Deca-Dence – 03 – Riding the Wave

Now that we, the audience, generally know the score in terms of the cyborg and human worlds, this episode is free to spend most of its runtime on Natsme’s Gadoll-hunting training. That’s fine with me, as I’m a big fan of Natsume, and this episode doesn’t sugar-coat the difficulty of fighting Gadoll.

It’s hard, brutal work that can turn you into hamburger. It’s also extremely a good move for us learn the mechanics of variable-gravity battle by having Kaburagi toss Natsume right into the shit—or in this case, a tutorial zone that’s still incredibly grueling for her. Her Tanker friend is worried about her going out into battle zones, especially with that arm.

Natsume isn’t going to let failure after failure or naysaying peers keep her from learning how to “ride the wave” of Gadoll zones. Kabu attaches her to a kite to learn how to fly, and tosses her into the drink to learn how to catch fish with a spear. Both are essential foundational skills for a Gear or fighting Tanker (a group of merely 200, compared to 50,000 Gears).

Preston didn’t mind Bofuri’s many Maple montages, and I feel similarly positive about the use of montage here. It accelerates the pace of Natsume getting knocked down and getting back up again until she gradually gets better and better, and even impresses Kabu. You can tell she’s working her bum off, and it’s paying off because she has a good, patient teacher.

Kaburagi even goes over film of Natsume’s training, and notices her crude artificial arm is taking too long adjusting her Tank (flying device), which could prove fatal in a real battle against tougher Gadoll. In the middle of film review, he’s contacted by Hugin, who wonders why he hasn’t processed a Bug in 13 days, 7 hours, and 28 minutes. I had to take a deep breath after hearing those precise time figures, for I qas initially worried Hugin was on to Kaburagi training a human Bug.

I guess he’s not all-knowing and all-seeing, merely extremely rigid in his belief all bugs must be eliminated. Both Hugin and a corporate presentation of world history, in which cyborgs eventually supplanted humans as the dominant species on Earth, implies that not keeping bugs in check led to the humans’ downfall.

When Kabu dives back into his human avatar, Natsume is at his door with an outfit for Pipe so he can run around outside. I’m not sure how Pipe’s wearing anything would make him less conspicuous to others, but never mind. When Natsume tells Kabu that she’s aware her old arm is a problem, he takes her to a weapons shop and outfits her with a new five-fingered model.

She’s already over the moon to have fine control in both hands now, but Wait…There’s More: her arm can transform into a spear-gun, which should improve her fighting speed considerably. She’s eager to test it out in the field, but a Gadoll alarm sounds, Deca-Dence hits some kind of sinkhole and stops, and the resulting earthquake sends Natsume, Kabu, and Pipe flying.

When Pipe falls into one of the cracks in the earth, Kaburagi follows after him, and requests location support from Commander Minato. We quickly flash back to six years ago when he found Pipe in a glob of Gadoll guts. Rather than kill or report the bug, he bought a trailer in Tanker Town and kept it as a pet. Both Pipe and now Natsume are products of his desire—his need—to rebel against Hugin and The System…at least a little.

Meanwhile Natsume runs down and through the underground passage until she comes upon an absolutely massive cavern where she can watch the battle between medium-sized Gadoll and Gears unfolding. The scale of the sight is awesome to behold. If only she had her gear, she could join in the battle. Then again, the size of the cavern and possibility it was made suggests that a much, much larger Gadoll may be lurking deeper in the earth. I’m not sure she’s ready for that quite yet.

Bofuri – 02 – The No-Damage Duo

Bofuri’s second episode is split between Maple’s first NWO battle royale and when Risa finally joins her. The battle is a cakewalk for Maple, whose ultra-defensive specialization ensures she takes no damage in the process of bagging more than two thousand kills, most of them absorbed as MP by her Great Shield.

Maple actually gets pretty fierce once various parties start ganging up on her, even paralyzing and poisoning those who flee to up her kill count. Compare that to when she’s waiting for enemies, killing time by innocently drawing intricate Yakuza dragon and Nazca lines. I really dig Maple’s low-key drawing talent, which comes through in the game!

Leading up to Risa’s arrival, I was starting to think it would be a running joke for Maple to bring up the fact Risa hasn’t joined her in the game yet, and that she might never join her due to various circumstances IRL. However, once she finally enters (as “Sally”, her real name in reverse), it’s as a “Swashbuckler” class, high on agility and evasion.

