Grisaia no Kajitsu – 06

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Grisaia no Kajitsu laid an egg this week: It was awkward, rushed, and profoundly predictable. Dare I say it? Episode 6 was actually bad. Not even the visuals were up to snuff this week and that is very troubling. (with so much light-bloom, it looked like an original XBox game!)

What’s really going on here? Where did my interesting, dark, and vaguely unsettling show go?

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Yes. Yes you are!

Yumi-chan is finally revealed to be the heiress of the Tohin Railway Group, but she’s semi-self-outcast, because she’s a girl and her father wanted a boy, and her mother wished she’d been able to have a boy and committed suicide after her father took a mistress to have a male child, but that male child also died so BOOHOO?!

What a long winded, dull, emotionless basis for a plot. BOO HOO!

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No! Seriously! I wanted to claw my eyes out during this whole episode I cared so little for anything going on. Even Yuuji feels like he doesn’t care any more than he cares that Yumi is this chapter’s love interest and, if he ever wants to complete this terrible dating sim of a prison school anime, he better damn well bed each and every one of these harem-targets!

BOO HOO!

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So Yumi’s idiotic, controlling psycho of a father determines that now is the time to make her his official heir. His best solution to get her to agree to that? Attack her and fill her with terror!

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So Yuuji ignores his orders, stages an armed stand-off with a swat team and Yumi and fakes her death via a hand grenade. After seeing her father mourn at her grave, Yumi feels better and all goes back to normal!

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WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU Grisaia no Kajitsu??

How do you expect us to give a crap about a girl we’ve never spent time with, who’s a selfish prick, who has a bland back-story you INFO DUMP on us in a 240-second long monologue under a bridge in the rain five minutes before faking her death?

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The only interesting element in the entire episode is this railway-themed board game.

The answer is you don’t think about anything and your only answer to any question is boobies!

Guess what? YOU FORGOT THE BOOBIES THIS WEEK TOO!!!!!

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Grisaia no Kajitsu – 05

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Michiru tries to kill herself with pills… sorta… but she’s fine because these are just the pills that control which one of her personalities is dominant. However, after some bed rest, her green-eyed persona informs Yuuji that her blue-eyed form is gone and not coming back.

Thus begins a rather strange and, at times, awkward episode of Grisaia no Kajitsu…

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Green-eye-chan’s agenda and motives aren’t initially clear (or ever, entirely) but it is clear that she’s cleaning house. Whether Yuuji suspects her of suppressing Blue-eye-chan or not, he discovers the ‘passing book,’ the personalities use to communicate.

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After confronting Green-eye-chan, who is conflicted about surviving past the original body owner’s refusal to live, Yuuji over powers her, forces pills in her mouth, knocks her out, and buries her alive on the cliff face she loved so much…

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What follows is a rather censored sequence of flashbacks featuring how the two personalities met. Rather, how they were two separate girls who were both trying to commit suicide from the same school roof top one afternoon and accidentally stopped each other and became friends.

Then original green-eye-chan commits suicide later because she’s clearly been sexually assaulted…

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I’m not proposing that we need to see breasts, nipples, and vaginas to really get this story. Rather, I’m proposing that the blur and white-wash effects are distracting enough to make the story rather pointless to tell in the first place. There are just better ways to tell this story in an interesting visual way, without having to rely on shock value… that we can’t see.

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After coming to terms with her dead friend’s death and her dead cat friend’s death, Michiru finally has the will to live and digs her way out of the coffin. Apparently Yuuji knew she wanted to live, but she needed to get there on her own, so he only ‘lightly’ buried her alive.

Michiru is touched that he waited all this time by her grave side and they walk back to school together and, later, visit green-eye-chan’s house in California. Some how. For some reason.

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To it’s credit, Grisaia stayed pretty dark this week. The tone and pacing were effective at making us unsure if one or both of the eye-color-character-personalities would survive. The art was lovely. At least, what wasn’t censored…

However, I can not tell green and blue apart. I mean, personality wise, which is a very big problem for having any of this mean anything to me.

