Super Cub – 11 – No More Enemies to Fight

When Shii’s in big trouble, Koguma answers the call…literally! She’s able to spot a snapped twig on the cat trail and find Shii awkwardly submerged in water that must be somewhere in the forties (though the fact it’s not frozen solid indicates it’s not that cold out). Even so, Koguma took a risk she could find Shii fast enough, and that Shii—who is effin’ tiny—wouldn’t suffer hypothermia.

Everything works out, as Koguma, a picture of calm and collectedness, helps Shii out of the ravine, picks up all 70-or-so pounds of her, and plops her in her front basket for the ride to her place. That’s right, Koguma stole Reiko’s dream of carrying Shii along this way—but quite by necessity!

Once home, Koguma draws a bath and cooks a dinner of curry udon. Reiko, whom she called earlier, arrives with Shii’s ruined Alex Moulton, takes a bath of her own, and joins the other two for dinner. It’s the first time Koguma has had company, but she doesn’t make a big deal of it; but just slurps up her udon with the others, enjoying their company.

While washing the dishes, Reiko lets Shii know—quite tactlessly!—that her Mouton is donezo. Shii breaks down, cursing winter and begging Koguma to use her Super Cub to end the wretched season. Koguma deadpans that her Cub can’t do that…and seems a little sad that it can’t.

The next day, Shii’s parents thank Koguma and Reiko with a pass good for a year’s free coffee, sandwiches, and bread items, which they begin to cash in on immediately, much to Shii’s relief. If Shii ever thought they’d stop hanging out with her after her incident in the creek, then she needs to have more faith in her friends!

Shii gets what Koguma ruthlessly declares a “granny bike”, and the days of Winter continue on, only with no more preparations to make to their bikes or clothes. Then one morning Koguma hears on the radio that the cherry blossomes have bloomed early in Kagoshima. She proposes they go see them…together, escaping the winter by going where—as far as those trees are concerned—it’s already over.

It’s just what Shii needs to cheer up, and when she takes Koguma’s hands in friendship, Koguma’s world colors up bolder and faster than ever. She recounts how when it was her trudging her way uphill on her bike that she saw Shii glide past her on her Moulton, eventually inspiring her to buy her Cub, which led to her befriending Reiko.

Shii may not know it, but this all started with Koguma chasing her and her cooler, faster bike. What better way to thank her for the inspiration by giving her an early taste of spring?

Super Cub – 10 – The Girls of Winter

For me, there are few things better than waking up in a warm cozy bed, pulling open the curtains and discovering that the world has become white—or silver, as Koguma puts it—with a fresh, immaculate coat of snow. So when Koguma does just this, I can relate.

And while she prepares for a day in, as she doesn’t want to try to ride on the slick roads, Reiko gives her a call demanding she come to the cabin, and Koguma braves the suddenly very steep and terrifying hill from her apartment building. She’s rewarded with tire chains for her Cub.

Once properly affixed to the tires, Koguma and Reiko can truly go wherever the fuck they want, and they decide to head up into the mountains for a bit of mechanical horseplay. Koguma crashes her Cub for the first time ever, but thanks to the thick, soft snow, she’s able to pop right back up and remount her trusty steel steed.

She even follows Reiko in doing some jumps and then basically riding around so wildly that they both crash almost on purpose. Especially when they remove their helmets and layers, I kept waiting for a chime and message to pop up saying “Do not attempt. Messing around on motorbikes can cause serious injury or death”…but it never came!

We’ve seen Reiko continually battle Fujiyama, but this is the first time we’ve seen Koguma really cut loose and go wild, following her friend’s lead. There’s a wonderful sense of momentousness mixed with mundaneness in watching them share their usual bikeside meal with such a majestic alpine backdrop.

After lunch, it’s back to playing with their Cubs in the snow. Reiko starts a snowball fight, but Koguma escalates by peeling out her Cub so it shoots loads of snow on Reiko in retaliation. They wrap up their fun but tiring day with a relaxing cup of joe at Buerre, assuring Shii that she can join them next time, with Reiko joking that she’ll stuff her in her cargo box.

