Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 11 – Going Once, Going Twice…

With its insistence on crafting the most intricate Swiss watch of a final mystery for Lord El-Melloi II to step in and steadily unravel, Case Files fell victim to its own self-indulgence this week, delivering what another possible owner of Kairi’s big rig truck would call “all hat and no cattle”.

That is to say, this episode is nothing but setup for a final reveal that seems to implicate Caules after El-Melloi reveals both the elements of the case Adashino had omitted so her deduction would stand up; the beginning of the presentation of El-Melloi’s conclusions, without following through.

In a show that has featured no small amount of pleasing spectacles, the whole damn point of the train, the Mystic Eyes auction, carries with it all the urgency and excitement of a rapidly deflating balloon. The auction room is nothing but an ornate but stodgy courtroom, where the bidding is arbitrarily paused not once but twice: once so El-Melloi can secure funding from Melvin; another so El-Melloi can state his case.

The murders in the past, as well as that of Trisha, were committed so the mastermind could collect the Mystic Eyes of the victims and use them at will. El-Melloi states that only one person could do everything the mastermind did and possess the all-important motive.

The credits roll just as Adashino moves to restrain Caules and the eyes in Trisha’s severed head, but there’s simply no time to revel in that revelation. After all, aside from caring for the injured El-Melloi, Caules hasn’t had much to do, and has been rather innocuously hiding in plain sight.

I’m glad El-Melloi knows who the culprit is, but this episode just confirmed that it wasn’t Karabo; it didn’t explain why it is Caules (if that’s who it ends up being). Thus the episode ends in an unsatisfying ellipsis, as the full measure of Lord El-Melloi’s conclusions will have to wait until next week.

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Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 10 – Deduction, Not Delusion

In a clever narrative device that could have probably sustained an entire episode within the unconscious El-Melloi II’s mind, past merges with present as Waver is back in Lord Kayneth’s class at the Clock Tower, only the Lord is asking him about things going on now, like his desire to participate in the next HGW, and Hephaestion’s rejection of him as a worthy subject.

Meanwhile, left behind by the Rail Zeppelin, Gray waits out the blizzard with Hephaestion, who warms to her a bit after she determines the two are alike; both “living incarnations of a distant ideal,” both “counterfeit”, yet still unique and autonomous due to their own personal ideals, without which Gray could not have fought Hephaestion.

Since she deems them to be alike, Hephaestion understands Gray’s desire to stay by El-Melloi’s side to the bitter end, but warns her that loyalty and glory can be contradictory; if the time comes when Gray has to choose, and chooses glory, both she and the Lord could be destroyed.

Luvia and Kairi’s investigation continues with an interview with Mary Lil Fargo, though frankly they feel almost distractingly distant from the more pressing matters aboard Rail Zeppelin. Still, Mary was friends with Trisha, and last met with her a month ago.

Mary tells them that Trisha was trying to connect the serial murder case seven years ago, the investigation of that case by Lord Aminusphere and someone known as the “man with no heart,” and the Lord’s abandoning of Olga-Marie. Luvia knows of that heartless man, and that he has a younger sister-in-law aboard the train: Adashino.

Gray gets back to Rail Zeppelin in pretty much the most bodacious way possible, another reminder that however serious and stodgy this show can get, it doesn’t forget to include fun little moments of levity like Gray using Add as a snowboard, even pulling a couple tricks before landing into the caboose before Caules and a very amused Melvin.

Miss Adashino brings an end to the lighthearted fun by gathering everyone to the dining car to deliver her deductions, since Mr. Master Detective is still asleep. She reveals that Policies was looking into a serial beheading case seven years ago, but so was the Holy Church, and their investigator was…Karabo.

She also has Olga-Marie present Trisha’s head, which Trisha herself made sure would fall into the dimensional pocket she created after foreseeing her future murder with her Mystic Eyes. When Olga found the head, it had been frozen in time, and thus Trisha had one more breath with which to say one word: “Karabo.”

Adashino believes Karabo possesses eyes that can not only see the past, but make past visions the truth, and that his Mystic Eyes enabled him to bring a killing slash made through the air in the past into the present, just as Trisha’s head inhabited that space. While this is all conjecture, Adashino believes it’s enough to warrant certain measures be taken against Karabo.

Then an awake and recovered Lord El-Melloi II is wheeled in by Gray, and he immediately calls Adashino’s conclusions into question.

For one thing, Adashino never mentioned Karabo’s motive, and he’s of the mind that there can be no crime without motive. After all, what with Mages and their ability to manipulate individuals, motives aren’t always directly tied to the actual perpetrators of said crimes.

Just when El-Melloi voices his doubts about Adashino’s surety that Karabo’s Mystic Eyes can project elements of the recorded past into the present, Rail Zeppelin’s ethereal deputy manager comes, on schedule, to extract Karabo’s eyes. Karabo is restrained, but El-Melloi still isn’t convinced of his guilt.

Indeed, Karabo only just remembered he was even involved with the serial murder case seven years ago. His Mystic Eyes could see the past, but at the cost of his memories. But if he can get them back, he believes he can determine the truth of things. To get them back, he’ll need to win them in auction. Melvin offers to help them place a bid, but El-Melloi would rather not get involved with him.

Instead, he vows to solve the case on his own.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 10 – Keep Calm and Scary On

Boogiepop and Others is hard enough to follow without having surplus episodes piled atop one another, but the day after last week’s conclusion to the Imaginator arc, that’s just what happened: four episodes dropping at once, comprising an entire arc. Because this first of the four had its own OP, ED, and self-contained story, I’ve decided to watch and review them each separately, as if they aired on different days.

