AICO – 02 – Getting Up to Speed, Running Away, Getting Nabbed

Aiko’s new “friends” dump a lot of info on her in an episode that gets us up to speed, introduces some other players, and sets the stakes, which are far-ranging. To sum it up, Aiko’s natural body was all but destroyed in a car accident, so researchers decided to put her brain in an artificial body they made when she was born.

However, the surgery that allows her to be standing there today caused the Burst: an overpowered proliferation of “malignant matter” that threatens Japan and the world. She’s also apparently the key to stopping it. Oh, and her mom and brother are still in ground zero.

It’s obviously a lot to absorb for poor Aiko, whose world has just been flipped upside down. She’s a lot like Neo during his sprawling introduction to the Real World, though she doesn’t throw up, she RUNS…nowhere in particular, just away from all this scary shit.

While running, she ends up falling through a roof, right into the lunch a redheaded Diver named Misawa Kaede is about to tuck into. Kaede’s colleague Kazuki assists Aiko when he learns she just wants to get away, but Kaede and the others corner her and bring her back to Kanzaki, Dr. Korose & Co.

Kurose decides to hire the 4-person Diver team to infiltrate Ground Zero in order to retrieve Aiko’s real body. Kanzaki will be their guide, they’ll be paid handsomely even if survival can’t be guaranteed, and whatever 2-person team from the quartet fares better by a certain leg in the mission, will get a bonus and be the ones to accompany Kanzaki to the final leg.

Now that the situation and the plan for dealing with it have been established, it looks like it’s time to impliment it, but the team hits a snag: a SWAT team busts into the hideout and snatches up Aiko and Yuya.

In two episodes, Aiko has been plucked from school by one party, given an infodump, freaked out and run away, picked up again, and then kidnapped by another party. I’m not seeing a whole lot of agency for the titular character, nor are there any indications she’ll be gaining any of it anytime soon.

That could be problematic going forward, as we’re dealing with a Netflix “Original”-style series that has been intricately formulated to check a lot of boxes and satisfy multiple audiences, but in doing so lacks any kind of basic originality.

AICO is (and will probably remain) watchable because’s it’s well-made competently executed, and isn’t gratingly gratuitous (likeDevilman Crybaby). But I like to think I’ve watched enough anime to make the determination that there’s no potential for AICO to be anything other than popcorn entertainment.

AICO – 01 (First Impressions)

Implacable organic masses don’t tend to be the most compelling villains…but we’ll see

Thanks in no small part to streaming services like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, there’s just too damn much television to watch. And if Netflix has anything to say about it, there’s going to be too much anime as well. A.I.C.O.: Incarnation is a Bones-produced original anime tailor-made for Netflix-style binge watching.

That’s quite evident from this first episode, which unloads an awful lot (and jumps around multiple genres) but doesn’t settle on any one thing, yet moves around at a good enough clip to entice you to watch more, provided you don’t get immediately irritated by the number of cliches that unfold.

A Bridal Carry? That was quick.

Mind you, many conventional network-airing anime give you this same kind of kind of thrown-into-the-deep-end, action-packed pilot, but it’s very much intentional here. There’s bits and pieces of characters and story in AICO’s first outing, but not quite enough to be satisfied with just … one … episode. You really want to watch on.

“You aren’t…a stoic Gary Stu by any chance?”

But it’s fairly late, and I typically like to space things out for the sake of my eyes and sanity, so I’ll be watching one episode at a time, unless I can’t resist to watch more for some reason. In that regard, I think I’ll be safe; thus far the presentation of AICO is such that I’d probably benefit from a slight respite between episodes, even if it goes against the Netflix credo of simply sitting in the same place until an entire season is done.

NOT THE FACE

Oh, sorry, I haven’t said much about what AICO is about, just how I felt about watching it. Suffice it to say, there’s a huge threat to humanity in the form of some kind of formless ambulatory mass of gore called “matter” that consumes everything in its path. It’s believed their only hope against this scourge is Tachibana Aiko, who at first appears to be an ordinary high school girl gradually regaining the ability to stand and walk after some unspecified injury.

The reality, however, is that Aiko no longer possesses a natural body; hers is an extremely realistic, intricate, and above all tough artificial body, in which any bruises, blows or cuts are quickly healed. A rake to her face with a knife shatters the knife. This all comes as a shock to Aiko, who already has her plate full as the lone member of her family to survive some kind of calamity likely caused by the Matter.