As winter goes on, Koguma and Reiko continue to augment their riding kit with ever-thicker, warmer, tougher gear. All the while, Koguma can tell Shii is working hard on converting part of Buerre to an Italian café. While having coffee there with Shii out, her dad says he’s glad she’s finally enjoying the quirky Alex Moulton bike he gave her, and that it’s as if she’s trying to catch up to Koguma and Reiko. But for the record, he’s happy the girls are insipiring Shii.

Unfortunately, while neither Koguma nor Reiko have ever suffered any serious injuries from riding, Shii isn’t so lucky on her Moulton. I’d say it was inevitable the winter would claim someone, but I figured it would be one of the girls suffering a fever or something. Certainly not the realization of a parent’s worst and most absurd fears: “What if you were in a ditch somewhere?!”

Well, Shii is in a ditch, half submerged in icy water and apparently unable to move. Thankfully she’s able to call Koguma, and Koguma answers. Hopefully she (perhaps with help from Reiko and Shii’s parents) will track her down and she’ll be okay. But that doesn’t lessen the sheer horror of seeing Shii in that position, or the audacity of the episode simply ending without getting her out of danger!

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 24 – Taking It Up a Notch

Once Doppelganger creates a giant concrete kaiju, my first question was “Why doesn’t Mikoto just do the same thing with metal?” She then smirks and proceeds to do just that, answering another question in the process: “What if Mikoto went pretty much ALL out?” Seeing the Railgun’s sheepish grin at the prospect of having to up her game a couple of notches, and then doing so, ranks right up there among her best and most badass moments.

Misaka Mikoto isn’t someone who isn’t sure about herself or her abilities; on the contrary, it’s almost scary how quickly she can power up to the point her colossal electro-iron-sand puppet is railgunning huge holes in Doppel’s rubble puppet (ruppet?). It’s just too bad the kaiju battle is a feint. Doppel’s true target is the stealth dataship, which she locates thanks in part to all the iron sand Mikoto sends into the atmosphere taking out all of the gas tanks Doppel tries to toss at the populated part of the city.

Things even get a bit Evangelion-esque when Doppel pulls out another party trick: the ability to spontaneously generate enormous masses of matter in a similar manner to slime molds and zombie ant parasites. She uses a gigantic clone of herself to grab hold of the airship and render it visible. At this point the real Kuriba Ryouko pleads with her mechanical double for just “two more months”, whereupon she’ll be able to eradicate her own soul and allow Doppel to take over her body fully.

The thing is, Doppel is no longer interested in Kuriba’s body, or in simply existing as an individual anymore. Kuriba falls off the airship, but the Scavengers chip in to locate and pluck her out of the air; Leader’s thank you to Mikoto for her earlier assistance. She uses her ability to serve as spotter for Mikoto as Doppel attacks her with more slime mold-esque clones.

Bottom line: Doppel wants revenge against humanity, beyond simply destroying her creator. By the way, she’s ready to do that and level the city thanks to rigging twenty huge fuel tanks in strategic locations. Having been taught emotions by the researchers, she can’t help but feel envy and hatred to humans.

Mikoto’s answer to this threat is to fire her Railgun directly at Doppel’s core body, but Leader ominously warns Mikoto—albeit too late—that there’s a problem with her line of fire. Doppel is consumed by the light from the railgun blast…but that’s as far as the episode takes us.

With a preview full of Railgun’s friends and frenemies, I imagine Doppel is either destroyed or otherwise neutralized—but we’ll see what cost is incurred as a result. Until then, this will go down in the annals of all-time best-looking duels, and as always it’s an absolute delight to watch Mikoto do her stuff.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 23 – Koncrete Kaiju

Leader is Leader of Scavenger for a reason: not only is she smart as a whip and good at thinking on her feet, she’s also pragmatic. When the Railgun arrives, she knows there’s no use fighting her or getting on her bad side. Leader has a mission that needs accomplishing, so she tells Mikoto she’s an  undercover member of Judgment tasked with retrieving the doppelganger.

It’s fun to watch Leader navigate a virtual minefield with her subterfuge, not knowing how the Railgun will respond to what she says. Luckily for her, she can relate to Seike as a fellow “civilian” aiding Judgment since she does that for Kuroko and Uiharu all the time. Leader also lucks out when she learns Mikoto is big Gekota fan…but is less enamored of Leader’s praise for fellow Level 5 Shokuhou Misaki.

