Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 02

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TG35 tables its fanservice and harem elements this week, instead focusing on the more serious matter of Kusanagi continuing his quest to make Ootori accept him as a captain and a comrade, a decision I felt made for a better episode than the first.

When Ootori affirms her unwillingness to allow being lumped in with the Small Fry Platoon, Suginami reveals her nickname of “calamity” in Inquisition, where she was a revenge-driven loose cannon – accusations she won’t deny.

Eager to make his unit better and not willing to sit back and let Ootori continue to fight alone, he keeps trying to convince her, but his efforts are interrupted by the summoning of a hero or “einhenjar” tasked with assaulting the academy. In confronting and battling that einhenjar, Kusanagi eventually backs into the very means to help shoulder Ootori’s burdens by contracting with a “relic eater”, Lapis Lazuli.

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But first, Ootori runs off and tries to take on the einhenjar (Arthur Pendragon, armed with a railgun Excalibur) all by herself, questioning what good she is if she can’t handle such a “puny threat” on her own.

When conventional attacks fail, she summons her own relic hunter, Vlad, in the form of two pistols, but she only has a provisional contract with him, and Vlad’s need to take her blood to function effectively weakens her more.

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Finally, the director de-summons Vlad, leaving Ootori defenseless against Pendragon. But that action reveals the director’s intention: to give Kusanagi the opportunity to contract with Lapis, a pairing he’s been looking forward to.

Kusanagi comes to Ootori’s aid, backed up by Saionji and Suginami, but his attacks also fail. At the same time, Ootori realizes it was Kusanagi she beat back in the past; they didn’t meet for the first time last week. I wonder if there’s anything else to that past connection.

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Pendragon then does to Kusanagi what he did to Ootori, and he ends up bleeding out on the ground—until Lapis suddenly appears through the dust cloud (a nice visual), transports him to a different dimension, and takes him through the contracting ceremony, consisting of questions such as “would you abandon what is precious to you” (hell no) and “would you abandon your humanity” (sure) to achieve his goals.

I liked the prompt, no-nonsense introduction of Lapis, as well as her occasional moments of playfulness (bum-ba-da-bum!) amidst her usual ethereal stoicism. She also reminded me of Knight Rider a bit; a sentient piece of technology-as-companion. Also notable: no boob-grabbing or nudity silliness with Lapis, and her outfit, while cool-looking, is also pretty modest. Refreshing!

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There’s the sense Kusanagi isn’t quite sure what’s going on, but Lapis helpfully informs him the contract is complete and she is now his. And what she is is an unbreakable sword and suit of armor which are just the two things someone with his sword skills needs to not only fight witches effectively, but also in order to convince Ootori he can be relied upon, despite his normally unreliable aura.

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With Pendragon easily dispatched,  Kusanagi joins Ootori against a tree trunk, saying he won’t presume to lecture her about revenge, but earnestly asks her to at least let him share half of her burden, as her comrade and her friend.

Ootori, having been saved from certain death, is hardly in a position to protest further, and in any event, once Kusanagi passes out on her lap, she privately confesses to not really minding the feeling of having someone wanting to, and being allowed, to share her burden. If her fight with Pendragon taught her anything, it’s that she won’t get far alone.

As for the sixth main character, the witch Nikaidou Mari, she seems to be in reluctant cahoots with the murderous necromancer who summoned Pendragon, but passes out before Inquisition arrests her. I imagine she’s on a course that’ll eventually lead her to Kusanagi and the 35th.

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Patema Inverted

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Even though we’ve collectively logged over 1,900 hours of anime, we still consider ourselves humble tourists in the field. As such, we’ve developed and clung to assumptions more experienced and/or knowledgeable parties might find quaint. One of those is that the Miyazaki/Ghibli juggernaut has classically had the “wondrous fantasy with wide appeal” market cornered.

After this film (originally released in November), the first work we’ve seen from 34-year-old Yoshiura Yasuhiro (Eve no Jikan) which is ostensibly his magnum opus (so far), that assumption has been…inverted. SPOILERS THROUGHOUT.

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Hannah Brave (Braverade): I’m still reveling in the afterglow of this phenomenally gorgeous film. There honestly wasn’t a bad shot in the whole running time. From the opening moments depicting a wide-scale calamity to the transition to an underground world, it just kept dishing out awesome, exquisitely-detailed environments, determined to out-do Ghibli in sheer density of memorable imagery.

