Aldnoah.Zero – 13

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A/Z’s second cour picks up nineteen months after the incident at Saazbaum’s castle. Slaine is now a Vers Knight piloting Tharsis and taking it to Terran Kataphrakts raiding the satellite belt.

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Meanwhile, Princess Asseylum (who IS still alive) delivers a propaganda speech voicing her newfound support for the war against Earth and praising the Orbital Knights. I buy that she may have recovered from her wounds, but my first thoughts were that she’s either an impostor or being forced to toe the hard line. In any case, something’s not quite right.

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Down on Earth, Inko, Nina (who was watching the speech on her phone) and Rayet are enjoying R&R, and Inaho seems to be on Inko’s mind.

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Up in orbit, Count Saazbaum (also not dead!) welcomes Sir Slaine back aboard and praises him for his prowess in battle. We’re also introduced to the frail Princess Lemrina, who is clearly the one posing as Princess Asseylum in those videos.

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When Martian Count Yacoym launches an assault against UEF headquarters, the girls are recalled. Inko is weary, but Rayet assures her, they “don’t have time do die.” In fact, as they form up to defend their base, Rayet seems to have replaced Inaho as the calm, cool squad leader. But neither she nor Inko can get close to Yacoym’s Kat, “Frozen Elysium”, because it freezes solid all enemy kats that come near him, along with the pilots inside.

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Things are about to go bad when Inaho surprises both girls by coming up from behind them in Orange and taking control of the situation. At this point, come-from-behind wins are his specialty, and he’s got it down to a science, using his new bionic eye to analyze all of the variables needed to determine the proper way of taking Yacoym out.

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Inaho still has that insufferable Martian arrogance and overconfidence aiding him, as he times his shots to his advance until he’s in point-blank-range, and it’s bang, Game Over. Slaine may have been badly wounded by that kat crash, but in a year and a half he seems to be back on top of his game.

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It seems to have been many months since Inko and Rayet have seen Inaho, so their reunion is appropriately warm and touching, even though Inaho is as stiff as a board. Inko’s joy and relief are palpable, while even Rayet cracks a joke about how Inaho’s people skills have improved since they last met.

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As for what happened after episode 12 went dark, Slaine chooses Vers and escapes with Saazbaum and Asseylum, while Inaho’s sister finds him and brings him to the bridge of the powerless Deucalion. He needs surgery, but there’s no way to get him there. But then, when Inko’s tears mix with Asseylum’s spattered blood on his face and runs into his mouth, his body suddenly glows with the light of Aldnoah, and the core starts back up, saving everyone. Jeez, even while passed out Inaho even manages to come through big when it counts.

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Back in the present, Inaho, Inko and Rayet catch another one of Asseylum’s sketchy broadcasts, and in a nice callback to the time Inaho corrected Asseylum on why the sky was blue, the Princess on air makes the same mistake a second time. If I were Inaho, that could be enough to suspect the girl they’re watching is not the real Asseylum.

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That fact is confirms when the broadcast is over and Saazbaum and Slaine thank Princess Lemrina for her help. Slaine then pays a visit to the real Asseylum, who is floating in a stasis tube surprisingly, not naked. I wonder if she’s in there because they can’t fully save her, or if she’s there for security’s sake?

In any case, I’m not dwelling on the somewhat irritating fact A/Z couldn’t wrap up in one cour, and chose not to kill anyone important off. There’s still a lot of Martians holding territory on Terran soil, and Saazbaum was just one victory, and a costly one. Earth will need a lot more of them to turn the war around, and I’m looking forward to watching Inaho, Inko, and Rayet achieve them.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 07

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Psycho-Pass 2 follows an uncharacteristically indulgent episode with one that sets aside the guns, drones, explosives, and boats and gets down to the less shouty and visceral but arguably more interesting police work that’s necessary to learn about, find, and catch Kamui Kirito.

After showing us Mika grudgingly cleaning up area stress mess her superior made for her, we delve briefly into Akane’s own mind, where she shoots the breeze with an echo of her mentor Kogami, who reminds her of the basics of detection: being confronted with something impossible either means wrong assumptions…or insanity.

