Gunslinger Stratos – 04

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I’ll admit, I was going to drop this last week, but for the fact it ended with the unexpected death of a character who’d had a non-trivial amount of screen time up to that point. Yes, much of that screen time was spent setting up death flags for her, but it was still a shock to see Sidune get taken out so quickly and gorily. Everyone reacts how I’d expected, which is both good (no one acting out of character) and bad (such reactions are predictable).

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While the first half of the episode was about mourning the dead and dealing with the fact it wasn’t any one person’s fault, the second half was all about moving forward, and on to the next battle the Timekeepers set up. Life goes on, except for the people turning into dust. Tooru and Kyoka also had a nice little moment of shared grief, but their would-be kiss is unfortunately interrupted by an alarm.

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From there, it’s back to 2015 Tokyo, and more battling with their alternate doubles. Both the other Sidune and Olga get badly injured, and the two Toorus race each other to the goal gate atop Tokyo Sky Tree, in a sequence that really did the massive structure justice in terms of accentuating its sheer scale (only Burj Khalifa is currently taller).

Still, my drop reprieve was only for one additional episode, so this will be all from me, reviews-wise. I imagine if I was a big fan of the game I’d be a little more passionate about it.

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Gunslinger Stratos – 03

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Gunslinger Stratos is not a terrible show, but does seem a bit lazy at times, and doesn’t sweat the details when it comes to, say the clunky interior of a limo that doesn’t conform in size or shape to the exterior. After watching something with such precise animation as, say, Sidonia, such flaws stick out, and add up quickly.

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I’m glad I was wrong about Kyouka not opening her case though. She’s actually the one reason I continue watching this show, for no other reason than she’s got the strongest personality, doesn’t overly rely on the guys, and is a genuinely good fighter, if a bit reckless at times.

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For all of the under-designed elements in this show, the gunslingers sport over-designed, impractical uniforms that are both fussy and not particularly cool-looking. Kyouma’s bellbottoms and awkward giant gun, Kyouka’s earmuffs, Rindo’s baggy sleeves and Tooru’s stiff scarf all strike me as unnecessary, distracting details.

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The actual combat, with the gunslingers flying all over 2015 Shibuya emptying clips, isn’t the worst, but it’s also awfully random. For a show with so much uninteresting technobabble in the dialogue, there isn’t a whole lot of rhyme or reason to the operation beyond “show up in the general vicinity of the enemy and have at it.”

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Most distressing, in the middle of battle Kyouma allows Tooru to leave the combat area and chase after the purple-haired ghost, which puts their team a man down, in addition to two of them being in their first real battle (Tooru and Kyouka) Tooru loses the ghost when she disappears, and his team loses Rindo when she takes a bullet (a big one) for Kyouka, fired by Tooru’s double.

Rindo’s death wasn’t entirely expected, but from her death flags to the whimsical, shlipshod tactics employed by her team, it wasn’t a huge surprise someone ended up KIA. We’ll see how the rookie Tooru deals with this early loss.

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Gunslinger Stratos – 02

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The wonder of Tooru and Kyouka’s journey to some kind of alternate world complete with Tooru’s doppelganger is ultimately somewhat undercut by a large amount of infodumping, which occurs after a brief bullet-dodging duel between the Toorus which is broken up by his and Kyouka’s classmate Remy, who escorts them back to their own world.

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There, Tooru and Kyouka are showered with exposition rather than bullets. Both Kyoka’s brother Kyouma and his friend Rindo Shizune are already part of a war being fought against the themselves of that parallel world, which was built by timekeepers who gave them a time machine but only for travelling to 2015 to fight each other with souped-up guns. The winners get to exist, while the losers are erased into oblivion.

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As Tooru says, “This is all insane!” And he’s absolutely right. But it’s also all a bit silly, and the ideas and concepts felt half-baked and disorganized. Tooru can’t make rhyme or reason of any of it, and nor can we, so the decision he’s faced with—join the fight or stand by and potentially watch your universe end—lacks the oomph it should have considering the practical stakes.

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Still, after having tea with Shizune, and telling Kyouka his parents died (wait; aren’t they old friends?) an abridged version of the infodump in montage form goes through Tooru’s head, and he decides he’ll open the case that contains his gun.

Then he picks up an Energy Cube (groan) and kinda holds it close to the gun and it makes it look cooler. The end product is cool enough looking, I guess (it looks a bit like those plastic light-and-sound guns you’d find at a dollar store), but the process of making it was kinda silly and awkward.

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Then he holds the gun at the mirror, as if to symbolize he’s ready to go after…himself in the war to decide which world survives sandifiction. The other Tooru does the same thing, only he blasts the mirror. I’m guessing he’s not superstitious…

The end credits show an adorable but sad and lonely Kyouka, and the preview mentions a breakup, so I’m assuming Kyouka doesn’t open her case, forcing the two would-be lovebirds to part. Which would suck, because I’d prefer these two fighting side-by-side.

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Gunslinger Stratos – 01 (First Impressions)

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Aw man, this made two straight Spring premieres that take place in a strange future with bland male-protagonist. Seriously, this guy wants to be a sheep.

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Oh no…an inappropriately-dressed sexy teacher with a map of a fractured Japan run by mega-corporations? That’s two ani-cliches in one shot. Not a good start, GS.

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Okay, this is a little more like it. This school has combat training for P.E., which allows the two pairs of guys and girls have at each other with both paintball and lightsaber. The dynamics are straightforward and believable: Kyouka likes Tooru; Kyouka’s bro Kyouma doesn’t like Tooru; and Kyouma’s pint-sized acolyte resents Kyouka.

The character design is almost too simple, but at least the combat animation is smooth, crisp, and fun to watch.

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Things went a bit nuts from there, which reminded me of Patema Inverted, right down to the rickety bridge over a huge vertical shaft. While chasing what seems to be a hologram of a girl from Tooru’s surreal recurring dream in which she’s writing a large and complex mathematical proof on the sidewalk, Tooru and Kyouka fall down that shaft and end up in a totally different world, one that looks more like present day Japan than their futuristic, overly stuffy Utopia.

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While exploring, they find a recently-murdered guy and end up in a firefight. Again, they put their school training to good use. I’m not sure how you can dodge a steady stream of bullets with acrobatics, but nor do I care, because as I said, it’s fun to watch them twist and bound through the air.

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That brings us to the “DundunDUNNNN” moment at the end, where the gunman pursuing them shows his face and reveal that that he’s Tooru…too. There’s Two Toorus. To quote Neo: “Whoa.”

Unlike Plastic Memories, events unfolded in a way I was able to engage in, and without a wildly fluctuating tone. The characters here are pretty bland too,  but I prefer a couple who are on good terms in stories like this to, say, a dense dunce and a tsundere (or doll-like whitehair).

Tooru and Kyouka both like each other, and Tooru’s robot doesn’t too closely resemble a human. There are also a lot of weird sci-fi mysteries I’m eager to see explained, as long as it isn’t through infodumps. Gunslinger Stratos is nothing special, but it’s tolerable, has quantifiable strengths it largely sticks to, and most importantly, never rubbed me the wrong way.

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