ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 11

ACCA: Jusan-ku Kansatsu-ka. I hadn’t really read the words until recently, but they roll right off the tongue in a very satisfying, elegant way, like ACCA the show itself.

I daresay ACCA is a sneaky show. It seems a bit slow and dull at first but the details keep you around. Then it becomes something you must watch at all costs. In this way, it’s like no other show airing this Winter, and its quality has been rewarded on MAL, rising from 6.97 on week one to 7.43 today, the biggest climb of any Winter ’17 show.

By the time Jean arrives in lavish, exotic Furawau for the thirteenth of thirteen district audits, nearly all pretense has fallen over his “job” as inspector, as Furawau is the district spearheading the coup.

Yet true to its name (“flower” in katakana), Furawau’s inhabitants are cheerful and elegant, and discreet in their welcoming of Jean for his true purpose.

But while it’s named for its flowers, the gleaming skyscrapers and lush palaces are paid for with oil. 90% of the entire nation of Dowa’s oil is supplied by Furawau. This makes them Arabia on steroids, which makes resource-poor Pranetta the comparatively oil-less Jordan.

When he leaves for his hotel, Jean does not give the Furawau chiefs a direct answer about whether he’ll rise up with them. But fortunately for Jean, Niino was listening in when the Princess’ assassins were loudly discussing their plan for slaying him.

When they draw their appropriately ornate golden revolver from the shadows, Niino is there not only to warn Jean, but take two bullets for him. He survives, but when he wakes up from surgery, he wonders out loud something I’ve wondered for many weeks now: whether Jean is merely being dragged into things by chance, or if he’s “prying into the whole mess” of his own accord.

Before leaving Furawau, Jean tells the chiefs he’s with them. Upon returning to Badon, he doesn’t stop by Mugimaki where Mauve continues to show up and wait. Instead, he visits Lilium as his brothers instructed, and shows him all thirteen cigarettes he’s collected.

I love how each one is  different in color and length, and how Pranetta’s is one of his own. Details that carry symbolism: Dowa is one big happy cigarette case. When Jean says anyone can ascend as long as it’s not him, Lilium counters that only he can protect both ACCA and the people.

What he isn’t telling Jean…could fill volumes. Like the fact he needs to present at least the air of proper succession, and probably needs the ACCA angle to strengthen their case. Lotta can’t fulfill either of those conditions…nor can Lilium himself.

When Rail first heard of him, he assumed Jean was an upper class snob who thought his own excrement did not emit odor. Turns out he was right about the “upper class” bit, but now that Rail knows who Jean is for sure, he thinks he’d probably be a better King than Schwan.

Rail tells Jean this while they smoke in the city night, after Jean thanks him for watching Lotta while he was away. And Jean appears to take Rail’s subtle endorsement to heart…maybe he will be better.

The next day, people from all thirteen districts start pouring into Badon for the upcoming ACCA centennial ceremony. This means we get all the ACCA agents Jean met on his travels in the same room, and of course they all know each other.

It’s a nice “lower decks” scene, watching subordinates shoot the breeze. The girls badger Eidar about her feelings for Jean, only to learn she’s dating Grus. One agent brings up the coup, and silence fills the room.

Every one of them seems generally on board with the plan…except Warbler, who, being stationed in Suitsu, is naturally the last agent to be informed of the coup. And while it’s easy to get all swept up in the excitement of dumping a harmful king for a better one, Warbler provides a much-needed voice of concern and reason.

He makes very good points about the risk ACCA’s leadership is taking by arranging such a coup. He also questions if the young, inexperienced Schwan would actually follow through on his threat to dissolve ACCA. He believes the royal family is aware that tipping the scales of power too far in their favor could break the whole system, and trusts them to be more pragmatic once Schwan ascends.

But no one can be certain Schwan won’t dissolve ACCA, and in any case, the decision has already been made by the brass, so Warbler’s protests go acknowledged but not acted upon. After Jean leaves a brief, almost curt meeting with Mauve (which has the air of a breakup), Warbler tries to tell him that this coup idea is ludicrous.