This is the story of how Boogiepop got her admittedly bizarre name. She’s responding to a question from our favorite benevolent alien, Echoes, while the two are wandering a ruined, post-apocalyptic landscape. A stuffed animal that crumbles in his hand suggests it’s Earth of the distant (or not-too-distant) future. Wherever and whenever it is, it’s super creepy.

Boogiepop’s name origin story starts with a detective named Kuroda, AKA Scarecrow. Like Orihata Aya/Camille, he’s a synthetic human working for the Towa Organization. His colleague Pigeon gives him his next mission: checking up on fellow member Teratsuki Kyouichirou, suspected of betraying Towa. We learn from Kuroda that Towa is a vast network primarily dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of human evolution; both how we got to where we are, and what comes next.

Teratsuki kinda fades into the background as Kuroda finds someone more intriguing at one of his sprawling medical facilities: a young Kirima Nagi (younger than the previous episodes in which we’ve seen her). She notes that her somewhat unusual first name is based on the sentiment of “keeping calm no matter the situation”, and her personal situation is not optimal: diagnosed as “growing pains,” she has fits of pain so intense she can’t even describe it.

Nagi is also very much like the young woman we’ve seen in the present thus far: gorgeous, upbeat, direct, intensely curious, and dedicated to the truth: a natural detective in larval form. Once Kuroda gets past her guard (Naoko), he presents the results of her request for him to investigate her: he discovered her agent was embezzling her money and got him fired.

But despite all the qualities that make our Nagi Nagi in the present, this past Nagi is deeply uncertain and apprehensive about who and what she should become, if and when her condition is healed. Kuroda asserts that everyone feels that way on the road to coming into themselves. He himself dreamed of becoming a superhero who, unlike a detective, didn’t have to worry about all of the peripheral crap that comes with solving crimes. Just rush in, get the job done, and call it a day.

This perks Nagi up, and she says Kuroda should definitely become a superhero. Their visit is cut short when she starts having fits of pain, but when she grabs him, it leaves a raw mark, almost like a burn. That clinches it for Kuroda: Nagi is one of the “NPSLs” its his usual mission to locate. She’s evolving to the next stage…but it’s a rough gestation, which is keeping her in a hospital bed, unable to realize her own dreams.

Thus Kuroda—”Scarecrow”—decides to make a grand, superheroic gesture to Nagi, whom he’s decided to be the recipient of his heroism. He ransacks a Towa facilities to find a serum that would normally act as a catalyst for human evolution. Because Nagi is already evolving without it, administering it offsets the “possibility” that is tearing her apart from within. With one injection, he enables her to live the (relatively) normal human life she enjoys in the present.

While his act was both heroic and kind from the perspective of those of us rooting for Nagi to survive and thrive, it also broke a lot of Towa rules, and they send an assassin to eliminate him for his treachery against the organization. That assassin, Sasaki, is lightning quick of foot and deadly with a knife, but Kuroda demonstrates he can be pretty fast himself. While the two may look like a couple of regular-looking schlubs, they move like superheroes.

While Kuroda gets away, it isn’t before Sasaki gives him a wound from which he knows he won’t recover. That’s when a “reaper” appears, in the form of Touka, offering a chance to judge him favorably for doing something heroic for someone, even if it led to his demise.

Kuroda wonders if he’s speaking to a near-death delusion, but we know she’s really there. He calls her “creepy bubble”—like a boogieman that pops into and out of existence. Thus the title “Boogiepop”. When Sasaki finds Kuroda’s body, the Scarecrow is smiling, and why not? It may have cost his life, but he saved Kishima Nagi. For one night, he was a superhero. And one night was enough.

Hajimete no Gal – 04

While wholesomely innocently researching “gals” on the interwebs to learn how to interact with Yame and Ranko better, Junichi comes across an extremely cute gal with a loyal following. This gal’s necklace has the same snake motif as Kashii Yui’s hairpin, so yeah, it’s pretty evident from the start that “Boa-sama” is Yui in disguise.

Yui is always presenting a calm, mature identity at school, but beneath that exterior she’s a vain, arrogant, imperious girl, labeling all of her classmates with various servant’s names and titles. Junichi has always been a loyal “doggy” to her, and isn’t interested in sharing him with some uncultured gal.

While Yame is hanging out with her galfriends, Yui springs out of the bushes and strikes like the snake she loves wearing, taking an extremely dumb Junichi on a date.

Meanwhile it’s on the tip of Shinpei’s tongue who Boa-sama reminds him of; an increasingly irritated and thus less careful Boa throws him a bone by describing him and his crew of losers to a man.

While secretly recording her flirting with Junichi in the classroom (which is illegal in Japan), Boa-sama gets final visual proof and shares it with the lads, who are shocked by the revelation. Despite Shinpei’s efforts to reveal his discovery in secret, Ranko gets wind of it.

Sensing that being blunt will be best against the painfully dense Junichi, Yui passionately confesses to him on the roof. When he turns her down (as he’s dating Yame), she immediately cracks and her extremely fiery, petulant personality gushes out.

She also plays her trump card: she secretly recorded her date with him (which is illegal in Japan), and orders him to break up with Yame and go out with her, or she’ll send the video to Yame.

That’s checkmate for Junichi…or it would be if he didn’t have a gang of friends watching both his back and Yame’s. Ranko arrives with the three losers, superhero-style (complete with ill-advised high jump off a ledge; Ranko lands as a hero would; the guys eat shit).

