Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 04

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Well, that was weird.

After deploying in full force last week (save O.D.) and Tsubasa making her big debut on the battlefield, the Gatchamen find themselves at a crossroads. VAPE’s leader has been caught, and relatively easily, but then again, he doesn’t put up much of a fight. Why should he? He accomplished everything he set out to do. The Red Crowds were a menace. He suspects most people will think no differently about Blue Crowds.

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A great blow has been dealt to Rui’s dream of updating the world. But not all Gatchamen are on board about that being their purpose. “We’re heroes”, Tsubasa says again and again about her and the rest of them; that means when Rui is in trouble, she came to rescue him, even though he didn’t want to be rescued. Joe and Tsubasa remain of similar minds: endorsing Crowds is not their top priority; protecting the people is.

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While the Crowds have never been more feared by the public, opinion on the actual Gatchamen (and on Gelsadra) remains high, to the point Millio wants her and Tsubasa to be regulars on his TV show, perhaps ditching O.D. in the process. In an even stranger development, the Prime Minister resigns after the VAPE attack and calls for smartphone elections…again. This time, he makes it clear a vote for him is a vote for the continued presence of (Blue) Crowds in society.

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While Gel is certainly a popular idol, she believes the best way for her to enact real change on Earth is by winning that election. When she’s told she’s just a little girl, she transforms into an adult man—heck, why not? She’s an alien! I’d say she has a decent shot at winning. Does that mean the Crowds will be put on the back burner, replaced by Gel’s different approach of “uniting minds” and sowing mass happiness? Will the rift between Rui and less pro-Crowds faction of the Gatchamen widen? Times suddenly feel very uncertain.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 03

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Tsubasa and Gelsadra are wrangled into appearing on the Millione Show where they show off their practiced jokes, then visit the drugged-out Gatchaman HQ for the first time, where Paiman is angry they went on TV. Tsubasa doesn’t see the problem; it can’t be a bad thing for heroes to appear on TV to inspire the people they protect. Ultimately Paiman is appeased when Tsubasa calls him “Leader.”

Tsubasa’s goals as Gatchaman couldn’t be simpler: be a hero who protects the people. That’s it. She doesn’t have any interest in “updating the world” or evolution, as Rui does. When a disturbing new prophecy from JJ portends a city “of teeming masses colored crimson”, and Rui informs the other Gatchamen of Suzuki Rizumu’s aims, Tsubasa more or less sides with Hibiki Jou’s objection to keeping something like Crowds around when there’s the potential for danger and even bloodshed.

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Jou likes the newbie’s simpler, more realistic goals, and calls Rui’s determination “idealism.” This is the largest philosophical gap we’ve seen in the Gatchamen thus far, as Jou’s opinion isn’t all that different thatn Rizumu’s It’s also given credence when the prophecy comes true and the city turns red with great coordinated masses of red Crowds.

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No less than six Gatchamen suit up, the largest deployment in insight so far, and while it’s great to see them start to take the fight to the red Crowds, it’s clear they’re woefully outnumbered, as usual. Tsubasa, meanwhile, is stuck on the sidelines since she can’t reliably transform, and before long, Rui meets Rizumu on a rooftop helipad, where Rizumu says today is the day his Crowds will start taking lives.

He sees Rui’s attitude as that of a spoiled child having his toy taken away. He wants Rui’s note, too, and refusing to give up his ideals or belief in eveyrone, including Rizumu, Rui hands it over, only to cough up blood and collapse when Rizumu repeatedly stabs it.

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But JJ’s prophecy also mentioned “a great wind” saving “the flame of life.” That wind comes from Gelsadra, who after activating the moods of everyone in the city (who are mostly frightened), she sucks up all of those thousands mood icons, figures something out, then transforms into a figure of smoke, blasting the prophesied wind towards Tsubasa, who has successfully transformed and is racing to Rui’s aid with Hajime.

