Attack on Titan – 30

In true Attack on Titan momentum-killing fashion, we cut away from Titan-Ymir’s impending brawl with the other Titans to the fateful night Krista and Ymir shared back during Winter Training. There, it wasn’t Titans that threatened their lives, but the freezing cold of the blizzard they found themselves caught in.

Krista is determined to drag their injured comrade Daz back with them, but he’s half-dead already, and he’s slowing them down so much they may all freeze before returning to base. No, Ymir doesn’t think Krista is trying to save Daz. She thinks she’s trying to end her own life and pass it off as heroism.

In a flashback within the flashback, we learn why, and the root of Ymir’s interest in Krista: she learned that Krista was the illegitimate child of a noble, and thus ineligible to succeed him. Rather than just killing her, they changed her name and forced her into the cadets. Considering Krista a kind of kindred spirit, Ymir doesn’t think Krista should make the people who cast her aside happy by dying just yet.

As the flash indicates, Ymir transforms into a Titan to carry Daz back to base, having conveniently buried Krista in the snow. By the time Krista returns to base on her own, she’s stunned to find Ymir and an alive Daz beat her there. She asks Ymir how the hell it’s possible, and Ymir tells her…but only if she keeps an important promise.

Back in the present, it would seem that Krista either Ymir’s secret, after being plied with wine by Ymir shortly after learning the news. As it happens, Reiner and Bertholdt’s friend was killed by Titan-Ymir, so for a moment Reiner takes his blind rage out on Krista’s slender leg, before pleading ignorance of Ymir’s secret form.

Meanwhile, Titan-Ymir is kicking ass, but in her efforts to keep the tower from falling, is at a distinct disadvantage. You can’t play offense and defense at the same time, and noticing Ymir’s attempted heroics, insists that Ymir not die here, and instead tear the dang tower down, which she does. After that, everyone grabs Ymir’s hair and she flies them to safety.

“Safety” being out of range of the crumbling tower, but once all the stunned Titans get back up, they find themselves sitting ducks. There’s a horrifying oment when a Titan confronts Krista and goes for her head, but just then, Mikasa blazes in to take the beast down.

The cavalry has arrived, and their arrival brings a huge jolt of adrenaline to what had become an increasingly hopeless scenario. Eren even manages to sneak in “his first kill”, though I assume he’s talking “as a scout”, as he’s killed plenty as a Titan.

Once the remaining Titans are mopped up, everyone turns to Ymir, who has returned to human form, but is in rough shape. Krista talks hold of her and fulfills her promise, telling Ymir her true name: Historia. Then Ymir closes her eyes and smiles.

While I’m not left 100% sure this means Ymir is dead, with missing limbs, and a chest wound, she’s certainly not fighting anytime soon. Still, it was another emotional journey that deepens two more scouts, even as it seemingly takes one of them away.

Ymir clearly isn’t a saint (from the looks of what she did to Reiner’s village) but she’s not quite the devil, either. She decided long ago she’d go her own way, and that way included supporting Krista whenever she could, even at the cost of her life.

And Krista, who never made that deep of an impression in the first season (though I briefly mistook her, not Annie, being the Female Titan) really comes to life, both through her backstory and the passion she exudes. That character work makes this a solid outing, despite not touching on any of the show’s other, arguably larger extant mysteries.

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Attack on Titan – 29

Titan, you can only zoom in on the pained-looking eyes at some one so many times before I start thinking to my self well, she’s definitely hiding something, and in this show, ‘hiding something’ usually means ‘they’re a Titan’.

And so it’s the case with Ymir, who laughs about Conny’s report on his village a bit too much; specifically the part where the fallen Titan on his house reminded him of his mom.

But before her Ymir’s big telegraphed reveal, she, Krista, and the other gear-less rookies play a tense waiting game once the Titans show up.

The elite scouts show off their stuff, but considering the Beast Titan is arranging this siege, watching them exert so much steel, gas, and energy to what will likely be the first of many waves was a bit disheartening.

Not that the scouts have any choice but to fight, mind you—A., it’s their duty; B., they’re totally surrounded.

Inevitably, the Titans get in the castle, and the few moments before Reiner opens a cellar door to reveal a particularly creepy one are absolutely dripping with tension and dread. It’s so quiet down there, but as most Titans don’t speak, silence doesn’t mean safety.

The rookies make use of what they have—a pitchfork, an old cannon, scrap wood—to kill this Titan, but a second one shows up, one that gives Reiner a vicious arm wound before he picks him up and places him in a window so Ymir can kick him out.

Krista rips up her skirt to make Reiner bandages and a sling, and he contradicts Ymir’s claim he’s not interested in girls when he thinks “gotta marry her” (Krista, not Ymir).