As I said, the show moves relatively well, even if it moves a bit too much in one sitting; it’s decent-looking enough and the music is adequately atmospheric. Perhaps I’ll take another look or two soon…just not all at once, as prescribed.

Bungou Stray Dogs – 05

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Last week, Bungou Stray Dogs disappointed because it lacked tension and it’s tone fluctuated wildly from cheeky to violent. It had no stakes and the characters faced no consequences. This week was no better. It was possibly worse.

What happened? RampoADA’s master detective is sent to a murder scene and Atsushi is sent along because Rampo is useless at everything except crime detection. A new gruff detective is at the scene and he doesn’t know Rampo and doesn’t approve of using private investigators. After some dialog, he relents and Rampo reveals a random police officer at the scene actually committed the crime and a greater conspiracy ensues…

The payoff is, after all the reveals, Dazai tells Atsushi that Rampo doesn’t actually have an ability, and that he even touched Rampo to make sure. Dazai then explains how Rampo would be able to deduce many of the clues and Atsushi learns why ADA respects Rampo so much.

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While the final reveal is clever, all the parts felt contrived or drawn out. The detective’s objections to Rampo feel like a contrivance to pad the opening act. Dazai being trolled out of the river felt like a contrivance to include him in the act and to explain things to Atsushi in the end.

Atsushi gets nothing to do except his shock-face routine and the actual case, the murder of a female detective, is so secondary that when the episode shifted to it in the second act (via a narrated interview of the police officer who killed her) I lost interest. This show is terribly ill conceived.

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Lets get academic on the tonal issue: adding humor to a grim scene keeps the over all tone light but, when used masterfully, can paint a deeper understanding of the characters. Maybe they are cracking jokes as a defense mechanism, maybe they are deeply warped individuals how can’t feel anymore, or maybe the writers are lowering our guard so they can hit us with a really shocking point later on.

Unfortunately, Stray Dogs only purpose is to keep things light. The characters are too cartooney for a psychological message to be believable and, thus far, each episode has ended on a dismissively happy-go-lucky note. Even if a grim reveal will eventually come, the script has bled out all of its tension.

It doesn’t help that there is no comedy here either. Dazai’s one-note suicide humor was used up in the first episode and this week’s ADA member is just a narcissist who brags over a corpse about how good he is. All the snap-zoom shock-faces in the world can’t contort his lines into jokes. The punchline is there is no punchline.

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The verdict: Stray Dogs is a comedy without jokes. It’s an noir drama without any weight or humanity. It’s a super natural action piece soft on action and with a hard on for dull ‘resolve the plot’ super powers… which means the episode-to-episode plot isn’t compelling and the long term threat of the port mafia was so neutered last week as to make that unsuitable as an alternative.

I mean, what possible impact does knowing the murderer was dating the victim have after all that slap stick?

Beyond production values, there is absolutely nothing good about this show. It is not terrible but it is also genuinely bland or self defeating in every way.

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Bungou Stray Dogs – 04

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BSD4 is all about blind alleys and throw away asides that hide a very simple message: Despite their great power, the Port Mafia is no match for the Armed Detective Agency AND Atsushi finally has a place he belongs.

Dazai and Dracula are barely in the episode, Atsushi spends most of it trying to run away and protect his new friends (who don’t even know he’s doing that nor need him to do so) and the rest is given over to red-herrings about Kuni-chan being worried and introducing how bad-ass the Black Lizard squads of the Port Mafia are… only to have them immediately wiped out by the ADA.

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My concerns from last week are still in play: the show’s tone ricochets between slapstick and torture-grim, but there’s no tension because everyone important to the story survives.

Likewise, 15% of the episode is spent on mini flashbacks or repeats of information we’ve seen multiple times over. It doesn’t respect the viewer and for all the information stuffed into the play time, it doesn’t feel like much of it is valuable.

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It’s not all bad of course. The show looks decent enough, if not slightly over designed. The animations are decent enough, if only one scene per episode really pops out. It’s just trying very hard and I don’t really get a sense any of this has a point.

Certainly, establishing the big bad Mafia is no match for the ADA already makes it even lower stakes and less significant as a long term conflict. So what’s really left for the show to be about?

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Bungou Stray Dogs – 03

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Between its mixed bag of animation quality, comically abrupt advancement of the plot and introduction of the show’s main villain, and jarring shifts in tone, Bungou Stray Dogs 03 was a complete mess… Bad dogs!

