Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 03 – Just Golf, Baby

Eve doesn’t half-ass anything. When given an audience with Rose’s boss, a higher-up in the Nafrece underworld, she offers up her damn body in exchange for the chance to play in the U15 Tournament. Fortunately, the boss lady rejects that offer, but I am worried about the one she accepts, which Rose brings up without Eve knowing what it is.

Whatever Faustian deal Eve is now tangled up in, all that matters is that she’s able to keep her promise to Aoi to play one round—in this case, the final round of a world tournament. Rose makes sure she looks the part, dressing her in her boss’ brand name attire and giving her a full set of clubs. After a couple episodes in street clothes, it’s great to see Eve all glowed up.

The two other girls in her team unfortunately go through hell, as Rose tells Anri, because Eve is a simple destroyer, concerned only with defeating her one opponent; Aoi, who enters the final round 9 under par. As Rose racks up a -3 in four holes Rose further describes how Eve’s style of golf methodically destroys any opponents in her vicinity, causing them to forget their own styles in a hopeless bid to keep up.

While her group mates are probably going to be feeling the negative aftereffects on their own games for many matches in the future, Aoi is spellbound by Eve’s performance. As the leader, Aoi is in the final group with the latest tee time, but she just can’t wait to get out there and play “in the same air” as Eve, who she can tell is having a blast.

Aoi begins her round knowing Eve’s score, and insists that Amane keep her updated every three holes via hand signals. Amane is fine doing this because 1.) she’ll take whatever motivation for Aoi she can get and 2.) she’s quite certain even Eve can’t hope to beat Aoi. But while Amane knows Aoi’s game like the back of her hand, she’s only seen a little bit of what Eve can do. This time, she sees more, including how accurate she can be even while driving her ball through the same woods where it got lost in her last game with Aoi.

While Eve and Aoi duel, their respective support groups watch; her classmates at the fancy Raiou Girls Academy in Japan (the architecture of which reminds me of a car dealership or auto parts store for some reason), where we meet Haruka, Aoi’s supposed rival in her homeland, and Ichina, who wants to be a caddy for someone like Aoi, not a player, and is training accordingly.

They, like Amane, and even Eve herself, believe it’s a foregone conclusion Aoi will go one point under Eve to take the win on the 18th hole. But on what should be a straightforward birdie putt misses the cup, an error so timely and uncharacteristic it makes me wonder if there’s some kind of chicanery involved. That feeling is amplified watching Rose spreading her arms at the sun like a villain about to cackle.

While I don’t forsee I’ll be the biggest fan of Eve and/or Aoi being pawns to these gangsters, this episode was 99% Eve and Aoi enjoying the absolute goddamn hell out of a match together, and however it ends, they’re going to want to play each other again as soon as possible. After all, until someone shows up who can beat either of them, they’re all they’ve got.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 02 – Blue Bullet vs. Blue Blood

Amawashi Aoi is the daughter of two pro golfers and has been raised since she was tiny to be one of the world’s finest. But she’s not the slightest bit conceited or unpleasant as a result of this specialized and very exclusive upbringing. She’s pure, sweet, and very excited to meet someone like Eve.

Aoi wants to play a whole round with Eve, but Amane says there’s only time for one hole, so Aoi picks the toughest: a 400+ yard L-shaped Par-4 with the sea on one side and a thick forest on the other. Eve naturally smashes her ball through the woods but doesn’t quite get all the way through.

Aoi keeps her ball out of the forest by unleashing a majestic slice that turns the corner and leaves her with less than 140 yards on her second shot. Eve gets her ball out of the woods, but misses the green and a clear shot at the hole. Aoi hits a perfect strike that places the ball mere inches from the hole and a sure Eagle.

Amane’s narration of this exciting hole of golf lays it on a little thick that Aoi is the “Innocent Tyrant” whose gleaming smile will effortless crush anyone in her way. And even Eve admits that there’s something about Aoi that threw her ever so slightly off her game. That, and Aoi genuinely can’t take her eyes off Eve’s golf.

As for Eve, well, after years of simply using her talent to put food on the table, this one hole with Aoi is the most fun she’s had playing golf. Not that surprising considering how amazing Aoi is. Despite herself, Eve finds herself both charmed and inspired by Aoi, and absolutely hell-bent on beating her when next they play. And they will play again quite soon.

After easily beating a street scammer’s magnet-ridden putting green, Eve gains an audience with a mid-level figure in the mob, who wields a club like a yakuza would wield a katana. This is where I first realized that Eve is still a kid—closer to Aoi’s age than I thought. This is one reason how she’s able to convince the mobster to get her into the U-15 tournament. Another is that Eve’s heart is aching to face off against Aoi again, and while the mobster will make sure Eve owes her big for the privilege, she’s as eager as I am to see a rematch. 