Leader is ultimately successful in getting Mikoto to help her, and it’s a good thing she does, because the doppelganger is far, far beyond the talents of the members of Scavenger alone. She also gets to watch firsthand just how much of a badass the third-ranked Railgun is against such a foe. The doppel, for her part, wants to “level up” some more before properly fighting her.

Leader has Mikoto lure the doppel to a district of abandoned warehouses. It makes sense to Mikoto because that area will result in the fewest casualties, but she asks Leader to evacuate the district of all Skill Out members. Leader wants the doppel in that district because that’s where Scavenger’s contract says to make the exchange with the lab coats. Yakumaru performs a lovely bit of theater convincing a bunch of punks to be chivalrous for a change, helping her warn others to evacuate.

As Mikoto pokes, prods, and analyzes the doppel while air-boarding on a scrap of metal, Leader makes contact with the researchers, and when they quibble about the details, Leader loses her patience. She and her comrades have almost died five times over trying to capture this subject, and their client’s van isn’t going anywhere (thanks to Seike) until their Joan Hancock is on the bottom line of that contract.

But while Leader and crew escapes with the signed contract, their reputation on the mend, Mikoto’s left holding the doppel bag, her sparking hands having become decidedly fuller as the doppel grows to the size of a kaiju.  It’s also the case that Leader feels kinda bad about deceiving the kind and well-meaning Railgun, but she’s not loyal to Judgment; she’s loyal to the Dark Side, and to her organization.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 22 – A Run of Bad Luck

When Scavenger is hired to recover Kuriba Ryouko’s doppelganger, they’re upbeat confident they can get the job done, despite having suffered a humiliating defeat in the Accelerator spin-off that I ended up skipping. In fact, Naru (the one with pink hair) sees this “small” job as a stepping stone to regaining credibility among the Dark Side organizations.

The real Ryouko tells Mikoto and Misaki about the dangers of an “untethered soul” of the kind residing within her doppel. It can possess and control any material it pleases and even spread across all of Academy City if left unchecked. She also started the Dream Poker fad as a kind of crowdsourcing for a solution to dealing with the doppel’s soul.

When Ryouko leaves, there’s a bit of tension, as she urges Mikoto not to get involved, but she soon wonders if turning away the Railgun was the right move. In fact, she immediately regrets that when the doppel confronts her, easily chases her down, and promises to erase her existence; clearly the doppel wants to be the only Kuriba Ryouko left standing.

Ryouko is able to use a stun grenade-like device to break Ryouko’s hold and create a smokescreen that allows her to flee. Ryouko would have surely given chase immediately provided she knew which way to go, but she is confronted by Scavenger, who keep her occupied for the rest of the episode.

I’ll give this to the members of Scavenger: they seem an organizaed and competent team under usual circumstances; unfortunately for them there is nothing usual about the doppel. Leader is able to locate the doppel with the Predator skill, while Seike (who is apparently a boy) is able to manipulate friction; between him and the doppel it’s an all-barefoot fight.

Rounding out the group is Yakumaru (an expert in various chemical and explosive agents) and Naru (who can manipulate paper). The four are able to not only stop the doppel in her tracks but restrain her as well. When Leader noticed a second Ryouko flee the area, she sends Seike after her, wrongly assuming the doppel is under control.

The doppel grabs Leader and twists and breaks her wrist. This leads Naru to enter her next-stage “rabbit mecha” form (in which she’d be buck naked but for a few scraps of paper) to separate the two.

The doppel is damaged (which wasn’t part of the job) but unfazed, and uses the power of the soul within her to basically steal Naru’s paper, ripping off an arm of her rabbit mecha and grafting it onto her damaged area.

After their meeting with Real!Ryouko, Misaki shows Mikoto the girl’s memories, and Mikoto learns that she was both researcher and subject in being cut in half as part of her lifelong effort to save her mother, who took a turn for the worse after donating a lung to Ryouko.

With a better understanding of Ryouko’s intentions and motivations, she ends up tracking Ryouko down again, which is fortunate for Ryouko, as Seike tracks her down first and roughs her up a little, just because he can. Enter Mikoto, whom Seike initially doesn’t recognize as the Railgun due to her a sorta-disguise.

It doesn’t take long for him to learn who he’s dealing with, and before sending Ryouko off to safety, Mikoto officially offers to help her with her problem, and Ryouko accepts, thus righting the wrong of their first meeting.

