Kuromukuro – 22

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With Kurobe Lab captured, its remaining staff brainwashed, and the Pivot Stone in Efidolg hands, the enemy halts its advance, allowing the good guys a measure of uneasy peace this week. Zell pays a visit to the Shirahane household to tell the story of how he met and befriended their husband and father Takehito.

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From the moment Zell jumps out of the shadows when Takehito tries to cut himself (to lure the “ogre” to his trap after many other baits failed), their entire interaction is pure gold. I love how unafraid Takehito is of Zell, and how Zell, while a little weirded out by this guy just runs with it, inviting him to his cave for some tasty boil-in-a-bag, showing him where he came from, and warning him of the Efidolg threat.

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Yukina’s father parted ways with Zell but got caught in a sudden snowstorm that claimed his life. Koharu would’ve just been a baby when this happened, but Yukina regrets calling her dad a liar, when he was right about everything. The “ogres” (or “oni”) that are a part of Japanese legend were actually ancient aliens.

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That night, as Yukishi says a prayer for Takehito, Muetta…wanders off, but not back to the Efidolg. She actually has no idea where she belongs anymore, only that it isn’t here. She can’t get the childhood memory of her homeworld out of her head, and the fact that memory may be fake doesn’t make it feel any less real or powerful.

Ken and Yukina go out to look for her, but the activated Pivot Stone lowers the temperature of the vicinity significantly, causing premature snow. Yukina trips and falls into a snowdrift, but Koharu’s ferret finds her, runs back to Muetta, then leads her Lassie-style to Yukina.

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Once again proving she’s not evil, Muetta strips down and warms the freezing Yukina up with her own body heat, causing Yukina to wake up very confused, but then very grateful for saving her life (and I’ll just say Ken really dropped the ball leaving Yukina behind without making sure she got back home safely.) When Muetta breaks down into tears at her frustration of not knowing where to go or what to do, Yukina gives her the only thing she can: a comforting hug and her belief that everything will be fine.

Like everyone else in this episode (who hasn’t been brainwashed), all Muetta and Yukina can really do is keep on surviving. Muetta notes that the premature Winter is the effect of the Pivot Stone, which will soon open a “star path” for the main Efidolg invasion force—if it isn’t open already. I simply don’t see how anyone survives if that force reaches Earth, so if anyone has an idea how to stop it and send the Efidolgs packing, now’s the time.

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Kuromukuro – 21

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Kuromukuro continues to blast through barriers it once held back from, building the diligent, detailed preparation of its first half. The care it took building its world, its technology, its characters and their roles relationships is all paying off.

There’s something irresistibly striking and engrossing about having witnessed the building of such a beautiful, intricate work, and then, in its 21st episode, it pins its ears back and smashes it all to bits without mercy.

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Ken saved Yukina, sure, but he was only able to thanks to Muetta. But that doesn’t change the fact that she’s The Enemy, and when they land, she’s treated as such despite Ken’s protestations. Then the “Ogre” Zell shows up, and Ken rushes at him reflexively, just as a fiery samurai who’s come face to face with his nemesis would be expected to.

But Zell does something wonderfully subversive: he presupposes that Ken is simply mistaken about him being the enemy, dismissing over four centuries of hatred and mistrust in a matter of words. In reality, Zell is also the reason Ken was able to save Yukina…not to mention the primary reason all his organs are still internal.

Zell isn’t done dispensing wisdom. He finally presents himself to the UN forces, and also solves the mystery of Muetta: she isn’t the original Yukihime, but a clone based on her genetic code, implanted with false memories a different personality…and the voice of Toyosaki Aki. This revelation seems to do a number of Muetta, and Yukina can’t help but feel for the “poor woman.”

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Unfortunately, these truths are the least of everyone’s problems. The most would be floating high above them, descending fast. The Lab and the surrounding town do their best to prepare and make a stand, but there can be no preparation, or victory, for what is coming, and arrives earlier than expected.

Efidolg mechas rain down from the heavens while the mothership looms menacingly. The three GAUS piloted by Tom, Shenmei, and Sebastian take a few foes out, but once the elite pilots show up in their fancier suits, the window on how long they can hold out significantly narrows.

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Ken, Yukina, Zell, and the Kuromukuro are occupied with Yorba, and Muetta is in custody, so her glongur stands by uselessly until knocked into the ocean by a raging Mirasa.

