Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online – 09 – Lucky Girl

Pitohui seemed to be talking a bigger game than of that which she would’ve been capable last week, but she holds true to her avatar name, killing everyone she touches (and quite a few she doesn’t) taking out over twenty of the nearly thirty allied opponents all by herself. The episode is called “ten-minute massacre” but her work doesn’t even take that long, and just like that, seven teams and their leaders are taken out, thinning the SJ2 field considerably.

With the number of teams holding Pito and M’s attention dwindling fast, LLENN takes a safe and stealthy route to them through the inside of the Dome, which has a savannah theme of high grass perfect for hiding, especially if you’re tiny like LLENN and Fuka.

When their position is suddenly exposed, they use speed, pink smoke grenades, and a silencer on P-chan to defeat their foes. Fuka gets a bit too cocky and ends up emptying a clip from her handgun without hitting her target, but she draws from her fantasy RPG background to blugeon the guy to death with a rifle.

Throughout SJ2, we’ve gotten color commentary from the peanut gallery, which is a bit tiresome considering how misogynstic many of their comments are. However, I’m willing to tolerate it to a degree because this is, after all, meant to be a Boy’s/Man’s Game with women players seen as upstart outsiders.

In the cases of Pito, LLENN and Fuka, they’re showing they can not only hang with the boys, but dominate. Speaking of women dominating, “Sinon”, AKA Asada Shino, is mentioned as having cleaned up at the last BoB.

We meet a new woman character in Clarence who LLENN and Fuka initially believe to be just another lecherous dude, albeit a more androgynous one. Turns out she’s a pansexual woman IRL and wants to meet them both. LLENN just wants her magazines, since they’re compatable with P-chan.

She agrees to a kiss (a peck on the cheek) in exchange for the ammo and Clarence’s resignation. She gets both, but they’ve been chatting so long a team has manages to sneak right up to them and initiate an ambush. That team is MMTM, one of the contenders for the SJ2 win, which means LLENN will need every one of the bullets she got from Clarence (who promptly dies) as well as the hope she won’t run out of her famous good GGO luck.

Advertisements

Momokuri – 11 + 12

momo11121

Another week, another familiar rom-com scenario: the Summer Festival. While Momokuri’s didn’t come close to the heights of, say, ReLIFE’s festival, it was still Momokuri’s best episode to date, because it progressed, and characters came in contact with one another, so naturally and effortlessly. Not only was it a fine bit of slice-of-life, it also developed Rio’s relationship with Yuki.

momo11122

Momo and Yuki are having a fine time as a couple at the festival until they become separated, and Momo’s phone dies. Momokuri subverts the typical instance of a cute girl left alone falling prey to some wolves. In this case, the wolves are older women, and it’s diminutive-for-his-age Momo who is the prey.

Not only that, it’s “Prince” Rio who swoops in to save him from the “panthers”—more androgynous than ever due to her tan and boy’s clothes (provided so she could serve as protection for Ikue and Yuzuki.

momo11123

Despite looking like most like a boy (and a delinquent at that), Momo remarks how he’d rather see Rio in a yukata. Rio has spent much of her most recent years enduring those who say she could pass a a boy, so she’s heartened by Momo treating her like the girl she is.

Rio heads off on her own to look for Yuki, because a part of her wants to be one-on-one with her. It’s just as good, because when being with Yuki, Rio learns a little more about her rival-in-love, and determines maybe she’s not as weird as she thought. Indeed, she helps Yuki come to grips with feelings she’s not able to understand all on her own.

Like Momo and Yuki, she too was a bit lost early this week. But by the end, her stated desire for Momo to be happy above all else is evidence enough for Yuki that what Rio has isn’t just a like for someone, but love. Of course, Yuki isn’t aware that it’s Momo Rio likes. I doubt she’ll ever find out, either; this isn’t a drama, after all!

16rating_8

Steins Gate – 18

sg181

Is Steins;Gate a harem? If it is, it’s one of the best applications of the genre I’ve seen, doubly impressive considering it’s not just a harem, but a harem operating in tandem with and irreparably melded to its central time travel mystery. Each world line is like a path in a dating sim, allowing the show to explore each girl to their fullest potential, only to reset once Okarin cancels the girls’ d-mails.

One way of looking at the sequence thus far is that the divergence factor has strayed from its ideal of 1.0 because too many other potential romances are hanging out there for Okarin. With Suzuha, Feyris, and now Ruka, he is eliminating those potentials one by one, with only Moeka (who has fallen off the face of the earth) and Kurisu (who has looked more like his ideal mate from the start) remaining.

