Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 04

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In theory, Satoru’s task is simple: if he remains in close contact with Kayo consistently for one more week, and they can celebrate their birthdays together at his house, he believes he’ll be able to change history by preventing her kidnapping and murder.

He makes it a point to try to hang out with Kayo on a Saturday date to the museum, hoping to get her away from her home so her mother won’t be tempted to beat her. And in another amusing instance of Satoru-29 thinking out loud, Satoru doesn’t mince words in asking Kayo on a date.

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Kayo’s mother proves a formidable obstacle to that day of bliss – were it not for Satoru’s truly heroic mother stopping Kayo’s mom from striking her after she admits she wants to go out. With Sachiko there (who knows exactly what kind of person she is), Kayo’s mom, concerned with appearances, weighs her options and decides to allow the date.

Thank goodness after Satoru and his mom left the episode didn’t cut to Kayo’s mom taking out her anger on Kayo. When I saw Satoru and Kayo standing before the stuffed bear, I breathed a sigh of relief.

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Of course, this being far more than just a slice-of-life romantic tale, it’s not all peaches and sunshine at the museum. On numerous occasions, Satoru gets deja vu-style flashes of Kayo saying and doing things she’s already said and done, leading him (and me) to believe that he hasn’t yet taken Kayo off the path that leads to her death, and the future won’t be changed so easily.

The film reel pattern in the letterboxing and the visualization of the various timelines as a tangle of said film is effectively used but not overused, particularly when both fast-forward to the same outcome: Kayo’s funerary portrait and total defeat.

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Satoru sticks to the plan, his courage buoyed, not cowed by his sense of duty to protect and save Kayo. He thinks out loud, in front of the whole class, that Kayo is pretty (her reactions to these slip-ups are priceless), he walks her home before being intercepted by her mother, and he tells her he’ll be at her house in the morning – the morning of Day X, which will decide everything – so they can walk to school together, which they do hand in hand.

If one were to liken Satoru’s quest as a war, we would call his 29-year-old self a grizzled veteran, hardened by the despair of the bad future that didn’t just affect him and Kayo negatively. Yuuki’s in prison and his mom is dead. There’s a lot riding on his success, but his previous 10-year-old self would never have been able to achieve what he achieves during this week, because he lacked that foresight, that loss of innocence, that ability to see beyond himself. This Satoru can.

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So he only very grudingly breaks contact with Kayo on this last day, seeing her right to her door, getting up before midnight to watch over her house and wait for the stroke of midnight. This entire day and in particular those last moments of it, are positively brimming with suspence, so much so I had to make sure to control my breathing just in case something awful transpired.

The episode also made sure to show us what Kenya, Yashiro, and Kayo’s mom – all persons of interest with regards to her potential disappearance – but none of them are anywhere near Kayo, and aren’t doing anything suspicious. When the second hand ticked past the twelve, I felt I could relax a little…but only a little.

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Seeing Kayo in her jammies receive a waiting Satoru at her door was a moment of triumph, as well as another perfect use of her unofficial catchphrase “Are you stupid?” As the hours and minutes until their birthday party ticked away, the suspense started to build all over again, especially when Yashiro told the two to do cleaning duty after school.

Turns out both that, and the suspicious-at-the-time meeting between Yashiro and Kenya that ended last week, were perfectly innocent: Satoru’s friends planned a surprise party for him and Kayo. Isn’t that something? Gee, it’s really dusty in here…or maybe there’s an raw onion nearby? *sniffle*

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The joy and mirth of the festivities are matched, and then some, when the episode inevitably, mercilessly brings the hammer down. At some point Satoru has to walk Kayo home and wish her good night, she promises to give him his birthday present tomorrow, and waves goodbye wearing the mittens he got her.

The promise is never fulfilled. The next morning at school, Kayo is absent. Satoru was able to change the future, but only by one day. I’d say I can only imagine what became of her in those evening hours they were apart…but I honestly have no freakin’ clue.