Jean responds by saying he’d really like Warbler to take his job, after “one final push”, then calls the prince a “real headache.” Could Jean be starting to get the feel for the power he’s about to attain?

Cut to the prince being a huge headache, acting petulant aboard his ornate royal plane, dismissing Magie’s advice to meet with his cousin (Jean) or get to know the people more. He’s only going to Badon to attend the ACCA ceremony, then leave.

Warbler might think Schwan’s position on ACCA is open to interpretation or subject to review by the rest of the royal family or the privy council. But Schwan probably doesn’t think any of that. When he’s king—and he’s going to be king, he tells himself—he can do as he pleases.

Lilium continues to uncork bottle after bottle of champagne in celebration of a total victory that is still yet to come. In another private one-on-one with Grossular, he lays out the plan I expected him and his district to have: install someone he can control, Jean, in order to control the nation. He hopes to act quickly and elegantly enough that by the time people notice what’s up it will be too late to do anything about it.

Now that he knows Lilium’s true intent, will Grossular continue to stand impotently by and let it happen, or is he intentionally appearing weak to lull Lilium into a false sense of security? Does Grossular have his own plans? And as Mauve asked both him and Jean before him: is he all right?

He responds the same way as Jean: with a simple ‘Yes.’ Here’s hoping that’s true, because some big things are going down next week.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 06

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If it were one of many other slow-burn shows, I might be itching for something to happen already near the show’s midpoint (assuming this only gets 13 eps – I may be wrong), even to the point of starting to hand out 7’s for lack of forward momentum.

And yet, ACCA continues to avoid such scrutiny with its unassuming, calm, quiet competence, all but unique this Winter as a show all about stopping to smell the roses…or freshly-baked bread.

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One of the most eventful things to happen happens right at the start, where Jean not only goes up to Grossular, but tells him he knows he’s being followed, denies any involvement in a coup, and expresses his certainty Gross isn’t involved either. Grossular, after all, was the ACCA officer in Rokkusu who made things right when a horrific train accident claimed, among many others, Jean and Lotta’s parents.

Jean meets Mauve at the bakery, but claims to have “nothing of note” to report to her. If he’s trying to stay in the director-general’s good graces, he could have at least told her about the attempted coup in Suitsu. I’d say that was pretty “of note.” Mauve immediately starts to doubt Jean’s usefulness…and loyalty.

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Things largely quiet down from there, as both the show, the nation of Dowa, and most of its inhabitants kick back and enjoy a New Year’s shindig in Jean and Lotta’s apartment building.

We learn about the businessmen Jean seems to help out during his auditing duties, and Lotta receives a cake from Rail, only for Owl to give her another cake minutes later.

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People seem drawn to Lotta, but there’s still no indication she’s anyone super-special…yet (the flashbacks also seem to eliminate some possibilities in that arena).

Officers note that the start of ACCA’s hundredth year in operation isn’t all that different from the start of previous years. Mauve has a pretty standard speech at an all-hands, and that’s pretty much it.

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Something notable does happen: Grossular joins the other four Top 5 officers in their common room, to ask Lilium why he leaked Crow to Jean. Lilium wanted Jean “to do something,” and while Gross may be right that such an action was reckless, Lilium does seem to win the argument by calling for a meeting of the five to discuss what Gross knows and how they’ll proceed together, no longer unilaterally. He gets that meeting; it should be a good one.

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Jean then heads to Hare, the tropical district where the ACCA uniforms are short-sleeved and informal and the district inhabitants live the longest lives in the nation, and live life with gusto accordingly.

After striking out with Mauve last time, Jean redoubles his efforts to get something, anything out of Hare’s chiefs. Yet, when he goes to meet Mauve at the bakery, she’s not there. Is it too late?

