Psycho-Pass – 01 & 02

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Not much time spent on these two…but that’s sure to change.

In Fall 2012, RABUJOI was only reviewing ten shows, but they included the first cours of Zetsuen no Tempest and From the New World, Kamisama Hajimemashita, and Chu2Koi. We were also watching relative duds like K, Jorumungand: Perfect Order, Btooom!, and Girls und Panzer. In hindsight, we would have traded any one of that latter group for Psycho-Pass, without any more hesitation than Kogami Shinya when his Dominator tells him to shoot.

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The boyish Akane’s default hangdog look reminds me of Soul Eater’s Crona.

But it’s never too late to pick up a good show, so that’s what I’m doing. Specifically, I’m watching the “Extended Edition”, which pairs the 22 original episodes into 11 hourish-long short films and adds in some new content…though its all new to me! After a cryptic prologue, we’re thrust right into the midst of rookie CID Inspector Tsunemori Akane’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad First Day.

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The elaborate yet dingy cyberpunk setting and the very strange futuristic society of this world is all unveiled organically as Akane’s first mission progresses. Blade Runner, Akira, and Minority Report are obvious inspirations for the city of gleaming skyscrapers and dark alleys where the police deliver justice to “latent criminals” who may not have committed any crimes, but are deemed psychologically certain of doing so at some point.

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Akane eventually lets her intuition override the logic of killing the hostage

The entity looking into everyone’s souls and determining the color of their Psycho-Pass is the mysterious “Cybil”, which I presume is some kind of supercomputer designed to try to facilitate the ordering of civilization into the peaceful and law-abiding, and those who aren’t. Some of those who aren’t are Akane’s underlings, called “enforcers”, often likened to hunting dogs who sniff out their ilk to be dealt with either by restraint or termination.

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Is that Neo-Tokyo out there?

As neat as Akane’s futuristic amenities look, all the “progress” in the world has come at steep cost: Cybil has given birth to a new form of prejudice and segregation fully supported by cold logic and science. It even has the air of a system designed to influence the course of human evolution: enough generations of weeding out the psychologically unstable, and you’re sure to become a more stable, perfect society, no?

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That’s the paradox of Psycho-Pass: for all the futuristic glitz on the top, there’s still plenty of rot and suffering below. Despite all the drastic measures taken, that perfect world remains a mirage on the horizon. Enter Akane, our window into this world for most of the hour: experiencing so much for the first time, as we are, totally unprepared for its cruelty despite finishing tops in her class.

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Akane, in fact, is an Inspector purely by choice, something few people in the world have. Many who don’t would say she squandered that choice by enlisting in Public Safety, but as she was the only one to get an A-rank in that discipline, she felt her calling beckon. She may bethe “greenest” character we meet, but despite her initial doubts, it’s clear she’s an immensely talented, capable young woman.

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Karanomori Shion’s relationship with another enforcer, Kunizuka Yayoi, is portrayed wordlessly

The result of her first mission is deemed a fuck-up by many, but she’s eventually redeemed. Turning her Dominator on her own enforcer Kogami Shinya, to save the life of a woman his Dominator was telling him to kill, turns out to be the right move, as her “criminal coefficient” was only temporary. It shows the knack she has for the job in spite of her self-doubt, but also makes you wonder how many “suspects” have been killed who ultimately didn’t deserve it, even by Cybil’s extreme standards.

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GAAAAAH

Akane’s second “case” isn’t nearly as intense, as she and grizzled enforcer Masaoka Tomomi don utterly ridiculous holo-suits as he sniffs out a less homicidal suspect. But while it isn’t as traumatizing (though Akane is regarded as a “mental beauty”), it does highlight to Akane her apparent uselessness in such cases, at least at her level of experience. Masaoka tells her that shes not completely useless, as enforcers like him aren’t allowed outside without being accompanied by an Inspector.

