Dimension W – 08

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Al gets Kyouma, Mira, and the Lexus (with its sweet-sounding hi-revving V10) to the island without any issues, but Prince Salva, Lasithi, and Sanchos are out cold as the other collectors wash up on the shore. Lwei remembers his (adoptive) brother’s dream–to make the world so that Lwei an sit in it–and takes charge, insisting that despite Salva’s incapacitation, the game is still on for anyone able to participate.

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Elsewhere on the island, Loser and Ellie carefully make their way to the believed location of the coil, while the survivors of the plane crash find shelter and deal with the wounded. It’s a truce between collectors who would otherwise stab each other in the back as soon as look at each other, but after Lwei proves he can defend his unconscious brother and Lasithi, Jason Chrysler, KK, Antonov split off to seek the coil on their own.

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Everyone’s arrival on the island has already begun “re-starting” people and objects that were practically frozen by the dimensional calamity, resulting in the discovery of a zombie-like human as well as the island’s defensive killbots. On top of that, there are still “mystery spheres” flying around, but don’t seem interested in women, so they must be after a specific person.

Kyouma almost immediately regrets not bringing a 4×4 to the island when they hit road littered with boulders, but thanks to Mira’s immense strength, the road is cleared in no time. When they encounter two robots blocking their way, Kyouma uses a flash grenade to sneak by, but doesn’t warning Mira to close her eyes. Mira tries to bring up the subject of why he’s not kinder to her, but there are bigger fish to fry.

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Mira detects a battle up ahead, and she and Kyouma manage to arrive in the nick of time to save Harry and Debbie from a killbot, using teamwork in combat for the first time. They’re a gas to watch: Kyouma with his daggers and wires, Mira with her strength and speed.

Kyouma thinks the best way to the coil is to get to the tunnels Grendel used in their mission years ago. Harry and Debbie pay him and Mira back for saving them by digging the holes they need to access those tunnels. Of course, since the LFA only has two seats, the siblings have to hang on to dear life from the outside. Kyouma also makes it clear when he finds the coil he’ll “break it so it can never move again.”

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Before long, an obstacle in the tunnel approaches in the form of an 800-meter pocket of nothingness they have to drive through. When they do, Mira totally freezes while in the process of tearfully expressing her apprehension with what was about to happen, and Kyouma and the siblings start losing consciousness as well. It’s very dark (black, in fact) and creepy, and it’s a relief when they come out unscathed (and Mira completes her thought).

But as soon as they’re through one obstacle in this increasingly bizarre and hazardous gauntlet to the coil, they are stopped by another one in the form of Loser. Above ground, KK knocks Yuri out with drugs and prepares to perform a “simple operation” on him. Captain America Chrysler isi doing his own thing too.

Things are getting cutthroat, but I wonder of Loser and Ellie will join Kyouma and Mira’s party, at least temporarily. After all, this is an unforgiving, unpredictable island where going it alone may not work out.

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Dimension W – 07

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Dimension W’s best episode to date succeeds because it finally lets us into Kyouma’s past, both the heady highs and the devastating lows. Kyouma’s unplanned first meeting with Azumaya Miyabi, the girl who would become his soul mate, girlfriend, and fiancee, is a chance possibility that fits neatly in the show’s description of Dimension W as not only a place of infinite electrical energy, but infinite possibility.

Miyabi may be tiny and soft-spoken amateur photog, but she’s not scared of the semi-delinquent, samurai-looking Kyouma. Why would she be? He saved her! She also prefers her old-fashioned Pentax camera to anything with a coil, something that Kyouma either shares or will come to develop as he grows closer to her.

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The heady highs come first, and it’s just nice to see a young Kyouma who is happy and has whole life to look forward to. He gets into brawls to protect those weaker than him, and ends up in trouble a lot, but there’s the feeling he’ll be alright as long as he has Miyabi by his side to smooth his rough edges (and her sister Tsubaki to bail him out of jail!)

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Then come the devastating lows, as one little trip-and-fall by Miyabi reveals she has an incurable condition that will wear her muscles away to nothing, similar to ALS. Not willing to let such a fate be her reality, Kyouma desperately reaches out and claws at any possibility of saving her, including a full-body cybernetic replacement. Clearly, at this point, with Miyabi’s future on the line, he’s not above embracing the power of coils.

His efforts lead him into the restraining hold of Colin Keys, bodyguard to NTE Yurizaki Seira, Shidou’s wife. Together they’re gathering test subjects to achieve precisely what Miyabi needs: a new body through technology. The catch is, Kyouma has to agree to join Keys’ Beasts of Grendel. Before heading off to battle (presumably fighting a rogue NTE faction), he puts a ring on the bedridden Miyabi, promising to marry her when he returns.

