Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 09 – Trouble in Paradise

There is a lot to sift through this week, but I’ll give IWGP this: there’s no other current show that makes people sitting at tables and talking quite so dang compelling! We begin with Makoto and Takashi being hired to guard an anti-immigration group during a particularly distasteful demonstration.

They’re doing it not for the money, but to keep the peace; in fact, an anti-hate pro-immigration group is paying them so their more radical elements won’t start anything. Even here, everyone thinks it’s a bit odd that the hate group is in Ikebukuro, where the ship has already sailed.

Makoto knows this all to well, as the new brother of a Chinese immigrant. Guo makes her return this week, and we learn she’d been working elsewhere and presumably living on her own, explaining her absence in previous episodes. She introduces Makoto to another mixed family: a Japanese husband and his Chinese wife.

They own a Chinese restaurant in building called Ikebukuro Paradise, and have been the recent victims of harassment. The perps were masked, but the couple suspects the anti-immigration group that’s in town. Makes sense. Makoto gets more insight walking with Guo, who tells him how much it hurts to hear people tell her to “go home” when she is home.

The Chinese restaurant incident isn’t the first at Ikebukuro Paradise; previously a café burned down, though its owner insists it was an accident reacted to the cafe’s audio system, and he basically curtly asks Makoto to stop digging. Of course, Makoto doesn’t, contacting his pal Saru, who tells him a Chinese fund linked up with a Japanese corporation.

Lin fills in more blanks, saying the Chinese real estate company intends to redevelop the Paradise by knocking down the old building. It seems the immigration kerfuffle and harassment could be unrelated strings, but only so far. Then the latter problem escalates when a member of the anti-hate group is attacked and its more radical elements want an eye for and eye.

Then the Paradise problem reasserts itself, as a fire breaks out, killing a resident and at least temporarily shutting down the restaurant. It’s to early to ascertain if it was an accident or arson, but Takashi has seen enough, and urges Makoto to “figure out who needs crushing” so his G-Boys can crush them.

In a nice scene with Makoto, Takashi acknowledges the need for Ikebukuro to change and grow the way it’s doing, but also laments the Ikebukuro he grew up in, and fears the town will lose its unique character if the change and growth go too far and “hate and indifference” continue to rear their ugly heads.

Makoto arranges a full-on summit between the pro- and anti- immigration groups. While testy, the anti leader insists they weren’t behind the fire, and the pro leader is willing to take her at her word. Takashi believes the leader, warped as her views are, but gets an odd unsavory vibe from her second-in-command, Tsukamoto, whom he suspects is into some shady shit.

Sure enough, the former café owner Torii, hearing about the fire and death, comes forward to Makoto and the restaurant owners about the true reason he closed up shop: he was harassed by land sharks. The owners thought they were targets of racial and cultural hatred, but they and the other tenants were rather victims of cynical corporate goons.

Tsukamoto, it turns out, was the director of the company that forced Torii out, the missing link Makoto needed to tie the two problems together. Tsukamoto and his superiors intended to use the anti-immigration group as cover for their land-sharking activities.

But by the time Makoto informs the anti-immigration group’s other leaders of Tsukamoto’s intentions, it’s too late to cancel the demonstrations. It’s a tense moment the next day when the red and blue groups march past each other, but it’s a third group, a hastily-assembled gang led by Tsukamoto himself, that tries to incite violence.

Makoto expected this, and so hired his buddy Shadow to take Tsukamoto out before he could achieve his goal. Takashi’s G-Boys mop up, and all the would-be escalators are arrested. The demonstration ends peacefully, and the restaurant owners and other residents of Ikebukuro Paradise can breathe a sigh of relief, as they’re no longer in the crosshairs.

That said, Lin warns Mikoto and Takashi that some shady Kansai organization that was behind Tsukamoto’s company as well as the smoke shop many weeks back is still looking to plant a foothold in Ikebukuro and destroy the harmony Makoto & Co. have been fighting for so hard.

It’s clear IWGP holds the anti-immigration hate group in pretty low regard, as they should. But it’s also upfront about the reasons people have to join and participate in such groups—people who might start out like Takashi, yearning for The Way Things Wereand becoming more radicalized by the growing influx and influence of immigrants.

At the same time, IWGP is just as clear in promoting the proper way forward, and it obviously isn’t brawls in the streets, but respectful, considered conversations between groups who come to the table in good faith. Makoto once again demonstrates his keen ability to mediate tough issues and keep inevitable brush fires from spreading too far.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 04 – Do You Want to Build a Bathtub?

Despite being a hostage and captive, Princess Syalis is still entitled to the occasional bath, same as all the other inhabitants of the Demon Castle. However, the Red Siberian ordered far too small a tub based on inaccurate information about her size, so it isn’t long until her frustrated fists have pummeled the tiny tub into rubble.

So she sets off in search of water and materials for a new tub. She uses the communication piping to pipe hot water directly from the public demon baths into her cell, then happens upon Rocket Turtle, which features a fuse for a tail. Upon blowing the turtle up, its shell is left behind, making for the perfect basin in which to luxuriantly bathe and eventually sleep.

There are no consequences of Syalis setting off the largest explosion to date in the next segment, in which the Summer heat has afflicted everyone in the castle. Searching for releif, Syalis hears about the “cold area” of the castle, and “borrows” the outer body of the Tire Genie in order to brave the area without freezing.

The ice demon subjects of the area, who have long harbored resentment for the perceived better treatment of fire demons, mistake the princess for their leader, Ice Golem, and she uses that mistaken identity to issue them orders to equip her cell with an igloo, three seals, and some shaved ice, even claiming that Syalis will be the next Demon King!

