Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 06 – Scaling the Wall

Lady Prospera has a chilly reunion with her former Vanadis colleague, Bel, AKA Belmeria Winston, who says she had little choice but to join Peil Group in order to survive after the punitive assault on their facility years ago. She asks Prospera why she’s using her daughter as an instrument of revent, but Bel retorts by asking “how many” Gundam pilots there have been before Elan.

While Earth House reconsiders their opinion on Elan in light of his treatment of their new housemate, Guel is thrown out of House Jeturk and cut off from all but the remaining school tuition. He leaves with his head held high, having done what he (and I believed) to be the right thing in standing up for Suletta. She and Elan meet for pre-duel formalities, but she has yet to decide her stakes.

Earth House know theirs: the 2.7-to-1 odds they’ll enjoy if Suletta wins. Led by Nana’s cautiously-can-do attitude, they scrounge around scrap and spare parts to cobble together a flight unit for Aerial. I can only imagine Suletta’s mom didn’t provide her such a unit because she was confident her daughter would make the necessary connections.

Meanwhile, Elan undergoes more lonely testing and his blurry recurring image of a candle is interrupted by a surprise visitor in Elan … the real Elan Ceres. He’s every bit the smug, privileged aristocrat you’d imagine would be heading up Peil House, and is the rightful recipient of a future face-punch from Chuchu, Miorine, and/or even Suletta herself.

The “Elan” we’ve known thus far is no villain, only a pawn and victim, though he apparently volunteered for this with the promise he’d get his “face” back and a citizens ID should he prevail. I suspect the memories of his past life have been subordinated by the Permet conditioning.

During flight testing out in open space, Suletta is down in the dumps, feeling dumb and annoying after Elan’s hurtful words. Miorine is out there assisting with Nana, and gives her bridegroom a bit of tough love, as well as reflect back Suletta’s “move forward, gain two” credo.

Suletta snaps out of it and gets back to testing, then afterwards visits Peil House insisting to speak to Elan. She’s put over house-wide loudspeakers calling out to Elan, asking if he meant everything he said, and then singing him “Happy Birthday.” He only calls her to tell her to go home, saying he has no birthday. But we know better; her singing briefly brought his hazy memory into focus.

But the die is cast, and the next day the duel unfolds as planned, with Suletta announcing that her stake is that if she wins, Elan has to tell her all about himself. This further rankles an Elan already understandably frustrated by his lot in life; from his perspective he has absolutely nothing, while Suletta has everything, and yet still wants more from him, and won’t let him have this victory.

A thrilling space battle ensues, with both Aerial and Pharact’s Bit Control Systems dueling, and the latter suit’s superior mobility creating a long-range disadvantage for Suletta and her jury-rigged unit. Once again the corporate bigwigs—in this case Peil—arranged for unfair conditions. Perhaps they know that they need every edge they can get against Suletta and Aerial.

The entire school is watching, including Guel from his new home—a tent in the woods (I’ll admit to laughing out loud as this uncommented-on development, and part of me hoped Shimarin or Honda Tooru would show up). It looks bad for Suletta, but she has an advantage Elan doesn’t: time.

Elan has to continually up his Permet Score to maintain his edge, which takes a toll on his already depleted body. He even predicted this would be his last duel, judging from Bel’s reports on his testing. He and Suletta trade flurries of beams, and the latter’s flight suit is damaged.

Now a drifting sitting duck, Pharact’s Bits prepare to envelop Aerial as they did Guel last week, but in a development that may even come as a surprise to Suletta, an emergency defense system is activated that neutralizes the Bits and Pharact. The laughter of children can be heard as Aerial’s Bits form a spinning ring around her and then blast Pharact to hell.

Suletta has won, her house has more than doubled their money, which means they eat next month, and Miorine doesn’t have to worry about Elan becoming the Holder and her new groom. Elan drifts in defeat, but his memory finally comes into focus: a mother, his real mother, with loving eyes, presenting him with a birthday cake.

The light of the candle becomes the light of the glowing debris as Suletta stretches out her hand for him, and he takes it. As they drift together in the void, she assures him he doesn’t have nothing, and she and many others will celebrate his birthday.