Before all this started, there was only one woman in his life: Mayushii; a situation he clearly took for granted (though they’re more siblings than lovers). Will the universe only deign to spare her if Okarin sheds himself of all the other women in his life who love him?

sg182

I say one woman there, because even though he’s more traditionally feminine by a large margin than any of the others, Urushibara Ruka is a guy. He was a guy in Okarin’s original world line, and thus is “supposed” to be a guy. There’s no delicate way of telling the female Ruka this, but when he tells her Mayushii’s life is at stake, Ruka agrees to go back to being a guy.

In exchange, Okarin will be her boyfriend for one day…because she loves him; a confession that it turns out she can only make in this world line where she’s female.

sg183

With no other choice, Okarin agrees to the date, despite reservations about going out with someone he’s always known to be a guy. But more to the point, Okarin has never been on a date, period. The word “date” is as foreign to him as “Large Hadron Collider” is to Snooki. For that matter, no one in the Future Gadget Lab has the slightest bit of romantic experience.

That’s because they’re all a bunch of weirdos, geeks; and nerds; so caught up in their particular passions and hobbies that they hardly have time to eat or sleep, let alone date. Kurisu can only go so far in her mocking of Okarin’s ignorance and virgin-status, because she is just as clueless and just as much a virgin…only an American one.

(Note that I don’t count Daru’s romantic “experience”, since it’s all 2D, and his present self hasn’t actually concieved Suzu yet.)

sg184

But it’s not just that Okarin is scared of dates. Dating is just not something he’d ever feel the need to do, period. He’s perfectly capable of hanging out with and conversing with and having fun with Kurisu and Mayushii and Ruka, without the rigid structures of courtship getting in the way.

Kurisu, for her part, seems invested in making sure Okarin doesn’t make an ass of himself. Even when the “Dating for Idiots” book tells him to wear something “clean”, Kurisu understands that doesn’t mean a sterile lab coat (though that wouldn’t be odd at all in Akiba). She also knows how to tie a tie.

Watching her fuss over Okarin’s appearance is a joy to watch, because at the end of the day she knows Ruka, who will turn back into a guy, isn’t a threat to her own designs on Okarin, which we know her to harbor.

sg185

She drags Daru along with her to tail Okarin and Ruka and offer advice when it looks like he’s in trouble, via texts (one could call them “L-mails”, where the “L” is for “love”), and I got the distinct feeling she was getting a special vicarious thrill out of it.

As for Okarin, well…having his encounter with Ruka suddenly be categorized as a date stiffens him and turns him into a boring, distant mess, ruining the nice vibes Ruka is putting out. Of course, Ruka’s hapless attempts at small talk also contribute to the awkwardness, but super-props to her seiyu Kobayashi Yuu both in these scenes and everywhere else. They’re trying.

sg186

Things take a turn for the Steins;gate-ian when Ruka asks Okarin if he remembers how they met. Turns out Okarin protected Ruka from some guys with cameras who likely assumed she was a shrine maiden. It’s clear that Okarin was acting according to his own ideals and code, rather than protecting her for the sake of sticking to the script from some book.

After saving Ruka, he told him despite how he looks, he’s a guy. Now, hold on! This is the female Ruka bringing up this memory of when she told Okarin she was a guy. Ruka herself realizes the paradoxical slip-up, and can’t explain it. Okarin knows, though: it’s more of that temporal “leakage” or “Reading Steiner Lite” that also befell Feyris when she saw both versions of the cafe.

sg187

In the end, Ruka thanks Okarin from the bottom of her heart for the date, hands him her mom’s pager number and flees, barely holding back tears. It isn’t until he returns home that Okarin realizes the date wasn’t complete until he went back as “Hououin Kyouma” to train Ruka with her sword. Both are a lot more comfortable this, and Kurisu, Daru, and Mayushii can only look on in an “attaboy” kind of way.

When that’s over, Ruka confesses that she really doesn’t want to go back to being a guy, because it means she’ll have to repress her feelings for him, and even if she didn’t, simply may not be able to love him in the same way. Okarin assures her that regardless of whether she’s a he or he’s a she, He is Kyouma and she is Ruka, and that will never change as long as they both live, so she needn’t worry.