Ranko counters Yui’s Yame-harming blackmail with blackmail of her own: the knowledge that Yui is Boa-sama. Yui surrenders, but she won’t give up so easily, and the war has only begun…just as Junichi’s well-endowed childhood friend prepares to take the stage.

While the lack of any real suspense regarding who Boa-sama was, and Junichi’s general incompetence in everything but being an easy mark for…just about anyone, the episode was buoyed by Taketatsu Ayana’s strong performance voicing the many sides of Yui, and while the lolicon guy still needs to stop talking, the losers, Shinpei in particular, were in top form this week.

Ace Attorney – 03

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I enjoyed David E. Kelley’s legal “dramedy” Boston Legal, despite that fact it could often go off the rails of what was reasonable legal procedure, (particularly courtroom conduct) because it was goofy and funny. Ace Attorney is also goofy and funny, but I find myself unable to constantly overlook its cavalier attitude toward the sacred institution of the law.

Mayoi’s trial is a damned free-for-all from the start, when Mitsurugi Reiji calls a witness in the middle of his opening statement, before Naruhodo even gets a chance to say his part. The witness is Det. Itonokogiri, whose testimony is so full of holes a mouse could mistake it for cheese.

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Oh, and the cheese is laid on thick here, when after Naruhodo rather easily exposes the good detective’s inconsistencies, Mitsurugi changes “died instantly” to “died pretty much instantly.” That said, he also makes the mistake of calling another unreliable witness to the stand.

This witness is apparently meant to titillate the men in the courtroom and little else, while Mitsurugi is concerned only with theories he can prove with facts in the courtroom, regardless of whether those theories point the finger at the entirely wrong person, i.e. Mayoi. It’s all rigged!

Wen Naruhodo breaks the pink bombshell (her transition sex kitten to fist-pounding harridan is hilariously abrupt) and Mitsurugi calls for an adjournment so he can go over all the evidence Naruhodo keeps pulling out of his pockets (real professional, that!) things get even more ridiculous, when Naruhodo tracks down the witness’s boss.

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Konaka Masaru is a grotesque joke of a character, with his flamboyant wardrobe, goofy office, and constant use of Bad English in his speech. This guy also happens to be the kingpin of a massive empire of blackmail at every level of society with the front of an IT company.

He also has the motive to be Chihiro’s true killer, since she’d been investigating him for years. And with one phone call, Konaka gets Haruhodo arrested as the new prime suspect in her murder. Hwhaa?

With lawyers going around acting like detectives, detectives acting like judges, and absurd circus trials with no semblance of order, this is a dark, fallen, poorly-animated world, and I feel bad for anyone with pure justice in their heart who has to live in it. Fortunately, I don’t, and so I’m checking out.

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Ace Attorney – 02

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When he arrives for a dinner date with Chihiro and her sister, Naruhodo finds Chihiro dead, the sister cowering in the corner, and the Thinker clock and broken glass strewn around the floor. Just then, the police burst in, led by Detective Itonokogiri Keisuke, and the sister Mayoi (Yuuki Aoi) ends up locked in jail, suspected of murdering Chihiro.

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So Naruhodo has another mystery on his hands (including who called those cops so fast!) despite the fact he is a defense lawyer, not a detective. In Law & Order, you have two separate groups doing those two jobs, but Naruhodo does it all, and quite haphazardly.

What he isn’t—at least not initially—is Mayoi’s defender. That job falls to some mustachioed bigwig lawyer Chihiro told Mayoi to contact if she ever got in trouble. He seems willing to take on the case…until the prosecutor is announced: the intimidating, Undefeated Mitsurugi Reiji; he of the incredibly tacky office. Little too much crimson there, sport?

Detective-wise, Naruhodo finds Mayoi’s phone with her last conversation with Chihiro recorded on it (for some reason), and gets the actual detective (who seems a bit of a dolt) to reveal the name of his witness, the hotel room of which Naruhodo visits for a hot minute (and finds a suspicious bedazzled screwdriver).

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Anywho, virtually no one wants to defend poor Mayoi now that Mitsurugi is the prosecutor, so Naruhodo searches his soul and determines despite his personal ties to the murder victim and the fact it’s completely improper, he’ll be the one to defend her.

That’s fine with Mayoi, because that’s what she wants too after noticing how hard he worked to find her a replacement for Mustache, getting soaked in the rain and covered in sakura petals. They both have a cute little flirtation in which they ask at the same time, then both bump their heads on the glass.

So now we’re set up for Naruhodo’s second and by far most important case of his life, and Mitsurugi isn’t going to go easy on the rookie. We still know little of the case but small clues here and there, but I wonder if Mayoi’s spirit medium training will come into play.

What isn’t in doubt at all (at least for me) is that Mayoi will be exonerated and Mitsurugi will be handed his first loss. I’m willing to swim in this clunky sea of mediocre animation at least one more week to see how he pulls it off!

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 12 (Fin)

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Well, have egg on my face. Just when I thought the show had already reached its main resolution, just when I wasn’t in love with the direction I thought it was taking with Satoru’s new future, and just when I was a little impatient that last week seemingly ended in the same place as the week before, ERASED didn’t just ignore and then subvert my expectations; it pushed them off a school roof with gusto.

It all starts with a little necessary backtracking. Satoru isn’t calm and cool up on that roof alone with Yashiro because he’s content with the life he’s lived and the good he’s done for those around him. It’s because he has a plan. It’s a plan that we can only speculate about until it happens, but it was made with the help of Kenta and Hiromi, who are committed to helping Satoru again, if that’s what he wants.

