ID: INVADED – 04 – Hiding a Leaf in the Forest

We begin with one of the worst things that can be done to a person: high schooler Kikuchi Keiko has been buried alive. She is the seventh such victim of the “Graverobber”, and is aware of the past victims because like her, they were all livesteamed on the internet to a morbidly fascinated audience. Once again, the police are fighting against a ticking clock to prevent a seventh death.

Worse still, their most reliable “pilot” drove another criminal to suicide simply by talking to him about the furthest reaches of their psyche, which of course he saw when in their Id Wells. He’s in solitary while they try to use the Perforater as a substitute pilot, but his survival rate is too low to make any progress. It has to be Narihisago. He’s the best they’ve got.

And yet, even the Brilliant Detective Sakaido finds that the Id Well they were able to create from the perp’s cognition particles has a high level of difficulty. He’s trapped in a massive, undulating apartment block that is currently on fire and full of burnt corpses.

The stange thing is, he finds a burnt-to-death Kaeru above the flames, suggesting they weren’t the flames that killed her. He spots a ten-year-old Keiko on the other side of a huge gap between blocks, and wants to rescue her, but solving Kaeru’s murder must come first if they’re to find the real life Keiko.

As Narihisago is killed and re-injected again and again into the Well, he gets more exhausted and makes mistakes. Momoki decides to give him a break, but neither he nor his colleagues are interested in taking a break themselves, even if it means staying up two straight days. There’s a girl buried somewhere who is slowly running out of air. Rest can come once they find her.

This episode has an air of urgency and desperation that surpasses the previous episodes (with the possible exception of the one in which Hondomachi was kidnapped). And even though Narihisago is a murderer who has driven five other inmates to suicide while in captivity, the officers still end up rooting for him to survive and “win” in the Id Well, because if he wins, they win.

Sakaido finally makes it to the other side and climbs up to the unburnt apartment where the young Keiko is waiting. She even says something that helps Sakaido crack the case wide open. Kaeru wasn’t killed, i.e. Keiko wasn’t buried by the Graverobber at all, but by a copycat.

Young Keiko even points out by name the “failure” of a man responsible, and the police move quickly to locate and apprehend him (it comes down to the pattern of the rug under Kaeru’s corpse matching the one in the suspect’s lair, under which Keiko is sealed in an airtight barrel.

Alas, the livestream was never live to begin with, but a recording that gave the police a false sense that they still had time. In reality, Keiko has been dead of asphyxiation for nearly a week. After working so hard to find her, it’s a gut punch for all involved, including Sakaido once he hears the bad news from Momoki.

Pulling the rug out from beneath our feet, we the audience are similarly frustrated and that much more angered at the creature of a man that is the copycat Graverobber, not to mention the still-at-large Graverobber himself. The case wasn’t solved in this episode, but it did make the case for why, having spent time in their psyches, a once-righteous detective like Narihisago could develop sudden impulse to kill the suspects he helps capture.

Because of this, he’s not even sure he can call himself a person anymore, but Momoki assures him he is. And when Momoki asks if Narihisago still considers him a friend (they were once partners on the force), Narihisago tells him that friendship one of the only things he has left tethering him to reason.

Being dumped into the minds of depraved criminals is enough to drive anyone from reason, but somehow Narihisago has endured. He’ll have to continue to endure as the cops try to find leads to the real Graverobber’s whereabouts. The newly recovered Hondomachi may have found the first such clue in Kazuta Haruka, a missing person and one of the Perforator’s victims.

ID: INVADED – 03 – A Gawker Just Enjoys the Scene

I don’t believe we’ve been told who precisly Sakaido killed or how to land him in prison, but regardless of his crime it’s awfully hard not to sympathize with the guy. For one thing, he’s always dreaming of his wife and daughter, the good times always turning to bad before he wakes up. They weren’t just murdered, they also suffered terribly.

The pain and regret of not being there to protect them probably broke a sizable chunk of the Sakaido That Was. His investigative work within the Mizuhanome, psychologically invasive as it is, would seem to be not just a welcome respite, but a necessity for keeping what’s left of him intact and carrying on.

The things he did to end up with such a job are also the reason Matsuoka discourages Hondomachi from considering a similar line of work in no uncertain terms. When visiting her in the hospital. She’s missing frontal lobe matter but is already bouncing off the walls, desperate to get back to work, and romanticizes “The Great Detective” a pilot like Sakaido plays within Id Wells. But Matsuoka warns her: it’s a sacrifice tantamount to suicide.

