Kuromukuro – 11

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No sooner than I complained about the show dragging a little do things really start picking up. And while they picked up in more or less the most predictable way they could, it doesn’t change the fact that this was the first Kuromukuro that actually got my heart pounding, both with the suspense (and suspended disbelief either of the leads would die) and the kinda-sorta-maybe budding romance (or at least mutual respect) between those leads.

Fusnarnie is truly a loose cannon this week, and for a second, I thought Mulder and Scully weren’t going to release Kennosuke to deal with the situation. Also, there’s no more playing around with big robots and evacuations; there is blood and death here, and Yukina witnesses it close up for the first time, and reacts exactly how a non-grizzled warrior would: with fear and near-paralysis.

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That fear keeps her alive, though; one wrong move, and she knows she could be toast; this guy only wants her alive long enough to let him contract with Glongur. Before he can, Ken corners him, but he still has his hostage.

This is when Yukina finally springs into action to facilitate Ken’s rescue; quickly darting back and smacking Fusnarnie in the face, a move he clearly didn’t expect her to make. Sure, she stumbles immediately, but she gives Ken just the opening he needs to engage the enemy. Who knows how things would have gone down had Yukina not chosen to act.

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Ken is able to best Fussy, but that doesn’t stop the guy from trying to take Yukina down with him. He gets perilously close to her—and she’s again too terrified to move—but Ken does what he has to to protect Yukina, stabbing Fusnarnie in the back. Shortly thereafter, Fussy lets himself fall over the railing to his death rather than stay alive in disgrace.

What follows is a pivotal moment in the show, when Yukina makes a connection to Ken when she sees him trembling just as much as she is. Is this his first kill? Probably not, but it’s certainly his first in a while, and in any case killing is never easy, nor was killing Fusnarnie Ken’s first choice (and not just because the agents wanted him alive; surely Ken wants answers too, particularly about his so-called “altered memory.”

But as he shakes, Yukina sidles over to him and hugs him from behind, as much to calm him as to calm herself. It’s a lovely moment and proof of real growth in their relationship.

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Speaking of love interests, I have just plain had it with Akagi, and not because I’m a Yukina x Ken shipper (though I’m certainly far closer to being one after this week).

His impulsive desire to become a GAUS pilot (and belief he has the talent based on his hi-score) is just so dumb for this show; as if he’s some shounen hero in another show who really should have become a pilot in the first episode or two, but instead just talks about it over and over. We get it: dude wants to protect Yukina. I just don’t see him as GAUS pilot, ever. I enjoyed his dad’s incredulous and exasperated expressions, however.

I’d much rather see more of Sophie, who is ostensibly one of the three main characters in the show but has been woefully underused. Hopefully the second half will feature more of her.

Uncle Oshou is another story altogether; he’s a side character who steals nearly every scene he’s in; I especially liked his story about the seated statue and how Ken reacted to it. I also liked how in the same scene, Yukina asks Ken out on a date without even knowing it. And while on the hiking trip, she sticks to the map while Ken of all people embraces the wonders of GPS to get them on the right track. That was unexpected.

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Unfortunately, there’s as much mystery surrounding where exactly Yukina was, who or what rescued her, and what became of the “80’s Electronics Cave Base” as there is surrounding Ken’s past, and those answers still aren’t forthcoming this week, but the hiking trip did allow Ken and Yukina to process their emotions about recent events involving one another, and that made up for it.

Yukina and Ken will still blush whenever he conversation turn slightly romantic, but they’re becoming more comfortable being honest with each other. Ken is devoted to protecting her, and Yukina is just fine with that. She’s very candid about how his rescuing her made her feel, and it’s doubtless a feeling she’d never felt before, just as she never before saw Ken trembling. This episode definitely re-stoked by enthusiasm for the show as it approaches its second half.

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Kuromukuro – 10

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A quick trip to MAL will show you that Kuromukuro currently only manages a very meh 6.95 rating, which for MAL means “Good” but we’ve since come to mean “watchable, but not necessarily recommended.” I’ver certainly dropped higher-rated shows before.

The low score isn’t due to a disgruntled source material audience unhappy with the adaptation, either: it’s an anime original. So what gives?

Well, like Kennosuke’s bizarre experience 450 years ago, it’s kind of hard to put my finger on it, and that’s part of the problem. It’s one thing to be consistently and demonstrably great or terrible; Kuromukuro is merely solid, at best.