They feel that way because when he, the superhero, needed help, he believed in them, and so they believed right back. Without that mutual belief in one another, the amazing things he achieved wouldn’t have happened…and Satoru would have likely been murdered up on the roof.

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Call it “One Last Job” for Satoru & Friends: the job that even their nemesis doesn’t see coming, because he’s so consumed with putting Satoru in a box with either jail or death as the escape routes, like a rat in a maze. He uses a fatal muscle relaxant IV on Kumi (with Satoru’s fingerprints on the bag) to create that awful choice, and keeps grinning with glee about finally besting the one who ruined all his plans.

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This is as superhero-y as you can get: the Villain thinking he has the Hero, his Nemesis, in his clutches and at his mercy, and just when victory as he sees it is in sight, the hero wiggles out. The hero wins, with a move way out of left field and yet deliciously awesome in its precision and timing.

Satoru says Yashiro the one who has lost, not only because he was able to save all those victims from him (including his mother in the future) and thwart all his attempts to frame him (including this one), but because for fifteen years—only an instant for him, but an agonizing crawl for Yashiro—while he slept, Yashiro didn’t kill him.

He couldn’t, because Satoru was the only one who knew who he was; that something that fills the void everyone has and needs to have filled. He can’t kill him because of that.

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And Satoru means that quite literally. Sure, Yashiro could let go, which he does, but if Satoru dies then, so does the one thing in his life that’s made him feel anything. The void returns. But Yashiro doesn’t die even when Yashiro decides to let go, because his friends arranged a cushion for him to land safely on, and they also serve as witnesses for Yashiro’s attempted murder.

Yashiro lost because he was alone; because the only person that could fill his void was someone he was committed to ruining; tormenting; erasing. And yet, Yashiro, who truly took fifteen years of Satoru’s life away from him, may have actually been doing him a favor, for the life Satoru lived when we met him was one of dark repressed memories, dead classmates and friends, and most importantly, a life where he had ceased “taking the bull by the horns”.

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It took more struggle to get there, but Satoru was, with his mom and his buddies, finally able to bring Yashiro to true justice. He was able to live on once his deep sleep had ended, and both his memories of heroic deeds, and the dramatic one he performed on the roof to put Yashiro away, filled a void in him that was present in the original timeline, before any Revivals.

This older Satoru keeps taking the bull by the horns. After being a real hero, he became able to write about heroes, compellingly enough to have anime made about them. He’s by all rights a great success, but when he returns back to the city after visiting all his old friends in Hokkaido (and I liked how they teased Misato as a possible love interest), a void still remains in him: one shaped like Kitagiri Airi, the wonderful soul who got lost in all the time-shifting…

…Or so we and Satoru thought. Or maybe he didn’t think that. Why else would he return to the bridge where he and Airi parted, with him in handcuffs and she in tears? Kayo was never meant to be the girl Satoru ended up with after all. When Airi appears, asking brightly if she could share some shelter from the snow with him, everything comes full circle.

It’s a bit cliche, but it’s true: believing in people leads them to believe in you; that’s how you gain allies and friends. It’s one big loop of believing and void-filling. And there you have it: a very nifty and moving ending to my favorite anime of the Winter! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 11

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Last week really wiped the show’s slate clean, as I truly had no idea what was going to happen after seeing Satoru about to drown in a freezing lake. Part of me expected another time-jump, but unlike the last time it happened, young Satoru was in mortal distress. He couldn’t very well jump back to his future self if his past self was drowning.

But at some point between then and this week, Satoru survived Yashiro’s attempt on his life. In fact, it seems to be Yashiro who saved him, because no one else was around. However, when he presumably returned Satoru to his mother, he was fast asleep, and when we rejoin him, he wakes up for the first time in fifteen years.

Wait…what?

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Satoru’s generally excellent physical condition in spite of that long slumber is credited to his mother, who spend four hours out of every day keeping him clean, well-fed and exercising his joints and muscles, all while making ends meet with a convenience store job. If I didn’t already consider Sachiko a Super-Mom—before this act of selfless devotion and hope absent any indication Satoru would ever wake up—I sure would now.

However, when he wakes up, Satoru’s memories are scrambled, and he has no idea what put him in the comatose state in the first place, though he does remember Kenya and Hiromi, and wastes no time trying to walk again as a young cancer patient watches. However, Satoru can’t shake the feeling (as his older self narrates, suggesting even this isn’t the present day of the show) his old friends are being kept from bringing up certain things, perhaps at his mothers’ request.

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I harbored pretty neutral feelings about this situation, and the fact that Yashiro may have well let Satoru live only to wait for him to wake back up so he can finish what he started. But for some reason, it just didn’t sit right for me when an older Kayo appeared with an infant in her arms, and we later learn she married Hiromi and they started a family while he was asleep.

Satoru takes this a lot better than I do, and I say that knowing it was silly to think Kayo and Hiromi would put their lives on hold—the way Satoru’s mom did—in the off-chance he woke up. But it still stinks—a lot—that Satoru missed his shot with Kayo because he saved her, and that she ended up with one of the other two kids he saved. An unavoidable but still raw and frankly pretty disappointing deal to the shipper in me.

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But Satoru, happy he was able to save Kayo and Hiromi (along with Aya, the older version of whom we don’t see), is content to be the honored hero, and knows he still has vast stores of motivational power for the young cancer patient, Kumi, who is as amazed by everyone else by his quick recovery.

Satoru proves he’s his selfless, loving, heroic mother’s son, by offering Kumi advice on how to have courage: starting with simply picturing the people you care about in your head.

