NIGHT HEAD 2041 – 02 – Diner of Illusion

In addition to showing us a lot of cool stuff, NH2K41 can add another feather to its cyberpunk cap: it’s able to cover a lot of narrative ground in these two episodes. There’s a lot of information to convey, and while it isn’t always the most elegant or subtle (we learn the Kuroki brothers were abandoned because…they mention it while looking at a photo) it’s all easy to digest. And Takuya’s whiskey on the rocks looks frikkin’ epic.

The show also wastes no time connecting our two pairs of brothers, as Yuuya has a momentary vision of the Kirihara brothers, who are once again just trying to fill their stomachs in an unassuming diner. Unfortunately for them, the fugitive Miracle Mick is there, along with a Harley Quinn-style femme fatale, who uses Mick’s celebrity to bilk a 2D three-man band out of all their cash. She, not Mick, is the one with the psychic power: the power of mind control.

It isn’t long before the Thought Police (Takuya and Yuuya’s squad) show up, but they’re just there for Mick and the woman using him and manipulating the musicians, whom she sics on the cops like brainwashed dogs. The order comes down to arrest everyone in the diner, even the cute waitress, but when they start getting rough Naoto gets pissed off and uses his psychokinesis to fight back, stopping all the bullets Neo-style. In the process, Yuuya learns he has a skill: psychic shields.

Naoto, Naoya, and the waitress are able to flee, while Mick and the band are arrested as scapegoats. Then the mischievous woman, Kobayashi Kimie, reveals she’s a cop who was working undercover to bring Mick down. She also demonstrates her powers of illusion in one of the coolest manners possible: by “stabbing” the four squad members with glass spikes. It’s as pretty as it is gruesome.

That’s when Takuya, Yuuya, Reika and Michio learn that it isn’t that the supernatural doesn’t exist, but that the government wants the public to think it doesn’t exist. Psychics, like the four cops are about to awaken to be come, are the exclusive purview of the government. If they have to use supernatural powers to root the civilian world of the supernatural, so be it.

The waitress Naoto saves isn’t particularly thankful, as now the cops will be after her since she’s a Psychic too (though not, as she says, a “monster” like the brothers). She thanks them before shuffling off, warning them to keep a low profile. That may be tough in what is clearly a police and surveillance state where everything that has a microchip could be watching or listening.

The fact that when the Kirihara brothers escaped from the lab where they spend fifteen years, only to find themselves ten years further into the future than they expected, doesn’t help matters. Naoto thought they were going somewhere where their own kind were accepted and coexisted with regular humans. Instead, the opposite has happened.

Clearly the girl in the school uniform is a part of the experiments at the lab, as she’s returned unconscious and with a weak pulse, but alive after an apparent trip to the future. The question is, is there any way to prevent the awful post-WWIII dystopia that exists in 2041?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

NIGHT HEAD 2041 – 01 (First Impressions) – It’s That Kind of Night

I’ll give NIGHT HEAD 2041 this: it gives you bang for the buck. There’s a metric fuckton of stuff to look at in its 22 minutes, and a pulsing, pounding score by Yamada Yukata (Vinland Saga, Great Pretender) adds weight and dignity to every one of those minutes. The CGI modeling of most characters is akin to Knights of Sidonia, a show I enjoyed quite a bit, and like that show’s sci-fi setting, the sometimes off-putting style fits the cyberpunk milieu like a glove.

The thing is, it’s not just visuals and sound that NH2K41 has in spades; it’s characters, factions, and ideas. It’s not lacking in ambition, but it often feels scattered, like it’s trying to say too much to fast. I’m reminded of the 2004 live-action Casshern film, which my friends and I love, but also joke that it’s about “absolutely everything, all the time, only louder and faster”.

Perhaps that’s a side effect of having to introduce us to this world, its pair of protagonist brothers on opposite sides of a post-WWIII conflict between the hyper-atheist, rationalist powers that be and anyone and everyone who believes in higher powers, the supernatural or the occult, or any kind of fiction. That last part is a bit hard to chew; but fine.

I can totally believe that society has put all of its eggs in the pseudo-military police industrial complex that is Special Weapons Enforcement, to which the Kuroki brothers belong. There’s a distinct vibe to both them and their two comrades that made me think they were criminals going after other criminals a la PSYCHO-PASS. But the less this is compared to that, the better; at least for now.