Now armed with part of Naru’s mecha, doppel prepares to crush Yakumaru’s head, but Naru is able to regain control of enough of her paper to stop Ryouko in her tracks, enabling Yakumaru to toss an explodey device that allows Scavenger to flee and regroup, battered but alive.

After making quick work of Seike, Mikoto proceeds to confront Leader, Naru, and Yakumaru. Considering this group already had an ill-fated encounter with the Accelerator, Leader was sure the chances of them coming afoul of another top-ranked esper to be infinitesimal.

Alas, now they have to deal with the Railgun. My advice to them is to surrender peacefully and avoid the same unpleasantness Seike endured. Perhaps they’ll end up joining forces to restrain the doppel…or perhaps the doppel, like Mikoto, is simply out of Scavenger’s league.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 21 – 21 Artificial Grams

For two people who claim not to be anything like friends, Mikoto and Misaki sure are hanging out a lot this season. I guess it’s more a matter of circumstances continuing to bring them together, as they do here when Misaki learns the inventor of Dream Poker is a very interesting person named Kuriba Ryouko.

Initially carved up like a spiral ham and augmented with cybernetics to create two separate bodies, Ryouko was a test subject to gauge the limits of cyborg technology. But when all of her organic parts were back together, the “Ryouko” with the machine parts had  retained a soul. Misaki wants Mikoto to break into the facility where Machine Ryouko resides and verify the experiment.

While Misaki’s talk with Mikoto is very expository, the scene is given room to breath by being bookended by the clever manner in which Misaki gets Mikoto’s attention (brainwashing a random girl) and the fact Mitori and Dolly aren’t far away observing Misaki’s movements. So happy to see Dolly out in the world.

Misaki and Mikoto are never not fun to watch bounce off each other and try to deflect their chemistry with the facade of pure practical necessity. That is, Misaki needs a “muscle-head” for the op lest her brainwashing not work on cyborgs. Misaki also makes it a square deal: if Mikoto helps her out here, she’ll use her skills to help get the Sisters something closer to a normal life.

After assuring Kuroko she’s not going out to cheat on her, Mikoto heads into the night to the facility, where she’s just in time to watch MechaRyouko explosively escape, taking out a chunk of the building and all of the lab data in the process.

In the facility, MechaRyouko had just had an epiphany, in which she recognized the mug her mom gave her, but suddenly couldn’t remember anyone or anything prior to arriving in Academy City—or afterwards. Clearly distressed by the fact she thinks she’s the real Kuriba Ryouko, it’s no wonder she sought freedom. And she’s a tough customer, having no problem beating up some thugs before securing a hideout and some cool backless black top that exposes her tattooed back.

Mikoto and Misaki (disguised as the third brainwashed person in the episode) pay the real Ryouko a visit and report her cyborg counterpart’s escape. Ryouko informs them in no uncertain terms that this could spell big, big trouble. Whether that means the cyborg will seek to destroy her and claim the mantle of One and Only Ryouko, to a whole host of other threats.

As the episode ends, we’re quickly introduced to a new underground org that has been tasked with retrieving the cyborg (after they recently failed in a mission involving Accelerator, which is probably more Index III stuff I vaguely remember). This group is called Scavenger, and it looks like next week will focus on their retrieval mission.

Gleipnir – 04 – A Place Where She Belongs

Immediately after Elena’s Bad Side rips Shuuichi’s head off, Elena’s Meek Side comes out and apologizes for doing something so rash. Claire, her head now exposed, rushes Elena in a rage but is quickly overpowered and upended. That’s when Elena realizes it’s her sister inside Shuuichi. Elena disputes Claire’s assertion it was wrong for their parents to die since they were both immoral people. After receiving a phone call, she gives Claire a coin and withdraws.

Fearing Shuuichi did not survive his beheading, a tearful Claire prepares to shoot herself, thus honoring their promise to each other. She’s stopped when Shuuichi’s head wakes up. He may not currently be what one would consider “alive”, but he’s not about to let Claire kill herself before he’s dead for sure. It’s a damned close call, but a sign that Claire still takes their promise seriously.

They meet the alien at the abandoned motel, and he gives them a bit of an infodump, though to be fair, the two could use one, as much in the dark as they are. Meeting Elena raised more questions than it answered. He uses the coin Elena gave Claire to produce a healing drink from the vending machine that fuses Shuuichi’s head back to his body.