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Then Yashiro shows up, and it’s only a matter of time before he says or does something that triggers Satoru’s memory of who he really is and what he did to him fifteen years ago. I’m not that sure why Yashiro befriended Kumi (another victim?), but he actually seems to enjoy how his relationship with Satoru returns to the way it was, if only briefly.

Satoru seems to recall everything when Yashiro starts tapping the handle of his wheelchair, and now we’re right back where last week left off: a virtually helpless Satoru all alone in the clutches of Yashiro. Only in this timeline, Kayo had no choice but to pass Satoru by and choose someone else. Not saying that will be undone, but I wouldn’t rule out another time-leap back to the past now that Satoru is conscious and knows the score.

Nor would I mind such a development. I know, one shouldn’t push their luck, but surely he could create a future where he (and his mother) don’t have to sacrifice a significant chunk of their lives and happiness so that Kayo, Hiromi and Aya could be saved. But first thing’s first: Satoru has to somehow survive his latest encounter with Yashiro.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 10

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With Kayo safe in her new home and Hiromi hardly ever alone, Satoru has successfully taken two of the serial killer’s potential victims off the board. All that’s left is Aya, who Satoru confronts with Kenta and Hiromi.

When Kazu jumps in to defend boys’ hideouts it only seems to make things worse, but turns out he charmed her enough for her to come visit them not long after their first meeting.

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Aya befriends the boys, Kazu in particular, and suddenly she’sno longer alone, making Satoru 3-for-3. But when Hiromi notices Misato (the girl Satoru blew up on for accusing Kayo of stealing) is now a class pariah and often alone, Satoru catches up with my thinking last week: depriving the killer of his original choice of victims will make him seek out a substitute.

In his thought process, Satoru is careful not to make it the same thing as Yashiro-sensei using candy as a cigarette substitute. Little does he know at the time that he’s on to something with that comparison, and that I was on to something with all those nagging suspicions about the young educator.

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Satoru follows the lonely Misato to the hockey rink, pondering how to approach her (which will be tougher since he’s could be considered partly responsible for her ending up ostracized). When she goes to the bathroom, and takes a little too long, Satoru starts to worry.

Then Yashiro appears from the back door, sucking on a lollipop. And that was it; I knew something was wrong, and there’d be no more explanations that would dissuade me from the truth: Yashiro is the killer. Satoru finds out far too late, after he’s already willingly in Yashiro’s car, having asked him to follow Yuuki’s father’s truck, believing Misato was kidnapped by him.

Before the truth hits Satoru (and boy, does it pack a wallop), he and Yashiro have a somewhat innocuous conversation about the nature of Satoru’s recent acts of heroism, and how they “fill a hole” in the hearts of those he helps, as well as his own. He’s doing—and done—something he’d always yearned to do: fix things from the past that were broken and haunted him since.

The discussion then turns a bit darker when Yashiro says the essence of good and evil deeds is the same, and that he and Satoru share the need to fill a void in their heart; to make up for a defect in himself. But “evil” is the operative word here; Satoru is good; Yashiro is not.

Satoru finally gets it when he sees Yashiro tapping his finger on the steering wheel more and more forcefully, and reaches for the glovebox to get him some candy…only there’s no candy in there, only laxatives he gave to Misato, who he used to bait Satoru into entering his clutches willingly.

Once they enter the tunnel and reddish flashing lights adorn Yashiro’s true face, it’s as if Satoru is in the presence of the devil himself.

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Satoru taking the bait was the last thing Yashiro needed to confirm they were enemies. And yet, Yashiro is amazed and impressed, not bitter or angry, that Satoru managed to anticipate his thinking and destroy his plans for Kayo, Aya and Hiromi. Of course, he’s also driving Satoru out into the middle of nowhere, so it’s not like he’s just going to let him go.

After the wheels start turning in Satoru’s head, he laments he couldn’t see the glaringly obvious. It’s just that he let both his past, present, and future trust in Yashiro blind him from all of the factors that incriminated him. I too was kept in a state of ambiguity about Yashiro in the end, since the various evidence was never incontrovertible until this week. It was only hinted at through little gestures, glimpses, and asides.

As we’re given glimpses of the fruits of Satoru’s labor—his mother alive; Aya and Hiromi with friends; Kayo in her new safe home with her grandma—the only thing left for hi to do was to find and stop the killer. Yashiro simply got to him first, exploiting his blind spot to the hilt.

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So just like that, by trying to go beyond saving the three original victims, Satoru ends up in the clutches of The Killer. The man who not only killed those three kids in a previous timeline, but also murdered his mom and framed him for it. The same carefulness is on display here in 1988 with his multiple cars and fastidious preparation.

That preparation leads them to a half-frozen stream at a campground, where Yashiro uses a basketball on the gas pedal to send the car into the drink with Satoru strapped inside with a seatbelt that just won’t become un-stuck. Yashiro concedes defeat in terms of the the kids Satoru saved, and the peace he won for the town. But he’s still going to kill Satoru; by “my hands and for my sake.” And then he’ll go to another town and start anew.

Even when Satoru tells him he can see Yashiro’s future, Yashiro doesn’t jump in and pull him out of the car. The episode ends with Satoru, as far as we know, drowning, and there’s a finality to the fact that even the abstract visualization of the various timelines shatters and breaks down. Of course, everything can’t be over for Satoru yet, since this whole show is from his point of view, and there are two whole episodes left…right?

Regarding the unambiguous confirmation that Yashiro is the show’s Big Bad, in all timelines: On the one hand, I’m a little sad now that one the central mysteries is over. On the other hand, I’m glad that it was the most logical choice based on the evidence provided. Anyone other than Yashiro would have been too far out of left field.

