GOD EATER – 13 (Fin)

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Like GATE, GOD EATER finally concludes on a satisfying, action-packed note, with only a few loose ends left outstanding and all of the big stuff put together. One day, by Pita or some other incident, Lindow was going to die, and the unit was going to lose their captain. Which meant someone had to replace him, and that person is Lenka. This is the episode where he fully grasps what it means to lead, not that he has not choice but to do so.

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Soma, Alisa, and particularly Sakuya flail around in outrage, but Lenka remains calm, centers everyone, reminds them of Lindow’s orders, and carry them out. Soma goes underwater to destroy the Aragami lure, leaving only Pita to contend with.

Of course, Pita is a pretty freakin’ tall order, but with the five remaining members of the unit all working together, maybe they can harass him into enough of a state of confusion to land a fatal blow on him.

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As with everything on GOD EATER, this is extremely hard and brutal. Everyone gets tossed around and loses, if we’re honest, unacceptable amounts of blood for people still conscious. But these aren’t ordinary people, they’re God Eaters, and Lenka, their leader, presses the attack once all his friends have been disabled.

When they can no longer move from their injuries, he keeps fighting, surviving, protecting them. He takes the hope both his family and Lindow (also his family, at this point) entrusted him to radiate for the benefit of others, and the impossible is made possible: on perhaps the last layer of his onion-like god arc, Lenka goes into overdrive, slices Pita up, and shatters his core.

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After that, it’s confirmed that Fenrir’s ultimate objective—completing Aegis—is only a cover for the real—and far less ambitious—Project Ark, which is little more than an Earth Escape Rocket, able to fit at most one thousand souls.

My belief in this is that the cream of Fenrir will be among those with tickets on that rocket, which will shoot into space and whose occupants will wait out the apocalypse, returning when everything has been reset. But without the hope Aegis provides, the ark rocket isn’t possible.

Johannes had Lindow taken out because Lindow was trying to hold on to what humanity had left on Earth, while he had given up on the world that is and made plans for a new one, judging the Aragami nothing but monsters that will consume one another after consuming every last human, if allowed to.

Dr. Sakaki has the opposite theory; that this is just a rough stage in the evolution of Aragami. Eventually, they’ll gain intellect (which we clearly see in Pita, though he’s pretty damn evil and inhuman) and, with communication, coexistence with humans might be possible.

It’s a dream Johannes doesn’t believe humanity has time to wait to come to fruition, and he may be right, but I also know that a thousand humans don’t make for the most diverse gene pool. Human extinction may be inevitable.

But enough dark talk: while Johannes and Sakaki debate whether Man will become God or God will become Man, all Lenka, Alisa, and the other God Eaters are concerned about is keeping hope alive and protecting each other and what they have, here and now.

Lenka is now the new captain, and his orders are the same as his predecessor (who may still be out there somewhere): Don’t die. If your life is threatened, run and hide. And, one day, destroy it.

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GOD EATER – 12

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One thing you can always be certain of in GOD EATER: things will not work out the way people hope. The best-laid plans, be they made with good or bad intentions, inevitably turn to ash in this harsh world. Heck, the show itself couldn’t even air its last four episodes in the season it meant to.

The only thing that’s really worked out so far is that Lenka’s family was successful in keeping him alive and instilling in him a desire to survive and become strong so he can protect everyone still alive (which unfortunately does not include that family).

But he does have something of a new family in his unit, and when its “father” Lindow is in a tough spot, Lenka is there, and thanks to Licca, so is his rad new god arc, which cuts through the Aragami like butter, be it slashing or blasting.

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But Operation Asteroid remains a big mess, as one of the luring devices has been sabotaged by an inside hacking source Tsubaki learns is Alisa’s personal doctor. So when Alisa arrives along with Sakuya, Soma, and that other guy, it’s nice to see the gang reunited, but I knew the happy feeling wouldn’t last becase A) Alisa is a ticking time bomb and B) the Pita Aragami isn’t going to be defeated this week.

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Sure enough, the evil doc says a few trigger words into Alisa’s earbud, and she starts firing wildly. However, she doesn’t hurt anyone, and when Sakuya tries to slap her out of whatever is going on with her, the earbud falls out, and the doc’s plan is foiled.

Alisa reverts to her useless crying state, but Lenka manages to talk her out of it, trying his hand at field psychiatry. The results are favorable, as Alisa snaps out of her funk and returns to usefulness, but it’s a little dubious that Lenka’s words about toughness and inner strength could cause such an abrupt change in the behavior of such a scarred and unstable mind.

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Once everyone is freed from the berserk trees, Lenka leads everyone to the dam town to take out the luring device and protect the people there, which Sakuya didn’t know existed until now. Lindow will stay behind and duel the Pita, but predictably, it goes pear-shaped in a hurry, as this particular Aragami possesses a keen intellect and ability to counter any tactics the wounded Lindow throws at him.