It’s not badly put together, and some of the character interaction is quite strong; it’s just not particularly original or exciting. A lack of 9 ratings bear this out: Kuromukuro has entertained, but never wowed.

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I never like quitting a show right in the middle, but with a planned 13 more episodes in addition to the 13 this Spring, I need to start taking a good long look at whether this show will be worth retaining into the busy new Summer season, which promises several new mecha series, the quality of which I can’t vouch for. (Macross will likely be continuing on as well, but I’m unaware of whether it will take a season off).

Basically, things need to start picking up, and soon. This episode promised a lot, but it really only amounted to table-setting. Now, table-setting can be interesting, but this week wasn’t, despite the fact we now have an Efidolg captive and learned more about Ken’s aforementioned experience, both under questioning by UN officials brought in from outside the Kurobe Lab.

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Interrogation episodes can be great, too, but again, Kuromukuro does not distinguish itself or add anything new to the genre. The interviews are largely dull and uninformative, as Fusnarnie, as he’s called, isn’t interested in giving many detailed answers, and Ken simply doesn’t remember very well what happened.

This is frustrating to him, on top of his whole “continuing to live in shame while his princess is dead” dilemma, and Yukina is just as frustrated (as I was) by the lack of answers from that weird cave with the “demon” who may have been her dad. What could have been an episode of bombshell revelations amounted to little more than more teasing of larger but still obscured things, combined with lots of moping by the main pair.

And don’t get me started on Akagi; this stiff’s cockamamie idea to simply become a pilot without actually putting any work in (and thinking his arcade high score is a gauge of his talents) just fell flat with me. Yukina couldn’t care less about this guy; why should I?

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One of the better parts of the episode was the flashback, in which we see Ken is a member of the soldiers fighting for Yukihime, and not, as Fusnarnie claims, an Efidolg advance guard. Or is he? How far in advance did he arrive? Did he bonk his head and forget who he was, and simply joined the princess’ guard since he’s good with a sword?

I’m not sure how else to explain how he’s able to pilot the Black Relic so easily. Was there something in Yukihime’s blood that made that possible? More to the point, is Yukihime really even dead, or was that light just a tractor beam that took her up to the mothership, where she remains? Lots of questions, as you can see, but precious few satisfying answers.

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I’m not particularly interested in the UN and Sophie being suspicious of Ken, either, seeing as how he’s only served the good guys faithfully all this time. Also, if Fusnarnie is to be believed, Ken betrayed his people; why would he switch back to the “enemy”?

Nevermind, all we get at the end is a somewhat obvious cliffhanger in which Fussy breaks free, kills his captors, summons his “Lion”, and just happens to bump into Yukina in the corridor, grinning when he realizes she’s a wielder. So great; now Yukina probably needs to be rescued…again.

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Kuromukuro – 09

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Not long after coming to in a cave filled with clocks and obsolete electronics, Yukina passes back out, as if hypnotized by the mysterious figure with the robotic voice and her dad’s watch and journal. She wakes up in a bus shelter, where Akagi and Kaya find her.

Just like that, all the potential answered questions about Yukina’s dad, and all the other mysteries in that cave, dissipate. That was a little disappointing, and the whole cave thing felt like a tease, but I came to forgive the episode when Yukina came around on piloting the artifact with Ken.

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What I like is that there wasn’t any one reason she didn’t want to and tried to run away: she’s scared; overwhelmed by the pressure; uncertain if this was the right path. But she also doesn’t like how she’s been ordered around like some automaton. Would it hurt for someone to ask her nicely?

Having dealt with her absence, Ken is resolved to let Yukina go, but Yukina isn’t ready for Ken to disappear from her life. She’s taken a shine to the guy, and vice versa, and when he realizes it’s as simple as asking nicely, he does so, and before lone Yukina is back in the cockpit with him.

I also appreciated that Hiromi’s decision not to let the military force her daughter into the artifact, even using her body as a shield. The protection is unneccesary, as Yukina was only “annoyed with herself” and needed some time and space, which she got, and is now willing to do her part.

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Once Yukina and Ken are in their tough new skin-tight nanofiber flight suits, Yukina puts on a brave front but Ken sees her hands shaking. She admits it: she’s scared shitless, but that command artifact out there isn’t going to defeat itself, and she doesn’t want Ken to use her absence as an excuse to get himself killed, nor does she like the idea of him sacrificing his life to save her. She’d prefer if they get through this together.