As Elan flashes perhaps his first genuine smile, Miorine sits in the repair pod with Nana and endures this bit of “minor two-timing”, which extends to a second date for Suletta and Elan, so he can fulfill the stakes of the duel. Miorine leaves Suletta to await his arrival, but the clock ticks by and he doesn’t show.

Suletta cheerfully sings “Happy Birthday” once more as she waits, but she waits in vain. Elan isn’t standing her up; the Peil bigwigs have decided to scrap him. He was never anything other than a disposable tool for them, and with his failure to gain Aerial he’s no longer of any use to them. That they unceremoniously stick him in what looks like a goddamn sci-fi cremation furnace while he’s fully freaking conscious seems inhumane to the extreme.

Just as they did with new Yuru Camp cast member Guel Jeturk, Gundam successfully rehabilitated Elan’s character into someone with whom we could sympathize and root for. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll also have to grieve for him. Will the real Elan replace him in both the cockpit and at school, or will it be another “spare” with his face? Either way, Suletta’s victory is tempered by a bitter loss; the latest casualty in this corporatocracy’s unrelenting thirst for profits.

Summertime Render – 11 – Prelude to Feeding

Shinpei, Sou, and Ushio with her nifty Shadow powers are looking like a great team against their Shadow adversaries…at first. As they go deeper into Shadow territory they find themselves increasingly outnumbered and outmatched.

Two other groups head into the sewers: the well-armed and prepared Minakata and Nezu, and Mio and Tetsu, the latter just hoping for some tough guy cred, while Mio wants to follow someone who is clearly Shadow Shiori, who isn’t lying when she says Shin is “down there”.

After another wave of Shadow Babies is defeated in a cave full of undersea life (shades of Nausicaa), Ushio collapses, and finally comes clean to Shin and Sou about her arm. Since Shiori damaged her main body, she needs data from the original Ushio’s body to repair it…but Ushio was cremated, so she can either endure the pain and bleeding or delete the arm, limiting her abilities.

While Tetsu and Mio continue to tread far too close to their demises (and Tetsu gets himself copied; as we know Mio is immune), suddenly Tokiko turns up to confront Team Ushio, with a pair of Shadow Baby heavies. Shinpei waits for her to get close enough, then shoots her shadow full of nails and…nothing happens. Tokiko isn’t a Shadow…she’s just Tokiko.

If there’s one complaint I have with this tripartite excursion to the Hiruko Caves, it’s that it’s hard to gauge where each group is in relation to one another. You’d think Shinpei, Sou and Ushio, not to mention Tetsu and Mio, would hear Minakata’s shotgun blasts in a cave. And yet, the three groups never meet or even realize they’re all in generally the same place.

Undefined spatial relationships aside, one lesson that applies to all three groups is Never wander into the caves. Minakata and Nezu end up facing off with Shiori (who only pretended to be killed earlier) and her much bigger and tougher multi-limbed pal, who copies a shotgun, shoots Nezu in the chest, and Minakata in her liver as she’s fleeing.

This just shows that there are dark and deadly things down here that either no human has ever seen and lived to talk about, or in the apparent case of the Hishigatas (sans Sou), they’ve known about all too long. It’s a family secret, but back at their dad’s lab, it seems clear that he’s taken an active role in the cultivation of Hiruko and/or Haine.

Knowing they’re out of their element, Shinpei surrenders to Tokiko, who agrees to show them everything and come clean to her brother—as long as they don’t tell Mio, one thing Toki-chan apparently couldn’t bear. They arrive in the core of the cave where both Hiruko and Haine dwell, and their stomachs are growling. Usually a joke in anime, here it makes the skin crawl.

It’s now 9:00 PM, and “time to feed.” With the next episode ominously titled “Deadly Night”, I’m with Ushio in thinking Shinpei has probably abandoned this loop as a viable chance to fix everything. Progress has definitely been made, but much has gone wrong.