In scene one, Atsushi learns more about last week’s fake-out bomber and his ‘sister,’ as well as Kuni-chan’s background as a math teacher. He also learns Dazai’s backstory is a huge secret and there is a reward for figuring it out, which prompts an entirely unfunny scene where Atsushi lists random occupations and Dozai cutely says nope to all of them.

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In scene two, everyone meets this week’s client, a knock-out blonde who’s company is troubled by ‘rag wearing’ persons up to no good in their alley. Dazai flirts around with the client until Kuni-chan beats him up and Atsushi and the lesser duo of last week are dispatched to help the client.

Also, Kuni-chan warns Atsushi to avoid Dracula at all costs.

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The second act is devoted to introducing Dracula, who it turns out is part of the dock mafia along with this week’s client. As the scene plays out, we lear about last week’s lesser characters, see their powers, and then witness them brutally murdered.

Then Atsushi turns into a Tiger and goes toe to toe with Dracula until Dazai shows up. They monolog at each other, explain that Atsushi has a 7 million Yen bounty on his head, and part ways amicably. Also, Dazai reveals he too was once a port mafia dude.

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Where do I even begin? Dracula’s sudden arrival felt absurdly rushed. Similarly, this show is way too goofy for Dracula’s violent murder of police officers (and subsequent bombing of the police station).

The simple fact Atsushi’s fellow Armed Detectives are probably still alive, despite being gunned down just proves my point: the stakes are not high enough and the show is not serious enough to make violent drama fit.

If it weren’t for Atsushi’s cool dodging gun-play early in the fight, this episode would have been a complete snoozefest.

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Bungou Stray Dogs – 02

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Nakajima Atsushi’s pleasant time with a roof over his head doesn’t last long: Dazai calls him on his new cell phone and informs him there is an emergency!

After a quick fakeout involving an oil drum and a failed suicide attempt, the duo joins Kunikida at the Armed Detective Agency’s head quarters and faces off against a mad bomber to save a hostage hostage.

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Slapstick ensues, the bomber gets madder, and in a final desperate act to save the day, Atsushi tries to smother the explosion with his own body…only to discover the bomb was fake and the situation was a test all along.

With the president’s approval, he is now part of the ADA, whether he wants to be or not. Roll credits…

…Until Dracula shows up in the sewer, probably up to no good. Those Draculas never are!

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Bungou Stray Dogs succeeds for a second week, although at a lower action level and less witty humor. Dazai and Kuni-chan’s rock-paper-scissors showdown was charming, and some of Dazai’s expressions (like his spaghetti arms dance) earned a chuckle, but it lacked last week’s punch over all.

BSD’s color palette remains quite nice to look at, though it too was more exiting last week. The character designs are solid and Atsushi’s poses are especially bizarre in an angular sort of way. The goofy rock guitar in the background was either hilariously appropriate or terrible depending on your tastes.

But if I had to choose a single thing that bothered me, it’s Kuni-chan’s special power “Dopa Poet,” which appears to materialize a gas-cartridge-cable-firing-GUN from a piece of paper. Judging from the opening credits, this may well be all his power is good for and yeesh…that’s hugely unsatisfying as powers go.

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Bungou Stray Dogs – 01 (First Impressions)

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Nakajima Atsushi, recently chased out of an orphanage and about to die from starvation has finally come to realize he must turn to crime if he is to survive. He WILL rush the next person he sees and take everything they’ve got.

The first person he sees zips past on a motorcycle, followed by a company of marching soldiers, followed by a body floating down the river. Resigning himself, Atsushi-kun dives in after the drowning man and begins his adventure!

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As it turns out, that drawing man is suicide-hobbyist Dazai, a member of the Armed Detective Agency, who’s shirking work and ticking off his partner Kunikida-kun, who materializes soon after.

Grudgingly, Kunikida pays for Atsushi’s meals but it is quickly revealed the detectives and the orphan have overlapping interest in a man-killing tiger that is causing trouble in the area and is most definitely not Atsushi himself.

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Later that night, Atsushi turns into a tiger in front of Dazai, who uses his own powers to safely immobilize the ignorant orphan and save the day. We meet the rest of the Detectives and they agree to add Atsushi to their ranks.

Roll…opening credits? Then Preview, then Roll closing credits!