But more distressingly, they’re just about out of effective makeshift weapons, and the barricade for the door into the castle seems laughably flimsy against the onslaught of Titans outside.

Those Titans just keep coming, and when the Beast tosses some horses and rocks at the castle towers, two of the four scouts are killed instantly. It turns out they were the very, very lucky ones. Titan goes Full Sadist in depicting the visceral demise of the final two elite scouts, both of them, by the end, reduced to crying and screaming like young children before being disembowled and devoured.

All the one poor guy hopes for before the end is to have a drink from the bottle of booze he found, but to add insult to fatal injury, Krista used it all up disinfecting Reiner’s wound. Titan doesn’t just drive the knife in and twist it, it pulls the knife back out, then drives it back in, twists again, then drops an anvil on you for good measure. Brutal.

In the face of all that casual brutality, the arrival of dozens more Titans, and the fact the tower they’re standing on will certainly crumble and fall within minutes it’s kind of amazing that none of the rookies want to give up yet, although Krista specifically wants weapons so she can die in battle like the four scouts. Ymir doesn’t like that attitude, so she decides: she’ll be the weapon.

She takes Conny’s dagger and leaps off the tower, confusing everyone (except Reiner, who found it odd Ymir could read the language on the canned herring label), then transforming into a wild-looking Titan. The cavalry didn’t come from without for this group of rookies, but from within. But will she be enough?

It’s another strong outing from Attack on Titan to close out its first quarter, and it’s a close call between this and the Sasha episode for best episode so far. This week the claustrophobic pressure was kept up by remaining at the castle and only at the castle for the entire duration; no cuts to see what was going on elsewhere.

That extra focus, and the increased horror elements made this a must-watch, even if there were times when it was hard to watch.

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 04

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Another week, another episode with more questions than answers. More than once I conjured in my head those words from Alice in Wonderland: Curiouser and curiouser. There is so much that is curious and suspicious about this whole situation.

Saikawa and Moe explore Magata Shiki’s quarters and find quite a few more clues with which they start to piece together a narrative, sticking with practical matters like how the killer dismembered Shiki, stuffer her limbs down the garbage chute, cleaned up the quarters, and got to the roof to kill Shindo in the helicopter.

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But with each new strange discovery they have to amend their working theory, while remaining ignorant to the identity of the one whose actions they’re trying to construct. On her PC, Shiki left three separate notes of farewell and good luck, one of which states the show’s title, “Everything is F”…in lieu of Wonderland’s “Eat Me” or “Drink Me.” But there’s nothing else on the hard drives, just the latest version of Red Magic – two whole versions beyond what the staff had.

The night turns to morning, but there’s no way to know with no windows in the quarters, as if they’d either abandoned by or released from time, depending on who you talk to. As Moe inhabits the space where Shiki once sat and talked to her via video conference,  talking about Shiki’s wedding dress, Saikawa recalls a dress Moe used to wear when she was young, that made her look like a doll.

Dolls are both unfettered by time (as they do not age) and by conventional existence (they lack free will, and can only be manipulated by outside forces). Shiki seems to have built a robot: a kind of doll that thinks and moves on its own, but for a seemingly very limited purpose (locking or unlocking her bedroom door). And I can’t overlook the fact parallels are being drawn between Shiki and Moe, not just in their doll phases, but the fact both lost their parents when they were young.

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The show returns to the past with Shindo in a room with a young Shiki who wants him to touch her, after carrying on conversations between herself and her other personalities. Shindo appears flabbergasted and ashamed, but somehow powerless to cease this strange, alarmingly bright young woman’s whims. He says he’s “falling down a slope”, just as Alice went down a rabbit hole into a completely different world.

And at the end of the day, everything Moe and Saikawa find themselves tangled in that same world. It’s Shiki’s world, and they’re just living in it. She was presented as a doll on a robotic cart, and even before that seemed to invite manipulation from others like Shindo. But the good professor and his bright young protege could now be dolls under her control. Furthermore, she may not be fully gone; though her body is dead, Mahiru and Red Magic Version 6.0 invite so many intriguing possibilities.

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Psycho-Pass – 08

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The perpetrator of the previous four “human sculptures” had a sick poetic irony about them, like the case of a corrupt politician who had his hippocampus literally shoved up his ass. The newest two pieces both showed up in a park. They’d be sure garner attention there, but the setting is boring and the message is weak. That tells the super-sleuth Kogami (who’s not supposed to be on this case but is anyway) the present perp is someone young, impressionable, and not particularly ravaged by life. He’s not bad, this guy.

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With the killer’s profile in mind, Kogami pays a visit to an art conneusser in a correctional facility where latent criminals wallow in cells but are at least allowed to live, and it doesn’t take long for the name Ouryou to be dropped. Ouryou the father, whose daughter attends the same school as the past two victims. Game Over, Rikako! Makishima all but called it when, in the art room, he questioned her decision to choose victims from her own school, and her response was…impractical, to say the least.