After Hare (one of Jean’s shorter audits), Jean heads to Dowa again, this time for an audit. Prince Schwan continues to try to force his grandfather’s hand in subtle ways like hanging his portrait in a place he spends lots of sittin’ time. Perhaps Jean will get more juicy info in Dowa.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 05

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Two of Lotta’s stalkers bond over sandwich bread

I continue to be both bemused and delighted by the sheer obsession with food, eating, and dining in ACCA and the culinary minutiae therein. The fact that these characters need their three squares a day, plus the occasional snacks, really anchors them in the land of reality. It also mirrors real life in its lack of traditional “action”, but that lack hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm for the show in the slightest.

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One of the most important moments of the episode—and of the show as a whole—surprisingly happens not during a meal, but during a car ride (which is also, in its utilitarian practicality, a tether to reality). In that car, Lilium basically lets slip to Jean that he has a tail, and the reason he can’t detect him is that he’s someone by whom he’s used to being watched.

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Jean’s a sharp guy, so it doesn’t take long for him to narrow it down to his friend the photog. And when he arrives in the wintry, hearty Birra district and Crow is already there with his camera, we finally see a look of shock on his face as Jean stops and turns back to look for…him. It’s not clear whether he sees him or not (Crow seems pretty far away, though he’s wearing black in the snow), but that look back is all Crow needs to know he’s been found out.

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“Could you two young brats flirt somewhere else? I’m trying to run a bakery here.”

Two elements of the episode that are a little more obscure in their intentions were the plotlines of Eidar very unsubtly showing up to see Jean, only to be crushed when he’s not there, and Maggie pursuing Lotta, only to learn where she lives, that her parents are deceased, and that she loves sandwich bread. I’m hoping we’ll find out soon what Lotta’s significance is, if there turns out to be any, of course.

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After a rather stern dinner with Birra’s ACCA supervisor, Jean walks into the tranquil, snow-covered forest to confront his tail, and the resulting confrontation is wonderfully offbeat. Jean doesn’t seem betrayed; on the contrary, he seems like he could care less…though he doesn’t wonder if all those times Niino got him drunk he was pumping him for information.

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Back home, Jean and Niino share a meal with Lotta like nothing happened, and Jean even makes him promise to stay with Lotta and take her out to eat every day he’s off on his next audit, this time of the Western-style Rokkusu District. Niino obeys, likely hoping he doesn’t miss anything good.

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The final scene during sunset in Rokkusu is full of intrigue, as is the little chat between Lilium and Pastice at the airport. Is Jean simply saying hello to a vaunted superior in his hometown, or is something else going on? Something…coup-y?

For the first time it looked like Jean was doing something counter to the person we’d seen up to that point; that he was finally showing us something he’d been hiding. I may be dead-wrong, but I’m having fun guessing as I enjoy the food-filled ride.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 04

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ACCA steps back from the larger national coup plot to let Jean continue his inspection duties, this time to Suitsu, which may be the most isolated district in Dowa, seemingly frozen in time due to a noble class that insists on the preservation of “tradition and formality.” Not only are any outside forms of technology forbidden, those like Jean who come from outside are given a tight leash so as to limit cultural contamination.

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Not surprisingly, there are many in Suitsu who aren’t too happy about that, and have been organizing for some time. Jean happens to get scooped up by a group of them who believe he overheard their talk of a coup. Turns out their coup isn’t the same coup Jean’s mixed up in. These guys simply want to open Suitsu up, allow it the same freedom as the other districts to grow and develop, not simply fester like some dusty diorama.

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But apparently, the coup attempt that occurs when Jean is around isn’t the first of its kind by any means. All such former attempts were squashed and all records of them happening kept secret from the outside districts. Jean, for the record, seems sympathetic to the rebel cause here, even offering potential clients from his home to help Suitsu open up. But he stops short of getting involved, serving more as an observer.