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PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie

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I am a professed fan of PSYCHO-PASS, but was among those who thought the 2014 sequel couldn’t quite match the greatness of the 2012 original (You can read my reviews of PSYCHO-PASS and PSYCHO-PASS 2 by following the preceding links). I’ve also always had a soft spot for Tsunemori Akane, the ever-conflicted super badass detective and one of seiyu Hanazawa Kana’s most compelling roles.

This 2015 movie (which will have a limited theatrical release in the U.S. later this month) is Akane’s biggest stage to date. Rather than focus on another Japan-based mastermind, the franchise turns its gaze outward to the mainland: the Southeast Union or SEAUn, where the Sybil System has been transplanted on an island utopia called Shamballa Float.

Akane heads there because after armed terrorists from the union launch a failed assault on Tokyo (the film’s action-packed beginning), she learns that they may have been sent by none other than her former enforcer, friend, and romantic interest, Kogami Shinya. Their reunion in a foreign land forms the character crux of the film.

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When Akane arrives at SEAUn and gets a tour of the place outside Shamballa, it’s both her and our first look at the world outside Japan where Sybil doesn’t yet hold full sway. It’s seething with unrest and violence, much of it being meted out by a military police force that rules with an iron fist.

We are forced along with Akane to weigh the pros and cons of Japan and SEAUn as they relate to the implementation of Sybil technology, which is still in its harsh “teething stage” in the latter nation. There’s even more overt segregation, with latent criminals wearing neckbands that will sedate or poison them if their hues cloud too much.

The movie does a good job quickly rendering a very oppresive and unpleasant place where I definitely would never want to live.

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Fueled by her intention to find Kogami and get to the truth of matters ASAP, Akane rides along on a military operation led by Colonel Nicolas Wong, who is also her escort and the first official she met in SEAUn. While initially friendly and accommodating, he has a big problem with Akane running off on her own, to the point he suspects she’s joining the terrorists.

Kogami is pretty surprised to see Akane, considering a war zone is no place for a metropolitan detective and they haven’t seen each other in years, but they don’t have time to reminisce and escape the combat area to Kogami’s base camp.

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Kogami, who calls Akane “Inspector” for old time’s sake, explains himself simply by saying he’s part of SEAUn’s democratization movement. SEAUn’s military dictator Chairman Han may have a bunch of Sybil toys, but he can’t believe the fight is hopeless.

Kogami brings Akane to his movement’s headquarters, where he’s revered almost like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, only without the insanity and disease (though the exotic Angkor Wat-esque buildings definitely look the part). Akane can respect what he’s trying to do, and certainly understands Kogami’s power to draw people into his orbit with his natural charisma (a part of her still likes the guy), she still asks him to turn himself in, a request he declines.

To Akane’s releif, Kogami didn’t send terrorists to Japan. Rather, they were extremist comrades of his who broke off from his movement to do their own thing. But the fact that group got to Japan and were able to get as far as they did in their assault tells both Akane and Kogami that they must’ve had official support on the downlow.

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In the meantime, Kogami impresses upon Akane the importance of getting back to Shamballa Float before she ends up tangled up in more unpleasantness. Her reluctance to leave is overridden when a band of ultra-elite mercenaries with cybernetic prostheses hired by Wong attacks the headquarters. It’s all Kogami can do to get Akane out of there safely, and while he puts up a rather implausible fight, he’s eventually taken prisoner, and later beaten for information.

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Akane is arrested upon her return to Shamballa, and Wong lobbies for her immediate, but Han steps in and allows her to stay, albeit under closer observation. That gives Akane a chance to use some pillbugs Shion gave her to infiltrate Shamballa’s Sybil System, gather data, and even release her attendant Yeo from her latent criminal collar.

However, by the time Shion discovers that military officers like Wong were illegally bypassing cymatic scans that would cloud their hues to a tremendous extent, Wong has Yeo drug Akane’s drink in exchange for the promise of having her little brother’s collar removed. Wong welshes on the deal and shoots Yeo in the head, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s an evil opportunistic bastard.

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When the mercs deliver Kogami to Wong, he arranges for him and Akane to be shot and cover up their deaths in an abortive helicopter escape attempt. I must say, I really didn’t see how Akane and Kogami were going to get out of this one, even if I knew they were.

Ultimately, the choice of killing them out in the open on rooftop rather than a location Wong could fully control proved his undoing, as Akane and Kogami are saved by the cavalry in the form of the Bureau of Public Safety, who kill Wong and either lethally eliminate or take into custody his men.

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All of the mercs save their leader are killed in the attack, and Kogami goes after him, while after having metaphorical cold water splashed on her head by Mika, Akane confronts “Chairman Han”, who is really a cybernetic body double inhabited by the collective brains of Sybil System itself.

Akane has another one of her patented Big Picture Verbal Spars over law and the will of the people with Sybil, ultimately convincing it/them to make Han step down and open both leadership of SEAUn and the choice to implement Sybil up to the people, via democracy.

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Oh yeah, meanwhile, Kogami has an intense but ultimately pointless final battle with the merc leader, who is only still alive so Kogami has someone strong to fight and Gino has to rescue him. After taking care of the merc, Gino lets Kogami go, making him promise not to burden Akane anymore, and also gets a good punch in.

Akane’s mainland adventure thus wrapped up (shame she didn’t get to say a long and decent goodbye to Kogami), she and the other bureau members leave Shamballa and SEAUn in the hands of the new, more populist regime. And there you have it: Inspector Tsunemori Akane was singularly instrumental in changing the course of an entire nation, hopefully for the better.

