Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 12 (Fin)

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Saotome plans to change the future in which espers revolt by using a hypnotized Yuugiri to assassinate New York’s new pro-esper mayor, starting riots and causing anti-esper sentiment to spread. Hyoubu penetrate’s Saotome’s elaborate lattice of illusions to get through to Yuugiri and break her hypnosis. His use of Unlimited causes his power to go out of control, but Andy and Yuugiri won’t abandon him: Andy uses his eye to stop the power overload. Hyoubu tracks down Saotome and erases his memories. Andy sets off on his own, but is made an honorary member of PANDRA.

If this is the end, it isn’t such a bad one.

Whoa, there, Hyoubu: we’ll be the judge of that! The finale ends in New York City, pretty much the last place you want ESP bombs like Yuugiri or Hyoubu going off, unless it’s your intent to cause mayhem. Saotome has clung to life just as Hyoubu has so that he can change the future he saw. He thought the survival of humanity required the subjugation of espers. Not surprisingly, his ethos loses out, thanks to Hyoubu’s persistence and Andy’s magic eye. Everyone else sits this out, with only token scenes of farewell, but the focus on Hyoubu, Saotomne, Andy and Yuugiri was as good a place as any to end things.

To its credit, this series doesn’t go longer than the twelve promised episodes, and manages to bring everything to a satisfying close. Hyoubu is ready to finally give in to the grim reaper, but his family stops him. He lives on to realize a future of equal rights for espers. One could say the doomsday Saotome warned is still in the cards, but screw that old man; his alternative future that curbs the freedom of an entire people wasn’t a future worth saving. Maybe a revolt has to happen if equality is ever going to be a reality.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The BABEL chaps arrive right at the nick of time to save Andy from getting arrested. Good timing, right? 
  • If the Children want to be treated more like adults, maybe they should stop sleeping in the same bed, eh?
  • We were surprised Kaoru didn’t really do anything here, but maybe they’ll make a spin-off show about the older her. Maybe! 

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 11

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Hyoubu and Andy locate Walsh, and make him show them the location of Yugiri. He leads them to the bowels of a USEI installation, but it’s a trap. Saotome tells them they have to “administer” espers in order to prevent Ihachigo’s prophecy of catastrophe led by Akashi Kaoru in the future. Hyoubu and Andy are able to escape as PANDRA members show up to help, but when they travel to New York, where they find a reprogramed Yugiri who defeats them one by one.

This week, Hyoubu reunites with PANDRA, Andy chooses a side, they learn that Saotome’s still alive (somehow), and the USEI’s plan for espers, manage to escape a maximum security military installation, and did we mention a pro-esper mayor is elected in New York? Yeah, that last one is kinda out of left field; apparently meant to be a hint that the foretold destruction of mankind will occur there. The idea is, that if given equal rights, espers will cause the apocalypse. Unfortunately, Hyoubu and Andy’s escape is downright ludicrous.

There’s a scene during their escape when all of their opponents helpfully stop firing for a very long time…for no reason. The mini-security drones are laughably inept, and the human commandos have abysmal aim.  Combined with the routine twist of Yuugiri being re-programmed by USEI to attack espers and the convenient reappearance of PANDRA’s sub in the knick of time, this episode is a bit of a mess: more concerned with packing in as much plot and action as possible without regard to pace and plausibility. When the baddies are this stupid, it neutralizes the peril. Though we do like how Kaoru is prophesied to be the harbinger of doom.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 10

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Andy saves Hyoubu, and Fujiko saves the two of them. Andy is sent to BABEL, where a USEI tracking chip is removed from his skull. Hyoubu is brought to the Tsubomi Manor. The children gain Hyoubu’s location from a BABEl administrator, and Kaoru agrees to let Andy come along, and he confirms that Saotome Eiji hired him. Kaoru donates blood to Hyoubu, who escapes to find Eiji. Tsubomi and Kaoru let him go, and Andy joins him.

