Psycho-Pass – 09

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What sets Psycho-Pass apart from just about everything else I’m watching at the moment is the uncanny deftness and elegance with which it expresses its ideas and themes. It also helps that while the bad guys are, by most conventional appraisals, evil sadistic bastards, and yet they’re anything but boring. This is a show that possesses the very charisma the show defines: It has the nature of a hero or prophet; an ability to make you feel good when you’re watching it, and the intelligence to talk about all sorts of things.

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That three-part definition is offered by Ex-Professor Saiga, who once lectured both Kogami and Gino, and whose lectures were shut down when the hues of many of his students—all inspectors-in-training—started to get cloudy, turning them into latent criminals by Cybil’s standards. Kogami brings Akane (or rather, Akane allows Kogami to take her) to Saiga to meet him and learn from him, if only a little bit in a short time. After all, Kogami is the detective he is because he learned a lot from Saiga, so if you want to be a good detective, any exposure to him is a good thing.

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That seems to be what Akane wants. Her household AI jests that she’s preparing as if she were going on a date, and it is a date, in a police-nerdy kinda way. At the same time, Saiga is someone she would never have known about were it not for Kogami. But the main point is, she is steadfast in her commitment to treating Kogami as an equal, despite his lower official status in society. So much so, that she has to suspend her senpai-kohai relationship to Gino when he goes to far in admonishing her for seeing Saiga.

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Going back to Adam and Eve, knowledge is power, but comes at the cost of paradise. Cybil is mankind’s attempt to rebuild a Garden of Eden, which has its own cost; a life without stress is a life pointless and short, perhaps shorter than a Hobbesian world. To maintain Eden, those deemed unworthy are constantly cast out to live below the rest. “Unworthy”, in this case, are those who ask too many questions; amass too much knowledge; seek too much individuality.

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The exquisite analogy Kogami presents to Akane on their autonomous car ride home: knowledge is a swamp you can’t see the bottom of, but cannot check unless you dive in. Even Kogami wasn’t allowed out of the swamp once he dove too deep. Worse, one person’s descent means their entire family is marked for death, as the powers that be are just waiting for science to prove criminality is hereditary. Gino, who lost a father and colleague, doesn’t want to lose Akane too, which is why he’s so harsh on her.

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While events may ultimately determine Gino was being overprotective—Akane is constantly being described as having an uncommonly clear and resilient psyche—there’s also a very real possibility that she could end up going down the very same path as Kogami. What’s so awesome about Akane is that she may already be okay with that. Between protecting one’s own hue or solving crimes/protecting the people, she considers the latter far more important. But as she says, she is new, and has no idea what lurks in that swamp.

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Take Senguji Toyohisa, a cyborg who is, aside from his brain and nervous system, entirely machine in composition. He’s a particularly arrogant cyborg as well, pitying all of humanity that are content living out their lives in their sacks of meat. Running parallel to the discussions Saiga, Akane and Kogami are Senguji’s own ideas. Where he isn’t wrong is that science is about bettering mankind, which is done through the development of technology. Once we learned how to live long lives, we set about ways to make those lives more efficient and pleasant.

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He believes his “transition” to a timeless artificial body is just the next natural step in the human struggle to become immortal; to become the very god who expelled us from paradise. Like Akane’s decision to continue diving into the swamp, his choice had a cost—that of his body—but he subscribed to Plato’s thinking that the body was but a prison. With his new mechanical body he’s free to pursue his mind’s full potential, which seems to consist of hunting people down with a rifle. To each their own, huh?

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Makishima is right there beside him, all charisma and validation; literally playing with the edge of a razor; composing his latest symphony; providing Senguji with his next prey: Kogami. For the first time, the good guys are the direct target of the bad guy, though I’m confident this is nothing but a test by Makishima. If Kogami can’t pass it, he wasn’t worth fussing over. As for how Akane fits into all this when Makishima becomes aware of her, well…We’ll see just how tough and resilient her psyche really is!

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Psycho-Pass – 08

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The perpetrator of the previous four “human sculptures” had a sick poetic irony about them, like the case of a corrupt politician who had his hippocampus literally shoved up his ass. The newest two pieces both showed up in a park. They’d be sure garner attention there, but the setting is boring and the message is weak. That tells the super-sleuth Kogami (who’s not supposed to be on this case but is anyway) the present perp is someone young, impressionable, and not particularly ravaged by life. He’s not bad, this guy.