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The battle is a victory, but only Kyouma and Al survive. When Kyouma awakens (he doesn’t remember most of the battle), Miyabi is already gone. Worse, due to a coil malfunction during experimentation, her head is gone, meaning Kyouma doesn’t even have the comfort of looking upon his love’s face before saying goodbye.

Don’t get me wrong: at its heart this is a pretty familiar story: a man twisted and haunted by his lost love rejects everything that he believes led to her destruction, which Mira embodies. But I can’t deny the intense emotions I felt when Miyabi slipped away, or the pain the Kyouma has felt ever since. He couldn’t save her or be there when she died either.

Also, I’m pretty sure Miyabi was voiced by Ueda Reina, the same seiyu that voices Mira (EDIT: According to MAL she’s voiced by Ohara Sayaka, same as her older sister). I’m grasping at straws in Dimension W here, but I’m thinking a part of Miyabi’s mind made it into Mira’s sophisticated cyberbrain, perhaps combined with that of the Yurizakis’ daughter.

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And that’s another reason why Kyouma is loath to get too close to Mira, or even treat her like he would a human being he doesn’t loathe: Maybe Kyouma sees and hears Miyabi in Mira’s voice and mannerisms, and Mira is guilty of nothing other than not being Miyabi. Sure, she may be the next best thing, but that may as well be the difference between infinity and zero, which is…infinite.

Nevertheless, Kyouma is taking Mira with him to Easter Island. He’s just not taking his old Toyota. Instead, he’s taking his gorgeous, newly fixed up Lexus LFA. The show doesn’t immediately explain why the change of cars – and why a car at all – until later, but for now it’s nice to see Kyouma’s taste in cars extends past the seventies.

Meanwhile, Prince Salva makes his case to the other 59 NTE central heads, and explains he’s using self-involved collectors instead of NTE staff to explore the island in order to avoid any possibility of appearances of internal NTE treachery, of the kind that led to the initial battle Kyouma participated in, as well as Yurizaki Seira’s assassination.

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Obviously, recruiting collectors from all around the globe meant we’d be bombarded with new characters, much like the haunted mansion mini-arc, but it bothered me less here since this is a competition to see who can get to the one functioning coil still on Easter Island, so you need competitors. They’re all colorful characters to boot, and Liz and Loser are there too.

Fortunately for Kyouma and Mira, bringing his LFA means having to take a separate flight, relying on Al to fly them to the ruined island. The other collectors travel with the prince aboard an NTE airship that is quickly downed by the strange and unpredictable probabilistic phenomena that rule Easter Island, as well as the sea and sky around it.

Kyouma does eventually explain he needs the car to race around the contour of the island in order to reach the coil first. And combined with the other collectors’ rough start and uncertain state, the episode ends with Kyouma and Mira in a good early position to be the ones to claim the 50 million dollar reward.

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Dimension W – 06

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Despite their intimate level of involvement in the case, Kyouma and Mira felt like background tourists in the Lake Yasogami arc. This week finds the show back on track, largely because despite the fact there is another whole new set of characters, both Kyouma and Mira feel a lot more connected to the events.

One of those new faces is the “Wind of Africa” Prince Salva-Enna-Tibesti. Loved by the ladies but pissed by how obvious they are, Salva is both CEO of the world’s #1 Robot manufacturer, Islero, and COO of one of the Central coil stations; #60. His aide Lasithi is almost certainly a robot, as is his younger brother, Prince Lwai.

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We learn the former when Salva is able to “bind” Lasithi with a command, while we learn the latter when the precocious Lwai (or “Loo”), eager to experience Japan, latches onto Kyouma (who is just minding his own business) and ends up spending the day with him as he avoids being picked up by Salva’s men.

Kyouma takes a distinct “why me” stance towards Lwai’s continued following, but when he accidentally destroys a fish-catching kiosk at the market (revealing his superhuman strength), Kyouma decides to at least get the kid some less conspicuous clothes.

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That leads him to the clothing store of Azumaya Tsubaki, who has a past with Kyouma (she calls her his “big sister” but they’re the same age.) Tsubaki is also related to Miyabi, a girl Kyouma presumably once loved but lost, and since her death has been unable to visit her grave but struggled to move on. This would explain his hesitance to get closer to Mira (other than the fact he distrusts technology…and most everyone/thing else).

Basically, this episode finally lets us a little bit into Kyouma. We meet someone close to him whom he does trust, and we see the source of much of his present and lasting bitterness and depression. He even shows kindness towards Loo, though Tsubaki’s assistants dress him in a girl’s yukata because he’s so pretty. When Lesithi shows up wanting Lwai to come with him, no discussion, Kyouma lets him go, but wishes him well.

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Knowing at this point that Salva is concerned with Lwai because he’s his new secret weapon, it’s not surprising when Lwai – in a totally different state of mind (or “mode”, as it were) shows up at Mary’s simply to easily kick her bodyguard Four’s ass (after an earlier scene showed how tough Four is).

