SSSS.Dynazenon – 02 – What Are We Now?

The first of many wonderful decisions made in this exquisitely directed and impeccably detailed second episode is that we catch a second look at the end of last week’s kaiju battle from Yomogi’s POV. It’s great to see this confused ordinary kid simply along for the ride as Dynazenon leaps, flies, and takes its opponent down.

After that, the dino-mecha vanishes, or rather reverts to its resting form of four toys distributed among the three new co-pilots by Gauma. When Yomogi says he didn’t even do anything, Gauma says it’s possibly Dynazenon recognized his innate aptitude.

Then immediately goes back to what he was doing before the attack: castigating Yume for standing Yomogi up, leading Yomogi to ask for calm. Gauma goes on to say a group called the Kaiju Eugenicists controlled the kaiju, and they’ll be back, so the group has to train. Everyone agrees to meet up tomorrow…even Yume.

The next day at school and in Koyomi’s room, everything seemingly reverts back to normal, except for the compression of classes due to the kaiju attack. Yomogi’s friends want him to hang, but he has work. Chise points out to Koyomi that if he’s a robot co-pilot then that means he’s technically employed.

After school Yume gets a piggyback ride from her best friend Mei on a grassy hill near the flood gate. We’ve never seen her so outwardly joyful, laughing until she’s out of breath before heading to training session, this time keeping her word. Mei, a photog, notices this sudden change in Yume’s attitude and snaps some gorgeous candid shots of her as she parts.

Yomogi, who’d classically be the one most “into” this new kaiju-punching mecha scenario, has to work instead, missing the first training session. When his manager what happened on his date, he says “way too much” happened, though none of it “erotically”. He then goes home for a soak and is shocked when Gauma comes in to join him in a far-too-cramped tub.

There’s a lovely juxtaposition between Yomogi and Gauma’s bath and Yume’s. Yomogi was thinking about what having “aptitude” for Dynazenon means, while Yume is thinking about apologizing to Yomogi. Her parents are arguing on the other side of Yume’s bathroom door, one instance of many of Dynazenon’s elite sound design.

From the tinny sound of voices on radio or TV, voices muffled through walls, far away, close up, outside and on the train, we hear voices in Dynazenon just like we do in real life. Also adding to the immersive realism are the extremely lived-in interiors. Like Gauma, we feel like an honored guest in the cozy, realistically cluttered home Yomogi shares with his mom and aging granny.

It’s also clear from this scene why Yomogi is working so much he’s missing all of Gauma’s training sessions: with no siblings or father, now that he’s old enough to work he wants to help support his family as much as he can. As odd as Gauma is, he still seems to get this, and isn’t hard on Yomogi’s choice to skip training for work.

But as we’re introduced to four suspicious figures near a wrecked station, he won’t be able to ignore his Dyna-duties for long. Yume tracks him down and decides to give him a one-on-one lesson on how to access his Dyna-vehicle. She starts by accessing hers: the aerial Dyna Wing, and he accesses Dyna Soldier. Then she merges with him, giving his robot the ability to fly and giving her robot arms and legs with which to fight.

The two combine quickly and without any fanfare, but it still feels like an intimate act, and it was foreshadowed by Yume piggyback riding on Mei’s back. Now she’s piggybacking on Yomogi, and their maiden flight together results in a very sweet and simple conciliatory talk from 40,000 feet travelling at mach 0.8.

Yume is sorry, and Yomogi isn’t mad. Yomogi asked “What are we now?”, referring to their combined Wing/Soldier form. But you could just as easily answer that “what they are now” … is friends. They were able to bridge the distance between them and start fresh…all thanks to robots.

In a very slick transition, their combined “Dyna Wing Soldier” flies behind a building as the camera pans down, and once we’re at ground level we see Yume and Yomogi walking together. They visit the collateral damage the kaiju battle caused, which distresses Yomogi, but Yume assures him it would have been far worse had they not fought and defeated the kaiju. In light of the mess they made, Yomogi wonders if they should hand off their Dyna duties to someone else—perhaps someone older or more experience.

Yume’s response is instructive: If you always go by the book, there are things you can’t protect. On the train home, Yume opens up to him about how her sister died, in an accident, at the flood gate where she spends so much time. It’s another momentous moment presented with sublime mundaneness. Kudos again to the sound design, as you can hear her voice bouncing off the metal walls of the train.

Just like that, smash cut to the kaiju of the week – initially so unassuming, taking up a tiny portion of the frame as it lurks under an overpass. Then Yuuga, one of the four too-cool-for-school “Bad Guy” kaiju users in marching band uniforms (a Trigger trademark) is chosen by the others to take command, and the kaiju grows to immense size.

