Grand Blue – 09 – It’s Good to Be the King

As the only guy in their circle who (still) has a girlfriend, Iori’s classmates make him arrange another mixer so they can have girlfriends too. Seriously I just can’t with these guys this week. Thankfully we don’t spend as much time with them here, and the balance of the first half is a game of “truth or dare” involving numbered chopsticks and a “King” who gets to give orders each round.

Because the other participants have to obey the King’s Orders, Iori and Kouhei wait to become King so they can order, say, Chisa to invite her friends to a mixer. However, they get the numbers mixed up, and end up ordering Shinji, who arranges a mixer at some kind of bar for musclebound giants. All because Kouhei mistook 3 or 1 for 4.

The second half returns to the Okinawa trip story, something that’s been drawn out a lot due to the club’s lack of funds. Inexplicably, they decide to go shopping for a bunch of new diving equipment, spending all the cash they were saving up for the trip. While their reason for being there is dubious, I’m always down for an Eva reference—in this case Chisa and Aina trying on Asuka and Rei wetsuits.

It’s also always nice to see Chisa on cloud nine, geeking out over the various equipment for sale. Oddly, it’s not until they return home to Grand Blue that Nanaka reminds them that…Okinawa is expensive. Did they not know this already?! Apparently not, since not only do Iori and Kouhei have to work overtime directing foot traffic at some kind of event, but Chisa and Aina have to dress in revealing costumes to hand out fliers. Next week: The gang finally arrives in Okinawa.

Plastic Memories – 03

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Oh dear…last week’s revelation that Isla has only 83 days left (and quite a few days fewer than that now) had rekindled our interest in Plastic Memories, but after a total dud like this third episode, I don’t see how I can ever trust it again. I mean, seriously, three eps in and we get a hokey, uninspired moving-in/living with a girl episode?

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Rather than anyone telling Tsukasa what should be obvious to anyone who’s been around her for a few years that yes, indeed, Isla will meet the same fate as all the other giftia they retrieve every day, the guys in the office instead offer him increasingly ridiculous advice that Tsukasa carries out Wile. E. Coyote style, to no avail.

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It’s cliched, repetitive, and boring, killing all urgency and goodwill created last week. Worse, the fact several days go by as Tsukasa struggles to connect with Isla in their dorm where she used to live alone. He never bothers to wonder whether Isla prefers to keep professional distance despite the fact they have to live together, a stipulation for which there is never any good reason given, so all we have is the implication that “well, if they’re not in the dorm there’s be no opportunities for lame comedy.”

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Things take a turn for the dark and pathetic when Tsukasa, now just treating Isla like a normal human girl, which she clearly isn’t, insists on shopping for clothes for her, unaware she has so little experience with street clothes she doesn’t know how to put them on. It’s nice to know Isla wears panties, but I don’t think that was the reason we were welcomed inside her changing room.

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The most irritating part of all of this is that Isla likely knows her time will soon be up too, which is probably why she’s trying to avoid making happy new memories or getting closer to anyone. She really doesn’t seem to want Tsukasa in there for that purpose…though I would hope she’d reconsider whatever feelings she has for him after witnessing his unbelievably stupid hijinx.

By the end, he realizes the only thing she’s really comfortable doing is serving him tea. We apparently had to waste a whole episode for him to learn that.

As unflattering as Tsukasa was this week, we also learned that Yasutaka and Kazuki, the two people we know without a doubt know Isla will be gone in less than 80 days left, are petty cruel people. What do they have to gain by keeping that info from Tsukasa…Productivity?

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Plastic Memories – 02

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This second episode of Plamemo was better than the first, which I can chalk up to getting to know the cast and particularly the protagonist a little better. I can also get on board with the fact that any workplace with such a somber job is probably going to be as laid back and cheerful as possible to avoid going mad with second-hand grief.

That being said, I’m still not fully on board with the whole concept of Giftia retrieval, nor do the additions of two more boilerplate characters like the ulcer-ridden Takao, who is just used for a joke, and the overly-informal veteran Kaji Ryouji Yasutaka, who feels like he needs to touch everyone during his intro. I think Michiru hides because she doesn’t want him to touch her.

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As derivative a character in look and feel as he is, Yasutaka does consistently bring one thing to the table: brutal honesty. For all of Tsukasa’s narration and other characters’ exposition, Plamemo has been unusually skittish about answering or even bringing up the tough questions that might allow us to make a better emotional connection.

