Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 07

The girls’ fantastic journey to Antarctica is feeling closer and realer than ever now that they’re in Fremantle, not just looking at the Penguin Manju but boarding her, getting settled into their four-person berth (where there will be fights, LOL) and touring its gigantic-ness.

But the girls are just as united in their suspicion that something…odd is going on on the ship as they are in their awe at being aboard her. There’s a lot of negative press about the expedition not having a chance of actually getting to Antarctica, let alone accomplish anything.

When Kanae will only vaguely tell them that their crew is “determined” to “see the sky”,  the girls take matters into their own hands and stealthily follow the adults around while wearing masks. What they hear and observe confirms their worries that what they thought would be an ironclad operation is threadbare and held together with a lot of hope and not much cash or manpower.

What can the girls do but have faith everything will work out? Perhaps the discovery of the glow-in-the-dark stars on the underside of a bunk is a good omen; the other girls give Shirase that bunk, assuming her mom must’ve painted them.

Walking the deck at night, Shirase runs into Gin, who fills in most of the blanks related to the hardships they’ve encountered, as well as the ill-fated previous trip when they lost Shirase’s mom in the unforgiving cold. Gin says despite their scrappy underdog status, most of the original team has returned in spite of everything.

Gin speaks with such confidence and conviction that she manages to convince the other girls (who were listening off to the side). And on the eve of their departure, Kanae introduces the girls to the rest of the crew (and indicates that they are not legal, repeat, they are not legal) and gives them a chance to introduce themselves.

There, after having failed in front of Hinata’s camera so many times, Shirase gets a pat on the back from Hinata, steps forward, and delivers the most charismatic intro of the four, pledging her commitment to “do catchy, witty, sensational reporting” (we’ll see) and opening the “treasure box” of Antarctica with her own two hands.

The crowd is pumped—all that beer probably helps!—but I think having the older members seeing such passion in a high schooler, particularly the daughter of one of their founders, can’t be anything but inspiring as they prepare to shove off. It isn’t just Shirase; everyone on that boat is out to prove the doubters and the haters wrong. They’re like the Philadelphia Eagles. And they’re going to freakin’ Antarctica.

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GOD EATER – 07

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In a welcome surprise, Lindow doesn’t simply lead Lenka and Alisa back to Fenrir; they take a detour into a forest—the sight of which amazes the two new-types—within which lies something even more unthinkable: a civilian settlement for those who Fenrir turned away…including the little girl in pink Lenka saved. The show packed a punch when it sent her off, but I’m glad the show didn’t carelessly discard the character for good. She is, among other things, the embodiment of the future Fenrir is fighting for.

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The reason the village is able to survive and even thrive is that the trees of the forest are really Aragami the people have raised as a protective barrier. Even so, large Aragami like Vajra can still force their way through. When a Vajra does just that, Alisa is soaking in a bathtub to try to clam her nerves and steady her hands, and failing at both. She knocks over the tub and crawls into a closet to hide. I like that the show has the guts to keep one of its strongest characters out of commission for the entirety of the crisis, upping the difficulty level for those able to fight.

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Lindow also peaces out for what reason we don’t know (though testing Lenka by risking all the people he worked so hard to protect doesn’t sound like a logical one). He sends Lenka to deal with the Vajra and protect the people by himself. Lenka is not to let anyone die, especially himself, and Lindow urges him to trust in his God Arc, even though we saw how ineffective it was last time Lenka tried to use it.

During this crisis, GOD EATER once again exposes its difficulty with pacing in such situations. As soon as Lenka returns to the village, the Vajra has already done a ton of damage, and you’d think he’d already killed a good number of settlers, but time seems to grind to a very noticeable crawl to halt as Lenka slowly figures out who and what he has to work with and what the plan should be. Honestly, it’s like the show presses “pause” on the Vajra attack.

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Fortunately, despite of Alisa’s emotional incapacitation, the episode is not bereft of proper Girl Power, as the unlikeliest (or most predictable, depending on how you look at it) person volunteers to help grab some ampules from the warehouse for Lenka to draw the Vajra away: the little girl in pink. She puts the lion in civilion (if civilan were spelled that way, of course), acting with uncommon courage and determination, and not only comes through for Lenka, but saves his life in the process.

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Also fortunately, the screeching halt of the action picks up nicely during the entirety of Lenka’s final gambit, squaring off with the Vajra David & Goliath style with his crossbow of ampules. When the Vajra halts its retreat and prepares to skewer him, Lenka finally figures out what Lindow meant by trusting in his God Arc by pumping an ampule into it, brining it back to life so he can use it to push the Vajra into the river. The other civvies finish the job by opening the damn, and good ol’ mass and gravity finish the job.

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It’s a great moral-boosting side-victory for Lenka; a performance that inspires the girl in pink, impressed Lindow, who knew he had it in  him, and worries Alisa, who is not happy that she’s been so useless of late, but has no idea how to fix it. Sure, she could get drugged back up in Fenrir, but the drugs can’t fix her underlying crippling fear of the Aragami, and she can’t be sure the drugs will always be around.

