Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 12 (Fin) – The War Continues

Last week ended on a hopeful note, but there was still a lot that could go wrong with Kaguya and Miyuki’s big night at the fireworks festival. And what do you know, it does! Just as she’s ready to head out, one of the butlers not named Hayasaka vetoes her outing as too dangerous, so she has to text Chika that she can’t go, and she’s sorry.

Kaguya enters heretofore unplumbed depths of dejection, but Hayasaka tells her to regain her Kaguya attitude that would have normally had her trying to sneak out by now. Hayasaka aids in all the ways she can by posting a tweet to Kaguya’s feed that Miyuki picks up on, then disguising herself as Kaguya so she can swing Tarzan’s Jane-style over the wall and to a waiting taxi.

While getting out of bed and sneaking out of the house was a big win, Kaguya still has to get to the fireworks before they’re over…and she isn’t able to succeed. The taxi is stuck in traffic, and there’s only so much ground she can cover in yukata and geta. She’s able to glimpse the fireworks closer than ever before—between buildings—but by the time she reaches the meeting spot, the display has concluded and the crowds are cleaning up after themselves (what a concept!) and heading home.

Of course, all this time, we know that Miyuki has been racing around on his bike, attempting to intercept Kaguya on her ill-fated solo mission to reach the fireworks. He manages to pick the right alley where she’s chosen to cry, then takes her by the arm and tells her he’s going to make sure she sees some fireworks. He accomplishes this with help from Yuu and Chika, who are waiting with the same taxi  Kaguya took before, driven by one of the Four Ramen Kings.

The driver takes liberties with the speed limit and gets them under the Aqua Line towards Umihotaru, where the fireworks display will still be going on for another twenty minutes. There’s an action thriller flavor to their undersea tunnel trip, and an ultimate feeling of triumph when they emerge at the other side to a sky full of gorgeous fireworks. Only now, that she’s closer than ever to those fireworks, all Kaguya can watch is Miyuki’s face, and all she can hear is the beating of her own heart. Daaaaaw.

While the fireworks night turned out to be a great victory for everyone, pulled from the jaws of defeat numerous times, the real proof in the pudding of whether Kaguya and Miyuki’s relationship has grown would come in the aftermath. We get a glimpse of that as the new school term begins, and both of them are so bashful and self-conscious that every time they try to approach each other, they end up sailing by like ships in the night—or two dogfighting planes.

Again and again they swoop by, with Chika eventually getting into the spirit of things with an “asterisk” before Yuu arrives and unwittingly makes it a “triangle.” Kaguya and Miyuki then banish both Yuu and Chika (“shooting them down”, as it were) in order to get the privacy they need to finally confront each other about last night.

Kaguya just wants to thank him for everything he did, but as they finally meet and end up bumping into a kind of half-hug, her broomstick juts into his chest, and she says the very words he feared she’d say as an appraisal of his “egotistical” behavior and “cringeworthy lines” the other night: “it must be painful.” Of course, she was talking about the broomstick, not his behavior. But he runs off anyway, and Kaguya gives chase, and henceforth everything is pretty much back to normal.

Surely other situations will come in the future where the two will be able to hang out and do fun stuff and experience moments of beauty and honesty together—but due to their stubborn pride and persistent self-consciousness, any such interactions will only come after much hand-wringing and hesitation. Perhaps, given enough time, it will get easier. But as long as they think something that manifestly isn’t a war is, it’ll remain akin to pulling teeth. But hey, a romantic can hope!

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Fate / Zero – 14

The Alliance to Destroy Caster’s Monster (ADCM) doesn’t net great results: Neither Saber, Rider or Lancer can cause any damage to Caster’s monster, as it possesses extraordinary regenerative abilities, like a flan that can reassemble itself faster than you can cut it up.

Archer watches the battle imperiously from above in his extremely cool aircraft, and expresses his disgust at the “mongrels” futile flailing below. Tokiomi uses all the fancy submissive language he knows to try to get Archer to intervene and bring the monster down, but after four of his swords do no more than the other attacks (and are contaminated in the process), Archer declines to sacrifice any more.

As the monster nears the shore, more and more innocent bystanders bear witness, making this an unmitigated disaster for the Holy Grail War and its backers. A pair of JASDF F-15s join the battle, but have no idea what they’re in for.

One gets plucked out of the air by the monster’s tentacles, then eaten; the second is “commandeered” by the newly-arrived Berserker, who engages in a fantastically wild yet balletic dogfight with Archer—as if possessing a fighter jet wasn’t cool enough.

Berserker’s movements are extremely chaotic and unpredictable (as are his missiles), but Archer is able to counter every attack and stay a little bit ahead, glad that someone is entertaining him.

With their Servants fighting each other instead of the monster, Tokiomi and Kariya decide to have a duel of their own, which had to happen some time.

Kariya asks how Tokiomi can call himself a father for giving Sakura away to the Matous, but Tokiomi not only carries a clear conscience, he’s delighted, for the sake of his illustrious noble family, that both of his daughters have the opportunity to become great mages who find “The Root”; never mind that only one of them can. 

Kariya is sick and tired of future generations suffering due to the cruelty and brutality of mages, so he’ll kill them all. It’s Toosaka magic vs. Matou…bugs.