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That makes Akane sound like an idle chaperone—and she may be just that on several calls—but where her true value will show is in the tougher, messier cases, like that first one with the hostage. While enforcers like Kogami Shinya seek and destroy criminals like prey, she’s their to stay their hands when she deems it appropriate. She also seems determined to treat her enforcers less like hunting dogs and more like colleagues.

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So yeah, great start. Superb, in fact. Such an immersive, fucked-up world, but very cool. I reiterate my frustration with having never so much as glanced at an episode, since if I had I’d have surely reviewed it two years ago. But oh, well. Better late than never.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 03

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Tokyo Ghoul got back on track this week by teaching us a lot more about Ghoul society, introducing a far more compelling adversary in the CCG (Customizable Card Game?), and having Ken come to terms with his new status and finally find a way to contribute. Overall it was a far more efficient, purposeful, and interesting outing than last week’s boss-of-the-week.

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First, Ken is lucky he was “turned” in the 20th Ward, which has the reputation of being one of the most peaceful Ghoul communities. He thought things were bad there, but it’s worse almost everywhere else, something he learns when Touka takes him to a rougher part of town to meet Uta, who measures him for a mask.

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Uta starts the realignment of Ken’s thinking by saying Touka’s far more than just a scary girl; she works diligently to balance her ghoul existence with her human life, as her boss Yoshimura has. There’s a neat scene where Yoshimura tells him how to eat human food. Appearences must be kept up; if Hide finds out Ken’s a ghoul, Touka has promised to kill Hide on the spot. (I enjoyed watching the many sides of Touka this week, from prickly to affable).

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The purpose of the mask is to hide one’s face in case the “Doves” descend upon you. The doves are what they call the CCG, a police-like organization operating out of a gleaming skyscraper that seems to have one goal in mind: ghoul-busting. Whether they only mean to keep the ghouls disorganized and in check or exterminate them outright, it’s a pretty odious business and a pretty strong allegory for racist social policy.

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These swine would even consider little Hinami, frightened daughter of the ward’s ghoul doctor who is being kept in hiding at Yoshimura’s cafe. Aside from her need for human flesh, she’s harmless and deserves to live as normal a life as she can. She and Ken bond over their mutual love of books. Yoshimura even has ghouls go on “shopping trips” to pick up suicide victims, avoiding killing. It’s a philosophy of “mainstreaming”; playing by as many of mankind’s rules as they possibly can.

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It’s also tremendously difficult, as Ken is quickly learning, and those who pull it off like Yoshimura and Touka deserve his admiration. We witness what happens to bold, reckless ghouls who cross the lines; they’re taken out one by one by the odd couple of CCG detectives: the young, stoic Amon and the slightly mad-scientist-y Mado. They’re ultimately after Rize, which means they’ll soon be on Ken’s trail.

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This episode excels in that it underlines how many new threats and hazards and difficulties Ken now faces, right up to the end when a menacing-looking guy in a blazing red suit barges in the cafe, apparently drawn there by Ken’s scent. But at the same time, it shows us that Ken’s life isn’t really that bad, that he’s starting to get that others have it far worse, and shows him all of the ways he can make this work.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 02

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I’m not sure if it was the less even animation, the wealth of scenes in which Ken is bawling or screaming, or that highly irritating OP song featuring a guy who fancies himself Imogen Heap; this second episode of Ghoul felt more of a chore than the first. Then again, the act of turning Ken was done; this was more about the realization of what he has become, and how ignoring his new needs will only lead to greater suffering.

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It’s a shame Ken is such an irritating little twerp most of the time, because his “flesh withdrawal”, made worse by hallucinations (or possibly something more) of Rize seductively egging him on, are effective and visceral, if a bit repetitive. But the focus of this episode is his relationship with his best/only friend and quasi-brother Hideyoshi, along with the awareness that ghouls aren’t simply showing up all over his world; they were always there and he just didn’t see them.

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Unfortunately, Hide comes off as a bit of a cypher himself: the ideal friend who is smarter than he looks (and he looks really dumb) who Ken can’t bear losing by going over to the flesh-eating side of things. But when Hide introduces Ken to Nishio, who is posing as a normal college student living a normal life, Nishio siezes the opportunity to again beat the crap out of Ken, then threaten Hide’s life, causing Ken’s (or rather Rize’s) kagune to sprout out of a desire to protect him.