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Both he and Togane bring up the same possibility: the answers are probably closer than they think. I see Akane continues to light cigarettes, but we have yet to see her puff, unlike Shion, who wonders if Saiga is being so calm because he’s found out a way to stop Kamui. But Matsuda said nothing, so he’s got nothing; as long as Sybil continues to deem Inspector Shisui’s psycho-pass as clear, she — and by extension Kamui — can do as they please.

Speaking of psycho-passes…we finally meet a family member of Akanes, her grandma Aoi, whose hospital Akane rushes to when there’s a report of a medical drone malfunction. Aoi is fine, but encourages her as Kogami did in her head earlier, though in a different way. Her granny tells it like it is, and the way it is is that Akane always puts others before herself and understands the value of life; every life — to the point of neglecting or jeopardizing her own.

It makes Akane a tremendous cop, but it wouldn’t normally be the formula for a happy life, or even a clear psycho-pass. But Akane doesn’t  mind living in a crime scene or not having a boyfriend or putting in the work that’s needed.

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Her main frustration in life is probably having to serve under a system as fundamentally corrupt and flawed as Sybil, simply because the alternative is probably worse; the cure is worse than the disease. In this, she’s diametrically opposed to Kamui, who’s willing to do whatever it takes and sacrifice as much life as is needed to bring Sybil down.

Which begs the question: What does Sybil make of all this? Akane confers with “Chief Kasei” to try to divine that. At this point in the case Akane is not in the mood for playing around; she flat out voices her suspicion Sybil is afraid to take action outside of normal operations, lest it reveal their weakness. Sybil is aware Kamui is unique, but because he’s not the kind of ‘unique’ that made, say, Mikishima an excellent candidate to join the Brain Trust.

When Akane tells her there’s no way to bring Kamui in By The Book, Kasei agrees, but she doesn’t want him brought in period. Sybil would prefer if Kamui quietly disappeared, and points out that Akane and Togane had the means to ‘deal with’ Kamui but refrained from doing so. But Akane isn’t killing anyone if she doesn’t have to. She promises Kasei she’ll arrest him lawfully and bring him to proper justice, not the shadowy, loose end-tying justice Kasei intimates.

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Speaking of Togane: As expected, Mika hasn’t shared her knowledge of his intense clandestine surveillance of Akane with anyone, and particularly not Akane, who remains a thorn in her bushy tail. Not that there’s no value in withholding knowledge and until she finds out more, but as she learns Togane was once an enforcer eighteen years ago, and every inspector he touched was declared a latent criminal and executed with Dominators, she may want to say something to someone soon.

Also,  Togane is totally on to her; both her unsettling of his quarters and the spilling of her drink suggests she may be a bit of a klutz.

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I mentioned the presence of nitty-gritty police work in this episode, and there’s plenty to be done. A lot of progress is made in the case, but that progress was unwittingly delayed by, yup, Mika, who simply sat on Hinakawa’s digital report on the pharmacist holo at the scene of Aoyanagi’s death. That holo was another aged-up version of a child who died on a plane crash fifteen years ago.

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Realizing how Hinakawa’s skills can aid in the case, Akane sets him to work aging up the 184 children (of the 201 passengers) who died on that flight. They also learn that the sole survivor of that plane crash was one Kamui Kirito. Boom.

After locating and inviting the doctor who treated Kamui to answer some questions, Akane tells Mika to look into Kamui’s treatment records to corroborate whatever the doc ends up giving them. Naturally, she pawns this work off on Hinakawa, who’s already got an all-nighter ahead of him.

But when Hinakawa hits a confidentiality wall and suggests it could be due to sensitive drug or medical tech patents, Mika recalls the name of one of the leading organizations in that field: the Togane Foundation. Uh-oh.

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The one tasked with talking with Dr. Masuzaki is Professor Saiga, which is, again, a wise choice on Akane’s part, because it affords us an always welcome Epic Old Guy Staredown, but Masuzaki is actually fine with telling Saiga everything, or at least something about Kamui. Heck, the Doc seems almost paternally proud of the kid.

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But just as Akane depends on the talents of Saiga and Hinakawa, Shion and Yayoi, Ginoza and Togane, and yes, even Mika (who’d be relegated making Starbucks runs if were her boss) in order to achieve her goal of bringing Kamui to justice, so too does Kamui rely on others to achieve his goal to bring Sybil down.

