One Punch Man – 05

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No bad guys to fight this week; just a Hero Association registration exam to complete. Saitama’s peers snicker at him right up until he demolishes all of the records during his fitness testing. Watching Saitama snap from dopey blank look to serious glare is always a delight, and the way he took those tests around the corner and had his way with them made for some hilarious images, particularly the vertical jump. Why whack-a-mole?

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Unfortunately, there’s a written test too, and Saitama doesn’t do to well on that. Genos gets a 50/50 in both tests, and assumes from the top of the letter in Saitama’s packet that he’ll be joining him in the rarefied Class-S, but it’s just a lowly Class-C. His subsequent analysis of the letter only gets Saitama madder.

Meanwhile, Genos’ special rookie exception attracts the attentino of a blue-haired fellow hero. Saitama and Genos meet the goofy Class-A hero Snek (not “Snake!”), but Saitama couldn’t care less what the man has to say, preferring to see how big a bubble he can blow with his gum (another riotously funny image).

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Now that he’s Class-S, Genos wants to try his hand at Saitama once more, to see how far he has to go to reach his master’s level. In a vast, abandoned empty space, the two go to town, with Genos unleashing his entire arsenal at Saitama without managing to touch a hair on his–I-I mean, touch his head.

Genos insists Saitama stop fooling around and fight him seriously, but Saitama stops an inch short of his face on a “serious” punch, his trademark One Punch, and then suggests they go to lunch. Genos, suddenly a little paler than a moment ago, saw the murderous intent in that punch, and knows what would have happened if it had landed.

It’s a frustrating exchange for Genos, who can’t see a scenario in which he’d ever come close to Saitama’s power. But unlike Saitama himself, he does want to figure out the secret of that power (stubbornly refusing to believe it was just moderately strenuous training). But Genos does end up beating Saitama…in a giant udon bucket eating contest.

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Then the blue-haired hero, Amai Mask, finally tracks Genos down and talks to him. Being at the top of Class-A, Genos shot one spot above Amai, and he seems a little miffed by that. Still, it’s only a friendly-ish welcome chat, and Amai is soon off to his penthouse. But the power of his celebrity leaves a lasting impression on the other patrons of the restaurant, and just by being seen with Amai, Genos gets the attention and admiration of everyone, including cute girls.

So both Genos and Saitama were frustrated this week. Genos with the seemingly unclimbable heights to approach his master’s strength; Saitama with being underrated and undervalued by the HA, as well as by Genos deciding to move in with him. Once Saitama gets jobs and completes them quickly and forcefully, I wonder if he’ll actually rise in HA, or continually fall victim to technicalities.

Indeed, after failing to secure a salaryman job, Saitama is now entering employment under a large corporation. Now that being a hero is a job and not just something he does for fun, will he feel even more stifled and unfulfilled, or will he become a celebrity and get fulfillment through the love of his fans? We shall see.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 05

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There’s a wonderful sense of anticipation and occasion on the eve of Tekkadan’s first space mission, as warm moments like Aina joining Mika on his night watch, or Atra enlisting as Tekkadan’s cook for the journey, are tinged with foreboding when Orga shakes hands with Orcus, a man we know he doesn’t trust as far as he can throw him.

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Traps and betrayals await Tekkadan in low orbit, with Todo cutting a deal with Orcus, who gets betrayed by Orcus, who cut a deal with Coral, who himself made a deal with Fareed in the apprehension of Kudelia. And at the end of the day, youth and smarts beat age and greed.  Todo’s treachery has been so blatantly telegraphed, it was all but inevitable his plan would be foiled by somebody; the fact Orga doesn’t have to lift a finger for it to happen is icing on the cake.

So Todo, and later Coral, aren’t just old villains, they’re bad, dumb villains that the show disposes of as soon as it can. In the villain vaccum comes Fareed, who like Mika on the other side is a different kind of animal. The beautifully-oiled gears are always spinning beneath his golden locks. Fareed doesn’t mug for the camera get bent out of shape; he twirls his hair, playing the long game.

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And as predictable as Todo’s failed betrayal was, the fact the show was very coy indeed about what if any countermeasures Orga had was nicely hidden beneath the more predictable surface. Orga doesn’t even tell most of his comrades what he has in store for Aina’s would-be apprehenders: Mika in the Gundam (wearing a flight suit too), and a game Akihito arriving right on time with Tekkadan’s ship.

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We’ve been waiting five weeks for IBO’s first space battle, and it doesn’t disappoint. Is there rampant, obvious CGI? Nope, just hand-drawn (or at least hand-drawn looking) mechas rockin’-sockin’ it could with maces, axes, swords, and bullets. And just when we thought Mika was good in atmospheric combat, we see he’s even better once he has the omnidirectionality of space in which to work.

The action is beautifully and tautly directed, and it’s easy to know what’s going on where at all times, without dumbing it down. There are also a good number of Gundam cockpit shots, and thankfully the pilots can speak to each other on the radio.

