Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody – 02

The battlemage whom Satoo saves is one Zena Marientail, who calls off her suspicious comrades and gives Satoo a ride to their mutual destination, Salue City, a lovely walled and terraced town with friendly faces and reputable businesses.

After securing proper papers (denoting him as Lv.1 despite his much higher level), he is snagged by Martha, the daughter of the keeper of the Gate Inn, where Zena’s comrade Iona recommended. Throughout these interactions, Satoo utilizes trickery, persuasion, bartering, and other skills he’s amassed.

The innkeeper tells him about a Demon King that a chosen Hero must defeat, but Satoo settles for some cold quiche and cabbage to sate his hunger. I for one have always lamented the fact one cannot taste all the different foods one finds in an RPG; watching Satoo enjoy it is the next best thing.

While Martha shows him around, Satoo learns about the strict caste system; commoners cannot use the public baths, and there are a good number of slaves, many of them demi-humans whom the other humans fear, distrust, and in some cases outright hate. When Satoo is nice to a couple of young demis, Martha seems confused, but quickly changes gears to other things.

Upon returning to the inn, Satoo happens to spot Arisa—who bears the inauspicious titles “Exiled Witch” and “Crazy Princess”—being ridden on a cart, presumably with other slaves. I’m sure he’ll see her again, but first, he has a hearty supper of veggie soup, wild boar, black bread and mead, which proves so tasty he has seconds against his better judgment.

As he tosses in bed with an upset stomach, he ponders his situation, and concludes it might not actually be a dream, but…something else. After all, the “game” he’s seen so far doesn’t really match any games he knows of or has helped to develop; rather it’s something unique.

As he rushes out into the night to explore the city some more—it’s very pretty at night—he decides that whatever is going on, it behooves him to soak up as much as he can, that he might become a better game developer by what he sees, hears, and experiences in this fantasy world.

I don’t really blame him; he’s flush with cash and overpowered to boot. I wonder how he’d fare right now against that Demon King. Of course, he’s nowhere close to encountering such an overboss; instead, he gets a surprise visit from Zena, who has come on her day off to thank him for saving her life by spending the day with him.

Desumachi continues to be nothing groundbreaking, but I cannot deny it scratches an itch; that of a fantasy slice-of-life that takes its time unveiling its world and not skimping on the details, be it currency, society, cuisine, and relationships. Basically, it’s comfily low-stakes and entertaining enough to keep watching for now, though my socks remain firmly un-knocked-off.

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Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody – 01 (First Impressions)

Here we go: Another anime about another black-haired dude somehow ending up transported to another fantasy RPG where he’s soon surrounded by another group of ladies. It’s directed by Oonuma Shin, whose resume includes Kokoro Connect and Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, which weren’t bad. And hey, neither is this! But it isn’t what I’d call great, at least not yet. It is merely good.

I won’t say it started bad per se—I actually liked how we spent a good amount of time in the real world to watch Suzuki Ichirou’s “death march” at the game company where he works. But the time there clocks in at nine minutes; personally I would have been fine with a much shorter montage to establish the guy.

That would have given us more time in the the virtual world of War World where Suzuki ends up. But once he’s there, things get much more interesting.

By “interesting”, I mean “a little nerdy”, since the programming jargon of the real-world act is replaced by the clean, smooth heads-up menu interface of the game, which Suzuki, AKA “Satoo” is able to navigate with his mind.

He assumes he’s merely dreaming a very elaborate dream, and since he’s known nothing but RPG programming for 30 hours without sleep, it stands to reason that dream would be about the game. Oh, and he’s also been de-aged to around fifteen. Seiyu Horie Shun raises his voice when he’s talking out loud, while his thoughts remain in 29-year-old Suzuki’s voice.

Satoo starts out at Level 1, but when a horde of Lizardmen numbering 300, all with levels hovering around 50, and he unleashes a Meteor Rain that takes them all out, raising his Level to 310.

Suzuki doesn’t realize this until one last lizardman standing with critical HP tosses him a sword and challenges him to a final duel, and Satoo takes him out without any difficulty.

With the defeat of all those lizardmen, Satoo is suddenly maxed out in all attributes, HP, MP, and Stamina—the kind of levels it would normally take hundreds of hours to reach.

From there, he inspects all of his new skills and loot, tests his Meteor Rain ability again (then promptly turns it off because it’s too damn powerful), then kits himself out and starts to explore War World’s world.

It’s not long before he comes upon a city, which is then attacked by a Wyvern – one he could easily defeat. Instead, he sits back and watches things unfold with the city’s mostly medieval defense force, in which archers direct the beast and mages throw spells at it (nice use of distorted voices to portray the spells being chanted).

One of those mages is Zena, who fires off a particularly big spell at the wyvern, but gets tossed high into the sky. One of her comrades slows her fall, but it’s Satoo who leaps up to catch her in midair. Now that he’s rescued a fair maiden, Suzuki’s checked off another box in the stuck-in-an-RPG conventions.

