Koi to Uso – 07

Neither Yukari nor Ririna are remotely ready for…whatever it is Yukari thinks they have to do to not get penalized, so it’s a huge relief to see that they don’t make love here and now.

Romantic feelings have only just started to well up in Ririna’s heart and challenge her head, and it’s never occurred to her until now that her head could lose. She’s afraid of the person she becomes when Yukari gets so close to her, because it’s a person she simply doesn’t know.

As for Yukari, he’s so scared that they’re being watched to make sure they do it, he gets it in his head to try to “pretend” in order to fool them. That’s all you really need to know to determine that his head is already fighting a losing battle…and it wasn’t that great a head to begin with.

Saying the word “pretend” anywhere near an already vulnerable and confused Ririna is just a terrible move, but at least Yukari apologizes, and when she says she just needs some space and time, he gives it to her. You’d think the classic “cultural festival play” scenario would take his mind off of things, but…wait, what am I saying? SHIT no it wouldn’t! Yukari’s a dreary mess.

At least, I thought to myself, Yukari wasn’t chosen to play Juliet. When Yukari drops the figure Ririna gave him and takes a hammer strike to the hand to protect it, he ends up in the infirmary, where a worried-sick Misaki enters, but takes a few moments to collect herself before talking.

She and Yukari haven’t talked in almost a month, because she’s instituted a “Neji ban” on herself, lest fall even more in love with the guy. I would say the ship has sailed on that.

When Yukari is vague even when pressed—saying ‘some things happened and I hurt Ririna’s feelings’, Misaki uses her strong diplomatic ties with Ririna to try to learn more from her. In the process she remembers a story from middle school when Yukari made the best hotcakes, and Ririna learns he can cook.

Still, Ririna says she doesn’t want to see him, but feels terribly lonely without him. Wellsir, whatcha got there is a bad case of being in love. Misaki’s spirits plummet when she hears this, because now she and Ririna are both trapped in a spiral of longing and guilt, trying in vain to organize or balance their feelings with the other person’s.

It turns out Yajima, the ministry officer who messed with Yukari last week was in virtually the same position Yukari now finds himself in. The girl in question who he loved is his Ministry colleague Ichijou (the redhead), who don’t you know it, offered to reject her official match if he, the man she really loved, married her instead.

But he BLEW IT, and now he works beside that person every day, hiding the feelings that have never fully dispersed, and taking it out on poor innocent, dimwitted burial mound enthusiasts. Joking aside, Yajima doesn’t think their situations are truly identical, because in Yukari’s case, even as he harbors feelings for Misaki, he’s developing feelings for Ririna as well.

Yajima recommends Yukari not think too much, since teenagers aren’t good at that anyway. Instead, he should act, and he does, by writing Ririna a long text from the heart telling her how he felt about her taking an interest in his interests, and hoping they can go see burial mounds someday.

Ririna doesn’t respond by text that day, to Yukari’s further dejection, but in the morning post a beautifully hand-written letter from Ririna arrives, which is even more honest and moving than Yukari’s text. It even moves him to tears…in front of his mom! In any case, while trying to fix things and getting discouraged, Ririna wrote exactly what was needed to cheer her future husband up.

It certainly feels like they’ll be even more on the mend next week, but now that Misaki is certain that Ririna also loves Yukari, she finds herself stuck between supporting her friends and wishing them the best, and the selfish girl wanting the giant toy in the window.

Misaki believes she has the power to influence (i.e. advance) their relationship with just three words to Ririna—you’re in love—but wasn’t able to when they met up, and probably will continue to have a great deal of difficulty ever doing so, and with good reason: she’s not a masochist!

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Koi to Uso – 06

Whoa, hold on, what are Yukari and Ririna doing, making out in bed? Oh, it’s just Ririna’s first sexy dream about Yukari. Little did she—or I—know that by episode’s end that dream would become shockingly close to reality.

This is due to a combination of factors, including a genuine growing affection for one another as they get to know each other better, the scientific process by which they were chosen to marry one another, and oh yeah, a ruthless alternate-universe Japanese government that is NOT FUCKING AROUND when it comes to population growth.

Yes, this episode checks in momentarily with Misaki and Nisaka, and new characters are introduced in Ririna’s new friend Arisa and Yukari’s middle-school classmate Igarashi, but thankfully the focus is on the two people that aggressive government program determined should get hitched, get it on, and have at least 2 children.

To that end, everyone who recently got their notices are instructed to leave school early and report to…a hotel…uh-oh. The strangeness of the situation is definitely felt by our surrogates, Yukari and Ririna. He sees aa classmate with his “pre-Yukari way-out-of-his-league” future wife, and turns inward to wonder if people look at him and Ririna like he’s looking at them.