When confronting Kayo’s mother, Satoru exclaims, beyond the years of his physical body, “when it comes to saving a friend, there are no gains and losses!” And he’s absolutely right. Just as he wrongly thought getting past the X-Day was a victory, he’s wrong if he thinks this latest development is a loss.

Even if it is, and even if he doesn’t have ready acces to an IBN 5100, the results of those past battles don’t matter. The war goes on. It has really only just begun.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Yikes, Hannah did not like Active Raid one bit; no she did not! I, on the other hand, seem to have stumbled on what could be one of the season’s top shows. It’s certainly the best so far after one episode. And it did it with a highly realistic and immersive setting; a gloomy atmosphere full of regret over things not done or unsaid; and a young man unable to progress in life, still haunted by hazy memories and mysteries of the past. Moreover, it didn’t pull its punches.

Oh yeah, and said young man, 29-year-old struggling mangaka/pizza delivery boy Fujinuma Satoru, has a power. No, he can’t defeat villains with one punch, but he does periodically, involuntarily go back a couple of minutes in time when something bad happens around him, enabling him to take action to prevent disaster.

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The reveal of that ability is the first of many jolts this episode gave me, and it’s an ability expertly demonstrated when he stops a truck from hitting a little boy in the crosswalk. Saving the boy gets him injured, and while he’s out, he remembers one of those hazy memories: a haunting image of a little girl in a red coat standing alone in the snowy night. This realm – near the “heart of his mind”, is a place he has always feared, and both his creative calling and social life are suffering as a result.

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That doesn’t mean good things don’t happen to Satoru. His selfless, heroic actions were witnessed by a cute high school girl (and his pizza joint co-worker) Katagiri Airi, who stays by his bedside, now seeing him in a new light. But Satoru doesn’t see anything more coming of such an auspicious encounter; after all, they’re not the same generation, and a lot of her “Gen-Y” sayings and doings are strange and frightening to him.

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Speaking of generations, his mother Sachiko, 52 but looking 32 (he calls her an ageless “yokai” more than once) crashes at his house for a while when he’s discharged from the hospital. This puts Satoru in yet another light, not as the intriguing senpai with the secret heroic life, but the darling son whose mother is worried about him.

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Both his mom’s presence and news of abductions on the television bring more memories to the surface, to when Satoru was a little kid and used to play with a local guy he nicknamed “Yuuki.” Something seems a little off about how Yuuki looks and talks, and sure enough, after two kids from Satoru’s class are abducted, Yuuki is arrested as the culprit and sent to prison for kidnapping and murder.

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When Sachiko and Airi cross paths, the former invites the latter to Satoru’s for dinner, and Satoru starts to suspect his mom is looking for a wife for him, taking Airi’s words about him being “a friend she respects” as a mere polite formality, and that she has no further interest in him. But I imagined, like Sachiko did, that Airi was more interested in Satoru than he thought, considering she bothered to spend so much time with him as late.

Later, as Satoru looks further into the crimes Yuuki was accused of, Sachiko gets suspicious of a person she sees out in the city, knowing the serial abduction and murder case isn’t actually closed yet. She’s always regretted withholding info from Satoru, and making him forget as much as he could about the dark events that transpired in the fifth grade.

Because Satoru knows Yuuki didn’t abduct or kill anyone. It was someone else. Further, that scene of the girl in red – Hinazuki Kayo – was the last time Satoru saw her before she disappeared. He’s blamed himself for not asking her if he could walk her home ever since.

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In any case, Sachiko never gets the chance to come clean with her son, as a mysterious assailant in a black suit enters the apartment and suddenly stabs her in the back, killing her. Now this was a huge jolt. Holy shit. Here, I had settled into this nice, warm, pleasant atmosphere with Satoru and his lovely mother and Airi and it’s all taken away with one plunge of a knife. Damn…

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The killer passes Satoru in the hall as he returns home from the bookstore, and only moments after discovering his mother inside his apartment, the neighbor sees him with blood on his hands and calls the cops. Things threaten to spiral out of control fast as Satoru—like Yuuki, AKA Shiratori Jun—looks poised to be framed. And my heart is pumping.