That’s made abundantly and shockingly clear, as is the earlier notion that “the answer is closer than we think”, as the aging up of the remaining 185 children reveals that dozens of holo-impostors of people Akane and the others know are already walking among them.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 06

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Kamui is committed to discovering and exploiting every weakness in the Sybil System, and he continues to prove he’s exceedingly good at it, luring a large force of MWPSBers into an elaborate trap, perverting the same holo software used to “sanitize” military drone footage so operators’ Psycho-passes don’t get clouded.

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The facility is also a chance to test out his new convert, Former Inspector Shisui. One major weakness of Sybil is obviously the use of eyes. Granted, few people are able to perform successful eye transplant, if one does, one can control any Dominator as if he was an inspector. And while we saw what torturous ordeals Shisui went through in Kamui’s custody, here she’s actually grateful he took her eye. Among this guy’s many gifts and disciplines, add in psychological manipulation and infectious charisma.

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It’s a another particularly shitty day for MWPSB, who are, after all, nothing but complacent, obedient pawns to Sybil. Even if the drones weren’t hacked and trying to kill them all, MWPSB doesn’t even have enough ammo to destroy them all. Rushing in there was a costly mistake; Division 3 is eviscerated. And we hardly knew thee…

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Back at HQ, the gang isn’t sitting still. Well, they are, but they’re tapping away at computers. Well, Saiga isn’t, but…hey, he’s the over-brains of the counter-hacking operation, planting the idea in Shion’s head that the key to stopping the drones is their own MPS operational servers. Saiga basically helps prevent a crisis from turning into an calamity, and if it wasn’t for Akane, he wouldn’t even be in that building.

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Naturally, Mika is utterly dismayed and appalled by Akane’s actions, most of all putting the safety of lowly enforcers before her own and going after Kamui herself; ushing to the forefront instead of staying back and delegating. It doesn’t help that recent events have had a somewhat clouding effect on Mika’s soul, to the point she mutters that she hopes Akane gets clouded.

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That’s after coming back from Togane’s quarters, where she found that he was taking constant measurements of Akane’s color. Togane can’t help himself when Akane has her back turned to him in the field. He’s astonished by how clear she is, even there, which, as he thinks to himself, makes him want to turn her black that much more. Clearly, Akane needs to watch this guy, but she’s given no indication of being anything other than totally in the dark regarding him. Mika knows something now, but I expect her to keep that knowledge to herself. Why help Akane out, and reward her for breaking the rules constantly?

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Oh, and if you like turn-off-your-brain action, you liked this episode. The running and jumping and shooting and exploding is virtually non-stop, with Akane right in the thick of it; she’s everywhere, kicking ass and taking names. The clever tactics used to bunch the drones together so their guns lock (a measure to avoid hitting one another) is a particularly neat little setpiece, though how Akane and the others survive an ammunition warehouse explosion is uncertain! Really, how are they not dead?

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As it turns out, Mika missed out on all the action, which was probably for the best, as she’d probably only issue orders that would have made the situation worse and cause the deaths of more enforcers and civilians. It’s also nice that Shion, Yayoi, Hinakawa and Saiga pay her no mind while switching off the holo overlays. Yes, it clouds a great many minds, but it also saves their lives. The righteous Mika has the usual arguments about how This Is Not How Things Are Done (clearly unfazed by the Chief’s shutdown last week), and Saiga tells her what we all want tell her: “Quit yer damn whining!” Some problems, he says, simply can’t be solved (or even understood, I’ll add) by doing things by the book.

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Kamui is one of those things. He’s a ghost to Sybil’s technology, and he’s also a cunning creature who’s been able to turn it around on itself almost every time. Now he has at least five Dominators, and the ability to use them all at any time. For her confrontation, Akane brings a real gun, but suddenly remembering Kogami, she can’t fire it, nor does she allow Togane to. Kamui gets away very slowly on his boat (named What Color, LOL), but the standoff ends with Akane still a Dominator in the clear, which she needs to continue to be if she’s going to stop Kamui.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 05

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Man oh man, when Psycho-Pass is on, it is frikkin’ ON. This was one of those times. It had it all: turned inspectors, sketchy enforcers, brain-picking, inspector head-patting, attempted inter-office political wrangling, failed freaking tattling, and one more big MWPSB operation…which is exactly what Kamui wanted bearing down on his ostensible location on an isolated island used for military drone development and training. What could possibly go wrong?