More importantly, the whole chapter felt like a side quest in a dating sim. Like Michiru wont have any part in the story anymore because, why bother? she’s already ‘leveled up’ to be part of Yuuji’s harem. Hrm…

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Grisaia no Kajitsu – 04

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This week’s Grisaia no Kajitsu didn’t quite know what to do with itself. Was it trying to parody Bakemonogatari with its stoic psychological conversations about life after death? Was it trying to lead us astray with Michiru’s surprise split personality disorder?

None of these new threads play nicely with the panty shots and harem motif that continues to fuel the show. Worse, none of it furthered Yuuji’s assassin plot or the counter assassin plots of the other girls.

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Werewolf/vampire talk foreshadowing time…I guess?

While Yuuji is certainly in Episode 3, I argue that he’s just there for our point of reference and that the true central character this week is Michiru Matsushima. Michiru can be funny and her interactions with Yuuji last week (where he started yelling military commands at her and renamed pieces of her hair after military formations) were hysterical.

Not this week though. Last week’s quick and poppy and bizarre dialog was replaced by a slow and dull musing about death…

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I get that Grisaia no Kajitsu is setting up a foreboding mood and that we’re supposed to worry about a Michiru possibly having a terminal illness or that someone else could be about to die, but the whole conversation feels like it’s ripping off Bakemonogatari.

And that doesn’t work with Michiru. Not when we see her wandering around in a ‘hair bleech’ haze a few scenes later. She’s too goofy to sell the introspection.

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Then we get a few scenes where Michiru’s eyes turn from blue to green and she’s a totally different character and, again, we get a very Bakemonogatari-like scene. In this, the tsundere straight face asks the straight-man what a kiss is like and then they kiss.

As with the death-chat scene, it feels like Grisaia is warning us that Michiru is about to exit the show, via crazy or something else, but I couldn’t take any of it seriously. Well, not with a double personality at least. The kiss scene would have worked nicely without it honestly…

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Just the girls watching shark man with a stuffed tuna

Then the black cat that’s been hanging around at the edges of the show since the first episode is run over by a car and Michiru loses her shit.

Set in the back of a taxi, Michiru tries to give the cat some of his favorite treats. He eats a little but then coughs a blood bloom and twitch-dies. It’s a horrific scene, actually.

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This gag was actually funny but too complicated to explain!

So was it good? Bad? Something else?

I’m on the fence. Killing the cat was a surprise mood (for most of the episode anyway) and the death scene was handled with a brutality that makes me hopeful that, whenever the assassin stuff finally does hit the fan, it will be spectacular.

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However, it was a slow, unmemorable, eye rolling episode otherwise. Introducing a split personality out of nowhere — as a minor side plot — isn’t bold, it’s not a good idea. Yeah I like Michiru but not that much. Not enough for her to get the amount of screen time needed to make such a crazy plot work.

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Grisaia no Kajitsu – 03

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It’s difficult to explain why Grisaia is so good concisely. On the surface, this show is just a harem bit with a string of crotch shots held together by an ex-assassin’s inner monologues, as he goes about his day as a high-schooler.

It’s widescreen and it’s spatial effects raise it above other harems visually, but it relies on many of the same joke telling conventions, unending shots of panties, and the who will he eventually ‘bang’ of creepy harem fanishness.

But the, when was the last time you saw a character full on masturbate onto someone’s bed while someone watched that wasn’t hentai?

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Perhaps that’s a weird example to justify a show as “good”,  but Grisaia is doing a solid job pushing past my expectations — past my comfort zone — and that gains it a lot of credit.

Even more, since this episode was so lighthearted and harem-genre otherwise, it’s difficult to forget that more than one student here is batshit crazy (and armed to the teeth) and that, at any minute, Grisaia’s genre could change, with camera-soaking violence.

On to the summary!

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This week start’s off with Yuuji catching Amane picking his room’s lock and slipping in. He’s not sure what her motives are, even when he witnesses her sniffing his clothing and writhing on his bed masturbating, because it’s pretty clear that her skill level is very high and she could have staged the whole weird scene when she noticed he’d caught her.

We’re not even sure, as are seeing the show from his perspective, but it is disturbing!