As he heals, Claire climbs out of him, and the Alien is impressed with her bod. Heck, because he copied the ideal male body so accurately, he even gets a little horny, asking if he can cop a feel before Claire kicks him. Then he uses one of her hairs to copy his body, to show Claire how the coins make you transform into your “ideal self”.

Of course, in Shuuichi’s case, he transformed into Elena’s apparent ideal version of him: the manic cartoon dog strap on her bag. But if they “gather” 100 of the Alien’s coins, which are the embodiment of his fellow aliens in data form, they’ll be able to transform into an invincible superhero, able to bend the world to one’s will.

When Shuuichi’s neck is repaired and he transforms back into a human (with a nasty neck scar) Claire pulls him into a dramatic hug, so glad she is that he’s okay. She tells the Alien they’ll give the offer some thought, and they take their leave. When Shuuichi laments that they’re in such a big mess, Claire retorts that her life has never been better since she met him, and found a place by his side (and yes, inside his mascot form).

As his bond with Claire continues to evolve and deepen—one could say they’re becoming even more of a single unit—Shuuichi finds his personality evolving along with it. At school, he doesn’t suffer bullies and easily overpowers one.

He can smell Mifune coming and makes her attempt to find out what’s up with him as awkward as possible by asking her a not-so-hypothetical question about what she’d do if the world were ending because someone she knew gained the power to end it. Mifune can only nervously laugh it off, but he’s pleased by her very normal answer: she’d do everything she could to protect her family and friends and to get the bad guy to stop.

Shuuichi greatly values normalcy, as much as Claire doesn’t value it. But it’s clear he’s already left the world of the normal, swept into the orbit of the very abnormal Aoki sisters, perhaps never to return. He doesn’t want Claire to die, and yet he doesn’t exactly seem happy about the turn of events that has to tightly tied their fates together.

This results in him musing in meta fashion that he’s not the main character here, and there are things at work of which he and Claire have yet to scratch the surface. But a good start is the mountains where the Alien spaceship crashed. Not only will they find more coins, but more Gatherers like them, and more answers.

It will be dangerous, but Claire assures Shuuichi that he shouldn’t worry, because he has her, ready willing and able to make up for his weaknesses, act when he can’t, and if it all goes horribly wrong, die beside him so they’ll never have to feel alone again.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 12 (Fin) – Hanging In There

Berserk Golem is terrifying to behold, but at least initially, his attacks aren’t very coordinated. That gives Yabashira a chance to intervene before Golem makes Somali witness something she shouldn’t. He’s tossed aside, and Golem targets Rosa, only for the freed Somali to come between them.

She has enough trust in her dad that he won’t hurt her with his outstretched hand, but pat her on the head. He may have lost a lot of resources when he went into overload, but the love he has for her wasn’t among them, and it serves as a fail-safe switch, and he passes out after acknowledging his daughter.

We part ways with Rosa off-camera, though I’d hope she learned a lesson and will do some serious soul-searching about her attitude towards humans after the one she was ready to dissect saved her life. Golem comes to in a forest, with Somali sleeping by his side.

The pair continue their journey with Shizuno and Yabashira, but after assessing his damage, it’s not looking good for Golem. His left arm is gone for good, as is nearly a third of his skin and much of his internal fluids. He’s at 76%, max, and it’s all downhill from there…though he notably can’t set an exact date of final shutdown.

The quartet arrives in a new town full of horned dog people celebrating their harvest. Never mind that there may be more human hunters here who would recognize Somali’s smell; the show clearly cedes that the time of external threats to Somali are done, as long as she keeps her hood down. I’m skeptical!

Of course, the main issue is that while on their way to town, Golem noticed that his senses are becoming duller and it’s getting increasingly hard to move. Add to that the potential for him to lose control like he did in the cave, and he considers his continued proximity to Somali a liability. So at the town festival, while Somali is distracted by performers, he gives her the slip.

Shizuno fills Yabashira and Somali in on why Golem left, and why he couldn’t persuade him otherwise; he made his choice. But Somali is hardly satisfied with such an adult conclusion, and chases after her dad, leaving town and finding him in the nearby woods, staring at a pond. When he spots her, Golem orders her to stay away, but she won’t obey, and demands to know why they can’t be together like he promised.