The psychedelic kaiju starts leveling city blocks when Dynazenon arrives, just as Yuuga & Co. predicted. Only as expected, this second kaiju is a lot trickier than the first. One can’t just punch it, because it can freakin’ teleport. Yuuga uses this ability to great effect by kicking the shit out of the comparatively sluggish Dynazenon while dodging all it’s counterattacks.

Gauma decides to audible “Disperse!”, and the four Dyna parts split, giving their opponent four targets. The only problem is, without any training Yomogi has no idea how to move his Soldier Dyna on its own, and as he wrestles with the controls his sitting duck Dyna’s arms flail around comically. If that wasn’t enough, his manager calls him from work, a fun instance of his normal life interrupting his new kaiju-bustin’ one.

When the enemy kaiju accelerates its destructo-beams and buildings start to crumble, Yomogi spots a bus full of innocent people in harm’s way, and realizes that whether he’s confident in his abilities or not, he wants to protect them. Yume suggests they do what they did before and piggyback into Dyna Soldier, and with Yume’s added agility is able to destroy the fragile wings the kaiju was using to teleport.

After that, he and Yume launch the kaiju high into the sky, where Gauma is able to finish it off with his Dyna Launcher Burst Missile. Team Dynazenon is now 2-for-2, with Dyna-teamwork making the Dyna-dream work. As they exit their robots and bask in their latest victory, Yomogi asks if Yume was close to her sister. She says they didn’t get along well, but admits that now she’s not so sure anymore.

Just as their regular lives are portrayed so simply and realistically with both sights and sounds, there’s a similar realism to the feelings Yume and Yomogi expressed here. There’s nothing over-the-top or melodramatic about their exchanges. Instead, they’re becoming closer little by little, at their own pace.

Unfortunately the pace of battles is likely to heat up, as the enemy kaiju users Gauma identifies as the “Kaiju Eugenicists” are steaming over their latest defeat. Our ragtag gang of good-hearted souls want to keep protecting what they can, they’ll need to step up their Dyna-battle game, ’cause these drum majors look serious, and the gloves are coming off.

Inuyashiki – 10

Turns out the woman, father, and baby we met last week weren’t the ones in the plane that crashed. Hiro has taken control of dozens, many of which find targets on the ground below, but Ichirou is finally able to take action,  commandeering and soft-landing ten planes in the bay – including the one with the woman, father and baby.

But Hiro has already caused much carnage, and hundreds if not thousands of casualties. And perhaps more pressing to Ichirou, Mari calls him to say she’s trapped atop city hall in the observation deck, where there’s a fire raging and where oxygen is running out.

Ichirou could probably save Mari and the others in City Hall in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, but there’s a problem: Hiro has found him. In their first encounter, he bolted as soon as Ichirou got up from Hiro’s bang; here, he wants answers, and isn’t satisfied with the ones he gets.

Hiro is upset that he’s the villain, while the old man is the hero, and so lashes out like a child would, first by grappling with Ichirou, then by bang-bang-banging him mercilessly. Finally, Ichirou counters with a bang of his own, but Hiro is only momentarily stunned.

As previewed in the show’s OP, a no-hold-barred battle between Hiro and Ichirou, nobody wins or loses except the city crumbling around and below them. When they’ve finally beaten and blasted each other unconscious, their “fail-safe”/”autopilot” systems kick in.

It’s here where it’s indicated that for all of the carnage and mayhem Hiro has caused, Ichirou’s system may be the superior of the two, and not necessarily due to any mechanical differences. Rather, because the original human that was copied by the mysterious aliens was older and more experienced.

This enables Autopilot Ichirou to destroy the hapless $100 billion space station in orbit and use the falling debris as cover for a sneak attack. He essentially scalps and literally “dis-arms” Hiro, and both fall back to earth with a crash and a splash.

At this point, I didn’t have very high hopes for Mari’s survival, and indeed she looks to have succumbed to smoke inhalation and asphyxia by the time Ichirou finally arrives. We watch him quickly descend into a new sub-level of despair as Mari’s life flashes before his eyes, but after much perseverance he manages to revive her.

Mari reacts to learning her father came when she needed him most with a big hug and a lot of tears. There’s no time fo Ichirou to explain or try to hide what he is; he must save the rest of the sightseers atop the building, including Nao, and after sending Mari home, he’s all over the city, saving as many as he can as those around him call him “god”.

Meanwhile, Hiro’s in a bad way, but he’s obviously not dead. Two good Samaritans encounter find him in an alley, and when he manages to mutter “water”, they give him some juice from the nearby vending machine, unwittingly helping a potential country-destroyer get back in the game.

I hope Ichirou realizes it isn’t ovr between him and Hiro, and that he isn’t so caught up in helping strangers that he neglects his family’s safety.