The fact that Akari Shinji Tsukasa got this position at all thanks to his father’s connections is a welcome wrinkle in his heretofore plain beige sheet of a character. It means he knows he has to work that much harder to prove he belongs there, which is hard to do when he’s constantly having to babysit Isla, who seems increasingly incapable of doing anything right. Heck, he couldn’t even serve Takao his tea; she let Yasutaka snatch it.

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I also liked the obligatory professional dinner date between Tsukasa and Katsuragi Minato Kuwanomi Kazuki, who comes off as your standard late-20s/early 30s schoolteacher who hasn’t found a man yet and can’t hold her liquor. Then again, considering her job is not teaching kids but sending them out to tear families apart, it’s not unreasonable for her to want to drown it all out with booze. Yasutaka is made less of a prick by the fact he always gets Kazuki home safe from her routine imbibings.

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In a core dynamic similar to the one going on in DanMachi, Tsukasa and Ayanami Rei Isla are both working harder to improve themselves, in order make themselves worthy of working beside the other. There’s no mention of last week’s utterly unearned love-at-first-sight moment (probably for the best) but it’s good to see Isla actually undergoing training and tests, and her bumbling in the field explained by “rust.”

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As for Angela Langley Soryu Kinushima Michiru, well…she’s a bit of a problem, as I’m guessing she’s supposed to be the third side of a love triangle with Tsukasa and Isla. She hides her unsure feelings for him behind an overly rude and aggressive facade, which she at least has the decency to apologize for.

That being said, I like how her affection for him grows a little when he finds out he’s protecting Isla by sharing the blame for their failures. It not only shows he’s not as incompetent as she initially thought, but also a kind and caring dude. Which makes her jealous that Isla’s so close to him. She’s on the outside looking in.

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That looks to be the case for the foreseeable future, as Plamemo brings the hammer down, courtesy of who else, the truthsayer Yasutaka. He doesn’t give too much away to Tsukasa, only mentioning the consistent decline in her physical data (paired with what looks like a rise in errors). He also tells him Isla’s training is pointless; Giftia retain everything they learn and don’t get “rusty.” Even so, he respects Isla’s guts for doing everything she possibly can to stay in the game.

The most important question so far is answered, at least partially, to my satisfaction, in a private moment between Yasutaka and Kazuki: Isla has 2,000 hours of lifespan remaining. That’s only 83.3 days, which, assuming a Giftia’s max lifespan of nine years, would make Isla 8.99 years old. This revelation floored me, and put Isla’s motivations more emotionally accessible. I wish last week ended this way, rather than with a toilet joke.

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P.S. No, I didn’t really accidentally give lots of Plamemo characters Evangelion names…but I wanted to point out the rather bizarre abundance of similarities to Eva characters in the Plamemo cast…though some are admittedly more of a stretch than others.

Sidonia no Kishi – 10

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With Shizuka either dead or no longer human and thus more or less out of the picture (for them, anyway), Izana and Yuhata are both committed to spending as much time with Nagate as possible, even if it means they have to reluctantly do so as a trio. There’s only so much of Izana’s whining I can take, so it’s a good thing they half-intentionally stumble upon a secret lab.

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That lab houses the incomplete masterpiece of one Dr. Ochiai, someone who’s name has been darted around now and again. He fused human and Gauna material together into a war machine, and that machine is being used to manufacture new experimental weapons to fight the Gauna. Nagate isn’t in trouble for his trespass; on the contrary, he’s named the test pilot for all this neat new stuff.

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Between this reveal and the first character Gaunazuka writes on the glass looks like a Christian cross, this episode had a serious Eva vibe. It captured the dual-sided loneliness that both the one learning all these secrets and the ones being left out of the loop experience. But no one’s more lonely and frustrated than Izana, who is neither the XO, a Gauna replicant, nor the clone of Sidonia’s ace.

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Punctuated by her very natural reaction of fear and dread upon learning she’s been made an official Gardes pilot—fully aware of the attrition rate of late—Izana has been consistently portraye as a thoroughly “normal” person. Despite the status of her grandmother, she leads a relatively normal life, and has normal fears: fear of being left behind; fear of dying before she’s done and said all she’s wanted to. It makes me feel like there is some kind of crucial secret about her we just haven’t found out about yet.

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Meanwhile, her best friend continues to visit a product of the enemy on the sly. It’s worrying to me that Nagate seems to get more and more excited about the prospect of getting his old Shizuka back just because the being behind the glass is writing his name with magic marker and manipulating the shape of her placenta to make a kind of maid outfit. The fact she snapped that marker into jagged shards was a nice way to show that she’s still very dangerous and it’s fairly clear no good can come of having her aboard.

