Cop Craft – 01 (First Impressions) – LAPD Meets Last Exile

In an illegal drug deal gone wrong, San Teresa Police Detective Sergeant Matoba Kei’s partner Rick is killed gruesomely by an “alien”, i.e. an inhabitant from the alternate world beyond the hyperspace gate that opened up in the Pacific Ocean.

Oh, and it wasn’t a drug deal, though it could have been interpreted that way from the atmosphere and the nature of the dialogue. No, the dealers were trying to sell a fairy in a jar, and one of them isn’t even human, or may have been being controlled like a puppet by a wizard.

After tragically losing his partner of four years, Kei is understandably pissed off. When three roughs from the other side try to extort money for spitting on his car, he deals with them in quick succession, then gets to what’s probably the hardest phone call he’s ever made: to Rick’s wife.

Kei’s CO orders him home to write his report and get some rest, even though he’s far more interested in tracking down the thug who killed Rick and exacting revenge. Still, he obeys orders, comes home (where apparently he needs to wear a dust mask) and feeds his cat, before getting a call telling him he’ll be going on a trip to the gate to pick up a VIP.

What had been subtle little otherwordly changes in the details of ordinary police work becomes a full-on scene out of a Studio Ghibli movie as a massive, ornate Farbanian ship rendezvouses with the far more modest Earth naval vessel. The blue sky darkens to a smoky gray, and a rope ladder is quickly dropped and then raised.

Kei doesn’t even notice at first his VIP is there; she’s quick and tiny, and looks like a child. But she’s not, she’s Tirana Exedirika, an anointed “Knight of Mirvor,” and the show’s finest example yet of Range Murata’s art-deco-y character design work. She’s also extremely arrogant, and doesn’t think much of this lowborn cop with only two names (she has a lot more, but often shortens it to two).

Then comes the kicker: this “kid” is Kei’s new partner, as part of a larger cooperation between the UN and her government, the Kingdom of Farbani. Neither Kei nor Tirana are particularly enthused based on their first impressions of each other. But Kei’s boss says if she wants to find her missing VIP fairy, he’s the best cop for the job, personality be damned.

It’s clearly the first time Tirana’s been in the human world, because she can’t help but be intrigued by all of the little buttons and levers all over the place. Of course, when that lever is a handbrake it causes a few moments of utter chaos…but she blames Kei’s driving. (I also got a kick out of her asking what a “Ridgeline” is—it’s a Honda!)

Tirana follows Kei into a girls club run by an informant, O’Neill, and when the bouncer tries to bar her way, she draws her sword, snips his tie, and re-sheathes her sword in the blink of an eye, earning access beside Kei. Here it’s clear that many humans are so distrustful of the others beyond the gate that they don’t even want them around.

As for Tirana, she can’t believe Kei is going to believe the word of a thief. It’s clear she comes from a much more black-and-white system of justice back in Farbani; as Kei succinctly puts it, justice is a lot more complicated in the human world than it was, say, five hundred years ago. Part of that means yes, the cops work with some criminals in order to get to worse criminals.

When Kei and Tirana reach the building where the Mexican gang connected to the fairy smuggling is believed to be, Tirana can smell the latena from someone controlled by a wizard, warning them that there’s trouble ahead. But when the elevator doors open, she says an incantation, transforms into battle mode, and rushes straight into that trouble. Then the guns start blazing, and Kei grabs her and leaps behind a couch for cover. To Be Continued…

There’s a lot to like here. The cop-show cliches are all there, but tweaked just enough by the otherworldly details. Kei is just a normal-looking dude but is voiced by the wonderful Tsuda Kenjirou and his unique blend of pissed-off and apathetic. Tirana is awesome-looking, and Yoshioka Mayu does a good job giving her a sharp edge to compliment Murata’s clean, soft lines (the flubbing of human words and names is also a nice touch). And while there are only short bursts of action this week, they’re very well-animated. A definite must watch!

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Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest – 01 (First Impressions) – The Pit of Misery, Dilly Dilly!

Arifureta doesn’t bother with any light-hearted introductions or explanations into how Nagumo Hajime and his class ended up transported to a new, fantastical world, it simply plops us right beside him as he wallows in an abyss of despair. He’s weak, ineffectual, and his only magical skill is transmuting the rock in his immediate vicinity.

He was underleveled way further up in this labyrinth; now he’s prey for prey. When a giant polar bear-like monster with a tanuki face slices his left arm off and eats it, he retreats into a cavern of his own making and passes out under a healing holy crystal, bleeding and waiting for death.

