Joukamachi no Dandelion – 06

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J-Dan has become a surprisingly rich and complex tapestry of sibling dynamics, not hesitating to jump back in time to show us how they struggled with their powers in one way or another while making their place in the world, and how they continue to work hard and grow as they compete for the Kingship. It’s a big family but the show has proven surprisingly deft at juggling them, even as it tends to play favorites (i.e. Akane).

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I for one was greatly entertained by the unveiling of Misaki and her seven deadly clones, so I was happy to see them back this week, especially since this “Misaki Summit” is really just Misaki herself going over something in her own head; only the individual emotional parts of her head are manifested as physical clones.

It’s a weighty metaphysical concept made incredibly simple and easy to digest, as Misaki laments all her siblings campaigning so hard for themselves while she puts “country first.” But with some well-timed advice from Haruka, she realizes her position is just another kind of selfishness. Anyone who runs for King must be a little selfish, after all.

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What’s cuter than Akane? LIL’ AKANE. Just look at that mischievous little squirt! We see her in one of the episode’s many flashbacks, as Kanade takes her out to the park to play even though Shuu warned them not to. Kanade tries to keep Akane on her side by conjuring up that hero outfit for her, followed by a giant castle, but it materializes incompletely because she’s run out of funds.

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When she tries to force-conjure a staircase, the columns holding the castle up disappear. Shuu pushes Akane to safety, but his legs are crushed by the rubble, and right up to the present, he can’t participate in strenuous sports, even though he dreamed of becoming a soccer star. It’s a pretty dark and intense memory Kanade bears every day, and while none of her siblings are sure why she wants to be King, we learn why here: she’ll do everything in her power to help Shuu fully recover.

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Kanade’s determination to win makes her frustrated with her near-perfect older sister Aoi, who seems to achieve or gain everything so easily while Kanade must pay, either in hard lessons like Shuu or currency. But Aoi has her story to tell as well, and it’s just as dark and brooding.

As it turns out, Aoi has a power beyond simply remembering everything she studies and everyone she meets: she can also, if she chooses, make someone do whatever she wants, no matter how ridiculous. When she first gained the power, she used it inadvertently, but gradually figured out she was manipulating people.

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Even though she learned not to carelessly issue direct commands to people, a part of her still felt she gained her three friends by “cheating” with that power. But when in the present the three say “no” to her offer to buy them tea for helping her hang posters, they qualify it by saying they’ll share the bill.

Before her powers fully manifested, she had to go out on a limb and ask them to be her friends, and they agreed of their own free will, just as they continue to want to be her friends because that’s what they are, not because they have to.

And who is it who makes this observation that sets Aoi’s mind at ease, and possibly opens the way for Aoi to consider running more seriously for King despite her secret power? Akane, of course.

She may be painfully shy, but she can also be mighty perceptive and supportive to those she cares about. She, and all the other siblings in this show, have most definitely made me care about them.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 05

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Despite having seen many good beach episodes, I always go into them with low expectations, but the multi-faceted, rapid-fire, detail-oriented nature of Dandelion is such that not only did the beach part only take up about a third of the total episode, but it was quite a novel and imaginative third at that.

Not only do we get Shiori communing with a very noble and dramatic watermelon (whom she digs a grave for after he’s split and eaten), but Akane, so happy that she’s free from the peering eyes of the public, discovers that the beach they’re at is really a Truman Show-style construct sans-cameras, which the siblings proceed to accidentally knock over, resulting in en even more embarrassing situation than had they actually gone to a real beach!

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The watermelon splitting is our way into the second son Haruka’s perspective; his power is to calculate probabilities, and prides himself on his accuracy. He was suprised Shiori had an 80% chance to win the watermelon splitting, but rooted for her nonetheless. In the next segment Akane barges into his room and catches him looking at pictures of her in her bikini on the web.

Naturally, Akane suspects Haruka has a thing for her, but it’s not that; he’s merely reporting inappropriate photos for deletion to keep things from getting out of hand. It’s a service he provides his big sister (who wasn’t even aware of the fansites) out of an awareness of her sensitivity and a desire to help her where he can. Still, to my delight, Haruka points out the obvious: Akane would get into less trouble if she stopped jumping around in a little skirt.

