Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! – 08 – Forward March!

There’s a palpable sense of anticipation in the sight the Eizouken putting the finishing audio touches on the cultural festival preview of SHIBA8 vs The Pistol Crabtle, lit only by a single office lamp and the editing monitor. As director Midori displays a uncanny knack for knowing when to time music and sound effects to the visuals.

Unfortunately they didn’t have time to record the voice actors so they’ll be doing it live in the auditorium, adding another set of things that could go wrong, from both technical and personnel-wise. But the show must go on, and it will. The main challenge is to create sufficient buzz at the festival to lure a sufficiently large audience.

Throughout this episode from start to finish, Tsubame’s rich actor parents loom large, but not as villains ready to undermine the Eizouken, but rather as parents who find they’ll have time to visit their daughter’s school festival. They almost seem eager to do so, well aware of how their careers have made it tough for her to get a fair share of time with them throughout her childhood.

Like just about every shot in this episode before the festival starts, the scene of Tsubame’s mom discovering she never came home is lit so beautifully, with the light of dawn just behind the horizon but already lending a hazy blue color to the sky.

Even more magical is the scene of the Eizouken trio tucking into campfire ramen outside their ramshackle studio. The warm firelight dancing off their relaxed figures as the ethereal purple dawn rises in the background. There’s an intoxicating combination of comfort, coziness, and a sense of impending drama.

The three don’t seem to notice how gorgeous and almost iconic their surroundings are, but that goes without saying: they’ve been working without sleep for who-knows-how-long and are in strict ramen-scarfing mode. Will they remember this meager fireside feast before the premiere of their first large scale effort, or will the day’s excitement cloud these quiet, delicate, hauntingly gorgeous earlier moments? I hope not.

Just as the Eizouken’s robot project dwarfs their gas mask short in size and complexity, Shibahama’s Cultural Festival’s unrestrained chaos makes the earlier budgetary committee look quaint by comparison. Competition ferocity is on par with the Serengeti, and one could see Midori and/or Tsubame getting absolutely lost in the stampede.

Fortunately, both Sayaka and the Robot Club have taken care of everything and are prepared for virtually every eventuality. The Robot Club also breaks a few school rules, using water rockets and megaphones to amplify their cause. This draws the ire of the StuCo and Security Clubs, who initially target Tsubame as the amateur-model-ringleader for arrest.

Thanks to the expert distribution of similar-looking cardboard robot costumes and Sayaka’s birds-eye-view of the premises, Tsubame is able to take direction from Sayaka via walkie-talkie and gradually navigate her way to the designated auditorium where the screening will take place—and where her notoriety is key to drawing a big chunk of the crowd.

Sayaka also successfully blackmails the normally untouchable HVAC club (all of whom are caught wasting A/C on a hot day) into ensuring the auditorium will be enticingly cool for audience members coming in from the outside. Sure, Tsubame enough could be a good draw, but the A/C draws in even those few who don’t know her or about robots or anime.

In another impressive demonstration of intricate planning, logistics, timing, and luck, Robot Club’s Ono takes a zipline across the breadth of the campus, with a huge banner trailing behind him notifying the gawking masses of the impending screening.

Like Tsubame, the cat-and-mouse chase between him and those who would shut them down takes on the feel of a madcap video game, complete with platforms, mazes, obstacles, and end-goals. It’s just a tremendous amount of fun and imagination—and all before we see a single frame of the movie!

Everything goes off without a hitch. The auditorium is nice and cool and the crowd is huge. Even Tsubame’s parents attend, eager to see what their daughter has been up to (turns out using MIBs to discourage her from anime pursuits was her dad’s idea). There are no technical difficulties with the video or audio or the live-voicing setup.

The crowd watches the robot-crabtle battle with stunned looks, the screen glowing in their eyes. Tsubame’s parents admire the animation with prime, and are able to see Tsubame’s love of capturing motion through art in this manner. Pride washes over their faces. They realize this, not live-action acting, is what their daughter loves and excels at.

After the screening, and a brief autograph/handshake session, Tsubame is dispatched to get lunch for Midori and Sayaka, and runs into her parents. The three have a cordial mini-lunch together, and Tsubame draws upon her parents’ careers as artists for perhaps the first time, asking if they’re ever satisfied after a performance.

She’s relieved to hear neither of them are, because neither is she…and we no neither is Midori. They’re relieved Tsubame has been off doing her own thing, and it’s something they’re not going to try to hold her back from anymore. To do so would be to prevent her from “performing” the way she knows best: with pencil and paper.

Finally, her parents poke their heads in a shed where the Eizouken 3 are taking a break from all the hubbub, and about to scarf down the lunch Tsubame brought. Her parents ask if these are her friends; Midori responds that they’re comrades. The bonds of comrades, joined not by blood but by common cause and common fate, surpass mere friendship, for even the best of friends can have vastly different goals.

It’s no surprise Midori is donned in full camo combat fatigues. The cultural festival was the Eizouken’s greatest battle yet, and victory was achieved. Not flawlessly, mind you—Midori estimates she’s only 20% satisfied with the product they presented—but enough to get the job done.

The fact Tsubame’s parents can no longer be counted among their enemies is both strategically advantageous and a timely boost to unit morale. On to the next battle!

Durarara!!x2 Ten – 12 (24, Fin)

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The conclusion of the second of three cours of Durarara!!x2  is marked by two major plotlines: Mikado’s Dollars vs. Masaomi’s Yellow Scarves, and the whole Yadogiri Jinnai business. In both cases, there’s a lot to be hashed out in the third and final cour next January.