What “that” is could have been very intriguing indeed, had Efidolg succeeded in abducting Glongur and bringing Yukina and Ken up to the mothership. But that possibility is negated when the UN’s hunch about the tractor beam neutralizing the artifacts’ shields proves true.

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Another possibility not realized: Akagi and Kaya are once again very close to an errant missle explosion, but neither is even slightly injured. Not sure why they keep teasing the fact that these two could end up stains on the mountainside, adding to Yukina’s burden by association, but Akagi is determined to play a larger role in her protection, and not just because he teased her when they were little.

Sophie and the guy with the dirty mouth show up to take out the small fry, leaving Ken free to take on the boss artifact. He has trouble with his acrobatics, but Yukina again uses her unusually extensive knowledge of geology to lure the artifact onto a rock face she knows will crumble.

Rather than self-destruct, the Efidolg pilot surrenders. This was initially surprising, but I’m pretty sure when both Plan A (capturing Glongur) and Plan B (defeating Glongur in a duel) failed, he pivots to Plan C: letting yourself be captured by the enemy so you can learn more about them and possibly escape and cause more damage from within. We’ll see how he plays it.

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Kuromukuro – 08

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Like Ikari Shinji, who was overwhelmed by duties and expectations, Yukina seeks refuge away from the places that have oppressed her, but neither strays too far. Yukina hides out in Ogino’s room (decorated with posters of other P.A. Works), unsure of what she wants to do but very sure of what she doesn’t, namely fight and kill people in Glongur.

Ogino is a good friend in that she lets her crash there, lies to her mom for her, and gives her space to sulk. But she’s also a good friend because she provides her own perspective on Yukina’s plight—i.e. it’s a blessing, not a curse—and tells her the sulking and running has to end eventually, and she has to go home.

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Akagi and Kaya turn out to be fine, and were only gone as long as they were because Akagi’s bike ran out of gas. He gets a punch and a stern reaming from his father, warning his son not to “keep living for others’ approval,” but Akagi is mostly concerned with gaining Yukina’s approval, and he feels bad for ending up in a position where she might have been hurt.

Ken claims not to be worried about Yukina, and is only searching for the key to his artifact, but let’s be real here: of course he’s worried; after all, he’s still not certain Yukina isn’t the reincarnation of his princess. The princess is gone and his sense of purpose with it…except that Yukina has been filling the role of protectee he needs so dearly.

Talk about what Yukina wants comes up both in class and at UN control. Sophie suspects that if Yukina being in that artifact’s cockpit is the only thing keeping Earth safe, Yukina’s getting in that cockpit, whether she wants to or not. Unlike Shinji’s dad Gendo, Hitomi isn’t ready to commit to forcing Yukina; she’s more concerned with simply finding her.

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Yukina’s would-be protectors mount a search for her; Ken on the big horse he met earlier, Akagi on his refueled bike (with Kaya tagging alone, hungry for more viral streaming).

Rather than go to school (which would feel like a quick surrender), Yukina heads into the Kurowashi Valley, where the castle of Ken’s lord once stood but has since been reclaimed by nature.

Not having any satisfying answers about how to proceed, perhaps she thinks following her father’s journal and exploring the site where the demons once attacked might shed some light on her proper path. Or heck, maybe she’ll find her missing dad.

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Little does she know, the area is swarming with formerly dormant Efidolg Cactii, one of which zeros in on her location and attacks her. She’s saved neither by Ken (who gets close but never finds her by episode’s end) or Akagi (who took off later).

Instead, the magenta cactus is destroyed by a mysterious blue robot and a man with a very sharp sword and a watch Yukina instantly recognizes as—you guessed it—her father’s. The way this reunion has unfolded, it’s almost as if Yukina was always meant to ‘run away’ (even just a little bit) in search of either a reason for—or alternative to—pilot Glongur.

I’ll close by presenting two little snippets from the episode of both Ken and Yukina talking to themselves:

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I just wanted to point these moments out because I laughed heartily at both, for different reasons. Ken’s surprise at the horse’s size is another unique product of a samurai from four centuries ago suddenly finding himself in the present, where horses (and Japanese people) are simply larger due to better food, medicine, and breeding. His delivery is great too.

Yukina’s observation, on the other hand, is one of the most sophisticated collections of words she’s spoken. It seems meant to show us there’s more to this unmotivated airhead than meets the eye. She’s either a secret geology buff or maybe she was just paying special attention to one particular part of class.

