Trickster – 04

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Just when Twenty Faces surfaces with a new intricate plot into which to lure Akechi and the Boy Detective’s Club, Hanasaki is stuck at school, attending his compulsory school day a month. That hardly sounds like enough to make a difference, but Akechi insists, keeping Hanasaki out of this week’s action.

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As for Twenty Faces’ plot, well…it leaves a bit to be desired. The most impressive feat he accomplishes is when recorded video of him correctly predicts Akechi’s responses, making for an unexpected bit of dialogue between the two that initially sours Akechi’s interest in taking on the case, which involves a police officer Twenty captured. He changes his mind when Kobayashi exhibits some fire, then pairs him up with Inoue Ryou.

The clashing personalities make for a promising dynamic, but all they really do is trudge through some dark hallways, try to hide using the lamest tactic imaginable (a stealth umbrella, not bothering to move to the edge of the room), and get trapped in a chamber, the doors to which Kobayashi can’t bust through even as it starts to fill with water.

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Throughout the episode we get flashbacks of Ryou and the mission that led to his paralysis and his partner, classmate and tennis star Katsuda, to quit the club. But this backstory seems shoehorned in and doesn’t really gel with the present events in any meaningful way, other than for Katsuda to warn Hanasaki “always listen to Akechi.”

All that aside, I can hardly feel apprehensive about Kobayashi being trapped in a chamber filling with water when it’s already been established he can’t die. That, and backup will probably be on the way before they have to worry about Ryou drowning.

In previous episodes I could at least look forward to a case beginning and then ending within the space of twenty-odd minutes, but the cliffhanger tries my already thin patience. I’ll see how things are resolved, I guess, but after that…likely Dropsville.

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UPDATE (27 OCT): After further deliberation, I’ve decided to summarily drop Trickster, effective immediately. To fill the gap it leaves, I’ll be taking over reviews of Fune wo Amu from Zane.

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Trickster – 03

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Trickster continues its somewhat unambitious competence with another case-of-the-week, and I’ll admit I had to really fight not to immediately dismiss this week’s client—an elderly woman whose son is missing—as the culprit once more.

The search for the old NEET becomes Kobayashi’s official trial run: Inoue thinks it’s too dangerous to keep the kid around, but Akechi is willing to give him a shot. I would mention, however, that this is the third straight week Kobayashi threatens to run off and tells Hanasaki to leave him alone. Dude, do you want to die or not? Continued instances of this behavior will be annoying.

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Hanasaki sees value in the kid, and actually wants to convince him to drop his death wish. That value is clear when the two infiltrate the creepy cult / corporation that essentially stuffs old people into pens, and when the time is right, harvests their organs, then tosses their bloody organless bodies on the floor to be disposed of by a central “body blender”…all in the middle of a room with windows for all to see.

This company of organ smugglers couldn’t be more idiotic, but in the universe of this show, apparently the city is full of murderous assholes wanting to make a buck. The former police medical examiner seems to be the ringleader, and talks a very thin argument about saving lives, but let’s get real here: dude wants to get paid.

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The security guards of the facility are also armed, which I didn’t know was legal in Japan. Then again, these guys are making ElderSmoothies so it stands to reason they’d flout gun laws. Hanasaki survives their assault thanks to Kobayashi’s impenetrable shield, and thanks to Noro’s technical expertise, the good guys have the bad guys on tape doing fucked-up shit and the police arrive to arrest ’em. They also found the guy whose mother hired them to find, so Case Closed.

What a dumb case! But you know what? It was still fun, if not particularly intellectually stimulating. Hanasaki’s got an endearingly casual attitude towards everything, and Kobayashi may be whiny, but he’s got a good heart. Also, Gackt Twenty Faces seems poised to show up next week to challenge Akechi and his agency once more. Presumably he’s less idiotic than the last two baddies.

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Trickster – 02

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Yup, she’s the culprit

It happens so often, especially in old detective stories: a beautiful, seemingly pure and innocent “Dame” walks into the private eye’s office, claiming they’re the victim of some heinous crime…only to end up being the femme fatale using the P.I. to frame someone else for crimes she’s committed.

