AICO – 03 – After a Rescue, The Real Journey Commences

Aiko and Yuya have been captured by CAAC (Control Agency of Artificial Creatures), led by Director Nanbara, your obligatory Badass Director Lady giving orders in the back of a fancy car. She’s in frequent contact with Dr. Isazu, director of the Kiryu Hospital and once the doctor in charge of Aiko’s care. Clearly lots of people are interested in Aiko.

Thanks to a clever tracking strip in his paper airplane (activated when he goads a guy into crushing it), the Divers get a fix on Yuya’s location before the government takes harsher steps to interrogate him and fill Aiko’s head with lies (they insist her family is dead).

The Divers ambush the captors when they try to move their prisoners, in a decent action scene that demonstrates the Divers’ coordination and toughness, even in non-diving situations. That they were able to so easily infiltrate CAAC and retrieve their assets speaks both to their exceptional skills and CAAC not expecting an ambush.

With Aiko and Yuya back, the mission proceeds as planned—even as there’s a sudden flare-up of the Malignant Matter behind the Gate, spurring an increased military presence, which launches tranquilizer missiles over the gate that manage to calm the Matter down.

While preparing for zero hour, Aiko nods off and her dreams include the POV memories the other Aiko—her real body with an artificial brain. She and her double are connected. Not only that, the Matter is attracted to her artificial body; but Yuya hopes a certain drug will diminish that particular effect.

Aiko has decided to side with those who cultivate and embrace her belief her family is still in there, alive (the other Aiko seems to have encountered them, after all). We’ll see if she’s put her trust in the right people. The Divers are pros who will carry out their mission to the best of their abilities, but they also seem to have taken to Aiko and want to help her out, in addition to, well, trying to save Japan and the world.

Once she and the other Divers are suited up in their “Live Suits” (a process that reveals a lot of her and the Divers’ skin), they head to the Gate. Just minutes after they’re allowed through, however, the Gate is locked down by the government. There’s no turning back; if they’re going to do this, it’s now or never.

Advertisements

AICO – 02 – Getting Up to Speed, Running Away, Getting Nabbed

Aiko’s new “friends” dump a lot of info on her in an episode that gets us up to speed, introduces some other players, and sets the stakes, which are far-ranging. To sum it up, Aiko’s natural body was all but destroyed in a car accident, so researchers decided to put her brain in an artificial body they made when she was born.

However, the surgery that allows her to be standing there today caused the Burst: an overpowered proliferation of “malignant matter” that threatens Japan and the world. She’s also apparently the key to stopping it. Oh, and her mom and brother are still in ground zero.

It’s obviously a lot to absorb for poor Aiko, whose world has just been flipped upside down. She’s a lot like Neo during his sprawling introduction to the Real World, though she doesn’t throw up, she RUNS…nowhere in particular, just away from all this scary shit.

While running, she ends up falling through a roof, right into the lunch a redheaded Diver named Misawa Kaede is about to tuck into. Kaede’s colleague Kazuki assists Aiko when he learns she just wants to get away, but Kaede and the others corner her and bring her back to Kanzaki, Dr. Korose & Co.

Kurose decides to hire the 4-person Diver team to infiltrate Ground Zero in order to retrieve Aiko’s real body. Kanzaki will be their guide, they’ll be paid handsomely even if survival can’t be guaranteed, and whatever 2-person team from the quartet fares better by a certain leg in the mission, will get a bonus and be the ones to accompany Kanzaki to the final leg.

Now that the situation and the plan for dealing with it have been established, it looks like it’s time to impliment it, but the team hits a snag: a SWAT team busts into the hideout and snatches up Aiko and Yuya.

In two episodes, Aiko has been plucked from school by one party, given an infodump, freaked out and run away, picked up again, and then kidnapped by another party. I’m not seeing a whole lot of agency for the titular character, nor are there any indications she’ll be gaining any of it anytime soon.

That could be problematic going forward, as we’re dealing with a Netflix “Original”-style series that has been intricately formulated to check a lot of boxes and satisfy multiple audiences, but in doing so lacks any kind of basic originality.

AICO is (and will probably remain) watchable because’s it’s well-made competently executed, and isn’t gratingly gratuitous (likeDevilman Crybaby). But I like to think I’ve watched enough anime to make the determination that there’s no potential for AICO to be anything other than popcorn entertainment.

AICO – 01 (First Impressions)

Implacable organic masses don’t tend to be the most compelling villains…but we’ll see

Thanks in no small part to streaming services like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, there’s just too damn much television to watch. And if Netflix has anything to say about it, there’s going to be too much anime as well. A.I.C.O.: Incarnation is a Bones-produced original anime tailor-made for Netflix-style binge watching.

That’s quite evident from this first episode, which unloads an awful lot (and jumps around multiple genres) but doesn’t settle on any one thing, yet moves around at a good enough clip to entice you to watch more, provided you don’t get immediately irritated by the number of cliches that unfold.

A Bridal Carry? That was quick.

Mind you, many conventional network-airing anime give you this same kind of kind of thrown-into-the-deep-end, action-packed pilot, but it’s very much intentional here. There’s bits and pieces of characters and story in AICO’s first outing, but not quite enough to be satisfied with just … one … episode. You really want to watch on.

“You aren’t…a stoic Gary Stu by any chance?”