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The kagunes are kind of silly looking and over-the-top; kind of the ghouls’ version of bankais. Hide’s is blue, while Ken has three or more, all red and sinister-looking. The colors of their fight scene are inverted so as not to show so much blood, which, like the heavily censored cold open, created more confusion and shrugging than actual excitement. This show is probably best watched uncensored, but I don’t have that option at present.

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In the end, Ken defeats Nishio fairly easily, but he can’t defeat his hunger. His dalliance in addressing that hunger puts him into a frenzy, and a crumpled Hide ceases being his treasured friend and just looks like irrestistable meal. Thankfully Touka appears (I assume she was following them; as Tokyo is kind of a big place), knocks him out, and she and her boss at the coffee shop (another ghoul) feed him while he’s out, ending his flesh-jonesing.

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The flashbacks that attempt to create a deep and meaningful bond between a character who has been doing little besides irritating us and his friend we’ve barely seen come off as a bit schmaltzy and generic. Where the heck is Ken’s family? Is Hide his only link to his human life? Seems that way. That makes the stakes of crossing over that much lower. You’re a ghoul now, dude…deal with it. The old cafe owner and Touka clearly have.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 01

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This show wasn’t on my initial Summer list, since from the admittedly very little I saw and read of it, I’d already seen it’s like before, with similarities to everything from Ao no Exorcist to True Blood. But with nothing else to watch, this first episode was to enticing to pass up, like the flesh laid out before Kaneki Ken. While it was impossible not to notice its many derivative elements, it was still a bloody fun romp.

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Many shows of this genre we’ve seen feature huge sprawling casts of various factions vying for power, but in the interests of easing us into its blood bath, the actors are thankfully kept as few as possible. There’s Ken, an utterly unremarkable bookworm of a kid with bangs that make him look ten years younger than he is, and there’s Rize, his gorgeous date, the true side of whom we see in the episode’s prologue, where she’s nude, enthusiastically gorging on flesh, and escaping a pursuer.

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With Rize, Hana-Kana gets to use both the cute/innocent and bad-ass/crazy/evil sides of her versatile voice. A ghoul—a vampire by any other name—she lures Ken somewhere secluded and attacks him with lustful vigor, totally throwing him, but not us, for a loop. He survives the assault when some steel girders fall on Rize, apparently killing her, and a doctor manages to fix him up, apparently by transplanting some of Rize’s still-intact organs.

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You can guess the rest: he becomes a ghoul himself…or rather a half-ghoul, which makes him unique (so far). Earlier in the episode he’s a bit of a tiresome pipsqueak, but watching the shadows literally close in upon him as he puts the pieces of the puzzle together, is nicely done. I particularly liked how all normal food and drink (given to him by his devoted best and only friend, Hide) now make him retch; now only human flesh will do.

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Like Haruto in Valvrave, he must choose to “resign his humanity”, although fate kind of chooses for him. When his nose leads him to a relatively kindly ghoul tucking into a fresh kill, their encounter is interrupted by Nishiki, an experienced ghoul and a heel who is ready to take over the dead Rize’s territory. He’s about to kill Nishiki when a girl named Touka shows up (Amamiya Sora in her first “tough girl” role).

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Touka was a waitress at the cafe where Ken meets Rize, and whom we imagine to be part of a more disciplined sect of ghouls than Rize or Nishiki. After dispatching the latter, she doles out some tough love to Ken, who is full-on Dr. Strangelove with his human side keeping his ghoul side from eating. Quick as a cat, she shoves the flesh right down Ken’s gullet, deciding for him that this is the way things are going to be.

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This is good, dark, twisted stuff; well-executed if not 100% (or even 50%) original. I liked how realistic, busy and richly-detailed the Tokyo backdrop appears, portraying the metropolis as one massive, seething buffet for Ken & Co. I’m hoping this episode wasn’t an anomaly in terms of either animation quality or amount of blood and gore for this show, because both were at a good level. I also appreciated that political claptrap was kept to a minimum.