That’s the case here (literally), and despite the dame’s attempts to misdirect (not reporting a crime, only suspecting her boyfriend of possibly being up to something illegal), the episode couldn’t keep up the charade for long.

Indeed, when she reached for her bottle of mineral water rather than touch the coffee, I knew she was up to something. It was pretty darned obvious.

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“Get down!”

Before I pat myself on the back for correctly suspecting the woman, I’d just note that the episode put that clue there for a reason, which is to get us questioning her motives. Her obsession with the pure and organic is revealed to extend to a hatred of anything non-organic, and she targets the genetic scientist whose activities go against her ideology.

So even though the big “twist”, when it comes, comes far too late, I still enjoyed the journey to get there, which included some key assists from Kobayasahi, who is convinced this week that if he wants to die, he should stick with the kid in yellow.

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“I’ve always wanted…sniff…to attend a catered affair.”

Kobayashi’s ravenous hunger (and the unsettling threat of “food being stuffed down his throat” if he tried to starve himself) lead to him tasting poison soup meant for the scientists.

It was poisoned not by the client’s boyfriend, but by the client herself, without the boyfriend’s knowledge. Hanasaki, not the worst judge of character, initially determined the guy’s face was too “pure” to be capable of those letters. And he was right.

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Personal space!

When the time comes to stop the scientist from drinking the poison water the client personally serves to him (indicating she didn’t care what happened to her as long as he died), the door is barred, but Kobayashi uses his power to break it down so Hanasaki can save the scientist and nab the perp.

Thus the case-of-the-week is wrapped up with an almost too-neat little bow. Ultimately, this case wasn’t that important, or high-stakes, and the criminal this week, unlike Twenty Faces, was extremely dumb for not cutting her losses and staying far away from her failed, overly convoluted plot.

But the case didn’t matter so much as how it affected the characters. When he places his hand on the stage where the scientist had thrown a glass, a shard of it sticks in Kobayashi’s hand, and he bleeds. That’s the second time that’s happened hanging out with Hanasaki, so his best chance yet to get what he wants (death) is to join the club.

Hansaki, on the other hand, is starting a race with himself: will he find a way to kill Kobayashi first, or find a way to get him to not want to die instead? It’s an intriguing challenge; I look forward not just to the results, but the events and means by which they were achieved. But yeah, there was definitely an old-fashioned flavor to this story.

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Trickster – 01 (First Impressions)

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Ahh, if only real city skies were like anime city skies

What is it: Trickster, based on the stories of Edogawa Ranpo, focuses on the “Boy’s Detective Club” as they pursue the famous master thief Twenty Faces (Gackt) and attempt to learn what he’s plotting. One member, Hanasaki Kensuke, meets Kobayashi Yoshio, a barefoot, suicidal boy with an invisible bubble around him that makes him invincible.

After Kobayashi comes to rescue him at a fire at a heavy industries facility, Hanasaki offers him a job at the detective club. In the incident, Kobayashi recieves a cut on his hand that starts to tingle.

Why You Should Watch: The Ranpo pedigree aside, this was a well-paced, well-plotted, and well-directed lark, which starts out super-dark (due to the initial Kobayashi POV) but is brightened by Akechi’s cavalier attitude and Hanasaki’s infectious optimism. The agency, its members, and its activities (another stalemate with Twenty Faces) are efficiently laid out while the story of the invincible kid takes the spotlight.

 

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ENHANCE

Rather than come off as annoying or arrogant, Hanasaki just seems like a decent kid who is always trying to see the best in people and situations, even when they can’t see it themselves. His crossing paths with a boy in Kobayashi who definitely sees his “ability” as nothing but a cruel curse seems to instill new purpose in the kid’s life…even if he promises to grant his wish by killing him someday.

To be specific about the animation, Trickster is definitely on a lower frame rate than ‘good’ anime. However, the gestures and the quality of the character designs (being stylish and specific but not over designed, which would break up gestures) make it a gem to watch  hear, with awesome music, including an OP sung by Gackt.

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Obligatory Quirky Hacker Girl

Why You Shouldn’t Watch: Twenty Faces’ part of the story feels more like a B-plot here; little more than a taste of what’s to come and a vehicle introduce how the detective agency operates and who they’re after.