But it’s fairly late, and I typically like to space things out for the sake of my eyes and sanity, so I’ll be watching one episode at a time, unless I can’t resist to watch more for some reason. In that regard, I think I’ll be safe; thus far the presentation of AICO is such that I’d probably benefit from a slight respite between episodes, even if it goes against the Netflix credo of simply sitting in the same place until an entire season is done.

NOT THE FACE

Oh, sorry, I haven’t said much about what AICO is about, just how I felt about watching it. Suffice it to say, there’s a huge threat to humanity in the form of some kind of formless ambulatory mass of gore called “matter” that consumes everything in its path. It’s believed their only hope against this scourge is Tachibana Aiko, who at first appears to be an ordinary high school girl gradually regaining the ability to stand and walk after some unspecified injury.

The reality, however, is that Aiko no longer possesses a natural body; hers is an extremely realistic, intricate, and above all tough artificial body, in which any bruises, blows or cuts are quickly healed. A rake to her face with a knife shatters the knife. This all comes as a shock to Aiko, who already has her plate full as the lone member of her family to survive some kind of calamity likely caused by the Matter.

As I said, the show moves relatively well, even if it moves a bit too much in one sitting; it’s decent-looking enough and the music is adequately atmospheric. Perhaps I’ll take another look or two soon…just not all at once, as prescribed.

Endride – 02

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 12.20.46 AM

The gist: our heroes walk aimlessly for 5 minutes, then fight a wild boar because the writers want to show us their Warp Relics again—but this time, they are joined by a dragon/Pokemon companion!

Eventually, the party finds Pascal but continues to bicker until two-headed purple cats with wings show up and it’s too late! After ten minutes I’ve lost all will to review this steaming pile of garbage.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 12.20.28 AM

Endride’s protagonists spend the majority of the show bickering pointlessly, with unimaginably unimaginative dialog only occasionally interrupted by excruciatingly poorly-animated fight sequences. Everyone is unlikable, poorly designed and unpleasant.

There is absolutely no reason to watch this show. Not this season or any other.

16rating_3

Endride – 01 (First Impressions)

endride2

The gist: Asanaga-kun is your average, gem-obsessed high schooler from a near future earth who falls into an alternate universe one evening while trying to bring his workaholic father home for a birthday dinner.

Meanwhile, Prince-kun is trying to murder his foster father for killing his biological father, and former king, but fails and is thrown in the dungeon…

endride5

Asanaga-kun appears in the dungeon, learns about ‘Relic Swords’ that some people can summon from their chests with emotions, fights a beast man, and eventually ends up helping the prince escape.

In short, Endride is a hilarious run-on sentence of cliches, terrible pacing, bland character design and discount animation.

endride3

Endride’s pacing is mind-blowingly ill-conceived: Asa’s introduction is full of narrated school montages showing his friends and obsession with gems, interspersed with expositional scenes with his mother and gem store owner.

Meanwhile, Villain-sama and Prince-Kun exposition at each other, only for Endride to show us what they just talked about via flashback.

And don’t get me started on how drawn out the escape sequence is, with all its false starts and stops and meaningless fight sequences.

endride1

Asa's mom was an "archaeologist", which is why SHE knows so much about gem stones… (ugh)

Don’t get me wrong, I was laughing at this show all the way through. Asa is one of those protagonists with an IQ of 75. He’s constantly asking stupid questions and adds literally nothing to any scene.

His character design, which includes a hard to see shoulder bag that he even wears to dinner, is exactly what my dad thought ‘cool teens’ would wear in the 90s.

Meanwhile, Villain-sama’s Relic looks like serrated folding chair and Prince-kun has a hooked knife with a pony in the handle…which I don’t even understand why he’s using since he also has a Relic. Absolutely none of the visual styling looks good or makes any sense at all.

endride4

The dialog is terrible, the animation is cheap and Endride’s first episode spent so much time over explaining the basic details that it crowded out a sense of the world.

Verdict: Endride is so bad it is funny but, in a season with so many good shows already, that isn’t a good enough reason to watch it.

16rating_3

Active Raid – 01 (First/Last Impressions)

ar11

We may have orders from RABUJOI Corporate to be tougher on shows and I may have had a long cold week, but neither of those things factored into my impression that Active Raid isn’t good. It is, in fact, quite bad. So bad, it was at times painful to watch. I’ll elaborate.

ar12

The setting and premise are a strange melange of Psycho-Pass, Gatchaman, and Rail Wars!, without any of the strengths or charms of those shows. It also has a touch of Taimadou with its by now done-to-death “team of misfits”, but both the newbie Haruka (a smug, hollow Tsunemori knockoff) and the pithy, one-note misfits come off as dull and unlikable.

ar13

Let’s set aside the fact that a guy randomly grabs Haruka’s ankle for no reason, Haruka often speaks English for no reason, and the titular unit with the too-long-winded name travels along on a slow train that shares rails with commuter trains as the perps (apparently “minors” who look like they’re thirty) fly around in Gatchaman like mecha.

ar14

But the most damning aspect of this show is that it’s so interminably boring. Endless time is spent on displays and endless dialogue is devoted to getting confirmations and permissions and authorizations from the extremely inefficient bureaucracy. One could infer that that’s the point; that this unit could perform better if they were less hog-tied by red tape; but that’s just a theory.

In the meantime, the first episode’s obsession with following rules and the resulting, thoroughly listless sequence of action that got two random teenage perps got barely caught at great cost and trouble precludes any desire on my part to watch another episode in order to see if that theory proves true. This is another “anime-loaf” made up of several pieces of better shows, not baked with love, and I shall be avoiding it.

4_brav2