Finally we have Uryuu Ryuunosuke. Good-looking, cheerful kid; would make a fine protagonist if he wasn’t also a child serial killer. As he laughs and celebrates what her Servant is serving up for God, he leaves himself wide open for Kiritsugu’s sniper round.

But wouldn’t you know it, he’s not upset about being shot in the stomach, he’s delighted as well, lamenting that “what he was always looking for” was right under his nose this whole time, in his own guts. Alas, he had to die to find “it”, and only got to enjoy the realization for a few moments before Kiritsugu takes the headshot.

For all of the flash and impressiveness of the Servants’ and their Masters’ abilities, all it took to grab control of the situation was some stealth, a rifle, and a couple bullets…if only it were that easy. Caster and the monster don’t vanish immediately following Uryuu’s death; and as they’ll reach shore long before they do, there’s a real possibility they’ll be able to “feed” on the gathering crowds, sustaining physical form from the absorbed mana.

Uryuu may be gone, but to get rid of Caster’s monster, Kiritsugu knows they’ll need something only Saber has—an Anti-Fortress Noble Phantasm. The only problem is, she can’t use it with the wound Lancer gave her. In order to defeat the monster, it would seem she and Lancer must duel, and Lancer has to lose.

Shuumatsu no Izetta – 07

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After a dull and appallingly animated opening scene where a bunch of old white guys from all over Europe (plus “Atlanta” AKA alternate-America) contemplate what to do about a new German aircraft carrier, their host Lord Redford introduces them to Fine and Izetta, with all the requisite magical theatricality.

The two don’t just come hat-in-hand, asking for troops, but with something they can do for them: Izetta will destroy the carrier, giving them one less thing to worry about (and commit precious resources to).

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In what can probably be better described than as a “quasi-yuri” scene, after Fine teases and tickles Izetta they lie in bed together in their matching lilac negligees, gazing into each other’s eyes.

Fine repeats her guilt about asking so much about Izetta, but reiterates the importance of being useful to their allies; Izetta repeats her total commitment to Fine in all things. We get it, show: they’re very close. The two girls were, at least, far better drawn than all the stodgy men at the beginning.

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Also well-animated (and staged): Izetta’s operation. With two Lancaster bombers as her escort, she takes command of four 760-kg torpedoes and heads to the fjord base where the carrier lies. We get some simply stunning views of her streaking through the air with her four ballistic buddies.

Alas, to her horror, the carrier isn’t there when she arrives: it’s started out to sea, and an ambush awaits her, led by the grizzled ace Basler in a shiny new inverse gullwing plane. Between him, the other fighters, and a cloud of flak from other surface assets, Izetta’s complement of four torps quickly dwindles to two.

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Though Groman assured her she’d need all four to sink the carrier, she uses the last two in a clever way – sending one straight down, missle-style into the weak elevator area, and the other into the fuel supply. It’s mission accomplished for Izetta, but little does she know both Berkman and Ricelt accomplished their mission too.

The carrier was nothing more than bait, set to lure Izetta into an area with highly variable ley lines. Berkman observed sudden losses in Izetta’s magic as she flew through the invisible variations (she’s apparently unable to sense them).

Now the enemy knows (or is pretty darn sure) of her weakness. With that in mind, it looks like Germania came out on top on this one, since the carrier was essentially doomed anyway.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 03

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Eylstadt’s antiquated, outmatched defenses are brought to the brink against the mighty modern Germanian war machine, and Izetta places us right in the trenches to experience how dire the situation is. A young private is tense before the action even starts; and then all of a sudden his commander is dead, the landscape has changed, and the air is full of cries of pain and despair.

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Fine’s forces are receiving a drubbing, and a rout is all but certain. Her frustration with the ineffectiveness of their defense is compounded by her heartbreak that so many must give their lives, simply to buy time. Yet she has the presence of mind and the discipline not to send the forces she still has out to die in a blaze of glory. She may not like how she has to pay for it, but she needs time for the civilians to evacuate and for new lines to be established.

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It falls to Izetta to do something about this horrible, hopeless situation. Against Fine’s wishes, Izetta enters the battle, and quickly turns the tables, using old jousting lances from the medieval castle as projectiles to take out the Germanian Stuka dive bombers one by one. She manages to take out the last plane with the lance she’s riding, timing it just right so she lands on the stump of it rather than fall to her death.

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She’s stunned by the landing, but quickly springs back into action, right around the area where the private we met is fighting. He, along with the other surviving soldiers, bear witness as Izetta moves her assault on the Germanians to the ground, fighting with a desperate intensity that buoys their spirits.

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This is the best battle of Izetta yet, showing the witch using her powers in creative ways, employing ancient weapons to bring down marvels of modern warfare. The Elystadt armed forces simply can’t compete by playing by the same rules as the Germans. So it’s good their patron saint has arrived to flip the game board over and shred the rulebook.

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Thoughout the Germainian advance, stall, and eventual defeat, we cut to their headquarters, where army and air force generals keep a bottle of champagne on ice for the eventual announcement of their certain victory. But Izetta has thrown their entire prosecution of the war into chaos. A who squadron of Stukas and a company of tanks are simply gone. They popped the cork too early; one general’s glass falls to the ground and shatters.