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With the killer’s profile in mind, Kogami pays a visit to an art conneusser in a correctional facility where latent criminals wallow in cells but are at least allowed to live, and it doesn’t take long for the name Ouryou to be dropped. Ouryou the father, whose daughter attends the same school as the past two victims. Game Over, Rikako! Makishima all but called it when, in the art room, he questioned her decision to choose victims from her own school, and her response was…impractical, to say the least.

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Essentially, I was right that Rikako was never really thinking about what would happen if she got caught; she just wasn’t wired that way. Instead, for her subjects she drew from a school that she deemed nothing but a vapid Stepford Wife factory, and each girl she “liberated” from that hamster wheel of a life was a favor done to that girl, as far as she was concerned. She realized the world she lived in was fucked, but didn’t realize how easily her plans could fall apart.

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Actually, neither did Makishima, or me, for that matter. Kogami connects the dots and corners Rikako so quickly, it kinda takes her down a couple of notches. Even though I never pegged her for an evil mastermind, I underestimated how vulnerable her absolute devotion to her art made her, as she did. It all ends so quickly. Hearing her work being pilloried by Kogami also lessens her grandeur somewhat. I guess like all her peers at school, I was bewitched by her initially composed veneer.

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Rikako’s sudden but probably inevitable fall means the obviously very fickle Makishima becomes bored with her and shifts his enthusiasm over to Kogami, which is probably super-bad for Kogami, and Akane too. But I guess they’re really only in danger—and risk having him recite Shakespeare as he sics his horrifying robotic dogs on them—if they bore him.

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Psycho-Pass – 07

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Note: This is a review of the first half of the fourth “Extended Edition” episode; for all intents and purposes, the seventh episode of the original run.

Whoa…this show likes to talk! But when the stuff it chooses to talk about is so fascinating, who am I to complain? For most of the episode, we’re spending time either with Rikako or Makishima, chattering away like the awesome evil bastards they are. Their monologues are important keys into what makes them tick, as well as the stifling nature of society under the Cybil system. The likes of Makishima and the criminals whose crimes he facilitates is a direct product of Cybil.

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Why not, let’s toss some necrophilia in here.

Rikako would argue that the serenity Cybil provides is a pox upon the world; a false resolution to the fundamental human question. One must look no further than her own father’s plight: a “double death” of talent and soul by science, technology, and the society that embraced both. Cybil gradually eliminated most of the “bad stress” that led to pain, suffering, and despair, but also eliminated the “good stress” (eustress) that stimulates the immune system and serves as our “will to live”; without it, we become walking corpses and our organs eventually shut down.

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Makishima is enabling these, ahem, unique individuals in part because he believes humanity is fast regressing into a mass of walking corpses. As the other member of Makishima’s conversation remarks, mankind has gotten so good at taking care of itself, all the beneficial effects have come all the way around to become harmful and destructive; decreased life expectancy (not known to the public) is direct proof of it. Makishima’s chat reveals that Cybil has caused much more than segregation and subjugation among those of differing psychological make-ups – it is quite literally killing us all.

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As a member of a free society, I hate Cybil system. A certain arrogance can spawn from the belief of “knowing better” than most of humanity in Psycho-Pass, and it’s very unnerving that a lot of the problems with the world they live in, spewed by depraved villains such as Rikako and Makishima…actually makes a little sense. Still, there is a happy medium between total psychological sterilization and hedonistic chaos…or at least I hope there is. Wait…that’s the world we live in, isn’t it? Alright, enough talk…here’s Beethoven’s Ninth, brilliantly employed during these discussions.

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Poor girl was doomed the moment she decided to talk to Rikako…

Now let’s talk plot: Makishima is providing RIkako with the plasticizing liquid necessary for her sculpture. The cops have discovered two of her works, which combined with the four committed three years ago in the Specimen case, makes six total. The fact that the victims are from the same school give Gino, Akane & Co. a place to snoop around. It’s worth noting that Rikako, as “talented” as she is in her particular gruesome field, isn’t exactly a criminal genius, or she’d pick more random victims.

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She’s either confident of completing her father’s work before she’s caught, or getting caught isn’t even on her mind. Hey, she is staring into another dimension, after all! Finally, Gino takes Kogami off the case altogether, dismissing his cold case reports as “delusional”, and orders Akane to keep an eye on him. Of course, Akane obliges, but takes the opportunity to avail herself of Kogami’s insights, as well as apologize for prying into his past. That’s so Akane: the person closest to ourselves, here in the real world: keen to bridge the light and the dark.