Hyoubu and Kaoru are both immensely powerful espers, who could accomplish a lot if they joined forces, just like if BABEL and PANDRA did the same. But that doesn’t ever seem likely, for one very important reason: while Kaoru is always looking towards a future, one in which espers and normals can coexist and thrive, Hyoubu is stuck in the past, devoted to making normals pay for their sins. And ne’r the twain shall meet, and all that. Kaoru faces endless possibilities; but Hyoubu claims to be trapped.

You can’t fault Kaoru for her wide-eyed dreamer optimism, but nor can we dismiss Hyoubu’s thirst for justice, let alone revenge. After all, the man he trusted most in the world shot him dead, and he only came back because he has unfinished business. As far as he’s concerned, he only lives to exact justice on Saotome Eiji and everyone else who wronged him. And yet, we can help but think part of him wants to correct the mistakes he himself has made, which got Yuugiri captured and put his PANDRA family in jeopardy.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. We enjoyed scenes with estranged siblings Fujiko and Hyoubu, even if the latter wasn’t interested in any kind of re-connection; we also dug the tense post-betrayal interactions between Hyoubu and Andy; as the episode is quite eager to point out, Hyoubu doesn’t take well to betrayal.

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 09

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The USEI launches a massive, multi-pronged attack, using UAVs to distract Hyoubu. Assault teams armed with ESP-nullifying ECM devices board the ship, but Patty stops them from getting to the children. The director, Andy’s boss, boards the Catastrophe and captures Yuugiri. Andy tries to stop him, and is shot, but the bullet is stopped by his necklace. Hyoubu manages to hold off the USEI barrage long enough for Magi, Yoh, and Momiji and Patty to transport the children to safety. Andy manages to jump off the Catastrophe as it explodes and sinks.

After two episodes that essentially spin off the spinoff by going back to Hyoubu’s tender youth, this week the present returns with unyielding force, and PANDRA is dealt a serious blow. Andy betrays his new family by de-cloaking the ship, opening it up to bombardment. Naturally, when he sees the USEI boarding the ship and hunting down espers, he objects (because he has a moral compass), but it’s out of his hands now; he served his role as puppet, and has to either watch the consequences unfold, or rebel. Watching the Catastrophe go down and the evacuees escaping by the skin of their teeth wraps up a shocking series of events.

It’s amazing how swiftly things go so very very badly for PANDRA. But most shocking is that even with his Unlimited power, Hyoubu can’t put a dent in the onslaught before him. It doesn’t help that he’s close to death, and has an attack right in the middle of battle. Now relieved of their floating haven, with their leader reeling and perhaps their most powerful child in enemy hands, tough times are ahead for PANDRA. It makes us wonder if their plight will lead to them allying with BABEL, who you can’t really call their nemesis at this point. It’s normal humans like Andy’s evil bigot boss who are the nemeses.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 08

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In the continuation of the flashback, Captain Saotome Eiji picks Hyoubu to duel with the new Zero prototype fighter, piloted by the officer Fujiko knocked over. Hyoubu is able to shake off his father’s misgivings and summon the power to defeat the Zero. Just then, an American submarine enters Japanese waters, chasing down three dolphins who use telepathy to request asylum. The ESP team and Hyoubu save them, but a few years later, when Japanese surrender is imminent after the first atom bomb is dropped, Eiji shoots Hyoubu in response to one of the dolphins’ premonitions. Hyoubu doesn’t die, kills Eiji, and swears revenge against all normal humans.

Watching Hyoubu’s past, we can’t help but look back to Muv-Luv Alternative, which wasted no time painting the picture of Yui’s horrible, bloody past and engendering our emotional investment and sympathy for her character throughout the series. Rather than tell Hyoubu’s story early in the series, The Unlimited chose the middle of this cour, putting the present-day story on pause. We’re not sure we’re on board with this order. Don’t get us wrong; the last two episodes were great backstory, but it came at the expense of the present story’s momentum. Muv-Luv’s Yui’s story being told before we meet her as an adult was a clear calculation to put us firmly in her corner.