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Car Cameos:

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 03

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As a ghost Nanana remains resolutely neutral, not even telling Juugo where any of her treasures are, because what would be the point of that? Also, the episodes would only need to be three minutes long, because they’d consist merely of Nanana telling Juugo and Tensai exactly where each treasure is and how to get to it. The experiences had while searching for a treasure are as important as the treasure itself.

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Last week we got a taste of what it takes to get to a treasure in the test that Juugo and Tensai take, in which Juugo’s stamina and toughness helped Tensai work out the system. This week we get an official “Ruin”, which Tensai discovers by observing the peculiar construction of the hexagonal mall tower perched 1000m above ground. What they find inside is yet another elaborate CGI setpiece of a very cool labyrinth. It actually reminded me of the Great Crystal dungeon or any other number of tricky video game mazes.

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When the puzzle is first robotically constructed, it could well have tipped the master detective Tensai off as to its solution. The translucent maze is built from some kind of rigid foam, chunks of which are cut away and subsequently rebuilt in a specific order. The sound effects are great. When Yuiga warns them that they’ll be risking their lives, and Tensai keeps almost falling down a yawning abyss to her death, it had my full attention.

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Precise study is required to fully devine the pattern, but Tensai succeeds, and leaves the gruntwork to Juugo once again; I must say they make a great team. Things took a definite turn for the sinister when Yuiga suddenly betrays them, grabbing the treasure—a wizard’s staff that grants its user practically anything—for himself and leaving Juugo and Tensai behind. What an ass! But I have to admit he had me totally fooled that he wasn’t right up to the moment I learned he was.

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The consequences turn out to be less severe and mortal as I thought though, as Juugo and Tensai simply have to keep from falling off the treasure chest floating in midair until the police arrive. It’s an cute scene between the two, being forced to hug. Interestingly the lady cops turn out to be dirty, stripping and beating Juugo, but he buys time for Tensai to track down Yuiga, who’s apparently just an errand boy of the head of the Great 7, suggesting this is about more than harmless fun and memories.

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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 02

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Nanana’s first episode did a fine job quickly laying out the world and introducing the two central characters and establishing their relationship. This week, a lot more people are introduced, including the other two girls who appear in the promo art—or the other girl and guy, to be precise, as Hoshino Daruku (Hanazawa Kana) seems to be a boy who’s always in drag.

The show makes this apparent to Juugo quite suddenly but without getting too hammy about it. Daruku (is he called that just because he’s…dark?) is constantly following behind Ikkyuu Tensai (Asumi Kana), self-proclaimed Master Detective, who made a very positive impression on me. She may appear to be your classic pint-sized bratty know-it-all, she shows to be much more.

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For one thing, while “Master” may be pushing it, she’s definitely a keen observer; or maybe she’s just good at surrounding herself with worse observers (Daruku; Juugo). But seriously, I know she’s good when she arrives at Juugo’s door with Daruku in a maid’s outfit; the first and only door she knocks on.

She calmly, carefully discovered who ended up with the eye jewel thingy, and learned as much as she could about him before meeting him. Just so Juugo knows she’s not just messing around, Tensai produces compelling evidence that Juugo stole …ahem… conveeenience from the convenience store via maid magazine, which rather hilariously gets him in the doghouse with Nanana.

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The episode also introduces meet Yuiga Isshin, president of the school Adventure Club, and the Veep, Ibara Yuu, who seems to worship the ground beneath Yuiga. He has her don a sexy maid costume of her own to get Juugo’s attention. Yuiga also knows Nanana personally, and wants Juugo to join the club, inviting him to take the entrance test.

That’s when the imagery takes a turn for the computer-generated, as the test room is a very trippy, surreal place that spits you out if you take a wrong step. Juugo shows that his worth is in his stamina, toughness, and refusal to give up, but after ten-plus failures, Tensai steps in and takes a look. Both the test and the manner in which she solves it are pretty nifty, and if this is a taste of the kind of adventure the club will be getting into en route to discovering Nanana’s treasures, then I’m sold so far.