When he denies it’s because of anything she said or did or because he doesn’t like her anymore (Somali is just a little kid, this is where her mind would go first) and tells her he’s worried about being a danger to her, she again rejects his reasoning. She’ll be too lonely without him, and she knows he’ll be lonely too. She gets him to admit the emotions within him (despite that not jiving with his “natural order”)—and even sheds the equivalent of a golem tear.

With that, Golem reverses his decision to run away, and instead vows to stay by Somali’s side as long as he can, enduring whatever hardships might arise. The two of them acquire some nifty new threads and continue their travels with the Shizuno and Yabashira.

This seal the ending as an ellipsis rather than a period, and opens the door for a possible sequel. But that aside, I was pretty certain the show wouldn’t kill off Golem in the last episode, despite some of the “death is not the end” flags during the town festival.

Instead, it galvanized its hopeful outlook with a hopeful ending, in which there’s still time for Golem to find a way to repair himself, and in the meantime, Somali’s formative years can continue to be filled with happy and fun memories with her dad, as long as they can.

Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia – 10 – The Apex of All Things Good

Gilgamesh assigns Fujimaru his next mission: travel to Eridu to attain the Axe of Marduk, a Divine Tool that can be used against Gorgon. They also have to look out for another stunningly-designed goddess Quetzalcoatl, who shows up unannounced by blasting right through the city gate and killing 100 people. She flirts with Fujimaru but its beyond any of his amassed servants, and in her true form potentially more dangerous than Gorgon. It’s more of a meet-and-greet than a battle, but it doesn’t change Fujimaru’s mission.

Instead, he has an additional objective: defeat Quetzalcoatl. To do so they must travel to her temple, believed to be just south of Eridu, and destroy the symbol that gives her superior divinity. That will even the odds. That means trudging through the jungle, the first night of which is another opportunity for Ishtar to warm up to Fujimaru, even using his name and calling them friends. She also momentarily changes form when she sneezes, but I’m not sure what that’s about.

FGO’s designated comic relief reappears in Jaguarman, after they witnessed her collecting the corpses of the Urukers killed by Quetzalcoatl; as a secondary Divine Spirit Jaggy is apparently bound to serve the big Q. She’s also no match for Ishtar, and when Fujimaru turns on the charm, she agrees to join his party as an additional ally, almost too easily. They then learn the corpses were actually reborn by Q but detained to be used as sacrifices. The episode closes with the party arriving at Q’s temple, with her looking ready to fight.

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.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 05

In Blood Blockade Battlefront you can be assured you’ll get a fun, action-packed romp – with the added intrigue of having no alterworldly idea where that action is going to come from or what mission it will serve.

This week’s focus is on Klaus’ venerable, dutiful combat butler, Gilbert Franke Altstein, who is picking up some supplies with Leo when he’s suddenly snatched up by a giant flying eel-monster, breaking his back clean through.

Gilbert is a comically tough old dude, so he’s mostly fine, but his back needs time to fully heal or it will keep breaking. Head Maid Bates quickly dispatches the young combat butler Phillip Lenore to take over for him.

Leo’s first impression of him is of a “loud and oppresive” presence, but to Zapp and Chain’s shock, Lenore makes a cup of tea Klaus will drink, and while out in the city, Philip notices a monster trying to snatch Leo’s wallet—which Leo tells him is a frequent enough occurance for him to carry nothing but spare change, keeping his cash elsewhere on his person.

Phillip, like any sane or normal person, thinks it unbelievable someone like Leo could survive in HSL, but as we know, not all parts of the city are dangerous all the time. Not to mention he has powerful friends looking out for him (even if help arrives late).

While pondering whether he could ever truly succeed Gilbert over a drink at a bar with a cute bartender, the entire establishment is suddenly swallowed by the friend of the pickpocket, and they extract Phillip’s brain. Turns out he shouldn’t have been worrying about Leo, but himself.

When Gilbert notices Phillip is missing an eye and his brain (which the criminals are using to see through his other eye), he refuses help from Klaus (as a butler, Phillip would regret putting his master in danger for the rest of his life), and asks Leo to use his eyes to find the brain…which he does.