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Bungou Stray Dogs succeeds in every way Sousei no Onmyouji fails: The render level and visual styling are not only solid, they pull off well timed jokes and present an emotional range for each character.

The characters themselves are likable and quirky. Even Kunikida-kun’s generic ‘Angry Uptight Dude’ fits visually within the world and, given Dazai’s entertainingly suicidal musings, you may even find his exasperation believable.

Supernatural team shows are a dime a dozen, but BSD does not disappoint. The rest of the cast and list of villains, which includes a Dracula, appears equally charming and quirky—but above all else, there’s no dour angst-bro in the driver’s seat here.

I’m looking forward to more of this and hope you have time to give it a look too!

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 07

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To Shou’s apparent amazement, Sakurako graces his school festival with her presence—in a skirt, no less!—though it could have more to do with the fact she’d have access to delicious pancakes than any particular urge to see or hang out with Shou. Or is that being too harsh? In a show full of mysteries, Sakurako remains the largest, though we’re now 7/11ths into the show.

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Suddenly disappearing after her meal, Shou finds her in the one place in a school she’d go: the lab, to check out skeletons. She couldn’t care less about rudely off and going without saying something, either because she just doesn’t conform to social norms, or because she knew Shou would be able to find her if he needed to. Far more important to Saku once she inspects the bones, is that a grave injustice is taking place.

The skeletons are gathering dust as decor rather than being handled by students for educational benefit. I loved her matter-of-fact indignation and scolding of Professor Isozaki who maintains the lab but is more of a plant guy, but promises improvement, which matters to Saku more than apologies.

Things take a very Sakurako-san-like turn when Isozaki offers Saku the job of organizing a prep room full of unorganized bones left there by the former teacher who is now deceased. Saku agrees in exchange for three pumpkin Mont Blancs from Patisserie Dandelion, a very specific but also delicious-sounding (and fair) price.

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During the long, dusty process of organizing the prep room and taking inventory of the bones, Saku comes across the skeleton of a dog and a cat, which disturbs Shou quite a bit due to their status as pets. He also remembers seeing a cat skeleton with the name “Ulna” in Saku’s house, and she tells him Ulna was the name of her pet cat, who died an “unnatural death.” She wanted to learn the cause, so she performed an autopsy.

This really unsettles Shou, who gets frustrated when Saku reacts so differently than him. He feels she’s being cold and heartless, even if that’s not really quite the case. It’s another depressing sign to him that Saku is so very different than him, which more than the fact she has a fiancee (that’s more of an excuse not to pursue her, not a true obstacle, as Isozaki opines), keeps him from making a closer connection, to say nothing of pursuing a romance.

They also find a chest full of the bones of a cremated human named Sone Natsuko, who judging from the writings among Sasaki’s personal effects, had at least some connection with him, possibly a close one. Alas, it isn’t a case for Sakurako-san, as the police are called and take the remains away.

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The next day, Shou is confused by the lack of a cat skeleton in the inventory, when he could swear Saku was stroking a cat skull, just as he was talking about her petting Ulna. Because of the way Shou thinks and makes connections to interactions, he believes he might have upset Saku with his in hindsight over-the-top reaction to her comments on Ulna.

But of course an analytical person like Saku would want to find out why her cat died. That, not burying her in the yard and burning some incense, is how she processes the pain of her loss. And when Shou comes to her mansion to deliver her Mont Blancs, the gate is locked. Not because Sakurako is angry, but because she’s gone to visit her uncle, Shitara.

Shitara’s a professor of forensic medicine, now confined to a bed and requiring some kind of SGD to communicate. Saku, perhaps inspired by Shou bringing up Ulna, has come for Shitara’s unsolved case, which she wants to investigate, and she has Shitara’s blessing, provided she doesn’t do anything dangerous. I wonder if Saku will let Shou in on this. She’d better, if she wants those Mont Blancs…

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 06

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When Kougami Yuriko’s friends encourage her to ask Shoutarou to be her date for the Asahikawa Summer Festival, she has her usual coffee with Shou, but all he talks about is Sakurako-san. When she shows up to the festival resplendent in her yukata, but alone, one wonders why she didn’t press. Does she believe Shou is out of her reach, preferring the older, more amazing Sakurako, or is she just not that concerned about pursuing Shou, or anyone else, that way?