Alisa’s continued struggles continue to make her the one of the more interesting characters, and while I realize that’s not saying much on this show, her retreat from heroism absent courage-endowing drugs nicely mirrors the girl in pink’s progress absent exceptional strength or ability. It’s a dynamic that keeps me emotionally invested, though I’m also hoping Alisa doesn’t remain a defenseless damsel for too long.

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GOD EATER – 05

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I won’t mince words: this episode of GOD EATER brought it. Perhaps not from start to finish, as it started rather slowly, but even that slow start focused on the seemingly insurmountable task before the titular God Eaters. Aegis is only 0.06% complete, and will require tens of thousands of cores from the kind of Aragami they defeated last week. Even the bigger Vajra only cut that number to thousands. And this is as bodies are dropping all over the world. The episode title “All In Vain” would seem to apply.

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Even so, these guys have to try, and if they’re going to go out their and risk their lives, all of them want to go after a bigger prize; the Vajra. Sakuya seems heartened by their enthusiasm, but in Lindow’s absence it’s her call, and she decides to allow the Vajra hunt.

From there, the hunt is on, and it goes swimmingly at first, with Lenka and Alisa taking out the Vajra’s legs while Kouta and Sakuya blast them. Kouta is a little shaky, but Sakuya tells him to trust in the excellent God Arc he wields, and in himself.

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When they hit the Vajra lair, they quickly find themselves surrounded by three Vajra, as well as having about a dozen or so bystanders who come out of nowhere. No matter; the three Vajra are killed by a fourth, a “black Vajra” that even unsettles Alisa. There’s something different about this guy, and it’s not just his looks: he’s much faster, much stronger, and much smarter than the other Vajra.

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The God Eater’s day just starts to plain ol’ suck from there, in a big way: no matter what they throw at this guy, he’s ready with vicious counterattacks. No matter how many pills Alisa chomps or how much Lenka yells, they both get brutally smacked around and sliced up. It’s the first instance where the Aragami legitimately scared me.

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Our outclassed heroes’ only hope is to retreat, but Lenka and Alisa are so badly-wounded the former can only crawl along while dragging the latter, and the Vajra isn’t about to leave wounded prey alone. Lenka finally appeals to a higher power, if there’s one up there, and it would seem that his last-ditch prayer was at least partially answered, as the Vajra doesn’t simply stomp them into jelly, but steps over them. The bad news is, doing so collapses the rock formation upon which Lenka and Alisa lie, causing them to fall from a great height.

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The cut to black, along with the dramatic music with a distinct air of “This Is It” make for a stirring ending…if only that was the end. Rather curiously, after the credits we get another extended flashback with Professor Shicksal and his two colleagues as they celebrate the continued funding of their research, only to be visited by a general who briefs them on the appearance of vicious beasts that have evolved from the “oracle cell” they’re studying.

These flashbacks running parallel to the present-day story continue to not be my favorite, and the timing this week after a present-day cliffhanger was a bit…random. Still, the dark Vajra battle packed quite a punch, and has me eager to see what becomes of the God Eaters.

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GOD EATER – 04

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This week Lenka’s charges are suspended and he’s officially assigned to Fenrir East’s First Unit, along with Alisa and Fujiki “Wears a hat and scarf like he’s cold, but wears a crop top like he’s hot” Kouta. While Lenka’s look is pretty understadted, the other two’s elaborate outfits seem laughably impractical, especially considering singular mission they’ve been tasked with: Save The World.

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While Alisa wordlessly walks off when asked to join, Kouta drags Lenka out of HQ and into the slums where he grew up, including to meet his mom, who is very worried about him. They also check out the craters of destruction an aragami battle caused, watch food being distributed, and catch a glimpse of Aegis, mankind’s last best refuge, currently under construction.

The flashy new facility’s completion is dependent on the God Eaters securing the necessary amount aragami cores. The future of mankind rests with the likes of Lenka, Kouta, and Alisa. On them lies the future of mankind. Oh, by the way, DID I MENTION THE FUTURE OF MANKIND RESTS WITH THEM? Well, it does. “It” being…the future of mankind.

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You’d think those upon which something so important rests would be trained prior to going out in the field, or would be discouraged from cool-looking but reckless and unnecessary actions, or punished if they blatantly disobeyed orders from their superiors. The six-man unit splits into pairs to hunt down six cores of a specific type of aragami, but the mission is pretty rocky, as Alisa ignores orders from Sakuya, Kouta fails at his job, and Lenka can’t finish a foe off in one blow, which he needs to do if the future mankind is to rest upon him.

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So yeah, it’s a rough mission, but at least the flaws of the newly-formed unit are borne out in a relatively low-risk setting…right? They also come upon a group of wandering civilians and get to take them back to Fenrir. Lenka gets to see a sliver of the mankind whose future rests on him, including a cute little girl I knew was doomed.