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Unfortunately, all the adventures he witnessed will be subject to a gag order as a condition of his being allowed to leave, and anyone arrested in the coup attempt freed. It’s basically a hard reset, with one important difference: we saw how Jean reacted to being in the middle of a mini-revolution.

Did the cigarette he received in his hotel room and Crow/Niino’s intense surveillance of him indicate he’s involved in the larger coup? Or like his Suitsu excursion, is he merely being moved by forces outside his control, like a leaf in the wind?

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 03

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ACCA’s obsession with things getting done over dinner, drinks, and parties continues apace, as Mauve quietly invites Jean to an intimate dinner that, considering Jean’s blushing, almost feels like a date. In reality, it’s a business engagement.

Mauve has been told to stop investigating, but she wants Jean, with his 13-district-wide gaze, to keep his eyes and ears open for intel on the coup rumors. She’s also concerned that if the heir apparent Prince Schwan (a known puffed-up doofus) ascends, it could threaten the peace of the kingdom.

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As for the Prince’s grandfather the king, he seems like a pretty laid-back, kindly fellow, more concerned with the selection of sweets and fruits at the royal gala than anything else.

Schwan’s a pretty typical idiot prince, and it’s not that comforting to know how close he is to the throne, at which time he vows to disband ACCA, install a puppet privy council president, and do other not-so-cool things. Even his secretary Magi only seems to respect the dude so much.

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As for Jean, he’s one of the many ACCA-affiliated guests who are invited to the event, including Mauve, all five chief officers, and Niino, who brings Lotta along as his assistant (but seemingly really just so she can get a taste of the high life, I’m guessing).

As he floats about the palace, Jean can’t help but feel again like he’s being watched, and it’s because, well, he is. There are rumors all over about an impending coup, and there are enough hotshots in one place to actually make something like that a possibility.

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The thing is, Jean, as far as we know, isn’t an intermediary for the rebels planning the coup. At least, that’s not what Chief Officer Lilium thinks. He trusts his instincts, which tell him he can trust Jean. Groshular, on the other hand, is the one he believes is really behind the coup plot. He’s responsible for the rumors, after all – what better way to deflect attention?

Jean is seen as someone who is a big fan of order and preserving peace, concepts both Lilium and Mauve share, which is why they both come to him seeking an alliance with him. No doubt they’ll work and work quickly to stop a coup from happening, if they can. The question that remains is, is Jean really the person they (and we) think he is?

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 02

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Despite the threat of bad things on the horizon, the still-for-now peaceful world of ACCA is a very comfortable place to jump into and spend time, and the show continues a relaxed pace that draws you in rather than makes you nervous or impatient.

While we start with more frankly unnecessary explanation of Dowa and ACCA (though it’s good to now know what an ‘acca’ is), we suddenly find that the “mushroomhead” rookie officer Rail was never going to be able to frame Jean Otus for anything, because the well-informed Jean was on to him all along. It’s a nice demonstration of Jean’s towering competence that it’s important to establish for later on.

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The show keeps things grounded in reality and humanity by continuing to show Jean and others hanging around food and drink. This week we see Jean have breakfast, lunch and dinner, having lively discussions in each one.

Jean’s also often grabbing food for the house and his sister, which is how he bumps into Mauve, who has been ordered to cease her solo investigations, which had to deal with rumors of a coup d’etat plot.

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We also meet an actual not-work friend of Jean’s in Nino, who is a freelance reporter (and certainly looks the part). He’s on good terms with Jean’s sister Lotta too, so Nino is clearly a guy Jean trusts when he tells him not to worry about the feeling he’s being followed.

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I’m loving watching Jean’s far-flung travels between districts, and the way it isolates him from both home and office. He’s out there on his own, autonomous, soaking everything in, doing his job with what seems to be pride.

And yet…is the Jean Otus we’re seeing just an elaborate, near-perfect cover? Chief Officer Groshular believes Otus has something to do with the coup plot, so he has an elite undercover agent following him…who it’s hinted at earlier with a silhouette, then confirmed to be Nino, whom Groshular calls “Crow.” What a tangled web ACCA weaves.