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The third and final segment focuses on Haruka’s slightly older sister, Misaki, who like him, we hadn’t yet gotten a profile of. The episode reminds us she can create seven clones of herself, each of which has their own special talents, hairstyle, eye color, and personality. They also each represent the seven deadly sins, sorta Fullmetal Alchemist-style.

Thanks to the clones, Misaki can participate—and excel—in seven different clubs at once, while she, the original, gets all the second-hand praise and is lauded for being a good “manager.” On top of already being often overlooked due to her also-talented and beautiful older sisters, Misaki comes to feel like she’s useless.

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When venting to Haruka doesn’t work, she summons her clones and vents to them. They all react in their typical ways (including one who always wanders off to eat something, one who’s always pawing the nearest guy, and one who’s always asleep), but the general consensus is she is being silly. They’re her clones; they are her and she is them. For all her fears she’s too “normal”, the fact remains she can summon those amazing parts of her whole; nothing normal about that.

Finally, Haruka admits he likes how Misaki is normal; she’s a calming, grounding presence and he’d be troubled if she arbitrarily tried to change. Thus the venting-turned-sulking-turned-cheering up session is a success. So was this episode; it was surprisingly chock-full of stuff, much of it creative and hilarious.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 08

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The Gauna may be frightening and powerful and immensely creepy, but they’re still life forms, which has us wondering what their beef with humanity is. Do they act out of pure instinct, or reason? When they make a placenta clone of Shizuka who giggles and reports each time she takes out a Gardes frame, are they fucking with them, or is the perceived sadism mere coincidence?

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I could fill a review with what I don’t know about the Gauna, and another with questions, but you know what? I kinda like not knowing. The Cylons in the re-booted Battlestar Galactica were a classic example of the age-old problem with learning way too much about the “Bad Guys”: they get less scary. Right now, the Gauna still frighten me, and that’s the way it should be in a show where two of them are enough to cripple Sidonia if they find their way inside.

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On the other hand, the more I learn about the “Good Guys”, the more I can connect and care about them surviving. We learn a great deal more about Sidonia’s history through flashbacks. The first half of the episode reinforces why we should fear the Gauna; the second half shows us the people who shaped the present Nagate and Izana inhabit.

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Some of those shapers are still around, like Kobayashi, Lala, and Izana’s “grandmother” Yure; others, like Nagate’s “grandfather”, Saitou Hiroki, aren’t. The four were among less than 450 colonists to survive the Gauna slaughter a century ago. They all danced on the razor’s edge of oblivion that day; to avoid falling off, they had to turn to creative genetics.

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Immortals were forbidden from procreating, but when an aged Hiroki, who had been Sidonia’s ace, returned after being lost for eighty years, Kobayashi broke the rules, collaborating with Yure to clone him. After a kick-ass sword fight with bows and arrows (!), Saitou fled to the bowels of Sidonia, where he raised and trained Nagate—immortal from birth—all by himself.

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And that’s pretty much where we stand today: Nagate is a threat to the old guard, tolerated only because of Kobayashi’s influence and because she repeatedly sends him out on ridiculously dangerous sorties. But he’s also the hope of humanity, someone you imagine will blow by Kunato (who didn’t look so good this week) to become Sidonia’s new ace.

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He didn’t get to face off against “Hawk Moth” (what they’re calling the Gauna-Shizuka), this week, and he doesn’t seem quite ready to do so, but I feel like that battle is coming sooner or later. In the meantime, Sidonia’s eggheads have a creepy placenta clone of his would-be girlfriend. Is she a Gauna instrument of communication? An insidious weapon? A biological by-product? As I said: I hope we don’t learn too much.

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To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 16

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The Sisters dissipate Accelerator’s storm, and Mikoto tells him she won’t let him kill any more sisters. When he’s about to attack her, a blood-soaked Touma stands up, walks to Accelerator, breaks his hand, and delivers a decisive blow to the face. Touma is hospitalized, and in the night, the MISAKA he saved visits him, saying the experiment has been cancelled. Mikoto visits him in the morning with cookies. Mikoto meets up with MISAKA, and learns that it may not be that hard for them to learn to be human beings and not just guinea pigs. Mikoto bakes homemade cookies for Touma, but misses her change to give them to him, but she does gets him to call her by her name.