Rui is willing do sacrifice his life for his ideals, hoping his very public and televised death will be the catalyst that finally causes that world update he’s so intent on. And he could be right; the people are disgusted by the red Crowds’ actions. But even if the blue Crowds get their shit together, we’re still talking about a war, which won’t be bloodless. Not only that, Tsubasa isn’t going to let Rui die if she can help it.

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Akame ga Kill! – 11

"I'm not dead! No worries!"
“I’m not dead! No worries!”

From the moment Leone is stabbed in the head, I knew this was going to be a different kind of AGK; one in which for the first time Night Raid will have to repel an invasion of their no-longer-secret headquarters. The Jeager Dr. Stylish, your typical mad scientists, sends waves of foot soldiers and lieutenants at Night Raid, resulting in some nice matchups and a good variety of battles, some of which are faught in their pajamas!

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“Sorry, No time to change.”
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“‘Tis…but…a SCRATCH…”

First, a wrong is righted when Kakusan, bearing Sheele’s scissors, picks a fight with Tatsumi. Both are brawny, but Tatsumi does his job, getting beaten up enough for Kakusan to get too cocky, whereupon Mine arrives and uses her rifle in the worst possible pinch, making the weapon powerful enough to do Kakusan in entirely. The scissors are now back in Night Raid’s hands. It occured to us if Tatsumi’s old sword broke, he could become their new user, but we’ll see.

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Repelling an invasion is tiring work

An HQ invasion is a good chance to see the rear line in action, and we see the ingenuity necessary to ably wield Lubbock’s string arms, as he fights a knight-like foe in a narrow hallway. Lubbock gives way to Akane to lop off limb after limb off the increasingly Monty-Pythonesque knight, but it’s Lubbock who delivers the killing blow, an unsporting surprise blow from behind. But this isn’t the time for fair play; not with Night Raid’s haven and home on the line.

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“That was bugging me.”

After Leone takes out the guy who originally stabbed her (catching another one of his knives in her teeth), Dr. Stylish surrounds the assembled Night Raiders, who all succumb to a weakening poison except the armored Tatsumi. That’s when the cavalry comes into play, atop a giant manta ray danger beast. Najenda has returned just in time with two new members, only one of whom we see in action.

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“Hi-Ho, Tatsumi!”

Susanoo, as he’s called, is a powerful “Human-type Imperial Arm” whose very body is the arm itself, making him the one fighter immune to Stylish’s poison. He also takes the time fix Mine’s mussed hair, lightening the mood. Of course, his arrival on the battlefield leads Stylish to take it up a notch and inject himself with something that turns him into a berzerking monster, as mad scientists in things like this tend to do when they’re out of options.

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“I could use a shower. And breakfast.”

Tatsumi isn’t quite the poisoned Akame’s knight so much as her horse, as he carries her up to Stylish’s weak spot in a nice bit of teamwork. Again, it was good for Najenda and the other newbie not to engage in battle at all, as it’s smart to save some reserve awesomeness for the battles to come. After all, Stylish is just one Jaeger, and probably not the strongest.

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Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 03

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First, a confession: we’re not tobacco smokers; never have been. They just didn’t agree with us, unless we were very drunk, and even then, we paid a price the next day. That being said, we’ve always been very accepting of smokers’ right to smoke. We once lived with three smokers at once. When laws banned smoking in most bars, we felt like the bars lost their ambiance. And of course, we grew up seeing heros and villains alike enjoying a good smoke, and usually looking pretty cool while doing so.

Kate and Natasha aren’t like us. They’re not willing to live and let live with smokers. With them it’s Zero Tolerance Total Ban with no quarter for those who transgress, even their own comrade, Yasu, who has a history of misbehavior. We learn that he and Gorou were once gangsters who were in a tight spot and were saved by Kate; they apparently joined Zvezda not long after that. Gorou maintained a healthy fear of Kate’s power when she’s serious; a power we see as she battles the smokers of West Edogawa.