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Right now, it seems just as plausible (if not more so) Jean is totally innocent, and his unorthodox behavior, combined with an inaccurate tip, has led Groshular to cast his suspicions upon him. But it’s intriguing to wonder if we’re only trusting Jean based on what we’ve seen and not the person Jean Otus truly is, hiding just beneath the surface.

Once he arrives in Jumoku, Jean almost looks like Alice, dealing with people and things far bigger (or smaller, in the case of “Tintin”) than they should be. It adds to the disorienting feeling of who is following whom.

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Nino/Crow is clearly perfectly comfortable observing Jean in plain sight; they go back 15 years to high school (though Nino cryptically says he’s been watching him for 30), after all. So is Jean oblivious to the fact his buddy is his tail, or is he well aware, and on his toes to avoid giving Nino anything to work with? Does Jean only pretend to get really drunk to lull Nino in a false sense of security?

It looks like the makings of a great noirish cat-and-mouse game thus far, presented with stylish art and a gorgeous soundtrack. ACCA exudes confidence without arrogance, telling a good yarn without getting too serious about it. But always present is that subtle background noise of looming dread in a peaceful world.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 07

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This week’s Drrr! is all about the contrasts between similar pairs of people, starting with the Two grizzled Ivans somewhere in Russia, both post-Soviet arms dealers; one’s pretty much fire one’s pretty much water. The water Ivan is Vorona’s father, and she possesses both characteristics, sometimes in sync, but sometimes in chaos.

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When Egor enters Russia Sushi, Simon and Dennis initially suspect he’s there to knock them off, but he’s really there for Vorona over, among other things, stolen anti-materiel rifles. Dennis is doubtful Vorona would use such a weapon in Tokyo unless she was in “a real crisis”, and at that moment it become’s Chekhov’s AMR.

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For all its prolific complex, multi-modal, zig-zagging storytelling, Drrr is just as capable of focusing in one one person an delivering a quick, efficient profile. Vorona’s life as an assassin and general badass began with one of those real crises; an unsavory home invader.

Vorona, armed with a sprawling library full of knowledge in every field, but useful and useless, Vorona answers her sudden fear of being killed with a ruthless plan, luring the burglar into a trap and literally killing him with water (from the bath) and “fire” (from a hair-dryer), executing everything perfectly and precisely like her dad, but also seeming to take a bit of enjoyment from it like the other Ivan.

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Seeing this new side of Vorona for the first time, her dad let Simon and Dennis train her, and she learns quick. These two ex-military guys ostensibly came to Ikebukuro to start new, laid-back lives, but it’s cool to see their old lives on display here, and how closely they’re connected with Vorona, who’s only just arrived.

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Without their tutelage, she wouldn’t be nearly as tough and honed a killing machine as she is when we meet her. But because she’s not just a carbon copy of her father, once she gets really good, odd jobs and small fry aren’t enough for her. She seeks out her father’s rivals and eliminates them to a man, but not for his approval or to help with the family business or because they were an imminent threat. She did it because it was fun.

Her first kill was overzealous self-defense,  armed only with household appliance and her wits. But I don’t think Ivan turned his daughter into a monster by having her trained; he was only facilitating a foregone conclusion.

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That brings us to Vorona’s latest job; capturing Anri. Ikebukuro has been so weak and unimpressive to her thus far, she’s riding a wave of arrogance and invincibility, which rams her right into a concrete wall. Vorona is good, but she’s still human, and coming up against something not quite human is a glass of cold water to the face. Even more than that, it’s something she hasn’t read about in any of her books; an unknown.

Vorona and Anri are a lot alike, in that both are imminently capable and potentially dangerous young women, one of whom choses to explore that potential to the fullest, and one prefers as quiet and normal life as she can manage.

