Attack on Titan – 47 – How to Say Hello

When Kenny Ackerman first meets Uri Reiss, he’s at Uri’s mercy: Uri transformed into a Titan and grabbed Kenny with his big Titan hand, threatening to crush him. But he never does. When Kenny somewhat profanely begs for his life, Uri grants it. Uri understands the grudges the Ackermans hold against the Reiss, after all.

Instead of imprisoning or killing Kenny, Uri befriends and hires him. Kenny’s service ends the persecution of his family, but it’s too late for his sister Kuchel, whom he finds lying dead in a brothel…and a starving young Levi sitting in the corner.

Kenny thought he was the most powerful guy around…until he met Uri. And yet for all his power Uri was merciful; empathetic…compassionate. By throwing in with Uri, Kenny is still plenty powerful as well, and perhaps its for that reason he has the compassion not to let Levi die.

However, Kenny isn’t interested in being anyone’s father, so after teaching Levi how to properly survive in the cutthroat underground, he abandons him, leading to Levi’s present-day hatred of him. Meanwhile, Kenny is the last person Uri meets with before the ritual in which Freida eats him and gains his power.

He tells Kenny about the paradise he dreams of building within the Walls, and how even after he’s gone, Kenny’s services will still be required to realize that dream. The first time Kenny sees Freida after the ritual, he can tell Uri’s in there, looking back at him.

Kenny raises his paramilitary Anti-Personnel Squad, made up of the best of the best, and together they have many bloody adventures in the name of the Reiss. But all of that crumbled when Historia refused to keep the wheel turning and chose to break it instead.

With his squad all dead and his burns and wounds likely to take his wretched life any minute, Kenny ponders using the Titan serum he stole from Rob. But he doesn’t, and when Levi finds him, he points out how he could have injected himself at any time.

Like his friend Uri sparing his life, Kenny decides not to go the obvious path. In his last moments he thrusts the box containing the serum to Levi, his nephew, to do with whatever he pleases, and dies grateful he was able to experience the slightest glimmer of cool, pure compassion he felt emanating from Uri at all times.

Later, Historia is officially crowned before a vast audience, many of whom witnessed her slaying the Titan firsthand, and the rest of them hear the story, are impressed, and pass it on. Rather than more lies and secrets, Tori showed them something real and honest; an act that makes her worthy of the throne. Later, when she gives Levi a playful punch, Levi’s reaction is simply to laugh and thank her and everyone else for everything.

Everything looks primed to get shaken up again, as we check in on Bertholdt, Reiner, and the Beast Titan who is Eren’s father Grisha, and who desperately wants to reunite with his son. Not because he misses him,but because Eren is the Coordinate.

BEATLESS – 02

Arato doesn’t really yet know he has a fugitive in his house, so I’ll forgive him for letting Yuka enroll Lacia in a fashion hIE competition that she then promptly wins. Still, considering all the danger he encountered upon meeting Lacia, you’d think he’d be a bit more careful.

But nope; the fashion thing goes through, Arato tells his friends at school (who agree with me that he’s probably not taking this seriously enough) and even lets Lacia accompany him on the train when he leaves his tablet at school.

Lacia shows him the nice view from the school roof he’s never seen, but the episode suffers from a lack of stakes or impending doom until the very end. Arato doesn’t sense any danger, which makes him less informed than us. If he had any notable qualities, that could be forgiven, but he’s pretty much a big not-steaming pile of meh.

That makes the fact he stumbled backwards into ownership of an elite luxury hIE all the more grating. He hasn’t really done anything but accept ownership; presumably he’ll start to experience the negative consequences of his choice, but this week he doesn’t.

Instead, he merely tags along during a live Lacia fashion shoot and “analog hack” that goes on too long and attracts a dubiously large crowd. It never comes across as anything but a tremendously bad idea.

All the while, I was thinking that at some point, Memeframe will come looking for her in some capacity, although perhaps the destruction caused in their escape hindered their ability to track their property. As for Arato’s nerdy friend Kengo, he’s paid a visit by Kouka, who doesn’t seem particularly interested in having an owner or following commands.

If Memeframe isn’t going to come into the picture soon, maybe Kouka and the other escaped fugitives can bring the storm…because this ep was too heavy on the calm.

BEATLESS – 01 (First Impressions)

Yeah, we usually started in September…

In a technologically-advanced, highly automated future where androids called hIEs serve mankind and are treated as tools, nondescript protagonist Endou Arato does have one unique quality: he has compassion for these “tools” as if they were real humans with souls.

He helps the hIE assisting an elderly woman cross the street, and takes the disembodied arm of an hIE to the police. He’s a good kid, even if his friends scratch their heads at what they see as unnecessary behavior.