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Then Yuuji encourages Makina to jog through the pain by teaching her the “Amane Suou is a Bitch in Heat Song” and we are again catapulted past our expectation zone. It’s jarring but also funny and charming. More importantly, it disarms us with it’s silliness and makes us forget the twisted side that’s creeping below Grisaia’s surface.

More twisted than a girl who is so boy-crazy she’s going to finger herself in his bed, at least.

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The rest of the episode also aims to distract us. We see all the girls accepting Yuuji more, from sharing meals with him, to making fanny-packs for him. It’s all very genre appropriate and smile-making but those vacant eyes can’t lie.

Or maybe they can and that’s the point: we have no idea what everyone is thinking. That’s gotta be disturbing to a master assassin who’s going to a walled school ringed with cameras.

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Grisaia has solid comedic timing, decent animation and effects, and fanservice that is actually more aggressively sexual than normal fanservice, which gives it extra punch. If you have room in your Fall ’14 viewing schedule, you owe it to yourself to give this one a look.

Just be warned that, nipples or not, censor ‘clouds’ or not, this show is toeing the line for how adult it can get.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 03

Poor Miranda! She never had a chance, and more than Coco
Poor Miranda! She never had a chance, any more than Coco did

Cross Ange is a dark, gritty, brutal, sometimes just-plain-wrong mecha series done right. As First Troop battles a battleship-sized DRAGON and its twenty-odd underlings, Miranda is simply told to keep back and stay alive, an order she cannot follow. Just when you thought, “well, maybe they’ll have Miranda resent Ange for Coco’s death later”, she dies too, just as she’s told not to!

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But just so you know, the show isn’t content just with killing off rookie redshirts, as the highly capable, experienced bad-ass Captain Zola also meets her end in the fiasco of a battle where Ange first tries to desert, then freaks out and flies around, then slams into Zola’s Paramail, preventing her from landing the killing blow on the DRAGON. For her trouble, Ange gets to await rescue as the blood from Zola’s empty eye socket drips all over her cockpit. Frankly, I’m surprised more pilots didn’t lose their lives out there: those DRAGONS are exceedingly efficient at tearing people to pieces.

Everyone hates you. You are the worst.
Everyone hates you. You are the worst.

Even if it’s not all due not entirely to Ange, her selfish actions contributed greatly. She’s also gone and made even greater enemies of Zola’s three lovers: Hilda, Roselie and Chris. And Jill even sent her official petitions to several nations: all were rejected, as no one has ever heard of the Misurugi Empire or a Princess Angelise. She hasn’t just been plucked from her world: that world doesn’t even exist anymore.

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Nice touch that Norma get their full names back when they die

Once healed up and out of her Gaultier Leeloo bandages, Jill has her lug the tombstones of the dead to their final resting places – the duty of the person responsible for their deaths. It’s here she learns her cushy mana-filled world is built atop the bones of the Norma, all fighting to protect a civilization that spits on them. When she learns fallen Norma get their names back, she starts to wish for death, to escape the hell and return to a place of peace, even if it is the afterlife – because she’ll at least once again be Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi.

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Villkiss – Ange’s (old) new ride

With her first paramail trashed, Jill bestows Vilkiss on Ange – while awesome-looking, it’s hard to control and has seen better days; the perfect ride for someone with a death wish. But the Vilk is no lemon; and in giving it to Ange Jill seems to be challenging the voracity of her wish.

Salia is the new First Troop Captain…for better or worse, as she’s extremely rigid and by-the-book leader, probably a better lieutenant than captain. When they find the DRAGON and it’s revealed it’s basically acting as a decoy for a sea-to-air attack, Salia kind of just freezes. She’s only saved from the fates of Coco & Co because Ange lures it away — not because she particularly cares about Salia (or anything), but because she’s trying to die.

Vilkiss, Resplendent in Assault Mode
Vilkiss, Resplendent in Assault Mode

That is, until that DRAGON grabs her paramail and stares her down, and she remembers the dying words of her mother: “Live on.” Her ring, which was returned to her, glows, and when blood from her head drips upon it, there’s a reaction that’s both surprising and utterly un-surprising considering Ange’s natural course from now on. She’s not going to die there, because she realizes she doesn’t want to die.