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Space Dandy – 05

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Even though he ends up mired in them almost all the time, Dandy doesn’t like complications, or things that will tie him down or threaten his transitory nature. He does what he wants and doesn’t do what he doesn’t; taking orders from no one. While he may ‘sign’ every other line with “baby”, an actual baby would be anathema to Dandy. The moment someone starts a family they cease to be the most important person in their lives, and they cease to be their own boss to boot. That’s partly why Dandy doesn’t have a family; just a robot and a layabout cat-alien for company. This week, if only this week, that formula changes with the addition of Adélie, an alien who’s been humiliating alien hunters with a huge price on her head. Turns out she’s just a little girl looking for her family, and finds a fleeting one in Dandy.

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This is almost the inverse of Michiko and Hatchin, in which a wronged mother seeks out and snatches up her daughter (we really need to get back to that show someday…): Dandy had no intention of hanging out with a little brat, and indeed, he doesn’t seem he’d be guardian material, considering all the sleazy places he hangs out at, and the dangers his vocation lends. But with the Aloha Oe impounded, the 8 million Woolongs are worth a space train ride to the registration office with said brat. But like Hatchin, Adélie proves a match for Dandy’s robust personality, which is after all so much bluster and bravado…and boobs. At first they can’t even agree on the proper condiment for eggs, but they gradually warm to each other, and have fun adventures on their journey.

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We’ve said that Space Dandy never fails to put on a hell of a show with whatever genre-of-the-week it decides to focus on, and this kind of story is no different, hitting all the right comedic and dramatic notes. Of course, its effectiveness could have suffered had too harsh or bratty a voice been selected to play Adélie. Fortunately she’s voiced by Kanazawa Hana, provides a perfect balance of cheek, angst, and vulnerability. We imagine anyone would be eager to play such a beautifully-fleshed out, believable character even for one episode (though who knows, she may be back), who just happens to have stingers that can transfer peoples’ consciousness to plushies—a power that’s always used cleverly. More than anything, this episode redeems Dandy as someone with a heart of gold, which is beautifully revealed as his emotional stake in Adelie grows along with ours.

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After checking into a motel, Dandy announces he’s going out for a night of Boobies (which we know to be his church), leaving Adélie to stew alone. Our hearts literally soared when it turned out he was feverishly investigating the whereabouts of her grandfather, her only living relative. The reunion at the station goes delightfully un-smoothly when Adélie bristles at their apparent parting; accusing Dandy of abandoning her because she’s inconvenient; being no different from the other adults. Dandy’s daring rescue of her from the scorned alien hunters—while stuck in a stuffed penguin—was truly inspired. In the end, they do have to part ways, but not after changing one another’s preconceptions. Dandy met a decent kid and got a taste of fatherhood. Adelie met a decent adult and got a taste of daughter-hood. Hell, for all we know, Dandy IS her real father…


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Nisekoi – 01

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On the heels of an overall excellent second season to the Monogatari Series, Shaft director Shinbou Akiyuki brings us Nisekoi (“False Love”) which brings his visual flair and theatricality to a more conventional school rom-com. While Ichijou Raku (Uchiyama Kouki…hey Alice!) first meets Kirisaki Chitoge (Touyama Nao) by chance (thanks to a knee to the face), the titular “false love” is a creation of their respective families, both powerful yakuza clans. Now that’s a potentially ridiculous twist, but it works for us.

LBJ’s biographer Robert Caro said that LBJ and RFK were akin to two dogs who, for whatever reason, just didn’t like each other, and never would, despite being in the same political party and sharing a similar vision for their country Long before they know their dads are planning their betrothment, Raku and Chitoge are like this. Raku takes Chitoge’s accidental face-knee as a deliberate attack and quickly condemns her as a vicious, ill-natured, acrobatic gorilla. Chitoge is instantly turned off by Raku’s inability to let things go, diagnosing him with a persecution mania and questioning his manhood.