Then that very thing happens. Ririna arrives sporting a new hairstyle and the gift of a creepy figuring that Yukari loses his shit over. He has a gift for her two, and his classmate and future wife marvel at how well this system seems to pick people who clearly like each other.

Both Yukari and Ririna bristle at that, but as the afternoon progresses, The State systematically runs roughshod over whatever doubts and reservations the two may have. Indeed, Ririna, having only recently researched French kissing, is particularly uncomfortable with all the sex talk going on by the Ministry’s presenter, a True Believer in the Yukari System if ever there was one.

Condoms are passed out. The now-healthy birthrate is mentioned to tout the success of the system. Sex is healthily discussed in terms of its physiological and mental benefits, in addition to just feeling good. It’s gotta be a lot to take in for a bunch of 16-year-olds, and that is no accident on the part of the Ministry.

After concluding the lecture with a very informative porno that leaves Ririna shaking and Yukari desperate to keep Misaki out of his head, all of the husband-wife pairs are assigned hotel rooms and ordered to spend the night together. A random Ministry guy hinting (in jest) that they’ll be “watched” and an overheard rumor about consequences for “not banging” only hikes up the pressure.

Before they know it, Yukari and Ririna are alone in a tastefully lit, comfortable room, staring down a big bed. There are no chairs, as Ririna helpfully points out. Yukari is LOSING IT. He’s stuck in his head, and at least finally realizes it, but when he tries to think of what he can do for Ririna, what he comes up with mirrors the beginning of her dream in which they make out: he pins her to the bed. As she awaits the next move, the episode mercilessly (or mercifully) fades to black…

The Yukari Law was born out of necessity. Japan’s birthrate hovered around 1.46 births per woman in 2015. That’s just not good enough to make up for the people aging and dying. There’s no telling what the economic, social, and cultural consequences will be, but you can bet they’ll be bad. Robots aren’t the answer. People study and work too much to get by or get ahead. Family often takes a backseat to success. A lot of younger people just don’t want it.

These are the harsh realities that face the Japan here, in our world. And while it’s doubtful anything as comprehensively invasive as Yukari will ever be implemented, Koi to Uso still serves as a kind of thought experiment in which a relatively simple fix is applied: get people to make more babies. Simple in concept, but ridiculously complex and problem-fraught in execution.

Its exploration of that what-if scenario, with a focus on four youths going against the grain, is as unsettling as it is riveting.

Koi to Uso – 05

The potentially infamous Love Quadrangle Camping Trip from Hell is upon us, and things start out expectedly bumpy, with Ririna protesting Yukari’s choice to invite Nisaka along and Nisaka and Misaki exchanging looks that to us clearly look like two rivals in love, but to Yukari like they’re into each other.

Inevitably, Yukari ends up catching the girls playing in the river in their swimsuits, but neither accuses him of being a pervert. Indeed, Ririna thinks nothing of calling him over to play with them, only to twist her ankle and require he princess-carry her back to camp (since she considers piggyback to be too lewd).

Ririna is a bit of a tsundere for most of this trip where Yukari is concerned, but there’s a good reason for that: she’s increasingly unable to hold back her own feelings for Yukari for her good friend Misaki’s sake. Her face even blushes when she finds herself admiring Yukari as he talks so passionately about researching burial mounds.

Then there’s Nisaka, who Yukari has the exact wrong idea about. Nisaka isn’t into Misaki; he’s into Yukari. But despite having a golden opportunity to do so, Nisaka is unable to come out and confess this. But to be fair, this is a guy who likes guys in a society where guys are matched up with girls by the government and told in no uncertain terms (a la Adama) to “make babies.” Also he values his friendship with Yukari and doesn’t want to ruin it.

Despite the conflicting feelings floating around her head, Ririna is still committed to getting true lovers together as often as she can, even to the point of pairing herself with Nisaka, whom she has a very low opinion of, so Yukari and Misaki can be alone together.

Again, things turn out how one would expect: while chasing a firefly, Misaki slips and starts to fall down a hill. Yukari can’t catch her, but she grabs his arm and takes him down with her. They then spend a good long time on the ground, in each others’ arms, simply listening to their hearts pound against each other.

Nisaka is aware of Ririna’s gambit and straight-up questions what she hopes to get out of it. If Misaki and Yukari marry, it’s not like there’ll be some kind of ménage à trois situation, like the creator of Wonder Woman. Ririna could fall by the wayside…or would she?

And while we finally learn there are no overt criminal penalties, it’s made clear by Nisaka that those who reject their matches are marked for life, and will find it tougher to realize their futures. Nisaka minces no words in accusing Ririna of courting disaster. (I say if you’re as desperately in love as Misaki and Yukari seem to be, I’d say it’s worth it. You can’t put a price on happiness, be it fines or lost wages.)