The other characters perform their roles competently but no one other than Hanasaki really stands out yet. With 24 episodes ordered, if you’re in this, you’re in it for the long haul. That’s about all I can think of in Devil’s Advocate mode.

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—”Nice Bruce Lee jumpsuit.” —”Nice…whatever the heck you’re wearin’ over there.”

MagicalChurlSukui’s Verdict: Trickster is off to a slick, stylish, understated start, and I’m fully on board after just one episode. It can spin a good yarn, and there’s certainly a lot more where that came from.

Oigakkosan’s Verdict: its very easy for me to draw comparisons with Ronpo’s Bungou Stray Dogs, which feels very similar. However, Stray Dogs ultimately (and quickly) fell apart because it was ‘too quirky for it’s own good.’ I do not think that will be the case here. The mood is just more serious – Not brooding or drama-grim – TAKEN more seriously.

Thumbs up!

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Tantei Kageki Milky Holmes TD – 01 (First Impressions)

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Following the era of detectives and thieves, there is an era of Idols. However, someone is using Toys to steal the voices of Idols and it’s up to the four detective girls to solve the case and get back the voices and I nearly chewed off my own tongue in desperation as I sat through the first episode!

Lots of cute, flustered, arm-flailing little girls solving a magical crime with weird figurine-like-puppets ensues. Some of the visual humor works very well. Some of the cutsey-girl dialogue is cliched and painful. You should earn an achievement for sitting through the whole thing.

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You may like this if: you liked Magic Kaito 1412 or, more likely, its kiddied-down alternative Kaito Joker. This is safe, cute girl humor, with all the arm-flailing and sweat-flinging associated with that genre. Jokes like slamming the girls flat in the doorway or characters fighting for screen space when put into split screen view are honestly charming and the general production quality is good.

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You may not if you find eye-bleedingly sweet nonsensical magic-girls-as-detectives and all the tropes of cute-or-die shows a little unpleasant to sit through, there’s not really anything special here. If anything, Milky’s above-average production quality and frenetic pace (and content density) will work against you.

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My first impression was to gouge out my own eyes with the nearest object i could reach. Thankfully, this was a couch pillow. So the damage was minimal.

Where I shrugged off Kaito Joker or Tribe Cool Crew for being ‘not my age demographic’  last season, Milky Holmes is less ‘too young’ and more ‘horrifically saccharine.’

Maybe Preston should give this one a look? As always, comments below but it’s very unlikely Milky Holmes will survive its face off at the end of the week.

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Zankyou no Terror – 07

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In preparation for more English dialogue from Five this week, I decided to come at it from another angle: if English is her character’s second language, then her thick accent is totally acceptable. But such realignments and caveats weren’t even necessary this week. There was so much going on I didn’t have time to give a shit how bad the English was or wasn’t.

Just about absolutely everything that went on this week was fantastic. Last week’s ending promised an intricate, precise game of Haneda Airport Bomb Chess between Five and Sphinx. It also hinted that Shibazaki and his colleagues were going to take action of some kind after sitting on their hands too long, and that Lisa would play some kind of role too. , The episode delivered everything we could have hoped for and then some.

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I remain confident in my assertion last week that Five is a cliched villain with a lame personal vendetta and all-but-unchecked autocratic power over the authorities. This week she’s taken down a peg just as Nine and the police were last week. The show sensed that we needed to see Nine land a blow, even a glancing one, on Five, and made it happen. But this episode was much, much more than just a duel between Five and Nine.

Shibazaki & Co. arrive at Haneda faced with the lofty challenge of finding a bomb in a massive, busy airport, but the more he wanders around, the more something smells rotten to the veteran detective. But even he couldn’t have predicted he’d end up helping the very terrorist he’s been chasing for six episodes stop the bombing, while unwittingly providing cover for their escape.

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That last bit is part the genius of this episode. When Shibazaki bursts into the control room and orders the bomb plane turned around, Five tells him he’s being Sphinx’s lap dog, and she’s not 100% wrong. But Shibazaki is also saving lives by picking the lesser of two evils. Five seems to be trying to appeal to his pride and ego, but after both have been trampled on so much throughout his career (most recently by Five herself), he’s not listening anymore. He’s the anti-Five, and thank God he’s here.