Just then, another blue butterfly appears – a sign another “revival” or time jump is about to occur, and all of a sudden Satoru isn’t dealing with cops in the city anymore. He’s back in Hokkaido, in the snow, and he’s gone back a little more than a couple minutes, because it’s 1988.

No doubt, Kayo is still alive, and he has a chance to do things differently. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one hell of an enticing way to end your first episode!

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Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà vu

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I approached the Steins;Gate movie with an unusual amount of glee and anticipation, and doggone it, the movie was just as good as the TV show. Far from superfluous as one can get, it actually ended up tying up a few loose ends from the show, serving as a second season of sorts, compressed into 90 minutes (or four TV episodes’ worth).

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A year has passed since Rintarou achieved the Steins Gate World Line (SGWL), and Kurisu finally returns to Tokyo, ostensibly for lectures, but actually to visit the lab, and Rintarou in particular.

While there’s initial tension and combat between the two as neither seem all that comfortable being overt about their feelings for one another around the others, but after Kurisu drinks a beer or two her facade comes down and she just wants Rintarou to hold her. (Also, Rintarou gives her “my fork and my spoon” as a gift)

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Everything is happy and lovely, were it not for the proverbial chickens coming to roost in the form of side-effects from all of Rintarou’s time travel starting to become a bigger and bigger problem. Things in the SGWL are causing flashbacks that are giving him a vertigo and threaten to break his mind’s grip on which world line is the real one.

As this is going on, a shadowy figure, who is, of course, Suzu, follows Kurisu to her hotel room and gives her three words that make no sense to this Kurisu, but will mean everything soon enough. You have to leave it to Suzu; she always seems to pop by from the future to steer people in the right direction.

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Leave it to a cruel and torturous universe to give Rintarou everything he ever asked for in a world line: no WWIII down the road; both Mayushii and Kurisu alive and well, only to make it so he can’t live in that world. I assumed his flashes of other lines would get worse and worse, but I was frankly shocked to see him literally vanish into thin air just as he was putting on the lab coat Kurisu repaired.

Yet even when Kurisu and the others realize Rintarou is missing from their world line, and build the time leap machine to go back to the rooftop barbecue, he’s still fluctuating, and Suzu explains that it’s because the SGWL is very close to another line, one only a tiny fraction of a percent different from it. The only difference between it is that Okabe can only exist in one.

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Kurisu wants to fix things, but Rintarou doesn’t. As he said, he has the world the way he wants it. If he can’t live in it, so be it. Better for there to be peace and for the girls he loves to be alive than to risk altering the world line and causing more damage just to save him.

Despite the fact Kurisu really doesn’t Rintarou to vanish or to forget about him, that’s exactly what Rintarou asks of her, in a heartbreaking scene at the train station before dawn.

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But he might just be sabotaging his own cause by kissing her, because forgetting Rintarou proves extremely difficult due to all the titular deja vu, which was earlier identified as a form of Reading Steiner. Kurisu tries to get on with her life, but every time she thinks she’s forgotten him, some detail in her life reminds her of him anew. She even changes her mind and runs to the lab as fast as she can, but before she can say anything to Rintarou, he vanishes again.

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Suzu’s still there, not just with wisdom form the future but from Kurisu’s future self, who inevitably invents the time machine. The same stubbornness that has made Kurisu so endearing for so long is also the stubbornness of sticking to her promise to Rintarou not to alter the world lines for his sake.

Suzu tells Kurisu that if she’s able to imprint a powerful memory in Rintarou within the SGWL, his mind will be able to keep him in that world line, so he won’t vanish in 2011. In other words, if Kurisu is honest with herself and doesn’t give up on him, she can save him.