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Preston Yamazuka (MagicalChurlSukui): I too found myself spellbound by the sights, but even the best-looking film can be undone by subpar music or voice-acting. This had neither of those problems: the stirring orchestral score, the hauntingly beautiful theme song; the voice-acting and ambient sounds—all conspired to complete our transportation to this new world.

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Zane Kalish (sesameacrylic): The sights and sounds were spot-on (and very Ghibliesque at times, I might add), but where this film really shone was in its premise, brilliant in its elegance and almost universally approachable: what starts as a humble fish-out-of-water tale balloons into an epic tale of two worlds with opposite gravity connected by two young, open-minded representatives of said worlds, who share a passion for exploration and a yearning for the new.

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Hannah: Yeah, I sure did think this was just going to be about the Adventures of Upside Down Girl, but the film became so much more than that as it progressed. The science of what exactly happened to cause this phenomenon is wisely kept vague; it’s the impact of the phenomenon on society that really impressed.

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Preston: To returning to the genesis of the Ghibliverse, Patema sure did resemble Princess Nausicaä, and her village was the kind of individualistic egalitarian utopia ruled by a kindly king the Valley of the Wind was. Meanwhile, gravity may be “correct” in Age’s world (in that the sky is up, but more on that later), but feels like Nausicaä’s unseen Tolmekian Empire; run by a man not afraid to spill blood to validate his ideals.

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Zane: Forget just Ghibli: Aiga, a stark, authoritarian nightmareland where it’s taboo to look up, called to mind Nineteen Eighty-Four, Blade Runner, Brazil, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. In any case, no where you particularly want to be. Once Patema arrives in Age’s world, the cameras favor Age’s perspective, making her inverted, but it’s Aiga world that’s “upside down” in terms of philosophy.

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Hannah: When Age (pronounced “Eiji”) hides Patema in that little shed, we knew it was only a matter of time before the “anti-invert” state got wind of her and brought the hammer down. If we had to give this film a demerit, it would be for having such a Laughably EEEEVIL Antagonist in Governor Odious Izamura, who spouts dogmatic bullshit but at the end of the day only worships the god Izamura, believing the vast power he has entitles him to keep Patema as a pet…or worse.

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Preston: I can kinda forgive the scenery-chewing arch-villain, because while this film is often broken up into extremes of good and evil or up and down, it’s just as concerned with the “in-between”, the “third way”, and in finding a way to connect the two worlds, which starts with the two kids Patema and Age. And even Izamura’s evil is diluted by his right-hand man, who operates in more of a moral gray area for most of the film.

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Zane: Izamura’s character was definitely informed by the old-school bad guy immortalized by Muska, whom even Miyazaki said he was a bit disappointed in, but when two crazy kids start makin’ eyes at each other, you need a strong, unrelenting force to break them apart in order to make their reunion that much more of an accomplishment. And I loved everything about the friendly love triangle of Patema, Age, and Porta, including how the two guys put their rivalry aside to save the girl.

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Hannah: That was one hell of a rescue…even though it technically failed! But while Patema and Age’s escape back down (or up? Oh dear…) to her world was delayed, the standoff on the roof of the skyscraper left us breathless, and led to one spectacular aerial vista after another, until they grow so close to the stars in the sky, they learn they’re actually lights from a huge network of structures. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting that.

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Preston: Actually, when Age and Patema watched the stars together for the first time, I was truly hoping against hope they were actually the lights of another city. That the film actually went there really made my evening. And in a glorious moment of continuity and coincidence edging on kismet, Patema finds her backpack, which just happened to land right beside the Age’s dad’s wrecked flying machine.

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Zane: Kismet or not, I really liked the way one life-threatening situation after another led to the Patema and Age growing to trust each other implicitly with their lives, and even becoming comfortable in their inverted hugging. The tender romance takes an important step forward up there in the “stars” where Age is the Inverted, and thus truly understands what Patema went through. As a recovering acrophobe, every instance of someone looking at their version of “down” generated a visceral response, a combination of primal fear and excitement. Unfortunately, there was no Spider-Man (or girl, in this case) kiss.