As she spots all of the lovey-dovey couples holding hands, seemingly rubbing in her face that which she lacks, she also spots a grandmother and child, and seems comforted and less lonely. It’s not that she doesn’t like the idea of walking hand-in-hand with someone she likes; but she’s more concerned with becoming someone who can protect those she cares about.

Then she spots an ethereal-looking woman with dark black hair throwing an envelope over the bridge, who then vanishes, leaving the envelope behind. Suddenly has on her hands something more interesting, at least to her, than a date. She has a mystery. Then she turns around and encounters another lonely heart, Isozaki-sensei, from her school.

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The envelope contains a ring, and Isozaki opens it to learn more. They determine it’s a synthetic diamond solitaire ring; most likely a wedding ring. The note inside asks forgiveness “for going to him.” Yuri is worried the woman was trying to throw herself off the bridge along with the ring, and wants to find her so she can help in some way. Izosaki…doesn’t.

The two butt heads, with Izosaki standing up for logic, analysis, rights and responsibilities, while Yuri cites human nature to not someone to die, and do whatever they can to prevent it. As the day turns to night, Izosaki considers taking off, but when he hears how serious Yuri is, he’s loath to leave her alone lest she get in trouble, so he agrees to look for the woman with her one more hour.

It’s strange; throughout their interaction, I couldn’t stop thinking how much more I’d enjoy it if it was Shoutarou by her side rather than Izosaki. The two have a good rapport, even if it doesn’t seem likely to turn to romance, and I think that Shou would be on the same page as Yuri. At the same time, the philosophical conflict that occurs from her and Izosaki can’t be discounted.

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Still, one gets the feeling Yuri would prefer the counsel of a professional investigator like Sakurako, so she keeps calling Shoutarou (since Saku doesn’t have a cell, Shou’s her only means of reaching her). When Saku finally appears, it’s by chance, on the very bridge where the mystery first began. Since Saku got lost in thought, she also got lost, which makes Shou and Utsumi have to send out a lost child address for her, which she’s not pleased about.

It’s here where Shou gets scolded by an angry Yuri for leaving his phone in Saku’s office, keeping her from contacting Saku earlier. Is Yuri masking her anger for not being able to spend the day with Shou, or is Shou really nothing more than a conduit to Saku that didn’t come through? The truth seems somewhere in between those extremes.

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Anyway, once Sakurako gets her hand on the ring, she determines it is not in fact a wedding ring, but a mourning ring, and the diamond itself was made with carbon from the bones of a departed loved one. She surmises that the woman sought to toss the ring away because she found another love. Sakurako then tosses the ring in the drink, and the fireworks commence.

It isn’t at all the conclusion Yuri expected, but she’s glad she worked hard and didn’t give up. It no doubt gives her strength and hope that not giving up on other things—or people—could also lead to good things.

I’ll be honest: this was very close to another 9 to me, and it all comes down to Yuri. I’d never have guessed in the first episode that she’d be anything other than a side character and (unrequited) love interest for Shou, but she’s become far more than that.

She’s complex, and feels like a real person, with ideals and beliefs and shortcomings that don’t always fall into easy categories. She’s both admiring and jealous of Sakurako. She’s chummy and warm, but also tentative with Shou. And as I said above, she’s in no hurry to define herself as one half of some couple so much as she wants to know she can stand on her own two feet.

It’s Sakurako’s show, and once she shows up she more or less dominates all the screen time she occupies. But I definitely wouldn’t mind more Yuri here and there.

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 03

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Sakurako-san is a weird one, preferring bones to people and all, but she’s full of wisdom and thinks and looks like no one else around her. Yet she also has her own brand of empathy, seeing even emotions like happiness, relief, and comfort as brain chemistry reacting to external stimuli.

She’s also quite human and thus fallible herself, which is what makes her so endearing as a character. She persists in calling Shoutarou “boy” (shounen) as a way to distance herself from him, despite their growing bond that, at times, treads into romantic territory.

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Sakurako persuades her self-professed “guardian” to accompany her through some caves, then to a park where they’re pointed in the direction of human remains by a far more normal couple. Saku’s delighted at the find, and gives a beautiful description of how a corpse out in the open is briefly a “paradise of life” as flies lay eggs, maggots feed, and predators feed on the maggots, etc. She has a deep appreciation for the circle of life and the food chain, things humans don’t need to think about in daily life.