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On that note, all the demilitarization people were finally granted permission to emigrate to a planet, but their exodus is interrupted by a Gauna attack. I really like how Kobayashi half-wanted them to get their comeuppance for opposing her, and while she allows Nagate to sortie in the experimental equipment (a quick but awesome battle in which Nagate fights his own frame as much as the Gauna), she considers a possible future in which she doesn’t let him do what he wants, and he does it anyway, and she can’t stop him.

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The immortals who rule Sidonia in the shadows are faced with quite the conundrum: they resent Nagate’s very existence, but need him to assure their own. The more powerful he becomes, the more effective their defense against the Gauna, but at the cost of their absolute control over everything. To whit: a Gauna mass eight thousand times the size of Sidonia (which isn’t exactly small) is bearing down. Nagate would have to become terrifyingly powerful to defeat that.

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Stray Observations:

  • I wasn’t a fan of the sound Izana’s sandals made either, but they were cute. And her shiny new black Gardes uniform is badass.
  • In a conventionally animated show, the punishment Nagate’s face receives from Izana in the dark would have constituted a stack of bumps. But here, in CGI land, Oh my God, his injured face is fuckin’ scary as hell. It was very jarring to see it back to normal a couple minutes later.
  • I liked Yuhata’s willingness to immediately abuse the power and security clearance she’s been given now that she’s XO by exploring restricted areas. But when it comes time to send Nagate out to fight, she doesn’t hesitate, despite her feelings for him.
  • Was it just me, or were Sasaki’s boobs a little too big?
  • Maybe we’re wrong: maybe Gaunazuka is perfectly harmless, and in time, will develop back into a fully-functioning human much like Shizuka was. Maybe…but I doubt it.
  • After a smoking start, Sidonia’s in a bit of a “9” drought…perhaps next week’s huge-looking battle will end it.

Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance

Rundown: In the second film of the “Rebuild” tetrology, Asuka, absent from the first film, is promptly introduced. She, Shinji and Rei must learn to get along and work together to defeat the onslaught of angels. Their proximity and shared experiences lead to an unspoken love triangle. Aside from that, the events of the film depart significantly from the original tv series, with two new Eva pilots, a new climax, and a new cliffhanger for the third film.

While I was in Tokyo, I saw tons of ads in print, audio, and video for the release of the second Evangelion film (the home video version is ‘version 2.22′), which I think prodded me to check it out. I hadn’t seen the first film in almost two years, but this and that are totally different things. Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone was little more than a recap with upgraded visuals and sound, which was fine and dandy for nostalgic types like me, but unadventurous. Like chugging a can of UCC Milk & Coffee, It was extremely refreshing; seeing the characters of Eva not only in new settings, situations and dilemmas, but with tweaked personalities to boot.

Rei is less emotionally inaccessible than the TV version; she even cracks a few smiles. Asuka is still armed with a powerful inferiority complex, but is slightly less abusive of Shinji and more conscious of her feelings (both for him and in general). Shinji is still angsty and desperate for his father’s praise, but is less a coward in the film and more outraged with his role as dad’s deadly weapon.

As expected, the mecha v. angel action is a most un-disappointing feast for the eyes, with some goosebump-inducing moments and some unusual musical choices spliced in with the classic Eva themes we all know and love. Massive, fluid, distinctive, and impressively detailed combatants have been director Hideaki Anno’s M.O. ever since he animated the giant warrior in the 1984 Miyasaki film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

My main gripe would be that the pilot trio’s characterization and relationships were unsurprisingly a bit rushed, as the few slice-of-Tokyo-3-life scenes quickly give way to an unrelenting pace towards the end. The new Eva 05 and 06 pilots are given very little to do or say. Also, while not necessarily a demerit per se, while the action is outstanding, it doesn’t quite reach the levels of over-the-top ridiculousness of other GAINAX creations like FLCL, Diebuster, and Gurren Lagann. Then again, Eva is more serious than all of those. Ultimately, Eva was so influential and has been around so long, I must forgive this film some of its cliches, since it’s responsible for the propagation of many of them.

The ending inevitably cannot be described as anything resembling “happy” or “sad”, but is most definitely an ellipsis and not a period. The third film will likely delve deeper into the Eva mythos than the previous two, give pilots 05 and 06 more to do, and take us further from the Eva we knew. I was satisfied with this film and look forward to what Hideaki Anno has cooked up next…and sincerely hope the fourth and final film has an actual ending…though maybe that’s wishful thinking. Rating: 3.5