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Hannah: Part of me hoped the lovebirds could just stay up there, but not only did practical issues preclude that (it gets really hot up there during the day, plus there’s no food), they’re the hero and heroine of the story; they can’t just run away from their responsibility—and their desire—to serve as the bridge between their worlds. When they arrive at Patema’s village, it’s in the middle of her memorial service—now that right there is some Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer stuff!

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Zane: Yes, Duty Before Booty.

Preston: Please don’t type that. Also, you cut in line, it’s my turn to write something.

Zane: You going to subtract points and revoke my citizenship?

Preston: No, there’s no need to go Aiga on you. Ahem…anyway, yeah, Izamura’s plan to invade Patema’s realm with a handful of men using a flying device he has no idea how to operate seemed a bit short-sighted. You’d think someone who has that many weapons on his person would more carefully prepare for such an operation. It was akin to Dennis Hopper’s President Koopa travelling to Manhattan armed with Super Scopes in the live-action Super Mario film.

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Zane: Damn, nice reference. That was a properly nutty movie. But regarding Izamura, he was so obsessed with crushing the Inverted and taking personal possession of Patema (best illustrated by his tirade about why she chose Age – because he’s the same age and not a dick, duh!) it dulled the survival instincts he’d ostensibly cultivated as ruler of Aiga, resulting in his excellent death-by-falling-up into an endless sky.

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Hannah: Izamura’s was a Bad Guy Death you can set your watches to, made more deliciously ironic by his long-held belief the sky swallowed up sinners. By then, his right-hand man is fed up with his evil shit and saves Patema, Age, and Porta with his trusty casting-net gun. That leads to a happy ending in which the first steps towards amity between the worlds are taken. And at that point, Patema and Age have been holding each other to prevent the other from falling to their doom for so long it becomes second nature. What do you think guys: too tidy an ending?

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Preston: I don’t think so. The happy ending felt earned, after all the heavens and hells they went through together. Their success is also a handy allegory for real world conflict: Just because my up is your down and your down is my up doesn’t mean we have to be enemies. A difference of perspective, literal or not, will always lead to isolation and strife…but there will always be outliers in those groups who realize it doesn’t have to be that way, and work to unite rather than divide.

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Zane: I second Preston’s opinion. By the end, Patema and Age are sweethearts, pioneers, and diplomats, but also very important symbols of the viability, and benefits, of harmony and accord. Aiga’s hardcore Orwellian society is far more brittle than it looks when exposed to the sight of a cute couple soaring through the sky like birds. I like to imagine a sequel taking place a decade or so later, when the two societies coexist amicably in a new shared infrastructure resembling Escher’s Relativity.

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RABUJOI World Heritage List

MAL Score: 8.31

 

Nagi no Asukara – 10

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Uroko and Hikari’s dad inform Hikari and Manaka the saltflake snow will continue to fall above and below the see, causing a cold period during which all those with ena must hibernate to survive. As preparations for a final feast and ena-thickening fasting commence, Hikari convinces Uroko to let him and the others keep going to school until its time to sleep. Hikari vows to have the Ofunehiki no matter what. After avoiding him for some time, Manaka’s feelings for Hikari deepen, while Kaname confesses to Chisaki.

Trials continue continue to mount for our quartet of burdened middle schoolers, who wrestle with their hearts as the gentle but unrelenting snow threatens to snuff out their existence. The apparent solution to hibernate was straight out of left field, and the global implications of the snow were unexpected, but the poor state of the village up to this point justifies such desperate measures. Humans above and below the sea have enjoyed a pleasant world up until this point, but by abandoning the sea god, he has enough power to adversely affect that world, and the surface dwellers are apparently SOL. At this point, Hikari’s wish to proceed with the Ofunehiki seems like too little too late, but there’s no harm in trying.

Meanwhile, all of this is a bit too much for Manaka, who reverts to crybaby mode in the face of all of this drastic change and looming uncertainty. When she’s alone with her thoughts and a red-bellied sea slug, she seems to be somewhat possibly coming around to Hikari…maybe. Chisaki copes by making sushi. Kaname not only takes things in relative stride, but also decides at this point he’s done watching and waiting for his friends to sort how who likes whom; he likes Chisaki and makes sure she knows it. Even if nothing about the world is certain, his feeling for her are. Will his bold action inspire the others to follow suit? The time for sleep draws near.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Another – 12 (Fin)

More students die trying to flee the burning hotel. Mr. Tatsuji returns to help get Teshigawara, Mochizuki, and others to safety. Kazami tries to kill Sakikabara, but he in turn is killed by Izumi, who wants both Sakikibara and Misaki dead. When lightning strikes a hotel window, the glass shards rain upon Izumi. As she dies she tells Sakakibara they had met a year and a half ago.