Perhaps this was also a calculation: show us Hyoubu the Bad Guy first and let us form our own opinions, then show us his past to either reinforce or subvert those opinions. In any case, everything we’ll see of Hyoubu (and Fujiko) from this point onward will be informed by the knowledge he was built up and then discarded by the military, and was powerless to stop the defeat of his country. Things went downhill for him so fast; and Eiji’s decision to eliminate him before he could muster an ESP army and destroy mankind…that was a rough hand to be dealt. But just because we’re kinda sympathetic to Hyoubu doesn’t mean he’s not every bit the threat to humanity Eiji believed.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 07

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In the thirties, a young Hyoubu Kyousuke moves from the mainland to Japan to live with his new adoptive father Baron Tsubomi and his daughter, Fujiko, who is an esper like him. Imperial Army Captain Saotome Eiji asks the children to join his special ESP unit, which mimics a similar Nazi program that makes use of espers for the accelerating war effort.

They join the unit and watch themselves be advertised in the newsreels as Japan’s newest weapon. The unit falls out of favor when Fujiko gets in an altercation with a policeman and naval officer. Rather than submit to standard military training, which will harm their powers, Eiji proposes a duel: the ESP unit versus the Navy’s new Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane.

As last week ended in something of a cliffhanger, and we’re in the middle of the season, now’s as good a time as any for more backstory on Hyoubu. Specifically, the show backs up many decades to when Hyoubu first meets Fujuko (and learn she’s his adoptive sister), to when he first gets involved with the military. It’s fun to watch this proto-PANDRA come to life. And like that later group, this is more of a family than a military unit.

We also like how one seemingly minor incident with the cop and naval officer gets blow into a situation where the entire unit is punished and the whole program threatened. It’s as if the military higher-ups were just waiting for an excuse to shut them down. Fortunately, the unit enjoys the support of Baron Tsubomi. But knowing how things turn out in the present day, the mood is bound to sour sometime in the next episode.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 06

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PANDRA’s next mission is to steal an ECM while in transit, but Andy decides it’s time to execute the mission the USEI assigned: to take the Catastrophe’s source of power: the brain of Ihachigo, a soldier who died in the war. The USEI instructs BABEL to distract PANDRA but not to deploy the Children. When Hyoubu smells a trap, he’s stopped by Kaoru (acting on her own), whom he defeats with his Unlimited ability. Andy races back to the Catastrophe, but Hyoubu is waiting for him.

Hyoubu appears to be near the end of his rope, and yet he still finds the theft of some random piece of technology to be worth his swiftly dwindling time. Still, the mission turns out to serve as a rather useful test for Andy, which he fails. Hyoubu knew he was an undercover agent all along, but maybe held out some hope that he’d come around, after seeing what a warm family PANDRA is. Andy is at least half-esper, after all, making him at least halfway on Hyoubu’s side…right?

Wrong. Andy’s on no one’s side. He joined the USEI so he could “be himself”, even if he still hasn’t grasped exactly who that is. While he sympathizes with Yuugiri and the other esper children and civilians, the hard truth is, Hyoubu wants to exterminate the normals. That’s genocide, and Andy won’t have a part in it, so he does his duty. Things go pretty smoothly at first, but he didn’t count on Hyoubu shaking off all of the diversions so soon, nor did he know Hyoubu was even on to him. Now he’s made his choice, and Hyoubu means to kill him for it.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 05

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PANDRA is in Tokyo, repairing the ship and stocking up on supplies. While keeping an eye on Yuugiri in Asakusa Andy discovers Minamoto and Tsubomi are watching him. They know he’s an American spy. They want to arrest PANDRA en masse, and want his help in exchange for keeping his secret. The meeting is interrupted when Yuugiri comes afoul of policemen after helping a lost boy with her ESP. Andy arrives before things get out of hand. Meanwhile, on his birthday, Hyoubu sneaks into BABEL to perform medical scans, and learns that he’s “running out of time.”