(Ruka also confesses to having accidentally broken the IBN 5100 while cleaning the room where it was stored, a surprisingly mundane fate for the crucial machine/red herring.)

sg188

When Okarin sends the d-mail, Ruka’s appearance hasn’t changed in the slightest; only his answer to Okarin’s question “Do you like me?” Ruka blushes, but says he “respects” him, and Okarin knows things are back to “normal.”

sg189

Okarin returns to the lab to see his labmates having a quiet evening sewing, reading, and surfing. He doesn’t assume everything’s alright yet, because the divergence meter is still around 0.5. The only d-mails that remain in effect now (that I remember) include the one where Moeka warned herself not to buy a new phone, the lottery numbers to the past…and Kurisu’s stabbing.

That has me thinking that once all of the d-mails he’s ever sent were undone, Mayushii will in all likelihood be saved from a premature death…but at the cost of erasing his entire relationship with Kurisu to this point. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t meet for the first time again, and start over from scratch. A girl can dream.

9_brav2

Nisekoi – 08

nisekoi81

This episode was probably a bit of a slog for those not enamored with Tsugumi Seishirou. Fortunately, we like her just fine, and we also liked this very Seishirou-centric episode, in which odd changes in her body start to occur and she seeks answers and advice from her acquaintances. Her description of her “symptoms” are so precise and clinical, both Chitoge and Claude initially recommend she seek medical attention. Thankfully Seishirou doesn’t stop with those two, and eventually the common refrain of more normal people is that she’s suffering a bad case of love.

Seishirou may claim to not know anything about love, but we know that’s bullshit from the way she devotes herself to Chitoge and enjoys being by her side. She’s just never met a guy who has caused these reactions, and is totally at a loss for how to process them. Nothing Raku does to her deserves the harsh physical reprisals she visits upon him—on the contrary, he’s nothing but a decent, sweet and chivalrous fellow to her—but in the absence of any guidebook or roadmap or training in matters of love, she goes to her default assassin setting.

nisekoi82

Knowing her odd upbringing and years of conditioning meant to erase her femininity, suddenly becoming a slave to her heart is akin to being faced with an unknown enemy, so it’s logical and understandable for her to lash out, as offense is the best defense in her normal workings. The many closeups of her expressions as she wrestles with these strange emotions are enough to illustrate the intensity of her internal dilemma, as is her complete loss of concentration in assembling her gun at the mere mention of Raku by Claude. She’ll only be able to hide her compromised state from her mentor for so long; though Claude is a pretty dense fellow, even if he’s more suspicious than the other people around the fake couple.

But while Seishirou is growing into an interesting, if somewhat frustrating character in her own right, she also serves and important purpose in the central “fake” romance: she is the link to a past Chitoge has forgotten. Seishirou again betrays the fact she does indeed know at least something about love since she witnessed it betwen Chitoge and her first love, and waxes nostalgic about it, to the point Chitoge’s interest is sufficiently piqued that she digs up her old diary from the time and discovers that not only did she fall in love and make a promise to a kid with a distinctive scar, but that the diary also contained a key that looks very similar to Raku’s locket.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Nisekoi – 07

nisekoi71

Nisekoi isn’t done introducing major characters. This week we met Tsugumi Seishirou, who transfers to Raku and Chitoge’s class and whom everyone assumes is a very pretty boy. Seishirou puts out a lot of different vibes to Raku: at first he’s weary of his gangster connections, then gets the feeling he’s a normal, friendly guy. Then Seishirou gets Raku to say he’d die for Chitoge, then pulls a gun on him – so he can do just that!

Even after learning Seishirou Claude’s top hitman from Chitoge, and that he’s been preparing his body and mind to protect Chitoge for ten years, Raku has no choice but to accept an duel. Seishirou opens up a massive arsenal on him, but Raku manages to evade the attacks long enough to fire his own ammunition: the knowledge that Chitoge isn’t the kind of girl who’d sit by and be protected by someone. He also gets Seishirou to follow him out a third-floor window into a pool. With Seishirou out cold, the battle is Raku’s, but he’s too considerate to leave his soaked opponent outside to catch a cold.

nisekoi72

That’s when he undresses him in a locker room and discovers that he’s a she, and they’re forced to hide in a locker standing very close to each other while Chitoge and their classmates search for them. In there, Seishirou admits defeat, and starts to cry about not being worthy of protecting Chitoge herself, despite abandoning being a girl for that end. Raku then flatters her by saying she’s cute, something she’s apparently never heard from anyone before. At that point, Chitoge discovers them, but the armor is cracked: Raku was nice to Seishirou, and she definitely seems to like getting complimented by him.