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We start off where we left it last week: the site of a major MWPSB fuck-up and defeat. The gory scene — not to mention the way it went down, by MWPSB hands — is understandably a bit much for Mika, who retches and vomits into a sink, clearly scarred by the experience. Even so, her location near the bathroom turns out to be fortuitous, as she spots Togane pointing his Dominator at Akane. The reading? A puny, blindingly-clear 26. As Professor Saiga remarks quite hilariously while Akane is visiting to convince him to interrogate Masuda, Is Akane really human? I hope she turns out to be, because that’s what makes her so damn awesome.

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Okay, I feel a little bad for Mika, and the scene where Kunizuka tenderly pats her head (and said patting is covered by Multiple Camera Angles!) is pretty damned cutebut Mika is still The Worst until she inevitably proves herself otherwise at a later date.

As Professor Saiga remarks quite hilariously while Akane is visiting to convince him to interrogate Masuda, Is Akane really human? I hope she turns out to be, because that’s what makes her so damn awesome.

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Speaking of non-humans, Mika runs to mommy to tattle on Akane being so darned unorthodox. Standing at attention, Mika lays out a carefully-considered, comprehensive argument for why she believes Akane may require “treatment” or at least closer observation and a tighter leash…only to be totally shot down by Chief Kasei, who is very unimpressed and all like “Uh…And?”

What I hoped she’d say was, “Girl, you best GTFO and stop wasting my time before I throw a shoe at your scrawny ass.” Mika scurries away, and Kasei determines she’ll get “eaten alive.” It was just a flawless shutdown, in every way. I’m so glad Kasei is still around, and simultaneously on and most definitely not on Akane’s side.

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While poring over Masuda’s speeches with Shion, it doesn’t take a genius (not being sarcastic) like Saiga long to realize Masuda ain’t Masuda no more. He knows because the latest speeches don’t match the accomplished politician’s earlier balance and finesse with words, volume, and modulation. It’s as if he’s been replaced by a very good but still clear impostor.

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This Impostor gave the MWPSB the location of Kamui without anyone, even Akane, realizing he was a messenger to get them to come to the very place and time Kamui wanted them to be: the experimental drone testing facility. Here, Kamui unleashes his most brutally insidious weapon yet: hooking the deathbots up to everyone’s favorite new cell phone game. They play the crude 3D game with 8-bit sound effects with relish and glee, totally unaware they’re murdering real people.

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In last month’s Rundown I said Kamui may not be as brilliant as Makishima, but I think I need to revise that statement right now: Makishima’s crimes (or rather, his criminal facilitating) had a fairly linear structure, but Kamui’s got his tentacles in so many things at once, MWPSB doesn’t just look stupid or ineffectual, they look extremely vulnerable. Kasei is keeping Akane on the job and giving her a long leash because she and her brilliant, bizarre mind may be the MWPSB’s only hope of surviving. Sybil isn’t quite that vulnerable yet…but Kamui is just warming up.

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We close with certified non-genius Mika, who has, by way of rejecting her by-the-book upright citizen and intruding of Enforcer Togane’s private quarters, actually stumbled on something quite disturbing: Togane seems to be interested in Akane…very interested. While Saiga joked about her not being human, Togane my suspect she isn’t. Heck, he could think any number of things. He could even be…a Kamui mole. All I know is, the wall are closing in on Akane, Mika, everyone who wants to be on the right side of morality, as Kamui aims to bring the system they’re protecting to justice by the most deliciously dastardly means possible!

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Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – 08

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Sometimes the friendships that are the most fun to watch are the ones whose participants never overtly acknowledge they’re friends at all, and go about trying to prove they don’t like each other at all when in reality they’d be sad without one another. The unspoken friendship in Chuunibyou is obviously that of Shinka and Sanae, bourne out of the latter’s reverence for the former, but made bitter and rancorous by the former’s efforts to erase that embarrassing part of her life and move on as a normal mortal.