It’s a good thing he can, otherwise Nine, Twelve, and Lisa would’ve been SOL and lots of people would have died. Shibazaki is Nine’s trump card; he calls him to explain everything, and Shibazaki decides to believe him, because unlike the higher-ups and spooks, at least Nine is talking to him; letting him in on the loop. And once he’s in, he’s a potent ally. One great scene is how he even gets up the tower: by depending on his police colleagues to open a hole for him in their scrum with security.

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Also terrific was how Nine threw out Five’s book by placing an extra piece on the board, namely Lisa. Yes, Twelve pushed for her involvement, but she herself made the choice to participate. Both she and Nine and Twelve’s plan revolves around turning all of Five’s ample surveillance against her. Ironically, it’s not Lisa, but Nine who’s the decoy—playing chess with Five and keeping her eyes on him.

Meanwhile, Twelve makes use of every camera blind spot to sneak through the airport, while Lisa sets off a flare in the bathroom to set off the fire alarms, which create a blip in the video feed. During that blip—unbeknownst to Five until it’s too late—the real-time footage becomes footage recorded minutes earlier. It’s a full team effort by Sphinx, and as I said, a satisfying setback for the irritatingly haughty Five.

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But Five doesn’t stay down long, because, as she correctly remarks, Nine and Twelve’s new friend Lisa is a weakness, as illustrated when she’s picked up by Five’s henchman and tossed onto an otherwise empty plane with the bomb on board. I’ll admit, the moment Lisa is caught and when we realize how much trouble she’s in, I was crestfallen. But the show’s not going to kill Lisa today…so How Do They Get Out Of This One?

Very Carefully. The thrilling action set piece that concludes the episode brings everything together: Twelve’s fondness for Lisa; Nine’s sense of honor that has him helping Twelve save her; Lisa’s ability to follow directions and quickly make a cloth rope, and Nine’s ability to drive away from the plane before the explosion can engulf them. It’s some spellbinding, superbly directed stuff, and the Kanno soundtrack playing over everything really takes it to the next level, as her tunes tend to do.

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In return for his help, Shibazaki only gets a passing glance at the masked Sphinx No. 1 through a window before driving off into the night. And Five is Not Happy, and has Lisa’s student ID in hand. Which means even if Lisa remains safe and hidden with Sphinx (not a sure thing at all), her mother, wretch that she is, is now at risk.

Can Lisa throw her life away completely? Can Sphinx continue to stay a step ahead of Five? Can Shibazaki get back on the case and reign Five in? What about the plutonium? When’s the beach episode? If there’s no second cour, only four episodes remain to tackle these questions and more. We await them with bated breath.

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Zankyou no Terror – 06

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Let the great game begin…or at least the pretty good game. Just when Shibazaki was starting to sink his teeth into the case and gathering support from his colleagues, the FBI comes in with their Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) researcher, Five, along with “orders from on top” essentially neutering his investigation.

Unfortunately, Five is ruining more than Shibazaki’s momentum and the terrorists’ plans. She’s kinda hurting the show, too. The main reason being she’s a big, bland “Insane Genius Villain” (IGV) cliche plopped down in the middle of a story that was going just fine without her. Also, let it be known for now and all time, that Han Megumi is very, very ungood at English.

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Han did a fine job as Hanano Sumire in Chihayafuru 2, but then, she wasn’t the primary antagonist who is called upon to deliver a good chunk of her dialogue in English; she’s just not up to it. That’s not Han-san’s fault; frankly, Watanabe had no business making her speak English. Far from adding “international texture”, it blows all the tension out of a scene like air from a balloon.

The color her English makes would surely give Twelve nightmares. With all the intricate preparation involved in the production, you’d think they’d have at least hired someone fluent in English to do the lines for someone who’s supposed to be fluent in English. Someday, anime studios and/or directors will figure this out, but not today. /End rant.