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Kuromukuro – 07

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Ken and Yukina achieved a great victory; they are the only ones in the world who were able to defeat a geoframe of Efidolg, even if Hedo took his own life rather than allow himself to be captured. But it’s far worse than that: Yukina is simply done.

She’s gone along up to this point, but she never truly signed up for this, and she just can’t get into the headspace required to take more life, especially when the so-called “demons” have human form. She retreats into her room; into her dreams; into her past, when she was berated by peers for being the daughter of a presumed madman.

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His “lies” made her a liar. She’s always resented this, and her mother was never present enough, either emotionally or physically, to do much about it. So it’s stewed. That Dad turned out to be right doesn’t change the fact she carries scars, even if they’re not the kind that show, like Ken’s (whose bashfulness with “virtually naked” girls during a free swim was another nice touch. Dude is simply not used to women.)

It’s not that she takes a particular moral stance against fighting the enemy; she simply feels deeply in her bones that she’s not the girl for the job. Tom doesn’t help matters by calling her worthless. At school, Yukina feels lost, and she can’t accept the adoration and gratitude of most of her classmates, because some believe she did nothing to save Akagi and Kaya from being killed (their fates remain a mystery).

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Sophie, for her part, tries to make an appeal to Yukina’s inner bushido, but to no avail. Yukina doesn’t want to be the person with the fate of the world on her shoulders. It’s just too BIG. Why can’t she just go to the supermarket after work and buy ingredients for dinner?

When Ken finally tries to assure her he doesn’t think she’s just a tool, and then plots out his post-revenge course as leading to his eventual reunion with the princess (i.e. death or suicide), Yukina’s refusal to ride with him intensifies. She doesn’t want any blood on her hands.

She also believes the demons aren’t demons, after meeting one and seeing an ordinary human. We’re finally allowed inside the orbiting Efidolg mothership, where a small council of pilots like Hedo reach the consensus that their plans cannot continue as long as Glongur walks the Earth; it and its pilot must be destroyed.

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These spacefaring warriors seem so very far away from Yukina’s simple life, but at this point I just don’t see her staying out of the fighting. Even if her mother won’t force her, something will surely come up to convince Yukina, like her male Eva counterpart Ikari Shinji, to jump into that cockpit once more.

Despite Yukina’s multiple (and reasonable, considering the life she’s led thus far) reservations, and the fact this week ends with her running away from home after her mother slapped her for being presumptuous about her late father, this only seems like delaying the inevitable: Yukina and Ken will keep fighting Efidolg, because no one else can, and because those Yukina loves and cares about will be in danger if she doesn’t.

There’s also, like, a million episodes left. Way too early for our heroine to throw in the towel…but probably not the last time she’ll waver, either.

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Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo

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14 years after third impact, Ikari Shinji awakens to a world he does not remember. He hasn’t aged. Much of Earth is laid in ruins, Nerv has been dismantled, and people who he once protected have turned against him. Befriending the enigmatic Nagisa Kaworu, Shinji continues the fight against the angels and realizes the fighting is far from over, even when it could be against his former allies. The characters’ struggles continue amidst the battles against the angels and each other, spiraling down to what could inevitably be the end of the world. (Source: ANN)

We find ourselves in a conundrum: having primarily written reviews on individual episodes lasting an average of twenty or so minutes each for nearly three years, whenever a film comes around, it’s a struggle to write a review about it. Fully aware that having just finished watching the film without even starting to absorb everything we saw and heard, we won’t be able to do our ultimate thoughts justice in this hastily written review. So instead we’re going to try to keep things as brief and simple as possible, starting with our verdict on the third Evangelion film: It was good. Very good. Everything we were hoping for, and far more than we could have expected.

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It occurs to us that back in June 2010 (about three months before we started up RABUJOI), after returning from a trip to Tokyo and having been bombarded with promotional material for the second film, we did just that: keep it simple. That review was just 465 words, back before we had written many reviews. We didn’t re-watch the first two films, but we did re-read our review of the second in preparation for the third. In hindsight, we needn’t have bothered. The third film is all-new, continuing the trend of showing us an Eva we have never seen before, drawing from a dense mythos that has endured and thrived for 16 years now.

