Vividred Operation – 12 (Fin)

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Kenjirou believes the uber-alone to be beyond anyone’s ability to defeat, even the Vivid girls. But Akane refuses to give up, finding Rei’s key washed up on the beach, and deciding to fly to the alone where Rei is trapped inside but alive. The others follow. The alone settles over the Manifestor Core and starts sapping energy. Akane docks with Himawari, Wakaba, and Aoi in sequence to break through the alone’s armor, while the others’ suits fail and they fall to the earth. Before the alone can kill them, Akane docks with Rei to create VividRed, who lands a massive, fatal punch to the alone, destroying it. The five girls reunite  but a strange ribbon appears in the air telling Rei her world has been restored. A door appears, and Akane gives her the key. She says they’ll meet again, and after a little time passes, Rei returns.

Once the character issues were resolved, all four girls became BFFs, and the Rei’s misunderstanding was rectified, the series kinda ran out of things we cared that much about. Sure, the Big Bad was still there, but suddenly swallowing Rei last week turned out to be the most interesting thing it would ever do. This week it simply laughs an evil laugh, boasts and gloats, and talks about judging and erasing, and we simply don’t care because the girls will obviously defeat it. Worse, the peril was mired in technobabble; Kenjirou was trying in vain to explain what was happening whan what was happening didn’t really make sense. An event horizon that threaten’s the entire universe? We ask you.

Dispatching the alone did at least require some unprecedented tactics, including Akane docking with all three of the other girls one by one, which gave them something to do. And we knew if Rei showed back up this week, the series would have her dock with Akane too. She’s purple, after all. The resulting Vividred avatar was a successful melange of the two girls’ looks. And she blowed stuff up real good. You’d think that would be all and Rei would start hanging out with the girls all the time, but then, in the most-tacted on last-minute twist imaginable, Akane just blurts out “They’re going to fix it!”, refering to the alone-makers deciding to restore Rei’s world, which we thought was almost as cheap as Aoi secretly hating tomatoes.

So yeah, while the alone thing needed a resolution, we leave this series thinking it ran an episode too long.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Stray Observations:

  • While Zetsuen no Tempest and Maoyu took great pains to minimize casualties in their latter episodes, this series proves it has little regard for the lives of pilots or the great expense of all those frigates and warplanes. After a while it gets a bit silly.
  • Speaking of silly, both the ships and planes are clearly expelling exhaust of some kind, suggesting they’re independently powered by fuel. Yet when the alone starts messing with the Manifestor, both lose power. This makes…NO SENSE.
  • In the closing credits, we see Kenjirou has transferred back into his human body. Which begs the question: what took him so long?
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Vividred Operation – 11

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As she’s taken away by the UDF, Rei calls the girls liars. Kenjirou determines she’s from another world and acts as beacon for the alones, leading them to the Manifestor engine. Not happy where they left things with Rei, the girls infiltrate UDF HQ. Akane breaks through to Rei’s cell, and they make up. But the crow arrives and tells Kenjirou its bosses won’t let this world have Manifestor technology. It swallows Rei whole and turns into a giant monster that destroys UDF HQ.

I see what’s going on now…you four were just pretending to be nice to me!

Even if Rei was correct in this assessment (she’s not), what she’s been hiding from them (that she’s trying to destroy their world for the sake of hers) is far worse, so she hardly has the moral high ground. Fortunately for Akane and the other three girls, they’re not so much guilty or upset as they are restless and totally unwilling to let Rei’s misunderstanding…stand. Even before learning the truth – that she’s a pawn with little choice in matters – it was important that they made her realize they weren’t pretending.

Unfortunately, while Rei is a sympathetic anti-heroine, and the girls’ assault on UDF HQ is pretty cool, Rei’s boss the “mediator” crow and the Q/Godlike beings it (she?) represents are pretty one-dimensionally evil and dull. They’re little more than inter-dimensional bullies pushing weaker beings around, only this time their would-be victims won’t go out without a fight, doubtlessly employing more crisp CGI, pose-striking and crotch shots.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Why exactly are there nude pictures of Rei in her computer profile? Aren’t there laws against that kinda stuff?
  • At the boardroom meeting, a government official calls Kenjirou’s theory of Rei being from a parallel world “a joke.” Mind you, he just received this information from a magical talking weasel.
  • Rei’s apartment is only depressing because of the lack of furniture. When this is all over maybe the girls can take her to Ikea!
  • The crow suddenly swallowing Rei…well now, that was unexpected!