With Syalis having acquired both leisurely sleep in a hot bath and a wonderfully cooling setup in the summer heat, the third segment offers something completely different: While on another excursion to steal supplies, she shakes an hourglass and ends up shrinking herself to half her normal, already-petite size.

Her clothes don’t shrink, so it’s hard to move, and she can neither lift her stolen goods nor climb out of her present location without help. When she uses the Procupine and Minotaur as a ladder, Quilly won’t let her go, as there is apparently something uniquely pleasant about holding a small human child—especially knowing what a menace she is when full-sized!

As a result, other demons flock to the suddenly-tiny princess, leading to the fiasco she had hoped to avoid (and her strategy of repelling the others by shooting Quilly’s quills only goes so far). But, to her surprise, she doesn’t have to return to her cell to get a good night’s sleep; simply being in Quilly’s warm embrace eventually bestows upon her a child’s sleep that comes after a full day of play. All’s well that ends well!

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 03 – Precedence: Show Higher; Tell Lower

I realize Index is shounen, and a lot of chatter and explanation of tactics is par for the course, but by God there seemed to be a lot of it this week! Much is made about Terra of the Left’s “Precedence” ability, but as a member of the Right Hand of God, neither his presence or his abilities evoke terror. One big problem is it just takes so goddamn long for him to spit out the various incantations that give one thing (like flour) precedence over another (stone, metal, flesh, etc.).

Terra’s seiyu is the venerable Ootsuka Houchuu, but saddling the old man with explaining his attacks and making him say “Precedence: X higher, Y lower” every time he attacks just slows the battle way down to the point where when he gives Touma and Itsuwa “ten seconds” to attack or run, I had to laugh out loud; Dude, you’ve given them over half an hour!

Touma and Itsuwa eventually end up with Tsuchimikado, but only for a hot minute, as they split up again so he can face down some of the invading Academy City Powered Suits. Again, much of the battle is spent with him talking, explaining how he’s going to bring the suits down.

Two other weird little details: when Touma calls Misaka to ask if Avignon’s in the news (which it most definitely is), they didn’t bother to add a “phone filter” to Misaka’s voice, making it sound like she’s there in the Papal Palace with him. Not only that, for a kid who can’t always afford food, he’s racking up quite an international call charge leaving his phone on the hook!

If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, well, I am, but only because the show is so consumed with explaining every, attack, effect, and motive, it all kinda ends up muddling together into a gray mass that makes it easy to be distracted to the little things like the sound Misaka’s voice or Touma’s phone bill.

And at the end of the day, Terra and his attack just aren’t that impressive; certainly not as much as Imagine Breaker (even though Touma either forgot its true power or wants confirmation from Terra). Touma punches Terra a couple times, and then destroys the Document of C when he touches it with his right hand.

Back in the Tower of London, Lidvia continues explaining how the Right Hand of God wants to not only gain the power of angels, but gain equivalency with God himself and even surpass him. Such a lofty yet abstract goal is akin to Jafar’s final wish to the Genie in Aladdin: becoming an all-powerful genie. Sure, you can juggle planets in your hands, but to what end? At what point do you have enough power?

I’m not sure, and neither is the show. The Right Hand of God are simply Bad Guys, and Touma, Misaka, Itsuwa, etc. are the Good Guys. Spending the better part of two episodes on Terra feels even more pointless when we learn the RHG isn’t even really a united force; after having a chat with Terra, Acqua rips a column of the vatican off its mounts and crushes him with it.

Besides being a needlessly destructive way to kill someone, it was also a “twist” that had absolutely no effect on me. Acqua is an even more boring dude then Terra, who at least had a certain joie de vivre about him. Meanwhile, the second straight episode ends with Misaka just hanging out in her dorm, doing nothing. Not a rousing start!

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 02 – We’ll Always Have Avignon

As Stiyl interrogates Lidvia and Biagio in the Tower of London (er, whoever they are), Touma lands in the Rhône River, right by the Pont Saint-Bénézet. Fortunately for him, an ally is on that bridge and jumps in the drink to save him.

That ally is the kind and lovely Itsuwa of the Amakusa Sect, who must change into skimpier clothes when her outfit is soaked by the rescue, leading to a couple of awkward scenes between her and Touma.

What connects Stiyl’s interrogation and Touma and Itsuwa’s advrentures in Avignon are The Right Hand of God, a group of individuals who have apparently successfully purged themselves of most of the original sin inherent in all humans, giving them some angelic powers.

Touma also learns that the Document of C is officially the reason for the demonstrations. Whomever has the relic wields more power than a president with Twitter, able to mold the masses into believing whatever they say, even if there’s no proof to back it up. In this case, they are being told the Academy City is evil and the source of all their ills.

Touma teams up with Itsuwa to locate the geoducts being used to remotely control the relic from the Vatican. In the process we once again witness the unique and charming Amakusa tradition of hiding magic in ordinary everyday objects like bottled water…or underwear.

Itsuwa’s attempts to render a geoduct inoperable are interrupted by a member of the Right Hand of God calling himself Terra of the Left. Despite the earthy name his attacks seem to be wind-based, but Itsuwa dodges and Touma nullifies the strikes with his Imagine Breaker.

Of course, it’s the same age-old problem with Touma: his power is almost strictly defensive; he can hold off Terra but can’t defeat him. Perhaps the addition of Tsuchimikado to Touma and Itsuwa’s ranks will help break the stalemate.