But Ririna…just wants two people in love to be together. When the two pairs reunite and find the clearing where a cloud of fireflies pepper the night, she defiantly takes the hands of both Misaki and Yukari. Yukari then inadvertently twists her intention by taking Nisaka’s hand as well.

Whatever labels society wants to put on his relationships, Yukari just wants to exist in that beautiful place with people he likes. The camping trip ends with him still thinking Nisaka likes Misaki, but I’ll allow him his blissful ignorance a little longer. A new notice in the mail suggests this love quadrangle’s trials have only just begun.

Koi to Uso – 04

Lilina comes over to Yukari’s for dinner, much to the joy of his giddy parents, who openly talk of how quickly they became intimate. Strange how the imminent threat of cultural extinction changes what is and isn’t proper dinnertime conversation!

Lilina also cleans up Yukari’s room, which is a bad look for Yukari, though in his defense he became engrossed in a book about burial mounds (as you do). I half-expected Lilina to discover his porn stash, only to find it’s all just burial mound magazines.

Lilina happily help cleans up though, not just because she can’t stand to sit around in squalor, but because the cleanup is an opportunity to dig up some more details on her new BFF Misaki, as well as get more out of Yukari about when he fell in love and how it felt.

Yukari’s pretty good at expressing this, especially how the very scenery in one’s everyday life changed after he fell for her.

Then two suits from “The Ministry of Love” show up to basically ask how the soon-to-be-happy couple is getting on, then giving them a speech about how great the Yukari Law is and how it’s way more precise and less prone to failed pairings than the arrange marriage laws of yore.

And while such a system might be admirable in theory, its complete and total disregard for actual love between non-paired people almost makes the medicine worse than the disease…if the disease weren’t the death of Japan due to no one making babies.

But the spooks say the same things others (including Misaki herself later!) have said, and something on which I agree: Yukari and Lilina do seem to make a good couple. Obviously that came down to the science determining that these two peoples’ personalities would be compatible, and there’s a slight temptation to say “well, what would be so wrong with them just getting married?”

Wellsir, that would be fine except for the fact Yukari loves someone else…and she loves him back. Lilina not only remains totally okay with Yukari kissing Misaki daily, she basically orders him to, not for his sake, but for that of Misaki’s happiness.


When Yukari tells Lilina he thinks it’s “weird” his assigned wife is telling him to kiss another girl, she promptly returns his volley with deadly accuracy: “it’s even weirder that the world forbids you from kissing the person you like.” Amen, sister!

So Yukari has his orders: he’s not to give up so soon, even though he believes Misaki has received her marriage notice. Which is odd, because I thought she already received it, and her assigned husband is Nisaka, and has been keeping it a big secret.

But even her odd little argument with Nisaka that Yukari gets a glimpse of could be anything. It could be Nisaka told her how he feels about Yukari, but Misaki remains firm that he’s her’s. When Yukari works with Misaki after school, he congratulates her, but he’s off base: she didn’t receive her notice.

Another titular lie? If not, why did the suits visit? And was it sheer coincidence such a science-y ministry asked Yukari where Misaki lives? Do they not have Google Maps? In any case, Misaki adds that no matter who was chosen to be her husband, Yukari will be “the only person who’ll ever be special to me,” before leaning in to kiss him.

Lilina, it would seem, was right: Misaki isn’t giving up, so neither should Yukari. Lilina doesn’t feel she has adequate skin in the game, and so doesn’t want to be yet another impediment to Real Love in a world that’s already turned against it. That’s noble, but I do hope, as seems to be the case, that she starts to grow closer to Yukari despite that.

For now, she’s still far more focused on Yukari and Misaki, to the point she invites Misaki to their two families’ camping trip, and she says yes. Not sure he’d be able to deal with the stress being in a triangle during the trip, he invites (and eventually bribes) Nisaki to come along too.

And so there you have it: an arranged couple on a camping trip, each bringing along a person in love with Yukari. Should be interesting!

Koi to Uso – 03

As Yukari continues to be pushed and pulled hither and thither by Lilina, it’s worth mentioning he wasn’t always so passive. Nisaka remembers being hassled by a bigger guy, and Yukari called the cops. Overreaction? Certainly, but it still took guts. He didn’t do nothing.

Meanwhile Lilina’s romantic experimentation continues apace; inviting both her betrothed and Misaki to her house; Misaki, who still utterly ignores him at school.

Misaki and Lilina get along swell, to the point the skittish Yukari simply fades until the background…but it isn’t long before Lilina asks to watch the two kiss—and they come very close to doing so, because Misaki (and not Yukari) leans into his lips.