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Armed with her bookish knowledge, wits, resourcefulness, Vorona thrived, but she didn’t fact Anri with as an underdog, but with the mentality of of a favorite. Her earlier success wasn’t success at all; you cannot beheaded what is already headless. Suddenly outmatched by real and frightening aberrations, Vorona returns to that night before she took action, and remembers again what it’s like to fear being killed.

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In other words, she enters the “real crisis” mode Dennis thought so unlikely, whipping out the AMR and firing it right at Celty, blowing her away but obviously not killing her. Having bought some time, and learned more about what she’s dealing with, she’ll formulate a new strategy that doesn’t rely on brute force alone.

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That brings back to Mikado, who has followed Masaomi’s advice and stayed in of a Saturday night. Considering what went down, that looked like good advice. Of course, by staying in Mikado is subjected to another manipulative phone call from Izaya, who understands Mikado founded the Dollars not only to put some excitement in his life, but also to fit in, to belong within the ensuing community.

Just because that community is off doing unscrupulous things like picking fights with rival gangs, that Mikado doesn’t agree with, doesn’t mean it’s all falling apart, nor can Mikado impose his pacifist will on them without destroying the Dollars’ fundamental philosophy of freedom. The Dollars are evolving, that’s all, and Mikado’s fear of being left behind is similar in strength to Vorona’s fears about being weak, unable to cope with threats, or killed.

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It’s a New Day in the Dollars, and Mikado can’t stem the tide. Aoba, Izaya’s heir apparent arrives at his door the next day, as if to herald that fact. Simon’s voiceover returns, and he mirrors his earlier comparison of the two Ivans with these two Taros: one who is Mr. Nice Guy, and the other who uses nice guys.

Will Mikado evolve, or dig in and let the wave crash around him, leaving him alone and left behind, his greatest fears realized? Such a scenario suggests there’s no one around of like mind to help him resist that wave, which is untrue. But in that case it certainly points to some kind of conflict. Mikado can’t very well stay holed up in that room forever.

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Vividred Operation – 11

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As she’s taken away by the UDF, Rei calls the girls liars. Kenjirou determines she’s from another world and acts as beacon for the alones, leading them to the Manifestor engine. Not happy where they left things with Rei, the girls infiltrate UDF HQ. Akane breaks through to Rei’s cell, and they make up. But the crow arrives and tells Kenjirou its bosses won’t let this world have Manifestor technology. It swallows Rei whole and turns into a giant monster that destroys UDF HQ.

I see what’s going on now…you four were just pretending to be nice to me!

Even if Rei was correct in this assessment (she’s not), what she’s been hiding from them (that she’s trying to destroy their world for the sake of hers) is far worse, so she hardly has the moral high ground. Fortunately for Akane and the other three girls, they’re not so much guilty or upset as they are restless and totally unwilling to let Rei’s misunderstanding…stand. Even before learning the truth – that she’s a pawn with little choice in matters – it was important that they made her realize they weren’t pretending.

Unfortunately, while Rei is a sympathetic anti-heroine, and the girls’ assault on UDF HQ is pretty cool, Rei’s boss the “mediator” crow and the Q/Godlike beings it (she?) represents are pretty one-dimensionally evil and dull. They’re little more than inter-dimensional bullies pushing weaker beings around, only this time their would-be victims won’t go out without a fight, doubtlessly employing more crisp CGI, pose-striking and crotch shots.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Why exactly are there nude pictures of Rei in her computer profile? Aren’t there laws against that kinda stuff?
  • At the boardroom meeting, a government official calls Kenjirou’s theory of Rei being from a parallel world “a joke.” Mind you, he just received this information from a magical talking weasel.
  • Rei’s apartment is only depressing because of the lack of furniture. When this is all over maybe the girls can take her to Ikea!
  • The crow suddenly swallowing Rei…well now, that was unexpected!