As I said, one Sakaido went into this line of work, and another came out. Hondomachi doesn’t feel she’s loved or even valued by her family, while Sakaido’s family was murdered. Both detectives seek solace and purpose through work, creating their own value. Hell, Hondomachi could be a mirror to Sakaido’s past, when his work kept him away from the family he loved until one day they were gone.

This week’s Id Well is nothing like the previous two, demonstrating that we’re in for a new trippy psychological ride every week or so. This time he and roughly 70-80 random people standing on a giant turret surrounded by infinite waterfalls on all sides…very Myst Uru. This is the Id Well of “The Pyrotechnician”, who is responsible for very public, very meticulous bombings.

Kaeru is there too, already dead, while the others start falling one-by-one to rounds fired by a sniper hiding in the waterfalls. Like the stylized “Brilliant Detective” role Sakaido plays, Kaeru is a stylized version of his daughter, helping him remember himself, grounding him in whatever crazy dreamworld in which he ends up.

Sakaido is good, but not so good he doesn’t get killed a couple of times, requiring his handlers to quickly extract and re-inject him, resetting the scenario but allowing him to learn from the previous dives. But trial and error is only the start of his investigation. He eventually determines that there is only one sniper, but the turret on which his victims stand is turning, allowing the sniper to make quick successions of kills.

Sakaido eventually successfully hides from the shooter until there is only one man remaining other than himself—and it’s always the same man. He also happens to have a handsome but somehow artificial-looking face, which means the Pyrotechnician altered his face with plastic surgery. That is enough for the cops to track him down and for Mitsuoka to apprehend him.

In what seems like going a bit too far with the ironic punishment, the people Sakaido helps to apprehend end up his prison mates, occupying adjacent cells and enabling them to have a dialogue. The Pyro explains that his acts, which netted photos like the ones he took of people gawking and holding up their phones at the destruction and carnage, “exposed the emptiness of humanity” by showing that neither life or death matter.

Sakaido turns it around on Pyro. Just as he was in the Id Well, and in the bombing four years ago when he was a war photographer, Pyro always desired to be the Last Man Standing. He was the ultimate gawker, producing scenes of hell and watching the masses take it in, knowing humans can’t resist.

Then Sakaido tells Pyro his days are over, and that he’ll never see hell again, except in his memories, always a pale shadow of reality. The Pyro can’t really dispute anything Sakaido is saying, because the guy was in his unconscious, where truths are plain to see.

It’s enough to drive Pyro to suicide in the middle of the night. I’m not sure if Sakaido intended that, but he’s doubtless a man who abhors killers, and was none too happy about Pyro mentioning his daughter. ID:INVADED is proving to be a dense, nervy, and captivating depiction of crime-fighting from within the minds of the criminal.

ID: INVADED – 01/02 (First Impressions) – Some Assembly Required

When we meet the self-described “brilliant detective” Sakaido, he’s literally gone to pieces, as has the entire world around him. He soon calms down from the initial horror of such a status and puts himself back together, save a few gaps in his arm. He learns those are a boon, which allow him to fit the various pieces of his environment back together.

We’re in the same boat as Sakaido: a pile of pieces are spread out before us instead of a “whole” world. But it’s not really a world; it’s the unconscious of a serial killer Sakaido is investigating, and all of his victims (plus one little girl) dwell within that unconscious.

As we pull out to the real world, we see a team cops hard at work on the outside of the “Id Well” created by the Mizuhanome system led by Momoki, while Sakaido works within it. There are clues within the well for those clever enough to see them, and Sakaido is the man for the job. We also learn that only someone who has killed can enter such wells.

Once Sakaido finds enough clues as to the murderer’s whereabouts (literally piecing the world back together), field analysts Matsuoka and Hondomachi (a grizzled veteran and green rookie, respectively) head out to track him down. But their quarry, known as the “Perforator” due to his M.O. of drilling holes in his victims’ heads, uses his latest victim as a decoy to misdirect Matsuoka, then kidnaps Hondomachi.

When the Perforator threatens to drill a hole in her head, a defiant Hondomachi realizes the only way she’ll be located by her colleagues is to drill the hole herself, so she drives her head into the spinning bit, creating an Id Well of her own into which Sakaido is quickly transferred. It’s a reckless risk, to be sure, but it shows us that Hondomachi is willing to take those risks for the sake of Justice.

Unlike the puzzle world of the killer, Hondomachi’s well is a wasteland filled with mammoth drills, one of which kills Sakaido (or rather his avatar within the well) within 69 seconds. But that’s enough for HQ to determine Hondomachi’s whereabouts, and Matsuoka manages to rescue her and arrest the Perferator, who is so impressed by Hondomachi’s initiative he surrenders willingly.