A mass murderer and an esper savior…which is the true Hyoubu?

Can’t he be both? Hyoubu is a legitimate savior of espers, and they love him for it. When Momiji tells Andy the harrowing tale of how Hyoubu saved her from a certain, cruel death, you can’t help but sympathize with him and PANDRA. But normals despise espers, he despises them right back in kind, and isn’t going to lose any sleep if some normals have to die to save espers, or in service of revenge for their mistreatment. A “No Espers” sign, an ESP detector at fun park, and the normals’ reaction to Yuugiri serves as a stark reminders that distrust and resultant oppression of espers is rampant.

If an esper cannot be used as a tool or weapon for their own purposes, they are simply hunted down. Hyoubu is doing his part to create a world where espers don’t have to fear anything, but it’s obvious that his time is limited. BABEL is breathing down PANDRA’s neck, Andy’s cover is in danger of being blown (even if Hyoubu knows, it’s possible the others don’t), and his medical scans aren’t encouraging. Before returning to the ship for a surprise party that further illustrates his “children’s” devotion and esteem for him, the Major checks in on Kaoru, whom we’re reasonably confident he wants to replace him one day. That day may have to come sooner than he’d like.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 04

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PANDRA travels to Japan where Hyoubu Kyousuke wishes to check on his “queen” Akashi Kaoru, one of the Children who work for BABEL. Minamoto sends her along with Nogami Aoi and Sannomiya Shiho to impound the Catastrophe and arrest all of PANDRA. Andy is stuck in the middle, but ultimately helps Hyoubu defeat BABEL. The Children use their Triple Boost ESP to control the Catastrophe, but Hyoubu counters with his Unlimited power, and PANDRA escapes.

We were just saying last week how we were bummed that so far Hyoubu and PANDRA were punching so far below their weight class. This week, our concerns are addressed, as they face off against their arch-rivals. We meet the Children from Zettai Karen Children for the first time, and they’re a force to behold. It’s almost scary how quick, efficient, and coordinated they are, which is good, because for once PANDRA actually has to break a sweat. If it weren’t for Hyoubu and Andy, they’d all be in Japanese prison.

Hyoubu wants to create a world where espers aren’t treated like second-class citizens. He’ll always put an esper above a “normal”. So in this regard, the espers of BABEL aren’t really his enemies, only misguided comrades to be converted. The one he’s most bent on converting is Akashi Kaoru, the most powerful of the Children and the one he wants sitting on the Throne as queen of the new world he wants to build. Of course, she and her two colleagues are still just kids (and sore losers to boot), so Hyoubu will do what all good antagonists do and bide his time.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 03

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PANDRA attends a summit in the Kingdom of Monarch, whose leader Princess Sophie is in favor of normal-esper coexistence. They cross paths with Minamoto and Sasaki of the BAse of Backing ESP Laboratory (BABEL). Sasaki steals a USB drive from Hyoubu that contains a video game, which unlocks state secrets when they beat it. Meanwhile, PANDRA kidnaps Sophie after Yugiri had a premonition about her assassination. Minamoto finds out that an anti-Esper member of the government arranged the assassination. PANDRA successfully foils his plans and he is arrested.

There’s comfort in easy wins, but not much excitement. Sometimes, you want the good guys (or in this case bad…ish guys) to be truly challenged; to have to put everything on the line and expend the maximum amount of energy and resources to achieve their goals. But that’s not yet the case, and part of it is because PANDRA and Hyoubu Kyousuke are so damned powerful, they more often than not make humans look pitiful, powerless, and silly. The number of humans who hate espers may outnumber those espers by quite a degree, but they can’t kill an esper with a thought.