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This week we have the rather unusual scenario of the terrorists who planted a bomb at an airport having to return to the scene to disarm it, since Five has the power and the will to detonate it, even at the potential cost of many lives, because she can just blame it on Sphinx. She’s also able to craft myth-riddles like them, which most the cops believe to be the real thing.

Most, but not all. Shibazaki, right on cue, smells something rotten in Denmark. The texts aren’t his guys. He’s technically under orders to do nothing, but he isn’t going to accept that. Hamura and three colleagues join him “for a meal.” As I said, his teeth are in this case, and he’s not letting go so easily. Please, show, let him expose Cupcake Five before she exposes Twelve and Nine!

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. This episode is also notable for being the first in which Lisa is actually used in an op, albeit in a roughly improvised op in which Nine needs an unfamiliar face for Five’s cameras. She’s unfazed by images of carnage Nine tries to scare her with (as Twelve says, they didn’t intend for the bomb to go off), and declares she “wants to be one of them.”

Part of that is because there’s nothing else she thinks she can be. Another is that despite all the crap she’s gotten, she still wants to connect with people, and to experience the close bond she sees between Nine and Twelve. With this airport job, which looks like a doozy with its chessboard layout, she’s becoming a part of that family. (Thirteen? Zero?)

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Shibazaki’s little rebellion, Nine’s feverish scurrying, Lisa’s participation and Twelve’s support of her all make this a very good episode, but we can’t call it great. Not in an episode with so much Five in it. It’s good to take your antiheroes down a peg or two, but you need the right kind of nemesis to do it, and so far, Five ain’t that. It feels like she’s in the wrong show.

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Zankyou no Terror – 05

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Despite the seemingly random (to the public at large) destruction and disorder they’ve caused, Nine and Twelve’s activities as Sphinx have been highly controlled at every level. They’re not launching their attacks to kill or even hurt people. They’re sending messages Nine hopes Shibazaki will pick up on.

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He does, but it leads him back to “old mistakes” and introduces the opportunity to make them all over again. But what neither Nine nor Shibazaki learn soon enough is that they’re no longer the only players on this board. The cat and mouse have been joined by another mouse, intent on stirring up shit and introducing chaos into what had thus far been a very orderly “courtship dance.”

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That new mouse is Five, a distinctive-looking woman whom Nine remembers from his flashbacks to the facility. Nine never sees Five’s face or hears her voice in the present, but he knows it’s her, because of what goes down this week. Namely, she Ruins Everything: his latest terror plot ends up an even bigger, smokier mess than the one Lisa made in their kitchen.

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Lisa was trying to make an honest effort to get Nine to no longer see her as useless, so she could stick around, as she has nowhere else to go. Nine is not happy to say the least that Twelve brought her home (I’m delighted, personally), but she’s too sick to be thrown out; even he’s not that heartless. But he does predict her getting tangled up with them can and will end badly.

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It can’t be understated how disruptive a force Five truly was this week; not bad, considering we mostly see her painting her nails. She negates Sphinx’s use of cell carriers by causing a wholesale cell blackout. She baits Nine with a fake backdoor then hacks into his computer. After the bomb is allowed to go off, she sends a mass text saying “I found you.” It really shakes up the status quo nicely.

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Meanwhile, Shibazaki has made the connection Nine wanted him to: the bombing targets were all big shots involved with the “Rising Peace Academy.” But targeting these people means he’ll have to investigate them, and they’re not the kind of people who want to be investigated, especially as some are cops themselves.

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So Shibazaki is again in a situation where he can’t help digging too deep until he angers the wrong people. Both he and Sphinx have been outmaneuvered and their agency curtailed. And Five, the one responsible, is right there in the office with him, smiling away. Does Five want to catch and/or hurt Nine and Twelve, or “help” them? I’m just hoping she doesn’t turn out to be one-note chaotic evil.

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Zankyou no Terror – 04

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“At the place where the king who solved the riddle received a scary prophecy, whose name would you carve on its entrance?” Let’s just say, if you’re a detective chasing Sphinx and don’t know anything about western mythology, you’re up a creek without a paddle. Shibazaki doesn’t have that problem. He’s locked in, or at least more locked in than anyone else on the case.