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Essentially, I was right that Rikako was never really thinking about what would happen if she got caught; she just wasn’t wired that way. Instead, for her subjects she drew from a school that she deemed nothing but a vapid Stepford Wife factory, and each girl she “liberated” from that hamster wheel of a life was a favor done to that girl, as far as she was concerned. She realized the world she lived in was fucked, but didn’t realize how easily her plans could fall apart.

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Actually, neither did Makishima, or me, for that matter. Kogami connects the dots and corners Rikako so quickly, it kinda takes her down a couple of notches. Even though I never pegged her for an evil mastermind, I underestimated how vulnerable her absolute devotion to her art made her, as she did. It all ends so quickly. Hearing her work being pilloried by Kogami also lessens her grandeur somewhat. I guess like all her peers at school, I was bewitched by her initially composed veneer.

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Rikako’s sudden but probably inevitable fall means the obviously very fickle Makishima becomes bored with her and shifts his enthusiasm over to Kogami, which is probably super-bad for Kogami, and Akane too. But I guess they’re really only in danger—and risk having him recite Shakespeare as he sics his horrifying robotic dogs on them—if they bore him.

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Psycho-Pass – 07

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Note: This is a review of the first half of the fourth “Extended Edition” episode; for all intents and purposes, the seventh episode of the original run.

Whoa…this show likes to talk! But when the stuff it chooses to talk about is so fascinating, who am I to complain? For most of the episode, we’re spending time either with Rikako or Makishima, chattering away like the awesome evil bastards they are. Their monologues are important keys into what makes them tick, as well as the stifling nature of society under the Cybil system. The likes of Makishima and the criminals whose crimes he facilitates is a direct product of Cybil.

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Why not, let’s toss some necrophilia in here.

Rikako would argue that the serenity Cybil provides is a pox upon the world; a false resolution to the fundamental human question. One must look no further than her own father’s plight: a “double death” of talent and soul by science, technology, and the society that embraced both. Cybil gradually eliminated most of the “bad stress” that led to pain, suffering, and despair, but also eliminated the “good stress” (eustress) that stimulates the immune system and serves as our “will to live”; without it, we become walking corpses and our organs eventually shut down.

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Makishima is enabling these, ahem, unique individuals in part because he believes humanity is fast regressing into a mass of walking corpses. As the other member of Makishima’s conversation remarks, mankind has gotten so good at taking care of itself, all the beneficial effects have come all the way around to become harmful and destructive; decreased life expectancy (not known to the public) is direct proof of it. Makishima’s chat reveals that Cybil has caused much more than segregation and subjugation among those of differing psychological make-ups – it is quite literally killing us all.

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As a member of a free society, I hate Cybil system. A certain arrogance can spawn from the belief of “knowing better” than most of humanity in Psycho-Pass, and it’s very unnerving that a lot of the problems with the world they live in, spewed by depraved villains such as Rikako and Makishima…actually makes a little sense. Still, there is a happy medium between total psychological sterilization and hedonistic chaos…or at least I hope there is. Wait…that’s the world we live in, isn’t it? Alright, enough talk…here’s Beethoven’s Ninth, brilliantly employed during these discussions.

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Poor girl was doomed the moment she decided to talk to Rikako…

Now let’s talk plot: Makishima is providing RIkako with the plasticizing liquid necessary for her sculpture. The cops have discovered two of her works, which combined with the four committed three years ago in the Specimen case, makes six total. The fact that the victims are from the same school give Gino, Akane & Co. a place to snoop around. It’s worth noting that Rikako, as “talented” as she is in her particular gruesome field, isn’t exactly a criminal genius, or she’d pick more random victims.

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She’s either confident of completing her father’s work before she’s caught, or getting caught isn’t even on her mind. Hey, she is staring into another dimension, after all! Finally, Gino takes Kogami off the case altogether, dismissing his cold case reports as “delusional”, and orders Akane to keep an eye on him. Of course, Akane obliges, but takes the opportunity to avail herself of Kogami’s insights, as well as apologize for prying into his past. That’s so Akane: the person closest to ourselves, here in the real world: keen to bridge the light and the dark.

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Psycho-Pass – 05 & 06

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Some of the characters in Psycho-Pass are so clever and perceptive it makes you wonder how a society with such minds allowed itself to come under the heel of something as stifling as Cybil system. After assuring Akane she doesn’t have to check the net for Rousseau’s teachings because they’re in his head, Masaoka gives her the basic rundown of human communication as a positive asset to human development: two hunters are better off working together to bring down bigger prey than going after smaller prey alone.