Who Zena is or how she’ll react to being saved is a question for next week; again, blame the nine-minute prologue if you must. I must also report that this show did not impress with its visuals (the wyvern was particularly iffy compared to, say, Bahamut or  Zestiria), and aside from the piece that played while Satoo traversed the overworld, the music was also unremarkable. If you’d told me this was made five or even ten years ago, I’d believe you.

Despite its technical shortcomings I honestly enjoyed following Suzuki/Satoo around as he gathered his bearings, and will be back to see what he gets up to, and who he meets, next week.

 

Girls und Panzer – 06

Saunders’ Arisa continues to cheat, but she leads Kei to an empty location. One of the Oorai teams finds Saunders’ flag panzer by accident, and they lead it into the clearing where the other Oorai panzers are waiting. Kei balances the battle by relieving Arisa with just four of her panzers, including Naomi in the Firefly. Two Oorai teams are taken out, and the remaining three are sandwiched between the flag panzer and the rest of the Saunders team. Miho’s panzer climbs a ridge, and Naomi follows them. Hana manages to take out Arisa’s flag panzer a moment before Naomi takes them out, and they’re victorious. Their day of victory ends with a call to Mako informing her her grandmother fell; Miho’s sister lends her a helicopter to rush to Oorai.

After all the twists and turns and distortion of reality in the Eureka Seven finale, it was nice to settle back into some nice, uncomplicated girl-on-girl tank warfare (that just sounds wrong). And after really putting the nasty, f-bomb-spewing cheater Arisa (voiced by Haruhi herself) right in our faces for extended periods of time, we were pretty confident the episode wouldn’t let someone that insufferable win and gloat about it later on. Instead she gets scolded by her Commander Kei, who preferred a fair fight to total domination.

Saunders lost, but it was a honorable and exciting battle, not an easy, boring win. Such chivalry is part of Sensha-do, or Tankery, or Panzerfahren, or whatever you wanna call it. And it was exciting: lots of tanks chasing other tanks like a game of armored tag. And it’s not a total victory for Oorai either, but a win by the seat of their pants, as Hana manages to get her shot off a heartbeat before the too-cool-for-school, gum-chewing Naomi. Mako’s sudden family emergency caught us off guard; it was apparently a reminder that at the end of the day, all this playing around in tanks isn’t as important as family…we guess.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Guilty Crown – 17

As Shu prepares the school for “Exodus”, in which they’ll escape from quarantine, his oppressed subjects are starting to resent his rule. This is exacerbated by Arisa and Nanba spreading the rumor that you’ll die if your void is destroyed. After being attacked by Inori, Arisa is planning a coup d’etat. The operation begins and goes off without a hitch, but when it’s over and the students can escape, Arisa strikes, with many students on her side. A Gai resurrected by GHQ arrives and slices of Shu’s right arm with Inori’s void, taking his power. The UN approves a resolution to “eliminate Japan”.

Wow. Damn. That kingdom didn’t last long. With five whole episodes left, the story is moving alarmingly fast. Shu started the episode with everything and ended with nothing. Well, that first part isn’t quite right. At the start, Shu had become fairly comfortable with his role as reluctant tyrant in order to shape the school into a fighting force. But at great cost: Ayase and Tsugumi are alienated, he impulsively discards Yahiro, and even Arisa, who he once could have counted as a friend, is the leader of the successful revolt against him. Inori stays by his side, but she’s a loose cannon, acting alone when she assaulted Arisa, an act that only made matters worse.

What’s so distressing about all this is that Exodus was a success. Shu did what he set out to do and freed the people. Would they have performed as well had he exercised a gentler hand? Would they have (A)risen up against him regardless? We’ll never know, but that’s the least of Shu’s problems: he’s lost his arm, and with it his King’s power. He’s just a kid again. And just to pile on the peril, the entire country itself is about to be bombed by the UN – apparently to stop the spread of the apocalypse virus. Things are bad – and we can’t see how they’ll get better just now.


Rating: 3.5

Nitpick: Wouldn’t the Tokyo Tower falling create, an enormous shockwave/dust cloud that would envelop/consume Shu’s whole army, considering they’re all gathered around it’s base?