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Psycho-Pass – 05 & 06

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Some of the characters in Psycho-Pass are so clever and perceptive it makes you wonder how a society with such minds allowed itself to come under the heel of something as stifling as Cybil system. After assuring Akane she doesn’t have to check the net for Rousseau’s teachings because they’re in his head, Masaoka gives her the basic rundown of human communication as a positive asset to human development: two hunters are better off working together to bring down bigger prey than going after smaller prey alone.

Yet even as an idea like this can be used to justify the massive networks of communication that have led to civilization growing and prospering as much as it has, that same devotion to increasing cooperation and efficiency has led to things like Cybil and criminal coefficients, and also assumes civilization is the only natural state of humanity, a point on which not all philosophers agree, for a certainty. With advances in communication come complications and unnecessary details Theoreau would have frowned upon.

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In the world of Psycho-Pass, happiness is no longer achieved through free will, but predetermined courses plotted through scientific evaluation. Yet Cybil, it its twisted way, upholds the ideals of enough of the citizenry to avoid rebellion. That “enough-ness” is sustained through the Psycho-Pass System, and thus the only people who seem truly happy or free are the frikkin’ murderers, whose puppet-master we haven’t even formally met. God, I love this show. You can prattle on about it for eons.

This third extended edition episode resolves the ghost avatar case with more solid detective work from Kogami, who determines from the differing vocab that Spooky Boogie’s original owner was also recently murdered, as was a third some time ago, by one Mido Masatake, the only fan of all three whose own avatar dropped off the map at the right time. He detonates a bomb at his last known whereabouts, then hacks the holo-environment of the hotel room where Akane, Kogami, and Masaoka come to nab him.

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That’s when the “luddite” Masaoka breaks out the booze and a lighter, setting off sprinklers to overcome the visual trickery. Kogami claims one of Mido’s arms with his Dominator, and from that point on it’s game over for him, as his “benefactor” turns his beloved avatars against him, and Ginoza, Kagari, and Kunizuka finish him off. While the avatar toilet murders are over in satisfying fashion, there’s still much more to this, something that’s picked up in the second half, the best episode of the show yet.

The two halves are bridged by Akane learning that Kogami was once an Inspector; Ginoza’s partner, no less, who was demoted when his criminal coefficient spiked following a case in which he got in too deep. Now Ginoza’s warnings about Akane sticking to “doing her duty as an inspector” sound a lot less like jealousy and more like wisdom. And yet, it’s thanks to “careful” agents like Ginoza that Cybil is able to endure. The night that doomed Kogami is retold, mostly from inside a car, and involves the gruesome murder of Sasayama—an enforcer under Kogami—by plastification.

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I like how after a couple cases of flat out not being able to “get” Kogami, Akane finally makes some progress, both thanks to a reluctant Ginoza and to Kagari, who the slim Akane is hilariously able to drink under the table. Akane’s friends posit that she and this “subordinate” she speaks of may be a lot more alike, and that seems to be the case when just as she’s learning more about him, Kogami digs into his past and the case that cost him both Sasayama and his freedom.

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Here’s where the show really takes off, in that the past cases, which had had an episodic air to them, are connected both to each other and the past, still-unsolved “Specimen” case, in that all are case of someone with intent to kill being connected to the means to kill by a shadowy middleman. That middleman, of course, is Makishima, whom we’ve seen glimpses of here and there but remains, well, in the shadows, but with a long reach.

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Both the factory case and the avatar case involved sophisticated technical skills beyond those of the culprits implicated. Similarly, the Specimen case involved someone who liked dismembering bodies, but was provided the scientific assistance to impregnate them with resin in order to “freeze in time” the body parts, which he’d exhibit in public places like works of art. An intriguing chicken-and-egg arguent thus comes into play: would these people have still committed their murders if they hadn’t been given the means to do so?

That brings us to the second half’s story, which goes on independently at an isolated girl’s high school as Akane is figuring everything out and Kogami is connecting the dots. There, in an environment engineered to minimize Hue cloudiness in girls at this “susceptible” age, the queen bee Ouryou Rikako (Sakamoto MaayaHells yeah!) creates disturbing drawings that turn out to be studies for her artwork, which consists of dismembering troubled classmates, plasticizing them, and displaying them around town.

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Not surprisingly, Rikako favors the darker Shakespeare works like Titus and Macbeth and seems to be inspired by their brutal but universal human themes. There’s almost no doubt in my mind Rikako believes she is about to free her latest “subject” Yoshika, from a cursed life, helping her to realize her “true beauty”, looking upon her like a sculptor upon a block of marble. That girl in the cafeteria called it; Rikako is totally staring into another dimension. Or, at least, she sees things most others don’t.