After the obligatory flashback to a younger Johannes attempting (but obviously failing) to commit suicide, overcome as he is by the loss of the mother of his child. The child remains as a painful reminder of what he cost, but Dr. Sakaki suggests that he wasn’t able to kill himself for a reason: that he was meant to stay on this world and try to save it before Aragami consume everything and reset the world.

The results of that plan are still pending, but Lindow wasn’t able to delay Pita long, and the last we see of him, his bloody arc arm is hanging out of Pita’s mouth. I honestly don’t know how they’re going to take this guy out, which should make the final episode interesting.

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GOD EATER – 11

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It’s not often a late-coming backstory outshines the present-day narrative it’s interrupting, but that’s what happened with GOD EATER. That being said now that we’re back in the present, everything Lenka says and does carries new weight, not that we know where he comes from. We’ve broken through his shell just as we did with Alisa.

Speaking of sisters, we also see how lucky Lindow is to still have his in Tsubaki, and the two share a nice moment in the house they grew up in. As for Alisa, she returns the team apparently none the worse for wear, but having a distinctly un-Alisa-like artificial chipper-ness to her. Was she hypnotized simply to save her from her crippling memories, for for a more sinister purpose? Probably still the latter.

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But the core of this episode is the commencement of the ambitious Operation Meteorite, which involves God Eaters of all types from all over the world. While calling out the order of battle, Lindow has his sister make a slight adjustment: he’ll take the front line with Team One, while Lenka (whose God Arc isn’t quite ready yet) will monitor and command the team from the forward base camp. Lenka has proven he can lead, after all, and he’s totally fine with the arrangement.

The night before the operation starts, he has dinner with Kouta and his mom and sister’s, again driving home the family Lenka once but no longer has, and the need/desire for some kind of occasional substitute. If he couldn’t save his own family (because they saved him first), then he’ll just have to save other families, like Kouta’s or the Amamiyas.

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Now that Lenka knows the path he should—wishes to—walk, he feels he no longer needs the compass Lindow gave him a few years ago when they first met. But Lindow has him keep it. Even if he already knows his way, it’s up to him to give it to someone who doesn’t, just as Lindow did.

Once the battle starts, Lenka isn’t angry or restless about not joining the front lines; after all, there’s not much he can do without a God Arc. Instead, he takes instantly to command with a steady confidence and competence that’s visualized nicely by the neatly symmetrical framing of him in the CIC. As for the Meteorite weapons, they pack a impressive opening punch against the amassing Vajra-type Aragami.

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Both before and during the operation, Johannes von Schicksal has had little on his mind beyond the flashback to the exceedingly difficult birth of Souma, which resulted not just in Aisha’s death, but the death of everyone in the room. Only Johannes survived the explosion of oracle cells, protect, to his surprise, by a charm which has circuitry embedded in it that repels the cells. In the present, he activates a device that has the opposite effect—luring many of the Aragami towards the dam village. Why he’s doing so, and acting without telling anyone below him, only he knows.

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However, it may have something to do with the fact Lindow kept the town a secret. When Lindow sees where the Aragami are headed, he goes off on his own (though after getting the okay from Tsubaki and Lenka). When they lose his signal, the only God Eater who can get to him in a reasonable amount of time is, you guessed it, Lenka.

Tsubaki sends him to help Lindow, and Licca and Sakaki finish up his arc just in time to deliver it to him on the way. Now that we know where he got his short cloak from, it’s a lot more meaningful to see him don it on his very badass, purposeful way out of the CIC. Time to see what his new God Arc can do. And lurking not far away is Pita, the Aragami Alisa has sworn to kill.

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GOD EATER – 10

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GOD EATER is back. Repeat: GOD EATER is BACK. And just when I was about to give up hope. Turns out they waited until the point in the season when the rest of the Winter shows were in their final quarter, either because they needed more time or because they didn’t want this show to end when everything else was at episode 4 or 5.

You know what else? My patience was handsomely rewarded. This was the best episode of GOD EATER (and one of the best of the entire Winter) yet, using Lenka’s ordeal with adjusting to a new God Arc as the framing device for a heretofore untold story of Lenka’s childhood, starting with when he was found in the mud by a kind family who tested negative for entry into Fenrir.

More than a story, it is an often horrifically heartbreaking tragedy that is epic in scale, stretching across the fifteen years that precede the show’s present day, and being far more emotionally powerful than any of the black-and-white flashbacks that came before.

A lot of this episode’s power comes from our amassed knowledge of the previous nine. And yet, this could very well have been the first episode of GOD EATER—or even a completely standalone short film—and still been effective.

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After Lenka was rescued and named by his new big sister Iroha, his family lived in a shanty town living off rations and constantly at risk of Aragami attacks. When his mother develops a cough and becomes bedridden, he and his sister strike out with other town members to find medicine, but are ambushed.

Lenka, who wants to become strong enough to protect everyone, hits an Aragami with a stick, but it has no effect. Still, he’s bailed out by a God Eater – Lindow, specifically. Lenka is both jealous of Iroha’s attention towards Lindow, and of Lindow’s strength to protect. Lenka’s father doesn’t like the Fenrir system in which “people choose people” and leave others to die due to limited resources, but that’s exactly what happens in the shanty town as well.