At this point, all Shin can hope is that he gathers enough info for to make the next loop more of a success before dying and returning. That probably means heading to the caves much earlier next time, and preventing Ushio from getting wounded.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 10 – A Leaf in the Forest

This week is a no-holds-barred Scooby-Doo adventure almost from start to finish. After watching what Ushio went through to warn Shinpei, there’s no way Sou isn’t going to tag along as they head to his family’s old abandoned clinic up in the mountains. Ushio also struts her Shadow Power stuff, able to transform into a shell necklace Shinpei wears, and explaining how her swimsuit is her armor.

Her abilities combined with Shinpei’s courage and Sou’s loyalty make them the perfect team to investigate a creepy haunted hospital. One great detail is a rare statue of the ancient Japanese deity Hiruko-sama, in the form of a limbless leach-like fertility idol. The fact that legend suggests it was heteromorphic creates an enticing connection to the clearly equally-ancient Shadows. Shinpei, Ushio and Sou end up in what seems to be a Shadow nursery.

Turns out there’s something even more terrifying than a Shadow … a baby Shadow, one that seems docile and harmless enough right up until Shinpei tries to shoot it with a nailgun. It dodges and rolls and bounds all over the place until Sou hits it with his baseball bat.

But then it wraps around the bat (again, Shadow) and very nearly kills him, only Shinpei has been practicing his nailgunning and gets three shots into the Shadow. Ushio finishes it off with her Shadow hair, and cue Victory Fanfare for the Scooby Gang. As much as I fear for their safety, it’s a hell of a lot of fun watching these three old friends get shit done.

At the end of the battle, Ushio gives Sou a playful shove forward as the three continue their investigation, but her arm starts bleeding, like the injury that occurred to a previous copy of the arm has returned. After her powers are essentially a cheat code for most of the episode, it’s good for the episode to self-level and demonstrate she’s far from all-powerful.

Shinpei knows this, and he also stands by his promise to always protect her (which made her blush earlier), and his foreknowledge of the nightmares to come even make a dark cave full of Shadow babies seem…not that bad? He knows firsthand it can always be worse! That said, considering how much effort it took to defeat one baby, the trio have their work cut out for them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 09 – A Tale of Two Ushios

The video on Ushio’s unlocked phone shows both the original Ushio and her Shadow delivering a joint message to Shinpei. The original assures him her Shadow isn’t evil like the others, but an ally, then proceeds to tell the story of how she ended up dying, and why that’s not the end of her story, because ultimately she is her Shadow and her Shadow is her.

It started with Shiori telling Ushio about seeing her own Shadow and asking her for help, since no one else will listen to her. Then, while Ushio and Mio were cleaning up the beach, there was a flash from above and just like that there was a second Ushio, who runs away before she can learn anything more.

Ushio comes home for a bath to find the other Ushio is already in the tub; she went home because it’s her home, same as Ushio’s. Once she determines that this other Ushio isn’t a threat, the two join forces to seek out Shiori’s Shadow on Mt. Takanosu, the locaiton of Sou’s family’s old clinic, believed by most of the island to now be haunted. It is haunted, but not by ghosts…by a monster.

A Shadow in its black goo form copies Ushio’s copy and tries to kill her, but Shadow Ushio figures out on accident that the copy’s weakness is not its body, but its shadow, and that she can use her own body—like her hair—as a weapon to slice through that Shadow. She can also repair her physical body, and tells Ushio that the instinct to kill her original “fills her brain”, even though she has no intention of doing so.

The two Ushios return to the beach to record a message for Shinpei, and after the present-day Shadow Ushio watches it with Shinpei and Sou, she suddenly regains her memories and knowledge of her power. She uses that power and her phone to “transport” the three of them into a recording of the tragic events of July 21st on the private beach where original Ushio breathed her last.

Original Ushio had Shadow Ushio turn into a seashell necklace and wore her, so that when Shiori was washed out to sea, not one but two Ushios were there to rescue her. However, under those waves Shadow Shiori kills her original and drowns the original Ushio—the one Sou was unable to revive and ended up being cremated.

Struck by her original’s sacrifice for both Shiori’s sake and her own, Shadow Ushio vowed to help Shinpei wipe out the Shadows when he returned to the island. As Sou and Shinpei weep over what they witnessed, Shadow Shiori suddenly grabs Shin’s arm and transforms into Haine, who promises he won’t escape her next time.