Meanwhile, somewhere remote, Loser continues his search for Numbers, needing only one more, while his daughter Elizabeth assists. It’s here when I finally realized Liz has been around since the first Loser episode and has simply had a different look each time we’ve seen her (I wrongly thought she was a boy at first, and so didn’t realize the same character was at Lake Yasogami).

Anyway, now I know. And now she and Loser know something’s up at Central 47 (in Tokyo).

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That something is an open challenge from Salva and Islero, announcing a grand battle royale or race for all worthy collectors, as he announces to Claire over a very old glass of wine. Mary, not taking Four’s destruction lying down, wants Kyouma to go.

The venue of this “war to avoid war” will be Easter Island, a “sealed off island of ruin.” It resembles the rocky place we see in flashes of Kyouma’s memory, and it’s likely sealed off due to something to do with Dimension W.

While Kyouma is headed for Easter Island, it doesn’t look like he intends to bring Mira with him. Part of that is obviously because he’s still used to working alone and wants her out of his hair. But perhaps he doesn’t want to involve Ponkatsu in anything that will get her exposed or worse. He already seems to bear the burden of losing someone under his care.

After shooing Mira away from the garage where he tinkers on a car, he starts to reminisce on how he met another pretty young lady, Miyabi, quite by chance. I’m looking forward to that tale.

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Dimension W – 05

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Part 2 of the Lake Yadogami Mystery was a little better than Part 1, with both fun and moving moments to be had, but to be honest it did not assuage my original concern that the mini-arc was simply too overstuffed and complex, making it hard to get properly invested.

One character I am invested in is Mira, who found a way out of her chain bondage by simply thinking it out and deciding even if she is a robot who can be repaired like nothing ever happened, she doesn’t think she’d be quite the same Mira that she is now, and she doesn’t want that.

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So she overrides the logic of the Numbers-maintained alternate world and frees herself. The show doesn’t miss out on another opportunity to show her nude when Ellie and the maid find her. As for Kyouma, he’s too quick to think she was doing nothing.

I don’t want to belabor this issue, but can’t say I approve of him punching her in the head. It only ended up hurting him, but it’s the principle: Mira is clearly more than just some robot, having just done something another robot wouldn’t have – not settle for being repaired and restarted. Can’t she also say something to the effect of “Please don’t hit me”?

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The show itself seemed to concur that it had too much going on at once, so it systematically started stripping characters and dilemmas out of the episode entirely, never to be bothered with again. Even if she becomes more important in later episodes, I just don’t see what Ellie was doing here. She leaves when her “papa” orders her to, since apparently Albert is there because of her. So if she wasn’t in the episode, Al wouldn’t have had to be either.

As for the trio of mercs who kidnapped the pixie-cut lady, they have so little presence except for that one action scene last week and are dispatched off-camera so easily, I also wonder why the episode bothered including them. I also thought eliminating all the flan-like ghosts attacking the mansion at once with a simple switch of the sprinklers was some weak sauce.

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Those were all instances of the episode doing some overdue pruning, only to replace them with yet more plot and characters. We’re taken back to 21 years ago where this business all began. The flashback introduces us to a cameraman who likes filming Sakai’s sister Enomori, only to try to assault/rape her in a shed not a minute later!

Many more unfortunate events occur, leading to a final act with so much multi-dimensional technobabble being thrown around it made me feel for Kyouma being stuck in the middle of such a convoluted mess, even though he smacks Mira again once they secure the Numbers. The denouement was so hard to follow I could only emotionally connect to it on the most basic level; that of a man relieved his sister didn’t die after all, but in the meantime still killed his alternate self to protect her.

When our two Collectors drove away in the Toyota all I could do was shrug and say “Well…at least they got the coil.” I respect this show’s ambition to tell an sprawling tragic tale that transcends dimensions. I’m not opposed to complexity, but I need more structure and focus and less stuffing in order to find a way in.

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Dimension W – 04

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I was initially intrigued by this week’s change of setting and mansion murder mystery theme, but Kyouma and Mira end up caught up in a frustratingly convoluted web of plot that features a little bit of everything presented with a “more is more” philosophy that turns out muddled and unfocused. It doesn’t help that this episode was mostly setup for a part-two payoff next week.

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You have a mysteriously drowned horror author, a mansion full of random people who would normally be the suspects, you have Albert tagging along on this one, being all buddy-buddy with Kyouma while bringing up their shared Dark Past. There’s even a gothic lolita collector who doesn’t really do much.

Then you have Mira (who Kyouma seems to have nicknamed Ponkotsu, or “piece of junk”) seeing “ghost” that could really be people involve in the past disaster that claimed many lives 21 years ago, being layered onto the real world due to the use of a Number delving into Dimension W.