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Here’s the thing: they don’t just stay away from each other; their upbringings have imbued them with a sense of honor and responsibility for their actions, so Chitoge agrees to help him until his locket is found, even after he releases her in a fit of anger that even he feels bad about. With their clans inching towards war, they’re now being called upon to work together for the greater good, like LBJ and RFK. Those guys never would really like each other, but there’s definitely hope for Raku and Chitoge. But wait, you ask…who’s that second girl on the promo art; the brunette? That’s the third part of the love triangle, Onodera Kosaki (Hanazawa Kana).

While introduced as Raku’s kind, trusty platonic friend and classmate, and someone Raku is currently crushing on, turns out she’s the one with the key to his locket, the symbol of their agreement ten years ago to marry when they reunited. It might’ve been an accord between little kids gradually forgotten by others, but not Raku or Kosaki haven’t. Kosaki now knows Raku is the boy, but hasn’t told him she’s the girl. So as Raku begins a fake romance with the heiress of a rival clan for three years, Kosaki’s choices are limited.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Coppelion – 01

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90% of Tokyo has been reduced to the “world’s largest ghost town” by the fallout from a nuclear disaster. The Self Defense forces send three girls – Naruse Ibara, Fukasaku Aoi, and Nomura Taeko – into the city to respond to SOS calls. Immune to the radiation, the girls travel without protection suits or masks. They find a severely irradiated person in a riverbed, who is airlifted out by the girl’s superior, Vice Principal Mashima. The girls continue on in search of others, and end up encountering wolves.

“People don’t belong here anymore!” cries Aoi, who had been reticent about their mission from the beginning. And as we watched the three otherwise normal-looking high school girls walking casually through the deserted streets of a Tokyo returned to nature and off limits to those with ordinary DNA, we couldn’t argue with her. The ruined city is gorgeous and tranquil, but it’s also foreboding, and profoundly sad; as one of the greatest cities ever constructed reduced to a husk, and only a privileged (by their genetic makeup) few are able to enter. Many have compared the harnessing of the atom to the power of the gods, as there are few human achievements that can match it in terms of the risk of destruction. We take a risk by using it, and in the case of this series, a heavy price was exacted; Tokyo itself.

This first episode starts during girls’ first foray, but doesn’t try to do too much, letting us gain our bearings and gradually take in its world. Those who watched K will recognize the bold character design and immensely rich background detail. Character-wise we have the tough maverick (Ibara), the exuberant foodie (Aoi) and the animal lover/whisperer (Taeko). Tomatsu Haruka gives Ibara a strong leader’s voice, but we were a little disappointed and irritated by Hanazawa Kana chose for Aoi, it can be a bit shrill and she says a lot of useless stuff. We don’t know Taeko’s seiyu but she had a nice gentle, nurturing voice. Vice Principal Mishima is your typical straight-laced military man, who is the episode’s spokesman regarding how things ended up like this. Accompanying his exposition was his flyover of an eerily beautiful Odaiba, the epicenter of the “accident.”

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We’re digging the premise, the setting, and the production values, so we’re definitely continue with this. But K had an impressively gorgeous beginning too, but its story couldn’t quite keep up. Here’s hoping that’s not the case here.
  • When that dog first appeared we were apprehensive, as it sure looked a lot like a wolf to us. The girls may be immune to radiation, but not fangs…
  • One of Aoi’s few salient points: why don’t the girls have access to a car, or more precisely, a truck of some kind? Is this their minders’ way of keeping them in shape?
  • No doubt the series will explore how the girls see themselves: heroes with their own will, or tools/puppets by reason of their DNA?

Otorimonogatari – 02

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After letting herself be possessed by Kuchinawa, Nadeko lies to Koyomi on the phone about nothing being the matter. Taking the form of a white scrunchie on her wrist, Kuchinawa badgers her during the day, until she reminds him that her days were hers to do what she pleased without interference, and in exchange she’ll use the nights to search for his corpse. That night she goes out, but her parents call Tsukihi wondering where she is and Koyomi finds her and brings her to his room. Koyomi suggests she sleep in his bed, but Shinobu knocks him out and takes issue with her passivity, but admits she’s “enchanting.”