And at long last, that squealing, tiresome little shit Accelerator is finally brought down to earth, just when he thought he was about to gain absolute power. And throughout the episode, we learn that people can move beyond what they were programmed to do. The Sisters were born and immediately ingrained with the idea that they only existed to be killed in service of elevating Accelerator to Level 6. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to live; it’s that it simply wasn’t an option they knew of. Now that Touma and Mikoto have treated them as humans and put their lives on the line for them, they can finally move beyond that laboratory programming and see themselves as human beings, and Mikoto’s sisters.

Similarly, Accelerator was brought up being told he was the most powerful, which meant he’d always run into conflicts with those who wanted to challlenge his power. So he was further instructed to achieve a level of power that no one would ever challenge; that’s how he’d validate his existence. The thing is, that was never going to be possible as long as Touma was around, and after Accelerator is soundly beaten by a Level 0, Touma’s prediction comes true and the whole program is scrapped. Unfortunately, after this ordeal Mikoto returns to being pretty much her usual tsundere self towards Touma – a little discouraging considering how productive their exchange was back on that bridge.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We get flashes of Accelerator’s childhood beford Touma does him in, but frankly we weren’t moved. Guy’s a dick.
  • Touma’s esper power isn’t just Imagine Breaker; it’s the ability to endure epic beatings and lose almost all his blood and still be able to stand and punch people. All in all not a bad ability to have!
  • We loved the little interlude in which Mikoto is worried about how her Sisters will adjust to suddenly having lives to live, only to have her thoughts interrupted by MISAKA swinging while standing and trying to brainwash an older sister to do whatever her younger sister says. They’ll do fine, with Mikoto’s help.
  • Mikoto buys expensive cookies, but Touma isn’t shy about his view that they should really be homemade. See, he’s kind of a dick, too!
  • We only catch the slightest glimpse of Index running down the hall, but she doesn’t get any lines. That’s fine with us…we really didn’t need to see a tiny nun biting a recuperating Touma’s head.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 13

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Learning that Tree Diagram is gone and unsure of her next move, Misaka takes out her aggression on the nearest Sisters facility, which is evacuated as she tears the place apart, vowing to destroy everything. However, when she watches MISAKA 10031 being killed by Accelerator on a monitor, she breaks down. Touma looks for MISAKA and hears gunshots, but by the time he arrives in the alley, only a puddle of blood remains of her. He informs Antiskill, but the mess is cleaned up once they arrive. Touma meets the sisters and learns about the experiment, and heads to Misaka’s dorm to talk about it.

Kamijou Touma has been blissfully unaware of the Level 6 Shift experiment and the existence of more than one MISAKA sister, but that’s all over now, as he meets a whole company of ’em, performing cleanup work after one of the ones he met met a sticky end. Flash back to Accelerator’s very first fight against a clone, when he easily disables her, but is initially weary about killing her off until the gold-toothed scientist assures him they’re merely puppets, and for the clones’ part they won’t stop trying to kill Accelerator until they’re dead or physically unable to. Whatever sliver of remorse he had in that first fight has completely evaporated, and now he has “fun” with the experiments, tossing out riddles and such before going in for the kill. It’s awful.

Also awful? Kamijou Touma finds out about the fight going on too late. Even if the sister wouldn’t have allowed him to intervene in the experiment (i.e. not let him save her life) there’s a chance he could have at least slowed Accelerator down. When he reports the death to normal authorities, he is too late again, as the sisters had cleaned up the mess, but the fact remains, if Touma continues to pry, he’ll be a target too. As Misaka is growing desperate beneath the weight and scope of the task before her (destroy everything and everyone involved, playing every bit the righteous “villain”), now would be a good time for Touma to step in and help in some way, any way, before she goes nuts, destroys herself, or both.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 11

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Mikoto crosses paths with Kamijou Touma while he’s wrestling with a money-stealing vending machine. Kuroko rushes to the two of them in horror, but leaves when she realizes they’re not a couple and Mikoto is happy. A MISAKA clone then shows up, ruining Mikoto’s mood when she tells her the Level 6 Shift project is proceeding on schedule. She does some digging and learns 183 facilities have been contracted for the project, and realizes all of Academy City may be in on it, so she decides to take the whole city on, even if she has to oppose Kuroko and Judgment.