Ange's not ready to die yet after all
Ange’s not ready to die yet after all

To that end, she does what it takes to live on — wasting the dragon in a heated blaze of gun and sword attacks and ending the battle on an exclamation point, bailing out the tactically deficient Salia in the first sortie under her command. By the end, Ange is flushed with excitement, just as Zola said she’d get when she hit her back. Ange is still ashamed to feel this way, but she can’t deny she does.

I have Nothing. I am Nothing. I will live. Kill and live. That is all.
I have Nothing. I am Nothing. I will live. Kill and live. That is all.

She hasn’t been a knowing Norma long, and having not grown up as one doesn’t harbor the same deep scars, but she’s very quickly starting to understand what kind of living Norma must cling to. Even if it involves killing and a whole host of other nasty stuff, they have to take what they can get and find peace and solace however they can.

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So Angelise cuts her long flowing locks and tosses them into the wind, to join her name, her past; everything else she’s ever had or been. She decides she will live on, as Ange, at any cost; not die as quickly or easily as her mother or young comrades. Then she takes the pudding Coco gave her out of the dustbin and dutifully chokes it down. It tastes disgusting, but it will nourish her soul. When in Hell, you savor every compromised comfort you can get your hands on.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 02

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You know how I bad-mouthed Terra Formars last week for choosing black-out censorship over Cross Ange’s ‘no nipples’ approach. WelI…I don’t know why, but Cross Ange chose to do black-out censorship this week.

Still, I can understand how this happened. I mean, I get it! No nipples doesn’t really change the fact that our fiery princess is being sexually assaulted by her commanding officer as ‘punishment.’ At least, I understand it would have less impact from another angle and nipple-or-not doesn’t change the obvious semi-rape so…maybe I’m getting ahead of myself?

Let’s backtrack…

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Our princess starts her day stuck in a Kindergarten class of sorts for Norma children being ‘educated’ for life (and death) as combat personnel. However, since reeducation is obviously not going to work, Arzenal’s command team decides to just throw her into front line combat and let life-or-death sort things out.

The horrors of this decision, and this setting, can’t really be blamed on any of the immediate characters though. Arzenal is a prison/military base that must fight or die to survive; its prisoners would be crushed by the mana-using mages that label them Norma in the first place, which means rebellion is impossible, and lets face it: the princess isn’t helping herself here. She’s a total jerk to everyone, especially her ‘fellow’ Norma.

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Let’s get one thing straight: DRAGON stands for Dimensional Rift Attuned Gargantuan Organic Neototypes! This is a mecha based Sci-fi, people! None of that frilly magic fantasy stuff here. (except from where the Princess is from… er…ehem)

ca2_01bYou like-and-are-nice to the princess? You are so dead girl!

As you may have guessed from the opening theme, Episode 2 introduces us to a truly dizzying number of characters. Each one of them is distinct and believable in what is basically a women’s only prison (only women can be Norma) but for the life of me, there’s too many to quickly recognize yet.

Still, I don’t think this will be a problem for long. I imagine after a few more of them are killed in brutal, swift and merciless ways, I’ll get used to the survivors’ names…

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(this is actually the least graphic frame of this death scene)

As for the xxxploitation of its characters, this too isn’t really a fault of the show. Everyone is a powerless prisoner. It seems obvious that the strong, the ones who control a sliver of power, would revel in dominating everyone around them.

Gross? Yes! But understandable and I imagine part of Cross Ange’s point: that the segregation and domination of the Norma has lead to making the Norma more horrifyingly outside the confines of society then they would have been if left alone.

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Don’t ever say “I’d rather be naked than wear that dead girl’s clothes!” because we CAN and WILL make that happen!

Cross Ange is brutal, nasty, and creepily sexy in the way that Womens’ Prison Exploitation films in the 70s were but maybe — just maybe — it’s got a little more soul than that.

For now, it’s not even that graphic by guro/extreme hentai standards but be warned. Nipples or not, black-out censors or not, Cross Ange is not for the feint-hearted. It’s mecha drama with a vile bite.

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