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Kurisu takes Suzu up on her offer to take her back in time (in the time machine she herself built in the future) and chooses a particular day in 2005 she knows to be significant in Rintarou’s life. But when she tries to get his attention, she slips and falls in the road, and as he runs out and gets hit by a truck.

This setback spooks Kurisu, who literally shudders to think not only how much worse Rintarou’s fate could become if she keeps meddling, but also just how much death and suffering Rintarou went through for her and Mayuri’s sake. She’s just not sure she can go through all that.

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But then, every other interaction with every other lab member seals it: nobody who knew Rintarou will ever entirely forget him, even as the world and their lives go on without him, Kurisu doesn’t want to live in that kind of world. All the lab members end up seperately recalling snippets about Okarin and Hououin Kyouma, culminating in Kurisu donning a lab coat and roleplaying as Kyouma himself in a masterfully adorable performance.

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Reassured that bringing Rintarou back is the right thing to do, she returns to 2005, remembering what he said when they first kissed when he had to say goodbye to her: that it wasn’t his first. Kurisu remedies that by meeting with the younger Rintarou, who is on his way to see Mayuri at the graveyard (which is when he declares her his hostage). Kurisu tells him the story of the Mad Scientist Hououin Kyouma, and then steals his first kiss. It’s another momentous scene firmly grounded in the continuity of the show that for lack of a better term causes all the feels.

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It also does the trick, as Kurisu is able to reunite with Rintarou, who was sitting alone in an empty Akiba. Empty as in it looks like no one in the SGWL ever existed where he is, just as he never existed there until Kurisu fixed things. This results in another happy ending, which we always seem to get in Steins;Gate, which would seem indulgent if those endings—including this one—weren’t so gosh-darn earned. They’re not created by conceits, but by logical conclusions to the story; Kurisu figuring out what she needs to do, pushing past the difficulties, and doing it.

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And if Kurisu’s final smirk doesn’t melt your heart like artisanal butter in a skillet, you might not have any. Heart…not butter.

This movie did the improbable by intensifying my already unreasonable fanaticism with Steins;Gate. S;G has it all: baller writing; hard-hitting drama, laugh-out-loud comedy, breathtaking twists, not-totally-ridiculous science, world-class voice-acting, unique design, ethereal soundtrack and immersive atmosphere. The movie makes me that much more excited about a future sequel in the works. Whatever risk that move entails, no show is worthier of the benefit of the doubt than this one.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 08

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Whoa…Déjà vu…sorta but not quite! After much foreshadowing and foreboding, we’ve returned (arrived?) at the day before Kaori’s tragic death-by-runaway bus, which is when the first episode started. The most noticable difference between this timeline and that one is, obviously, the presence of Yui. Everything seemingly reset when she showed up in Sou’s arms. Now we’ll see if her actions of the last six episodes paid off and if Kaori was saved this time.

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For the record, I must confess that I loved Suzumiya Haruhi’s infamous “Endless Eight” arc, partially because I love anything that involves time travel. Unlike E8, a lot of time has passed since the first time we saw these events, so while the settings and conversations and general timing of the days are familar, they’re not fresh in our mind, and in any case all the details are different; even little details like what Sou buys for lunch.

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A bigger difference is the influence Yui has had. While her primary mission seems to be protecting Kaori, that’s made more difficult by Kaori considering her competition. As the episodes have progressed, Yui has grown closer and closer to Sou, and Kaori doesn’t like it.

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But she couldn’t do anything about it until the day they see the stars, because that’s when she confessed to Sou in the last go-round. Unfortunately, something Yui can’t control is how the Sou of this time responds to Kaori’s confession, which stays exactly the same: he doesn’t give her a straight answer and Kaori gives him time.

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Even though a weight has been lifted from her shoulders, the fact she doesn’t have an answer from Sou keeps things awkward, and keeps it difficult for either Yui or Sou to stay close and keep an eye on her.

