Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 01 (First Impressions)

The premise couldn’t be simpler: two girls on a bike in a world of nothing. They are, as far as they know, the only living souls left in that world; the rest is in darkness and ruins. Yuuri and Chito are their names. The more serious, reserved Chito drives the Kettenkrad half-track motorcycle; the more Yuuri rides along and carries a rifle.

Ever since they were thrust out of their home (which looked on the verge of falling to an unknown enemy force), they’ve had no direction except towards fuel and food; no directive except survival. And somehow, for an unknown period of time, they have managed to survive.

Their stomachs are always growling. They’re often cold, though warmer when huddled together. Food is never plentiful. They’ve been meandering through the darkness of a vast system of underground spaces for so long, that when they finally find themselves back outside, they’re blinded…by the starry sky, full of shooting stars.

They also behold a sprawling landscape of ruined, snow-covered civilization. These are kids, and they mess around and get on each others’ nerves, even as they work together to survive. They seem almost blind to the destruction and have perhaps compartmentalized the fact the two of them are all they have and possibly all they’ll ever have.

Things get a bit testy when they find a chest full of chocolate-covered ration biscuits that come five to a pack. Yuuri, the one with the rifle, unexpectedly turns that rifle on the unarmed-by-choice Chito, taking the fifth biscuit for herself. Even though they escaped and survived a larger war, the war to stay alive wages between the two of them, and one day one biscuit may make all the difference.

Chito is pissed, beating Yuuri up as punishment, and Yuuri seems to laugh off the incident, but it sure didn’t seem like a silly joke at the time. It seemed like a petty thing to do when they had a whole box of biscuits, especially considering a warm Chito to drive the bike and sleep beside (rather than a cold corpse) is surely more important to survival as the difference between three biscuits and two and a half.

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Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 01 (First Impressions)

Kekkai Sensen returns with quite a few literal bangs, launching straight back into high gear in a feverishly action-packed opening salvo; a colorful ballet of bizarre blink-and-you’ll-miss it sights.

In the middle of all this chaos is Leonardo Watch, delivering pizzas as Femt unleashes a swarm of vicious flesh-eating monsters on Hellsalem’s Lot; a swarm the superpowered agents of Libra quickly pacify…while yelling the longwinded names of special moves over one another. Klaus von Reinherz is always good for an epic coup-de-grace, and we get one in the very first minutes. Sometimes more is more.

Leo finally has a home all his own, and is about to fire up his much-awaited (and very expensive) X-Station Double X video game sconsole when his pals Zapp and Zed toss a metal box through his window containing none other than the disembodied head of American Presidential Envoy Franz Ackerman, who far calmer about being just a head than I would be.

Within a few minutes of meeting Ackerman(‘s head) Leo finds himself caught up in another multi-vector, high-powered battle between the various criminal factions after the head, and his new home and video game console are destroyed. IN the first episode. Poor guy. Fortunately, he’s got powerful friends who are more than a match for his pursuers.

All Leo has to do is keep running towards Federal Hall, where Ackerman’s address will take place, and Libra takes care of him. That’s easier said than done, as the constant outrageous attempts on his life by more and more dangerous monsters and artillery take their toll on Leo’s psyche until he’d rather simply curl up in a ball.

It’s Ackerman, who again, is a head relieved of his body, who manages to instill a sense of hope and duty in Leo, asserting that “willingly backing down while any possibility remains is unreasonable beyond reason!”

Leo borrows his co-worker’s pizza delivery bike, head and body are reunited, the address promotion rapprochement between the two worlds takes place, and Libra can score another victory in maintaining balance. Unfortunately, Leo doesn’t get reimbursed by the government for his lost home and video games, as Acky promised. Hey, politicians can inspire, but they also often lie to achieve their ends!

It’s a rousing return to one of my favorite series in recent years, owing to it’s strangeness, its bizarre beauty, its bumping soundtrack, and its wide storytelling potential. More of this, please!