AICO – 10 – Explanations Give Way to Emotions

While “AICO” is off communing with “Aiko”, Sagami decides that his team will help Yura carry out the mission by helping him return AICO’s artificial brain with the Matter. In doing so, he basically concedes that AICO is an artificial being and thus expendable, or at least her sacrifice is instrumental in ending the Burst.

Kazuki isn’t okay with that. Artificial brain or not, he’s fallen for AICO, which Kazuki says is “based on a misunderstanding.” But just because Yura created AICO doesn’t make him the arbiter of who and what can and should be preserved.

While looking for AICO, Yura ends up engulfed by a Human-form Matter, which turns out to be controlled by Yuzuha. She recreates the mountains they once visited to beg him to help her find her body.

All this time, she’s been reaching out to the humans—not AICO—in order to make a human connection. Her body is at the hospital with her father, but she has no scientific data or even anecdotal information for Yura to use to be able to science a way to save her. It’s a very unfortunate situation all ’round.

Meanwhile, AICO makes contact with her real-brained counterpart in the purple/pink Matter. Aiko heard Isazu’s address, and knows an attack from the military is imminent. To that end, she asks AICO to find her family and get them out of harm’s way ASAP.

What about Aiko herself? She believes her “time is up”, and that there’s no longer any time to save her family and herself; and given a choice between the two, there is no choice. She resolves to suppress the Matter as much as she can to facilitate the task she gives AICO.

More interestingly, while existing as the Matter, she felt like she began to lose herself, but has been able to hold onto herself due entirely to her Dream Contact with AICO. Her artificial duplicate has lived her life in her stead, and she’s been able to watch and feel everything she’s felt, the good and bad, thus keeping her human.

AICO doesn’t like the idea of leaving Aiko behind, but ultimately she accedes to her wishes and hurries to where her mother and little brother are being held in stasis.

The resulting emotional reunion is an austere yet surprisingly powerful scene the show successfully earned. Artificial or not, AICO is pretty much Aiko, and rescuing her family has always been a higher priority han rescuing herself.

As the Divers deal with the increasingly dormant Matter, Aiko manages to free Yura from a panicked Yuzuha’s grasp, and Yura races to the cocoon, just as AICO takes her leave of her family. From the look of her, she seems particularly resolved to doing something that will probably result in her own sacrifice.

After all, while Aiko’s need for AICO to act in her place to save her family is all well and good, nothing about those wishes addresses the issue of the Matter itself. Will Aiko or AICO have to die to end it, or is there still a way to reunite them, which could also reunite Yuzuha with her body?

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Nil Admirari no Tenbin – Teito Genwaku Kitan – 01 – A Cursed Tome Frees a Caged Bird (First Impressions)

The intense first cold open of Nil Admirari no Tenbin, depicting people committing suicide while cops chase down a guy with a book, did not impress me as much as the opening sequence, with its catchy club beat and stage show extravaganza milieu.

I have a soft spot for OPs and EDs in which the cast “puts on a show” (see also Soremachi and the ending of Kekkai Sensen’s first season). But I’ll admit I also worried this was one of those shows whose OP writes checks the show itself can’t cash (DRAMAtical Murder’s Goatbed-led OP was outstanding; the show was a snooze).

Fortunately, after getting pumped up by the OP, I wasn’t let down by the briskly moving story centered on Kuze Tsugumi, the eldest daughter in an aristocratic Taishou Era family in dire financial straits. Tsugumi has known for a while that in order to save her family she must marry whomever her father can scrounge up. Her little brother Hitaki echoes the suppressed voice in her head saying “what about what you want?”

Tsugumi is short with Hitaki, whom she admits she’s spoiled too much anyway, but when she returns from town with olive branches including a new book and eclairs, she and the family butler find him doused in oil, lighting himself on fire while holding a book.

Fortunately, Hitaki isn’t killed, but his burns require isolation to heal (considering the era, I’m somewhat surprised he survived). Tsugumi and her butler are approached by two hotties in unusual uniforms, which is because the’re from an unusual bureau:  the Imperial Library Intelligence Asset Management Bureau, or simply Fukurou (though I personally kinda like “ILIAMB”.

The men from Fukurou explain that Tsugumi’s brother likely fell victim to a “cursed tome”, a handwritten Japanese-style book containing the emotions—in this case suicidal-by-fire—of its author. When the butler brings the men the book Hitaki was holding when he self-immolated, Tsugumi is shocked to find it has flames emanating from it…but no one else can see them.

The more forward of the two guys, Ozaki Hayato, tells Tsugumi that she’s one of a very rare number of people who can see the “auras” around cursed books, and begs her to join Fukurou right then and there. After the incident with Hitaki her father postpones her marriage, so Tsugumi decides to take the job, essentially being freed from the birdcage of her destiny by cursed tome that nearly killed her brother. She also aims to help stop further incidents form occurring to others.

As the sultry parade-of-shirtless-dudes ED suggests, Tsugumi is not only pivoting from family bargaining chip to empowered modern working woman—an interesting premise in and of itself—but is also an unmarried woman joining a bureau staffed by mostly unmarried men. So we’ve got ourselves an otome anime with a reverse harem. I’m willing to see where this goes for the time being.