Yet even as an idea like this can be used to justify the massive networks of communication that have led to civilization growing and prospering as much as it has, that same devotion to increasing cooperation and efficiency has led to things like Cybil and criminal coefficients, and also assumes civilization is the only natural state of humanity, a point on which not all philosophers agree, for a certainty. With advances in communication come complications and unnecessary details Theoreau would have frowned upon.

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In the world of Psycho-Pass, happiness is no longer achieved through free will, but predetermined courses plotted through scientific evaluation. Yet Cybil, it its twisted way, upholds the ideals of enough of the citizenry to avoid rebellion. That “enough-ness” is sustained through the Psycho-Pass System, and thus the only people who seem truly happy or free are the frikkin’ murderers, whose puppet-master we haven’t even formally met. God, I love this show. You can prattle on about it for eons.

This third extended edition episode resolves the ghost avatar case with more solid detective work from Kogami, who determines from the differing vocab that Spooky Boogie’s original owner was also recently murdered, as was a third some time ago, by one Mido Masatake, the only fan of all three whose own avatar dropped off the map at the right time. He detonates a bomb at his last known whereabouts, then hacks the holo-environment of the hotel room where Akane, Kogami, and Masaoka come to nab him.

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That’s when the “luddite” Masaoka breaks out the booze and a lighter, setting off sprinklers to overcome the visual trickery. Kogami claims one of Mido’s arms with his Dominator, and from that point on it’s game over for him, as his “benefactor” turns his beloved avatars against him, and Ginoza, Kagari, and Kunizuka finish him off. While the avatar toilet murders are over in satisfying fashion, there’s still much more to this, something that’s picked up in the second half, the best episode of the show yet.

The two halves are bridged by Akane learning that Kogami was once an Inspector; Ginoza’s partner, no less, who was demoted when his criminal coefficient spiked following a case in which he got in too deep. Now Ginoza’s warnings about Akane sticking to “doing her duty as an inspector” sound a lot less like jealousy and more like wisdom. And yet, it’s thanks to “careful” agents like Ginoza that Cybil is able to endure. The night that doomed Kogami is retold, mostly from inside a car, and involves the gruesome murder of Sasayama—an enforcer under Kogami—by plastification.

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I like how after a couple cases of flat out not being able to “get” Kogami, Akane finally makes some progress, both thanks to a reluctant Ginoza and to Kagari, who the slim Akane is hilariously able to drink under the table. Akane’s friends posit that she and this “subordinate” she speaks of may be a lot more alike, and that seems to be the case when just as she’s learning more about him, Kogami digs into his past and the case that cost him both Sasayama and his freedom.

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Here’s where the show really takes off, in that the past cases, which had had an episodic air to them, are connected both to each other and the past, still-unsolved “Specimen” case, in that all are case of someone with intent to kill being connected to the means to kill by a shadowy middleman. That middleman, of course, is Makishima, whom we’ve seen glimpses of here and there but remains, well, in the shadows, but with a long reach.

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Both the factory case and the avatar case involved sophisticated technical skills beyond those of the culprits implicated. Similarly, the Specimen case involved someone who liked dismembering bodies, but was provided the scientific assistance to impregnate them with resin in order to “freeze in time” the body parts, which he’d exhibit in public places like works of art. An intriguing chicken-and-egg arguent thus comes into play: would these people have still committed their murders if they hadn’t been given the means to do so?

That brings us to the second half’s story, which goes on independently at an isolated girl’s high school as Akane is figuring everything out and Kogami is connecting the dots. There, in an environment engineered to minimize Hue cloudiness in girls at this “susceptible” age, the queen bee Ouryou Rikako (Sakamoto MaayaHells yeah!) creates disturbing drawings that turn out to be studies for her artwork, which consists of dismembering troubled classmates, plasticizing them, and displaying them around town.

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Not surprisingly, Rikako favors the darker Shakespeare works like Titus and Macbeth and seems to be inspired by their brutal but universal human themes. There’s almost no doubt in my mind Rikako believes she is about to free her latest “subject” Yoshika, from a cursed life, helping her to realize her “true beauty”, looking upon her like a sculptor upon a block of marble. That girl in the cafeteria called it; Rikako is totally staring into another dimension. Or, at least, she sees things most others don’t.

I’ll say this for Psycho-Pass’s bad guys; they’ve gotten progressively more chilling! It has also outlined just how dangerous it is to be an inspector who cares about her enforcers and her cases too much. Your criminal coefficient is not only in constant jeopardy, but higher ups like the chief, who wouldn’t mind at all if it’s finally determined criminality is hereditary (Ginoza’s father was a latent criminal). To people like her, that would be yet another step towards perfect social harmony…but where does the witchhunt end? Like the flight of Icarus, I imagine.

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