Carole & Tuesday – 06 – Kicked Up to the Big Stage

Right off the heels of their first sparsely attended gig, Gus has a second one for them, courtesy of Hofner (through Beth). They’ll be backing up Omega—and their notoriously flaky drunk frontman—at Cydonia, one of if not the biggest concert on Mars. They’ll be playing to one hundred thousand fans who wanted to hear Omega. The prospect of all those hostile people “breaks” Tuesday.

Oh yeah, the show’s tomorrow, so they have to spend part of the night and the train ride there writing and practicing a song. Everything about this gig is already ridiculously implausible…and I’m not talking about them being on Mars! Even with the explanation that no other band would bother if there’s a chance Joshua will play, it makes no sense for Hofner to not already have a list of professional bands eager for their shot backing up Omega.

But whatever, Carole and Tuesday are super-lucky! Fine. And the place is pretty cool; we finally get a good look at Mars’ rolling red hills and valleys, and Cydonia looks kinda like a Burning Man-style oasis in that wasteland.

Carole and Tuesday have some time before they go on, so they soak it all in, including, hopefully, some of one of their favorite singer Crystal’s air. Meanwhile Roddy does his job as DJ Ertegun’s AI operator, and Ertegun plays the same track we’ve heard to a delirious crowd.

That crowd’s reaction is somewhat outsized for what sounds like someone hitting a 2003 Casio keyboard’s DEMO key, but again, whatever.

Joshua arrives, and there’s a funny sight gag where he seemingly steps surefootedly out of the car, only to crumple into a human slinky; dude is tossed, which means C&T are most likely on. Panicking in their trailer, they eventually go outside, only to run into Roddy and Ertegun.

They run and hide—because he can’t press charges if he can’t catch them, I guess?—and end up in the smoke-filled trailer of “Skip”, who is very spooky and threatening at first, but gives them the most uninspiring inspirational speech before going on stage and performing what was actually the best piece of music in the episode, but which was still pretty bland, with lyrics that might be forgivable if written by a middle schooler.

When Joshua can’t take the stage due to some kind of “Beetle” problem (or is it “Beatle”?), C&T take the stage for him, with the reception you’d expect from people who paid good money to see Omega, not two amateurs with one official gig under their belts.

If I’m sounding overly harsh about this episode, it’s because this episode was harsh. Also, because the show believes C&T to be some kind of generational world-changing talent. But I’ve reached my limit.

Here’s the thing: the “Dancing Laundry” is vapid trash. I wouldn’t throw trash at them if they played it at a concert I attended—that would be despicable—but I would probably walk away to buy some beer or get in line for the toilets…anything to get away from that.

But here’s another thing: C&T actually are good by the standards of music in this world. Ertegun is a hack, Skip is inskipid, and the less said about Omega, the better. The duo still took the stage, played as hard as they good, and endured the abuse of the crowd until Omega took over.

I just couldn’t feel that bad for Tuesday crying afterwards, because from my ears they did nothing to turn that crowd around, and as unfairly impossible as a feat as that might have been, if C&T are as good as everyone says, then why not have them win that crowd over? They like all the other crap we had to listen to!

The last nail in the coffin of this stinker of an episode is Crystal, who to her credit seems like a nice lady, comforting the duo and giving them kudos for persevering in front of such a hateful crowd. But even the mega pop star can’t help but sing lyrics that sound like they were generated by a computer algorithm…a bad one.

Carole & Tuesday draws you in with its lush and intricate setting, warm, likable protagonists, and game supporting cast. But then somebody starts singing and you have to turn down the volume and hope it stops soon, and all the show’s goodwill is spent. It’s a big problem. In the future, on Mars, music is apparently terrible.

Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo featured good music from real artists, and neither of those Watanabe shows were even about music! How could the ball have been dropped so badly here? MAL doesn’t even list anyone on the staff as responsible for music. Maybe computers really did make it…

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 02

This week, Chise gets a better idea of what her new life will be like, though she still dreams about the awful life she used to lead; a life she was willing to discard because she didn’t think it had any value. Now people treat her gently and with respect.

Silky, Elias’ “landlady” cooks and cleans and provide Chise with clothes. After watching her mother commit suicide after telling Chise she shouldn’t have been born, this kind of care seems welcome.

Chise accompanies Elias to London—an up-to-date London that includes The Shard—and while there he swaps his “bony” face for a human one—a handsome one, at that.

Elias takes Chise to the shop of another mage, Angelica, who has some issues with how Elias procured his new apprentice, and is taken aback when a simple rookie mage test—turn a crystal into one’s favorite flower—nearly gets out of hand, with Chise transporting herself to a memory of her and her mom in a field of poppies.

Elias tells Angelica that Chise is a Sleigh Beggy, an individual for whom the miracles that comprise the practice of magic come far more frequently than they would for someone less attuned to magic. After seeing the crystalline growths that populated Angelica’s arm, I felt nervous about Chise’s feet upon creating a partial landscape of her memory from that crystal.

Angelica doesn’t blame Chise, though; she didn’t know Chise is a Sleigh Beggy—something Elias didn’t tell her because that’s a dangerous nugget of information in their line of work. But like Elias, Angelica can tell that, like her own daughter, Chise will make a fine mage one day; it’s just a matter of proper training. Chise and Elias head from London back to the countryside.

After meeting with the local priest, who more or less gives Elias and Chise his blessing and an offer of assistance, Chise and Elias head to Iceland, a a land of dragons—and Chise almost immediately gets kidnapped by one said dragon.