But Aoi’s heart is aching too. Before meeting Eve, she seemed pretty bored by golf—and considering it’s been her whole life, who can blame her? But when you’re at the top of your game, you seek out others at the top of theirs, especially when they take such a fascinatingly different path to that top. Now that these two have found each other, they both have new fires burning in their chests…and they want nothing more than to stoke them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Meikyuu Black Company – 07 – Operation Eternal Capital

Just as Preston seems to be enjoying Moonlight Fantasy more for the interaction of its endearing cast and not necessarily its world-building or plot, I too prefer when MBC keeps things simple.

That didn’t happen this week, as the meeting with the Demon Lord—who is Rimu’s twin sister—sits on her throne and delivers one long and convoluted infodump about What’s Going On, What’s At Stake, and Ninomiya’s crucial role in Saving the World.

The Demon Lord’s exposition is actually accompanied by actual imagery of a temporal war between the forces of natural order in the world and the corrupting expansion of Raiza’ha that left unchecked will render the planet incapble of supporting life.

But that conceptual ambition isn’t matched by sufficiently impressive visuals. Also, the bottom linie is Ninomiya is standing around either nodding his head or adding his two cents here and there.

Ninomiya, Rimu and Ranga actually arrive at the Demon Lord’s castle as Raiza’ha of the future is about to bring about the end of the world, so at the end of her spiel it’s time for the three to return to the past from whence they came.

Well, Ranga comes from the future, but he’s all in on going back in time with Ninomiya and Rimu. The DL does give Ninomiya a Matrix-like blue-or-red choice, but rather tan return safely to Japan, Ninomiya accepts the challenge of the mantle of savior of this world.

Upon returning, Ninomiya learns he and Rimu were gone a month, and not only is he penalized for the unapproved time off by his boss Belza, but his accommodations were assigned to another employee.

Since he arrives just in time to save Shia and Wanibe in the Dungeon, he, Rimu and Ranga take it upon himself to crash at Shia’s (admittedly pretty nice) apartment until further notice. She’s not particularly thrilled—and is perplexed by the sudden appearance of the extremely cute Ranga—but she’s also a nice person, and so accepts the freeloaders.

That night, the gang avails themselves of a rare instance of Raiza’ha footing the bill at a traditional business dinner and drinks, though Ninomiya must foot the bill for Rimu and Ranga as they are not Raiza’ha employees.

Ninomiya wants to be above socializing with the “rabble” but he knows the consequences of letting Rimu go hungry for too long, and so accepts the additional debt on top of the cost of being AWOL for a month.

In a show as irreverent towards The System as MBC, it’s not surprising that Ninomiya would be sent back to the past as the world’s only hope of salvation only to be treated like a problem employee by the very company that will be responsible for the worlds destruction in 300 years if he didn’t come back.

He also faces a rude awakening as he commences Operation Eternal Capital, as the difficulty of the Dungeon that leads to the ancient ruins has increased quite a bit since he last tackled it. That said, with the power of Rimu, Shia, Ranga, on his side (and Wanibe too, I guess), his Meikyuu Black Company is putting its best foot forward in this quest to save the world.

I just wish the production values were doing the same, but this was a distractingly janky-looking episode, especially when contrasted with the smooth CGI go-go-dancing of Rimu and the Demon Lord in the new ED.

Full Dive – 02 – Hell’s Fruit Slicer

For someone supposedly there to help Hiro out, Reona has nothing but bad news for him: Kiwame Quest can’t be restarted unless he buys a new console, which she just happens to be willing to sell for ¥120,000, or ¥30K more than he paid for his. Considering how quickly easily Hiro ruined his game, it’s no wonder KQ is a dead game.

He also learns that in the city of Ted, AKA the Closed City, he’s already a wanted fugitive, and so must exercise caution when buying a cheap cloak to mask himself. The clothes merchant hikes up the price in exchange for staying mum about seeing him. It’s looking more and more like the enterprising Reona wrangled Hiro into this game in hopes he’d give up and spend more of the money he doesn’t give to school bullies to her.

Despite costing most of the cash he started with, the cloak does nothing to hide Hiro from his childhood friend Alicia, who arrives in heightened fruit-knife wielding psycho mode. Ai Fairouz brings a lovely chaotic intensity to the role, and after praising the ten-year old’s NPC AI magic, advises Hiro to run. Running makes him tired—just like real life—only since he’s never actually run for his life before, he’s doubly exhausted.

His title changes from “Best Friend Killer” to “Running Best Friend Killer: Fleet-footed Amicide.” Having had enough, Hiro tries to log out, but he’s still technically in combat with Alicia, who appears and slashes his hand. Despite Reona assuring him one doesn’t feel any more pain than a bruise from fallnig down stairs, Hiro is still caught off guard by the pain. Reona, invisible to Alicia, punche her in the face to allow Hiro to flee and log off.

Back in the real world, Hiro notes how he’s never run all-out like he just did in KQ. His friend tries to prod him into confronting the bullies using him as a wallet, and Kaede makes another brief appearance to complain about the noise he made last night, and look at him with disgust. He ultimately decides to go back to KQ, and not just to go all-out again…but perhaps so the shitty experience there makes real life seem not so bad?