In addition to a somewhat cryptic cold open in which he watches hIEs being made and coming to life (and going wrong for that matter), I felt Arato’s ingrained compassion would end up working in his favor even as five Memeframe Corp. elite hIEs violently escape from their cage in Odaiba and scatter, causing chaos and destruction in their wake.

BEATLESS may not be the most groundbreaking stuff, but it does realize and advance quite a few pieces of tech still in their relative infancy today, such as fully autonomous cars, robotic eldercare assistants, and even clothes with built-in climate control.

The way the military operates here in trying to apprehend the hIEs is also well-grounded in existing tech, with the bots doing the fighting while the humans keep a (mostly) safe distance. We also see the downside to dependence on so much technology (the aforementioned chaos and destruction). Kouka (the red hIE) seems to place as much importance on human life as Arato’s friends place on hIEs.

Speaking of chaos and destruction, Arato is cursed with one hell of a piece of work of a little sister in Yuka, who lounges around waiting for dinner, then eats all the meat before Arato is done cooking the rest, forcing him to go out and buy more a mere hour and a half from midnight.

After shopping at a nightmare supermarket with no human employees, he encounters an hIE acquaintance, “Ms. Marie” whom he laments he doesn’t have at home to help deal with household duties (since Yuka presumably does none).

Just as he does, one of the not-so-nice hIEs, Snowdrop, uses “flower petals” to hack every piece of machinery in the area, and both Ms. Marie and the nearby cars start trying to kill Arato…until he’s saved by a nice hIE.

This powder blue-haired hIE, Lacia, determines Arato would make a good “owner”, and she needs such an owner to take responsibility in order for her to take action. After a lengthy, somewhat momentum-killing but still kinda amusing scene in which he accepts the terms of the license agreement (as one does), Lacia eliminates the threat with something akin to an EMP.

Yuka initially wigs out when Arato brings Lacia home, but quickly falls in love after Lacia quickly prepares a sumptuous midnight repast for the Endous. Later, while serving Arato tea, Lacia reiterates to him that she has no soul, and that her “behavior” is just programming. But Arato doesn’t care, because Lacia moved him nevertheless.

‘Treat others as you’d like to be treated, even if those others are artificial’ seems as good a slogan for Arato as any, especially if the not-so-nice fugative hIEs out there start terrorizing the population. I can’t imagine it will be long before Memeframe or the military find Lacia and Arato and Yuka get dragged into a good bit of drama. I suppose I’ll watch on for now and see.

Houseki no Kuni – 03

Land of the Lustrous continues to be, one of the strangest and most otherworldly beautiful anime of the Fall, and I am loving it. After their encounter with the Lunarians’ giant snail, Phos has…changed. That is to say, they no longer have a humanoid body. They’re still “alive”, as much as all of the Gems of this land are.

But while the standard rules of flesh-and-blood humans don’t apply to Phos or any other gem, there are other considerations that do: their “humanity”, i.e. the network of interpersonal relationships that define Phos to others.

Despite being shiny gems, these people have the same social structure as any normal human group. Which explains why the overriding reaction to Pho’s apparent transformation into some kind of semi-sentient invertebrate is…indifference. Apathy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯-ness.

The Gems are largely a pragmatic and practical bunch; if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem; if you don’t have an immediate, measurable use, you’re of no value.

Diamond, perhaps the most altruistic of the Gems, scoops up the creature believed to be Phos and seeks help first from the doctor, but Rutile only knows how to heal Gems, and would only dissect and kill the creature if left alone with it. When presenting it to other Gems, most see Phos’ metamorphosis as an improvement, and in any case wouldn’t know where to start in terms of changing Phos back.

There’s an almost Christmas Carol quality to this…if Scrooge were a slimy slug being carried around by an anthropomorphic diamond, and the Gems were the various ghosts who visited him. So, basically, A Christmas Carol exactly. :D

Dia ends up far out in the country, and their observations of “Bio-Phos” indicate Phos might not care or want to change back. The creature eats plants, poops them out (like watermelon seeds), then curls up and falls asleep, like any biological organism would do. Dia laments that Phos had such crappy connections to the others that they’d care so little about Pho’s present situation.

Where is Cinnabar, I kept asking myself, what with their unique poison gooey properties. Well, Cinnabar is where they always are; far. far away from everyone else, on the night watch. They spot a bright light they believe to be Lunarians, but turns out to be a dozing, but still dazzling, Diamond.