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When Lenka grows ill and there’s only one dose of medicine, Lenka’s mother demands it be used on him, for he is the future. That’s confirmed when they test him for the first time and he reads positive, making his dream to become strong a more real possibility. It’s Iroha who injects the drugs, as both she and their father weep uncontrollably over tacitly condemning their mother to die. They bury her not long after.

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A few years pass, and Lenka is on the cusp of fifteen, the age when he can join Fenrir. His older sister has also grown more beautiful, and still quite close and protective of her brother. But she’s also mature enough to slap Lenka when, after an Aragami attack, their father is trapped under wreckage. All they can do is escape on a motorbike their father prepared for such an eventuality. Like his mother, Lenka’s father died so that he could live.

But while escaping the Aragami on the bike, one manages to scratch Iroha’s leg. It doesn’t look that bad, but the wound bleeds and festers, and before long, she can no longer walk (an analog to a similar desperate journey he’ll go on with Alisa later on). Once they check the wound and it’s riddled with maggots, once more a choice must be made.

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Lenka can’t make that choice—Iroha is all he has left—so she chooses for him, by slitting her own throat, forcing him to leave her. Before they part, she tells him to go to Fenrir, because he tested positive, and always was positive. That didn’t do the family any good, however, because they weren’t related by blood. But no matter how Fenrir cruelly defines it, Iroha always considered Lenka her brother – she even named him, because like a lotus, they found him in the mud, where lotuses bloom.

To twist the proverbial knife once more, before and then in the process of being devoured by Aragami, Iroha briefly envisions the world she always dreamed of, a beautiful pastoral paradise where plants have returned, and where she’ll be together with her dear brother forever. She looks like a Studio Ghibli character in this fantasy, before a devastating smash cut to her being eaten. No point in trying to hold back the tears here; this was utterly dejecting. Rest in peace, Iroha.

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The Utsugi family, then, sacrificed themselves one after another to save a boy who wasn’t even related to them by blood. But if any of the three of them, including Iroha, had to do it all over again, I doubt they’d change a thing. The choices they made led to Lenka being in the position to “overturn” the world they had no power to change.

When Lenka stops re-living the memories of losing his family members one by one over the course of his life, he awakens to find the adjustments for his new God Arc are complete. All that’s left is to re-declare what he means to do with his newly-resotred (and likely greatly increased) power: to kill Aragami. But also, to be someone whom people can entrust their hope for a better world, the way his family was for him.

GOD EATER is back; with brutal, gorgeous, heart-rending, unyielding authority. Episode 11 has its work cut out for it.

10_brav2RABUJOI World Heritage List

GOD EATER – 09

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In the final episode before a Fall hiatus (the final four episodes will air in the Winter), GOD EATER comes to something of a logical crossroads to pause at, while looking back at one of the least-used main characters in Soma Schicksal, who up until this week we’d only gathered bits and pieces about. As it did with Alisa previously, the character is improved and made more understandable when the show looks back upon his history and how it shaped the dour, taciturn God Eater.

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This new information comes when Lenka of all people is selected to lead one of the five squads that will set up the devices for the Meteorite Project, and Soma is assigned to Lenka’s team. Lenka’s as surprised as anyone else, but Major Amamiya isn’t aware of his life-threatening situation (only Sakaki and Licca know), so she’s sending him in. He accepts the mission and leadership role, but decides to bone up on Soma’s history, and learns that he was the first God Eater.

His mother Aisha died in childbirth, and his development as a weapon against Aragami hit a number of bloody bumps in the road. As such, everyone around him has thought of him as a harbinger of death (or Shinigami); a label he may not like but certainly seems to accept, especially when his nightmares include looks of fear from injured researchers and a look of resentment and disappointment from his dad, now Fenrir’s director. The father and son share just one brief scene in an elevator, and it’s cold as ice, which isn’t that surprising considering Johann lost Aisha the day he gained a son.

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But Lenka learns an important lesson from Major Amamiya before the operation, after he asks her why she retired from being a God Eater. Rather than get the answer he expected—like him, her God Arc was going to eventually kill her—she said she simply lost hope, after watching so many Aragami emerge from the barren ground right after killing others. Rather, she lost hope that she could do anyting about them, so she decided to put her trust in the future; pass the hope onto those who haven’t been beaten down as she has.

Lenka carries those words to the battlefield where they set up the device, and when everyone, including Soma himself, tells him to run, he refuses, instead using the device to lure the Aragami and ordering Soma to aim his deadly attack directly at him. He trusts in his battered arc’s ability to shield him from the attack, and all the Aragami are wiped out.

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Lenka decided to put his trust in Soma, not as a harbinger of death, but a vessel of hope. That’s why his name is Soma in the first place; for the wine of the gods bestowing life energy to man. That hope was placed in Soma by his mother Aisha, who volunteered to sacrifice herself and her baby for the good of mankind, absent time or other viable options. And for the first time, with Lenka, Soma sees that hope, and value, in himself.