Vividred Operation – 10

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Rei convinces the bird to tell her when and where the next alone will appear, so she can shoot all of her remaining arrows into it in an all-or-nothing effort to destroy the Manifestor Engine once and for all. She visits Akane to apologize for the tomato, and ends up staying for dinner and spending the night. Himawari and Kenjirou discover Rei’s arrows and devise a plan to track the next one she fires. Droids, marines, and finally Akane arrive at her location, and Rei and Akane both learn who they’ve been fighting all this time…

Well now, it’s about frikkin’ time the truth about Rei came out! The thing is, we weren’t expecting Rei to be as surprised as she was that Akane was one of the “four colored lights” defying her plan to power up the Alones. But that very way of describing the Vividforce points out something we hadn’t realized until now for some reason: Rei has never been close enough to the other four girls while they’re suited up for battle, so she’s never gotten a good look at any of them. Sure, the fact the girls wanting to be her friends have the same color hair as those distant lights, but we guess that wasn’t enough for her to put two and two together; she is under a lot of stress, after all.

When the fog clears and Akane and Rei face each other on the battlefield for the first time, we thought it would be Akane whose heart was broken, but Rei turns it around, making Akane the bad guy, calling her a liar who only wanted to be friends so she could get close to her and find out her secrets. Even though we know that’s not the case, Rei can’t help but feel betrayed, and all Akane has in her defense is her word, which Rei doesn’t believe. A spiral of distrust has been forged, giving Rei more motivation to destroy the manifestor so she can get her parents back. The thing is, she only has one arrow left to fire (one arrow was no match for Vividgreen)…and she’s in custody.


Rating: 7 
(Very Good)

 

Vividred Operation – 09

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When Wakaba takes her to the mall for some shopping, Himawari gets propositions from numerous guys and a popular modeling magazine snaps pictures of her. The next day, Wakaba volunteers Himawari for a more formal photo shoot, but it’s on the same day she wanted to go on a factory tour. Himawari decides to do the shoot if Wakaba is her servant for the day. While she’s asleep, the magazine people change her hairpins, and she panics when she can’t find them, but Wakaba has them. A meteor-like Alone appears in the atmosphere, and Wakaba and Himawari help clear a path for Vividblue to defeat it. Rei arrives too late to shoot her arrow.

Like Futaba confessing to hating tomatoes, Himawari’s freak-out over her hairpins seems like another one of those conflicts that just isn’t deserving of the overblown drama it receives. This is a Wakaba/Himawari-centered episode, which frames their relationship thusly: Wakaba parades her around like a doll and unilaterally decides to kickstart her modeling career; while Himawari makes Wakaba her slave and will make her go on many long, tedious tours of tech facilities. In short, both make little sacrifices for each other, which is that’s what friendship’s all about. That, and magic, natch.

But yeah, there’s not much here. The episode even admits this by inserting a totally boilerplate alone battle to fill the time in the end, complete with full-length transformations and poses we’ve already been subjected to too many times. Kuroki Rei simply reiterates her determination to get everything back, and now has four remaining feathers for the three remaining episodes, but she was utterly useless this week, and the Alone posed no danger whatsoever. We really expected Wakaba and Himawari to merge the way Akane and Aoi do, which would have at least been something, but it didn’t happen.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Vividred Operation – 08

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Akane is admitted to the hospital in serious condition. The Alone attaches itself to the Tokyo Sky Tree and builds a cocoon around itself to regenerate. With Akane out of action, docking is not possible, so conventional military tactics need to be considered. However, Aoi, Wakaba and Hiwamari decide to have a go at the alone anyway, destroying it in a way that won’t destroy the city. Their plan nearly works, but Rei shoots an arrow at the alone and it hatches. Aoi borrows some of Akane’s power to dodge the alone’s attacks and defeat it. They then visit Akane, who is on the mend.