Meanwhile, after enduring so much death, destruction, and despair, the troops rally around Fine and the second coming of their White Witch, their morale and hope for the future suddenly restored. The nervous private who watched it all leads the men in singing a powerful anthem of victory. Fine didn’t like how Izetta risked herself and defied her wishes, but she can’t deny the results were tremendous.

I imagine relatively “easy” victories such as this will be few and far between; the Germanian leader and those scientists are unlikely to let the military be caught off guard again. And as powerful as she is, Izetta is not invincible; it only takes one well-place bullet to kill her, just like any other girl. But for now, let the men sing.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 02

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Thanks to Papika Izetta, Princess Fine is free from the Germanians, but they’re not out of the woods. An enemy patrol spots the smoke plume from their transport and before long the two girls are locked in an alpine dogfight that’s a feast for the eyes.

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Izetta sees no other choice but to break taboo and her promise to her granny and use her magic openly. The results are an astounding demonstration of her potential as a weapon against the Germanians, taking out three planes, but she runs out of mana before the lead plane is downed.

Enter a still-bleeding Fine, who reminds Izetta she’s not riding a broom, but a giant rifle, which they use to take out the last plane. After the sustained battle, Fine is out cold, Izetta’s tank is empty, and she has to ditch the gun and make for the Eylstadt fortress on foot.

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By good fortune Izetta encounters a force of retreating Elystadt survivors led by Major Obermeyer, and their suregon fixes Fine up while also tending to Izetta’s wounds. Izetta is loath to accept any help, favor, or comfort, and it all has to do with the old scar the doc notices on Fine’s side, for which Izetta blames herself.

As the first episode hinted, Izetta and Fine had met before, and it wasn’t a dream. Izetta isn’t some scientific specimen or non-corporeal supreme being…she’s just a girl. A girl who happened to be the last in a line of witches. Her grandmother noted she was the most powerful in generations, despite being the last, and so had to take extra care not to get tangled up in trouble.

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Things just didn’t work out that way, but it wasn’t all for naught: Izetta and Fine meeting was the best thing to happen to either of them, because they were the only ones who saw each other for what they were: not a witch to be feared or a princess to be fawned over, but two girls in need of best friends.

Fine received her side wound defending Izetta from an angry mob, doing as she’s always done: value the lives of others as much if not more than her own. She wants to save Izetta again by sending her away rather than using her, but Izetta won’t hear of it. She wants to be used, and she wants Fine to be the hope that drives her, just as it drives the desperate armies and subjects of Eylstadt.

Beginning with a thrilling aerial battle, leading to some vital backstory, and concluding with Izetta’s vow not to leave Fine’s side in the coming battles, this episode had a little of everything, and was as efficient in its storytelling as it was entertaining and moving.

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Macross Delta – 22

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Well, with a big battle coming up and the show deciding to check in once more on Cassim, it was pretty clear from the cold open that this was going to be the swan song for, to date, the most three-dimensional Windermeran on the show.

But first, a note about the shot that establishes the Chaos fleet the last two episodes: could it have killed them to zoom in a little more and let us get a nice look at that fleet? It’s a nitpick that expresses my desire for a big space/aerial battle after a string of episodes that were more about developing characters. And we got one.

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After a quick chat between two of the simpler characters in Macross, Mikumo (who lives to sing) and Hayate (who lives to fly), everyone salutes Captain Johnson and the Elysion enters a fold gate. All of a sudden, we’re back in the shit, as Chaos teams up with the liberated Vordorian military to strike against Randall.

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But that turns out to be only a means of diverting and splitting Lloyd’s forces, as Delta and Walkure’s true desination is Windermere itself, by way of a fold gate opened on Alfheim. The only way to open that gate is for Walkure to give the protoculture structure everything they have.

At first, Freyja doesn’t do that, because she’s still scared Hayate and/or Mirage will go nuts. But after a quick slap by Mikumo, combined with the urgings of Hayate and Mirage, Freyja is back in the game.

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Turns out she was right to worry: the song does make Hayate go berserk, just when locked in a dogfight with Cassim (who is fighting like this is his last battle, because it is). Just as Hayate and Mirage helped snap Freyja out of her funk, Mirage and Freyja snap Hayate out of his Var before irreparable damage is done, and the battle resumes.

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By the time Hayate has his senses back, the platoon has bought Walkure adequate time, the gate opens, and they fly through, emerging in Windermere’s atmo. Two Aerial Knights: one of the twins and Cassim, follow, and take out Walkure’s shuttle.

Remembering vividly what happened to Flay in Gundam SEED I naturally worried about the idols’ transport getting hit, but they all survive the attack, with Arad and Mirage catching Kaname and Freyja out of the sky.

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All that’s left is for Hayate to stay alive long enough for Cassim to burn (or freeze) out, which is what happens. Interestingly, no other Windermerean defense is around, allowing Hayate and Mirage to land their planes so they, along with Freyja, can pay respect to their fallen adversary and acquaintance.

Cassim’s time may be up, but Hayate, Freyja, and Mirage’s Windermerean adventure has just begun. Freyja is finally home. There’s still quite a bit left to do, and Lloyd probably isn’t going to roll over and let them destroy his life’s work. We’ll see whose wind prevails.