Despite not taking any active role, just being in contact with Dia proves crucial to Phos’ return to corporeal form. You see, on the isolated shores of the country there are a good number of snails, and Cinnabar observes that those snails eat stone to restore and harden their shells.

The snails who eat red stone turn red. Those who eat white stone turn white. So a snail who ate phosphophyllite would have a minty glint to their shell. That’s when it hits Dia: the creature isn’t really Phos. Phos’ crystalline structure is now in the shell at the bottom of the pool back home. We saw the answer, those green crystals, in the opening moments of the episode.

Now knowing what to do, Dia rushes back as fast as their diamond legs can carry them in a gorgeous, lyrical sequence that really illustrates the great distance that must be covered and neatly establishes the scale of the land, along with Dia’s determination to cross it and save Phos. Even the stern Bort can’t refuse that determination; indeed, Bort averts their eyes at the sheer brilliance of it.

And so Dia, who unlike Phos has strong bonds to all of their fellow Gems, calls upon everyone to assist in heaving the great shell to the surface, carving out the Phos deposits from the shell, and delivering them to Rutile, who reconstructs Phos in another gorgeous sequence that makes full use of the 3DCGI.

Phos awakens, surrounded by the other Gems, and is immediately off on the wrong foot, attacking and yelling at the creature Diamond is holding rather than, you know, thanking everyone for saving them once again.

And yet that act of communicating with the creature and responding to its noises reveals a new and potentially groundbreaking fact: Phos can understand what the creature is saying. That makes Phos unique and potentially valuable…for once.

Phos endured quite a bit over the last couple episodes—to an extent worse than the routine smashing into pieces—and seems to have made some kind of connection that may even prove useful in future dealings with the Lunarians. If only Phos would take their ordeal to heart and start mending relationships with others.

Tales of Zestiria the X – 03

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Three episodes in (four if you count the prologue) and we still only know three of the eight party members in the OP, so the show largely skips past Sorey and Mikleo’s journey to the point where they’re at Ladylake’s gates, meeting the fourth (future) member. She’s got rosy hair, so I’ll call her Rose for now.

Were it not for Rose, Sorey wouldn’t be able to enter the city. That being said, Mikleo doesn’t do well around so many humans, who excrete a miasma of malevalence due to the worries about a war between Hyland and neighboring Rolance.

Princess Alisha’s non-aggressive stance, refusing to launch a preemptive strike, is only intensified by her experience in Elysia, where she say her dream of mankind (well, one man) coexisting with the Seraphim. Also, the hellion is also in Ladylake, though apparently not to kill Alisha, only to observe.

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The rest of the episode takes place within the confines of a kind of great temple to the sacred blade, which is stuck in a rock smack dab in the center. No pun intended, the relatively close quarters prove a double-edged sword, compared to the more exciting hellion chase last week or earlier this week on Ladylake’s rooftops.

It’s good that things are so compressed in this one room, because it ups the tension. There’s also the sense that the assassin hired by frustrated warmonger Lord Bartlow is closing in and tightening the noose on Alisha.

Of course, there’s no mistaking Komatsu Mikako’s wonderful voice, so it was clear the moment the female assassin started talking that she was Rose, the girl Sorey met. The episode isn’t coy about this, also showing her piercing blue eyes a small glimpse of her rosy hair under the helmet.

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Sorey and Mikleo learn that the Lady of the Lake is a Seraphim who dwells right beside the sacred blade, though no one can see her but them. After Alisha delivers a speech that goes over with the crowd about as well as Ted Cruz’s at the RNC last week, the Malevalence coalesces into a giant hellion in dragon form, at about the same time Rose attacks Alisha.

Suddenly the vast interior of the temple feels like a suffocating braizer in which Alisha is fighting for her live against a very skilled opponent (who uses a very different style than a knight would) and a boss none of the people can fully see causing a right ol’ ruckus.

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Of course, we know what has to happen here: Sorey must take grasp the sacred blade, form a contract with the lady (named Lailah), and pull it out of the stone. Sorey becomes Lailah’s vessel, transforming him into a dazzling dandy of a hero to slay the dragon with the blade.

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The dragon is slain, and the assassin withdraws, but Sorey has been warned: being the Shepherd will be an exhausting, alienating, thankless, lonely job. I’m not so sure about that last bit, especially after seeing that ED featuring Sorey hanging out with Alisha, Rose, Mikleo, and the rest of the party he has yet to assemble.

So far, each episode has set out to progress Sorey’s story by a notch, and has so far succeeded. Alisha’s prologue set the stage. Then Sorey and Mikleo met Alisha. Then Alisha invited Sorey to Ladylake, where he met Lailah and became the Shepherd.