Then the mothership lands, dwarfing, then destroying the massive yet elegant arched bridge across the river, then literally driving stakes taller than mountains into the earth to form a perimeter shield that traps most if not all the evacuees in.

In every way, all hell is breaking loose, and it’s all the earthlings can do to keep from getting killed by the rubble of their own destroyed structures, to say nothing of surviving wave after wave of enemy mechas. The chaos and mounting hopelessness is palpable, and pulls you in.

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When Shenmei’s GAUS-3’s arm is ripped off, it lands on the Humvee that was transporting Muetta, flipping it upside down and trapping her in. Sophie, who witnessed the collision, rushes to free Muetta, and the gang composed of Yukina’s uncle, sister, and classmates stops to assist her.

Hopefully the altruism of these earthlings is not lost on her, for if there’s going to be any kind of counterattack or rather resistance to what’s shaping up to be a very successful Efidolg invasion, they’re going to need Muetta.

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That’s doubly true considering once the cactus-like personnel-sized mechas are sent in, firing tiny implants that go in the ears of earthlings and causes instant brainwashing and submission to the Efidolg. They are literally poaching all the talent.

Poor Rita saves her console-mate Beth from getting nabbed by a mecha, but she falls under their spell, as do countless other UN staff, soldiers, and townsfolk. Talk about complete and total domination.

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Shenmei’s GAUS is destroyed, forcing her to bail out with a super-cool inflatable escape pod, but such a feature doesn’t seem to be equipped on Sebastian’s GAUS. Either that, or he simply didn’t have time to eject when tackling Mirasa to the ground and blowing the two of them up when she tried to go after the bus carrying Muetta, Sophie and the other civvies.

Seb dies an Apparent Honorable Heroic Death, sacrificing himself to save them, but Sophie is crushed (emotionally, not literally). Ken, Yukina, and Zell grab Tom and retreat, completing an utter defeat I knew was coming but simply wasn’t prepared for how far it would go, so fast. So many of Kuromukuro’s safety nets are gone now.

The lab is toast, most of its staff dead or “turned”, the remaining heroes scattered with little more than their wits, and the Efidolg are now in possession of the final pivot stones. Assuming this is fairly close to Rock Bottom for our heroes’ fortunes, I simply thank goodness there’s five episodes left; this is a hole out of which it’s going to take some time to dig. And I can’t wait to see if, when, and how they pull it off.

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OverLord – 03

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From his magic mirror in the Tomb of Nazarick, Momonga is able to watch a group of knights sack a village, brutally slaughtering men, women, and children with impunity, and he realizes something: it’s not really bothering him. The sight of such real violence would have made him sick in the world he came from, but here he finds himself unusually hardened. Instead of watching the pillaging with outrage or disgust, he sees it as an opportunity both to test his abilities and gather information.

But he also wishes to repay a debt to “Touch Me”, another player who once saved him from a band of enemies because “it was common sense”. Do unto others, and all that. Momonga didn’t even have to ask, and neither to the villagers of Carne, as Momonga practices various magics while saving a couple of little kids from their doom, for which they’re grateful, if a bit freaked out by his scary looks.

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It’s immensely fun to watch as he uses lower-level spells to smite the murderous knights, and a slightly higher-level one to reanimate one of their dead into a giant, virtually invincible zombie warrior. Even if he’s a stranger in a strange land figuring things out, he has the advantage of being one of the most powerful beings in that land, at least compared to the people he’s encountered.

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Other than Sebas in the cold open, the fully-armored Albedo is the only one of Momonga’s guardians who appears this week, and while it seems like she’d rather smash all the lowly pathetic humans into jelly, she stays her hand and obeys every order her beloved issues.

It’s great that not only are we following extremely powerful, elite beings in relation to their world, but they might not even be the good guys. Only Momonga, who is, at least in his thoughts, still human, even bothered visiting this village, dragging Albedo along more for procedure/precaution than necessity.

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Touch Me’s words about rescuing the weak being common sense ring true, as Monomga, AKA Ainz Ooal Gown, collects some useful info about some of the geography and politics of the world he finds himself in. But he also reflects an empathy for humanity his beastlike guardians lack; reflected in the Chief Warrior of the Kingdom of Re-estize, Gazef Stronoff, who came from a village much like Carne Village, always wished for help to come when trouble struck.