Unfortunately, Lenka doesn’t have a lot of time left; but rather than pass his hope onto others, he’s willing to bet that little time he has left is enough to make more than an impact than retiring. So he asks Sasaki and Licca to repair his God Arc, even if it accelerates his demise. Meanwhile, Johann seems miffed that Lindow has kept a secret village a secret, while an increasingly sinister doctor seems to be brainwashing a drugged/hypnotized Alisa not just to fight Aragami again, but Lindow as well.

There should be plenty of action and character drama in the final fourth of the series. We’ll just have to wait a few months to see it pan out.

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GOD EATER – 08

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I must say, it’s rough having to wait an extra week for every other episode (now I know what Preston went through with Sailor Moon Crystal), but of late, when GOD EATER deigns to air, I can be confident there will be good stuff in store. Alisa is holed up in her messy quarters, apparently continuing to suffer withdrawal from the pills that have always neutralized her fear, which come with a different fear of ever being without them, as she was the last few episodes. With Lenka’s God Arc in need of repairs, both he and Alisa are on leave,  leaving Fenrir Far East shorthanded on the eve of a big operation.

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Professor Sasaki, the father of the God Arcs, arrives, and is shocked that Lenka’s Arc broke; something that’s never happened. Not getting any further answers out of the weapon, he and Licca turns to Lenka himself. Meanwhile, the active part of Unit One joins with Unit Two on an operation at a baseball stadium, led by Sakuya, as Lindow is sent on another mysterious solo mission.

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Shortly after engaging the Aragami, the baseball field crumbles beneath their feet, sending the Eaters underground. Lenka, who has been encouraged to observe the op from the Command Information Center where Major Amamiya spends her days, and it isn’t long before he suggests a course of action contrary to her orders, angering her.

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However, when the Eaters underground follow his suggestions and things turn out for the best, with them bottle-necking the Aragami in a narrow corridor and mopping them up with a pincer attack, Lenka is ultimately absolved rather than punished for speaking out of turn. The successful mission, with everyone returning and praising Lenka for saving them (even Soma, in his way), shows Lenka has value as both a front-line fighter or, if he doesn’t have a God Arc, commanding them from behind.

That’s good to know, because his days as a front-line fighter with a God Arc are uncertain, at best. Sasaki determines he, not the Black Vajra, broke his own God Arc, when his compatibility spiked to a level it couldn’t handle. Sasaki also informs him that this condition also threatens Lenka’s life and will eventually kill him.

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Undergoing psychiatric treatment (i.e., talking to a professional), Alisa realizes if she’s ever going to get back in the fight—and her services are desperately needed—she has to rid herself of her fear, and begs the doctor help make that happen, not matter what the cost. I don’t doubt whatever is done to her will not only affect the personality of the woman we’ve come to know and feel for, but threaten her life, as Lenka’s compatibility threatens his.

As the two most valuable New-Types struggle with their problems, Director Shicksal announces a new strategy for eliminating the Aragami from the immediate vacinity in order to allow work on Aegis. It involves controlling their movements, sorting them by species, and sending God Eaters who specialize in each species to take them out. It sounds like a daring plan, but I’m almost certain it won’t go smoothly, because that’s just not how things tend to go on this show.

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Last but not least (for once), we have another dark flashback, this time to the very evening the Aragami Apocalypse occurs. I was not prepared for how total and unyielding the transformation of the world was, with giant towers of oracle cells jutting out of the earth, dwarfing, piercing, and crumbling all works of mankind like so many sand castles. I was also moved by the last shots of a tranquil world at night before all hell breaks loose.

Schicksal, Sasaki, And Gauche were working feverishly until the end, but losing government support torpedoed their chances of coming up with a solution in time to stop the calamity that befell the earth. It’s looking more and more like mankind’s worst enemy in this whole dark business has been…mankind.

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GOD EATER – 07

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In a welcome surprise, Lindow doesn’t simply lead Lenka and Alisa back to Fenrir; they take a detour into a forest—the sight of which amazes the two new-types—within which lies something even more unthinkable: a civilian settlement for those who Fenrir turned away…including the little girl in pink Lenka saved. The show packed a punch when it sent her off, but I’m glad the show didn’t carelessly discard the character for good. She is, among other things, the embodiment of the future Fenrir is fighting for.

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The reason the village is able to survive and even thrive is that the trees of the forest are really Aragami the people have raised as a protective barrier. Even so, large Aragami like Vajra can still force their way through. When a Vajra does just that, Alisa is soaking in a bathtub to try to clam her nerves and steady her hands, and failing at both. She knocks over the tub and crawls into a closet to hide. I like that the show has the guts to keep one of its strongest characters out of commission for the entirety of the crisis, upping the difficulty level for those able to fight.