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He visits a town where one of the suspected culprits held a part-time job, not so much for answers, but to get a lay of the same land they saw; see the same sights and smell the same smells…to sweat the trivial details that could lead to a breakthrough. Sphinx won’t be defeated if their mind can’t be penetrated. Shibazaki is trying to get in, and he may well be the only one who can work at something approaching their wavelength.

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Shibazaki’s observations, intuition, and deductions were nothing short of brilliant this week; the rust has definitely been shaken off. But again, he finds the answer, but not the whole answer; he remains several moves behind. He doesn’t take one word or gesture for granted, which is why this time he knows it falls on them to stop the bomb, not merely find it, and certainly not storm what is believed to be the culprits’ hideout.

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Therefore, even when Shibazaki realizes one of the maxims carved into the temple at Delphi—“know thyself”—is directed at him (he did put his face out there and issue a challenge), and thus the password to stop the bomb is his own name, ‘shibazaki”, it isn’t enough for victory, because his superiors sent EVERYONE to catch the guys, which is the very “cheating” Sphinx warned them not to try. The bomb that goes off is a bomb of information: all of the documents related to he department’s investigation are released onto the web.

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Shibazaki figured out the first maxim was the password, but the other two maxims were also in play. “Nothing in excess” could be interpreted to mean “no storming our hideout with a cop army.” “Make a pledge and mischief is nigh” (i.e., “be careful what you promise”) is another stab at Shibazaki, who promised to bring Sphinx to justice. Shibazaki can know himself to a t, but if he can’t control the people around him, that justice will remain out of reach.

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This is all fantastic stuff, but that isn’t even the whole episode, as we also get a big development in Lisa’s story. Rendered up to this point as a coldly-discarded loose end, she’s run away from home and from her awful mom, which sounds like a good idea until you realize Tokyo is not the safest place for a young lady to stroll about. She’s first accosted by curs, then cops, and Twelve can’t help himself, even though Nine definitely can, and urges Twelve to stay away from her.

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Nine is right in that the more people you involve in your schemes, the greater the chance you’ll get caught, but Lisa is very much a ghost at the moment; a ghost only he and Twelve can see. I don’t think there’s any question that they can trust her, because she has literally no one else. Any shadow of doubt was erased when Twelve plucked Lisa from police clutches and onto the back of his motorcycle. Turns out someone would just take her away when she wanted them to.

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The pure, unbridled exhilaration and jubilation; the wind in her hair and the glowing skyscrapers flying by overhead; smiling and laughing out loud for the first time she can remember…why would Lisa ever betray the person who gave her that? I’m not saying there isn’t the potential for her to end up being their Achilles’ Heel (with Shibazaki as Paris delivering the arrow)…but who said the Sphinx can’t take a waif in?

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Zankyou no Terror – 03

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Twelve isn’t content to wow a bunch of dummies; he wants a counterpart: someone at least clever enough to decipher Sphinx’s riddles; someone to make a game of this, because when you’re raised in a government facility where love doesn’t exist, what is life but and elaborate games? And in any game, Twelve wants a worthy opponent.

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Well, Mouse…Meet Cat: Shibasaki is officially on the case. Every bit the Japanese Lester Freamon, “natural police” who dug a little too deep a politically sensitive case years ago. Doing so exiled him to the archives and presumably cost him his family. We also learn he’s the son of Hibakusha, which combined with his wan complexion and haggard appearance make him an object of compassion.

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Shibasaki and Twelve/Nine are a lot alike in that both had things taken from them, but they still survived and have been living on, in an almost dormant state. Now the Sphinx has awakened and is bearing its claws all over Tokyo. Shibasaki, once the force’s ace detective, nicknamed “Razor”, has been taken out of its sheath, and the rust is shaking off fast.

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Just as a great comic can make a joke out of anything around him, on the spot, a great detective can find inspiration for the case anywhere around him, as long as he keeps his eyes and ears open. The spark that leads to solving the riddle comes from Mukasa, who defeats the “green dragon” on his online phone game. In the process, he won over a skeptic in the young hotshot Hamura, who would do well to watch and learn.

