Sword Art Online: Alicization – 13 – Sage of the Infodump, Part II

Cardinal completes her story, in which Quinella, basically running out of soul disk space, copies her memories to a young girl’s fluctlight, overwriting whatever was there. But Cardinal, now possessing a good deal of Quinella’s powers, decided to try to make her move. She fails, but was able to flee to the Great Library to fight another day.

Their duel is brief but exciting, despite all the awkwardly long English incantations the two must make (“System Call: Generate Luminous Object”, etc.) For 200 years since being banished to the library, Cardinal has been observing the Underworld, waiting for the right person with which to collaborate. She used a little spider named Charlotte to help bring Kirito to her.

Cardinal also suspects the god of the outside world (i.e. Rath) aren’t doing anything about Admin because the happiness of the people of the Underworld isn’t their primary goal. Rather, the whole system is a load test to see how much they can tighten the vise on a civilization before it loses cohesion.

Cardinal also tells Kirito that this isn’t just about defeating Asmin and ending her domination over the Underworld. The Forces of Darkness beyond the Realm of Humanity are planning a massive invasion, and Admin’s Integrity Knights are far too few in number to repel them, and she had all four guardian dragons slewn because she couldn’t control them, further hampering her defense.

Cardinal isn’t going to allow the Forces of Darkness to invade the Realm of Humanity; she’s willing to destroy the Underworld and start over to keep that from happening, and this is why she needs Kirito and Eugeo’s help.

If they successfully defeat Admin and Cardinal regains her authority, she’ll let Kirito save “about ten or so” Fluctlights, which if I’m honest, is close to all of the people in the Underworld who mean a lot to him (Cardinal also asks, and is given, a simple human hug, which she considers more than adequate reward for her efforts).

Of course, that’s not ideal, and Kirito will be searching for a way to have their cake and eat it too (I mean, he wouldn’t be Kirito if he didn’t). As for saving Alice, it turns out to be just a simple matter of ejecting the “piety module” from her head that’s blocking her past self, by reminding her of her most treasured memory—stored in Admin’s chambers.

Kirito and Eugeo’s mission has similarly simple steps, though of course they’re all easier said than done: First grab their newly-improved weapons from the third floor. Then, go to the 100th floor to recover Alice’s stored memories.

I have no doubt the 97 floors in between will prove a challenge, but should they run into Alice herself, Eugeo is given a dagger that will connect her to Cardinal, who will put her to sleep. So that’s the plan…all that’s left is to execute.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 12 – Sage of the Infodump

Kirito and Eugeo just barely hold their own against Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-One, who is armed with all manner of magical attacks and divine objects. They’re only able to escape defeat when Eugeo suddenly remembers why Eldrie seems so familiar: he used to be Eldrie Woolsburg, the North Empire representative swordsman.

Hearing his former name and other details of his past, a triangular prism is slowly ejected from his forehead, and the former Eldrie’s personality seems to return. The transformation is interrupted by an attack by a second knight armed with a bow and riding a dragon, but the implication is clear: what happened to this guy must’ve happened to Alice. The person she used to be might not be gone; only repressed.

Kirito and Eugeo would have probably eventually been caught by the second knight, but are given yet another break when a voice tells Kirito which way to turn and presents them with a glowing secret doorway through which to dive.

They land at the bottom of a stair, before a diminutive-looking sage called Cardinal. She is the Cardinal System that once governed the Underworld, but she’s been usurped, and her powers are now limited to the great library that contains all of the world’s knowledge and history.

Upon showing the boys around, she sends a sneezing, soaked Eugeo off to the bath to warm up, and summons some food and tea for Kirito. The balance of the episode is Cardinal (voiced, I think, by Tange Sakura, complete with “umus”) basically delivering a lengthy infodump, focusing on her “twin elder sister”, Administrator, the self-made Pontifex of the Axiom Church and only one who can contact the outside world.

“Administrator” was once Quinella, the offspring of the first political marriage between high lords, and the descendant of one of the “original four” inhabitants of Underworld who, unlike the other three, was driven by greed and a lust for power. Quinella was gifted with System Call, and used it to hunt animals and gain more and more authority.

Eventually, she had her followers, upon whom she demonstrated various “miracles”, build her a church in which she still resides to this day, being worshiped and ruling with absolute authority. She solidified that authority by writing the Taboo Index, which forbade the very actions that gave her the power boost she needed to seize command of the world.

Even Quinella couldn’t initially win against the ravages of time, but even on her death bed never stopped trying to find the right commands to undo her demise. She succeeded, either due to coincidence or help from the outside world, and her fluctlight was augmented with the Cardinal System as it was to create a new, no longer “human” being, naming herself “Administrator.”

Suffice it to say, Admin is one tough cookie. Considering how badly Kirito fared against a novice Integrity Knight, he and Eugeo are going to have to seriously up their game if they want to overthrow her. I daresay it wouldn’t hurt to snap Alice out of her brainwashing (Eugeo knows far more of her past than of Eldrie’s) so she could fight beside them.

But I’m just spitballing at this point. The villain has been introduced and explained. Now we’ll see what the heroes are going do about it.

AICO – 02 – Getting Up to Speed, Running Away, Getting Nabbed

Aiko’s new “friends” dump a lot of info on her in an episode that gets us up to speed, introduces some other players, and sets the stakes, which are far-ranging. To sum it up, Aiko’s natural body was all but destroyed in a car accident, so researchers decided to put her brain in an artificial body they made when she was born.