Guilty Crown – 16

Mr. Kuhouin sends Argo to Tokyo to retrieve his daughter for an arranged marriage in exchange for diplomatic favor. When Argo touches down, he finds a dire situation in which Shu has adopted Yahiro’s ranking system and the entire student body has fallen in line. It’s a highly regimented operation in which the weak are discriminated against due to shortages of food and medicine. Shu has Argo detained, but when he escapes and tries to make off with Arisa, Shu confronts him with a member of his secret service. In the fight, a ceiling beam falls on her void, killing her – something Shu didn’t know could happen. Back at GHQ, Shu’s mother is helping Segai awaken somebody…

Wow, talk about a quick turnaround. We knew there would be big changes once Shu decided he wasn’t going to dick around anymore, but what we have here goes beyond a tight ship. His New Order is an authoritarian regime that draws its power from fear: both the fear of Shu’s void power and the fear of Shu, their last hope, being infected. So the weak like Souma are marginalized (with Shu even ready to let him die in a scene of heartless micromanaging) while those with strong voids get preferential treatment and are invited into the elite secret service. We like how the episode introduced a new Rank A character just to kill her in the end, not only to show us that even the strong aren’t safe, but to expose Yahiro’s lies to Shu, even if it may too late.

As for Inori, well…it seems she made a choice right beside Shu; the choice to put her conscience aside to serve her king. Tsugami is basically going with the flow, and Ayase is just flat-out disgusted with what Shu’s become (he tells her he’s glad they were alone when she slapped him so he didn’t have to “reprimand” her) , as is Argo (the best line of the episode adds some levity to all the dread: “We really liked that ‘pale-faced weakling strugglin’ for all he’s got’ thing you had going, you know!”). But as Shu says to Argo when he’s got a knife to his throat: let’s see you try to keep this mob together and keep them safe with no resources. It’s a thankless job, really. Is Shu expressing the archetypal excuses of the tyrant, or are his sacrifices justified to ensure at least some of his kingdom survives what’s coming?


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 37

After defeating Arisa’s gang, Himeko gains reknown and more roughs challenge her. As she wastes them all, fear of her grows, but they keep coming, so she moves to a new school. Even there the rumor exists, but no one knows what Onihime looks like. Here she meets both softball captain Chiaki and Fujisaki, who is interested in her Popman cap. She is loath to make friends after how Arisa betrayed her. When Chiaki is cornered by punks, Fujisaki convinces Himeko to join him to save her. Himeko beats him there, but runs into trouble, Fujisaki saves her, and she is revealed as the Onihime of the rumors. Chiaki and Fujisaki don’t care though; they want to be her friends, and the Fujisaki wants her to join the club he’s starting…

The usual shallow silliness of Sket Dance has periodically been given much-appreciated dramatic heft with serious arcs, and this story of how Himeko and Bossun became friends is one of the best. The birth of said friendship was a rough one, frought by Himeko’s reluctance to form any friends at her new school; preferring lonliness to infamy. Her first impression of Fujisaki isn’t so great; the guy is a Popman otaku and really annoying to boot, but once he shows his true, noble colors to her, Himeko can’t refuse his offer of friendship.

Now, whenever I see the two bickering about some innane thing, I’ll remember the depth of their bond forged in this episode. It’s interesting how neither Bossun or Switch were actually her first friends at school. Chiaki isn’t someone we’ve seen a lot of, but she had a nice supporting role this week, and she exhibited good chemistry with the two Sket-dan members. Switch’s brother has a cameo, and we even return to the present, where Arisa meets Himeko to prostrate herself. Showing how she’s grown, Hime forgives her for her past transgression, terrible though it was.


Rating: 4

Guilty Crown – 07

Shu returns to school, where nasty rumors about his encounter with GHQ are snuffed out by Class Prez Kuhouin Arisa, heiress to the powerful, anti-GHQ Kuhouin Group. Shu’s mom Haruka surprises him by coming home while Inori is there, forcing them to meet. Haruka is off to a party held offshore on a cruise ship, which is the same party Gai and Shu crash. Gai alerted the GHQ about the party, and a gung-ho Colonel targets the ship with missiles. Shu draws out Arisa’s void – a shield – which saves the ship and provides a live demonstration of the Untertakers’ power to her grampa, the Kuhouin boss, who agrees to provide transport services.

Segai’s superior, Colonel Eagleman – a fairly stereotyped American – is constantly talking about “guts”, and having the adequate amount to triumph. Well, Gai essentially called in a GHQ missle attack on a civilian cruise ship he’d be on at the time in order to impress his potential business parter. How’s that for gutsy? As for Shu, he more confident and looks like he’s having a lot more fun in this episode. He’d probably have freaked out if he knew what Gai did, but he didn’t, and did exactly what Gai needed for him to do: draw out Arisa’s void. Saving the ship and Arisa double as a thank-you for her sticking up for him when assholish classmates get on his case, but most of all, she and Shu’s mother were people he was determined to protect.

While the military action was limited to running around, missile launches, and holding a big void umbrella, this episode was more about infiltration, charm, and theater. Gai was funny playing the lovable rogue for a flustered Arisa, and the ballroom scene with Tchaikovsky playing over the light show was pretty sharp. Oh yeah, it looks like Shu’s mom is aware of his powers – probably always has (she is a scientist). Her drunk exhibitionist act may fool Shu, but not us. Her idea of “protecting” could mean getting separating him from the Undertakers in the future.


Rating: 3.5