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Macross Delta – 04

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First some quick observations on our Windermeran boy prince songster: he’s the key to his people’s plans for galactic domination, he’s a pawn of his big brother Keith, he likely has misgivings about hurting people with his song, and the song hurts him; indeed, he may be running out of time, necessatating an acceleration of those plans.

On the other side of the galaxy, fellow Windermeran Freyja Wion and her friend Hayate are at a party welcoming them to Walkure and Delta Platoon, respectively, but neither are (yet) carrying the weight of his little highness, they’re kicking back and relaxing with their new family. Mikumo solitary, solemn audience with the stars is a stark contrast to the frivolity of the party; and in lighting and mood, a lot more like the prince’s milieu.

But the lighthearted fun, for both for our star idol and pilot and the show, has to hit a snag at some point: we need to start seeing some stakes and some danger if I’m going to become dramatically invested and take the show seriously (that is, as seriously as one can take a show in which a berserker syndrome is cured with song). This week provides that necessary snag.

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Mind you, there’s still a Nostalgia Corner, for those watching Delta because of all the Macross that came before. Not only does Freyja name-drop several musical personalities and groups from previous shows, they’re on her playlist and formed her inspiration.

Mind you, this mirrors the real life cyclical inspiration of the idols who got their start with Macross: no doubt Freyja’s Suzuki Minori was inspired by Ranka’s Nakajima Megumi, and so on.

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But however inspired Freyja is by her forebears, Mikumo informs her in no uncertain terms that if she can’t deliver the goods in her debut, she’s fired.

This time it’s not a highly controlled simulation: Planet Randor has requested a “Waccine” to preemptively inoculate its population from the Var. Freyja inadvertently plays up her clumsy nervousness as a virtue in her debut, and the adoring crowds eat it up.

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Freyja also gets better as the show goes on, able to mostly keep pace with Mikumo, even if her fold receptors don’t activate at first, which was the whole point of recruiting her.

Things then take a turn for the perilous when a formation of Var-infected Spacy planes arrives and attacks Walkure/Delta. I was a little confused whether the Var was being caused by the Windy Prince’s song, but it sure looked like a connection between the two was implied.

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When shit hits the fan, the Walkure members scatter for safety, and the adrenaline of the first episode returns as they feel terribly exposed to the firepower and brawn of bogeys.

Of course, that’s where Delta comes in, and Hayate has Freyja’s back, keeping her alive until Mikumo regroups with a Var-eradicating solo Freyja turns into a duet, finally activating her fold receptors and avoiding summary termination.

Turns out harrying Walkure/Delta was only an elaborate diversion by the Aerial Knights of Windermere, as Chancellor Brehm announces a formal declaration of war against the New Unifed Government, while Delta confirms that Planet Vordor has been invaded.

First the Var, now a war with Windermere, a people who are short-lived (~30 years max) but powerful. The fact the newest member of Walkure is from the same planet should make things interesting. A quarter-cour in, things are finally starting to spice up.

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Macross Delta – 03

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The plot: Mirage and Messer don’t like Hayate and Hayate isn’t helping his case. He skips class and doesn’t take his training seriously and only survives his final examine because Freyja sings to him.

And until Hayate needs help, Freyja was under-performing as well. However, in her case she both takes the training seriously and her fellow songstresses are far more supportive and understanding.

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The Problem: This episode paints a bleak picture for Macross Delta. When all the extraneous, predictable and force-fed nostalgia is stripped away, all that is left is a beautifully-rendered but vapid show.

Worse, there are so many characters fighting for screen time, and each is so distractingly over-designed, that there’s no room for the main characters to breath. For goodness sake, the three street children from last week’s throwaway phone joke did not need to become recurring secondary characters.

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Counting the slap-stick Mercat, who’s antics are clearly telegraphed as a teaching tool for Hayate to using in his exam, this episode features sixteen secondary characters, three main characters and that’s not counting the Aerial Knights who teaser us after the ending credits. Too much!

Even if Delta weren’t choking to death on frivolous characters and predictable plots, other plot elements feel purely nostalgic. Flying in VF-01 trainers (and being told they are ‘cute’) feels forced and without in-show purpose.

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You will probably enjoy it: because it’s wondrously rendered and packed with details. Even Elysion Colony floating in the bay itself is a visual callback to Frontier and Macross 8, and anchors this show within the greater universe.

You may not enjoy it: because the plot is predictable and the characters, what little we get to see of them, are Macross archetypes: Low-stress anti-war fighter ace, bright eyed loli-songstress whose spunk will win the day, and a rainbow of inconsequential ‘advance the plot’ secondary cast characters.

Sadly, Mirage’s tsundere character is about the most original thing here, and it’s only somewhat original to Macross, not anime in general. I am seriously tempted to rate this a 7.

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Macross Delta – 02

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Delta quickly wraps up last week’s cliffhanger with Mirage swooping in to rescue Hayate & Freyja’s falling, crippled variable fighter and the Aerial Knights retreating, having collected the data they were after.

The remainder of the episode sets out to establish more of the world, context for Freyja’s ability, character relationships and how Hayate & Freyja ultimately join Walkure.

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From mer-cats to gilled street kids with webbed fingers selling organic fish cellphone bracelets, the world around Macross Elysion, Delta Platoon’s HQ, is a fantastical buffet of extraneous but enjoyable details.