Again, this show makes me recall Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, whose redheaded heroine was kidnapped more than once and had to be rescued (though during captivity she helped facilitate that rescue). We’ll see if Chise manages to use her newfound magical powers to attempt escape from her captors, if it once again falls mostly to Elias to rescue her. At this early stage in her apprenticeship, I won’t hold it against her for needing a hand…especially against a dragonrider!

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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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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Comet Lucifer – 02

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We return to the caverns where Sogo, Kaon, and the mystery girl who emerged from the giant Giftdium crystal basically stand around trying not to get smushed, incinerated, or riddled with bullets from two dueling mechas: the one that seems to be protecting the girl, and the one piloted by Gus Stewart (who apparently isn’t drunk anymore).

The former ends up winning out, as it has an answer for everything Gus throws at it.  Then the kids fall down another big hole, but this time we’re shown how they survive: the girl’s mecha catches them and cushions their fall. Then Roman and Otto appear literally out of nowhere and call a truce so they can all escape the crumbling caverns.

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Back at the cafe above which Sogo lives, the group determines their next moves. Roman postpones the arranged wedding until further notice, and they wait for the girl to wake up. When she does, she seems to parrot everything Kaon says and beam with glee at every new word, object, or piece of tarte tatin placed in front of her.

In other words, she’s a sponge for information, and seems to be experiencing everything for the first time. She’s also a very cute little kid. While Kaon and the girl are in the shower (amazingly, Sogo doesn’t walk in on them) he finds a curious green rock on the floor. When he tries to saw into it, it reveals itself as some kind of bizarre creature that can talk.

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Meanwhile, Gus Stewart wallows in his failure, but is presented with an even more sophisticated “assault bipetal armor” code-named Efreet, which he agrees to use…well, I’m a little fuzzy on his exact goals…furthering the prosperity and greatness of the entity he serves? Restoring a bit of his old lustre from back in the days of the “Great War?” The city we saw seems like a gorgeous and wonderful place to live; I’m wondering why all these military types are so keen to shake things up when they already have a nice thing going.

And in a rather harsh contrast to the cute, hyper little girl flitting about laughing and naming things, Gus breaks an old comrade out of jail: a killing machine of a kid named “Pack” who makes Gus’ plans even more nebulous. Does he need a co-pilot for Efreet? Will Pack be piloting his own beside him? If capturing Felia (the girl) is his goal, is there really a need for this homicidal maniac?

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Disjointed narratives and clashing tones aside, it was fairly obvious after the mecha protecting Felia vanished without a trace, and a small green ball fell out of Roman’s car, that that green ball was the mecha in miniaturized form, and that one way or another, it was going to activate while inside the cafe, causing a huge amount of damage.

That is indeed what happens when Felia messes up her telekinetic powers and drops hot curry on Sogo. This occurance, along with a crest on Sogo’s hand, show that this mecha, which Felia calls Moura once it appears, isn’t just protecting her, but Sogo as well. Who can say when this bunch of kids will cross paths with Gus again (or other government officials/evil dudes), but I imagine they’ll be able to hold their own with Moura on their side.

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Comet Lucifer – 01 (First Impressions)

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Well, I know one thing: We’ve got ourselves the first real breaktaking looker of the Fall so far in Comet Lucifer. From lush cityscapes to solid mechanicals and bright, attractive character design, there’s plenty to look at, and there’s shades of both Castle in the Sky and Eureka Seven in the futuristic-fantasy setting, as well as the premise: young crystal miner Sogo finds the rock of his life, along with all the accompanying baggage that comes with it.

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Sogo is so excited by his new find, he takes to speeding through the streets of Garden Indigo well above the recommended speed. As a result, he nearly hits a little girl and a dog, but does hit his friend/love interest Kaon (Takahashi Rie), who as it turns out doesn’t mind, because she needs to get away in a hurry.

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A victim of family tradition, Kaon is being pursued by her betrothed, Roman Valov, a man she has no intention of marrying (and accompanied by his henchman Otto), and gets Sogo mixed up in the chase, to the near-death of both of them. Fortunately for them, gravity and hydrodynamics apparently work different in this world, so despite falling perhaps a thousand feet into a yawning chasm, both survive the landing without a scratch.

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Down there in the deep, a newt startles Kaon, who gloms onto Sogo before remembering herself, and the two just sit in awkward, blushing silence. I liked this little scene, because like her suddenly employing him to aid her escape, it says a lot about their relationship without the need for words, while also serving as a resting spot between big action set pieces.

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That second set piece comes when Sogo’s story and the parallel story of a government salvage team working to activate and retrieve the same rock he ended up with in the beginning come together in the caverns. Just as Kaon got Sogo mixed up in her marital crisis, so too has the crystal he found (or rather, found him) gotten Sogo and Kaon mixed up in something even bigger.

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The crystal in his pocket reacts to the larger one in the caverns, and an unconscious ethereal girl in a feathery dress literally falls into his arms, to his and Kaon’s shock. This isn’t just reminiscent of when Sheeta fell into Pazu’s arms, but also the Hollywood film Stardust in which a beautiful maiden falls from the sky as a shooting star.

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Just when the girl appears, however, the salvage team bears down on the kids, with strict orders to secure the “Lima” at all costs. One of the amphibious salvage mechas is about to snatch up the girl when an even bigger, tougher, more ornate mecha, apparently summoned to protect the girl, materializes and beats the salvage mecha to a pulp.

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With the most immediate threat dealt with, Kaon asks Sogo “What now?” What, indeed. As indicated by the references I made, there’s a lot of stuff derived from previous works in play here, but Comet Lucifer is nevertheless a well-executed and above all attractive and fun addition to my Fall watchlist that I’ll be sticking with…for now.

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