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While ostensibly a soft sci-fi anime, one can feel the strain of combining so many different genres. Mira’s ability to build the world of the author’s book she can perceive in three dimensions in order to find clues is a neat idea, but somewhat overshadowed by the fact she’s either naked or in a little towel at the time; the camera’s fetishization of her body continues apace, and she ends up in a pretty standard horror movie chase.

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There also seems to be a recurring trend of Kyouma leaving Mira off on her own with mixed results; it worked out when she found the robotic pigeons, but last week she was almost exposed (which would have likely meant Kyouma, Mary, and Koorogi’s deaths), and this week she becomes a chained damsel in distress. At some point you hope Kyouma will keep better tabs on his partner.

As for the trio of suspicious characters from the lobby when Mira and Kyouma first arrive – they are operating under the assumption the present owner of the hotel’s dreams are connecting one world to the other, so they kidnap her, perhaps in hopes of retrieving the Numbered coil for themselves (or their client). So throw heist and a competing collectors themes into the mix! This DimW threw a lot of pasta at the wall, but not a lot of it stuck. Maybe the resolution will be more satisfying than the setup…

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Dimension W – 03

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After their first big job together (which nets Mira a cool ¥6 million cash) DW slows down a little, giving us a largely slice-of-life episode that still nudges some plot points forward. It also happens to be a slice of the lie of an android who thinks she’s a human and really might as well be one, since she has the same need for a place to live, relax, and heal her body.

After being paid and praised, Mira’s excited about interacting with society and carving out her little corner of it. I like how we first see Kyouma having bad dreams, then refuse to accept Mira in his house – too much gloom in there for her, plus he doesn’t want to lose privacy. Mira is plenty elated by the purchase of her very own trailer.

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However, that trailer doesn’t have a bathroom, so she has to use Kyouma’s. When he inevitably walks in on her, she doesn’t slap him, but just explains that for various reasons related to her unique specifications, she needs the damn toilet too sometimes, so they’ll just going to have to work out a system, whether it’s a door lock or simply knocking.

Kyouma, who hates all things Coil, seems to be (inadvertently or not) denying or at least limiting Mira’s humanity at every turn. He certainly has his reasons, but it’s not exactly nice that he doesn’t even bother saying goodbye before leaving, or help her transport her furnishings to her trailer (which she then has to carry herself, quite conspicuously!).

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He also leaves Mira to her own devices (tehe) in dealing with the snoopy neighborhood kids. Mira figures it out, being firm but not too strict with the youngins’, the most inquisitive of which, a girl named Shiora, asks if Mira is Kyouma’s new wife, and whether they’re “doin’ it” (complete with the vulgar Japanese gesture for sex I first saw in Shimoneta). Kids!

When the kids get a little rough in playing with Kyouma’s stacked car wrecks, and disaster is imminent, Mira springs into action like a superhero, putting the kids’ lives above worries about being exposed. She also scares the shit out of the kids, who assumed she was human.

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Man, I love the composition of first-person POV of Kyouma arriving at his place to see what chaos has been wrought in his absence. That clever camerawork is also used to reveal, in a way that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking, that Mira’s head popped off in the ruckus, and she’s been sheepishly sitting in her trailer all along, holding her head in her lap.

She’s worried that those kids will think she’s a monster, and also knowing she may have taken things a little far, since New Tesla could have easily discovered her, meaning the death of Kyouma, Mary, Koorogi, and probably others. Kyouma may see the beheaded Mira as proof she’s just a robotbut to do so would miss the fact that head aside, she’s acting like a human. The reality is, she’s much more than some robot.

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As for where Kyouma was while Mira was getting into trouble: he gets some info on the “Numbers”, which are mini-coils that draw from deep within Dimension W for their power, and which have caused bizarre accidents like the art museum, which NTE is always quick to cover up.

The incident with the cars has Kyouma brought to the Police department for questioning, but he’s soon released and summoned to the roof of NTE 47, where the COO, Clair Skyheart, is waiting for him.

Kyouma assumes she bailed him out for some reason, but it’s just a matter of her granddaughter Shiora telling her what happened and putting a good word in for him. Claire also wanted to meet another “beast of Grendel”, having been told about him by another apparent former beast, Albert.

Shiora whispers to Kyouma that she and the other kids didn’t tell anyone about Mira’s secret, and hope she feels better. The kids later pay a visit to Mira, who is glad they don’t hate or fear her. Of course they don’t; unlike Kyouma, technology has only ever been a force of good. On the other side of the spectrum, I could have done without Kyouma kicking her butt and calling her junk…

This was a fun episode that explores how far Mira’s come, how far she has yet to go, and how much more Kyouma has to learn about the right way to treat her, in addition to learning a little more about the Numbers. The teaser at the end is more of a preview for the next episode, which suggests Kyouma and Mira’s next mission will take them to a remote island castle where Robo-Murder Most Foul is afoot. Talk about a change of scenery!