It’s all lovingly rendered but Hayate literally grabs Freyja and runs her out of the scene because they have so little narrative purpose, beyond a minor nod to Ranka Lee’s squeezable organic cell phone in Macross Frontier. Even the brief scene in the Aerial Knight’s mountain castle, which includes a column-like pipe organ in the background, only repeats information we’ve already been told.

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As to the joining Walkure part, Freyja is given an audition, which she fails and Hayate is outright offered a piloting position by Delta Platoon Arad Molders. Later, on her way back to the city, Freyja’s tram suddenly halts and one of the passengers goes var-mad. Freyja is knocked to the ground but she sings her way to safety and passes Walkure’s final, secret audition test.

Delta deserves serious credit for its solid sound design.  Music cues are tight. We can feel Freyja’s frustration in the droning elevator-pop of the tram ride and feel her surprise as that music cuts off with the lights and is replaced by something more ominous. Subtle too, that omens music is fun-house style goofy, which softly hints that not all is as it seems to the viewer.

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As to the character relationships, Mirage and Hayate are immediately set up as rivals (and, probably, long term love interests) due to Hayate’s natural skills and matter of fact criticism of the military and rules following. It doesn’t help that Mirage was out of sync during combat too and they both know it.

More broadly, we see Arad’s fatherly relations with with his pilots and other admin, as well as how most people are scared of Elysion’s Captain Ernest Johnson, who is probably Zentradi but looks like an adult version of Teen Titans’ Beast Boy. We also see the Aerial Knights have a lot of internal conflict, which will no doubt be their undoing.

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Stray details and speculation: The Aerial Knights’ SV-262 Draken III’s appeal to be capable of docking with a Ghost on the end of each wing. This not only looks pretty cool, but could imply reliance on artificial intelligence to bolster their numbers. (AI is also generally outlawed in the Macross universe, following Sharon Apple’s rampage in Plus and whatever the heck the androids of Macross Galaxy were up to in Frontier)

Also worth noting the Aerial Knight’s resemblance to the pre-space era earth villains in Macross Zero. The fighters look similar, also had purple, and the characters had feudal sounding titles and ranks…

Also also, Walkure’s VF-31 “Siegfrieds” are named after a dragon slayer, which is important because “Draken” means dragon in swedish.

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Delta’s strength is that it is very well produced: tremendous precision went into its sound design, visual styling, animation and world building. It somehow even keeps its 17+ characters recognizable and coherent.

Delta’s weakness is it has 17+ characters to show us, tons of world building to get through, and some technobabble about singing/fold-space potential, and even more alien races than Macross has ever tackled before.

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It does a good job balancing that all out, but there is so much packed into this episode, I found it hard to absorb in one sitting. More critically, despite the extraneous detail scenes that serve as points of ‘rest,’ the shows maximum level of information density stops individual elements from standing out.

It’s like playing a game for the first time with 2 years worth of DLC turned on from the very beginning!

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Macross Delta – 01

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Note: This is a repost of my January review of the preview special, updated with the rest of the episode that more recently aired.

Cute, quirky, idealistic heroine whom the serious male protag helps out? Check. Rather than Ranka Lee, we have Freyja Wion. She’s also voiced by a first-time seiyu (Suzuki Minori), who does a pretty good job balancing goofiness, earnestness, vulnerability and determination.

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If you’re not put off by Freyja’s bubbly enthusiasm, you’ll want to root for her almost immediately. She’s on the run from an arranged marriage to audition for Walkure, a “Tactical Sound Unit” that uses music to fight the Var, which unlike the Vajra aren’t a primal alien race, but a disease that infects everyone, potentially making anybody a weapon in its arsenal.

While there’s a lot of terminology right out of the gate, Delta doesn’t drown you in it, and also assumes this isn’t your first Macross rodeo (my other exposure to the franchise is the excellent 25th anniversary series Macross Frontier). Like that show, the world is lush and detailed, only the visuals here in 2016 are even more smooth and refined, particularly where CGI is concerned.

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The male protag, Hayate Immelmann (probably named for the turn), is initially put off by Freyja’s weirdness, but ends up rescuing her, though having been someone who’s dreamed big in the past and gotten nowhere, he remains skeptical of her lofty aspirations.

Something tells me his attitude will have changed when this episode concludes in April. He even seems to come under a little bit of a spell from her overflowing charisma—until she loses her foothold and he has to catch her in an awkward position that has him at gunpoint for suspected perversion by Mirage, a soldier in Delta Platoon, Walkure’s escort unit.

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The misunderstanding is corrected just in time for a city-wide Var Alert. The Var infect the local Zentradi base (as in Frontier, the green-skinned giants are normally allies of the humans here), and Freyja and Hayate become naught but two more ants on a massive battlefield, running for their lives.

Then we’re introduced to the four members of Walkure who run towards the danger, transforming into their magical songstress forms: You have the Sheryl Nome-esque star Mikumo, the tomboyish Reina, the girly Makina, and the sporty leader, Kaname.

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Working in concert with the Delta Platoon, they neutralize the effects of the Var with their music, as the battle on the ground is essentially one big music video. This is a departure from Frontier in that the effects of the singing on the enemy aren’t known until later in the show. Here, Walkure is an active participant in the combat, and also in protecting the hordes of citizens with swarms of multidrones.