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Lindow also peaces out for what reason we don’t know (though testing Lenka by risking all the people he worked so hard to protect doesn’t sound like a logical one). He sends Lenka to deal with the Vajra and protect the people by himself. Lenka is not to let anyone die, especially himself, and Lindow urges him to trust in his God Arc, even though we saw how ineffective it was last time Lenka tried to use it.

During this crisis, GOD EATER once again exposes its difficulty with pacing in such situations. As soon as Lenka returns to the village, the Vajra has already done a ton of damage, and you’d think he’d already killed a good number of settlers, but time seems to grind to a very noticeable crawl to halt as Lenka slowly figures out who and what he has to work with and what the plan should be. Honestly, it’s like the show presses “pause” on the Vajra attack.

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Fortunately, despite of Alisa’s emotional incapacitation, the episode is not bereft of proper Girl Power, as the unlikeliest (or most predictable, depending on how you look at it) person volunteers to help grab some ampules from the warehouse for Lenka to draw the Vajra away: the little girl in pink. She puts the lion in civilion (if civilan were spelled that way, of course), acting with uncommon courage and determination, and not only comes through for Lenka, but saves his life in the process.

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Also fortunately, the screeching halt of the action picks up nicely during the entirety of Lenka’s final gambit, squaring off with the Vajra David & Goliath style with his crossbow of ampules. When the Vajra halts its retreat and prepares to skewer him, Lenka finally figures out what Lindow meant by trusting in his God Arc by pumping an ampule into it, brining it back to life so he can use it to push the Vajra into the river. The other civvies finish the job by opening the damn, and good ol’ mass and gravity finish the job.

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It’s a great moral-boosting side-victory for Lenka; a performance that inspires the girl in pink, impressed Lindow, who knew he had it in  him, and worries Alisa, who is not happy that she’s been so useless of late, but has no idea how to fix it. Sure, she could get drugged back up in Fenrir, but the drugs can’t fix her underlying crippling fear of the Aragami, and she can’t be sure the drugs will always be around.

Alisa’s continued struggles continue to make her the one of the more interesting characters, and while I realize that’s not saying much on this show, her retreat from heroism absent courage-endowing drugs nicely mirrors the girl in pink’s progress absent exceptional strength or ability. It’s a dynamic that keeps me emotionally invested, though I’m also hoping Alisa doesn’t remain a defenseless damsel for too long.

8_brav2

GOD EATER – 06

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Hey, remember that show GOD EATER? Which airs sometimes, when it feels like it, but not necessarily every week? Well, it’s still around, and you know what? Those who have been patient with it, like myself, have been rewarded: the last two episodes have been excellent. Episode five tore away the invincibility of the titular God Eaters, and Episode six stripped them of their weapons, making these supposed hunters the hunted, at the mercy of the elements and their own fear.

Fighting the Aragami, saving the world; these are meaningless this week. The mission, the only mission, for Lenka and Alisa, is to stay alive. And the harsh, rain-soaked, Aragami-infested world doesn’t make it easy. But we’re drawn into this basic, visceral, at times pathetic struggle for survival.

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Lenka saves Alisa’s life by giving her CPR, and they then hole up in a hotel room. His God Eater is broken, her’s is missing, and he’s at the end of his tether, bleeding out in the corner. Alisa first considers leaving him behind to go look for her God Eater, but instead gets him on the bed and patches him up. It may be an uncharacteristic act of kindness, or a pragmatic move, seeing as how she only had one pill left when she woke up, and she took it. After that, she’ll need Lenka.

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The crux of the episode is that without her drugs, Alisa falls into a state of intense anxiety and helplessness, almost reverting to when she was a small child happily playing hide-and-seek with her parents when an Aragami killed them before her eyes. I didn’t see this as neutering or weakening Alisa as a character. On the contrary, I saw this as finally revealing who Alisa really is beneath the tough-as-nails exterior. The drugs don’t just repress her fear, they repress everything else that makes her a person, making her nothing but a tool for killing Aragami.

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It’s gratifying to see the curtain pulled back and to see some actual emotion in Alisa’s eyes, voice, and body language. In a way, both God Eaters are rendered inert: Lenka because his Arc is dead; Alisa because she’s lost what the Cowardly Lion called “Da Noive”, which had been drug-induced up to this point. Now, she’s back to playing hide-and-seek, against Aragami she could pummel in her sleep under ideal circumstances.

What I appreciate most about GOD EATER’s recent foray into hopelessness is that it’s so utterly and mercilessly stripped away all those ideal circumstances. Now the Aragami have all the advantage, just as they do over all the other helpless humans scattered around the rainy wasteland. Seeing the disheartened look on Alisa’s face, and the look of fear whenever the Aragami find them, really draws us into their plight, where even a simple gesture like Lenka offering his cape thingy is given extra significance.

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When her parents were killed, she was left all alone before she was old enough. Now, at least, Lenka is by her side, and while he’s probably scared too, he’s not as profoundly scarred by his past. He’s for lack of a better term, simply better-adjusted to this world, and doesn’t need drugs to stare down Aragami. And that’s exactly what he ends up having to do, since even when Alisa finds her God Arc, it doesn’t magically make her better in the head. She’s still paralyzed by fear when the Aragami surround her.