Zapp, Zed, and Leo join Gilbert in his ultra-trick motorcar and the brainless Phillip to help retrieve the brain. Gilbert gives the baddies three options, one of which (hand it over without a fuss) would prevent the need for any further conflict; the other two (we’ll take it, or if you destroy it, we’ll kill you)…don’t. The crims don’t take the old man seriously…to their peril.

It never gets old when B3 turns up the volume, ratchets up the action, and gets down to business, and Gilbert’s raid on the criminals is no exception. While numerous and heavily armed, the bad guys are no match for Gilbert, his car, and the two Z’s, all while Leo leads them to the brain with his eyes.

After getting the car airborne and turning it into a kind of motorcycle (scrunching the four guys in the back seat even more), a good number of explosions and enemy casualties, the glass bulb containing Phillip’s brain and eye are safely retrieved. Oh, and Gilbert reveals he’s a Regeneratore when he’s literally cut in half but not killed.

While recovering in the hospital, Gilbert tells Phillip, whose face is now half metal as a result of his ordeal, finally has a “face for this city,” for which he should be proud. As for actually joining Libra (and thus automatically making his brain worth millions to the criminal underground), Phil is “thanks, but no thanks.” He needs a bit more seasoning. Meanwhile, Klaus does just fine without any butler at all!

Glasslip – 08

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This episode could best be summed up thus:

Touka be Glasstrippin’.

[drops mic]

sesameacrylic OUT. Have a good night! Drive safe!

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Huh? Oh…alright, I’ll say a bit more. Here’s what we know: Touka’s hallucinations are getting longer and more intense, now replacing whole chunks of the real world with…something else entirely, including this week’s titular “snow.” They seem to get stronger when she’s around Kakeru—not exclusively so (she has a pretty strong one alone at the glass studio), but enough to make her afraid to get too close to her. Kakeru is also afraid, and with good cause: he likes Touka; I’m sure he doesn’t want to accidentally “break” her!

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That’s about all we know. This episode doesn’t give us any answers, but only deepens and intensifies the mystery. It also has Touka and Kakeru’s “connection” arriving at the point where they can’t hide it from the others anymore, even if they’re worried they won’t be believed (and who can blame them? no one else can see or hear what they do). It’s notable that the episode closes with Kakeru placing his hands on a panicking Touka’s trembling shoulders (right after she envisioned him grabbing and kissing her). Despite the distinct possibility he’s causing this, Kakeru can’t leave her side; not while she’s like this.

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That’s a tricky situation no matter how you slice it; one that either of them would probably happily trade for the more conventional relationship troubles their friends are presently embroiled in. Weakest of these is the Yana/Yuki/Hina triad, in which Touka’s sister continues to observe the other two in a way that borders on the voyeuristic. Back in the pool, poppet! We’re also treated to Yana walking around her house buck naked…for some reason, then she decides to run when and where Yuki ran. Alright, then!

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Yuki, meanwhile, blew town for a late summer track camp, where he fits back in with his old teammates right up until the point they all breeze past him. It could be the case that even taking things nice and slow won’t give Yuki back what he lost, athletically speaking. Or is his heartache causing him to unconsciously loaf? I don’t know, but he’s technically the first member of the circle of friends to have left town (though he’ll probably return) and he didn’t tell anyone (not even Yana) that he was going. Yeesh.

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Touka and Kakeru are getting more interesting as a couple thanks to all the mysterious doins-a-transpirin’, but on the other side of town, our favorite couple doesn’t need any fancypants supernatural whatsit to be compelling. Sachi who is imperfect and wonderful, feels bad about using Hiro, and lonely that he doesn’t show on her last day at the hospital. Momo says Hi, ignorant as she is of their spat (her poor sad car’s deterioration proceeds apace). I love how devastated both Sachi and Hiro are; this is their first time, after all, and it shows. I hope they can make up, or else we’re through, Glasslip.

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Still, while what Sachi did was wrong, and she knows it, I’m not sure she wouldn’t do it all over again if given the chance. Even if she regrets it (and I’m sure she does, considering her reaction to Hiro’s reaction), a part of her also must regret not being able to follow through on her plan to break up Kakeru’s date. Touka’s hallucinations are strange, but they’re also dark. Perhaps Sachi somehow senses that darkness in Kakeru, and her happiness with Hiro took a backseat to her desire to protect Touka. Judging from what I’ve seen, I can’t rule out her being in the right: maybe Kakeru is dangerous.

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