Alice to Zouroku – 04

Nearly the entirety of this episode is spent in the cramped dark interior of a Hummer in which Minnie C continues to restrain Sana and lectures her about the fact that she’s not human, but rather a random but extremely powerful phenomenon that’s taken the form of a little girl.

Their scenes feel numerous and repetitive, until Sana meets someone who looks like her older self in her subconscious, then musters the energy to transport Zouroku into the car with her and Minnie C.

This occurs after Zouroku makes it clear he not only wants Sana back, but wants to make her a part of his and Sanae’s family. Sanae concurs, but hopes in the future her gramps will be more open and communicative with her and Sana.

When Zouroku is in the Hummer, he wastes no time lecturing Minnie C, who is unquestionably up to some of the “crooked stuff” he hates so much. Minnie can justify her beastly actions all she likes; as far as Zouroku is concerned, Sana is a little girl who doesn’t deserve this treatment…even if she isn’t really a little girl (and the jury is very much still out on that).

When Minnie starts shooting her service pistol, Sana tries to surrender, but Zouroku won’t let her call herself a monster or a waste of time. It’s his choice what he gets himself into, and now that he’s into this, he’s committed to her well-being.

That being said, neither Sana nor Zouroku have the power to oppose Minnie C, which is why seeing Ichijou Shizuku arrive at the scene to rescue them is necessary.

Her appearence in her suit left me doubting she was the same “cosplaying” girl who saved Sana from Minnie in the first ep, but now at least we know she’s a “Cabinet Information Research Office Secret Service agent”, and Ryuu and her superiors are well aware of her abilities.

This episode felt like it dragged the rescue out, and as a result, it was very monologue-heavy. Also, Ryuu’s assurances everything would be fine (which they turned out to be) kinda sapped the tension. I’m glad Sana and Z were rescued, and have a powerful ally who knows how to properly use her powers.

Sagrada Reset – 03

Two years have passed, as has Souma Sumire, and Asai Kei is a lot more careful about changing the future after losing her. But when client Murase Youka comes to them requesting they revive her cat (recently killed by one of the anime world’s infamous murderous drivers), he dives into the mission with what passes for him as enthusiasm. It would, after all, prevent the client from shedding tears (though she doesn’t strike me as the emotional type) and that’s the reason Asai got into this business with Haruki.

As Asai and Haruki investigate (which leads them to a cat-loving and cat mind-inhabiting informant) there’s an ongoing flirtation being carried out, mostly by Haruki. Sure, Haruki is kind of muddling through, and Asai isn’t the most receptive (he’s seemingly put off when she talks like a cat or asks if she should wear a new yukata or miniskirt), and it might be the stealthiest romance of the season…but it’s a romance in play nonetheless.

That, and Hanazawa Kana’s measured but increasingly warm delivery, keeps me from going all Seika Nono and falling asleep over this show. I’m not going to make excuses, it is slow, and deliberate, and sometimes boring. But last week showed that if one is patient with Sagrada Reset, one has a tendency to be rewarded accordingly.

So it is that Asai’s classmate Minami Mirai (a fan of the occult) ends up suspended above his bed on a (second) saturday morning. Somehow saving the cat resulted in a present very different than the one Asai wakes up to at the start of the episode. And it all has something to do with what Murase was doing while Asai and Haruki were saving her cat. We know she can fly, so that’s a start. But so far, this show solves mysteries in episode pairs, so we’ll have to wait until next week to see where this is going (or where it’s gone).

Alice to Zouroku – 03

In the aftermath of Sana’s big pig-conjuring hiccup, she’s loath to come right out and apologize to Zouroku (as any little kid would be), but playing Good Cop Bad Old Man, Ryuu manages to get Sana to wear a tracking device so he and Shizuku can help keep her safe.

He also wants Zouroku to go ahead and adopt Sana, which is a big step, but isn’t necessarily out of the question for the ol’ buzzard. Sana is a highly believable (and adorable) little kid throughout, constantly asking for juice but taking offense when Sanae asks if she needs help in the potty.

Meanwhile, Kitou takes of the kid gloves and sends in Minnie C Tachibana (again) to retrieve Sana. While en route to her mission we learn quite a bit about Minnie that makes her both a more sympathetic character and explains why she’s on the side of the bad guys.