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Lenka is bandaged up, but his Arc isn’t long enough to reach the foes, and when it is, he’s only able to deliver a tap to them. You can see the Aragami figuring out these guys are no threat; only food. Lenka knows when it’s pretty much Game Over too, so he drops his useless weapon, puts himself between the Aragami and Alisa, and either makes peace with his end or prays for a miracle. He gets the latter when Lindow comes out of nowhere and easily defeats the low-level baddies.

After making a slightly sexist remark about protecting people being “a man’s job”, he admonishes Lenka for almost giving up and putting his life in someone else’s hands. Lenka, not wrongly, protests that there really wasn’t shit he could do, unless his God Arc magically came back to life, which would be no less a miracle. He and Alisa are safe now, and Alisa is sure to get back on the meds as soon as they get back to Fenrir. But now Lenka, and we, know and understand her a little better, and the rough hand she’s been dealt.

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Back in Flashback Land, Aisha discovers Johannes has been falsifying reports, blah blah blah, then comes to his house, ostensibly to comfort him. Their relationship will eventually produce the dour Souma, and their work will be insufficient against the approaching Aragami explosion and apocalypse.

Alisa’s flashback made perfect sense this week, and added to the power of her arc, but we didn’t even see Johannes or Souma, so I continue to be perplexed by the show’s need to end episodes this way, aside from reminding us that they’re starting to figure out how doomed they are. At least it didn’t interrupt anything important in the present.

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GOD EATER – 05

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I won’t mince words: this episode of GOD EATER brought it. Perhaps not from start to finish, as it started rather slowly, but even that slow start focused on the seemingly insurmountable task before the titular God Eaters. Aegis is only 0.06% complete, and will require tens of thousands of cores from the kind of Aragami they defeated last week. Even the bigger Vajra only cut that number to thousands. And this is as bodies are dropping all over the world. The episode title “All In Vain” would seem to apply.

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Even so, these guys have to try, and if they’re going to go out their and risk their lives, all of them want to go after a bigger prize; the Vajra. Sakuya seems heartened by their enthusiasm, but in Lindow’s absence it’s her call, and she decides to allow the Vajra hunt.

From there, the hunt is on, and it goes swimmingly at first, with Lenka and Alisa taking out the Vajra’s legs while Kouta and Sakuya blast them. Kouta is a little shaky, but Sakuya tells him to trust in the excellent God Arc he wields, and in himself.

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When they hit the Vajra lair, they quickly find themselves surrounded by three Vajra, as well as having about a dozen or so bystanders who come out of nowhere. No matter; the three Vajra are killed by a fourth, a “black Vajra” that even unsettles Alisa. There’s something different about this guy, and it’s not just his looks: he’s much faster, much stronger, and much smarter than the other Vajra.

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The God Eater’s day just starts to plain ol’ suck from there, in a big way: no matter what they throw at this guy, he’s ready with vicious counterattacks. No matter how many pills Alisa chomps or how much Lenka yells, they both get brutally smacked around and sliced up. It’s the first instance where the Aragami legitimately scared me.

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Our outclassed heroes’ only hope is to retreat, but Lenka and Alisa are so badly-wounded the former can only crawl along while dragging the latter, and the Vajra isn’t about to leave wounded prey alone. Lenka finally appeals to a higher power, if there’s one up there, and it would seem that his last-ditch prayer was at least partially answered, as the Vajra doesn’t simply stomp them into jelly, but steps over them. The bad news is, doing so collapses the rock formation upon which Lenka and Alisa lie, causing them to fall from a great height.

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The cut to black, along with the dramatic music with a distinct air of “This Is It” make for a stirring ending…if only that was the end. Rather curiously, after the credits we get another extended flashback with Professor Shicksal and his two colleagues as they celebrate the continued funding of their research, only to be visited by a general who briefs them on the appearance of vicious beasts that have evolved from the “oracle cell” they’re studying.

These flashbacks running parallel to the present-day story continue to not be my favorite, and the timing this week after a present-day cliffhanger was a bit…random. Still, the dark Vajra battle packed quite a punch, and has me eager to see what becomes of the God Eaters.

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GOD EATER – 04

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This week Lenka’s charges are suspended and he’s officially assigned to Fenrir East’s First Unit, along with Alisa and Fujiki “Wears a hat and scarf like he’s cold, but wears a crop top like he’s hot” Kouta. While Lenka’s look is pretty understadted, the other two’s elaborate outfits seem laughably impractical, especially considering singular mission they’ve been tasked with: Save The World.

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While Alisa wordlessly walks off when asked to join, Kouta drags Lenka out of HQ and into the slums where he grew up, including to meet his mom, who is very worried about him. They also check out the craters of destruction an aragami battle caused, watch food being distributed, and catch a glimpse of Aegis, mankind’s last best refuge, currently under construction.