As his Gjallarhorn opponents get more and more pissed off, Mika just maintains his cool—but not cold—demeanor. He’s got a job to do, everyone’s depending on him, and he’s going to do it. His constant calm, and the power of those convictions, carry with them their own brand of ferocity.

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It’s fitting then, that Fareed, who really secured his position as most serious, interesting and complex antagonists in IBO, remains equally calm and collected this week. The lack of bluster or panic or desperation makes him all the more formidable a foe.

One of Fareed’s best lines of dialogue this week is a little cheesy and meta, but I still absolutely loved it: when the ship’s database confirms Tekkadan’s trump is a Gundam from the Calamity War, he points out how appropriate that is, since Gundams always seem to pop up and make significant contributions at key turning points throughout human history, and with a Martian independence movement gaining strength, this Barbatos has risen up once more to defend the underdog, in this case Kudelia.

What’s also so great is that his little speech didn’t just fire me, up, but it fired him up, to the point he heads out in his own upgraded Graze to join the fray. His opponent is a legend, and finally, a legitimate chance to test his mettle and prove his greatness.  Very good stuff.

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As Mika is dancing with the mobile suits, the Orcus and Gjallarhorn capital ships bear down on Tekkadan’s. They need a big maneuver to escape: enter a mining asteroid they tether to using some good old-fashioned, quick-and-dirty, NASA-style improvisation. Someone has to cut the tether loose at the right moment to send the ship flying safely away from the enemy.

It’s a suicidal mission, so Orga prepares to take it on, but in a nice bit of character development Eugene (for all intents and purposes his XO) volunteers in his stead, insiting the captain should just “sit around and look important.”

It’s a reminder that even though he’s pissed Orga kept the ship secret from him, he still has ample faith and respect in Orga’s command. It also reminds us Orga is still getting used to being the top dog; which sometimes requires delegating, or sending people out you know might not come back.

The thrilling tether swing-around works like a charm, even when the initial blast doesn’t cut the cord. On its way out of orbit on onwards to Earth, they don’t forget to pick up Mika, who destroyed Coral and got a good lick in on Gaelio. The whole time, Fareed was carefully analyzing Mika’s movement, and came away impressed.

Orga and Eugene also make peace, lessening considerably my previous worries Eugene would try to make a move against him. We’ve got a lot of Gundam left, so that could still happen down the road, but for now, they’re buds.

Oh, and yes, Mika’s fine. No adverse side-effects from all that space combat, either mental or physcial. Having both Aina and Atra aboard is a good move, not just for the triangle, but because they represent everything Mika has to lose if things go south.

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The final kiss-off from Tekkadan is shipping a beaten and marked Todo to Gjallarhorn in an escape pod. No more Todo blatantly undermining Tekkadan in the shadows. Fareed lost this round, but he didn’t come away empty-handed (and I’m not talking about Todo): he got to observe his enemy closely, and will be more prepared for him the inevitable next time.

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Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 05

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Oshutaru/Ukon has taken a shine to Haku and Kuon, to the extent that he assigns them the very open-ended, important misssion of protecting the capital and the people “in his place”, which assumes he’s busy with other matters. Haku and Kuon are intrigued, and a big sack of money cements their acquiescence.

Haku then embarks on a strenuous cycle of manual labor by day and learning to read and write by night. Nekone is surprised to find how quickly he learns, but also comes to understand why her big brother is so interested in him.

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Just when Haku is at the end of his tether, Kuon awards him a day off for all of his hard work. Unfortunately, the same day he has off is the day one Atui-sama, daughter of Soyankekuru-sama, the Ouro of Shahharo, decides to run away from home seeking love.

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Atui may be a bit naive, but she’s a good enough character to trust Haku, who is indeed a good sport as he shows her around the city, all while she’s being hunted by Kiuru, an acquaintance of Nekone tasked with bringing Princess Atui home (though the arrows suggest a dead-or-alive scenario).

Hara Yumi, who also voiced Albedo in Overlord, brings a very distinctive affectation to the royal yet rebellious (and flirtatious) Atui. And whether by accident or by intention, Haku does manage to keep her safe.

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At the same time, Atui wrongly assumes Haku and Kuon are a couple; they are, but not the romantic type. Interestingly, Haku doesn’t seem to want to get involved with anyone, from Kuon and Rurutie to Atui.

When Kiuri, Atui, and the others meet up to discuss things, Atui decides to return home; she doesn’t wish to cause more trouble for anyone. She thanks Haku for a fun day beyond the palace walls.

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When Haku meets with Ukon, he tells him about a rumor spreading across the capital of “a man who hears the people’s voices, no matter how small.” Those rumors are actually about Haku, performing good deeds for his fellow capital-dwellers, while gradually gaining renown in return.

Haku agrees to go along with Ukon’s plan and be “The Righteous Man”, at least until a better-paying job shows up. Then Atui moves into the same inn where Haku and Kuon are staying. He may not know quite who he is (or was), but his allies continue to multiply.

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