No rest for the weary…well, hardly any, as Mikoto doesn’t have much time with Kamijou Touma putting her at ease. This episode started with an ordinary guy (who can negate any esper power) and an ordinary girl (who can summon lightning on a whim) having a few precious normal moments. But by the end, Mikoto is almost certain she’ll have to shed any hope of living a normal life if she wants to deliver justice to those who wronged her and her clones, the dead of which now number 10,021.

But while Mikoto is going to take on this massive burden, she can’t abide the clones getting all up in her face; that just makes things worse. Sure enough, by episode’s end Accelerator is chewing on the ear (we think) of the clone who meets with Mikoto. We learn how he became involved with the Level 6 Project, and well, it doesn’t really do much to humanize him; he basically joined up because he liked how fucked up the human experiments were. So yeah, still a heel. And while Mikoto is determined to keep Kuroko out of the impending action, she’s also conscious of the fact they may not be on the same side when the shit hits the fan.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

 

Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince – 11

Irie Tamaki, Kugimiya Kei

Team Rabbits is ordered to Mars to infiltrate a crashed Wulgaru capital ship, which will disintegrate in 36 hours.Izuru and Asagi enter the ship with Daneel, who recovers the data, while Kei, Suruga and Tamaki support them from outside. Izuru and Asagi are both troubled to learn that Wulgaru soldiers are expendible clones with no free will. Giuliano keeps Tamaki’s synch levels high by flirting with her over the radio, but she ends up overworking her AHSMB, and after the operation is successfully completed, her pit crew must work feverishly to prevent its core from melting down with Tamaki inside.

In a series that has had no shortage of grand naval space battles and dogfights, this atmospheric operation is a nice change of pace. Each member of the team is given their role and they work together well to carry out the operation successfully, netting the GDF valuable new data on the Wulgaru. As usual, its fun to watch them work together and get shit done. There’s the feeling that this operation wasn’t without a certain degree of risk, and that losing the Majestic Princes would have dealt Earth a serious blow, but the rewards to be reaped from a downed Wulgaru battleship were too enticing to pass up.

Hitachi Izuru, Daneel, Asagi Toshizaku

While the operation is a success, there were still some costs involved. Perhaps most important is the knowledge Asagi and Izuru learn by listening to Daneel explain the nature of Wulgaru society. Soldiers are cloned drones incapable of independent thought or will; treated as machines that are discarded when no longer needed and promptly replaced by more. Asagi can’t help but think Team Rabbits is in a similar position, and he has a point: they were robbed of their memories and placed in the AHSMB program, after all. And if you consider that the Wulgaru were once more like humans, you can’t help but think if huanity survives long enough, they’ll develop a system similar to the Wulgaru, like some vicious cycle.

But no, you have to think positive! Tamaki may be a bit simple-minded, and it again proves useful as she’s the only one who can move freely in the storms…though she does nearly go too far and trash her AHSMB. The point is, every member of Team Rabbits has their strengths and weaknesses, and so far, they’ve complemented each other well enough to neutralize those weaknesses. There’s still the issue of Izuru and Tamaki perhaps progressing too far for their own good while Kei and Asagi continue to struggle with their synch rates, but there’s plenty more show to address all that.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 09

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The Level 5/4 duo of Mugino Shizuri and Takisubo Rikou relieve Frenda. Mikoto flees, but Takisubo uses AIM Stalker to locate her as Mugino sends Meltdowner beam attacks her way. The chase gradually wears Mikoto down. Meanwhile, Nunotaba aims to install emotions into the clones, so they might fight for their lives. She is thwarted by Kinuhata Saiai who was guarding the other lab in case Mikoto was only a diversion. When Mikoto deflects Mugino’s Meltdowner, Mugino realizes that her target could only be Tokiwadai’s Railgun.