I’ll say this for Psycho-Pass’s bad guys; they’ve gotten progressively more chilling! It has also outlined just how dangerous it is to be an inspector who cares about her enforcers and her cases too much. Your criminal coefficient is not only in constant jeopardy, but higher ups like the chief, who wouldn’t mind at all if it’s finally determined criminality is hereditary (Ginoza’s father was a latent criminal). To people like her, that would be yet another step towards perfect social harmony…but where does the witchhunt end? Like the flight of Icarus, I imagine.

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Psycho-Pass – 03 & 04

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The first two episodes focused on Akane’s guilt from incapacitating Kogami. In these next two episodes, Kogami remains on her mind, but they’re not thoughts of remorse, but inner turmoil about how exactly to deal with him. Ever since entering this job she’s been torn between what feels right and what Cybil decrees to be right.

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As an inspector, it’s her duty to realize Cybil’s vision for a harmonious society, but her interactions with the enforcers and Kogami in particular, have her thinking about and questioning things she never has before. Ginoza takes a narrow view of enforcers, dismissing them as the “trash of society” no better than any of the latent criminals they help capture—right in front of them, too.

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Ginoza may hide behind Cybil, but it”s clear there’s something else going on. In both cases featured in these episodes, the enforcers arrive at conclusions for the crimes long before he does. He protests their theories as circumstantial evidence right up to the point they’re proven correct. He can still look down on them because they’re latent criminals, but that doesn’t make him feel any better: if these “pieces of trash” are better investigators than he’ll ever be, what does it say about him?

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Perhaps that’s why he calls Akane a fool for wanting to learn through experience (as opposed to the wise, who learn from history). Perhaps he’s already been down the road of trying to treat the enforcers as colleagues or equals. Kogami may seem to have the calm cool head of a seasoned detective while solving the case of the offline drone factory murders, but when those drones come after him, he turns into a vicious hunting dog, driven by one thing only: the desire to bring his prey down.

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That factory case, by the way, is another example of how frightening and fucked up this world is; a more twisted version of the way corporations micromanage their “human resources”. The factory records its workers’ psychological states continuously and deny them access to the net and outside world. The chief is willing to let one worker be the target of bullying if it keeps the psycho-passes of the rest clear. But that leads to the creation of a monster, whose psycho-pass “clears” after each murder,is treated as an unimportant blip in an otherwise productive and profitable operation. No need to rock the boat, in other words.

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Of course, when the likes of Akane and her enforcer buddies show up, boat-rocking is inevitable. But Masaoka warns Akane later that the only way to truly understand Kogami is to become him, which means discarding her squeaky-clean psycho-pass and life. If she doesn’t leave well enough alone, and simply accept Kogami will always be opaque to her, she could lose everything she’d worked to achieve up to that point. But since she’s questioning the infallibility of Cybil, perhaps the truth is starting to carry more value to her than the status quo, which is, to any observer outside the show, totally wrong.

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The fourth episode aims to enter a world within this messed up world; a virtual online world full of “CommuFields” where personalities don avatars and vie for popularity among the masses. It’s a world full of somewhat trippy but not always entirely compelling or successful imagery, even if the ideas behind them are pretty good. The virtual dreamscapes and whimsical inhabitants of this episode probably wouldn’t impress a Space Dandy fan like Zane, and I for one found a lot of it a bit silly, especially considering the serious overtones.

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The case, in which its deduced by Kogami and Masaoka that the culprits stole a personality’s online identity, while disposing of the body by chopping it into flushable pieces (GROSS) again highlights those two’s investigative chops (and Gino’s lack thereof). It’s also another amplified reflection of real-life culture, as a “real-world meetup” is staged for online members to hang out, only they do it in holo-cosplay to maintain their anonymity. When everyone’s holo-suit is hacked so they all resemble Talisman, it’s a neat trick by the crims.

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The bad guys end up bagging another avatar, “Spooky Boogie” (a name that sounds hilarious coming out of everyone’s mouths) and proceed to disintegrate her body as they maintain her online presence. As the episode ends before the case can be resolved, it’s not clear what this strange group is after, but something tells me the closer Akane gets to them, the more messed up she’s going to get if she doesn’t tread carefully.

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Psycho-Pass – 01 & 02

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Not much time spent on these two…but that’s sure to change.