At the last second, Yukari, flustered beyond belief, bails out, which Misaki thinks is “so cute.” Lilina can’t help but agree. But later, taking Lilina’s hands ever-so-tenderly into her own, Misaki tells her she wants her to fall in love with her future husband…because she doesn’t think she’s “the right girl” for him.

Lilina maintains that two people already in love—Misaki and Yukari—should kiss at least once a day, every day. As she walks part of the way with Yukari when he heads home, who should appear but Nisaka, who quickly labels Lilina (hiding behind Yukari) “well-tamed” and “still a virgin,” both very rude remarks Yukari should have been stronger to condemn.

Back at school, Yukari notices Misaki and Nisaka staring daggers into each other, and he immediately thinks the two most attractive people in his class (by his reckoning) look so perfect together that’s it’s likely, as unpleasant a prospect as it would be, that there’s something going on between them.

But while thinking and overthinking about it while changing after PE, Yukari finds himself behind the bell, and runs into Misaki in the hall, apparently waiting for him. He tells her about the kiss-a-day order from Lilina, but before Misaki can tell him what she told Lilina, a teacher walks past, forcing him to take her hand and move them behind a pillar.

There the two start making out, leaving Yukari to wonder how this could be “wrong” or “taboo” and why it’s so hard to lie and pretend they’re not something that they are; namely, in love.

While the teacher didn’t spot the two kissing, Nisaka does walk right by them, and his reaction is cryptic. I was thinking right until he leaned over to a dozing Yukari to give him a kiss that the big secret the show wanted to reveal is that Nisaka and Misaki have been selected to marry one another by the government.

And hey, that could still be true, but just as Lilina maintains she doesn’t love Yukari (at least not yet; that seems well on its way to changing), Nisaka certainly isn’t into Misaki, and vice-versa. Rather, Nisaka is into Yukari, and Yukari is simply oblivious.

So now we have a love quadrangle. And that reveals another wrinkle this whole Yukari Law mess: no same-sex marriage. You got me, show: I had no idea Nisaka would kiss Yukari. And I still think he’s Misaki’s still-secret arranged husband.

Koi to Uso – 02

Now that’s more bloody like it! After a frustratingly messy first episode, Koi to Uso gets back on track thanks to the introduction of Yukari’s future wife, the fair Sanada Lilina. The unrelenting enthusiasm of both kids’ parents really made me feel bad for them; it’s like some cruel joke being delivered with an easy smile.

But before Yukari and Lilina’s first meeting, Yukari comes to school (despite his mother calling him out for the meeting) to see and hear from Misaki…who has already put up a wall. She coldly tells Yukari she meant for them to remain pleasant memories, meaning “they” are now a thing of the past.

It puts an already nervous, frustrated, and above all scared Yukari in an even worse mood for the meeting with Lilina, who is both smart, gorgeous, and above all doesn’t take any shit from Yukari. She storms out when she’s fed up with his apathy, but he finds her in a linen closet, apologizes, and explains himself.

When he talks of his love for Misaki, Lilina responds in the opposite way Yukari expected: rather than jealous or angry, she’s intrigued, and only wants to hear more. She also wants to know the truth of his and Misaki’s love, which means she needs to know her side. But from what she can tell, Misaki is lying about being done with him.

So Yukari and Lilina return to their folks holding hands, and take a nice pic of each other to show their friends, and Misaki continues to pretend she doesn’t care. Then Yukari meets Lilina at her school, and like their first encounter alone, end up in a compromising position because Lilina has trouble realizing when, say, her shirt is unbuttoned, or she’s not wearing pants.

Rom-com cliche aside, the two end up having an earnest conversation. Lilina is nicknamed “Sanadamushi” or “tapeworm” by her peers because she was once very sickly, often absent from school, and as a result has always had trouble making friends; in fact, she has precisely zero!

Okay…that’s also a cliche. But her social awkwardness and open-bookness works in Yukari’s favor. If she was super-popular, or more like normal girls, Yukari would have a lot more trouble talking with her. She probably also wouldn’t do something as rash as confront Misaki the moment she sees her walking past her school.

The trick is, Yukari is out of sight for their confrontation and McDonalds meeting, so Misaki feels free to lift the wall and be earnest about her feelings for Yukari, not skimpin on details, which sound petty (or pathetic) to Misaki at first, but simply watching and hearing a glowing Misaki talk about her love has a strong effect on Lilina.

Misaki likewise is having fun, finally able to open up about her feelings to someone after hiding how she felt for years. She even gets Misaki to admit that while he lacks any composure, Yukari is at least “nice.” The two girls part for the time being, but Misaki promises to text Lilina; this is far from their last meeting.