When Shoutarou does the responsible thing and phones the police, it doesn’t stop Sakurako from offering her expert opinion on who the corpse was and what happened. The police, however, aren’t so much impressed by her expertise as annoyed by her interference and what they perceive as arrogance (and hey, she is a bit arrogant).

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Back home, when Shou thinks Saku is sulking, she’s actually concentrating on building a skeleton. That’s when she finally tells him what he’s been meaning to ask about: her dead little brother, Soutarou, just one syllable removed from his name. It’s not much, but it’s the start of a dialogue and a sign she’s willing to gradually let Shou in.

The next day, Shou goes to a cafe at the request of his classmate Kougami Yuriko. Her purpose is to thank him for helping to find the corpse, which was that of her grandmother, who the police believe jumped to her death. When she invites both Shou and Saku to her house to thank them properly, we learn her grandma was taking care of her husband, who was suffering from severe dementia and required round-the-clock care.

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That burden is something the police used as a motive for Yuriko’s grandma’s suicide, and Yuriko even understands and doesn’t hold it against her. On the contrary, she’s ashamed she and the rest of her family didn’t see how tough it was for her until it was too late. But when she asks Saku to show her where and how her grandmother died, she gets an entirely different and more plausible story than the police came up with.

When they return to the site where her grandmother’s remains were found, Sakurako presents that story, which is this: her grandmother didn’t go there to die, she went there to live. She just stumbled and fell off the cliff in an unfortunate accident.

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The reason she left in the middle of the night was so that she could reach a certain spot so she could see the same sunrise her husband painted back when he was healthier. Sakurako points out how exposure to the morning sun releases serotonin, which calms and soothes the mind. She tempers her conclusions as mere speculation, but they fit the facts, the timing, the motive, and the details.

These conclusions also provide comfort and closure to Yuriko. Now that she knows her grandmother didn’t give up on her grandfather, she has that much more reason to be strong and provide care in her granny’s place. Another satisfying mystery that respectfully delved into a specific (yet under-represented in anime) circumstance in modern human society—caring for those who can’t care for themselves—and built logically to a life-affirming finish.

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 02

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This was a tough one to watch, but it still felt good to watch it. Though I don’t have any kids, I could feel my latent parental instincts kick in on multiple occasions. What I do have is a little niece going on three, the same age as the girl who serves as a conduit for this week’s murder mystery, which turns out to be a lot more involved than last week’s century-old skeleton or the suicide-not-suicide.

The little girl, who only has the most basic grasp of communication, and will default to “no” when confronted with strong direct demands, is like a lock that Sakurako and Shou must pick in order to figure out who she is and where she came from. I like how such a lockpicking must be undertaken by a lad too young for kids and an older but still young woman too involved in her work to bother with things like husbands or children of her own.

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In spite of this, Sakurako and Shou become the kid’s surrogate parents for the duration of their investigation. Shou is the one who brings her to Sakurako, who quickly notices the child is suffering from a poorly-healed bone injury; the likely result of abuse. As luck would have it, a classmate of Shou’s knows the kid and her real name, leading them to her house: a pigsty strewn with bags of garbage and a likely den of neglect and abuse. Then they find the corpse of the mother, and a new story emerges.

The mother is dead of an apparent stab wound, with only one defensive wound, and died in a very strange position that turns out to be one best-suited for covering a trap door in the kitchen where she hid her other child, an infant boy. When Sakurako moves the mother’s body and finds the babe, she wastes no time attempting to revive it, pumping his tiny heart to provide his brain with enough oxygen to stay alive.

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Before help can come, the father does: a knife-wielding drug addict looking for “butterflies.” Saku is unable to move to protect herself, lest she risk losing the baby, and the cop who accompanied her and Shou is the first one stabbed. That means Shoutarou has to step up and save everyone, which he does thanks to some karate he learned from his gramps.

Far from impressed, Saku is angry at Shou for acting so recklessly. As he acted, she remembered a young boy running from her in a similar fashion, and being unable to stop him. A younger brother she lost, perhaps? In any case, all’s well that ends well. The baby wakes up (thank GOD) and the police and ambulance arrive. And throughout all of this, the three-year-old has been kept safe by Shou’s classmate in the other room, shielding her from further trauma.