I watched this because I’m not sure I’d be able to make the theatrical release, and feared it would be dubbed in English. Turns out, more than a quarter of the dialogue is in horrible English anyway (as attempted by the Japanese seiyus) which was extremely irritating. But aside from that, this was a sufficiently fun, exciting flick that moved briskly and gave us some welcome quality time with Akane-san.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 11 (Fin)

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Subete ga F ni Naru was a fun, engrossing, and above all thought-provoking show from beginning to end. Even though the main mystery has been solved, this episode trudges onward with some very long but solid character interactions: first between Saikawa and Miki Shiki, then between Saikawa and Moe. By the end, has introduced a whole new brace of head-scratching mysteries to ponder during the digital end credits.

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Dr. Magata makes good on her promise she and Saikawa will meet again far sooner than Saikawa expected, considering she’s on the lamb, but something he said in their sensory deprivation meeting intrigued her to the extent she felt the need to visit him in person and chat a little, before surrendering herself to the police. That something was “You can’t smoke underwater,” and she opts to try one of cigarettes (her first ever).

They talk of life and death; her view (though she doesn’t say it’s the only view) that the latter is the natural state of things, while life itself is “a kind of illness” that death cures. She also considers the human compulsion to want to interfere in the lives of others—or to want one’s own life interfered with by another—is essentially what love is.

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As we see the ship at sea for the first time since the pilot, I pondered what it represented, as Shiki tells Saikawa that they have similar “structures”—other selves created to protect “the real him.” But Saikawa isn’t Shiki, nor does she believe he could ever become her. At least, he’d need “far more than one hundred years” to do so. It’s not meant as an insult, just a fact, and Saikawa accepts it as the two part.

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The Lego Shiki leaves him with is another question mark, but after pondering his encounter in his office (during which time Moe tentatively enters, makes coffee, and promises to leave right afterwards), he realizes the three “policemen” who surrounded her weren’t policemen at all, but guys she hired to act that way. Shiki is still out in the wind. Saikawa laughs out loud, not just because she got him once more, but because I think he’s happy she’s still free.

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His talk with her got him thinking: “love has no single shape.” It could be being killed, as it might have been for Shiki and her daughter. Or it could be solving the magic trick someone else loved outsmarting others with, then being the one who saves the life of someone who had no one else,  and telling silly jokes that make her irritated or tear up.

Saikawa makes no bones about him and Moe being very different people, but that doesn’t matter; two people don’t need to be the same to be in love. He’s willing to accept all of Moe’s “contradictions” if she’s willing to have him. This was a love that has been brewing for some time, but only his experience with Dr. Magata shook him out of the impasse they were in and take the next step into something like a romance, which Moe has been ready to take for some time.

The camera plays with the positions of Moe and Saikawa as they go on an apparent date together, only showing them separate from each other at first, not quite in the same location at once, until they are in the frame together. Moe also learns that Gido is Saikawa’s little sister, so she never had any competition to begin with (not to mention Saikawa never wanted to kiss her).

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On that happy note, we leave Saikawa and Moe, and shift to a time and place we know not when or where. Shiki is on a camel in the desert with her daughter, teaching her that even though humans do not really exist for the sake of people and things around them, they cannot help but assign such reasons to exist as for the sake of others, or to help everyone. “They always want an answer”, and that want drives them. We cut to the two of them in the kitchen of her locked apartment in the lab, where Shiki urges her daughter never to stop seeking those answers even after she is gone, which is strange, because the theory was that she outlived her daughter when she murdered her.

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The final shot is the most perplexing, but not negatively so: “Michiru” introduces “Kishio”, the apparent name of her daughter, in that seascape with the giant shipwreck. Where is this place? Did it ever exist, or is it just in Shiki’s mind? We saw Shiki interact with Saikawa in the real world, but these last scenes threaten to upheave all that came before. Then again, Shiki did speak of dying without suffering and not fearing death.

After getting so many satisfying answers and explorations of philosophy, existence, life, death and time…there are still more questions. But as is the case with so much in life, we must be content with the answers we have, and with the fact that we’ll never find them all.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 10

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Last week came as close as Subete ga F ever got to being a 9, but this, its penultimate episode, finally breaks the threshold. It’s a great episode, make no mistake, but it wouldn’t have been possible without all of the careful preparations laid out by the previous nine. In the parlance of Sakurako-san, this episode is the product of “good bones”.

It begins with Saikawa communicating with someone he claims is The Doctor Magata Shiki, who invites him to “meet” her in the sensory deprivation chamber, which seems to be more than that, since it’s “hooked up” to the lab’s system in some way. Moe tags along, but notably, the environment she perceives is very different from Saikawa’s.

Where she sees a standard interrogation room—she wants answers from whoever or whatever this is, and justice; she is her police uncle’s niece to the core—Saikawa sees a idyllic beach cabana, complete with wicker armchairs and fancy cocktails. For him, then, this isn’t the harsh grilling of a suspect, but a casual and stimulating conversation with a very unique individual whose intellect he admires at least as much as Moe admires his.

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Because “the game is over” now, Shiki is willing to answer whatever questions come her way, but would obviously prefer if Saikawa figured them out for himself; again, just as Saikawa prefers not to give Moe the answers. Saikawa finally determines what “Everything Becomes F” pertains to: in the hexadecimal code of Red Magic, “FFFF” is the highest number possible: 15 to the fourth power, minus one. This was the timer Shiki built into the system that allowed her crimes to take place.