Misaki sneaks off, but when he finds her, she’s about to kill the extra one, who is Ms. Mikami, AKA Aunt Reiko. She died a year and a half ago, but Sakakibara’s memories were lost until now. He kills her himself, and the calamity ends. Life returns to normal for Sakakibara and Misaki, and the rest of the surviving class 3 records a clearer message about how to stop the calamity.

We commend this series for building up a huge amount of atmosphere and dread (in a tidy twelve episodes) until it literally explodes in the finale, finally revealing the truth. For the record, we were still (semi-intentionally) in the dark until Misaki told Sakakibara not to go to the backyard.

The twist is that titular “Another” or extra student wasn’t a student at all; at least, not a current member of Class 3, but a former student, and the “assistant homeroom teacher” no other class in the school had. The roughed-up desk was Misaki’s, so there was no extra desk – except in the faculty lounge. Izumi remembers Sakakibara from before – because he came to town before for Reiko’s funeral. Sakakibara says “Goodbye, mother” before killing her, suggesting perhaps she wasn’t merely his aunt.

So, like many other Class 3s before, plenty of damage was done before the calamity ended. There are various reasons things went so wrong – the tape was released to the class too recklessly, causing a frenzy of suspicion and needless killing. That was proceeded by the misconception Misaki Mei was the Another and was ostracized by the class to protect themselves, when in reality ignoring her had absolutely no effect. Believing it would, however, would also lead the class to believe the calamity was started when Sakakibara arrived and started talking to Mei.

In short, all the evidence about Reiko was obscued from plain view by all the other theories students past and present had formed (including the dead Misaki story). Will future Class 3s learn anything from this last one? We’re not so sure. Whatever tape they record insisting a future class avoid regrets by staying calm and clear-headed, the fact is they won’t have a Misaki Mei in their class – a girl with the eye that can see the Another. Her smirk before the credits roll in response to Sakakibara’s asking if it’s over is a perfect ending: it’s only really over for them.


Rating: 4

 Car Cameo: Featured prominently in the last two episodes is Mr. Tatsuji’s awesomely boxy, teal-blue Volvo 240 Wagon, the quintessential librarian’s car.

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Sakakibara, Izumi, and a group of classmates go on a trip to Teshi, a seaside village where Matsunaga lives. Reiko drives them. They hope to get some info about how he prevented the calamity 15 years ago. He’s unavailable when they arrive, so they have fun on the beach while they wait. Sakakibara finds Misaki playing by herself on the same beach. Matsunaga arrives, and he starts to remember something about what he used being at the school, but a stiff gust sends their beach ball into the sea. Nakao swims out to get it, and is killed by the propeller of a passing boat.

Oho, Another…you’re good. Very good. 9/10ths of the episode was inconsequential car ride and beach fun. Everyone assumes because they’re not in Yomiyama, the curse has no power and they’ll all be safe. Well, they aren’t. There’s an initial and obvious moment dread – a passing tanker truck on the road, but that threat passes and we let our guard down. Coast clear. Could this be another bloodless episode? No. One of the lesser-known students, Nakao, gets killed after something convinced him it was a good idea to swim out to where there are boats. Heck, we even thought someone might taste that poisonous pufferfish.

The car ride was a nice way for Sakakibara to learn more about Akazawa, while his scenes with Misaki on the beach are also fun bonding experiences. All of this also served to lull us into a false sense that this would just be yet another beach episode; something that arrests the momentum of the horror. But the horror came, and better late than never. And it almost happened in slow motion, with everyone watching – almost knowing what was coming – but helpless to prevent it. Theory about being safe outside Yomiyama? Disproved. The importance of Matsunaga remembering more about the past? Crucial.


Rating: 4

Car Cameos: Aunt Reiko drives a Toyota Starlet 5-door (with plenty of road rage). Akazawa’s dad drives a Toyota Crown. One of the several cars Reiko passes is a Suzuki Wagon R+.