The realization, soon confirmed by Yukari, that she made her first friend brings tears to Lilina’s eyes. She even questions if she likes Misaki, but it isn’t as if she wants to kiss her, a question that leads to Lilina asking Yukari if he ever kissed her.

His answer—”all the memories between us just kinda exploded”—is pretty much a perfect encapsulation of their turbo tryst. But again, rather than act upset, Lilina has a plan in mind for him and her new friend Misaki: she instructs him to kiss her one more time. That should go well!

In the meantime, it’s safe to say that while they’re hardly lovers, the fact Yukari and Lilina can speak so easily to one another about themselves proves that Misaki wan’t Lilina’s first friend after all—Yukari was.

Of course, the law dictates that they’ll have to be a whole lot more one day, and we still don’t know the identity Misaki’s betrothed (Yuusuke, perhaps, judging from their pointed interaction this week?), but one thing’s for certain: thanks in large part to Lilina, I’m now far more invested in this story.

Koi to Uso – 01 (First Impressions)

To combat its low birth rate, the Japanese government institutes a system of arranged marriage, selecting partners for its citizens when they turn sixteen. Romance between unassigned partners is FORBIDDEN. This…is a comically ludicrous system, but in Koi to Uso (Love and Lies) it’s the law of the land, and apparently it’s not only okay with most of the population, but has actually stabilized the population.

But c’mon, what the heck is up with that system? That’s straight-up eugenics right there. And when you dabble in that, you invariably end up with evil warlords like Khan. Thankfully, our two protagonists, Nejima Yukari (who has the same damn name as the system) and Takasaki Misaki (Hanazawa Kana), are among those who don’t subscribe to a system that coldly forbids them from being with the one they love; namely each other.

Unfortunately, the “romance” of Takasaki Misaki and Nejima Yukari is almost as big a farce as the Yukari Law. Consider: one day, years ago, after four class periods of hesitation, Yukari lends Misaki half of his eraser. She whispers “thank you” in his ear and smiles, and he falls deeply in love. Okay, he’s a little boy; she’s a pretty girl; fine.

But…But…that’s the extent of their contact together…for years, until he approaches her in the hall and asks her to meet up with him after school. After waiting about four hours, Yukari gets up to leave (after building sand burial mounds [??????]), but Misaki shows up at the last second.

When Yukari confesses, Misaki not only quickly returns his feelings, but the two embrace, have their first kiss, and then start french kissing in the space of a couple of minutes. After watching the slow development of a first romance in Tsuki ga Kirei, this development is waaay too fast and unearned. I don’t know either of these jokers! They barely know each other! I’m usually the one who thinks it takes too long to get to first-name basis or hand-holding or kissing…but this didn’t take enough time by half.

As if that wasn’t enough ludicrousness, right in the middle of making out, Yukari gets his government notice, but his phone is on the fritz like a TV, and he thinks he sees Misaki’s name before it cuts out completely.  Moments later, government officials appear in the park, at midnight, to personally deliver Yukari’s notice, which does not name Misaki, but someone named Sanada Lilina.

Did they use his GPS to find him? Couldn’t it wait till morning? Would a system as strict as this really allow such loose language about never marrying in its schools, like the kind we heard earlier in the episode. Devastated by the fake-out, Yukari then finds himself having to chase a distraught Misaki, and because she’s not on the track team, he catches her and they embrace once more.

So there you go: really bizarre authoritarian breeding system in an otherwise normal Japanese society; forbidden love that’s extremely fast-paced in its development, leaving no room for suspension of disbelief…and REALLY BIG EYES. Interested? No lying!

Re:Creators – 05

Episode five is talky, like the previous four, but the quality of the conversations ticks up thanks to a generous helping of light humor and a few significant steps forward with the plot, as the “good” creations add mecha pilot Kanoya Rui to their ranks and forge an official alliance with the Japanese government.

Things are lighthearted at first, as Kanoya proves to be very mild-mannered when not riled up, then things get tense as the JSDF raids the home of Kanoya’s creator. This is where I came to appreciate Meteora as the official spokesperson of the creation/creators. Measured and precise in her words, she’s able to calm the situation and put the soldiers at ease. None of the others in that house could have done it better.

They end up before a board of government bigwigs called the Special Situations Countermeasures Council, and briefed by the council’s General Coordination Officer, Kikuchihara. The proceedings are understandably a bit stiff, but things are lightened considerably when Kikuchihara informs Meteroa of the missing JSDF weaponry she “borrowed”, for which she can only offer a sheepish but sincere apology.

Fortunately, Kikuchihara is a stabilizing force, like the Meteora of the bigwigs, and has an open enough mind to appreciate the creators and creations’ situation, while acknowledging the former’s status as persons, offering them legal status and government protection.