The flashy new facility’s completion is dependent on the God Eaters securing the necessary amount aragami cores. The future of mankind rests with the likes of Lenka, Kouta, and Alisa. On them lies the future of mankind. Oh, by the way, DID I MENTION THE FUTURE OF MANKIND RESTS WITH THEM? Well, it does. “It” being…the future of mankind.

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You’d think those upon which something so important rests would be trained prior to going out in the field, or would be discouraged from cool-looking but reckless and unnecessary actions, or punished if they blatantly disobeyed orders from their superiors. The six-man unit splits into pairs to hunt down six cores of a specific type of aragami, but the mission is pretty rocky, as Alisa ignores orders from Sakuya, Kouta fails at his job, and Lenka can’t finish a foe off in one blow, which he needs to do if the future mankind is to rest upon him.

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So yeah, it’s a rough mission, but at least the flaws of the newly-formed unit are borne out in a relatively low-risk setting…right? They also come upon a group of wandering civilians and get to take them back to Fenrir. Lenka gets to see a sliver of the mankind whose future rests on him, including a cute little girl I knew was doomed.

My suspicion was confirmed when they get back to Fenrir and the civvies are turned back at the gate, because none of them possess the latent ability to wield a God Arc. Like the civilians on the aircraft carrier in World War Z, the only civvies who are able to live under the military’s protection are related to the ones doing fighting. It’s a raw but a practical, transactional one; at least more practical than Alisa and Kouta’s (and Sakuya’s) getup.

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Anyway, Lenka learns he’s not necessarily fighting for ALL mankind; just the part of it that’s able to properly contribute to the war effort. The rest are SOL. And we learn a tiny little bit about him: he’s the kind of guy who is upset about such things. When he gave that doomed little girl water, he was convinced she’d be safe within Fenrir’s walls. And fighting for Fenrir must feel like siding with the people who sent that girl to her almost certain death.

Mind you, most protagonists would have a problem with this, and would react by clenching their fists with rage and indignation. And that remains GOD EATER’S problem, after just four episodes in six weeks: for all the distinctiveness of their outfits, I still can’t be all that excited about any of the characters. All their personalities are some combination of nondescript, dull, obvious, and one-note.

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GOD EATER – 03

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GOD EATER follows up its slow, stretched-out, uninspired second episode with a big shot of adrenaline, as the entire third episode is one big aerial battle. It could also have been titled “Enter Underboob”, as after a couple of glimpses of her last week we finally see Alisa in her element (as opposed to sitting quietly on a plane) as a (mostly) efficient exterminator of Aragami.

The First Unit and Lenka in particular gawk from their helicopter as the one-woman army Alisa darts and jumps and repels about the giant transport plane. Not only does it get to show us the extent of her abilities (and her superiority to fellow new-type Lenka), but also the various tools at a new-type’s disposal. Alisa switches from sword to gun with ease, and when she tuns out of ammo, she simply uses her arc to devour an aragami and convert it into more ammo…which is a handy trick.

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When Lindow, Sakuya, and Lenka spot a gigantic swarm of fresh Aragami on the horizon, Lindow decides it’s time to grab Alisa and leave before they get there. It’s a practical and pragmatic call, considering Alisa’s importance to the war effort. But when Lenka jumps down to get her, Alisa pounces on him and proceeds to beat the everloving shit out of him. The message is clear: she’s not leaving the plane. Shortly thereafter we learn why, and see another side of Alisa: the plane is full of wounded survivors, and she won’t abandon them to save her own skin. She values their lives as much as her own (if not more).

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If Alisa won’t leave and they can’t make her, Lindow changes his orders: the four God Eaters will go all out in a defensive stand. They’ll either defeat all the Aragami after them and land safely at Fenrir east together, or they’ll die together.

We get a lot of badass shots of the team about to get to work, and then working. Lenka gradually gets the hang of his arc and is able to keep up with Alisa; while she had a head start I imagine his kill tally was comparable to hers when all was said and done. He even learns to devour.

There are also a lot of smooth moves, like Alisa and Lenka using both versions of their weapons to kill Aragami, or Lindow tossing one into Sakuya’s firing line so she can finish it off. Their flying battlefield, surrounded by sky on all sides, adds excitement and breathlessness to the proceedings.

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Speaking of breathless, how about that sunset, as seen from the plane’s cargo bay ramp? Or the shot of the absolutely massive Aragami taking the helicopter decoy bait, which definitely looks like a very very good thing to happen, as despite our heroes’ successes, there remain things well out of their league…at least for now.

So…why only an 8? Well, because GOD EATER is very one-dimensional. It’s hella cool and stylish and fun, but it’s ultimately empty calories: immediate satisfaction but no nutrition. The characters are very well-drawn and awesome looking, but there’s nothing below the surface. Alisa, like Lenka, is just another bland cipher we’ve seen a million times before (though Sakamoto Maaya does a good job voicing her).

And while I’m not really going to get into the hefty suspension of disbelief required to accept the physics of the battle (Are everyone’s shoes magnetic? Does no one need oxygen), it was pretty silly how last week the much faster fighter jets were immediately taken out by the Aragami, yet this week the helicopter was completely ignored. GOD EATER remains great fun and this was a far better episode than last week’s, but its core flaws remain, which can’t be ignored.