But the Perferator is only a symptom. The disease this weird futuristic police force is pursuing is known as “John Walker”, who resembles the guy on the whisky bottle. His avatar appeared in the Perforator’s Id Well, and is believed to be the one turning people into serial killers.

Sakaido is extracted from the Id Well and escorted back to his spartan prison cell, decorated only by dozens of photos of his wife and daughter Muku—a very effective way to wordlessly humanize him. Every Id Well he’s dove into has featured a murdered girl in Kaeru, who may not look like Muku but still reminds him of her, and why he’s in this strange business in the first place (I’m sure we’ll learn the details of that later).

While there’s a bit of a learning curve with all of the jargon, and there are more than a few similarities to PSYCHO-PASS, the third season of which I didn’t bother with, ID:INVADED nevertheless scratches a future crime unit itch I wasn’t aware of until now.

Sarazanmai – 02 – Let Slip the Cats of War

As a reward for defeating their first kappa zombie, Keppi bestows upon the boys a silver “Dish of Hope” they can use to wish for anything. Enta snatches it and accidentally wishes for a hatchback-sized cucumber roll, shattering the dish and leaving the three with no reward (unless they’re going to eat that roll…which is on the ground).

Kazuki is eager to earn another dish that he can use not to fulfill his own wish, but that of his little brother Haruka. We learn that he is the “Harukappa” to whom Kazuki is sending selfies of himself-as-Azuma Sara. Kazuki’s only wish is that Haruka is happy, and a dish can only help that cause.

Meanwhile, Kuji Toi is up to more criminal mischief on behalf of his older brother, while Enta receives a Kappazon package meant for Toi—containing a handgun of all things—strengthening Enta’s belief he’s Bad News

When Nyantaro, the fat, awesome neighborhood cat Haruka adores, sneaks into Toi’s weed-growing lab and steels a shipment hidden in cat treats, another ludicrous chase ensues. Kazuki (dressed as Sara again) stops Toi when he threatens Nyantaro with his metal ruler, and refuses to get out of his way or stop following him.

The chase leads them to a couples-only theme park, an employee of which dresses the two up in bee costumes and insists they hold hands the entire time they’re in the park. Kazuki and Toi hold hands and chase Nyantaro on ride after ride, but can’t manage to close the distance, since we’re talking about a neighborhood cat here: if he doesn’t want to be caught, it’s not happening.

We learn a little more about the two bishounen cops from the end of last week, who appear to do an elaborate song and dance of their own to extract desire and create a new cat-based kappa zombie boss.

It’s apparent these two and Keppi’s three young helpers are working at cross purposes, but the cops’ specific motivations, beyond their commitment to “wring out the desire”, remain mysterious.

Not soon after their “performance”, thousands of cats start to float up into the sky, including Nyantaro, and Enta and Keppi (disguised as his date) meet up with Kazuki and Toi to discuss the situation. Enta warns Kazuki to stay away from the kid he’s currently holding hands with, but in order to get his little brother’s favorite cat back, he needs Toi’s help.

Events from there follow a pattern now familiar after the first go-around last week (in what I like to call the Ikuhara Formula): Keppi turns the three lads into kappa, they attack the zombie boss (this time a giant cat), and when they determine its secret (he kidnapped cats and shaved them to give himself a coat of fur so his girlfriend would take him back! Of COURSE!!), they  break through and extract its shirikodama.

Once that’s done, the guys go through the titular sarazanmai, during which it’s revealed that Nyantaro was owned by another family before Kazuki stole it so Haruka could have a cat (even if it was only a neighborhood cat). He defends what he did because he did it for his brother’s sake; his happiness trumping all other considerations.

With the second boss defeated, the lads receive another silver dish of hope, and Kazuki and Toi immediately argue over it, with Toi even brandishing his gun. Since both have brothers they want to make happy, and Keppi informs them they’ll need five to grant a real wish, Toi cedes the dish to Kazuki, but he’s getting the next one.

That night, Kazuki finally completes his mission to take a Sara selfie with a cat (specifically the rescued Nyantaro), to Haruka’s delight. Exhausted from the day of activity, he passes out right there in the park, where he’s approached by none other than Enta…who promptly kisses him! Looks like he’s got a secret too—one that re-contextualizes why he was so concerned with Kazuki hanging around Toi.

The two cops also now realize somebody is out there working against them. It’s likely only a matter of time before the two opposing groups clash. In the meantime, on with the hope-dish collecting!

