reason for wanting revenge: witches killed her family.

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Kusanagi doesn’t pretend to know what she’s feeling—he’s only trying to become an Inquisitor because the pay is good and his family needs money, not revenge—but he won’t stop trying to understand, nor will he stop trying to be her comrade and captain no matter what, because that’s what they are. The words move her as outside, a witch-looking girl with glowing purple eyes looks on, apparently observing all.

So yeah, definitely the darkest (out of the gate) and most serious of the three magical academy shows RABUJOI is reviewing, and the second with a more-than-decent opening episode. Despite the familiar character types and unimaginative fanservice, there’s a degree of promise here, as long as you enjoy misfit-rising stories, which I myself happen to. It executes capably on action, character design (no one’s boobs are too big), and music (the ED theme in particular is pretty sweet). We’ll see!

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Kekkai Sensen – 12 (Fin)

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Life isn’t like a dream, to sit back and experience or be amazed when you find yourself able to take control. It’s a game; The Game, and it can’t be won unless you stand up, move forward, and play. This week Leo is at his lowest point, but thanks to the light and love of those he’s surrounded himself with, he’s able to deflect the more petty games of the King of Depravity (who lets him go, figuring he’ll get an entertaining show regardless), and starts is ascent back onto the real game board, where the objective is to save Black, White, and the World.

Good things come to those that wait, and after waiting the entire Summer for Blood Blade Battlefront to return with its 46-minute finale, I can report that they did a great job wrapping things up, sticking with the same themes of the previous eleven episodes: life and love; friendship and belonging; teamwork and cooperation, which prevail even on the darkest night since the First Collapse.

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As far as game boards go, Hellsalem’s Lot gets trashed this week, but the wide-scale destruction of HLC’s buildings and infrastructure underscore’s the show’s general apathy for those things. Things can be repaired, rebuilt, replaced. Not so with human souls. Of far more interest to the show is that the collection of souls we’ve watched thus far make it out of this tumult. The accounting of material collateral damage is, well, immaterial.

In fact, the only thing keeping total apocalypse at bay isn’t a wall or a dam or a generator; it’s a force field with will, located within White. That barrier is now failing, and Leo’s the only one who can save her, by freeing Black from his possession.

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Once Femt frees him, Leo heads upwards and forwards with this objective in mind, forsaking all other considerations. The thing is, all Hell is literally starting to break loose, including an army of zombies risen to spice things up.

Thankfully for Leo, his comrades at Libra have his back, his front, his top and bottom and his sides, as they utilize their unique skills to clear a path, all the while warning Leo in one way or another not to be too reckless; they’re not doing this so he can sacrifice himself, but so he can save the world and come back none the worse for wear.

This sequence of encounters with his comrades serves as a fitting way to give each of them a curtain call, since this is the finale and all.

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Meanwhile, at the church where Black/The King of Despair wait, Klaus is there to save Black from “himself”, or rather the entity possessing him. This takes all of Klaus’ not inconsiderable strength, but he buys just enough time to keep Black alive so that Leo can do what he has to do.

Earlier, Femt calls The King of Despair “Watchman”, as he has been around throughout human history, making sure there’s enough “nonsense” in the world to keep things interesting. That makes him responsible for a massive array of atrocity and yes despair, but were it not for him, Adam and Eve would never have left the Garden of Eden and grown; i.e. woken up from their dreams and started playing The Game.

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Then Leo confronts Black, uses his eyes—one of which was damaged getting there—and Black’s love for and devotion to White, to separate him from the King of Despair.

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Now that William is himself again and Mary is shaken out of her funk, the two reunite, and Will is able to use his innate power to fully repair, or rather rebuild, the city’s spiritual barrier, ending the crisis. When he does so, Mary disappears, which neither Will nor Leo are happy about, but she’ll always be in their hearts, and as she insisted, even a world without her physical presence continues to turn. In fact, it’s a world that wouldn’t be possible without her sacrifice.

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Once the barrier is restored, the process of rebuilding the city commences, and it isn’t long before life returns to “normal” for Leo and Libra, the kind of normal that isn’t normal anywhere else, but is nevertheless a normal Leo has not only gotten used to but come to love. As he writes his sister, he’s not quite done living and working in Hellsalem’s Lot, but it’s thanks to her light that he’s able to survive each day there.

After the credits, a man pinstriped suit picks up a coin and whistles the King of Despair’s familiar tune. The Watchman always comes back, and is always watching, and the game is always in progress. But as this finale’s events demonstrated, the human soul won’t be so easily defeated, as long as that soul faces the light and takes at least one step forward.

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