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 07

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The sprawling underground ballast area where Ayato and Kirin fall becomes a crucible in which Kirin makes the crucial move from her uncle’s path to one of her own, encouraged by Ayato to do so with the assurance she won’t be alone on such a path. Considering how decisively he handles the boss dragon (albeit reaching his 5-minute limit), Kirin knows she has an ally who is strong and kind.

What she needs a little help with, which isn’t surprising considering how young and impressionable she is, is realizing her own agency and value as an individual, not as the tool of another. She also decides (due to Ayato’s nervous vacillating) that she might have a chance with Amagiri-senpai, making her an official member of the harem, if she wasn’t already.

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For too long Kirin’s uncle has gotten away with using her guilt, her sense of obligation, his bluster, and the back of his hand to cow Kirin to do his bidding. No longer. In a very simple but elegant scene, she takes one last slap, but blocks his second. She refuses to cut ties to Ayato, and instead looks her uncle in the eyes and cuts ties with him.

She’ll do things her own way from now on. Will costs come with that choice? Of course, not least because her uncle doesn’t really have any other means of advancing in the bureaucracy. He could grow desperate and do something unpredictable. And while some may say Kirin is swapping out her uncle’s influence for Ayato’s, it’s clearly that of the latter who has her own best interests at heart.

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Kirin asks Ayato to a rematch to serve as the first step on her freshly paved path to betterment and happiness. And it’s a very awesome duel at that, with Kirin displaying her usualy mastery of swordsmanship, but Ayato besting her by continually switching up his weapons from sword to spear to daggers, and finally to his bare hands, which she was open for. She’s soundly beaten, but when the match ends she’s smiling ear-to-ear, because it’s her loss, not her uncle’s, and it was also a valuable learning experience.

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After the match, Kirin asks if she can join Ayato, Julis and Saya’s training sessions after all, no longer bound to isolation, which one could argue had stifled her exposure to fighting styles and led to her loss. She’s determined to become stronger so she can save her father. I assume winning a Festa or three would give you enough clout to request sentencing modifications for family members, otherwise, wouldn’t Kirin be better served studying law?

Her uncle shows up one more time, but Kirin doesn’t waver in reiterating she no longer intends to let him use her. She’s also backed up by Ayato, who blocks one of the uncle’s cowardly cheap shots for her, and by Claudia, who promises she won’t take kindly to someone trying to sabotage or corrupt one of her beloved students…and her high-ranking mom will hear of any attempts.

Kirin also thanks her uncle for all the good things he did, but because he never did it for her, only himself, he leaves without responding to her heartfelt emotions. She then gets on first-name basis with Ayato (likely annoying Julis) and is later asked by Saya to be her tag partner. All the while, Ernesta and Camilla prepare to take the next step in their grand plan. Even as only semi-bad guys so far, they’re still preferable to Silas.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 06

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In the aftermath of his duel with Toudou Kirin, Ayato is surprised to find Julis mad not because he got into the duel. In fact she would have been disappointed if he hadn’t stepped in to protect her, and she would have done the same thing in his position, even if it mean showing her cards to a crowd. She’s angry because he lost, which means to date, the sixth grader remains unbeaten, despite being neither an Ogre Lux Wielder or Strega. She just uses a regular ol’ katana.

When he goes to get his new academy badge, Ayato finds Claudia in a very skimpy bikini, which probably isn’t an accident. Claudia lays out the deal with Kirin and her uncle: he’s trying to get a seat on the IEF board, while she seems to have her own agenda. She also mentions her mother, who became an IEF member by undergoing invasive psychogical conditioning to eradicate all her personal desires. It’s something Claudia doesn’t seem to happy about.

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Ayato might’ve thought his dealings with Kirin were over when he lost the duel, but he’s sorely mistaken. Kirin is the “little sister/kohai” member of his harem, reporting for duty. While normally shy and withdrawn, Ayato’s chivalry really inspired her, and she brightens up when talk turns to swordsmanship, an interest both of them share.

When he asks her what she’s fighting for, she says to help her father, without getting into more detail. Whatever the particulars, she’s decided it’s a fair trade to be used as a tool by her uncle in exchange to achieve her own dreams. Ayato doesn’t see it as so equitable (what with the slapping and all), but agrees at least to let Kirin join him for his early morning training.

After seeing her home, Ayato is jumped by Saya, who is suspicious of his motives and eager to hear his answer to whether he’ll be her Festa tag partner. He won’t, and the rejection stings, but it’s good to see Ayato isn’t keeping everyone in his harem hanging. There are winners and losers.