Deadman Wonderland 11

Things can’t get much worse, but they will -that’s a good slogan for Deadman Wonderland. After managing to survive the first raid attempt, Karako rallies what’s left of Scar Chain to attempt to rescue Nagi. She keeps Ganta out of it, guilty of what she’s already put him through. Little does she know, her dear leader doesn’t want to be rescued, or even to live. And he doesn’t want anyone else to live either. He’s become a nihilist.

Ganta, desperate to do something and make a difference, trains with Crow – losing nearly all his blood in the process – and is introduced to a very creepily friendly Mockingbird (aka Toto). In fact, true to his/her name, Toto mocks both Crow and Ganta here, and it’s pretty unnerving to see Crow actually afraid of something; in this case, a deadman who’s stronger than him. When Genkaku calls Scar Chain out, having captured both Karako and Shiro (and seem to be threatening to rape them before they’re killed), Ganta is off to the races, having just improved his Ganta Gun by speeding it up, but very low on blood indeed.

This episode also had a brief cameo by Minatsuki, who gets Ganta out of an initial spot, but refuses to fight for Scar Chain – as she explains, she has to look out for Yoh, and she wasn’t framed; she is a murderer. She isn’t interested in freedom anymore. Ganta proceeds, and manages to knock out a bunch of undertaker guards with his faster blood bullets – but he’s far from out of the woods, as he still has to deal with Genkaku, the second grader, and a new, “sane” Nagi – while suffering from anemia. Most important, he has to apologize to Shiro. This was definitely one of Ganta’s more assertive moments…but will it mean anything? Just one more episode to determine that. Rating: 3.5

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Shiro calls Ganta weak and a jerk. Truer words were never spoken. At least he admits he’s pathetic, but I have to say I was pretty disappointed with his reaction to Shiro saving his life by tossing the datachip bomb. Neither he nor the rest of Scar Chain could connect the dots until a totally tweaked-out Rokuro showed up at their hideout to spell it out to them. Of course, the damage is already done; Ganta has already slapped Shiro and told her he never wants to see her again. Treating Wretched Egg like that will have consequences.

So Rokuro arrives to take the remnants of the resistance hostage until Nagi/Owl defects to the Undertakers. The Priest pumps him full of drugs to speed things along. Beneath his earlier calm demeanor, Owl does seem to be barely-contained utter chaos personified. Rokuro comes with undertakers (both silly-looking freaks of nature) who seem ready to kill Ganta when Crow arrives in the nick of time with an awesome supersonic blood blade. He then refuses to help Scar Chain, basically contradicting what he just did (help a weakling) by saying only the strong should survive. Ganta may have potential to be strong, but he isn’t strong now. He seems helpless.

And losing Shiro, even temporarily, didn’t help. Now she’s making friends with Mockingbird, whose motives we can only guess. What we do know is that s(he) is androgynous and voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, and gained some of Shiro’s trust by warning her about the datachip Ganta carried. Ganta needs to get his shit together. Weeks past, he was able to defeat both Crow and Hummingbird. Where the heck did that strength go? Finally, we get a brief glimpse at Makina’s personal crusade to expose Tamaki, but it seems the defence ministry is already well-aware and complacent with his methods and plans. I’m holding out hope Makina will have a role to play in Wonderland’s demise – if it occurs. Rating: 3.5

Deadman Wonderland 7

Another amazing episode. This one was jam-packed with new characters, new twists, new opportunities and new hazards for our seemingly cursed protagonist, Ganta. There’s even a moment when he, Yoh, and Minatsuki seem as normal and comfortable as Ganta with his old, dearly departed friends. That brighter tone doesn’t last, but it I am glad the series is mixing moments of levity/comedy/romance in with the horror. Even Senji makes an appearence, exhibiting no hard feelings for Ganta.