This is an interesting dynamic: after a string of victories so easy they didn’t even bother showing one of them, the most powerful Alone yet appears and Akane is quickly taken out of the picture. The military has a plan (with just a 4% chance of success), but it will destroy most of the (evacuated) 23 wards in the process. Not ideal, but if they do nothing, the Incarnate system will go kaput (a lesson in why global power should never be so centralized). So Aoi, Wakaba, and Himawari meet up before dawn, get don their pallet suits, and report for duty. Whatevs, they’ll simply fight a girl down.

Yet even with Akane laid up in hospital, a part of her remains by their side: the love and memories they harbor for her, along with her boomerang, which never de-materialized after her clobbering. Aoi believes a part of her soul is in it, and wisely brings it along for the fight. That choice proves decisive, as it is re-purposed as rocket-powered wings she uses to finish the job the other two girls started, saving them and Tokyo in the process. The only major casualty is the Sky Tree. Poor Sky Tree! Oh, and a bit more of Kuroki Rei’s sanity.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Vividred Operation – 07

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Mizuha informs Akane that her grades are dropping as a result of her busy schedule. Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari organize a Saturday study group at her house. They each invite Rei, who turns them all down, but comes anyway when she learns who Akane’s grandfather is. Unable to take any more “niceness”, Rei leaves, just before a new Alone alert goes off. The girls defeat the Alone easily, but Rei manages to shoot an arrow into a fragment, causing it to regenerate and attack an off-guard Akane. Her Vivid suit overloads and she starts to fall from the sky.

We were a little shocked when we found out Rei didn’t know Akane was the granddaughter of Isshiki Kenjirou. If the name wasn’t a giveaway, the giant satellite dish behind Akane’s house should have. At any rate, this episode starts off with the girls trying to become friends with Rei, not understanding she puts her wish to bring back her parents above everything, including friendship and her own happiness, and with only six feathers left on her tattoo, finally manages to make a dent in the Vivid system, knocking Akane out of the sky and grabbing victory out of the ashes of defeat.

We liked the new alone that generates a continuous EMP that makes electronics go haywire, and it seems a little easy that the girls’ suits are immune to it, and is more evidence the Vivid system is more magic than science. But that’s really okay, because they don’t end up getting home in time for Momo’s delicious home-cooked supper. For once, Kuroki Rei seems to have the advantage, and we’re not sure how the girls are going to get out of this mayo-topped pickle. Catching Akane before she hits the ground would be a start.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. Rei finding Kenjirou’s human body in the fridge is a great moment of quasi-horror.

Vividred Operation – 06

When Akane and the girls go to Shikine Island for summer camp, Kenjirou has Mizuha confiscate their keys so he can subject them to a convoluted friendship-building operation that will strengthen them for future Alone battles. He kidnaps Rei (unaware of her connection to the Alones) and takes on a villainous persona, daring the girls to rescue her. Rei escapes captivity and helps defeat the mechanical foes Kenjirou sends at the girls, and Akane in turn saves Rei from the “final boss”, Kenjirou himself piloting a mecha.

As soon as we saw the very literal title, “The Story of How Kenjirou Tries to Strengthen the Power of Friendship Between Akane and the Girls and How It Ends Up a Total Mess”, the thought occurred to us that this would be a bit of a slow one. Indeed, there is not only a scene in which the girls compare their boob sizes, but a scene where the other girls enter Akane’s massive inflatable swimsuit and are mortified that she’s naked from the waist down in there (okay, that was kinda funny). The youngest character, Momo (who doesn’t get a bikini), is the voice of reason, repeatedly pleading with her gramps to quit torturing the girls.