As one would expect of an experienced and practiced pop music group, Walkure knows exactly what to do and carry it out swiftly and efficiently, but also with an ample helping of style. So confident is Mikumo in her powers of charm, she gets right in a Var-infected Zentradi pilot’s face and cures him on the spot, getting him to exclaim that iconic line, “Deculture!”

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But that’s not all for enemies. In orbit, the planet’s space fleet is attacked by the Aerial Knights, a group of badass male warriors who look to be the Walkure Girls’ rivals and foils. When they engage the Delta Platoon on the surface, they learn they’re more than a match.

Be it the Huge Capital Ship Getting Blow’d Up Real Good in orbit or the Zig-Zagging Dogfight in the skies, Delta doesn’t separate itself much from Frontier in these areas, but it does distinguish itself in sheer quality and refinement. There’s nary a frame out of place, and as previously stated, the CGI is far better integrated into the regular animation than the older work. The plane, ship, cockpit, and HUD designs are also new and very cool-looking, all with a welcome nod to the past.

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With all the big battles and explosions going on, the episode could be excused for completely forgetting about Freyja and Hayate, but when the Knights push Walkure and Delta into a corner, we come back to them, trying not to get caught in the crossfire. Then Mikumo emerges from the pile of wreckage, ready to rumble anew, and changes the tune—literally—to a more aggressive but still upbeat song.

Freyja’s little heart-shaped stone on her head starts to glow (as it did when Hayate fell on her), and she can’t resist singing along and running towards the battle rather than away. It’s an inspiring sight for young Hayate, seeing her risk her life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, without a care in the world that things won’t work out.

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So…what does the newly-aired episode add to the preview? Nothing that changes my original score of an 8. Right after Freyja runs off, Hayate commandeers a partially-wrecked mech to back her up. As Walkure detects Freyja adding her voice to theirs (and it’s a nice voice), Hayate takes out baddies with the grace of a dancer.

Eventually, he gets lost in the song, and he and Freyja spend a little time in Glowing Naked Blue Sky Land before enemy fire snaps Hayate out of it, and the two start plummeting to the Earth. With their fates uncertain (though not really; they’ll be fine) the episode really just replaced one ellipsis with another, only now Walkure and Delta Platoon have seen a little of what these two crazy kids can do.

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Macross Delta (Preview Special) – 01

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A couple of things: First, to my surprise, Macross Delta won’t be airing until April as a Spring 2016 show (which is for the best, as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle both a Gundam and a Macross at the same time). Second, while this isn’t a complete episode, it is comprised of 391 of the 450 frames of the first episode, or over 86% of the total. So we get a pretty good look.

A lot of those 391 frames contain some pretty familiar stuff…but this is Macross, so you go in fully expecting that.  Cute, quirky, idealistic heroine whom the serious male protag helps out? Check. Rather than Ranka Lee, we have Freyja Wion. She’s also voiced by a first-time seiyu (Suzuki Minori), who does a pretty good job balancing goofiness, earnestness, vulnerability and determination.

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If you’re not put off by Freyja’s bubbly enthusiasm, you’ll want to root for her almost immediately. She’s on the run from an arranged marriage to audition for Walkure, a “Tactical Sound Unit” that uses music to fight the Var, which unlike the Vajra aren’t a primal alien race, but a disease that infects everyone, potentially making anybody a weapon in its arsenal.

While there’s a lot of terminology right out of the gate, Delta doesn’t drown you in it, and also assumes this isn’t your first Macross rodeo (my other exposure to the franchise is the excellent 25th anniversary series Macross Frontier). Like that show, the world is lush and detailed, only the visuals here in 2016 are even more smooth and refined, particularly where CGI is concerned.

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The male protag, Hayate Immelmann (probably named for the turn), is initially put off by Freyja’s weirdness, but ends up rescuing her, though having been someone who’s dreamed big in the past and gotten nowhere, he remains skeptical of her lofty aspirations.

Something tells me his attitude will have changed when this episode concludes in April. He even seems to come under a little bit of a spell from her overflowing charisma—until she loses her foothold and he has to catch her in an awkward position that has him at gunpoint for suspected perversion by Mirage, a soldier in Delta Platoon, Walkure’s escort unit.

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The misunderstanding is corrected just in time for a city-wide Var Alert. The Var infect the local Zentradi base (as in Frontier, the green-skinned giants are normally allies of the humans here), and Freyja and Hayate become naught but two more ants on a massive battlefield, running for their lives.

Then we’re introduced to the four members of Walkure who run towards the danger, transforming into their magical songstress forms: You have the leader, the Sheryl Nome-esque leader Mikumo, the tomboyish Reina, the girly Makina, and the sporty Kaname (thanks Starqo).

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Working in concert with the Delta Platoon, they neutralize the effects of the Var with their music, as the battle on the ground is essentially one big music video. This is a departure from Frontier in that the effects of the singing on the enemy aren’t known until later in the show. Here, Walkure is an active participant in the combat, and also in protecting the hordes of citizens with swarms of multidrones.