Help never came for him, but now he works to make sure other villagers aren’t subjected to the same disappointment and neglect. The strong have a duty to protect the weak. Momonga just happened to beat him to it in Carne. And as Stronoff arrives, ahead of another wave of potential enemy knights, Momonga may end up in deeper than he wanted at this juncture, but with all the tools he needs to prevail.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 00 (First Impressions)

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What is it: A sequel to the stylish, upbeat Summer 2013 series. Thanks to his gamification of mass altruism through the online app Crowds, cross-dressing tech whiz Ninomiya Rui has brought a measure of harmony and stability to the world.

After a brief recap of the story so far, this half-episode introduces new threat in the red Crowds of an organization called VAPE that wants to prove the defeated alien Berg-Katze right. They go after the Prime Minister’s state jet, but Rui, Hajime, Sugane, Jo neutralize the threat in grand fashion, before preparing to meet a newly-awakened Gatchaman living in Niigata.

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Why should you watch? If you watched and enjoyed the colorful, zany CGI-enhanced hijinx of Gatchaman Crowds, this looks like more of the same. Only now, rather than battling an evil alien, they are battling a faction of society that still believes Crowds can do more harm than good, using the same tech as the Gatchamen to create chaos to prove their point.

The visuals are as slick and lush as the original, the action is fun and inventive but never flies off the rails, and the soundtrack is as bumpin’ as ever (though it will be hard to beat the original OP).

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Why shouldn’t you watch? If you didn’t watch the first show, the three minutes of backstory hardly do it justice, so I don’t see why anyone would start with Insight. Also, while the show looks and sounds good, the messages and motivations of its characters can be a little loosey-goosey. Hajime in particular is a cool, likable heroine who gets the job done with a wink and a song, but rarely lets us into what kind of person she is.

The Verdict: I for one will be watching this “happy cyberpunk” variant of the magical girl/guy—genre. The tech is magical, but it’s driven by good old-fashioned, perpetually dueling human concepts of altruism and egoism; of hope and fear, with all the gray in between. I’m also interested in learning what the new characters bring to the mix, hoping they don’t make the show too, well, crowded.

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Gatchaman Crowds – 12 (Fin)

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O.D. taunts Berg-Katze into coming to the Spiritual Precipice. There, O.D. finally reveals his Gatchaman form and pummels Katze into the ground, retrieving Rui’s note in the process. O.D. returns teh note to Rui. With the increasing chaos, he knows he can’t do anything alone, so he appeals to the world, offering the Crowds ability to anyone who joins the “Tachikawa Crowds Game”, in which good deeds are incentivized. Millions join and have fun helping out in Tachikawa, and the Neo Hundred’s mischief is soon at an end. The Prime Minister decides that everyone should be allowed to keep their Crowds ability.

Rui’s plans to update the world were based on the assumption that mankind is intrinsically good, and that in this age of evolved society, mutual altruism ensures rather than hampers individual survival. But only under certain conditions. In the blaze of fear and distrust Berg-Katze whipped up, a limited number of people with Crowds act for their own interests; they only care about changing the world insofar as they can control it. Berg gave people Crowds believing that if these stupid humans were given too much power, they’d destroy themselves. Rui successfully douses the flames by leveling the playing field in a risky move.

By giving everyone the power of heroes, he risked augmenting the chaos and accelerating the world’s self-destruction as Katze was hoping for. He does so by diffusing the fear and replacing it with hope and fun. Once he gives the initial friendly invitation, mankind essentially sorts everything out, with the now larger mass of balanced, moderate Crowds neutralizing the extremists. Throughout the episode Hajime asked in her singsong way, “what makes a hero?” The positive outcome answered that: once properly motivated and encouraged, heroes make themselves.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Having rallied everyone who needed to be rallied in order to win the day for the good guys, Hajime does very little besides mill around singing; not the usual role of the heroine, but we kinda like it that way.
  • Of course, JJ-sama does even less, and doesn’t even seem fazed when Katze crashes in and swipes his scissors.
  • It was great seeing Rui cheer up (and return to dressing in drag!) and come out of his shell, charming and entertaining everyone went a long way towards convincing them there was nothing to fear and to participate. 
  • Hajime apparently has Katze in her duck backpack and takes him along on a lovely day. He doesn’t seem enthused.