Divine Gate – 01 (First Impressions)

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Many years ago, Noriyuki Abe wasted no time drawing me into a world where a youth named after a berry, who looked like a delinquent to many around him, actually had a very kind and generous heart. He could also see and talk to ghosts, which is how he met his first shinigami; a very cute one who sucked at drawing.

I’m talking, of course, about Bleach, my first extended foray into serialized anime. There’s a lot of that same welcoming, beckoning quality coming off his latest work Divine Gateas well as its exploration of spirituality and mythology. It’s a hard feeling to put into words, but Active Raid didn’t have it; not for me at least. Divine Gate, like Bleach, did.

In DG the normal human world is just the normal human world, but there are two other worlds: a world of fairies and a world of demons. A few of those humans have elemental powers, and work under Arthur of the World Council either as full-fledged members or academy students like Akane and Midori.

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Then there’s Aoto, who’s clearly a powerful water-user, even without a power-enhancing driver, but wants nothing to do with the Council, despite Arthur’s believe his powers will help maintain peace between the three worlds. Instead of attending a school that will help him hone his powers, he’s at regular old school, where his peers shun him as the infamous “parent-killer.”

Even though most of Aoto’s early dialogue is internal (and quite flowery), the fact I can hear what he’s thinking is an effective way of drawing me into his world and his plight. He’s mopey and morose, but there are very good reasons for it.

Meanwhile, since this is a show about elements and colors, his moroseness is balanced by his would-be academy mates. Akane outwardly mocks Midori for actually believing in the titular “Divine Gate” that will grant any wish once opened with the power of all the elements, but somewhere in the heart of every student and Council member is a desire to encounter that gate, their individual wishes ready to go.

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Midori and Akane meet Aoto twice, but neither encounter goes particularly well. He’s got a wall up, one they don’t—and can’t—quite understand, anymore than they understand right now how a kid could really kill his parents—which Aoto freely admits when the subject comes up (though I’m not sure he’s being truthful).

But the flashback makes it clear: Aoto was the family pariah; his parents doting on the younger son while he was exiled to a shed in the backyard eating cold food. His brother knew of his plight, but also knew Aoto had the power to do something about it, so he did nothing, instead doing whatever he wanted.

So Aoto endured a thoroughly cold and loveless upbringing. Why exactly, we don’t know. The “rain” (his tears) continues to fall unendingly inside him. He doesn’t believe power can do anything, because he’s always had it and it’s never done him any good. But perhaps, with more interaction with other perspectives and elements, those inner clouds could break one day, and he’ll find that wish to be used at the Gate.

DG effortlessly drew me into its world; it’s a place I wouldn’t mind coming back to next week. Not sure about the show’s logo, though. Tilted Impact? Really?

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 01 (25)

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This third and final cour of Durarara!!x2 is subtitled Ketsu (結) Japanese for (among other things) “sintering” (compacting a solid mass without melting it) and Chinese for “knot.” (It can also mean “ass”, referring to the end of Dura2…but stay with me.)

We begin where Ten ended: Celty in her and Shinra’s apartment, which is full of random people, and she has no idea why they’re all there. That is the knot, the puzzle that is loosened and unraveled in this episode. On a larger scale, Ikebukuro itself has always been like a knot: a combination of disparate strings periodically tightening and loosening, with often surprising results.

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This episode follows the same pattern as most Dura episodes: a central narrator (this week Shinra) comments on all the various goings on. We dart from string to string in the Ikebukuro knot, from Mikado still mixed up with Aoba in an imminent war with the Yellow Scarves, a potential conflagration Aoba wants to keep Kururi and Mairu out of. Two cops under Saika’s control try to get rid of Heiwajima, but the motorcycle cop Kuzuhara frees him.

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It’s not easy when the only people in her house who aren’t certifiable are Igor and “the driver” (Togusa), Celty gradually learns their reasons for being there. Shingen and Igor descended on Seitarou and Kujiraji Kasane in gas masks to rescue Namie (using gas bomb that made the news in the process). Walker and Togusa are hiding out, as is Yagiri Seiji and Mika.

I must say there’s a great imaginative, insane energy to putting all these kooks together. Shingen, Emilia, Walker, Namie and Mika are each their own special blend of crazy, and knotting them together makes for interesting exchanges and reactions, none of which really help Celty get to the bottom of things.

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As for Izaya, who looked to be in bad shape last cour, was only pretending to be passed out as the Saika-controlled Sloan took him to a hideout of Izaya’s enemies. He had Sharaku and Kine follow Sloan, who he knows is under the influence of Kujiraji, not Niekawa or Anri.

The immediate puzzle of her many houseguests thus solved, Celty lays out her goal: to retrieve her head from Izaya and leave it in the care of Nebula (which Shingen and Emilia belong to). She’d rather they poke and prod it than leave Izaya to use it as a ball or vase; it’s a matter of pride and principle.

The crazies all unite right then and there to form a “guild” on Shinra’s suggestion in order to aid her, with his true reasoning being keeping his lover as minimally involved as possible in the head retrieval process, knowing that she and the Dollars, are at the very center of the storm brewing…which is, after all, nothing new.

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