It also features Wakaba asking “what was that sound” when the source of that sound – a giant mechanical teddy bear felled by Aoi with a big rock – is right in front of her face, and Akane (though thankfully not the others) being fooled by Kuroki’s pathetic disguise (i.e., covering her face with the scarf she always wears, even when she’s wearing a bikini). The only moment of significant interest is when Rei briefly fears she’s been detained because they’ve found out about her pro-Alone activities, but alas; it’s just a coincidence. Nothing really moves forward this week, aside from the power of the  friendship of the girls. Allegedly.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Vividred Operation – 05

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Akane and her three friends invite their classmate Kuroki Rei to be in their group for the upcoming summer trip, but she refuses. On her way home Rei saves a child from an I-beam, and her master, speaking in the form of a crow, warns her not to waver in her duty. That night she tries and fails to infiltrate the Manifester facility herself. Akane finds her washed up on a beach and takes her home. When an Alone alert sends Akane away, Rei follows her, but passes out before she can fire the arrow. She wakes up again at Akane’s, but refuses to be friends. Akane’s mom tells Akane not to give up on Rei.

By merit of being her grandfather’s granddaughter, Akane ended up fighting to protect the Manifester engine he invented. By merit of becoming friends with Akane, Aoi, Wakaba, and Himawari ended up on her side. They’re the “Good Guys”, but Kuroki Rei is different. She shoots arrows at the Alones to make them stronger. She’s on the side of the “Bad Guys”, and her contact is a sinister crow. Why? Because they’ve convinced her they can restore the world as it was – when her beloved parents were still alive. She’s decided she’ll do anything – including destroying the current world – to bring them back. And yet Akane and the good guys want to be friends with her, and don’t know she’s their enemy, working against them.

On her extremely badass, Mission Impossible-style night raid, Rei frags the robots that snapped her picture. Her incriminating bow and arrow vanish before Akane finds her. When Rei asks Akane if she’d do anything to bring back her dad and get her mom out of the hospital, Akane says sure – as long as it doesn’t end up troubling others. But on her current path, Rei is going to trouble and hurt a lot of people. She’s signed a deal with the devil, and it’s unlikely they’ll let her back out unscathed. And yet even if Akane learned the truth, I doubt she and the others would rescind their offer of friendship. After all, there’s nothing like bringing a Bad Guy over to the Good side.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Vividred Operation – 04

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While playing softball, Akane’s home run that destroys the camera of the secluded hacker Shinomiya Himawari, whom Kenjirou just happened to ID as the the culprit in the theft of confidential Alone data. Akane, Aoi and Wakaba pay her a visit to apologize, and they end up visiting the site of the Streamer plant, which distributes energy to the world from the Manifester engine. When an Alone attacks the site, the three fly off to fight it, leaving Himawari to shut the plant down. Afterwards, Kuroki Rei powers up the Alone, and Himawari gains and quickly masters the Vivid System, docking with Akane to become Vividyellow and defeat the Alone.

And then there were four. We had a red, blue, and green techno shoujo (our own term for what they are, since it’s science and tech, not magic, that they use), so for completion’s sake, we needed a yellow. She turns out to be the egghead of the bunch, being a total Isshiki Kenjirou groupie and hardcore Manifester engine nerd. He brief backstory illustrates how a former friend she trusted betrayed her and turned her into a pariah, and so she’s been skittish about trusting or even interacting with people ever since. Himawari refutes Akane’s claim she loves the Manifester engine, not knowing Akane is its inventor’s granddaughter.

When Akane leaves her behind to shut down the plant while she fights the Alone, Himawari is convinced she won’t come back, even though she promised, because people have promised her things before and let her down. But Akane doesn’t let her down, and as a result of their newly-formed friendship, Himawari becomes the yellow one. Interestingly, the episode points out how quickly she learns the ropes of the Vivid system, though Saegusa learned it just as quickly last week. Her weapon, which reflects the Alone’s weapons back on itself, are suitably badass, and stuff get blow’d up good, as it should in such a series.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Vividred Operation – 03

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Akane is late for her first day of school, so she uses her Vivid power to fly to school. She comes afoul of the school’s pride and kendo ace, Saegusa Wakaba, who attacks Akane as an intruder – and loses. When Wakaba and Aoi end up in Saegusa’s class, Wakaba challenges Akane to a duel on the beach. It is interrupted by a new Alone emerging from the sea. Watching Akane and Aoi fight, Wakaba wants to join them. Akane gives her a key, and they dock to exeute the Vividgreen Operation, defeating the Alone.