This complements Maple’s tank class perfectly, especially when they have to get somewhere far away fast. Sally simply carries the ridiculously slow Maple on her back as she races across the overworld, while Maple dispatches incoming enemies with ease.

Their destination is an underground lake where they can find a particular kind of fish, the scales of which Maple needs for the white shield she’s having Iz forge once she has enough cash. The duo spends a lot of time fishing, while Sally maxes out her swimming and diving skills and finds a cool underwater dungeon.

Tanks like Maple can’t swim, so it’s all up to Sally to take out the beastly aquatic boss at the end of this dungeon. It’s a cool design with lots of pyrotechnic attacks. While both the boss and Sally are CG, and the frame rate screeches to a near-halt, that’s somewhat mitigated by the blur used to indicate they’re underwater. It’s also an exciting, fast-paced, and well-directed battle.

When it’s over, Sally returns to a worried Maple with a new awesome-looking outfit. That’s when the game’s dragon mascot informs them that the second level of the game will soon be opened for those who meet the conditions. In need of a new pair of boots to complete her Swashbuckling look, Sally tosses Maple on her back and races back to town.

The news of multiple levels to the game satisfactorily explains why Maple was able to become so powerful in so short a time: she’s still only on the first of those levels. This fact, and the tough fish boss fight, bode well for their future adventures and battles posing a greater challenge.

One of many details I’m liking about Bofuri is the restrained use of cutaways to online chatting, between the A- and B-parts and before the end credits. The chatting chronicles Maple and Risa’s progress and rise in notoriety. Like similar cutaways in Durarara!! it adds depth, texture and a sense of community to the show.

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 49

atm492

Aw shucks, ATM! got all serious and dramatic on us and…well, having Tenchi and Momo separate after finally meeting up in the same timeline works about as well as you expect in a four-minute episode. There’s just not enough time for the impact to really land.

atm493

Due magical objects like the lightsabers and the cloud of petals, everything is fixed about as quickly as it broke, eliciting not much more than a shrug. Momo and Tenchi return, with Momo back to her original young age. Hugs for all, etc.

atm494

It always seemed like she was a deal younger than the other high school girls anyway, and now it makes sense why they protected her so; her mind really was younger. With the return of Tenchi and Lil’ Momo, the rift engulfing Earth vanishes and everything pretty much goes back to normal.

6_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 48

atm481

Okay: so the peach tree is actually Beni and Momo’s ship, which Washuu needs in order to set everything straight. They start the start-up process as Yuki tries to hack into the warhead. They’re confronted by troops, but Touri, Hana, and Hachiko take care of them. When more arrive, Kurihara orders a retreat, warning the girls to get as far away as they can.

atm482

Something tells me with Washuu on their side, they won’t have to worry about anything going BANG, at least in this situation. When Beni gets the ship started, Tenchi and Momo finally ‘synchronize’ in the same time, much to Momo’s tearful delight. Some progress at last!

6_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 47

atm471

With the rift widening, the Galaxy Police commander has no choice but to swallow his pride and ask for Washuu’s help. Washuu, understandably smug, agrees to ‘bring the situation under control’, but only if the GP drops all the charges against her. With no leverage to negotiate, the commander caves completely.

atm472

Meanwhile (if that’s even the right term to use in this situation), Momo and Tenchi are ships passing in the night, only the ‘night’ in question is a variety of random timelines, all presented in different color palettes. Tenchi doesn’t know what the heck is going on, only that he has to try to stick with Momo through it all.

atm473

As Washuu gets in her spacetime manipulation chair (or whatever), cracks her knuckles and gets started, Ryouko and Beni finally soft-land at the bottom of that cavern, where they find an enormous blossoming peach tree. What does it mean? Err…I’ll have to get back to you on that.

7_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 34

atm341

Wait, I don’t understand, what the heck is going on?