And I say her crimes, because Saikawa is fully confident this isn’t Shiki’s daughter, though that’s who became her public face once she was old enough; and the face Moe saw in her interview. Instead, it was Shiki who killed her daughter, de-limbed her, then escaped (made possible when “everything became F”), went to the roof, and killed her uncle and lover, Shindo.

Why did she kill her daughter? She says she wanted to be “free”, as in completely bereft of all worldly or material considerations. The freest free there can possibly be (at least by human perception) is death; the release of whatever it is inside us from its vessel, or our bodies. The plan may have gone the other way, but when Moe asked her “Who are you” it caused her daughter to hesitate.

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“Becoming free” was also something Moe considered in her darkest hour, but she didn’t go through with that, because, for one thing, she had Saikawa with her. Shiki’s daughter had only a choice: be the seed that thrives as the flower that bore her wilts, or die so that the flower can live on.

Saikawa is in awe of her whole plan, along with the place she “takes him” next. After revealing to Moe that the real Shiki is likely communicating with them from some remote terminal, Moe is kicked out of the fantasy, and it’s just Saikawa and Shiki on a sandbar, then in a clear, deep blue sea.

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A part of Saikawa clearly feels kinship to Shiki in her “disinterest in the material world”, and wants to stay in that peaceful void with her forever. Shiki seems flattered, and impressed with how far he’s been able to figure out, but she eventually takes her leave of him, though promises she’ll “come to him” one day.

With that, Saikawa awakens to a worried, then relieved Moe. The autopsy of the body shows no signs of pregnancy, confirming the daughter was murdered.  Saikawa then asks Setsuko to describe the people she saw board the boat off the island. Looking back at episode 9, sure enough, a woman in a purple dress, Miki, was among those embarking. Only Saikawa now knows that Miki wasn’t Miki; “Magata Miki” never existed.

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Returning to the room where he conversed with her in English (as Preston said back then, and I agreed: the content of their talk was wonderful, it was the bad English that really hurt the scene), Saikawa finds a note from “Miki” drawn on the painting with lipstick: “See you soon — Dr. Saikawa.”  As we’d suspected, Miki was really Shiki with a haircut, and the fiction that her isolation had halted her growth and aging was perpetuated by using her daughter as a decoy.

All Saikawa can do is step back and admire Shiki’s genius, as we watch how it all went down: how Miki arrived on the rooftop, how Shindo received her lovingly and knew exactly why she was there; and how they shared one last kiss before she drove the knife into his neck. Then she hopped onto the next boat off the island and disappeared, only to resurface at a time and place of her own choosing. As Saikawa says, nobody ever had a chance against her.

When everything became F, she had the perfect insider.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 09

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This is Hannah filling in for the Magical Churl, Preston.

This week Magata Labs opens up; not only do the police arrive, but so does Moe’s rival in love, Gidou Setsuko, whom we hadn’t seen since the pilot. Not only does she make fast friends with Shimada (though later denies it as they get drunk together), but she also wastes no time effortlessly pushing Moe’s buttons by describing how Sohei uses her place “like a hotel.” Moe, a brilliant but very emotional young woman, finally purges the thought her man actually did as Gidou claimed.

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With the police there, and unwilling to maintain the fiction that Magata isn’t alive for a week, the time to solve the locked room murder mystery grows short. After looking at the video files and the code that recorded and compressed them, Saikawa has a pretty good idea what happened, and encourages Moe to deduce it for herself rather than telling her.

She comes up with the theory that Magata Shiki entered the room with child, and the child she’d give birth to was the one who murdered her. But he still doesn’t know how that child left the room, when there’s no record of it. That is, until Moe provides a spark to a new line of thinking, as she promises she’ll solve the case “more or less” by 7:00 PM.

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That “more or less” gets Saikawa thinking about how the release of Red Magic and the more recent blackout effected the labs’ clocks. Turns out they were delayed by a minute, so when the system went back on, a minute of footage was overwritten—the very footage of Shiki’s daughter leaving the room.

It was just a minute, but it was all she needed. Saikawa rushes to Shimada to confirm, to find her drinking with Gidou. And you have to hand it to Horie Yui and Hikasa Yoko, they know how to shoot the breeze while downing brewskis.

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One of the final pieces of the puzzle comes when he and Shimada do some hacker stuff (I’m no expert) and find some suspicious code many tens of thousands of hours ago governing Dr. Magata’s door. Saikawa then avails himself of Moe’s talents, asking her to multiply 256 by itself, then calculate how long ago 65,535 hours before 7:00 AM two days ago.

It only takes her a few seconds to determine it was Feb. 10, 4:00 AM, seven years ago: the day and time Red Magic version 4 came online. And that version was always meant to go haywire exactly when it did, orchestrating the events that led to the murder of Magata Shiki and Shindo. This is one of the always-adorable Moe’s finest moments, and she savors all the profuse praise Saikawa sends her way.

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When Moe’s uncle arrives at the lab, it’s past 7:00 PM and time for Saikawa to make his presentation on the locked door murder. Specifically, he intends to tell the killer herself, thereby inducing a confession due to said killer’s pride. That killer would be “Michiru”, the alternate personality of Magata Shiki, who now resides within the lab’s computers.

In effect, Shiki got what she always wanted: she shed her limiting physical body. And now she’s finally “meeting” Professor Saikawa. We’ll see if he’s able to impress her, as Moe impressed him (and me, and everyone else) with his brilliance. And let’s not forget this latest epiphany only came because Moe mentioned how it didn’t really matter whether his watch was off or not with regards to solving the case by or around 7.

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