Then and only then do we get some insight into how he ended up in this situation: he was on a quest in the labyrinth when a careless classmate touched something that transported them to a far more dangerous level.

He manages to save his classmate Kaori from a rampaging behemoth, but while the others cover his escape, one of them targets him directly, sending him plummeting into the abyss where we first meet him.

Kaori, who may not see Hajime as a love interest but still looks out for him, warns him not to come on the quest after she has an awful dream about him meeting his doom, but he convinces her to help protect him, and he’ll be alright.

Turns out her dream was prescient, but when Hajime wakes up in the abyss, in pain but still not dead, he decides to change his tune and pump himself up into Survival At All Costs Mode. First, he drinks holy water, then he captures a smaller monster and eats its raw meat, which ends up poisoning him and turning his hair white.

But that’s not all: in addition to his badass hair, Hajime’s muscle mass and stats have all increased, and he’s gained the skill of the monster he ate. Much like Rimuru Tempest when he first arrived in a new world as a Slime, Hajime uses the ample resources around him to continue leveling up and build weapons that will let him defeat ever more powerful foes.

It’s a very A-leads-to-B-leads-to-C procedural process, but one thing’s for sure, Hajime’s seiyu Fukamachi Toshinari stops sounding so annoyingly whiny and adopts a cooler voice to go with his cooler appearance and upgraded skill-set. It’s as if he had to fall into the deepest abyss (and get betrayed by a classmate) in order to awaken the will to become a stronger person in this world.

Armed with a pistol and grenade, Hajime locates the bearlike monster who ate his arm, and utilizes all of his new skills to tear its arm off and eat it, then puts a bullet between its eyes. Hajime is no longer messing around; he’s going to survive and get home, and he’ll kill anyone “in his way.”

Isekai shows are like American crossover vehicles: there are a lot of them, and most of them are exactly the same, but still others are actually good. I’m not quite sure what Arifureta is quite yet, but it at least distinguished itself nicely by putting us right beside a protagonist who had already literally hit rock bottom.

Aside from some glimpses of his elaborately kitted-out classmates and the awakening of a starving, red-eyed Loli, this was a stripped-down and minimalist outing that focused on one young man shrugging off death and despair and improving himself to the point he can climb out of the darkness.

I’ll see where he leads…especially since Youjo Senki taught me the dangers of passing judgment on a show after its first episode.

Hensuki – 01 (First Impressions) – A Short Leash

Kiryuu Keiki gets to hang out with three cute girls in the Shodou Club (four if you count his imouto, which he doesn’t), but he wants a girlfriend. So imagine his shock when he finally receives a love letter from a secret admirer…along with a pair of underwear.

From there, Keiki tries to investigate which of the three girls (excluding his sister) could be the “Cinderella” to his Prince: the cool, mature senpai Sayuki (Taketatsu Ayana), the adorable blonde kohai Yuika (Hidaka Rina) or the approachable classmate Mao (Nomizu Iori).

In his interactions, the girls exhibit what could be construed as signals indicating they are the culprit, in addition to having feelings for Keiki beyond mere friendship, but nothing concrete until Sayuki happily accepts a date offer he accidentally makes when thinking out loud.

When he asks Sayuki straight up if “she has a secret” she’s not telling him about, she flees, and spends the entire next day at school very obviously avoiding him. Mao suggests he employ the “wall slam” tactic (much more effective in anime than IRL), which he does when he spots her walking home.

He tells her he knows her secret (assuming its the note and underwear); when she asks if that means he dislikes her now, he tells her it’s quite the opposite; after the initial shock, he was glad. Mind you, he makes no mention of what he’s talking about.

The next day, Keiki reports to the clubroom as requested, Sayuki makes him close his eyes, and when he opens them, she’s wearing a collar and leash,  exposed her bra, and asking to be Keiki’s pet. That’s when Keiki knows he’s in for something a lot stranger than he bargained for!

Hensuki is another show that would probably benefit from being 12-13 minutes instead of double that; the “investigation” drags on too long even if it’s also meant to introduce the main players. While a decent-looking, this show is utterly by-the-numbers and generic except for the twist at the end, which doesn’t definitively answer the question of who gave him their underwear.

This will be the story of a guy whose female acquaintances each have their own unique kinks, which they’ll reveal to him because he’s a kind and understanding dude. It is notable that the show so far exhibits a particularly soft touch when it comes to its ecchi element. But where this goes from here—and whether and how the premise can be sustained for 12 episodes—very much remains to be seen.