This has been a rough couple of weeks for poor Miss “Clean Up My Own Messes Made Inadvertently When I Was A Toddler.” Just when she had Frenda where she wanted her, Frenda’s stronger, more tenacious, esper comrades arrive and make life a living hell for Mikoto. She seriously can’t stop to catch her breath, lest she get blasted into dust by Mugino. And just when we thought all of the Railgun’s suffering wouldn’t be in vain because Shinobu is at the other facility, making her move, Shinobu is also thwarted. Her plans to give all of the Sisters emotions apparently fails…but maybe not all the way.

Aside from that one glimmer of hope, the bad guys run this episode. Which is okay; the entire franchise has always had a problem with idiotic, over-boasting adult villains, and it’s good that this ITEM group is not only extremely confident, but also relatively likable. They’re all so different, they won’t be easily caught off guard at the same time, and what’s more, even if Mikoto is a stronger esper than all of them, it’s still four-against-one…at least until the end, when Mugino perhaps makes her first mistake: deciding to go one-on-one against a winded Mikoto.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Shinobu knows her limitations and is aware of the possibility the Level 6 program will never be totally defeated…but she still decides to do what she can for the clones, as she couldn’t ignore the glimmer of emotion she felt from one.
  • Esper breakdown: Mugino has a lightning-esque Meltdowner ability; Takisubo has the AIM Stalker tracking ability, but only when she takes a drug that sends her into overload; and Kinuhata has super-strong bulletproof esper armor (and tries to say super in every sentence).
  • Mikoto’s goal is to destroy the facility…isn’t that exactly what’s been happening the last two weeks? Place looks pretty destroyed already to us…maybe there’s still some vital part she hasn’t gotten to yet; but as Shinobu points out, even destroying all the facilities won’t end the experiment.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 06

Misaka Mikoto, Accelerator

Mikoto attacks the boy who killed MISAKA 9982, but he is able to neutralize all of her esper powers. An army of MISAKA clones arrives and stops the fight, and the boy introduces himself as Accelerator. Mikoto spends the night on a bench, and Shinobu approaches her. She tells her that she’s come to see the MISAKA clones as human, but can’t do anything about stopping the Level 6 Shift project. Mikoto vows that she won’t let the scientists involved get away with it. She takes her friends to a cafe to apologize for worrying them, but doesn’t tell them what she was up to.

When she was a little girl, Mikoto was told her DNA map could help in the fight against muscular distropy. She was lied to, but was too young and too inexperienced with deception to realize it. Even if she shouldn’t blame herself for what followed…she does. And in her typical hard-headed Misaka way, she’s committed to cleaning up the mess she started, and doing so alone. Neither a swift ass-kicking by Accelerator nor the complete willingness of the MISAKA clones to sacrifice themselves for the experiment will deter her.

Nunotaba Shinobu, MISAKA Clone

We liked Shinobu showing up again, telling her the story of when she stopped thinking of the clones as mere guinea pigs. You see, all of the MISAKAs are linked together in a vast network of shared memories and experiences, which would be passed on to all new MISAKA clones. In effect, this makes her immortal, but at the same time, the price is her being murdered over and over, thousands of times. As Shinobu says, “Life is life,” whether its guinea pigs, humans, or the clones of humans who have amassed lifetimes worth of knowledge.

That scene, in which MISAKA seemed to express an emotional response to seeing the sky for the first time, is as sad as it is beautiful, since we can be reasonably certain that individual MISAKA is long dead. But she, and all her sisters are still in the heads of those who survive. The last MISAKA there is will have the personalities of all who proceeded her. But despite these metaphysical considerations, Mikoto won’t accept their slaughter. Shinobu may not have the power to stop the project, but Mikoto just might.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Apparently Shinobu’s a fan of randomly inserting English into her speech.
  • The series so far has focused on Mikoto – a good thing – but also known exactly where and when to use Kuroko, Saten, and Uiharu. They’ve been used sparingly but effectively.
  • We loved Saten’s promise that they’ll be there for her, if she ever needs help with whatever she’s dealing with.
  • This week they finally rolled out the “Misaka surrounded by naked bloody clones of herself” image, via her nightmare.
  • We’ll see how long Mikoto will last going it alone before her friends start to get involved.