Minnie met and immediately fell in love with and married an American marine, but when he was killed defusing a bomb in Iraq, she was a lost at sea (figuratively). That is, until she was reborn as a Dream of Alice out of a desire to be held in his big hairy arms – the arms we saw in episode one.

We also learn, I believe for the first time, that Sana’s elaborately costumed saviour from that first episode was actually Shizuku; they have the same blue mirror gate, after all. What’s interesting about this is that while Minnie, the Twins, and the Artist are all under the control of the facility, Shizuku is not only free but leads a normal life.

This is probably why despite Sana possessing power many magnitudes higher than she, Shizuku is working to keep Sana free. At her young age, she still has a chance to lead a normal life. But controlling her powers is key.

And what powers. In another flashback we see Kaitou showing Minnie C the “Wonderland” Sana conjured with a thought. Among the Dreams of Alice, Sana is clearly the crown jewel for them, and the facility wants to keep studying her under it’s determined if others can gain the same level of power.

Minnie C is fully on board with this, because if she can attain Sana’s power, she might be able to bring back her husband. That seems like a long shot, but she clearly thinks its worth it and has dedicated her life to that goal, even though Sana’s power specifically does not harm humans…for now.

Minnie C and Shizuku, then are diametrically opposed in their treatment of Sana. Minnie C has absolutely no compulsions about violently restraining Sana and threatening to break her neck. Sana is The Objective, nothing more. For Shizuku, as well as Zouroku and Sanae, Sana is a little girl who deserves better than lab rat status simply because she has supernatural power.

We leave Sana in the firm hands of Minnie’s beloved, and the good guys only have the faintest idea where she might have gone. But Shizuku is flying through the city, hoping she’s going in the right direction, and won’t rest until she’s found and re-rescued. Hopefully she won’t be too late before Minnie C’s obsession allows Sana to be hurt any further.

Sagrada Reset – 02

Just when Asai determines Mari is the result of her mother’s ability to create a clone of her never-born daughter, an agent of the “Bureau” (or “Kanrikyoku”), Tsushima, arrives to take her away.

The father left town, and now the mother will do the same, leaving the virtual Mari a virtual orphan. That doesn’t sit right with Asai, so he has Haruki reset, and the formulation of a plan commences.

It’s actually pretty impressive how quickly and efficiently Asai directs the service he and Haruki are likely going to be providing throughout the run of the show: “erasing tears” by resetting and fixing the cause of those tears.

Their classmates assist with their own abilities, but when the one who allows Asai to share his memories with Haruki bristles at the prospect of defying the Bureau, Asai cuts himself with a broken ramune bottle until Tsushima gives permission.

Everything works out perfectly: Asai, with the help of the rest of the group, is able to show Mari’s mother the error of her ways; to stay and continue raising the girl who may not technically be her real daughter, but loves her nonetheless.

With Haruki and his classmates’ combined powers, Asai has gained the power to “erase sadness.” In the process, he’s also managed to awaken some feelings in Haruki, though the road is long.

He discusses this in great detail with Souma Sumire, who is a tough nut to crack: you get the feeling she’s glad Asai may have found his calling, but a part of her also regrets bringing him and Haruki closer together.

Mind you, the relationship between Asai and Haruki doesn’t become a romance overnight. After all, Haruki has only gained back a small portion of the full spectrum of emotions most humans carry and experience. She cuts her hair at his suggestion, but also confuses trust with love. Asai proves it when they kiss and there’s no spark.

Then he undoes the premature kiss by asking her to reset. After seeing what they managed to accomplish with Mari and her mother, Haruki believes following Asai’s lead is her “zeroth rule”, so she complies.

But in the period between Haruki’s Save Point and her Reset, Souma Sumire falls from the bridge, into the river, and dies, as we witnessed at the end of last week’s episode. Seeing her wearing the dress and holding the red umbrella rendered her a dead girl walking, and gave her last conversation with Asai far more significance than he could comprehend at the time.

When Haruki finds Asai quietly mourning on the rooftop, she demands he instruct her to reset…unaware she just did, and it’s too late. When she sees Asai crying, she can’t help but do the same. She’s following his lead, but also realizing that this is what the two of them have to stop from happening to others at all costs.