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Ten, like Shou, ends with Mikado and Masaomi very far away; or as the former puts it, the threads of their bonds are so tangled up that perhaps it’s best just to burn those threads and start over. Celty thinks Mikado has gone mad, and is even more upset when he insists he isn’t. She also laments that for all her centuries of experience, she’s unable to stop two young friends from going to war and possibly destroying one another, simply because neither is willing to budge, and Anri isolated from both of them.

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Ten, like Shou, also ends with Izaya outmaneuvered by Jinnai (who isn’t an individual so much as a network of old-man decoys led orchestrated in the shadows by Kujiragi Kasane, who has the red eyes of Saika. That I was not expecting, but it does mean we may see more of both Anri and Haruna (who also carry Saika within them in some form or another). It also establishes the latest “monster” threat for the final cour, running parallel to the “human” threat of Mikado and Masaomi’s war.

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I also daresay Celty is as confused as I was by suddenly coming home to find so many disperate characters assembled in her and Shinra’s apartment. There’s Shinra’s parents, Namie, Egor, Seiji, Mika, Togusa, and Walker. Their gathering isn’t explained any further than the fact no one assembled was able to resist being brought together.

How will this seemingly random collection of people make their mark on the third cour? I have no idea, but like every season of Durarara!! it’s going to be a very full plate.

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Psycho-Pass – 15

…What Ron said.

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Once the mass-produced helmets are distributed to larger numbers of would-be criminals, they begin roving the city in bands, brutalizing the rest of the populace, who are believed as vulnerable and ineffectual to resist as those who were born in a totally sterile environment are more susceptible to pathogens. Once area stress levels rise to a sufficient point, something happens: the people start fighting back. The violence spreads mercilessly like a virus.

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Professional and social media explodes with news, rumors, and increasing panic, as the first half of the episode simply lays it all out for us, with no particular narrator or emcee. The MWSPB is caught completely off-guard, and because it was thought the Sybil system would eliminate the possibility of mass riots, they have no resourcs to deal with the chaos tearing the city apart. It’s a pitiable scene in the briefing room, with a grand total of 17 CID inspectors and enforcers mustered and tasked with taking on the riots by themselves with what few effective weapons they have.

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I can’t recall a police department being in such dire straits, and it’s frankly exhilarating. Their response to the vast unrest in the city seems almost comically inadequate, but this is what happens to a society that puts all its eggs in one flawed basket. Makishima appears to have found the man who will give him the best show, a master hacker who determines the Ministry’s Nona Tower is the probable location of the Sybil system. What’s so diabolical is that the riots were only meant as a decoy to draw all human MWSPB assets away from HQ, leaving it ripe for attack by some particularly tough-looking helmet guys.

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When…heck, if this enormous mess gets resolved, the Ministry, the city, and possiblythe country will owe a great debt to Kogami Shinya and Tsunemori Akane. Among the paltry ranks of the CID, they were the only ones to identify the riots for what they were and had the initiative to race back to the Nona Tower. Even then, as I said, the team raiding Nona look like tough customers, so simply identifying the enemy’s true intent isn’t enough. They have to stop them somehow.

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Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 09

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Hyuuga defends Iwoto against Kongou’s attacks, buying time for I-401 to make a an escape while Takao engages Maya. Kongou senses Hyuuga and Takao are merely diversions, and once she detects I-401 she heads after her at full speed, enduring the punishment of the minefield set by Hyuuga. She admits to Iona that she too feels emotions, and says she hates her. She fires her supergravity cannon a second time, Hyuuga hacks her systems, and she misses I-401, who escapes at full burst. Takao reveals to Kongou that Gunzou entrusted her with the vibration torpedo and his crew, while Iona was only another decoy. All is for naught when I-400 and I-402 ambush I-401, sinking her.

With the previous week serving as a “calm before the storm” prologue, this week’s battle with Kongou was being built up as the biggest challenge to the I-401 yet. The fleet of Blue Steel is officially forged but suffers a difficult infancy, as Kongou holds no quarter. We’re reminded that Haruna and Kirishima don’t have physical ships at the moment, so they can’t participate in the battle. However, Hyuuga and Takao prove enough to keep Kongou and Maya at bay, and more importantly, grind Kongou’s gears. If they can feel emotions, so can Kongou, which means she can lose her temper and let it affect her judgement. Tired of all the delays and frivolous gum-flapping, Kongou goes straight for Iona with extreme prejudice, and ends up paying for it. It was a hell of a battle, replete with layers of tactics, obfuscation, momentum shifts, and the aforementioned psychological warfare.

Mind you, Iona doesn’t mean to mess with Kongou; she just can’t comprehend what her deal is. In their philosophical debate, one could see Iona as being just as guilty as Kongou of trying to impose her values on others. The major differences, of course, are that  Kongou wants to kill all humans, and is acting out of hatred for Iona and the chaos she’s caused; Iona is acting out of unswerving devotion to—and perhaps love for—Gunzou. The battle may end with the I-401 safely away and Kongou beaten and humiliated, but after yet another new ED we’re treated to a harrowing post-credits sequence that sends I-401 out of the frying pan and straight into the freezer. To have victory so abruptly torn away and to see such ugly chunks taken out of I-401 by her sister subs made for a gut-punch of a cliffhanger, but whatever happens, Takao now holds humanity’s trump card.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)