As one would expect of an experienced and practiced pop music group, Walkure knows exactly what to do and carry it out swiftly and efficiently, but also with an ample helping of style. So confident is Mikumo in her powers of charm, she gets right in a Var-infected Zentradi pilot’s face and cures him on the spot, getting him to exclaim  that iconic line, “Deculture!”

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But that’s not all for enemies. In orbit, the planet’s space fleet is attacked by the Aerial Knights, a group of badass male warriors who look to be the Walkure Girls’ rivals and foils. When they engage the Delta Platoon on the surface, they learn they’re more than a match.

Be it the Huge Capital Ship Getting Blow’d Up Real Good in orbit or the Zig-Zagging Dogfight in the skies, Delta doesn’t separate itself much from Frontier in these areas, but it does distinguish itself in sheer quality and refinement. There’s nary a frame out of place, and as previously stated, the CGI is far better integrated into the regular animation than the older work. The plane, ship, cockpit, and HUD designs are also new and very cool-looking, all with a welcome nod to the past.

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With all the big battles and explosions going on, the episode could be excused for completely forgetting about Freyja and Hayate, but when the Knights push Walkure and Delta into a corner, we come back to them, trying not to get caught in the crossfire. Then Mikumo emerges from the pile of wreckage, ready to rumble anew, and changes the tune—literally—to a more aggressive but still upbeat song.

Freyja’s little heart-shaped stone on her head starts to glow (as it did when Hayate fell on her), and she can’t resist singing along and running towards the battle rather than away. It’s an inspiring sight for young Hayate, seeing her risk her life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, without a care in the world that things won’t work out.

Even though Freyja stowed away on a ship to the wrong planet, it looks like she’ll get her audition after all—we’ll just have to wait until April to see how it goes. Until then, I know I have a big, bold, upbeat new Macross to look forward to when the chill breaks.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 08

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This week’s IBO opens with the end of the battle from the perspective of the four-man boarding party, as they quickly infiltrate the Hammerhead’s systems and fill the corridors with combustible gas to ensure no firefights. Throughout their operation, Naze sits calmly on the bridge as his crew reports what’s going on, until Orga & Co are literally in the doorway.

The nonchalance with which both Naze and his crew greets them really says a lot about the Turbines; this intrusion may have been a surprise, but they’re not ones to overreact. And as Naze said, they used an “old method” but executed it perfectly. That opinion demonstrates he’s been around the block, tactically speaking.

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Of course, he’s also been around the block sexually speaking. Not only is the entire crew of the Hammerhead female, but nearly all of them are sleeping with him (the OP updated to reflect this). I wasn’t sure about this at first (the reactions on the Tekkadan reps’ faces are absolutely priceless), but Naze is not an ordinary fellow, and all of the women are with him by choice and are fine with sharing him, so who am I to judge? Even Laffter considers him her “darling”, but has to admit the pilot in Barbatos got her juices flowing, too.

They’re not brainwashed or enslaved, but more like a pride of lions, and only one has a mane. And they know when they’ve seen capable soldiers, even if they’re young and raw. So when Orga and Biscuit ask if the Turbines will not only escort them to Earth, but make Tekkadan a subsidiary of Teiwaz, Naze is open to both ideas. Only making either happens requires a visit to his boss, McMurdo Barriston, and there’s a matter of Kudelia possibly being “property.” Did her father arrange a marriage?

Oh, and Maruba? Naze sends him to the mines. grumpycatgood.jpg.

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With the war postponed for now and both ships en route to Teiwaz headquarters, a ship called the Saisei, the crews busy themselves with training, repairs, R&R, etc. Mika seems a little off to Atra (he only ate half his usual portion), and Orga learns why: Mika thinks he screwed up in the battle with Laffter. No one is as tough on him as he himself is.

Atra also thinks Aina could use some cheering up, so they visit the Turbines’ nursery, which is a ridiculous thing to have aboard a mercenary ship, until you realize that like Tekkadan, the Turbines are far more than a group of comrades. They’re family, who have spilled and mixed blood. Regardless, the little babies delight Aina, who Atra is glad can finally relax a little, at least until the next crisis.

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One of those crises is that Tekkadan is pretty much broke back on Mars, due to the scarcity of lucrative clients with Gjallarhorn looming over them. This means Orga and Biscuit must present Naze with a list of stuff they can sell to make ends meet. Naze couldn’t care less about such trifling stuff, and wonders why Orga didn’t take his original deal.

It’s here where Naze learns Tekkadan is a family like his, and breaking it up isn’t an option. Orga tried to come in on equal terms with the Turbine leader, but at the end of the day he’s still a kid by comparison. That’s not to say Naze wasn’t exactly where Orga is sitting at one point in his life, with a paltry harem of two or three women and a lot of self-doubt he couldn’t show to anyone, but which many could see nonetheless.

With Mika getting so upset about “failing him”, Orga feels the pressure to lead and succeed that much stronger, but Biscuit tells him not to get too bent out of shape.