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On the Festa front, Julis is the winner. She’s a bit troubled by his early morning “interaction” with Kirin, however innocent it truly is. But when she accidentally orders extremely spicy curry (dang technology!), he agrees to switch with her, an intimate gesture to be sure. That, and his reiterating that they’re partners and have to learn to work and communicate as one, comforts her considerably. It would seem Ayato likes Julis the most, while Kirin is as I said more of a little sister figure.

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In spite of her uncle’s insistence she remain aloof, Kirin can’t quite resist Ayato’s kindness, and when he jokes about holding hands in the fog, she doesn’t hesitate to take his hand, surprising him. The fact she’s more “developed” than most middle schoolers is also a complication. But when Ernesta and Camilla unleash a horde of regenerating, slghtly-cute monsters on the two, the awkwardness shifts to All Business Mode.

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Kirin shows her sensitivity to the waves put out by the monsters and successfully deduces that if you slice them in small enough pieces a core is revealed that prevents further resurrection. But either because they fought in an under-construction zone (how convenient!) or it’s another Allekant experiment/trap, the very ground beneath Ayato crumbles and he starts to fall.

Kirin grabs his hand, saving him, but he ends up dragging her down the abyss with him. So whether he wants it to be so or not, Ayato’s going to be all alone with the smitten Kirin far longer than he expected. Whatever’s at the bottom of that pit, we’re going to see what these two are made of.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 09

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Considering episode 8 ended with a guy being eaten (or absorbed) by a Kuu-sama, and episode 10 started with the public reaction, I didn’t realize I had skipped an entire episode by accident until I was already through it. I also noted how quickly the plot progressed, leaving me to think the episode I missed was probably superfluous anyway. Boy, was I wrong!

This week, among many other things I missed out on, Hajime diagnoses Tsubasa’s problem: her resolve to run forward with everything she’s got can be both a strength and a liability. Like Tsubasa, I found out that it’s okay to stop and even go back to ensure you’re on the right path, not a path of convenience and expediency.

As a result of going back, I found episode 9 did more than simply fill in a few blanks; it further enriched the episode 10 I accidentally skipped to—itself a great episode.

For instance: I learned what led to Tsubasa no longer being by Gelsadra’s side, but returning home to Nagaoka. The public didn’t immediately react to the Kuu-sama’s “feedings” negatively; most people welcomed them being a “hammer of justice” as they punished those who committed crimes, be they petty or serious.

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Tsubasa can’t be on board with this, because she’s not a weird alien who uses cold logic to solve everything. She doesn’t see the point of becoming one if those who are hesitant are forced under pain of devouring. Paiman also condemns the acts of the Kuu-sama and hastily announces the Gatchamen will move to detain Prime Minister Gel-san, who is definitely somehow connected.

Paiman’s plan backfires, because he chooses a course of action before fully understanding what he’s up against: the Kuu-sama aren’t minions doing Gel-san’s bidding; they’re a side-effect of his weird-alien methods to unite everyone at any cost. They are of the people, not Gel-san, and as long as the pervading public opinion is of acceptance and contentment with Gel-san’s “regime”, both the Kuu-sama and the majority of the public will condemn the Gatchamen for attempting to disrupt the flow.

Hardcore supporters thus throw stuff at Paiman when he comes to arrest Gel-san; parents take their kids out of his day-care; Sugane’s harem dumps him. The Gatchamen find themselves unpopular; an eyesore to either be spurned, ignored, or, if they persist in their intervention, dealt with.

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The team regroups at HQ, where Hajime decodes Berg-Katze’s riddle: “everyone’s favorite thing that goes in easy but is difficult to get out” is a pervading atmosphere. Sugane says he’s had a lot of fun going with the flow, and wonders if it’s really that bad. And it isn’t, until you suddenly find yourself outside of it.

Hajime seems to take great pride out of being an outsider, whether you’re talking Gatchaman, alien vessel, or general space cadet. Even her hand gestures are subversive, sticking with the scissor fingers while everyone else puts their fingers together for the Ge-ru-ru Salute.

While trying to visit another fellow outsider in Rui, he doesn’t answer the door or his phone. His AI X-san, has to answer for him, worried about its master. At this point Hajime is accosted by numerous Kuu-sama, who are clearly telling not asking, that they become one. In her usual nonchalant-yet-badass tone, Hajime says “Yeah, I’d rather not,” successfully dodging the tongues.

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Then there’s the sustained action setpiece of this episode: the fight between Joe, who blames himself for Gel-san getting elected, and Gel-san, who doesn’t understand what Joe’s problem is, only that any attack directed at him will be countered in kind, and then some.

Joe is perhaps a bit foolhardy, but who would have thought Gel-san would be so adept at combat, be it dodging bullets on the ground or matching fire with wind up in the stratosphere. It’s a beautiful battle, all the more interesting because of Joe’s inability to gt through to Gel-san not because Gel’s bad or evil, but merely fundamentally wired differently as a living being.