One Punch Man – 07

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This week’s threat to the annihilation of City Z and its neighbors isn’t a villain or monster, but a meteor. Just…a meteor. Nothing fancy or ironic about it, except that it shifted course to land right in Saitama’s backyard (so to speak). This initially feels like this threat lacks the imagination of previous foes, but it offers the opportunity to see what happens when Saitama saves the city and is actually recognized for it.

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Only Genos and other Class S heroes are summoned to Z in a last-ditch effort, and only three Class S’s actually show up: Bang, Bofoi, and Genos. Third-ranked Fang’s martial arts are of no help; seventh-ranked Bofoi only sends a drone to perform a weapons test. Genos takes Fang’s advice to go all out and not worry about failure or repercussions, but he also comes up short. It falls to Saitama, who shows up randomly and blasts the meteor to bits.

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Now, Saitama has destroyed cities before, most notably in the first episode when the colossus he knocks out falls on one. But now his name is out there as the one who stopped the meteor and saved millions of lives but also the one who devastated City Z. The HA also assumes he had help from the Class S’s, so he only rises within his own Class C, albeit a healthy jump from 342nd to fifth.

Rankings aside, when heroes near and far hear of a Class C barging into a Class S matter, they’re understandably pissed, and suspect foul play. Enter the Tank Top Brothers, Tiger and Black Hole. Rather than challenge him to a fight, they start yelling abou how Saitama is responsible for all the destruction around them, gathering a crowd that turns against Saitama and starts to chant “give it up”.

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The true test of Saitama’s greatness as a hero is not in his victories over impossible foes like the meteor. Rather, it is in his ability to withstand the indignity of not only hardly ever being recognized for his efforts, but on the contrary, blamed for secondary issues, when if it weren’t for him, every man, woman, child, and building in City Z would have been toast.

Bang witnesses the Brothers turning the crowd against Saitama, but does not interfere, knowing sometimes being the bad guy in spite of being the good guy is part of the job. But the Bros’ scheme backfires when they try to put their hands on Saitama, and they very publicly show how much weaker they are.

Saitama uses the opportunity to tell the stunned crowd he’s a hero because he wants to be one, not for admiration. If they have a problem, they can either say it to his face or go to hell. It’s the first real case of Saitama, who has the clear moral high ground, addressing a good-size crowd of people directly. He probably swayed few minds, but perhaps being known and despised is preferable to not being known at all.

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One Punch Man – 06

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I’m not so sure this Hero registration was such a good idea for Saitama. After all, none of his amazing deeds have gone noticed prior to registering, and no matter how phenomenally powerful he is, he seems doomed to never be recognized for it, whether it’s because witnesses are hardly ever around when he performs his feats, or other, more famous heroes hog all the notoriety.

When Genos informs him he must bag a bad guy within a week or lose his registration, Saitama learns just how hard it is to find a low-level monster or criminal to apprehend or punish when he actually wants to find one. Luckily, he bumps into Sonic on the streets, and Sonic is so bent on fighting him he “pretends” to be a villain for Saitama to nab, which actually just means blowing a lot of stuff up and putting people in danger.

Still, Saitama has to thank Sonic for showing up, because otherwise his career as a pro hero would be over before it ever got started.

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As a bored Class-S hero Tornado (a rare female character on OPM) complains to the HA administration about getting more tasty work (a lot of the work suited to S’s Saitama already did without fanfare), news of…something bad going on in the abandoned area of City Z prompts the HA to send two Class-A’s to investigate.

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Rank 29 Golden Ball and Rank 33 Spring Mustachio saunter in, weary of the widespread destruction and lack of people in the zone. They end up confronting a vicious seaweed monster who also heard rumors about things going down in the area, including a congregation of monsters like himself, but instead decides to kill time by wasting both of the Class-A’s, clearly establishing how strong he is.

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There’s something familiar about this area: it’s Saitama’s neighborhood. Ever since all those battles in previous episodes, everyone else who lived there moved out. He and Genos are all that is left, which makes the fact Genos insists on living with him in his cramped apartment all the more ridiculous. As for the seaweed monster, he not unreasonably mistakes Saitama for just a regular schlub and prepares to kill him, but rather than witness what happens next, we go straight to the end: Saitama boiling kanbu leaves from the slain monster for broth. Waste not, want not, eh?

Just as we didn’t see what Saitama did, no one else did, so he gets no credit for easily defeating down a monster that ate two Top-35s for breakfast. Instead, he rises from 388th to 342nd for apprehending Sonic, for which there were witnesses. And he gets to start the drudgery all over again, going from crim to crim in a mad dash to keep his license. There’s no justice in this world…for Saitama, that is!