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It hardly helps matters when Kaori spots Yui talking animatedly with a blushing Sou while gazing into his eyes in the hall. Sure, they’re talking about Sou and her, but she can’t hear from that distance, and in any case she knows what she sees in Yui, because she sees it in the mirror everyday: love. Yui can’t hide it, and that plays heavily into the failure of her mission.

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Pissed off at the world, Kaori rebels a little, flaking out on Yui and going off to sing karaoke with classmates. Her conscience makes her eventually turn around and head back, but by then, Yui has gone after her. Then Kaori heads to the site of her previous death, and while again, the details are slightly different, things end the same way: very, very badly.

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When this happened in the first week, it was a bold play that elevated the show. So dark and morose and terrible was that hospital scene, that it’s no surprise it effected us just as much as it did last time, if not moreso. We were hoping, hoping Kaori’s mother wouldn’t collapse to the floor in grief this time. When she did, our hearts sank all over again.

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With that, we cut back to the lab where Yui floats in a glowing blue tube, and hear the voice of Sou call her name before the credits roll, and the questions come rushing up: was this the first time? The last time? Why Yui? How and when did she originally meet Sou? Will things reset again, or will we see more of this timeline? Can the future even be changed, or will the universe keep finding ways for Kaori to die on that day, having never gotten an answer from Sou?

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Psycho-Pass – 22 (Fin)

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Akane doesn’t believe the law protects the people so much as the people protect the law. The law in the culmination of mankind’s amassed hopes and dreams for a better world to live in; without that collective input, the law—and society—cannot exist. When the will of the people is usurped by a system like Sybil, the momentum of human progress towards that ideal goal is arrested.

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I said all Akane cared about was saving Kogami’s soul, but once it became clear after a heartbreaking sequence of events that she wasn’t going to be successful, I realized I was wrong about her becoming lost if she did fail, or that her desire to save Kogami was selfish. To her, no matter how vicious Makishima’s crimes were, on-the-spot execution is a crime, and she does everything in her power to prevent that crime. She just came up a bit short.

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She wasn’t being selfish; she was being patient. She doesn’t like Sybil anymore than Kogami or Makishima, but she knows society as it is can’t live without it; not yet. So she’ll continue being one of their ideal poster girls. She does exactly what she’s done every time something horrible has happened in her life, whether it was her first traumatic experience as an inspector, losing Yuki, or losing Kogami, twice: she moves forward.

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Sybil is disappointed that Akane couldn’t deliver Makishima to them, but that doesn’t mean they cut her loose. They “lower her ratings” a bit, but they’re sitll all outstandingly high. They want to someday reveal themselves to the world as they did to Akane, and when that happens, they want the people to accept them and be happy about it, and they think Akane and people like her will help pave the way to that. Faced with that grotesque hubris, sucking up her pride is actually quite selfless on Akane’s part.

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Two months pass, and we’ve got some changes, all of which do a decent job of setting up the second season that arrived a couple days ago. That’s right, because of the timing of my watching of Psycho-Pass, I will not have to endure a two-plus year wait, but will jump right back into it. Ginoza is now an enforcer, Shion and Yayoi still seem to be having pretty okay sex, and Akane is now in charge of the division.

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Perhaps most awesomely, the show ends on a note that may not bode well for Akane’s chances of exacting the change she wants, rather than the “evolution” Sybil seeks. That’s because the show ends just like it began: with a young and eager rookie inspector arriving on a tense crime scene, and the more seasoned inspector telling her they afford to go easy on them. Only this time Akane is the seasoned one and Shimotsuki Mika is the even younger rookie in question. That’s some fantastic symmetry there.

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It may intrest you to know that even though we only saw her for a brief moment, I found myself identifying more with Mika, as I did with Akane when she was new. Considering how long this show has been around, I kind of feel like the second line that Mika represents, who can only repeat the deeds or mistakes of her forbears. Similarly, most of what I’ve prattled on about in these twenty-odd reviews may have already been said before in different forms, but better to have stumbled on this great piece of quasi-Utopian fiction late than never. Thanks for bearing with me. On to Psycho-Pass 2.

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