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Back to Tsubasa. Feeling like the bottom’s fallen out of her world, she wanders an increasingly bleak city with ominously gathering clouds and scene after scene of independent-minded folk being bullied into going with the flow, and devoured if they don’t. The Kuu-sama even come after her. It’s all like some terrible nightmare, but then there’s a hand on her shoulder—it’s Hajime’s with an umbrella. And Hajime isn’t there to judge or say I told you so. She’s there to help and support her friend.

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Speaking of friends, Sugane cannot heed Joe’s warning to stay out of the fight, protecting Joe from Gel’s giant shiruken-like weapons, but getting stabbed in the back himself. Like Paiman with his premature arrest attempt, Jou’s attack only made things worse. Meanwhile, after a pep talk from Hajime (she’s all over the place wryly supporting people this episode!) X-san reaches out to Rui’s nemesis Suzuki Rizumu to try to rattle his cage. Rui is nearly catatonic in his bliss, sucking his thumb like the ape Suzuki warned him everyone would become in Gel-san’s world.

But it does rouse Suzuki to action, and he gets out of prison thanks to a VAPE member who is a guard, in order to “change the atmosphere.” Having gotten her Gatchabook back from Hajime, Tsubasa heads home, for a similar change of atmosphere, seeking wisdom from her gramps. And then, in the scene episode 10 starts with, we see one more example of the insidious danger of the Kuu-sama and their fundamental wrongness of their existence in society when a little girl simply can’t abide an older kid shrugging off a recently-devoured friend. Out of the mouths of babes indeed!

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 10

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When Mana’s father is swallowed up by a Kuu-sama, a former (current?) member of VAPE catches it on his cameraphone, forwarding it to Suzuki, who sends it out into the digital continuum, where it catches fire. I like how the means with which Gelsadra and Tsubasa united and consolidated the majority of society are the same means that prove their undoing. As with everything else, enhanced technology effects change much faster than more primative methods, but the door swings both ways.

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When the nation sees Mana’s father getting eaten, followed by a response by Gel-san that inadvertently sounds cold and uncaring, and a warning for those who don’t want to become one to get in line, Tsubasa is beside herself, unsure of what to do, leading her to sit with her grandpa and listen. I found Yuru-jii’s monologue to be a fine, stirring, cogent, unblinking look on Japanese history and society.

He’s seen this “atmosphere” before, and he was caught up in it, as was everyone around him, including his little brother: in WWII. “We lost ourselves, and fought against people we didn’t hate”, all out what was essentially a national inferiority complex. The atmosphere that led to war and the slaughter of millions just kinda snuck up on everyone, until it had become irreversible.

That atmopshere created an empire that would fight to the last man when faced with certain defeat. It took the first and only use of nuclear weapons against an enemy in human history to dissipate that atmosphere. Gatchaman’s sobering critique of the national psyche in the darkest years of Japan’s history stands in stark contrast to the glorification of the military in shows like KanColle and GATE, and I for one am glad shows like this are around to balance the discourse.

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The difference here is, the mood, and atmosphere, or kuuki, has been given physical form by Gelsadra, with the best of intentions, but ignorant to the world, its people, and their inherent desire to break from the crowd. He neutralized their wills, but he did not break them. And so, when word comes down the Kuu-sama are killers and Gel brought them about and is doing nothing to stop them, those very Kuu-sama reflect the changing mood, one of hatred and desire to bring Gel-san down.

I like how it’s Hajime who first comes to Gel’s aid against the amassing hordes of Kuu-sama. They may have physical form, but they can be disspated, or “popped” with the power of the Gatchamen. Gel-san also reassesses what he wants, from something as massive and ultimately impossible as uniting all of mankind as one, to something far simpler and more personal: wanting to see his dear friend Tsubasa.

So he exhales, releasing all of the mood bubbles in his belly and reverting to the form he took when he first landed…which is good news.

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Meanwhile, the Gatchamen muster and start taking out the Kuu-samas, lending a nice action angle to the episode. Rui breaks out of his funk thanks to X, into whom he inadvertently, but fortunately, programmed a sort of “Backup Will”, a fail-safe to rouse him from indolence should he get swept up in the fluffy bliss of belonging. X reminds him that he came up with her, and Crowds, and every other amazing accomplishment, when he was alone, not in the fetal position in the lap of a physical manifestation of the nation’s mood!

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Just as Gel-san exhaled to release the atmosphere, so too does Tsubasa, taking her grandpa’s advice to do some heavy breathing before setting off and joining Hajime and the other Gatchamen. She races to the city by transforming into an awesome hoverbike-thingy. Thanks to the events of this week, the apes are quickly evolving and thinking for themselves, but the residual caustic atmosphere must be purged in order to move forward. Everyone has to take a deeep breath.