There’s a huge jump of two years to when Asai and Haruki, now high schoolers, are recruited by Tsushima into a Bureau-sanctioned “Service Club”, where they can erase sadness in an official (and supervised) capacity.

It’s a pretty jarring time leap, to be honest, but it means the first two episodes were always meant to be a prologue in which the pairing of Asai and Haruki was made and their shared calling revealed. Now the real work begins: both the sadness-erasure work, and the emotional-awakening-of-Haruki work.

Alice to Zouroku – 02

Last week Sana met the ‘vinegar’ (Zouroku); this week she meets the ‘honey’, Z’s lovely, kind, and capable granddaughter Sanae, voiced by Toyosaki Aki. Sana is in Defense Mode at first, but Sanae manages to disarm her with a pig puppet, something, incidentally, Leon did to get Matilda’s mind off the trauma she’d just endured.

Sana didn’t witness her family’s murder, but she did witness…something very bad, which is why she had to leave the facility. But outside the facility is extremely hazardous, both in terms of what could happen to Sana and what she could accidentally do to others with powers she’s not 100% in control of.

Still, the Kashimura residence is a great safe house to demonstrate her powers writ small, so to speak, if “writ small’ means conjuring a whole herd of pigs upon seeing Sanae’s puppet, to creating a mammoth pancake when she can’t wait the nebulous “a bit” for seconds.

Sanae gets Sana into more contemporary clothes, fixes her hair by hand, and fills her belly. All the while, Sana inspects the home, which is a stark contrast from the cold, sterile research facility. Also, that big pancake, like any food, required a massive transfer of energy, leaving Sana tuckered-out.

When the research facility comes up in conversation, Sana starts to talk, which is the best way to process what happened, deal with it, and move on. She mentions how everybody was either very professional or very nice, and how she didn’t even know how to communicate before meeting the twins, expanding our knowledge of Sana’s abilities. Interestingly, the memories seem to be narrated in two voices: the young Sana, and an adult Sana voiceover.

When talk of what she found in the deeper levels of the facility (which involved huge crystals and lots of blood), Sanae is there to give her a needed hug. This new place may be ‘weird’, and more cramped and less clean than the facility, but it is where she currently belongs, at least until a proper plan of action can be formulated. Sanae makes sure Sana knows she is safe, and that everything will be okay.

Energized by her meal, her nap, and her hug, Sana is ready to take on the facility now, and when she decides they’ll look for Zouroku, she and Sanae end up teleported to, in quick succession: high over Tokyo, on a tarmac as a plane lands, clinging to a rushing freight train…and Antarctica.

It’s clear, then, that while Sana has immense power to conjure anything and travel anywhere, she’s still a long way from controlling her powers, either their level, or keeping whims from becoming reality. Tackling the facility in this state would be reckless.

In another example of the unpredictability of those powers, Sana and Sanae finally return to Tokyo, it’s to Zouroku’s flower shop, and the pigs come along for the ride, destroying the shop in short order. It’s another blunder, but far better for such blunders to occur in a controlled, safe environment than at the facility where many other ability-users will be deployed against her, even the twins.

Sana still has her ability-using ally whom we caught a glimpse of last week—she said they’d “meet again soon.” But I’m glad Zouroku’s granddaughter has been introduced to smooth Z’s rough edges, and the warm and cozy slice-of-life with Sanae and Sana was appreciated and a nice respite from what is sure to be more action and danger going forward.

Sagrada Reset – 01 (First Impressions)

Asai Kei is introduced by class rep Souma Sumire to Haruki Misora, a stoic and seemingly emotionless girl who has no friends. Because Haruki has the ability to “reset” the world up to 3 days into the past, and Kei has a supernatural five-sense memory, Souma believes they’re perfectly suited to joining forces for good.

Sagrada (or Sakurada) Reset is a bit of an odd duck, like its two leads. On the one hand, it subtly, delicately paints the picture of a small town that is totally normal except for the fact that half of its residents possess supernatural powers. It also delves, if not too deeply, into some interesting philosophical ideas about what constitutes “goodness”—Sumire’s story of Zen and Gizen to Asai being one of the episode’s high points.