In Fall 2012, RABUJOI was only reviewing ten shows, but they included the first cours of Zetsuen no Tempest and From the New World, Kamisama Hajimemashita, and Chu2Koi. We were also watching relative duds like K, Jorumungand: Perfect Order, Btooom!, and Girls und Panzer. In hindsight, we would have traded any one of that latter group for Psycho-Pass, without any more hesitation than Kogami Shinya when his Dominator tells him to shoot.

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The boyish Akane’s default hangdog look reminds me of Soul Eater’s Crona.

But it’s never too late to pick up a good show, so that’s what I’m doing. Specifically, I’m watching the “Extended Edition”, which pairs the 22 original episodes into 11 hourish-long short films and adds in some new content…though its all new to me! After a cryptic prologue, we’re thrust right into the midst of rookie CID Inspector Tsunemori Akane’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad First Day.

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The elaborate yet dingy cyberpunk setting and the very strange futuristic society of this world is all unveiled organically as Akane’s first mission progresses. Blade Runner, Akira, and Minority Report are obvious inspirations for the city of gleaming skyscrapers and dark alleys where the police deliver justice to “latent criminals” who may not have committed any crimes, but are deemed psychologically certain of doing so at some point.

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Akane eventually lets her intuition override the logic of killing the hostage

The entity looking into everyone’s souls and determining the color of their Psycho-Pass is the mysterious “Cybil”, which I presume is some kind of supercomputer designed to try to facilitate the ordering of civilization into the peaceful and law-abiding, and those who aren’t. Some of those who aren’t are Akane’s underlings, called “enforcers”, often likened to hunting dogs who sniff out their ilk to be dealt with either by restraint or termination.

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Is that Neo-Tokyo out there?

As neat as Akane’s futuristic amenities look, all the “progress” in the world has come at steep cost: Cybil has given birth to a new form of prejudice and segregation fully supported by cold logic and science. It even has the air of a system designed to influence the course of human evolution: enough generations of weeding out the psychologically unstable, and you’re sure to become a more stable, perfect society, no?

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That’s the paradox of Psycho-Pass: for all the futuristic glitz on the top, there’s still plenty of rot and suffering below. Despite all the drastic measures taken, that perfect world remains a mirage on the horizon. Enter Akane, our window into this world for most of the hour: experiencing so much for the first time, as we are, totally unprepared for its cruelty despite finishing tops in her class.

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Akane, in fact, is an Inspector purely by choice, something few people in the world have. Many who don’t would say she squandered that choice by enlisting in Public Safety, but as she was the only one to get an A-rank in that discipline, she felt her calling beckon. She may bethe “greenest” character we meet, but despite her initial doubts, it’s clear she’s an immensely talented, capable young woman.

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Karanomori Shion’s relationship with another enforcer, Kunizuka Yayoi, is portrayed wordlessly

The result of her first mission is deemed a fuck-up by many, but she’s eventually redeemed. Turning her Dominator on her own enforcer Kogami Shinya, to save the life of a woman his Dominator was telling him to kill, turns out to be the right move, as her “criminal coefficient” was only temporary. It shows the knack she has for the job in spite of her self-doubt, but also makes you wonder how many “suspects” have been killed who ultimately didn’t deserve it, even by Cybil’s extreme standards.

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GAAAAAH

Akane’s second “case” isn’t nearly as intense, as she and grizzled enforcer Masaoka Tomomi don utterly ridiculous holo-suits as he sniffs out a less homicidal suspect. But while it isn’t as traumatizing (though Akane is regarded as a “mental beauty”), it does highlight to Akane her apparent uselessness in such cases, at least at her level of experience. Masaoka tells her that shes not completely useless, as enforcers like him aren’t allowed outside without being accompanied by an Inspector.

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That makes Akane sound like an idle chaperone—and she may be just that on several calls—but where her true value will show is in the tougher, messier cases, like that first one with the hostage. While enforcers like Kogami Shinya seek and destroy criminals like prey, she’s their to stay their hands when she deems it appropriate. She also seems determined to treat her enforcers less like hunting dogs and more like colleagues.

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So yeah, great start. Superb, in fact. Such an immersive, fucked-up world, but very cool. I reiterate my frustration with having never so much as glanced at an episode, since if I had I’d have surely reviewed it two years ago. But oh, well. Better late than never.