Persona 5 the Animation – 01 – You Meddling Yet Stylish Kids (First Impressions)

Amamiya Ren has a lot going on. After a casino heist that goes perfectly according to plan…until it doesn’t, he finds himself arrested, his mugshot taken, and thrown in an interrogation room where he’s beaten and drugged.

Finally, something of an advocate arrives in Niijima, who assures him no one else in his crew was caught, but if he wants safety she’ll need honest answers to questions about the reason for the heists, along with what he knows about the “other world”, and how its possible to “steal hearts.”

Then a blue butterfly descends and informs Ren that while he’s a “prisoner of fate” whose future has been all but sealed, there’s still a slight hope of victory if he meets certain conditions regarding the “memories of his bonds” and the “promise of the truth” he and his friends tried to achieve.

That’s all painfully vague gobbledygook if you’re neither a dedicated Persona fan or haven’t played the Persona 5 RPG, being spouted from a butterfly, talking to an MC who is defined not by any outwardly discernible personality traits but simply by the circumstances that unfold around him and the choices he makes within them (in other words, the generic RPG protagonist).

I’m no Persona expert, so I came into this fully prepared not to know much about who anyone is or what the heck was going on, but I feel a perspective neither informed nor influenced by the source material to be useful in assessing whether an anime adaptation can stand on its own as entertainment.

In that regard, Persona 5 The Animation has its appeal. The production, led by A-1 studios, is clean, crisp, and vivid. The setting is confident; the Tokyo it depicts feels like a real, churning metropolis in which individuals can easily get lost and where reality itself may bend just around a corner. The soundtrack contributes to the immersive experience.

If I were to guess, the person who stops a man from assaulting a woman in a brief flashback just before the six month rewind was the incident that got Ren in trouble and kicked out of his own school. He’s gotten a year of probation, and during that time, an old geezer named Sakura who runs a cafe of the same name has offered him a room to live during that time.

All Ren has to do is keep his head down and his nose clean for that year and he will be back on the path to respectable adulthood.

Naturally, our Prisoner of Fate has trouble staying out of trouble, thanks to a suspicious red app icon appears on his phone, which he opens to reveal the otherworld that exists in the same space as the ordinary one. He also dreams of the Velvet Room (which is in the form of a prison), and meets briefly meets a gobliny dude, Igor, whom I remembered from P4.

Additionally, the new school he’s attending has a gym teacher who is not a good guy, even if one of Ren’s female classmates has no trouble accepting a ride from him. Ren also meets a blonde male classmate who spouts a bunch of stuff about kings and castles, which the weird app on Ren’s phone records.

Before long, the two classmates are in a castle, locked up in a cell, and ordered to be executed by the castle’s king, the gym teacher in an utterly ridiculous get-up. When the “king” tries to kill the blond guy, Ren has a choice: run or fight, and after some hand-wringing, decides to fight (naturally), summoning his Persona, Arsene.

Because I had almost identical impressions to this first episode as the 00 preview special “The Day Breakers”, I’ll simply repeat my verdict from that review, in keeping with P5’s penchant for timing back and forth through time:

Watchable and mildly diverting, but all surface. I can imagine myself spending dozens of hours as the bespectacled protagonist in the P5 RPG; I could even probably watch a good portion of its anime adaptation, should it get a full cour or two down the road. I’m just…not sure I either need or want to.

Basically, as good as the show looks and sounds, there’s not quite enough to keep a non-Persona fan/player like me around. Your mileage may vary.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 13 – Meiling It In

After cheerleading practice, Sakura gets a surprising phone call from Meiling announcing that she has arrived in Japan. Since this is my first foray into CCS such an arrival means less to me than those who’ve watched the franchise in its entirety, but despite not knowing much about her or her past exploits with the other characters, she’s still a welcome and refreshing (re-)addition to Sakura’s circle of friends.

Rather than stay with her cousin Syaoran, Meiling decides to stay at Sakura’s permission for which she receives from Sakura’s dad over the phone, using such polite and formal language she shocks her old friend.

While Sakura’s brother stays at Yukito’s, avoiding answering questions about whether his powers are returning, Meiling and Sakura make delectable homemade gyoza, while Meiling and Kero square off multiple times, requiring Sakura to play peacemaker.

After helping Sakura dry her hair (resulting in a slightly different, more refined look), Meiling gets Sakura (a “natural airhead”) to open up about Syaoran. Sakura knows that Syaoran is hiding something, but also trusts him enough to believe if it were something he should and could tell her, he would, or will when he’s ready. I hope her trust isn’t misplaced.

As for Akiho, she continues to read from the tome of stories, one of which depicts a girl who grew cat ears and a tail—which is precisely what Sakura sees Meiling growing at various moments before they go to bed. She and Meiling chalk it up to Sakura simply being half-asleep and seeing things, but it’s clear the ears and tail are not only real, but something being instigated by Akiho, seemingly at the behest of her watch-wearing butler.