Shadow Ushio switches of the recording so she, Shin and Sou are back in the present, but Shin now has a sinister black mark on his arm where Haine touched him, proving that it wasn’t just part of the recording, and that Haine is apparently capable of transcending time and space like he can.

That adds an extra layer of difficulty and dread to Shinpei’s task, but the recordings he and Sou watched proved one thing: Shadow Ushio is indeed their ally, and they need all the allies they can get against an increasingly menacing enemy.

Dimension W – 10

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I was looking forward to watching Mira (with the help of the siblings) protect the unconscious Kyouma from the killbot, and she doesn’t disappoint, kicking some serious ass without even ripping her schoolgirl outfit. However, a blow from the robot sends her flying towards the void.

Unable to stop her momentum, she takes solace in knowing she was able to save Kyouma. But she isn’t shut down for more than a couple seconds, as now-awake Kyouma reels her out of the nothingness, then rewards her with a gentle head-pat, (channeling Working!!’s “Katanashi”). The kid did good!

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From there, Dimension W, so in love with all of the characters it brought to the island, and all the various clashing objectives, gets a little over-stuffed, overwhelming, and unfocused, reminding us of the similarly kitchen-sink Haunted Mansion mess back in week four.

Don’t get me wrong: the idea of someone opposed to Prince Salva’s plan to recover the uber-coil hiring KK to eliminate anyone who gets near Ground Zero is a good, basic place to start, and I appreciate the fact that hiring a bunch of unpredictable indie mercs to do a job backfired badly on the arrogant prince like it should have.

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But holy crap there’s a lot that happens really fast with no time to process any of it. Loo meets up with Kyouma and Mira. KK and the zombified Yuri go after Loo and the others. Loser and Ellie are confronted by Jason Chrysler. KK lures everyone to a room with an obviously collapsable floor, which eveyone then walks out on to and let it collapse below them.

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I’m not done: KK has rigged an awful lot of stuff, and really did his homework; I know this because he talks at length about all of it while dealing with Kyouma & Co. He even “raised” the now-soulless (and two-headed) body of Kyouma’s old Grendel comrade Doug to fight him.

KK also sets up a mean remix of “Danse Macabre” (actually a pretty nice choice considering the talk of souls) to accompany the battle. Too bad the sound mixers messed up: the action and dialogue drown out music that should be on the same level. It’s part and parcel of the problem with the middle two-thirds of the episode: it’s shouting everything without caring if anyone’s listening.

Pacing issues abound: the fierce immediacy of the battle with Doug and KK is undone by Kyouma retreating into his head to regain more memories, building on his recent realization Adreastea were mostly concerned with space development through the perfection of a transporter system, much-maligned by horrible accidents but pressed forward by Seaymeyer. Oh yeah, that guy. Not enough villains!

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Anywho, the episode ends strongly, with KK, who had been making others fight for him from afar, finally gets a taste of close-quarters combat with Kyouma. Kyouma spins into a rage after KK wastes Loo (or rather, Loo self-destructs before KK can shoot him in the head). The death hits close to home as Kyouma remembers his headless bride after her accident, is fully prepared to kill KK.

But he’s held back. At first, he thinks its Miyabi; always upbeat, optimistic, gentle and kind, not wanting Kyouma to lose anymore of his soul by murdering someone needlessly. But it’s not Miyabi, it’s Mira, who’s the same size and sounds very similar. Call it Mira saving Kyouma from himself, after saving him from that killbot (giving the episode’s bookends a nice symmetry).

The final twist at the end has a second Loo appear, apologizing for not telling Kyouma he has more than one body. I’m not sure why KK isn’t using his free hand to inject Kyouma with a lethal serum, but it looks like the situation is under control.

I’m glad Loo isn’t dead, but also miffed the show passed on the opportunity to whittle down the huge cast at least a little. I’m worried the last two episodes will continue the trend of vomiting out more and more plot and metaphysical technobabble. Prove me wrong, DW.

7_ses

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