AICO – 01 (First Impressions)

Implacable organic masses don’t tend to be the most compelling villains…but we’ll see

Thanks in no small part to streaming services like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, there’s just too damn much television to watch. And if Netflix has anything to say about it, there’s going to be too much anime as well. A.I.C.O.: Incarnation is a Bones-produced original anime tailor-made for Netflix-style binge watching.

That’s quite evident from this first episode, which unloads an awful lot (and jumps around multiple genres) but doesn’t settle on any one thing, yet moves around at a good enough clip to entice you to watch more, provided you don’t get immediately irritated by the number of cliches that unfold.

A Bridal Carry? That was quick.

Mind you, many conventional network-airing anime give you this same kind of kind of thrown-into-the-deep-end, action-packed pilot, but it’s very much intentional here. There’s bits and pieces of characters and story in AICO’s first outing, but not quite enough to be satisfied with just … one … episode. You really want to watch on.

“You aren’t…a stoic Gary Stu by any chance?”

But it’s fairly late, and I typically like to space things out for the sake of my eyes and sanity, so I’ll be watching one episode at a time, unless I can’t resist to watch more for some reason. In that regard, I think I’ll be safe; thus far the presentation of AICO is such that I’d probably benefit from a slight respite between episodes, even if it goes against the Netflix credo of simply sitting in the same place until an entire season is done.

NOT THE FACE

Oh, sorry, I haven’t said much about what AICO is about, just how I felt about watching it. Suffice it to say, there’s a huge threat to humanity in the form of some kind of formless ambulatory mass of gore called “matter” that consumes everything in its path. It’s believed their only hope against this scourge is Tachibana Aiko, who at first appears to be an ordinary high school girl gradually regaining the ability to stand and walk after some unspecified injury.

The reality, however, is that Aiko no longer possesses a natural body; hers is an extremely realistic, intricate, and above all tough artificial body, in which any bruises, blows or cuts are quickly healed. A rake to her face with a knife shatters the knife. This all comes as a shock to Aiko, who already has her plate full as the lone member of her family to survive some kind of calamity likely caused by the Matter.

As I said, the show moves relatively well, even if it moves a bit too much in one sitting; it’s decent-looking enough and the music is adequately atmospheric. Perhaps I’ll take another look or two soon…just not all at once, as prescribed.

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Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 10

Keeping Akira in a constant state of hot-and-botheredness was not sustainable, so I’m really enjoying how their relationship has evolved since The Hug. Akira exploits another opportunity to hang out with Masami as friends (a used book sale), and has no other designs other than to see him in a place where he feels at home, and learn a little more about him, and enjoy the nice weather. She’s not all that worried about whether it’s a date or not.

Masami happens to know one of the booksellers (he frequented his store back in the day) who of course assumes Akira is his daughter, but Akira is the one to correct him by calling them friends. The subject of two people knowing each other so well that they can communicate far more with fewer words, Akira resists the urge to call or text Masami when he wanders off into bookland.

Instead, she channels Victor Hugo by sending just a “?”. Since Masami just told her about the instance of Hugo and his publisher, she knows she can share a moment of knowing with Masami, which gives her no shortage of joy. No drama, no furiously burning flames of passion…just a nice day out together.

In another instance of sending a message with naught but a symbol, Akira eventually sends Haruka a signal she still cares by liking one of the track club posts…even if Akira herself seems to have moved past track, not wanting to undergo rehab to make a comeback.

Similarly, when Masami catches Chihiro on TV calling books and writing his “lover”, he can relate; it used to be his lover too, and he devoted nearly all his time to it, hurting his wife and son in the process. After going through some of his writings, he stuffs them back in the box and puts the box back on the shelf, not ready to chase the “one-sided love.”

The next day, Akira shows Masami the book she bought for herself at the sale, And Then by Soseki. It comes with a charming bookmark of a swallow holding a four-leaf clover, which reminds Masami of the swallow’s nest under the backdoor awning they had to get rid of because of the droppings.

Masami makes sure Akira understands they waited for all of the babies to leave the nest before doing so, which prompts Akira to ask what would have happened had one bird not made it from the nest; perhaps a metaphor for her being unable to join her trackmates, as well as Masami pondering giving writing up.

Masami replies that such a bird may still be able to find some happiness, and even forget about the others, but hopes that the bird wouldn’t regret giving up, lest it keep looking wistfully up at the sky, pondering what might have been.

He apologizes for rambling on, but Akira thanks him for his words, and wants to hear more of them, and perhaps one day read them as well. Akira is signalling to him that it’s okay to keep that dream of writing alive, that perhaps the forgiveness he so obviously seeks isn’t as out of reach as he thought.

Violet Evergarden – 10

Anne is of the age where she still plays with dolls, and is both troubled and intrigued when a life-size one arrives. Of course, Anne equates Auto Memoir Dolls with the ones she plays with, so for the duration of Violet’s seven-day contract, Anne believes she is not only a doll, but bad news as well.

The reason she is deemed “bad news” is simple. Anne may be young, but she knows all is not well with her ill, oft-bedridden mother. Now that Violet has arrived, all of the time Anne wants to spend with her mom is being taken by Violet, who ghostwrites letters of and for which the content and recipients remain frustrating mysteries to Anne.

When she witnesses her mother collapse once more while working with Violet, Anne has had enough, and confronts her mother with the truth of which she’s already aware; that her mom’s time grows short, and that she wants to spend what is left of it together.

Anne runs off, but Violet catches up, and impresses upon her the futility of Anne blaming herself or believing she can do anything about it. As Violet puts it, just as nothing can make her arms have soft skin like Anne’s, nothing can be done about her mother’s illness.

What follows this emotionally harrowing seven-day encounter is nothing less than the full realization of Violet Evergarden’s talent and skill, made possible by her own ability to step out of the role of the “toy” and be her own “player”, borrowing the terms Anne used when she still thought Violet was an actual doll.

All along, the letters Anne’s mom wrote weren’t for some distant people who didn’t even have the decency to pay her a visit in her final days; they were always only for Anne. Holding back tears for the duration of her contract, Violet wrote letters to Anne from her mother, to be delivered once a year for the next fifty years.

In a masterful montage of those years spanning from her tenth to twentieth birthdays, we see the insecure, clingy, doll-clutching Anne grow into a fine young woman, fall in love, get married, and have a kid.

Each year, her mom is right there, Violet having provided her with the means to live on through the letters, reminding her beloved daughter that no matter how far away she might be, loved ones will always watch over you.

It’s as moving a story as any Violet Evergarden has shared, and my favorite so far. Now that she’s emerged from the shadows of her past, we can now see just how exceptional an Auto Memoir Doll Violet really is.