Last week showed us what probably awaits us at the climax of this arc: Koyomi and Shinobu fighting Nadeko, who had at some point become twisted by Kuchinawa to the extent that they had to try to take her out – and fail. But this week Kuchinawa and Nadeko are still on their “honeymoon”, with Nadeko striking a deal that she do his bidding in a way that won’t draw undue attention to her. Even so, sneaking out late at night is not normal behavior for Nadeko the quiet “good girl”, and she’s soon scooped up by Koyomi, who may well have some not-so-wholesome ideas for her. Enter Shinobu, who implies she’s saving Nadeko from “early motherhood.”

Once a totally silent, morose-looking little vamp who sat in the darkness, these days ‘Bu speaks her mind, and minces no words in sizing-up Nadeko. She calls her privileged, and when Nadeko protests, she fires off all of the ways she is indeed privileged. Her silence has netted her many boons, among them freedom from suspicion, the consensus that she’s smart and a good girl. Her genuine air-headedness and cuteness “enchants” other humans, to the point Shinobu compares her to an oddity. There’s a good chance while she’s saying all this she’s well aware Nadeko is possessed; she had dealings with Kuchinawa in the past, after all. So her sarcastic call for Nadeko to keep letting Koyomi worry about her is as much a warning as a barb.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This series has always been known for intimate close-ups of its characters, but camera made particularly sweet love to Nadeko this whole episode, fixating on her from every possible angle as she spoke to her wrist, or later with Koyomi and Shinobu. 
  • We enjoyed the architecture of Nadeko’s school and apartment, as well as Tsukihi’s rarely-seen, ridiculous bedroom. 
  • Nadeko’s nighttime adventure starts with a montage of gorgeous still shots that wouldn’t look half bad framed on our walls.

Otorimonogatari – 01

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Koyomi and Shinobu fight Sengoku Nadeko at the shrine, but her hair of snakes destroys Koyomi’s heart, causing a rain of blood. Flashing back to October 31st, Nadeko first meets Oshino Ougi, who delivers a warning about hiding behind victimhood. While at school, Nadeko starts to have hallucinations of white snakes. After a call to Koyomi asking for help, she starts to hear the voice of a snake named Kuchinawa, who insists she visit the shrine. There, she finds a dozen dead snakes, and a giant Kuchinawa asks her to “atone for her sins” by doing him “favors.” She tentatively agrees, and he possesses her.

We’ve now arrived at the third arc in Monogatari Series’ second season, one that involves the snake girl, Nadeko. We’ve always liked Nadeko because we really liked her seiyuu, Hanazawa Kana, but that turns out not to be the only reason to watch this arc. We’re treated to an enticing cold open in which we catch a glimpse of the dark future Nadeko is inching towards: one in which she and her snake apparition become one and she kills Koyomi, the one she loves. Starting at the end only to rewind to the beginning is a common storytelling device, but employed well here, as we see just how far Nadeko will fall.

Once we’re back at the beginning, the ominous Ougi makes an appearance, saying things that affect Nadeko’s thought process at a crucial juncture later on. We’re introduced to Nadeko’s “depressing” school life, and her sudden snake hallucinations are particularly unsettling. Her awkward call to Koyomi ensures he’ll eventually be on the case, but once the snake starts talking to her, Nadeko is in big trouble. He corners her and shames her into a contract, one that sets her on the track to that dark, bloody future. In doing so, she tacitally subscribes to Kuchinawa’s claim that the entire world is nothing but wrongdoers, making victims of one another but never being only victims.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This is the twelfth episode in the series; the eleventh was a recap of Bakemonogatari, and therefore wasn’t rated.
  • With a new arc comes several new ambient musical tracks, all of which we really liked.
  • We also enjoyed the new Nadeko-centric OP, which may be our favorite of the three arcs this season.