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Kate also possesses tremendous charisma and is able to rally previously scared and frustrated masses of fellow non-smoking residents into a fearsome army of “Smoke Busters.” Yasu’s little mini-revolt doesn’t last long once he sees Kate flash the same red eyes he saw when she was standing atop a pile of bodies, and goes back to Zvezda with his tail between his legs (though he still doesn’t swear off cigarettes.) As for the last bastion of smokers, they seem to turn into soulless ghouls milling around the street. Zvezda heads home, and everyone ends up back in their cozy little spaces.

So if this episode felt too preachy and mean to smokers, remember we’re talking about the whims of a little girl who feels very strongly about the subject. And at the end of the day, she isn’t wrong: second-hand smoke is dangerous. It comes down to moderation in opposition to an action: Kate has none, and is powerful enough not to bother with any. We’re reminded of a kid on This American Life (listen here) who tried to force his family to stop eating meat. His mom made him (grudgingly) admit that he didn’t get to decide what other people are allowed to eat. Of course, if this kid could summon a giant foe-smiting fist, things would be different….

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 02

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Jimon Asuta seems to be happiest at school, a place where he can forget about his problems and expand his knowledge. The problem is, it’s not a boarding school, and after a certain time, the students have to go hope. The school goes by all too quickly for Asuta (School Bell REEEMIX!), at which point his problems reappear: he’s starving and he has nowhere to go. He can’t very well shack up with Renge; this isn’t Chu2Koi!

Yet even under these circumstances, Asuta is weary of following Shikabane Itsuka to Zvezda HQ. Like any healthy lad, he fears the unknown, and would rather not complicate his life even more. But because Itsuka has a sword (and a very intricately-detailed one, at that) and he can’t seem to outrun her, Zvezda HQ is where he ends up anyway. And it’s exactly what you’d expect a secret society led by a weird little girl to look like: Howl’s Moving Castle’s distant cousin, with some Chuck-E-Cheese tubes mixed in for good measure. It’s whimsical and cool-looking (and we later learn it can be hidden from prying eyes).

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When Jimon and Itsuka go inside, there’s a normal genkan with slippers waiting for them, but we still felt a somewhat sinister aura coming off the walls deeper in; as if it was in Jimon’s best interest to stick close to Itsuka lest he Fall Down the Rabbit Hole. Natasha confirms this in her matter-of-fact warning to him, which she delivers while riding a contraption that allows her to move about while lying supine (clearly, comfort is a priority with her). Aside from that, the base is essentially a dorm with rotating chores, where he’s the new guy whose name no one can remember.

There’s a lot of attention to detail this week, both visually (dining room chairs embroidered with the Zvezda logo) and aurally (Roboko’s myriad mechanical sound effects). Not surprisingly, Itsuka is a terrible cook (her food is pixelated; a nice touch) and everyone is afraid to confront her about it, but watching Jimon’s reaction after taking a bite—in which he transcends time and space and possibly catches a glimpse of the beginning of the universe—really drives the point home.

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After Zvezda defeats the giant monster-of-the-week—for which Itsuka’s cooking is indirectly responsible—Jimon is the one who throws caution to the wind and finally calls her out on it. He has to endure her threats for a bit, but ultimately, his cajones led to him finding his place within Zvezda as their cook; turns out, he’s as good at it as she is bad. Ironic that his first act of courage is not in the face of an enemy, but an eventual ally (and Ise Mariya really lays on the surly.)

But not everything is peaches and sunshine: Zvezda has an archenemy in White Light, of which Jimon’s friend/crush Renge is a member (with the alias “White Robin”.) She even encounters Jimon while in her chic White Light garb, but he doesn’t recognize her. Right now he may just be happy he has a place where he can crash after school and be useful. But if he’s joining Zvezda, he can probably kiss Renge’s friendship goodbye.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)