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The house may be the dump of a destitute couple unable to properly care for their two young children, but in Sakurako’s reconstruction of what happened (which happens with all of the pieces having been previously, carefully laid out), the mother is redeemed as a Mother, one who did not hesitate to sacrifice her own life to save both of her kids from her insane, homicidal partner. She may not have been the best mother in life, but she did the one fundamental thing required of her, and all mothers, when it mattered: she protected her children.

This was more than just a rich spoiled genius girl solving a another mystery for her own satisfaction. The show successfully drew me even further in by upping the stakes considerably. This was about continuing the work the murdered mother started: making sure those innocent kids survive. And Saku couldn’t do it alone; she needed the help of her “Watson” and the plucky cop, and they delivered.

With this latest case closed, a deeper mystery remains: the truth of Saku’s memory.  Shoutarou is surprised when she calls him by his first name in the aftermath of their ordeal, but also remembers her shouting “Soutarou” during it. Calling him Shoutarou is a sign of intimacy, yet when he asks her to confirm calling him that, she backs away, careful to maintain the same distance between them. Something haunts her; something Shou wants to uncover; and I want to see him uncover it!

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru – 01 (First Impressions)

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The title is a mouthful (the English dub is shortened to Beautiful Bones), but Sakurado-san is a modest yet intriguing little show centered on a rich, gorgeous, brilliant, and very (justifiably) immodest young osteologist in Kujou Sakurako. She loves bones and is always on the lookout for new ones, even, nay, especially if they’re of the human variety, and even more especially if they’re of the murdered human variety.

In fact, Sakurado seems to prefer the bones of the dead to other human beings, as she seems a bit of a misanthrope. Her only regular contacts seem to be Gran, her housekeeper, and Tatewaki Shoutarou, who is the Watson to her Sherlock, only he’s not a veteran of Afghanistan, nor is he a doctor. He’s more of a student; a kohai.

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The unconventional relationship between Sakurako, who looks to be in her mid to late twenties, and the high schooler Shou, looks to be the ongoing “mystery” running parallel to the mystery-of-the-week (or weeks). Shou is our conduit to Sakurako; we know a little more about what’s going on in his head because he’s narrating, adding to Sakurako’s mystique.

Despite her being older, Shou seems the more responsible and attuned to society and bureaucracy, calling the cops when they find human remains. Yet Shou is still enough of a kid to allow the prospect of an Alaskan shrimp feast dangled ahead of him like a carrot.

Whether it’s the fact Shou’s so young and non-threatening and malleable, or that she probably doesn’t want to marry her actual fiancee (being from a wealthy family, that’s probably an arranged thing), Sakurako not only tolerates but seems to enjoy Shou’s company, and the feeling is mutual, even if she sometimes goes too far and causes trouble.

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So those are the characters, to my mind the most interesting aspect of the show. Plot-wise, the opening episode is an introduction to them and a kind of “ridealong” to one of their typical days scrounging for bones.

It’s also demonstrated that Sakurako’s analytical and investigative skills and instincts outstrip the average country detective, though she has no interest in actually entering law enforcement. There’s a great sense of occasion and drama to the moment she locks into “investigation mode”, when she’s surrounded by light and hundreds of reconstructed skeletons.

This show also has going for it: a Wednesday timeslot, so it’s more likely to be retained than if it aired during the always busy weekend. Plus, it’s a fairly pretty, undemanding show that invites you to sit back and get lost in the wake of Sakurako for a spell, as Shou obviously delights in doing, despite his protestations. Heck, I even learned a few things about bones I didn’t know. Very nice; I’ll see where it goes.

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Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou – 01 (Quick Glance)

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Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou feels like it was designed by a committee. “What’s stylish?” “How about some retro characters and big one-on-one fights?” “Invisible aliens with conspiracies and quasi-government agencies that fight them?” “How about a transforming sports car with a gun sword?” “How about magic girls, complete with a transformation sequence, and cleavage?” “It can’t be a linear story though —we have to reveal the mystery through multiple time frames and out of order!”

…I could go on.

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To be fair, CR:CG’s Crock-Pot of miscellaneous tropes manages to gel into a coherent package. I don’t know why Aliens want the position of the zodiac, but I understand that they do and that it’s important that the super-human bureau to stop them and/or protect humanity’s super human allies, including a ditzy magic girl, which they induct into their ranks by the end of the episode.

I just don’t really care.

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No matter how much quantity this show presents, no matter how varied it gets, every aspect feels derivative. All the pretty colored outlines and halftone used in the background can’t change that.

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