In this third episode we are introduced to the third member of the Vivid girls, and she’s an interesting addition. She’s good at everything…except losing. And she’s a very very bad loser. So bad that when she decides to attack someone who turned out to be faster and stronger than her (Akane in Vivid mode), she essentially throws a tantrum and chase Akane around the school. Fair enough; when you’re as accomplished as she is, and not accustomed to defeat, you’re bound to make mistakes. But by the episode’s climax, when an Alone appears, she watches Akane and Aoi run toward – not away – from the danger.

It’s then that Wakaba realizes what her father was trying to tell her about true strength. Being strong isn’t just about winning; it’s about knowing when and how to use the power, when not to, and when to accept that things won’t always go your way…because they won’t. Simple, but good advice. This episode was full of some very nice combat and chase animation, and once the Alone comes, wastes no time bringing Wakaba into the fold. The wooden sword duel between Akane and Wakaba was very slickly done. Again the mysterious girl shot a berserk arrow into the Alone; perhaps she’s testing Akane & Co.?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Vividred Operation – 02

Aoi transforms like Akane, only red, and they use their boomerang and hammer to attack the Alone and deflect its weapon blasts. The Navy assists them in taking out the Alone’s core, but Akane and Aoi can’t “dock” for somereason. A mysterious girl fires an arrow at the Alone, reviving and strengthening it. Aoi confesses what she was hiding – she’s always hated tomatoes – and she and Akane “dock” successfully, joining bodies and minds into one form – Vivid Blue – and destroy the Alone. The next morning they learn their school has also been destroyed, so they’ll have to transfer.

Vividred is keeping things nice and simple so far. There’s a monster; only the girls can prevent forest fires defeat it (by yelling a lot); so they’re given hip sci-fi outfits and told to go have at it. And they do! We’re clearly in maho shojo territory, with only a thin film of sci-fi trappings. (Neat-looking) systems, hardware and abilities are explained, but not in any kind of detail, and that’s a good decision in our opinion. Less technobabble dumps, more action,and Stuff Getting Blowed Up. And a lot of the action is pretty frikkin’ sweet. Lots of flying around in a perfect blue sky, and much firing and dodging of weapons.

Memorable images that flash past the screen include the sight of tiny, sickly Aoi in her cybersailor costume holding up an F-35 with her bare hands and gently setting it down on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, or the two girls flying in formation with said joint strike fighters. There’s probably double the crotchshots from last week, but that’s okay, they’re quick and not that distracting. Also, Aoi’s Big Dark Secret holding back their docking was…teehee, she doesn’t like tomatoes! We kinda doubt the families of the dozens if not hundreds of people killed in the delay she caused could laugh about it like Aoi and Akane did…not a great moment, there.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Vividred Operation – 01

In the near future, Isshiki Akane and her crotch live on the Utopian Izu Oshima island with her sister Momo and grandfather Kenjirou, who invented the revolutionary Incarnate Engine that provides clean energy. On the day when Akane’s friend Futaba Aoi is returning to the island, a powerful “Alone” also approaches, overwhelming UN defense forces.

Kenjirou finishes his latest invention, but as a result his consciousness is transferred into a stuffed weasel. He leads Akane to the Incarnate Engine, atop which Aoi’s plane crashes, and in her flying motorbike, Akane rescues her from falling. Her clothing then changes, and gramps announces the activation of the Vivid Sytem.

This episode does a competent enough job introducing a futuristic world and a brave girl who must get over her fear of heights and utilize her grandfather’s technology to save her island from a fierce baddie the military can’t scratch. When it’s not randomly shoving Akane’s crotch in our faces, that is. Fanservice aside, it’s bright, shiny, and visually arresting at times. There’s no question the production values here are very nice.

We love us some futuristic sci-fi action. But for all its flashy packaging, Vividred feels a bit…routine. Akane is not the most interesting, original heroine (yet). Having watched so much quality sci-fi last year – series that had something to say beyond “girl dresses up fancy/saves world” (They all had that, sure, but that wasn’t all they had.) Vividred will have to find a way to stand out to keep us interested. Less ass shots, more talking weasels.


Rating: 6 (Good)