Seishirou’s seiyu Komatsu Mikako delivers a layered and diverse performance, showing Seishirou’s many moods, sides and mistaken genders with subtle changes in her voice. There’s also the fact that she knows about the promise Chitoge made to a boy (not her) ten years ago, but suspects she forgot about it, adding further credence to the theory Raku was that boy. In any case, Seishirou looks like a good addition to the cast, someone we can see competing against Raku for Chitoge’s attention, while also gradually falling for Raku himself, further complicating Nisekoi’s love polygon.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Oregairu – 03

oreg3

Hikigaya meets the androgynous Totsuka Saika, who asks him to play a match with him and then asks if he’ll join the tennis club. Later, Yui brings him to the Service club so he can formally ask for help practicing, at which time Yui officially joins the club so the mission can be taken on. While practicing, the “it-crowd” led by Yumiko and Hayama asks if they can use the courts; Hikgaya bristles, but agrees to a mixed doubles match to deide who will coach Totsuka. Using the winds he knows from eating lunch in solitude and an assist from Yukino after Yui sprains her ankle, they win the match, but Yumiko runs into the fence and gets all the attention.

For all his proud internal monologue about living life the way he wants to – as a loner – rather than by circumstances, Hikigaya is not entirely content with his situation, which is why he actually welcomes the friendships of Yukino, Yui, and now the very girlish Saika (voiced by a girl; Komatsu Hikako). He curses himself for instinctively bowing submissively to Hayama, even though he gets his name wrong. He’s made do as a loner for years and tries to convince himself that’s the ideal state of being for him, he cannot deny a measure of envy towards “normal” or “popular” peers.

The thing is, Yumiko and Hayama are boring as shit, and two-dimensional. The friends Hikigaya has made are weird and socially awkward, like him. The fact is, he’s not alone. This week he learns that whether he’s alone and awkward or in a group and awkward, that popular clique will sill look down on him. And just because the unpopular people happen to get lucky and beat the popular people in a tennis match doesn’t mean they’ve magically moved up the social ladder. But as far as inter-group conflict goes, everything was pretty civil, which is about all you can ask for on the battlefield that is high school.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We challenge this series to avoid the temptation to put Saika in a maid outfit (though his seiyu was also maid/pirate Marika Kato). Bonus points if they can keep Yukino and Yui out of them, too.
  • Her tsun-tsun moment when Yui calls her a friend: predicable, but cute. 
  • We also liked Yukino’s line about how in spite of all the insults and remarks she lets fly, she’s never once lied. And she doesn’t: Hiki does win the match.
  • When the tennis match happened, we knew the “wind changing at lunch” remark Hikigaya made earlier would probably come into play.

Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle – 04

Kaito grudgingly agrees to check out another sage puzzle. He’s assigned a partner, Anna Gram AKA Da Vinci, an art and puzzle genius. They arrive at the mansion of a recently deceased famous landscape painter. The widow is cold and bitter, and wants to sell the place, but the puzzle must be solved first. The butler turns out to be a Giver from the POG who constructed it. Kaito and Anna are trapped and must solve the puzzle before they’re gassed to death. By rearranging the paintings on the wall according to how their frames match, then using Anna’s extensive knowledge of art history, they get a five-letter roman numeral, which is the code to the safe. The treasure inside is a gallery or portraits of the painter’s wife. The code was the number of the paris apartment where she fell for him.

We’re going to come right out and say we liked this episode. Da Vinci had a pretty good introduction and she and Kaito worked well together. This was also the first episode with an A and a B story: Kaito and Anna solving the puzzle in A, while Nonoha deals with her jealousy, then tries to infiltrate the mansion with the help of a very smitten and willing Gammon, who has an awesome purple bike. I like how her uneasiness about Kaito teaming up with Anna made her a better softball player, but also her realization that she’d rather be by Kaito’s side helping him solve puzzles than let some artsy strumpet take her place.

About Da Vinci…the show kinda pulled a fast one on us and revealed at the very end that she’s actually a he. Which is kinda random and silly and pointless, in our opinion Now there’s no female representation among the named puzzle masters (yet), though her being a guy at least eliminates a potentially annoying triangle involving her and Nonoha. Finally, we have the first POG giver who turns out not to be an evil asshole; as the butler was merely fulfilling the wishes of his dead charge. We’ll also admit we realized MDCLV was roman numerals long before Kaito did, though we’ll give him a pass since we’re unsure how commonly they’re used in Japan.


Rating: 3.5