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Shibasaki also muses that just as Mukasa is playing a cooperative multiplayer game, connecting with random people rather than playing alone, the young duo of Sphinx are similarly reaching out for a human connection, one sophisticated enough to solve their riddles and hang with them in a protracted chase that will sharpen both Sphinx’s claws and the Razor’s edge.

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But no matter how wounded or lonely these kids may be, Shibasaki won’t forgive them if they use the plutonium trump card they stole, and retrieving it is paramount. Twelve and Nine seem amused by the old man’s righteous indignation, but they also seem happy to have a legit playmate.

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As for Lisa, well, she’s mostly on the margins of this episode, deciding to run away from home. It seems unlikely she’ll be able to find her one-time saviors, but maybe Nine will find her. He seems more interested in her than Twelve, who seems more interested in an albino kid from the facility who haunts his daydreams.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 03

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Tokyo Ghoul got back on track this week by teaching us a lot more about Ghoul society, introducing a far more compelling adversary in the CCG (Customizable Card Game?), and having Ken come to terms with his new status and finally find a way to contribute. Overall it was a far more efficient, purposeful, and interesting outing than last week’s boss-of-the-week.

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First, Ken is lucky he was “turned” in the 20th Ward, which has the reputation of being one of the most peaceful Ghoul communities. He thought things were bad there, but it’s worse almost everywhere else, something he learns when Touka takes him to a rougher part of town to meet Uta, who measures him for a mask.

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Uta starts the realignment of Ken’s thinking by saying Touka’s far more than just a scary girl; she works diligently to balance her ghoul existence with her human life, as her boss Yoshimura has. There’s a neat scene where Yoshimura tells him how to eat human food. Appearences must be kept up; if Hide finds out Ken’s a ghoul, Touka has promised to kill Hide on the spot. (I enjoyed watching the many sides of Touka this week, from prickly to affable).

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The purpose of the mask is to hide one’s face in case the “Doves” descend upon you. The doves are what they call the CCG, a police-like organization operating out of a gleaming skyscraper that seems to have one goal in mind: ghoul-busting. Whether they only mean to keep the ghouls disorganized and in check or exterminate them outright, it’s a pretty odious business and a pretty strong allegory for racist social policy.

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These swine would even consider little Hinami, frightened daughter of the ward’s ghoul doctor who is being kept in hiding at Yoshimura’s cafe. Aside from her need for human flesh, she’s harmless and deserves to live as normal a life as she can. She and Ken bond over their mutual love of books. Yoshimura even has ghouls go on “shopping trips” to pick up suicide victims, avoiding killing. It’s a philosophy of “mainstreaming”; playing by as many of mankind’s rules as they possibly can.

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It’s also tremendously difficult, as Ken is quickly learning, and those who pull it off like Yoshimura and Touka deserve his admiration. We witness what happens to bold, reckless ghouls who cross the lines; they’re taken out one by one by the odd couple of CCG detectives: the young, stoic Amon and the slightly mad-scientist-y Mado. They’re ultimately after Rize, which means they’ll soon be on Ken’s trail.

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This episode excels in that it underlines how many new threats and hazards and difficulties Ken now faces, right up to the end when a menacing-looking guy in a blazing red suit barges in the cafe, apparently drawn there by Ken’s scent. But at the same time, it shows us that Ken’s life isn’t really that bad, that he’s starting to get that others have it far worse, and shows him all of the ways he can make this work.

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Zankyou no Terror – 02

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Nine and Twelve are most definitely, as Shibasaki’s old cop partner/boss and current head of the terrorist investigation says, trying to pick a fight with the country. I can take an educated guess why: the country they’re picking a fight with is the one that made them the super-intelligent, resourceful terrorists they are. Or heck, maybe it’s not revenge after all, but just a simple challenge: “If there’s someone who can stop us, come forward; we’re waiting”.

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Maybe the likes of Nine and Twelve can no longer go on living out their existences devoid of challenges or legitimate checks on their abilities. Someone does indeed answer the call, after a fashion: Shibasaki, the washed-up detective sharing a dark, dank office with another cop who spends most of his shift surfing the web, which is ironically how Shibasaki was exposed to the YouTube videos “Sphinx” posts before each attack. This week, they get all “Oedipal.”