But there are a few issues. First of all, this episode felt like it took forever to run, and although it accomplished a lot, it just didn’t feel that eventful. That may be okay in a 24-episode show, but the earlier a show can impress me and draw me in, the more likely I am to commit to such a show.

I also don’t mind a matter-of-fact, stoic duo, but that comes with the caveat that sometimes scenes are going to feel slow and listless. It didn’t help that this was a very talky episode, and neither Hanazawa Hana nor Ishikawa Kaito ever raise and barely modulate their voices throughout all this talking. Yuuki Aoi breathes some energy into Souma, but I wager she’d be the quiet character on any other show.

The episode also seemed reluctant to demonstrate the characters’ special abilities (and didn’t even name one for Souma, who may well not have one); indeed, if one were to blink when Haruki whispers “Reset” in the wind, you’d miss her ability altogether. Yet on another level, it’s intriguing that such powerful abilities are presented so plainly and elegantly, rather than, for example, a CGI light and effects show, or even worse, floating TV screens.

Two things at which Reset excels is its ambient sound design, and it’s awareness of its leisurely pace, which it uses to drop a sudden twist at the end: that the little girl Haruki has been sitting with recently has actually been dead for seven years. I definitely want to learn what’s up with that and how such a predicament will be resolved (presumably by our duo), and so there’s a hook for continuing to watch.

The “cold close” apparently showing Souma (same hair and eyes) falling off a bridge to her death compounds that desire to see what happens next. Like Akashic Records, there’s potential, but I’m banking on the fact that neither show’s strongest episode was its first. Unlike Akashic Records, there’s a stiltedness to the cast that exposes the fine line between ‘subtle, deliberate’ and just plain dull and tedious. So we’ll see.

Norn9: Norn + Nonet – 03

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Norn9 continues to hook me with its gorgeous aesthetic, but man, it’s men are jerks! Well, around half of them are; the others are twerps. I think the only guys still unmarked by assholishness are Heishi and Masamune. Mikoto and Sakuya have some kind of past with each other, but I don’t see how she’s been able to stand most of the rest. Poor Koharu is entirely at the mercy Kakeru’s whims; he can joke and mess around with her all he likes, but when she so much as tries to rub dirt off his ear, he slaps her away as if rebuking his chattel. Jerk!

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Even lunch has to devolve into a childish confrontation, when Nanami gets lambasted for her apparently subpar shiruken onigiri. Akito puts her hands on her and tells her she’s so quick to toss her food, she shouldn’t make it to begin with. He at least shows a little heart by no throwing the food out after taking it from her, but still…Jerk!

Oh, and there’s Future Boy, who’s apparently a big smartypants, who is poring through the ship’s library trying to learn as much as possible about in order to get back to Tokyo. However, when he sees a glowing ethereal girl, he gets a strange nostalgic feeling, complete with a flash of her embracing him somewhere.

Okay, Future Boy isn’t really a jerk, but as curious as his predicament is, the show was overstuffed with characters before he showed up.

Kakeru finally apologizes to Koharu for slapping her hand away from his ear, and offers an explanation: it’s all he has left of his father, who was murdered. Work on not being a jerk, Kakeru.

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This somewhat disjointed episode ends with another confrontation with Akito, being a total jerk to Nanami, whom he believe suspects him of being the “inside perpetrator.” The entire reasons he thinks she partnered with him was so that she could one day turn him in to The World and be rewarded. But he, in his jerkishness, is mistaken about that.

Nanami, in fact, is aware Akito has no special ability, but is willing to protect him. To his protests and veiled threats she responds by demanding he kill her here and now rather than draw it out any longer; but he doesn’t want to kill her.

Even when a gust of wind and the whimsical lack of railings on the Norn almost sends Nanami plummeting to her death, Akito can’t help but grab her hand, even when she gives up. It’s clear then; Nanami intends for them to live together or die together. Maybe he’ll be less of a jerk to her?

Sorry for the flippantness…but I decided to watch one more episode, which demonstrated that this show has the ability to both pull me in with its pretty world and intriguing personal mysteries, and push me away with some of its more erratic and/or abrasive characters.

I’m think I’m going to let the latter motion win out and stay pushed away from Norn9. It’s probably for the best.