Their shared goal of fixing what the Military Uniform girl broke and returning everyone to whence they came is sure to go easier with the coordination with Kikuchihara and the council.

Despite likely being offered government-funded accomodation, Meteora and Celestia decide to remain at Marine’s house, which is just fine with her, as it’s made her home life more fun, as “every night is girl’s night”, as Meteora puts it.

The four guys (one of whom, Kanoya, is voiced by a girl) aren’t as enthused, as Kanoya’s creator’s house was destroyed, but of far greater concern to Souta is his sudden realization of the origin of the Military Uniform girl: it would seem her creator is Shimazaki, who took her life by jumping in front of an incoming train at the very beginning of the first episode.

It makes sense that Military Uniform girl is trying to overthrow/destroy the world of creators, considering it’s a world that essentially rejected her creator. Hopefully more will be revealed about Souta’s specific connection to Shimazaki. Until then, some nice incremental progress was made, with just the right amount of comical flair to avoid things getting to stodgy, but enough seriousness to maintain credibility.

PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie

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I am a professed fan of PSYCHO-PASS, but was among those who thought the 2014 sequel couldn’t quite match the greatness of the 2012 original (You can read my reviews of PSYCHO-PASS and PSYCHO-PASS 2 by following the preceding links). I’ve also always had a soft spot for Tsunemori Akane, the ever-conflicted super badass detective and one of seiyu Hanazawa Kana’s most compelling roles.

This 2015 movie (which will have a limited theatrical release in the U.S. later this month) is Akane’s biggest stage to date. Rather than focus on another Japan-based mastermind, the franchise turns its gaze outward to the mainland: the Southeast Union or SEAUn, where the Sybil System has been transplanted on an island utopia called Shamballa Float.

Akane heads there because after armed terrorists from the union launch a failed assault on Tokyo (the film’s action-packed beginning), she learns that they may have been sent by none other than her former enforcer, friend, and romantic interest, Kogami Shinya. Their reunion in a foreign land forms the character crux of the film.

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When Akane arrives at SEAUn and gets a tour of the place outside Shamballa, it’s both her and our first look at the world outside Japan where Sybil doesn’t yet hold full sway. It’s seething with unrest and violence, much of it being meted out by a military police force that rules with an iron fist.

We are forced along with Akane to weigh the pros and cons of Japan and SEAUn as they relate to the implementation of Sybil technology, which is still in its harsh “teething stage” in the latter nation. There’s even more overt segregation, with latent criminals wearing neckbands that will sedate or poison them if their hues cloud too much.

The movie does a good job quickly rendering a very oppresive and unpleasant place where I definitely would never want to live.

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Fueled by her intention to find Kogami and get to the truth of matters ASAP, Akane rides along on a military operation led by Colonel Nicolas Wong, who is also her escort and the first official she met in SEAUn. While initially friendly and accommodating, he has a big problem with Akane running off on her own, to the point he suspects she’s joining the terrorists.

Kogami is pretty surprised to see Akane, considering a war zone is no place for a metropolitan detective and they haven’t seen each other in years, but they don’t have time to reminisce and escape the combat area to Kogami’s base camp.

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Kogami, who calls Akane “Inspector” for old time’s sake, explains himself simply by saying he’s part of SEAUn’s democratization movement. SEAUn’s military dictator Chairman Han may have a bunch of Sybil toys, but he can’t believe the fight is hopeless.

Kogami brings Akane to his movement’s headquarters, where he’s revered almost like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, only without the insanity and disease (though the exotic Angkor Wat-esque buildings definitely look the part). Akane can respect what he’s trying to do, and certainly understands Kogami’s power to draw people into his orbit with his natural charisma (a part of her still likes the guy), she still asks him to turn himself in, a request he declines.

To Akane’s releif, Kogami didn’t send terrorists to Japan. Rather, they were extremist comrades of his who broke off from his movement to do their own thing. But the fact that group got to Japan and were able to get as far as they did in their assault tells both Akane and Kogami that they must’ve had official support on the downlow.

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In the meantime, Kogami impresses upon Akane the importance of getting back to Shamballa Float before she ends up tangled up in more unpleasantness. Her reluctance to leave is overridden when a band of ultra-elite mercenaries with cybernetic prostheses hired by Wong attacks the headquarters. It’s all Kogami can do to get Akane out of there safely, and while he puts up a rather implausible fight, he’s eventually taken prisoner, and later beaten for information.

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Akane is arrested upon her return to Shamballa, and Wong lobbies for her immediate, but Han steps in and allows her to stay, albeit under closer observation. That gives Akane a chance to use some pillbugs Shion gave her to infiltrate Shamballa’s Sybil System, gather data, and even release her attendant Yeo from her latent criminal collar.