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Instead, only the collateral damage from his battles is noticed by the HA, who sends more heroes to City Z’s abandoned area on high alert for “something big” to go down. But there isn’t anything to be on high alert for. It’s all Saitama, taking care of business. Saitama just operates too far outside the boundaries of the system to ever find success within it. He’s too fast; too strong; too good at his job.

At least with more eyes on his location, the possibility increases that a hero somewhere, someday (who isn’t Genos) will witness him doing something great and relay it to the HA so he can finally get his proper due. It could happen.

…But it probably won’t!

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Comet Lucifer – 03

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After plucking their host’s last straw by knocking over his perfect pot of curry, Sogo, Kaon, Felia, and the very irritatingly-voiced Moura are kicked out of the cafe, which thankfully still shows signs of the damage Moura caused. They take Felia downtown and show her the sights, and we get a very pleasant, detailed, yet wordless montage of their fun, and likely expensive, day to keep Felia entertained.

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Everything is chipper until in her excitement Felia bumps into a passerby, sending her pigeon-cat cake flying. She tries to use her telekinesis to save it, but Moura startles her, and the cake is dumped on a purple-haired cafe patron, who seemed annoyed but not unreasonably angry with the incident. Turns out he’s a master hacker-terrorist who has been watching Felia for some time, and judging from his expressions and gestures in his dark office, he’s also quite unhinged in the “creepy unhinged villain” kind of way.

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In order to induce as many expressions of fear and worry on his “mademoiselle” Felia (which he watches with relish on cameras, which…ew), he throws the entire city’s traffic control system into chaos, thus turning the city into a game board and the kids game pieces he moves around by controlling the ample technology around them. Even Gus and his blonde buddy aren’t immune from the disarray.

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But every time the Bad Guy tries to close in on Felia, Sogo and Kaon split up and misdirect and serve as decoys to keep him off balance, until he gets angry and steps up his game, activating a spider-type mecha to pursue Kaon and Felia on a cable car. Sogo gets as high up into the air as possible and Kaon throws Soura to him, activating Soura’s mecha transformation.

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Once Soura is in play, it’s Game Over for the bad guy, as his mecha is beaten back and the cable breaks. Felia uses her “force power” to give the cable car a soft landing, while the bad guy falls victim to the cable’s recoil, which gives him a reverse mohawk.

The physics (magic hoverboards and telekinesis aside, of course) were pretty solid, right up until here; such a huge cable would surely have taken off his head, if not more. Instead he gets an old-style anime villain comeuppance, even though he surely put dozens of people in the hospital with his reckless antics…all for his personal entertainment.

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Even the most gorgeous sunsets of the Fall season can’t save this episode, or this show, from the inescapable fact that it is artful, attractive, and often thrilling (and thus watchable) but utterly lacking in substance, making it my Fall guilty pleasure. It’s cotton candy; empty calories with no payoff; a bunch of elaborate fun stuff that happens, and then it’s over. Sure, Alfried joins Gus’ dream team, but we just saw Alfried fail miserably to a couple of kids, so it’s not like he’s that much of a threat. He’s just an overwrought creeper.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 06

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This episode begins rather appropriately with Cecil getting chewed out for using magic in practically every single situation she’s found herself in so far, causing collateral damage and inducing fines for the firm. So naturally, she ends up in yet another situation where she’s forced to use magic to protect others. It makes sense to us because there are shadowy types—including Asst. Inspector Shizumu, who’s a closet Wud—creating these situations so she’ll awaken to more and more powers.

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While it makes sense to us that trouble will always follow her around, it hasn’t yet occured to anyone else that it might mean anything other than the fact she’s unlucky. This was also the first episode with no case and no trial, just a terrorist hostage situation with some heroine costumes thrown in for fanservice, and very weird little details like the teacher promising to protect the kids, then shoving them out of his way when things get hot, getting shot in the back for his betrayal.

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That’s pretty dark stuff in an episode where we were still thinking these terrorists may just be messing around for a hero show (especially after their leader’s speech about world domination). But this scenario underlined the fact that as powerful as Cecil is with her diaboloids and elemental magic, she lacks any kind of restraint. You’d think someone that could mine metal from her surroundings could make a smaller weapon, but no: just a giant robot, which is kind of overkill.

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It also sure looks like a few cops get killed and maimed in the melee, resulting in a pretty hefty butcher’s bill. One Wizard Barrister who has a very useful skill indeed is Tento Moyo, who literally saves Cecil’s life by stopping time and redirecting what would have been a fatal bullet. Interestingly, neither Cecil nor anyone else perceived Moyo’s presence, suggesting she prefers to work stealthily. We also liked the observation that kids aren’t prejudiced against Wuds like most adults. But while this episode had some nice details, it also felt thin and padded at times.

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