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Zetsuen no Tempest – 24 (Fin)

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Yoshino is shot in the arm, but not seriously hurt. Hanemura attacks the Genesis pillar, but his blows aren’t strong enough, and the tree viciously retaliates. Samon, Natsumuura and Tetsuma use magic to protect the nearby ships to minimize casualties. Hanemura sinks into the water, but the Sword of Exodus teleports to his location, and he uses it to destroy Genesis once and for all. All the magic in the world goes with it, leaving the Kusaribe clan powerless. Crime, war, and strife returns to the world, but it was not reset. Yoshino and Mahiro watch the goodbye video Aika recorded for them. Mahiro vows to keep working to one day save the world. Hakaze leaves her village and travels to Yoshino.

Everything came together very nicely in the finale to what turned out to be one of the highest-rated we’ve ever watched. That means most of it was gripping, powerful drama tinged with a surprising amount of comedy; a story about grant plans for the world and rival gods that did not forget about little moments between two people, however oddly-matched. Enemies became friends and then family. The hero who saves the world this time (Hanemura) is merely creating the opportunity for it to be saved again (Mahiro). The grief of a lost love is mitigated by all the good that loss did, and by a new potential love.

The final battle with the pillar, Eva-inspired super-weapons and all, was great fun, but the emotional heart of this episode is in the aftermath, in a world with no more magic. It’s striking how cheerful Samon and his men are, for one, but then why wouldn’t they be, the world’s been saved! People get on with their lives, and Aika gives her brother and boyfriend a properly Aika goodbye, complete with one last tease. But Mahiro gets all philosophical, pointing out that while everything came to a very good end doesn’t mean he has to like her means. She lived her life by a script not of her own making (that he knew of) and played her destined role, but he’s going to write his own script and shape his own destiny.

We’ll close with a quote by the initially reluctant but ultimately successful hero:

[This is] a story about those who seemed to have lost something, but were able to gain something by coming together.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • The old crones strike again, laying down a stunning salvo of harsh burns upon the young Hakaze, no longer a mage, but still not an ordinary girl (since she can’t cook, for one!) We’d still marry her. Yoshino better.
  • Hanemura’s ex agreed to meet with him, but we like how his scene ends with her simply showing up (we don’t even see her face). It’s a scene that doesn’t give us any answers, but is replete of possibilities. 
  • Even Mahiro may have found love, in the form of a pen pal he made of a girl whose life he helped save. Good for him! Aika’s methods may have been too rigid, but she was right about one thing: the best way to remember her is to live full, happy lives.
  • We like the idea of the world with magic being akin to a dream world; and now that the trees and magic are gone, civilization has woken up. It’s not a perfect world, but it never is.

Girls und Panzer 12 (Fin)

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By using the Turtle Team’s 38(t) as a chock and the Duck Team’s Type 89 as a turret block, Ooarai is able to defeat the Maus. They then proceed to split up the remaining Black Forest tanks. The M3 is able to take out an Elefant and Jagdtiger before they’re white-flagged, while the Leopon Team’s Porsche Tiger blocks the entrance to an office courtyard where the two flag tanks face off. Miho plans one last all-or-nothing maneuver, and her team carries it out perfectly, destroying Maho’s Tiger and winning the day.

We pretty much knew this series would end with a bang, but Girls und Panzer really outdid themselves in its final week, with outrageous tactical maneuvers, serious David-v.-Goliath action, and of course, the sweet taste of victory against the most insufferably arrogant of opponents. The methodical Maus takedown was just an appetizer. The first-years mastering narrow alleys to take out far larger, stronger opponents, along with that final showdown between Nishizumi sisters made this a joy to watch from start to finish. Plus, lots of guns go boom.

What was so satisfying about the win was that it wasn’t all that far-fetched; Ooarai lost all their tanks but their flag, and that last shot could have gone either way. Miho’s and Ooarai’s big win means more than just bragging rights. Ooarai Girl’s School was on the edge of the abyss, and the win saved it from shutting down. Miho’s sister admits total defeat, which couldn’t have been easy considering she’d been conditioned her whole life not to do so, and even Miho’s mom can’t help but applaud her wayward daughter. Auf wiedersehen, Girls und Panzer: you delivered exactly what your title promised, and then some.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • One of several dozen cute/funny exchanges in an episode where the dialogue is as rapid-fire as the artillery: “Hey, you light tank! Get off my roof!” – “Don’t wanna. Also, the Type 89 is not a light tank.”
  • “Operation Kelly’s Heroes”? We really need to watch that movie again.
  • Anyone in that huge crowd rooting for Black Forest Peak was an ass. Unless you go to their school, you root for the underdog, same as March Madness.
  • Victory parades rule.