Like the Children, the Eva franchise is a teenager, and a moody, fiery one at that. It lashes out and grabs you from the thrilling opening minutes, and as usual, even when we found ourselves as lost and confused in all the sci-fi, crypto-theological techno-babble, elaborate mechanical feats, and apotheothetic explosions as Shinji, we still loved every minute of it. But strip away all the fancy eye candy, and intentionally or not, Anno Hideaki tells a very simple story in this film. It’s about Shinji waking up after an amount of time equal to his entire life, finding that everything is different and nothing makes sense, and being totally unable to deal with that.

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With his new friend Nagisa Kaworu (AKA Seele’s Child), Shinji calms down and is able to find a purpose in this new world, only that purpose not only makes him an enemy of his friends, but also threatens to destroy the world rather than save it. Still, even when Kaworu warns him not to, Shinji follows through, makes a bigger mess, and has to be bailed out by Kaworu, who becomes the thirteenth angel. He saves Shinji, and by stopping the fourth impact, saves the world as it stands and everyone in it.

Dejected by the loss of Kaworu, with whom he had bonded so deeply, and aware that his actions have somehow been the cause of everything thus far, Shinji cowers in the darkness of his ejected and soft-landed cockpit plug. He’s afraid to move, to do anything else that will hurt others. But then Asuka finds him, pulls him out, grabs him by the hand and makes him move forward with her. Rei has also landed nearby, and what do you know, the three kids are reunited for the grand finale. After dealing with a world where everything had changed and everyone rejected him, and the only person who didn’t died, Shinji now has a little bit of stability back.

His dad is a distant ass and he never knew his mom, so these two girls, whatever else they might be, are his family.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Misato and Ritsuko looked so different and were so cold to Shinji, at first we thought he’d ended up in an alternative universe.
  • Their organization Wille seems to be a counterbalance to NERV.
  • Wille’s flagship, the Wunder, is suitably awesome. It’s the Avenger’s flying aircraft carrier on steroids, and its bridge is just nuts.
  • Mari Makinami Illustrious remains a very mysterious and somewhat one-note character. She’s just kinda around to back Asuka up and fire off quips. We get it; nothin’ fazes you!
  • Rei’s little hut is just as depressing as her old apartment, with many of the same trappings. 
  • It’s a little detail, but we like how Anno stuck with the same design for title cards as the original series, including the series of flashes at the end of the “A-part”.
  • The film was prety light on fanservice, but at this point Asuka’s entire character design is pure fanservice.
  • Turns out Rei is a cloned copy of Shinji’s mother Yui. Like we said…family!
  • Asuka has ceased calling Shinji “idiot”. She’s moved on to “brat.”
  • Gendou is willing to sacrifice everything in order to complete the Human Instrumentality Project and “kill God”. Shit’s heavy, man.
  • Man, there’s nothing quite like hearing that classic preview music at the end. That is how you do a fucking preview.
  • After our initial post-watching excitement, we’ve reduced the rating to 9. The original tv series would probably score a 10 were we to rate it, and at the end of the day none of the new films quite stand on the same level as the original.

Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle – 05

The POG brings Kaito to their HQ in Japan, but before he can meet the head, he has to clear a gauntlet of puzzles. Nonoha and Gammon tag along, and they do al the solving while Kaito realizes all of the puzzles are a part of his past, including one that killed his parents. This realization causes him to collapse, and only the shock of Nonoha’s cookies can bring him back. Crossfield declines to meet with him after all, and later Kaito finds he can no longer solve puzzles.

Geez, talk about an efficient drinking game: every time someone says “puzzle”, take a drink. Anyway, where do we begin? That the POG has massive tiltrotor planes? That an extremely elaborate gauntlet of puzzles was set up just to toy with Kaito? That Crossfield may not quite grasp the rules of Chess? The silliness soars to greater highs this week, and Kaito’s breakdown is as random as it is goofy and cliche’d (Gammon even refers to him as going “all Ikari Shinji”, which was pretty funny.)

All of Crossfield’s monologues as he fiddles with a chessboard are all a bit murky: does he actually want Kaito to reach the Phi Brain (whatever it is) and solve the Divine Puzzle (whatever that is)? Is his goal to purge all “ethics, common sense, and emotion” from Kaito? Yeah, good luck with that. Finally, he’s being portrayed as a Bad Guy, but what has he really done – aside from preside over an organization that builds potentially murderous puzzles – and more importantly, what’s his beef, if any?


Rating: 2.5