Her normal, flawless, overachieving high school life aside, Sanae is still tightly in the grips of Chuunibyou, and has always fostered disappointment at Shinka’s retreat from that world. She labels her as a fake, because the real Mori Summer wouldn’t be ashamed of who she is and hide that identity from everyone else. So when an impostor claiming to be the Real Mori Summer approaches Sanae, she readily embraces her. Where the episode is ultimately ambiguous is whether did Sanae do this only to make Shinka jealous.

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Whatever Sanae’s motives, the Fake Real Summer (voiced by Koshimizu Ami, no stranger to fantasy roles) makes it abundantly clear to both us and the gang: she wants Sanae. Assuming Sanae is just trying to make Shinka mad and compel her to some kind of action beyond ignoring her, she eventually learns she’s in over her head, and even if the impostor wasn’t creepy and predatory, to be blunt, Sanae doesn’t swing that way. Then Shinka comes to the rescue, as Sanae had probably hoped for. The resulting Chuunibyou battle between Shinka and the impostor is a nice piece of action, with the imposters’ attacks turning darker and more sinister as she gets angrier, overpowering Shinka in imagination and thus strength in such a battle.

Sanae has seen enough of the impostor at this point to know she’s not the real Mori Summer either, and if she has to choose between two fakes, she’s choosing Shinka. The impostor’s powers are no match for the Mjolnir Hammer, but more importantly, her wierd crush on Sanae is no match for the genuinely deep (if unspoken) bond between Sanae and Shinka. We thought we’d be a little annoyed when they went back to their usual bickering and denials of mutual affection, but it was actually oddly comforting to watch, as it was for Yuuta, Rikka, and Kumin.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Nice use of Sophia Ring SP Saturn VII as a combat coach for Shinka; she is pretty rusty, after all.
  • We’d be surprised if the animators had never heard of Inoue Naohisa, because the Mori Summers’ battlefield resembles his work. Incidently, one of his paintings also inspired scenes in Whisper of the Heart.
  • While walking home with Yuuta, Rikka realizes they’re not holding hands, and rights the wrong. Nice!
  • Kumin continues to subject everyone to her incredibly hokey wordplay humor, but she gets a pass after winning a battle that saved the club.

Samurai Flamenco – 03

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Rumors spiral that Hazama is Samurai Flamenco, but he insists he isn’t when Ishihara asks. Konno has offered a bounty the one who unmasks the superhero, and while on the Wow! Show, to Hazama’s surprise, his childhood hero, Kaname Joji (AKA Red Axe) poses as Samurai Flamenco, resurrecting his stalled career. Hazama sends a challenge to Kaname, and they meet at a superhero show stage after dark and have it out. Hazama insists he won’t allow Red Axe sully his good name by lying. When Kaname goes back on the air, he tells the world Flamenco is his student. Goto poses as Hazama on live TV so Hazama can “prove” to Ishihara it isn’t him.

Starting out as a kind of buddy comedy, another dimension is added to the series with the introduction of the impostor, who is actually Hazama’s boyhood idol and about as close to a real superhero as you can get. Don’t get us wrong, whether he’s Samurai Flamenco or his teacher, Kaname has a lot to gain by staying involved with Hazama, who’s younger and more popular with the young ladies. But the episode does a good job showing that he isn’t just a haughty ass of a celebrity. His emotional reaction and pivot in mission after Hazama challenges and confronts him is a combination of genuine concern and good improvisation. A lesser show would make Hazama and Kaname duke it out week after week as rivals, and to be honest, that doesn’t sound that interesting.

Instead, Kaname makes a compromise that keeps him in the limelight and also lets Hazama preserve his identity. Even though Kaname didn’t remember Hazama after the first time he met him, he will certainly remember him from now on. We also think he appreciates Hazama’s dedication to him as an admirer of Red Axe, and having a weakling reproach him for what he knows to be conduct that’s beneath Red Axe. And then there’s Goto, who actually agrees (offscreen) to don SF’s costume, pretend to be him – and actually enjoy it. Combined with Ishihara’s confusion about whether Hazama is telling her the truth and Mari’s awareness of who he is, we’re really enjoying how all of the relationships are turning out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)