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GOD EATER – 02

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It still looks the business, but GOD EATER came down to earth a bit this week. The relatively taut pacing of the first episode was gone, replaced by a plodding storyline that felt dragged out in order to build up suspense for the eventual reveal of Alisa, the self-proclaimed Best New-type who looks to be Lenka’s rival.

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Lots of guys sorta-looking at boobs this week

The slowed and somewhat creaky pace and preponderance of people standing around having casual chats made it much harder to overlook the cliches of the plot, which were many: The kid screws up and ends up in the brig, but sudden circumstances and a ringing endorsement from Major Amamiya’s older brother (and Fenrir-Far East’s top Old-type) Rindou force her hand, and she gives him a fresh chance to prove himself to the brass, who want to take his weapon away.

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All that well-tred ground is made tolerable by the show’s gritty-yet-smooth style, but the battle that results in Eric dying and Lenka getting jailed is needlessly split up into separate parts, killing its momentum. And during the battle, there’s just no sense of urgency.

That is, until after Rindou takes out the “Vajra” (a type of Aragami boss), and a stray Aragami tries to pounce on the unconscious Lenka. If nothing else, I liked the symmetry of an unarmed Lenka saving Eric before (which is the rumor at Fenrir that makes Rindou a fan) and Eric repaying him with his life.

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Back in the present, after Eric’s memorial service, Alisa is on her way via air transport, but all of her fighter escorts are taken out by a swarm of aerial Aragami, creating the emergency that requires Major Amamiya to entertain Rindou’s suggestion they send the kid out again.

But again, the pacing and direction undermine the tension. The rapid-fire events up in the stratosphere just don’t jibe with the slow deliberations of the Amamiya siblings, not to mention the Major’s confronting of Lenka to give him a choice only he can make: Stay in the cell or step out and fight (even though she opposes the latter). Things on the ground are just taking too long.

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Which is a shame, because the bay door of the transport plane opening to reveal a no-nonsense Alisa ready to do battle is a pretty badass way to close the episode. It’s just too bad it didn’t feel like there was enough in this episode to justify leaving this scene for the very end. It lurched its way to this point, and left me feeling gypped Alisa didn’t actually get to do anything.

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GOD EATER – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: Set in a post-apocalyptic 2071, the organization Fenrir and its God Arc-armed “God Eaters” is humanity’s only chance of survival against the monstrous Aragami. Utsuki Lenka is a newbie whose CO forces him to sit on the sidelines and train, but when a multi-pronged Aragami attack breaks out on seperate sides of the city, he chooses to deploy. Initially in over his head, he is saved by Fenrir’s famous First Unit, then demonstrates his God Arc can transform from blade to gun when he shoots and destroys a straggling Aragami threatening a woman.

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Why you should watch: Well, for starters, look at it. This show is drop-dead gorgeous, as everyone expected from a ufotable joint. And yet, it’s not just the same successful, exact and exacting style that made Unlimited Blade Works such a joy to behold. There’s a bit more of the artist’s painterly stroke in the character design, and the futuristic setting allows for more creativity in terms of production and mechanical design.

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You really feel the vastness and weight of Fenrir fortress, and we’re treated to it at different times of day and in different weather. There’s also a lot of real-life-imitating fancy camerawork employing flash zooms, snap zooms, and lots of pretty slow-motion.

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You also get a feeling of the non-physical weight of the people involved in Fenrir. The stern, all business Major Amamiya suffers no argument from her underlings, but much rests on her shoulders as God Eaters go out and don’t always come back in the way they left…or at all. The Amagami won’t stop coming, but there’s clearly a shortage of capable fighters.

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Enter Utsuki Lenka (or Renka), your typical shonen hero haunted by his past and thirsty for revenge against the Aragami that presumably killed his family and destroyed his home. He seems increasingly restless in being force to train, and ultimately the major can’t hold him back. That’s good, because once he’s out in the real world—a rainy night, no less—the show really gets to flex its visual muscles with some truly gorgeous, fluid combat.

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Why you may not want to watch: I don’t know why this would be, but perhaps you’re tired of ufotable’s intricate, almost too-fussy animation. And while the struggle against the Aragami is felt and the characters are suitably cool-looking, there’s nothing that god-eatingly original about the scenario or any of the characters;  Lenka himself is particularly broad and dull so far. It wasn’t that much in doubt that Lenka would be saved by the Elite Unit of Badasses and be given the opportunity to show them he can be one of them too, if seasoned properly.

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The Verdict: GOD EATER was worth the slightly longer wait than other Summer shows: it’s the best looking by a fair degree, and as long as everything else is serviceable, that’s enough for me. The colorful supporting cast look like they might be able to pick up the slack of a rather limp Lenka. It’s a simple and well-worn Kill-the-Monsters / Avenge-Your-Past tale elevated to sophisticated anime art.

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