More big news come in the form of a Lal’C-looking lady (Koshio) who socks Ganta then brings him to the hideout of Scar Chain, DMW’s underground resistance. They like his spunk and his straight-arrowness, and want him on their team. Scar’s leader even makes sure the only thing Minatsuki loses in her Penalty Game is her hair. Seems to good to be true, and it is, as their encounter is rudely interrupted by Promotor Tamaki’s “ultra-priest” pal, Genkaku, owner of a Fender Explorer that turns into a machine gun. However, if they ever get out of this, Scar Chain should team up with Warden Makina – she’s apparently also sick of the insanity around here, and of Tamaki in particular.

The episode also gives us loads of new info about Ganta’s childhood, notably, that his mom was a scientist, Shiro showed signs of superhuman strength even back then, and there were experimental terror dogs roaming wherever it was Ganta hung out back then. He was also a fan of the super-hero Ace-Man, who bears an uncanny resemblence to the mysterious Wretched Egg, “Red Man”, who originally set Ganta up. Oh, and can’t overlook this lil’ nugget: SHIRO is the friggin’ Wretched Egg. Ganta can’t catch a break! Rating: 4

Deadman Wonderland 6

Was I surprised that the sweet, charming, adorable inmate-ette-next-door Minatsuki turned out to be a totally bonkers sadistic lying bitch? Not totally; I saw her in the opening credits looking totally bonkers, and she also has a pierced tongue, which clearly means she’s evil ;) What I didn’t know was that everything Yoh was doing was for her sake; not like she cared.

The past she narrates to Ganta at first suggests her widowed father beat her, leading to her using her branches of sin as a last resort, but her power works so quickly, she could just as easily inflicted her own wounds without anyone knowing. Minatsuki, or “Hummingbird” is consistently all over the place with her past and her motives, but one thing is certain: she isn’t happy. She’s also extremely unpleasant, but I like her anyway!

Another thing that’s certain: Ganta has a hard head, which he uses to win by KO, flipping off the crowd that wants him to kill her. He doesn’t. I’m glad he didn’t, because for all her lunacy and two-facedness, Minatsuki has a lot of potential. Like Crow, she is both entertained and tortured by her power, and sickened by the weakness around her. Perhaps not a perfect match for Ganta, but definitely moreso than Shiro.

Shiro, who as far as we know was a childhood friend of Ganta’s, is also an instrument of the Wonderland’s founder, “No Name”, who is holed up in a hospital ward/lab, and isn’t happy with how the promoter is doing things. After her outburst last week, she’s brought here to recover, but after seeing what she’s capable of, it will be interesting to see if her childlike demeanor or innate need to protect Ganta endured that incident. Rating: 4

Deadman Wonderland 5

The date of the much bally-hooed duel between Crow and Woodpecker finally arrives, and Ganta gets himself into trouble almost immediately. While backing off of Crow and perching himself on the high ground seems like a good idea, not only are his blood projectiles ineffective at long range, they soon put him in shock from loss of blood. The Branch of Sin doesn’t always mean instant victory, especially when facing off someone with the same power, but knows better how to use it.

So Crow knocks the tree down and starts laying into him with his blood-blades, sharp and deadly, but not anemia-causing. The battle looks all but over until the typical usually-weak shounen Gets Back Up (TM) with nothing but Willpower. When stuck in the bowels of the prison with Yoh, Shiro tells him that’s Ganta’s trait; but like I said, he’s hardly unique amongst shounen protags when it comes to taking punishment. When he defeats Crow, Ganta isn’t bitter, and even gives him a fist bump for a well-fought fight. The situation ends up giving Ganta hope that things may end up okay, only to lose that hope when Crow, the loser, has his eye removed without anesthesia on live TV.

As for Shiro, Yoh tricks her into starting a one-girl riot in the watchtower so he can save his own ass and be rid of her. I initially think this is the end for Shiro, but she becomes even more ruthlessly violent, destroying everyone in the tower and the tower itself. Watching all the bodyparts rain over Yoh’s head is a disturbing sight, but not nearly as much as Shiro’s CREEPY grin she cracks while standing atop a pile of rubble, with someone’s head in her hand. Somebody show this girl Ganta, quick! Rating: 4