It’s a brisk, efficient pace that manages not to feel too hurried or contrived. The addition of Komatsu Mikako to an already strong voice cast is always welcome. And, as expected, ufotable’s visuals and music continue to be beyond reproach.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 02

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The gorgeous landscapes and stirring score of Zestiria continue to immerse me deeply into its world; in this case, the land of the Seraphim, along with Alisha. Sorey takes her to his home village, Elysia, because he has no other choice; human or not, he can’t just ignore her or leave her there.

In a nice twist, being a human with no prior contact, Ali can’t see Mikleo or any of the other villagers, so it appears at first that Sorey is all alone. But Alisha still believes in the Seraphim, and is convinced that they, and the Shepherd in particular, are humanity’s only hope.

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It’s a good thing Sorey is so nice and neither Gramps or the villagers press for her expulsion; what could she do by going back alone, now? The horrific events that transpired on her particularly bad day are now the stuff of her nightmares, but just when that fear makes her doubt her faith, Sorey shows her the exterior of the grand ruins she found herself in last week, including the mural and glove of the Shepherd (which he gifts to her). It’s not just legends.

I also like how Gramps and the others realize this human has a good heart and isn’t the kind of threat that would invite “calamity”, as they originally feared. You can feel how unwelcome Alisha feels at first, but as their attitude towards her softens, her stay becomes more peaceful.

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Naturally, she can’t just stay in the clouds with the Seraphim forever, so she heads back the way she came to Hyland, hoping there’s enough of her world left to save. I was surprised she wasn’t asking Sorey to accompany her and participate in the Sacred Blade ceremony…until she did just that. If Sorey indeed wants a world where humans (not just him) and Seraphim coexist in peace and harmony again, this could well be the way.

Alisha leaves, her hope and optimism that a hero will rise restored (and likely of the belief it’s a good chance Sorey is that Shepherd), but the moment she’s out of sight, Gramps detects a hellion in his territory, and Sorey and Mikleo rush to meet it.

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The fox-faced hellion injures a Seraphim and then tangles with the two young fighters, showing impressively explosive speed, nimbleness, and strength.

It’s a short but fantastic battle that came out of nowhere, and felt even more fast and chaotic due to my being lulled into placid “village time” to that point. Quiet and still, or frenetic action; this show can do it all.

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After Gramps scares off the hellion, what it said about its “main dish” concerned Sorey, who concludes it was after Alisha all along. So he heads off on his own to catch up to her and protect her from what could well be a foe far out of her league.

To Sorey’s delight, Mikleo appears, and will accompany him on his journey to Alisha’s capital, with wise words from Gramps: be free, find your own path, and live life to the fullest. They strike out as the sun starts to come up, and the entire world seems to unfold before them in all its glorious majesty. This looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

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Attack on Titan – 25 (Fin)

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A Priest of the Wall is preaching in a packed temple, when all of a sudden, Annie the Titan bursts through the walls, killing dozens. When Eren punched her, he wasn’t thinking about the people inside, but rather how much damage he could do to Annie with his punch. Annie, who always looked so smug and bored, keeping her dark secret to herself while mixing with the rest of humanity when it suited her.

No more. Eren’s fighting spirit is fueled just as much by hate and resentment than a desire to save mankind. And in order to beat Annie, who has shed her allegiance to humanity altogether, he must be a monster, unconcered with the collateral damage to the district.

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Even though those behind Wall Sina contribute next to nothing to the survival of mankind, and live within a false shell of security forged from the deaths of those from the outer walls, they’re still largely innocent men, women, and children, like a little girl walking through the streets, bloodied, dazed, and almost certainly orphaned. While this is on the whole a duel between giants in what is to them a toy city, the episode makes sure to capture the human toll of their brutal melee.

After getting beaten to a pulp by the technically superior Annie, Eren gets his second wind by remembering the promise he made five years ago after the Titans first invaded: he’d exterminate every last one of them without fail. That must naturally include Annie, so he powers up into a kind of overdrive mode and overpowers her. Panicked she may actually lose, Annie tries to flee over the wall.

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Throughout the fight, we hear Eren’s inner monologue, but unfortunately, not Annie’s. However, we do see flashes of a past even in which her father is embracing her in apparent forgiveness, telling her he’ll be on her side even if the entire world becomes her enemy. The details on what exactly happened in Annie’s past to cause this encounter and lead to her gaining the ability to transform are nonexistent, but at least we now know that Annie’s actions weren’t totally random, but driven by this seminal past event in her life.

However much death and destruction she’s caused, she feels justified, if not totally immune to the judgment of the masses. Maybe she has no “leader” to report to or to deliver Eren to; perhaps Annie is doing all of this for Annie, and no one else.