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Norn9: Norn + Nonet – 02

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Last week’s episode-ending bang came from an attacking ship from the outside. One of its two crew members boards the Norn, testing Mikoto’s defensive powers and warning her that she and the other ten are the true “disaster.”

So begins an episode full of mysteries big and small, most of which remain too obscure to really care about. Rather than feeling all that enticed, I felt a bit left out as the episode kinda did its own thing, darting from one activity to another.

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It actually reminded me of playing a game with lots of long cutscenes, which while very technically impressive and pretty, are still cutscenes, meaning I’m waiting to get back control of the game.

Seeing Koharu’s powers in action was pretty righteous, but was undercut by the just-along-for-the-ride, autopilot feeling emanating from the rest of the episode.

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With the attackers repelled, the second half of the episode focuses on who their foe was and what they want. It is believed someone was “working on the inside”, so everyone suspects everyone else, and gets paired up so they can keep an eye on/out for one another.

In two of the three cases of guy-girl pair-ups, it is implied the guy and girl have some kind of unpleasant past that drew them apart, but everyone’s very tight-lipped on what those pasts entailed, only that they were painful in some way.

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Naturally, Koharu gets paired up with Kakeru, and they set to work replanting the orchard she accidentally incinerated, her love for him growing with each planted sapling and descending sakura petal. He even has a little fun with her isolated upbringing by joking that they must sleep and bathe together…ribbing that was more awkward than witty.

Then, one morning, while Koharu is watering her garden, some snot-nosed kid from 2016 shows up, having no idea how he got there. We saw him earlier in the embrace of a mysterious woman in a big pretty blue chamber, perhaps the core of Norn; now he’s out and very confused.

I know how he feels! This episode was a random jumble of strange events, mysteries, and clashing tones, resulting in a kind of indifferent shrug…and I’m only now mentioning the bevy of miniature duck slaves who serve the Norners their meals! My resulting impression was…a lot more ambiguous than last week. Ethereal scenery alone will not save this show!

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Norn9: Norn + Nonet – 01 (First Impressions)

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I’ll say one thing about No9No+No: it’s a very pretty show; far better-looking than I expected going in. Its first episode is adept at utilizing light and color to portray temperature and mood, which is with a few notable exceptions, very pleasant and upbeat, even…fluffy.

And that’s no moon, nor is it a space station: it’s the titular Norn, a giant spherical ship (kind of a “Life Star”) with a crew of ten humans, A sakura-haired maiden becomes the eleventh, delivering her from snow and solitude to a new life of adventure, mystery, and beautiful people.

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The show definitely has the “retro-futuristic fantasy” aesthetic going on, blending Last Exile-style steampunk elements with Castle in the Sky-like architecture. There’s a decent sense of awe, and also a distinct “I want to be there” welcoming quality.

This is really an episode of introductions, with Pinky, who later remembers her name is probably Koharu, standing in as the audience surrogate, all wide-eyed and ready to soak it all in. We also get some cursory introductions to the other eight crew members besides her and her guide, first friend, and perhaps down the road, more, Yuiga Kakeru, who get the lion’s share of screen time.

Koharu becomes the third female member of the crew (there’s also the stoic Shiranui Nanami and more fervent, less patient Kuga Mikoto. There’s also Ichinose Senri, who initially refuses to come outside to meet Koharu, not wanting to get close to anyone since he fears they could all “become enemies” someday soon.

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All eleven crew members have special abilities and were chosen specifically to crew the Norn, on a mission of peace sanctioned by a powerful, advanced organization called The World. We can glean that Koharu’s abilities may have been responsible for some kind of disaster in her past that separated her from her family (or killed them) and left her alone to the point she forgot her name.

But now she’s no longer alone; the other crew members ask her to rely on them, just as they’ll come to rely on her once she has her bearings (there’s a rather staged-for-romantic-benefit sequence where she falls out of a tree and nearly to her death before being saved by Kakeru).

Finally, the episode ends with a literal bang, an explosion that instantly made me recall the flames in Koharu’s memories. Perhaps her ability relates to fire in some way, and she’ll be of some use in whatever incident is afoot. I won’t mind tuning in next week to see what transpires.

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