After two episodes, I now have a better grasp of the beats and rhythms of a show that definitely dances to the beat of its own drum. With less head-scratching to do I could concentrate better on all the little details that contribute to making Sarazanmai such a fun and exciting little show that’s unafraid to challenge contemporary “norms”of gender and sexuality.

ēlDLIVE – 01 (First Impressions)

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Kokonose Chuuta is a high schooler who avoids contact with others and is always talking to a voice no one else hears. One day he’s scooped up by ēlDLIVE, a space police force, who immediately put him to work apprehending an alien criminal, who turns out to be his buxom teacher.

The voice belongs to an alien who lives within him, and with its help Chuuta successfully arrests the alien and is formally accepted into ēlDLIVE. Among the bureau’s members is his classmate and crush Sonokata Misuzu.

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Isn’t it always the way: you try to keep your head down and lead a quiet life helping your auntie at her muffin shop, only to be recruited by a bizarre space police unit? ēlDLIVE presents that rather outlandish scenario, and does it with a brisk pace, confidence, and humor.

Not only that, the person who had been the least human-looking character – Chuuta’s teacher – turns out to be an alien perp in disguise. His crush is pretty generically hostile to him, but at least she’s voiced by Hayami Saori.

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ēlDLIVE is fine harmless fun, but there’s not much to it beyond its vivid candy coating, and while it tries to go out there with kooky alien designs, the weird alien that harmlessly pops out of Chuuta’s chest just…doesn’t look that cool. Nor does Chuuta himself, who I guess is supposed to be an innocent weenie.

Still, both the premise and the execution smacks of a show with limited appeal for actual adults – this has Saturday morning kid’s cartoon all over it, unlike something darker like Parasyte. I don’t foresee ēlDLIVE lasting long on my Winter watchlist, but it is inoffensive and decent for what it is.

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Kotoura-san – 10

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Moritani is arrested under suspicion of being the perpetrator of the random attacks. The rest of the ESP Society visit her at the police station, and Kotoura gets through to the investigators, but they won’t accept her help. Yuriko and Kotoura decide to try to catch the criminal on their own to free Moritani. Muroto stands by Yuriko, but Manabe is staunchly against it. He and Kotoura get in a fight and he storms off, and another attack occurs that exonerates Moritani, who is released. Still wanting to redeem her mother, Yuriko decides to use herself as bait to lure the criminal, and succeeds…

As normal as Kotoura has been acting lately, she still believes she is somehow a bad person who doesn’t deserve the friends and love she’s gained thus far. This has been ingrained in her both by her parents and by everyone she’s accidentally hurt with her ability. It’s every bit as much about her inability to discern which thoughts to outwardly respond to and which not to that has gotten her into trouble so many times. And indeed, she is unable to have a conventional relationship with a boy simply because she cannot help but read his dirty, adolescent mind. It’s usually played for laughs, but its also somewhat tragic.

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Because she feels she doesn’t deserve friends, she decides to do whatever she can to help Moritani, even if she gets hurt in the process. Manabe is reliably protective of her, and with damn good reason: Kotoura’s gift of telepathy is rivaled only to her gift for self-destruction. Just because she can help doesn’t mean she needs to; that’s what police are for. But Kotoura’s guilt for having what she believes she doesn’t deserve, combined with her knowledge of Yuriko’s mother issues (we learn she was present when she hung herself…rough), compels Kotoura to act, regardless of the danger she puts herself in.

Manabe, to his credit, does not bend; he wants no part of Yuriko’s vigilante plan, and…he isn’t. He disappears for the rest of the episode and he and Kotoura don’t speak. Not long after their first date, it’s their first fight…which isn’t resolved by episode’s end. In fact, nothing is; we unfortunately get another cliffhanger with Yuriko about to be truncheoned in the head by the attacker. Though we’re pretty sure this series isn’t going to kill one of the main characters, and we’re almost positive Manabe won’t go back on his promise to stay by Kotoura’s side. For one thing, her gramps would put out a hit on him…


Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Sorry for  the long review, but this episode was packed. We had to mention the Yuriko/Daichi relationship, how he always stays by her side (out of pity, obligation, loyalty, love, or a combination of these, we don’t know) no matter what, and a really nice close up of his hand taking hers, and her trembling stopping. These two clearly mean a lot to each other, even if they’re not remotely romantic.

P.S.S. We enjoyed Kotoura’s scenes with the old detective (though his secret thoughts were awfully stereotypical homicide detective) and Tsukino (who is a bit of a blunt airhead), and how she’s saddened by the fact Tsukino has no friends.