Upon logging back on, he’s in the exact same pain as when he was last there, and his hand is still bleeding. Naturally, simply touching the medicinal herbs in his pocket doesn’t heal him. He then happens to bump into Ginji, another “best friend killer” who’s been playing the game for years. Ginji crushes the herbs and bandages Hiro’s hand, then takes him to a casino to drink a cola-like beverage he’s inexplicably drunk on.

Reona told Hiro to seek Ginji out to learn how he salvaged killing his best friend at start of the game, only to learn he didn’t. In fact, he also killed his childhood friend, and feels zero remorse over it. He also mentions that despite how hard this game is, and how you enter it with your real-world attributes, there is one man, named Kamui, who actually managed to clear the game 100%. But that’s enough chit-chat, as Ginji sells Hiro out by yelling that the fugitive killer is there.

Full Dive’s high concept asks me to suspend my disbelief so high, my arm muscles strain to keep it in the air. It doesn’t help that the visuals are underwhelming, or that the color palette and lighting are oppressively dark and drab—this may be the ugliest Spring show.

Still, if there’s one thing I buy just enough—for now—is the rationale for Hiro sticking with KQ: of all the people in real life, Reona is the only one we’ve seen who not approves of his video game hobby, and wants to play with him. In other words, the closest thing to a friend. He just needs to stay away from fruit knives!

Full Dive – 01 (First Impressions) – Reality Bytes

Just as Tyrell Corporation’s replicants were billed as “more human than human”, Kiwame Quest was meant to be a full-dive VR RPG “more like real life than real life”—stimulating all five senses and capable of near-infinite routes. The problem is, video games are supposed to be like video games: a relaxing escape from the troubles of real life. So KQ was panned and receded into obscurity.

Our dull MC Yuuki Hiro’s life sucks. Something traumatic happened two years ago that everyone around him can’t help but keep bringing up and dancing around; he’s entering his final year of high school and still not sure what he’s going to do. He “lends” cash to two delinquents, so he’s a key short when it’s time to purchase Finalizing Quest 22 (the show’s FF equivalent).

Certain he won’t find FQ22 for sale at a lower price, he rolls the dice at the unassuming and deserted Kisaragi game store. The newest FQ on display is last year’s, and when he asks the gorgeous clerk Kisaragi Reona (Taketatsu Ayana) if they have 22 in stock, she goes on a passionate and unsolicited rant about how people just keep buying FQ out of habit despite diminishing returns.

Reona has something else in store for the low, low price of 10,000 yen: Kiwame Quest, which Hiro has never heard of. Dismissing FQ as “innocent”, she calls KQ “a super hardcore full-dive RPG for adults”, and since she logs in regularly, she’ll be there to teach him what he needs to know “attentively and patiently”. Hiro reluctantly agrees to the transaction and heads home.

Hiro’s home, by the way, seems to have been lit by Zack Snyder. After learning KQ is a decade old but not being able to reach Reona on her phone, and after the obligatory walking in on his sister in her underwear, Hiro settles into his room, switches on his VR gaming system, and dives in.

He’s initially underwhelmed by the opening spiel, telling him to begin the quest to defeat the Demon Lord by leaving the city and heading to Flora Castle. But once he coalesces in the game world, he is soon legitimately impressed by the realism, and the fact he can feel the metal of a window handle and the wind blowing in.

He soon meets Alicia, an NPC who is anything but. She’s his character’s childhood friend, and Martin is her “nice young man” big brother. They’ve come to invite Hiro to join them for apple picking. When he tells them ihis intent to leave the city and asks where Flora Castle is, they react like his head’s on backwards.

Apparently there’s no entering or leaving the city walls due to the heightened threat of goblin attacks. When Hiro waves that threat away, assuming it’s a low-level battle, Martin is convinced Hiro is mad and tries to beat him back into coherence. It’s here it’s confirmed that a punch to the face is every bit as painful as the real thing.

Thoroughly pissed off and out of patience by a game that’s not going the way these games usually go, Hiro lashes out at Martin, shoving him to the ground. When he doesn’t move, Hiro leans in to find the knife Martin was using to cut an apple went straight through his mouth and out the back of his throat, killing him.

Alicia freaks, and Hiro, still not sure how the hell things got to this particular place, decides the only thing to do for now is to run. A crazed Alicia chases him like the Terminator, but he eventually loses her in a downtown alley. It’s there where Reona finally joins him, but in a neat bit of camerawork it’s revealed she’s a tiny fairy, who is there to be his guide.

She also points out that the little tag around his neck is etched with a title to denote his game progress so far. Hiro is unable to tell her what has happened before she reads his tag and learns for herself: “Best Friend Killer.” Hiro’s been diving less than ten minutes, but it’s already Game Over, Man.

Full Dive is helped by its offbeat approach to VR game immersion, and by its crisp and highly expressive character designs and smooth animation. It is hurt more than anything else by its absolute flat-line of a protagonist. Granted, some of his reactions are fun and he’s supposed to be dull. Still, I want to watch the next episode, if nothing else to see whether he’ll start over or continue on from his bloody, disastrous start.

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