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 25 (Fin)

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Saki charges the queerat-raised child with a disguised Kiroumaru ahead of her. The kid kills Kiroumaru, and death feedback kills him. Yakomaru is captured, and after a show trial, is sentenced to eternal agony. The central library, temple of purity, and Saki’s parents were all lost in her absence  She returns to work at Exospecies control, where Satoru tells her he’s discovered the shocking truth about queerats. Time passes, Saki and Satoru get married, and ten years later, Saki completes her book. She is with child, but it is now an object of hope, not fear.

This was a strong and emotional end to a strong and emotional series that asked a lot of tough questions about human nature and how our desire to survive can lead to questionable decisions that bite us in the ass later on. We watched a civilization of people who are programmed to die if they kill fear the powers of their own offspring. We learned that humans with cantus decided to mix non-cantus humans with naked molerats to create a new species they could control and kill without feedback. Though they lacked cantus, queerats still did all they could to survive. Kiroumaru gladly gives up his life for Saki if she saves his colony, and she succeeds. We liked the elegance of the plan to take out Maria and Mamoru’s kid, but share Saki’s sadness that he had to go.

What’s gratifying about the ending is that we go back to all the events of this work and think about how all of it came from the pen of a thirty-something Saki, sitting safe and comfortable in her lovely home with a bun in the oven. Her survival was never in doubt, but everything else was up for grabs, including what had become of her and where he was writing or recollecting this. Few of us can say we’ve lost as much as Saki lost in her still short lifetime: family, friends, lovers, and even memories. But in the end, she carried on with her life, started a new family with Satoru, remembered everything about her old world and wrote it down, in hope the new world will be better for her child. She’s a strong one.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Obserations:

  • Not a single frame was wasted as this episode was dotted with gorgeous vista after gorgeous vista. We’ll miss this beautiful world.
  • We agree that Squealer deserves punishment for murdering so many, but “eternal hell”? That’s harsh.
  • We’d heard Dvorak’s ninth symphony many times before, but we didn’t know it was called “From the New World.” It’s gotta be one of our favorite pieces of orchestral music, and the title suits it perfectly.
  • Seeing that Satoru survived with Saki and they eventually married and had a kid made us very happy.

Zetsuen no Tempest – 23

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The team heads to the shore, where they’ll make their final preparations to implement their plan. Yoshino and Mahiro insist on being involved. This angers Hakaze, as Yoshino knows how she feels about him, but he convinces her to go along with it. When the day arrives, Hakaze disguises herself as the Mage of Exodus and attacks the fleet. Hanemura, dressed as the Dancing Princess, gets the fleet to back him up in fighting the Mage of Exodus, drawing them away from the pillar. When he’s close enough, Hanemura and Tetsuma switch places, Hanemura heads for the tree, and Yoshino and Mahiro hijack the survey boat. While their backs are turned on their hostages, one pulls a gun and shoots Yoshino.

How do seven people and one boat take on a armada of one hundred cruisers? Deception, and lots of it. Mahiro is the director of the ballet to save the world, and everyone has a specific role to play. Hanemura plays the classic hero, only hopefully someone who won’t go out with the Tree of Genesis and have to rely on Mahiro tracking down his ex-girlfriend (he forgets that if he fails, everyone’s screwed). Hakaze plays the evil Mage of Exodus, and Hanemura’s costume fits her just fine…like magic! Samon, Junichiro, Yamamoto, and Natsumura Tetsuma all play supporting roles. And while Aika decided hers would be a one-woman-play, tactically declining his help, Yoshino refuses to stand on the sidelines as others he cares about – including Hakaze – fight and sacrifice.

The mission commences in a wonderfully-drawn and paced sequence of the mission being carried out interspersed with Mahiro describing it. We love how pissed off Samon and Tetsuma are to be dressed like tourists, and that Hanemura must endure at least one more indignity by dressing in drag. Everything goes off without a hitch until Yoshino and Mahiro turn their backs on their prisoners, betraying their relative inexperience with terrorism. The cliffhanger wants us to believe Yoshino’s life is in danger again, and maybe it is, but we also know he’s been cut in half before, and survived. The question is: will Hanemura succeed in destroying Genesis?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Girls und Panzer – 11

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The Ooarai team nevertheless keeps Black Forest Peak on its toes through the use of unconventional tactics like smokescreens, towing their slowest tank with the others, reaching the high ground, then using the 38(t) to weave in and out of the enemy formation. The orderly discipline of Black Forest Peak is shaken up, allowing Ooarai to break through and make a run for it. They ford a river, but the Rabbit team’s M3 stalls in the middle. Rather than leave it behind, Miho stops and helps them out. They enter a town, but a super-heavy Maus is waiting, and takes out the Ducks’ Type 89B and the Hippos’ StuG III.