So: easy wins. This is certainly one. The outcome was never in doubt; Princess Sophie wasn’t going to get assassinated. The trick was to get the assassin – the mastermind, if you can call him that – to reveal himself. To do so, Hyoubu arranged a clever set of lures, including the princess herself. But the time spent wandering the city with her and watching the BABEL guys play a video game, while fun, feel like padding, and the animation didn’t look particularly good this week. One redeeming quality: the princess was neither a high-pitched squirt nor spoiled bitch. She was an adult, and a very pleasant one.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 02

Andy acclimates to life aboard the Catastrophe and meets the various members of P.A.N.D.R.A., each of which has a unique esper power. Hyoubu takes him on his first job, meeting with the mafia in Venice. They make good use of Andy’s power negation to foil the mafia boss Carlo’s plan to take out Hyoubu, who turns around and kills him with his “Unlimited” power. They return to the Catastrophe and have a celebratory shindig.

The first episode introduced us to (anti)hero Hyoubu, his pint-sized ward Yugiri and his newest employee, the two-faced Andy. This week we meet more members of P.A.N.D.R.A. and learn what it is a criminal esper organization does with itself, besides cruise around on giant yachts. Yugiri is a mind-readers; Momotaro has the body of a squirrel; Magi can change his form into, say, wings, which he uses to fly. Momiji can teleport. Yoh manipulates sound. All these skills prove valuable in Andy’s first official mission, which amounts to killing off a mafia boss and old friend. Andy’s passive power – to negate the powers of others, is perhaps most powerful and useful of all, which is probably why Hyoubu is keeping him around.

Some like Magi don’t trust him – and they’re right not to – but he defers to “Major” Hyoubu, an 80-year-old Dorian Gray who’s stayed young by using his esper powers (and drinking lots of milk). Hyoubu may be exceedingly confident, but as the incident with the mob boss proves, he doesn’t strike us as someone who will let someone pull the wool over his eyes. He’s a survivor. We’ll also note that Andy was struck by the family atmosphere of P.A.N.D.R.A. when off-duty. It’s definitely not what he expected – there are even orphan espers aboard, suggesting Hyoubu is an immortal gangster with a heart o’gold. Or maybe he’s just making sure he has a deep bench of esper “talent” waiting in the wings?


Rating: 6 (Good)

 

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 01

Hyoubu Kyousuke, leader of the criminal esper organization P.A.N.D.R.A., is willingly taken into custody and taken to Deadlock, an island prison for espers. There, he meets the friendly Andy Shinomiya, whom he poisons in order to get the two to the “hospital”, where he can use his powers to escape. Before they do, Hyoubu retrieves his friend/colleague Yugiri, who was being experimented on by the warden. Hyoubu uses his UNLIMITED power to fend off a genetically-engineered esper supersodier, and when they make it outside, the P.A.N.D.R.A. flagship Catastrophe is waiting for them. Andy is later revealed to be a USEI investigator whose task was to infiltrate P.A.N.D.R.A.

So…Zettai Karen Children. We must confess, we’ve never seen nor heard of it, but we didn’t let that stop us from taking a peek at this spinoff. After all, we watched Railgun before Index, and it made sense. And so does The Unlimited. Hyoubu Kyousuke and P.A.N.D.R.A. were apparently the main antagonists in the original series that spanned 51 episodes some five years ago, but this series will be focusing on them as the (anti)heroes. Hyoubu is a bit of an arrogant prick, but he has the powers to back it up, and while his methods aren’t always morally squeaky-clean, his ultimate goal – rescuing a little girl from a horrible fate – shows his heart is in the right place.

Along with Hyoubu and the girl Yugiri (who really only says “Major”), we have Andy Shinomiya, the pleasant-enough ex-soldier who hates espers despite being one himself. Up until the closing minutes, he seems like he’ll be the Rock of the bunch, the newbie whom everyone will tease and harass but who won’t go back on his promise to join the club if Hyoubu sprung him. Of course, in that closing minute, we learn he’s some kind of government agent who probably doesn’t have Hyoubu’s best interests at heart. Hyoubu may well know this, but probably won’t tell Andy. This was diversionary and cohesive enough, but not quite up to snuff with the first two Winter series we’ve sampled.


Rating: 6 (Good)