It’s really quite simple, Fuka-san: Momo and Beni activate a new search app on the smartphone that shows them the treasure they’re looking for is directly beneath them, despite the face they were standing on a totally random spot. Also, Touri has a thing for Sasami. Upstairs, Ryouko destroys Hachiko’s swords, inadvertantly turning her into a bawling child. I guess she hadn’t overcome that weakness after all!

atm342

They dig and hit paydirt: a Juria Sword, which when grabbed by both Momo and Beni completes the tripartite sword that unlocks the Jurai starship buried below; the very ship that brought Momo and Beni to the planet to begin with. Now we’re getting somewhere!

atm343

Like Ryouko, Ayeka has no trouble making her opponent tap out (and swear fealty). Then they feel the upheaval going on downstairs as if it were and earthquake. The earth does indeed quake and rend below, and Beni must make a choice between grabbing the sword and ‘taking back who she really is’, or accepting Tenchi’s hand and accepting who she is, who Momo loves regardless. She choses the hand, and the ruins and the building above them collapse. Perhaps it was for the best.

7_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 33

atm331

Hachiko and Hana take on Gouriki, demonstrating that x-acto knives and wooden swords are curiously effective against killbots while allowing Momo and Touri to get to the caves.

atm332

Down there, the Science Club and Tenchi’s crew join forces to try to find the treasure, whatever it is. Yuki points out that while she just wants money, the treasure is more important to Beni. Also, as things would work out, Momo happens to land her tush on Tenchi’s face and bounce into Beni’s arms.

atm333

Above ground, Ryouko and Ayeka take up arms against Hachiko and Hana in Tenchi’s name, and Hana even pisses off Ayeka by calling her ‘Auntie’. Down below, having seen the photo of Tenchi and Sasami, Touri throws the smartphone at Tenchi, but misses. It ends up in the hands of Momo and Beni, who start to glow, then Washuu elatedly reports that “It’s happening!”

What’s happening? Not sure. Temporal re-alignment? The reveal of the treasure? We must watch on to find out.

6_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 32

atm321

Another piece of the puzzle falls into place, as Mihoshi explains her reason for being in the mines: she came to investigate a possible time crime, and decided to give Yuki a hand trying to find a treasure, even though she doubts there’s anything there.

atm322

Yuki begs to differ, and flanked by Beni, Rui, and Gouriki, offers to show Tenchi and the others proof. Meanwhile, Touri, Hachiko and Hana are convinced Tenchi was taken away for nefarious purposes and formulate a rescue plan as an incredulous Momo looks on.

atm323

Yuki produces a smartphone that was found deep in the caverns and has determined it is from 1,300 years ago, making it an OOPArt (not ‘oppai’, Ryouko. That was too easy). This, of course, is the phone Tenchi dropped into a chasm when he was in the past.

When Yuki switches it on, everyone is less shocked that Tenchi is on the 1,300 -year-old wallpaper than they are skeeved out by the fact he’s posing shirtless with a loli swimsuit-wearing Sasami.

atm324

Up above the caverns, Touri, Hachiko and Hana begin their mission, starting with getting past an improved Gouriki. How far will they go before they realize they’ve got the wrong idea?

7_ses

Log Horizon – 03

log33

Shiroe, Akatsuki and Naotsugu trek through the underground “Depths of Palm” in order to reach Susukino and Celara, who is staying in the house of the kindly cat-man Nyanta. Susukino is under the iron rule of “Brigandia”, a guild of PKers led by the ruthless Demikas. Shiroe falls from a great height when a stone bridge collapses. He survives, but while he’s out he dreams of his times with the Debauchery Tea Party, which he remembers fondly. The trio defeat a rat boss and reach the surface, where they’re met by a stunning sunrise.

After three episodes, we’ve decided to log out of Log Horizon after all. There are some charming and satisfying aspects to it that will make it harder to drop later, and we can’t overlook its flaws. For one thing, it’s far too safe. You’d think a series about a fantasy RPG brought to life would have a little more immediate peril to it, but the characters are already Level 90, and everything is a breeze. Add to that Shiroe’s rather annoying tendency to narrate, and we end up feeling like we’re watching a tutorial or walk-through of an RPG rather than experiencing a story firsthand.

Our impressions of an anime are informed by our not-inconsiderable past anime-watching history; if we find ourselves watching something awfully similar to something we’ve already seen, it had better either surpass that past series in some way, or offer something new. We can’t help but hold Log Horizon up against Sword Art Online and find the former lacking. Not that SAO was perfect, but it did set a standard in both production values, empathy with the characters, epic scale and genuine danger that this series can’t match. Sayonara, Log Horizon.


Rating: 5 (Average) (Series Dropped)