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Laffter and another Turbine pilot are impressed with how hard both Akihito and Mika are working, but Mika reiterates he can’t do anything else. In the end, two very tight-knit but very different types of couples confer. There’s Naze giving Amida his measure of Tekkadan (the money stuff made his butt hurt), while Orga praises Mika for working hard. Mika says he’s working hard so Orga won’t “ditch” him, but obviously he doesn’t have to worry about that, because they’re family.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 07

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Space may be big, but the shipping lanes aren’t, and it was only a matter of time before Tekkadan got some attention. Only the first ship to confront them since their Gjallarhorn skirmish is the Hammerhead, commanded by Naze Turbine, who works for Teiwaz. They’re not stodgy and militaristic, but rather much more of a Bizarro Tekkadan, right down to the two groups’ eccentric young ace mecha pilots. It also reminds us that CGS were no angels back when they were working for Maruba. They did the jobs they were contracted to do.

I couldn’t really ask for a better adversary at this point: a group of people who under different circumstances I wouldn’t mind rooting for. Naze, like Orga, is a fundamentally pragmatic guy. With the info he currently has, Naze has no reason not to help the connected Maruba recoup his CGS losses. And while the Turbines have probably made lots of compromises to get to where they are, the point is they’re surviving and thriving. They’re a glimpse of a successful, stable Tekkadan no one is hunting.

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Except the Turbines have been charged with hunting Tekkadan. Biscuit thinks their wiggle room, but Orga has to consider all the angles, like losing face or breaking their promise to Aina and Nobliss. So negotiations break down, Turbine’s ace paints her nails and then licks her chops (the Tekkadan’s Isaribi looks kinda like a mecha-shrimp), and Atra battens down the curry and rounds up the potatoes in Zero-G.

In this battle, Orga sends Mika and Akihito out in the Barbatos and Graze, gives Eugene the bridge, then sends Shino down to the hangar. Now, I don’t know Shino so well, so I figured his time was going to be up., but the show turned out to be far cleverer than that. There were also no more strange shots of Fumitan; perhaps that’s just her natural expression to glare at people.

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Atra and Aina, who aren’t so great at the combat, make a connection during the chaos of battle, as Atra helps Aina get her spacesuit on properly and keep her company. Out in space, meanwhile, IBO finally introduces us to some female pilots in Amida and Lafter, who aren’t just among the Turbines’ pilots; they’re the best, and don’t let anyone forget it.

After six weeks of Atra and Aina not having that much to do (and filling into “traditional” roles of cook, teacher, and emotional support), I can’t underscore enough how glad I am the show now has women in powerful warrior roles. And Atra and Aina aren’t in their roles because they’re not men, but because they’re not soldiers; an important distinction.

Mika’s ancient Gundam is realistically having software bugs, and is absolutely no match for Lafter’s super-fast customized-to-the-hilt rig, which fits her like a glove. Mika has to give everything he’s got not to be overwhelmed, while not forgetting he has to protect the Isaribi from the Hammerhead. Akihito has similar problems with Amida and her wingman Azee, but holds his own by sheer will, determination, and courage in the fact of unfair odds.

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Throughout the battle, Naze and Amida keep on ongoing narrative of the Turbines being the adults who must do their duty and teach the Tekkadan rapscallions a lesson. To that end, they feign being impressed when Tekkadan executes by-the-book tactics, and dismiss their reckless mecha combat as juvenile and undisciplined. Basically, while they’re not nearly as incompetent as any Gjallarhorn officer not called Fareed, Naze and the Turbines are still underestimating these kids. Obviously, that’s a running theme.

In fact, Orga, Biscuit, and Eugene use those by-the-book tactics in order to lull the Turbines into a false sense of strategic superiority. When the Isaribi fires missiles, the Hammerhead shoots them down, creating a smokescreen. But the Isaribi doesn’t escape; the screen is used to surprise the Hammerhead when Eugene plots a near collision course, stealthily dropping an Orga-led boarding party that cripples the Turbines from the inside.

To his credit, Naze doesn’t fume or pull his hair out when he realizes he’s been outmaneuvered. Instead, like Fareed, he seems glad to have a worthy opponent to face off against. Tekkadan exceeded his expectations, and he can’t help but smile about it.

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Out in the void, things get more and more intense, and if your adrenaline wasn’t pumping for that Isaribi maneuver through the smoke, Mika and Akihito’s increasingly brutal, metal-crunching duels do the trick. Mika manages to cast a line out and tether himself to Lafter’s mecha, and she tries to use the fact his old bucket lacks inertial dampers to let the g’s take care of him for her. But Mika not only endures, and lets her slam him into an asteroid: he uses his spear to anchor himself and pull her back to him.

Similarly, Akihito, who Amida says with semi-sarcastic respect fights like he has “muscle for brains” doesn’t give up, despite his mechanical shortfalls and the fact the enemy has numbers on him. He keeps fighting because he told Mika he’d take care of it, so he will. Even so, while Mika got the upper hand on Lafter and is poised to finish her, Amida seems ready to close her jaws on Akihito…

…Then Orga and Naze suddenly order a cease-fire to their respective fighters. Just like that, the battle is over, and for once, it’s the stopping of a battle I wanted to stop. I didn’t want Lafter or Akihito to buy the farm so soon, and I didn’t want Tekkadan and the Turbines stacking up blood-grudges that would prevent future cooperation.

I look forward to seeing not only how Orga, Biscuit and/or Aina deal with Naze and Amida now that the guns have been lowered and cooler heads have prevailed, but hope Mika gets to interact with his counterpart Lafter, who seems to share his love of the uncomplicated. They already had their first dance, after all.

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