My suspicion was confirmed when they get back to Fenrir and the civvies are turned back at the gate, because none of them possess the latent ability to wield a God Arc. Like the civilians on the aircraft carrier in World War Z, the only civvies who are able to live under the military’s protection are related to the ones doing fighting. It’s a raw but a practical, transactional one; at least more practical than Alisa and Kouta’s (and Sakuya’s) getup.

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Anyway, Lenka learns he’s not necessarily fighting for ALL mankind; just the part of it that’s able to properly contribute to the war effort. The rest are SOL. And we learn a tiny little bit about him: he’s the kind of guy who is upset about such things. When he gave that doomed little girl water, he was convinced she’d be safe within Fenrir’s walls. And fighting for Fenrir must feel like siding with the people who sent that girl to her almost certain death.

Mind you, most protagonists would have a problem with this, and would react by clenching their fists with rage and indignation. And that remains GOD EATER’S problem, after just four episodes in six weeks: for all the distinctiveness of their outfits, I still can’t be all that excited about any of the characters. All their personalities are some combination of nondescript, dull, obvious, and one-note.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 04

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This was yet another tour-de-force nail-biter of backs-up-against-the-wall, all or nothing action. Again, it’s not a question of whether humanity can defeat Vers; that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But you take small victories where you can get them, and for Inaho and company, every day their cargo of civilians is safe from harm is a victory.

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Even if their hometown of Shinawara is a meteorite-ridden ruin, they’re still alive; an act of resistance against Vers in and of itself. After Inaho saved her, Asseylum decides to reveal her true identity to him, and he’s his usual cool-as-a-cucumber self. It’s ironic that there’s another character named “Calm” who’s a lot less calm than Inaho; none of what this show has thrown at him has really flustered him.

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With the civilians safe, their new mission is to find the means for the princess to contact her grandfather the emperor; she believes knowing she’s still alive will halt the war in its tracks, but that’s an exceedingly naive assumption. Even if grandpa wants peace with the Terrans as much as she does, the Orbital Knights have landed, staked their claims, and blood is in the water. It’s a veritable feeding frenzy down there, and glory is the repast.

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Still, that’s the plan. Inaho may not consider the princess the enemy, but Rayet won’t hesistate to expose her if she deems it necessary. That becomes a possibility when the navy hovercraft they’re aboard and the installation where they’re resupplying falls under the attack of a Vers kataphrakt, one that wields a really bright, noisy light katana. One by one, the forward Terran kataphrakts are felled, and a great tension builds as the enemy draws closer and closer.

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Asseylum volunteers to go out there and speak to the pilot as she did before, but she’d be flipping a coin over whether he’s loyal or one of the co-conspirators who tried to assassinate her (and still believe they succeeded). Instead, Inaho and Calm go out in their trainers and do what they do best: improvise. Using a cargo crane to knock the Vers kataphrakt on its ass was particularly inspired, and I loved Inko’s sheepish reaction when it doesn’t work a second time.

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But again, Inaho & Co. aren’t trying to pull off miracles, only buying time, plain and simple, for the cavalry to arrive in the form of another naval vessel armed with enough teeth to compel the enemy to bug out. When you’re such an overwhelming underdog, sometimes you need to depend on things other than your own strength and skill—like luck, timing, and the enemy’s arrogance or indifference—to survive the day.

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And then there’s Slaine, who gets in his plane and heads right back to Cruhteo, lying that the meteorite bombardment did Trillram in and not mentioning that Asseylum still draws breath. Even if Cruhteo didn’t conspire against the princess, he’s still exploiting the situation for all it’s worth. And While he gets smacked around, Slaine seems to convince his superior to let him continue to participate in the battle, meaning we can’t rule out him and Asseylum reuniting again.

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Nobunaga the Fool – 11

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The Death card: we knew it had to be drawn at some point, and we knew it would mean big changes; it rarely represents a literal, physical death. After last week’s humiliation, Caesar’s anger and desire to put Nobu in his place are great. He stops sitting on his hands and brings all of his power to bear on Owari.

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Beset on all sides by attackers, it’s a destroy-the-head-and-the-body-will-die strategy, with Nobu, Ranmaru and Hideyoshi having to work together with Himiko in the sky to negate Caesar’s big attack and take him out. Everything hinges on a smooth execution, and it seems like they’re well under way to that.

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Then, out of the blue, Caesar refuses to accept defeat and asks for more power, and the Star of the East grants it to him. He unleashes a new, more powerful weapon that puts Nobu & Co.’s backs against the crumbling walls of Owari. Ranmaru deflects the attack, but right into the evacuee settlement, killing a great deal of the Oda clan’s people.

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This is obviously a setback, nay, a huge catastrophe, but as we’re nearly to The Fool’s halfway point, it wasn’t unexpected. Seemingly no one near the guy should expect an easy (or long) life. But when Caesar halts his attack and asks Oda to surrender, Oda doesn’t sweat the massive civilian casualties, as Jeanne does. Instead, he invites Caesar to a tea party to settle the score.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)