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This was a particularly literary episode of Zankyou no Terror, as the police pick apart that Sphinx nickname in an attempt to try to piece together the M.O. of their adversary. Interestingly, as brash and devastating as last week’s attack was (the Tocho cost taxpayers so much money it’s nicknamed “Tax Tower”), there were no fatalities, which if anything is an even greater sign these two kids know what they’re doing. It’s also easier to root for them when they’re doing all they can to minimize public harm.

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Speaking of which, that first attack was also apparently the first time their desire to minimize casualties took a more specific form, vis-a-vis, Mishima Lisa. Nine doesn’t simply call her an innocent witness, but an accomplice. He twists the dagger by telling her there’s no going back. And yet there’s barely any further contact between them this week, save one scene where Twelve cruelly threatens Lisa, saying he’ll kill her if she puts a toe out of line. I guess he thought his Nine’s approach was too soft?

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I like the idea that Twelve thinks Lisa needs a stronger message, because it means he sees more to her than a helpless, hapless little girl. I’m hoping to see more of the strength and guile still hidden within her that we caught a glimpse of last week when she took that leap of faith. It’s also encouraging that Shibasaki was very close to foiling their latest attack on a police station, after he dismissed the most obvious answer to their YouTube riddle.

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Again, the details this week shine: Lisa being almost perpetually dunked in an inky darkness, so much so that when she’s finally out in the bleak sun she looks terribly vulnerable; the devious noodle delivery service-as-bomb delivery system; the Sophoclean analysis. There was also the feeling the mouse was still very much in control here, but the cat has woken up, stretched, and is alert and ready to hunt. How many more brilliant attacks can Sphinx pull off before they’re caught? Will Lisa become a true accomplice?

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Kami-sama no Memo-cho 1, Parts A & B – First Impressions

Forgive the pun, but “Memo Pad of the Gods” makes a very good case for itself. It some ways, it picks up in Sibuya where Durarara left off in Ikebukuro by instantly painting a picture of a well-lived in world full of oddballs and secret lives. Narumi Fujishima is our avatar in this rich painting, and for once in his life he feels like a part of something bigger, rather than simply the kid who floats around pretending he belongs.

The new life he fell into fits him like a glove. This first, hourlong episode chronicles his addition to a team of “NEET Detectives” led by the enigmatic Alice, a 12-or-so year-old who possesses detective skills and wisdom far beyond her years, but also gets all weepy. if one of her many teddy bear’s ears gets torn. I also like her calm, logical, curt demeanor. She isn’t a squeaky menace.

But she’s just one of many interesting and promising characters. This agency has a crack team of specialists in diverse fields: Hiro is a suave ‘gigalo’, brother of a yakuza boss, and expert in women. ‘Major’ is a military spy freak who likes to stick rifles in people’s faces. Tetsu is the polic snoop. Min runs and Ayaka works at the ramen/ice cream shop above which Alice resides, in her Lain-like cocoon.

The core cast is plenty interesting, but this series doesn’t fall into the same traps of the latest J.C. Staff series like Yumekui Merry, Ookami-san, and Index II, all of which kinda fizzled. This series feels more honest, and its characters and themes are suitably adult and mature. High school girls losing it and entering the world of vice is not the kind of thing those series would touch upon, but such things can and do happen in the real world, which is what this series feels like.

The first case we’re presented with is nicely opened, investigated, solved, and shut within the hourlong period. Whether future episodes are two-parters like this remains to be seen, but it’s definitely not a bad thing if they are; the story never felt dragged out here, and on half-hour simply wouldn’t be enough to tell it properly.

The people involved in the specific case – Miku, Teraoka, and Shoko, served their roles well, and didn’t feel like throwaway characters. The case itself even had a macabre twist, in which Shoko “froze time” like she had wanted to, by committing suicide in a tub of ice. Yikes, you may say, but horrible things can happen, and it’s Alice and her agency’s jobs as detectives to either ‘tarnish the living to maintain the honor of the dead’, or ‘tarnish the dead to comfort the living.’ I look forward to their next case. Rating: 4