P-P could go off the rails at times, at least had some focus to its bold brash ruminations on society. It was also anchored by my avatar of many years, Tsunemori Akane, one of my all-time favorite anime characters. Night Head has a lot of characters, including the aforementioned pair of brothers, but they’re not exactly brimming with personality or originality.

One thing I did like was how the episode suddenly changed gears after one of the Kuroki Takuya accidentally conjured an EMP to save his little brother Yuuya, basically committing a crime by doing something that shouldn’t be possible. That segues smoothly to the Kirihara brothers, Naoto and Naoya, a psychokinetic and a clairvoyant, respectively.

Freshly sprung from some kind of lab where they’d spend an untold portion of their lives and with a fast car and a stack of cash in their possession, Naoto continually assures his adorable little brother that the time is now, as in, for people like them to step out of the shadows and join the world community without fear of ostracization or oppression.

Unfortunately, when you and your brother are essentially X-Men, it’s hard not to make ordinary humans fearful, angry, or a combination of both simply by existing. That’s what happens when the brothers dare to grab a bite to eat—though it’s at least partially their fault for waltzing into a bar where there’s an obvious shit-starter lounging on a couch with his honey.

Weirdly enough, these two are rendered in the anime-standard two dimensions instead of the three of our superpowered brothers. I’d normally cry foul but it makes sense thematically, so I’m going to allow this. Still the interaction is awfully pat, and drags on a bit too long, such that I left the scene less worried about backlash for the brothers, and more upset that what was probably a pretty good pizza went to waste.

After the Kiriharas’ pub crawl, we return to the thought police in the aftermath of the EMP, which erased all records of what happened during the raid to capture “Miracle Mick”, who may just be a money-grubbing charlatan or could actually have powers. Heck, Takuya clearly has the power to create an EMP—a super useful ability if you don’t want anyone to know you have an ability, owing to the overreliance on electronic tech.

While it’s usually a good idea not to expect every episode to look as good at the first, both Sidonia and the more recent Akudama Drive are exceptions to that rule. But it’s not consistent production quality I’m worried about. I know Night Head 2041 is probably going to look and sound awesome every week. But will it ever get around to organizing its myriad ideas and scenarios?

Learning that the girl only the Kuroki bros saw during the raid astral projected into the future is the kind of hook that ensures I’ll be back next week and probably the week after that. I just hope there’s more in store than eye an ear candy…but some head meat and potatoes, too.

Akudama Drive – 03 – Ocean’s Seven

As the Black Cat continues to describe the plan to infiltrate Kansai Station, the Ordinary Person tries not to stand out too much, lest her Swindler persona be exposed as a fraud. She later admits alone (with the gorgeous skyline as a backdrop) she’s strayed quite far into the world of criminals, but as Courier tells her, he does what he does because it’s “where he belongs.”

Ordinary Girl probably hadn’t led a particularly interesting life up until now, and even though these are all insane criminals, they’ve collectively been nice enough to make her feel like she belongs too. It’s nothing groundbreaking, characterization-wise, but Kurosawa Tomoyo really brings a lot of brightness and personality to “Ordina.”

This week we watch the gang infiltrate the station, which earns the episode the title “Mission: Impossible” for good reason: this motley crew of crazy people will have to work together, and well, in order to have a chance at success. Not only that, Ordina plays a key role at several points in the episode. She’s no passive observer.

Once the split group reaches the two elevators, they rely on precise countdowns to time the pressing of two switches on two levels at the exact same time. The switches are protected by glass-like forcefields, which are defeated in different ways.

Brawler simply destroys the unshielded supports for the fields, while Cutthroat pierces through them one by one. Ordina has to borrow Hacker’s drone to deliver a decisive fastball into the line of suspended blades so the one at the front hits the switch just as Hoodlum’s temple hits the other.

Once they reach the Shinkansen platform, they activate an EMP provided by Black Cat, knocking out power for the entire city, but also Hacker’s connection. With Hacker unable to increase the allowed weight of the cargo to permit it to pass through the train’s plasma field, the only person lighter than him—Ordina—has to take his place in the cargo crate.

She makes it inside without incident and drops the field just in time to allow Courier to speed in on his bike; then everyone else boards right before the train’s emergency start kicks in. Again, the train actually moving wasn’t part of the plan, but it will have to be now. There’s no going back from this point.