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P.S. Yup, I accidentally totally skipped Episode 9. I’ll be watching that soon and writing a review later. Sorry about that!

Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 08

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When the strange but gentle beasts arrive, the Gatchamen muster as if they were dealing with another enemy harming the public, but this time, at least at the beginning, is different. Similarly, the people are initially scared of the Dr. Seuss-like creatures, but when they only say supportive, comforting things to their “hosts” and embrace them in warm fuzzy hugs, they quickly accept them as a fact of life.  Well, most of them do.

O.D. warns that while they may be gentle, they’re also beasts, while Hajime remains skeptical of the beasts’ intentions as long as she doesn’t know anything about them besides the fact they came from everyone’s mood bubbles. And she has every right to be suspicious, and not just because she has an anti-conscience in Berg-Katze within her bosom sounding alarm bells, because they seem singularly interested to “making everyone one” even though that’s not possible.

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Softened up by Gel’s gentle I-Know-What’s-Best authoritarianism, 82% of the public votes for him to decide what to do about the Kuu-sama. The remaining 18% voted with their own voice, either yes or no, meaning even after all that’s happened, there’s still “conflict” that Gel can’t figure out how to eradicate. But Tsubasa remains firmly on his side and against Hajime’s inquisitiveness, which she deems negative.

That attitude towards voices of dissent is carried over to the majority, who start to single out and oppress the dissenters. An “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality sets in, and the people’s disgust of those not of like mind breeds wishes for those people to “disappear”, so everyone can become one that much sooner. It’s a lot like the Sneetches, only with red mood bubbles instead of stars.

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Even Rui gives up, so comfortable with his new entourage of Kuu-sama that he simply curls up into one of them and sucks his thumb, ignoring his AI X’s pleas for him to snap out of it. I for one didn’t think Rui would fall so easily, but he’s always been a lonely person, and the Kuus are a quick and powerful remedy.

Fortunately, in addition to Hajime, most of the other Gatchamen are not okay with the Kuu-sama, and are simply waiting for something bad to happen as a result of their presence. True enough, Joe is about to go out for darts with a non-red friend who suddenly gets slurped up and absorbed into a Kuu-sama. Yikes!

This is what Hajime, Berg-Katze, Suzuki Rizumu, and others have dreaded. The Kuu-sama are now so numerous and so accepted, getting rid of them will be a titanic task. In addition, they themselves are at risk of being gobbled up and added to “The One” if they continue to oppose the order of things.

It’s a most insidious and efficient alien invasion—and if Gel is to be believed, he didn’t even see it coming. But he did want everyone to be one—which is exactly what’s happening.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 07

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Gelsadra gave everyone the choice of “yes” or “no” for smartphone votes, but he is increasingly frustrated he’s unable to “unite all hearts as one”, as there’s almost always an opposing minority of around 20%, and no matter how hard the other 80% work, that ~20% won’t be convinced. Meanwhile, Gel-san is growing paler, and JJ prophesies that the “scarlet angel” will soon “transform”, and “gentle beasts” will appear “whose names are many.”

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Things have also taken a turn for the dark with regards to Tsubasa, who grows ever more militant and unyielding in her belief Gel-san is humanity’s savior, and anyone who questions her is both wrong and “thinking about too much difficult stuff.” Most outwardly guilty of that is, of course, Rui, but a part of Sugane also thinks things aren’t quite right, as does Hajime. Tsubasa forceably changing Hajime’s scissor sign to a Gel-sign is part-in-parcel of the troubling “with us or against us” atmosphere.

Berg-Katze, who has insight few others do, tells Hajime that Gel is a “piece of shit” who can “go die in a fire.” His usual manic hyperbole aside, it’s a pretty clear warning to watch out; humanity has yet to see Gelsadra’s other form(s) yet, and when Berg first met him, he didn’t fight him, he ran.

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Tsubasa’s fanaticism reaches its peak when Rui begs Gel-san to reconsider the implementation of a third choice for the phone voting: “leave it to Gel-san,” warning it will cause people to stop thinking for themselves, or at all. When faced with the choice of standing by an increasingly fat and unwell-looking Gelsadra and sticking with the Gatchamen, Tsubasa resigns, tossing her book away.

Finally, when Rui is visits Suzuki for advice, Suzuki says it’s too late, he’s just another ape, and very soon—in a flash—everyone will turn into apes for real. Gel-san vomits out all of the thoughts he’d devoured, and they all infect everyone’s present moods, changing color and ejecting the strange, oddly-shaped and colored “gentle beasts” JJ spoke of. Gel seems scared and unaware such a thing could happen, so perhaps he isn’t doing anything with malaice of forethought.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the prime minister of Japan just unleashed a potential storm of pestilence that will devolve humanity rather than save it. How will Gel’s right-hand-woman Tsubasa spin this new development, I wonder?

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