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Her getaway is thwarted by a clutch Mikasa, who is able to slice even Annie’s crystallized digits off, sending her falling to the ground, where a berserk Eren proceeds to de-limb and decapitate her. Hange is concerned he’ll kill Annie in his rage, and with it the captive the Scout Regiment needs to survive the ramifications of this operation.

But he doesn’t. When he sees Annie within the Titan nape, unconscious, helpless, crying, and connected by tissue the same way he is, Eren freezes. All the resolve he’d built up melts away simply due to the sight of the Annie he knows. That hesitation allows Annie to (voluntarily or not) become encased in hard crystal that no blade can cut.

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Eren emerges from the Titan, exhausted but unharmed. Mikasa stays by his bedside as he makes a full recovery. Erwin manages to convince the Mayor and other bigwigs that they were able to accomplish something, by uncovering a potential epidemic of Titans hiding among mankind; Annie and Eren are surely not alone.

For now, Eren still has the key to his basement, Annie remains encased in crystal under Hange’s care, and Erwin vows to go on the offensive against the Titans. We have plenty of seeds for a second season, which is apparently arriving some time this year. With all the questions left unanswered mysteries left unsolved, and, of course, that creepy Titan peering out from inside the wall, I don’t see how I can miss it.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 05

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When you become a ghoul, you may not be able to eat human food, but it isn’t automatically the end of your old life. Even for those who aren’t half-ghoul like Ken, your human life lives on, and ghouls are given a choice: to continue living moral lives and do as little harm as possible, or turn into a binge-eating beast.

The former seems quite a bit more difficult than the latter. For the likes of the late Rize and Shuu, humans are no longer anything but fodder. Yoshimura, Touka, Hinami, and the rest of the mainstreaming ghouls at Anteiku and elsewhere, still see humans as having value, and not just value as food, which they very much are at the end of the day.

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It’s silly to argue that denying yourself something you not only desperately want, but need for survival, is a more natural state than simply eating whoever when you’re hungry and not worrying about anything else. Murderous ghouls may shrug off their behavior as no different than a lion taking a gazelle, but that’s a false defense, because lions didn’t have the choice they had.

Also, Shuu isn’t just eating for survival, but for fun (and possibly sexual release). Like George Costanza, he’s turned food and sex (though not TV) into one disgusting uncontrollable urge. He’s rich and powerful, but look how alone he is in his dark and airy mansion. It’s only a matter of time before he ends up like Rize. He’s a walking talking cautionary tale on how not to live a ghoul life.

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Then there are those who toe the line between the worlds of man and beast, like Nishio Nishiki, who is alive. I thought Ken killed him for sure, but I underestimated a ghoul’s ability to heal. I didn’t really think much of him when he was last defeated—bored, arrogant college playboy; a smaller-time Shuu—but this episode doesn’t just see fit to return to his story, but fully flesh out his past.

Ken rescues Nishiki from a gang of ghouls as they’re about to eat him (we don’t see the fight that ensues, but Yomo’s training is working), then meets Nishiki’s lover, Kimi (whom we saw in the second ep). Shuu, keepping an eye on Ken, then uses Kimi as bait, and Ken and a still-weak Nishiki go to Shuu’s to save her. Shuu wants to eat Ken while’s he’s eating Kimi. Lovely.

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Even Ken, Nishiki, and a just-in-time Touka aren’t close to being match for him, as Touka’s friend’s cooking has weakened her considerably (and Shuu suggests she was once colder and thus stronger “long ago.) During the battle’s halftime we get a sprawling flashback of how Nishiki and his sister lived in squalor as young ghouls, but managed to scrape by.

Nishiki’s sister was reported and taken away by Doves, leaving him alone and very much leaning towards becoming a vengeful monster. Then he meets Kimi, a human, at college, and they start a relationship. As it turns out, he saved her, as she had lost her entire family in an accident just before they met.

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After Ken blasted a hole in him, Nishiki was again saved by Kimi’s love, when she offers him flesh from her shoulder to heal him. This is why, back in the present, no matter how much Shuu beats him down, he won’t give up until he’s dead. Kimi is everything to Nishiki, and while he may not be a saint, he’s at least capable of seeing humans as more than meat, which means there’s hope for him.

Ken may not have seen the flashback we saw, but he gets the same idea Kimi had when he realizes no one will get out of Shuu’s mansion alive if Touka can’t get stronger. So willingly offers to her the very thing Shuu has been going mad trying to take by force: his half-human flesh. Like Popeye’s spinach, it looks like it will do the trick, though that fight will have to wait until next week.

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