However, by the time Shion discovers that military officers like Wong were illegally bypassing cymatic scans that would cloud their hues to a tremendous extent, Wong has Yeo drug Akane’s drink in exchange for the promise of having her little brother’s collar removed. Wong welshes on the deal and shoots Yeo in the head, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s an evil opportunistic bastard.

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When the mercs deliver Kogami to Wong, he arranges for him and Akane to be shot and cover up their deaths in an abortive helicopter escape attempt. I must say, I really didn’t see how Akane and Kogami were going to get out of this one, even if I knew they were.

Ultimately, the choice of killing them out in the open on rooftop rather than a location Wong could fully control proved his undoing, as Akane and Kogami are saved by the cavalry in the form of the Bureau of Public Safety, who kill Wong and either lethally eliminate or take into custody his men.

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All of the mercs save their leader are killed in the attack, and Kogami goes after him, while after having metaphorical cold water splashed on her head by Mika, Akane confronts “Chairman Han”, who is really a cybernetic body double inhabited by the collective brains of Sybil System itself.

Akane has another one of her patented Big Picture Verbal Spars over law and the will of the people with Sybil, ultimately convincing it/them to make Han step down and open both leadership of SEAUn and the choice to implement Sybil up to the people, via democracy.

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Oh yeah, meanwhile, Kogami has an intense but ultimately pointless final battle with the merc leader, who is only still alive so Kogami has someone strong to fight and Gino has to rescue him. After taking care of the merc, Gino lets Kogami go, making him promise not to burden Akane anymore, and also gets a good punch in.

Akane’s mainland adventure thus wrapped up (shame she didn’t get to say a long and decent goodbye to Kogami), she and the other bureau members leave Shamballa and SEAUn in the hands of the new, more populist regime. And there you have it: Inspector Tsunemori Akane was singularly instrumental in changing the course of an entire nation, hopefully for the better.

I watched this because I’m not sure I’d be able to make the theatrical release, and feared it would be dubbed in English. Turns out, more than a quarter of the dialogue is in horrible English anyway (as attempted by the Japanese seiyus) which was extremely irritating. But aside from that, this was a sufficiently fun, exciting flick that moved briskly and gave us some welcome quality time with Akane-san.

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Comet Lucifer – 03

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After plucking their host’s last straw by knocking over his perfect pot of curry, Sogo, Kaon, Felia, and the very irritatingly-voiced Moura are kicked out of the cafe, which thankfully still shows signs of the damage Moura caused. They take Felia downtown and show her the sights, and we get a very pleasant, detailed, yet wordless montage of their fun, and likely expensive, day to keep Felia entertained.

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Everything is chipper until in her excitement Felia bumps into a passerby, sending her pigeon-cat cake flying. She tries to use her telekinesis to save it, but Moura startles her, and the cake is dumped on a purple-haired cafe patron, who seemed annoyed but not unreasonably angry with the incident. Turns out he’s a master hacker-terrorist who has been watching Felia for some time, and judging from his expressions and gestures in his dark office, he’s also quite unhinged in the “creepy unhinged villain” kind of way.

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In order to induce as many expressions of fear and worry on his “mademoiselle” Felia (which he watches with relish on cameras, which…ew), he throws the entire city’s traffic control system into chaos, thus turning the city into a game board and the kids game pieces he moves around by controlling the ample technology around them. Even Gus and his blonde buddy aren’t immune from the disarray.

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But every time the Bad Guy tries to close in on Felia, Sogo and Kaon split up and misdirect and serve as decoys to keep him off balance, until he gets angry and steps up his game, activating a spider-type mecha to pursue Kaon and Felia on a cable car. Sogo gets as high up into the air as possible and Kaon throws Soura to him, activating Soura’s mecha transformation.

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Once Soura is in play, it’s Game Over for the bad guy, as his mecha is beaten back and the cable breaks. Felia uses her “force power” to give the cable car a soft landing, while the bad guy falls victim to the cable’s recoil, which gives him a reverse mohawk.

The physics (magic hoverboards and telekinesis aside, of course) were pretty solid, right up until here; such a huge cable would surely have taken off his head, if not more. Instead he gets an old-style anime villain comeuppance, even though he surely put dozens of people in the hospital with his reckless antics…all for his personal entertainment.

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Even the most gorgeous sunsets of the Fall season can’t save this episode, or this show, from the inescapable fact that it is artful, attractive, and often thrilling (and thus watchable) but utterly lacking in substance, making it my Fall guilty pleasure. It’s cotton candy; empty calories with no payoff; a bunch of elaborate fun stuff that happens, and then it’s over. Sure, Alfried joins Gus’ dream team, but we just saw Alfried fail miserably to a couple of kids, so it’s not like he’s that much of a threat. He’s just an overwrought creeper.