We were going to wait until the twelfth and final episode aired to do a review, but then we thought, “why would we do that to ourselves”, and also didn’t feel like waiting. We daresay it was worth the wait: this episode provides perhaps the most tank-on-tank combat awesomeness per minute than any previous episode. And with good reason: it’s the final battle! Not only is it yet another underdog battle, but it’s also a battle of wills and philosophies. Miho wants to conduct a caring, loving Panzerfahren that treats no one as disposable and puts the lives of her comrades before victory, while still aiming for victory, in defiance of the Nishizumi School.

The thing is, while their cheeky and audacious tactics do indeed rile up a good many of the Black Forest Peak team – and piss off Erika to no end – Peak’s leader, Miho’s sister Maho, remains an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos. Whatever her lil’ sis throws at her, she’s not going to lose control of the situation like Miho’s previous foes did. Even with all of Ooarai’s efforts, the fact is they’ve lost three tanks and are down to five against Maho’s seventeen, including that ridiculously massive, scary Maus. Despite all of their small victories throughout this episode, by it’s end, defeating Black Forest Peak seems no more plausible than the first time we laid eyes on their massive force.


Rating: 8(Great)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 24

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Saki’s vision of Shun is broken by Kiromaru, who leads her back to Satoru, who is injured but okay. With the psychobuster found, Kiroumaru suggests they provoke the fiend into a final confrontation, using himself as bait. Saki protests that the fiend is really human, but when they place a mirror in his path, he destroys it. Satoru throws the psychobuster at him, but Saki destroys it with fire, afraid Satoru would get infected. They get cornered and Yakomaru calls for negotiation. Shun speaks to Saki once more, and she realizes there is still one way they can still defeat Squealer.

With the trump card destroyed (what a MacGuffin that was), the “fiend” on one side and Yakomaru and riflemen on the other, for a moment, Saki, Satoru, and Kiroumaru’s situation looks rather dire. So Saki asks Kiroumaru why he came to Tokyo the first time, and the buff, mud-caked queerat answers with brutal honesty: they were looking for WMD to destroy mankind and supplant them as the planet’s dominant species. Not for glory or conquest, but as a preemptive measure to ensure their survival. Other queerat colonies had been capriciously wiped out; they figured it was only a matter of time before they were next.

And there you have it: is Kiroumaru someone whom Saki and Satoru can trust? The answer is yes…but only as long as loyalty ensures his survival, and the survival of his colony. He may now be all alone, but that survival-at-all-costs credo endures. He often decries Saki and Satoru’s protestations of doom; queerats fight for survival with their dying breath, and he’s not going to let these humans give up either. Of course, he’s not aware that Shun is somehow communicating with Saki, serving as a second guide. Saki now has a plan for the endgame where they’ll end up on top, but we’ll have to wait for the finale to find out what that is.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 22

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Hakaze returns to the present with Aika’s letters for Yoshino and Mahiro, and tells them the full truth about her actions. They accept her decision calmly, as Aika predicted. Their lack of outward passion angers Hanemura, who as it happens is the only one with the power to defeat the Tree of Genesis, the Heart of which has been surrounded by a naval blockade of many nations, who have decided to protect Genesis at all costs, unaware it will lead to the resetting of civilization.

Mahiro’s entire raison d’être throughout this series was to exact revenge on the person who killed his sister. With this episode, that reason has gone kaput. She killed herself, so there’s no revenge to be taken, except, perhaps, on the Tree of Genesis itself, Aika’s natural enemy. Now that he and Yoshino know of Aika’s fate and her intentions, they are willing to follow through with the destruction of Genesis. As we learned last week, her death brought together the people required to save the world as they know it, including her reluctant backup, Hanemura.

This week, we learn how Mahiro, Yoshino, and Aika first came together. As it happens, both Mahiro’s father and Yoshino’s mother – who were marrying – bailed on their kids, but Mahiro brought Yoshino along. Thus, the guys both met Yoshino’s stepsister on the very same night. The bookend style of this flashback is a thing of beauty, as the three size each other up and decide on how they’ll address one another (informally). If Aika knew she was the Mage of Exodus back then, did she also already know how integral these lads would prove in her destined fight against Genesis? Or was she just happy a couple of amusing characters added some comedy to her tragedy?


Rating: 9 (Superior)