While this episode only covers the first half of the Shinkansen heist, I’m glad it slowed things down so we could not only watch the details of the infiltration go down, but also have more fun interactions between the characters. Both the Kansai station and the music the heist is set to elevate the sense of occasion and importance to the mission, which is about to kick into a higher gear with next week’s “Speed”.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Zankyou no Terror – 11 (Fin)

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The perpetrators of the failed Athena Project meant for its child subjects to be discarded and forgotten. Nine and Twelve’s plan wasn’t about revenge, but about making sure they and the others weren’t forgotten; that those still alive who were responsible were plucked from beneath the rocks they’d hidden under. With increasingly stunning yet nonlethal attacks, they gradually built up their stature, until no one would be able to forget what they did, and by extension, that they lived.

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The most stunning yet is the high-altitude detonation of the stolen atomic bomb, which ended up not harming anyone but disabled all electronics in Japan. While it was yet another means of gaining attention and exposure among the masses, it also served as a firm counter-riposte to the efforts of the members of the Athena project to use technology to artificially enhance mankind. For at least a time, the EMP emitted from the bomb reverted the country to a far simpler state.

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Shibazaki became the Oedipus to Nine and Twelve’s Sphinx, looking past easy answers to solve the riddles of where they came from, what they were doing, and why. They unwittingly helped him to solve the case that had ruined his career, and finally learn what those he suspected of wrongdoing were up to, and putting them away for it. Justice tastes a lot better when it is acknowledged not just by oneself or amongst a few individuals, but by the same system that once helped shelter the wrongdoers.

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I will say that even in a series of a mere eleven episodes, Five’s arc was ultimately a bit of a detour, though as the only other surviving Athena subject, her actions tore Nine and Twelve apart, threatening the whole enterprise, only to bring them back together as strong as ever following her demise. She represented an alternate effect of Athena: that of unchecked chaos and rage. It’s also worth noting that after the end of the facility, she was and remained alone right up until her final confrontation with the others, while at least Nine and Twelve had each other, which had a grounding effect.

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Even so, just before the bomb goes off, when Lisa isn’t sure whether the world is about to end, Twelve tells her he and Nine were never needed by anyone until they met her and everything changed. Neither were ever ones for true, honest human interaction, let alone feeling what it was like to care for someone so much that you’d do anything to save them, which Twelve got that with Lisa. Even if he and Nine didn’t (nor intended to) survive the gestation of the better world they sought to build, they didn’t take Lisa down with them.

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On the contrary, through her adventures and their many rescues of her and acts of kindness towards her, Twelve and Nine instilled a fresh appreciation for life, and while many will ask her what it was like to be “Sphinx’s hostage” for all that time, she could never tell them much, because they’d never fully understand: she wan’t their hostage. She was their friend; their little sister whom they kept safe without fail. And they gave her hope.

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RDG: Red Data Girl – 01

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One morning, the shy, passive Suzuhara Izumiko decides to cut her bangs. At school, it gets mixed reviews, and when her class must gather info on the net using computers, she ends up using them as a conduit to video-chat with her father in America, then disables power to the whole school with her mind. A helicopter lands and Izumiko is taken away by Sagara, who turns out to be a mountain monk charged with protecting her. She learns that she is the “Himegami”. Sagara orders “reinforcements” in the person of his son Miyuki, who isn’t keen on hanging out with the dull Izumiko.

This episode starts off establishing the beautiful environs of a village in the Kumano mountains. We found out this was directed by Shinohara Toshiya, who also helmed The Book of Bantorra, but while that series was awesome, it was a bit lacking in production values; not so here. Like Tari Tari and the excellent Another, this series not only looks, but sounds and feels fantastic. Despite all the natural beauty, there’s a deep melancholy about the beautiful but unpopular Izumiko (appropriately voiced by Hayami Saori), which stems partially from her never having made a decision for herself. If her life is like the river in her village, she’s never once paddled against the current…until she decides to cut her hair and makes a stand about where she wants to go to high school.

What’s also engrossing about this series so far is that it doesn’t come out and explain exactly what makes her so special. We see an awesome sequence where she finds herself underwater in the computer lab, and then she knocks out the power in said lab when she snaps out of it, and we hear a lot from Sagara, but not too much. Like Izumiko herself, we’re still mostly in the dark about who the Himegami is and why she must be isolated and protected. But we certainly feel her pain. Sure, she has nice friends who defend her from bullying, but they don’t even have her phone number, and she doesn’t even have a phone. She wants to take control of her life, but isn’t sure how. Her dubious “manservant” Miyuki doesn’t have high hopes for her, but who knows: she may just surprise him, herself, and a lot of others when all’s said and done.


Rating: 8 (Great)

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