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Comet Lucifer – 02

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We return to the caverns where Sogo, Kaon, and the mystery girl who emerged from the giant Giftdium crystal basically stand around trying not to get smushed, incinerated, or riddled with bullets from two dueling mechas: the one that seems to be protecting the girl, and the one piloted by Gus Stewart (who apparently isn’t drunk anymore).

The former ends up winning out, as it has an answer for everything Gus throws at it.  Then the kids fall down another big hole, but this time we’re shown how they survive: the girl’s mecha catches them and cushions their fall. Then Roman and Otto appear literally out of nowhere and call a truce so they can all escape the crumbling caverns.

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Back at the cafe above which Sogo lives, the group determines their next moves. Roman postpones the arranged wedding until further notice, and they wait for the girl to wake up. When she does, she seems to parrot everything Kaon says and beam with glee at every new word, object, or piece of tarte tatin placed in front of her.

In other words, she’s a sponge for information, and seems to be experiencing everything for the first time. She’s also a very cute little kid. While Kaon and the girl are in the shower (amazingly, Sogo doesn’t walk in on them) he finds a curious green rock on the floor. When he tries to saw into it, it reveals itself as some kind of bizarre creature that can talk.

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Meanwhile, Gus Stewart wallows in his failure, but is presented with an even more sophisticated “assault bipetal armor” code-named Efreet, which he agrees to use…well, I’m a little fuzzy on his exact goals…furthering the prosperity and greatness of the entity he serves? Restoring a bit of his old lustre from back in the days of the “Great War?” The city we saw seems like a gorgeous and wonderful place to live; I’m wondering why all these military types are so keen to shake things up when they already have a nice thing going.

And in a rather harsh contrast to the cute, hyper little girl flitting about laughing and naming things, Gus breaks an old comrade out of jail: a killing machine of a kid named “Pack” who makes Gus’ plans even more nebulous. Does he need a co-pilot for Efreet? Will Pack be piloting his own beside him? If capturing Felia (the girl) is his goal, is there really a need for this homicidal maniac?

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Disjointed narratives and clashing tones aside, it was fairly obvious after the mecha protecting Felia vanished without a trace, and a small green ball fell out of Roman’s car, that that green ball was the mecha in miniaturized form, and that one way or another, it was going to activate while inside the cafe, causing a huge amount of damage.

That is indeed what happens when Felia messes up her telekinetic powers and drops hot curry on Sogo. This occurance, along with a crest on Sogo’s hand, show that this mecha, which Felia calls Moura once it appears, isn’t just protecting her, but Sogo as well. Who can say when this bunch of kids will cross paths with Gus again (or other government officials/evil dudes), but I imagine they’ll be able to hold their own with Moura on their side.

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Donten ni Warau – 02

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One thing I enjoyed about the first episode was its simplicity: three close brothers, carving out a living ferrying criminals to prison and keeping the peace. By the end of the second, things are a lot more complicated, not only introducing a new baddie-of-the week who wants to topple the emperor, but an entire elite unit of government officials, of which Tenka was once a member; possibly the member

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And oh yes, did we mention that both Tenka and the unit (called Yamainu…”mountain dog?”) are after the “vessel of Orochi” as is Chuutarou’s lilac-haired teacher? Or that it’s strongly implied Soramaru may be that very vessel? And that Yamainu and Tenka have opposing plans for said vessel? Yeah, it’s a lot of plot in one episode. It’s a lot of characters, too, and Yamainu is apparently one of those government squads with lax dress codes.

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But despite all this stuff coming to light, the show doesn’t forget about its core, the trio of brothers. I like how distraught Chuutarou gets when Sora gets mad at him for touching his neck, and doesn’t respond to a gift of poo-on-a-stick (?) But then Soramaru goes and gets distraught about Tenka keeping secrets from him, like the one about the vessel. Sure, there’s probably good reasons for that, but it’s another sign Sora resents being in such a protected state all the time.

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And for his part, Tenka is as playful and nonchalant as ever, but a couple of people piss him off, and we see a bit of the thunder behind the clouds. We also learn their lodger Kinjou Shirasu was/is a member of an all-but-extinct Fuma clan of ninja murderers, something Tenka is very much aware of, but I imagine because he saved his life a while back, and because they’re friends, Tenka lets Shirasu stick around to help out. In any case, he’s a nice ally to have in a pinch.

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Soramaru gets in another pinch with an enemy far weaker than his big brother. Which begs the question: will this show end up getting rid of Tenka, and making comparative lion cubs Soramaru and Chuutarou stand on their own? Beyond his easygoing demeanor, Tenka is shouldering all the family’s burdens, but as the eldest, be probably feels that’s his duty until death.

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