However, the surgery that allows her to be standing there today caused the Burst: an overpowered proliferation of “malignant matter” that threatens Japan and the world. She’s also apparently the key to stopping it. Oh, and her mom and brother are still in ground zero.

It’s obviously a lot to absorb for poor Aiko, whose world has just been flipped upside down. She’s a lot like Neo during his sprawling introduction to the Real World, though she doesn’t throw up, she RUNS…nowhere in particular, just away from all this scary shit.

While running, she ends up falling through a roof, right into the lunch a redheaded Diver named Misawa Kaede is about to tuck into. Kaede’s colleague Kazuki assists Aiko when he learns she just wants to get away, but Kaede and the others corner her and bring her back to Kanzaki, Dr. Korose & Co.

Kurose decides to hire the 4-person Diver team to infiltrate Ground Zero in order to retrieve Aiko’s real body. Kanzaki will be their guide, they’ll be paid handsomely even if survival can’t be guaranteed, and whatever 2-person team from the quartet fares better by a certain leg in the mission, will get a bonus and be the ones to accompany Kanzaki to the final leg.

Now that the situation and the plan for dealing with it have been established, it looks like it’s time to impliment it, but the team hits a snag: a SWAT team busts into the hideout and snatches up Aiko and Yuya.

In two episodes, Aiko has been plucked from school by one party, given an infodump, freaked out and run away, picked up again, and then kidnapped by another party. I’m not seeing a whole lot of agency for the titular character, nor are there any indications she’ll be gaining any of it anytime soon.

That could be problematic going forward, as we’re dealing with a Netflix “Original”-style series that has been intricately formulated to check a lot of boxes and satisfy multiple audiences, but in doing so lacks any kind of basic originality.

AICO is (and will probably remain) watchable because’s it’s well-made competently executed, and isn’t gratingly gratuitous (likeDevilman Crybaby). But I like to think I’ve watched enough anime to make the determination that there’s no potential for AICO to be anything other than popcorn entertainment.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau – 05

This week Chakuro and his friends locate the nous at the core of Falaina that apparently every sand ship has, are interrupted by three elders who bring archers to kill the nous, thus sinking the Mud Whale, but Chakuro manages to convince them not to, though they do manage to shoot Lykos in the leg.

After that, Suou is freed and Taisha’s aides gather to his side, he meets with Lykos, who tells everyone about the eight ships the empire has and how there could be other countries out there, and Suou gives a speech to the rest of the Whale’s population that they’re going to fight and defend until they can find allies.

That’s a good amount of material in one episode…so why the heck did it feel to me like virtually nothing happened? I suspect it’s at least in part due to the overall presentation, which has felt lacking in urgency and peril since the surprise attack that ended episode two.

There’s also the fact that the Mud Whale feels like such a small and static setting whose leadership seems to change on a dime with little to no repercussions. The rest of the population is treated like one united faceless entity that cheers at the prospect of Ouni joining the defense force.

Perhaps most troubling—and contributory to my waning interest in this show—is the protagonist Chakuro, whose defining character trait is a guy who says a lot—both to others and through narration—but does very little, while Lykos’ is simply “girl who developed emotions” and little else.

As a result, it feels like I’m watching a set of thin and fairly generic characters caught up in a world that’s groaning under the weight of its convoluted (and at times, random-feeling) mythology.

Right now, that’s just not grabbing and holding my attention as much as the other Fall shows I’m watching. Maybe next week, when the defense of the whale begins in earnest, I’ll be able to muster more enthusiasm.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Jist: From the creator of House of Five Leaves, the director of Space Dandy and One Punch Man, and Madhouse, ACCA follows the vice-chairman and second-in-command of ACCA’s Inspection Department Jean Otus, fulfilling one last audit before the department is shuttered.

However, Otus’ exposing of corruption in a district results in the shuttering being cancelled. Otus starts to feel like he’s being followed and watched, as he wonders if his department was really spared because trouble is on the horizon in otherwise-peaceful Dowa.

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Rejecting the notion that all police dramas must start with a bang and with thrilling action or the capturing of some devious members of the criminal classes, ACCA takes a far more leisurely, introspective, and detailed approach.

While some early scenes where ACCA officers talk to each other about the structure and purpose of their own organization (which is a little clunky), the episode rights itself by diving into the monotonous but not awful day-to-day existence of a glorified functionary who seems to be coasting.

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If this all feels somewhat boring, I think that’s kind of the point. There’s a distinct foreboding feeling lurking on the margins of otherwise mundane world of Dowa. Comments about the increasing number of fires and the fact the King of Dowa has just turned 99 adds to the looming dread.

Nice little details like Otus’ penchant for smoking cigarettes (a rare luxury in Dowa), the birdlike form of the country, and all the various organizations and ranks and their relationships with one another also kept me interested.

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But while trouble may loom (Otus’ discovery of black market corruption indicates there could be larger rot lurking in the depths of ACCA, and one of the org’s “Chief Five” mentions a possible coup d’etat), life nevertheless continues as normal, and that’s where ACCA really shines.

Otus and his colleagues spend a lot of time either in diners, bars and cafes, or opening up tasty treats at work (specifically, at or around 10). The building he lives in is managed by his sister, who wants him to get out of ACCA and join her in the family business.

All those little slice of life moments add up to a rich, lived-in experience, which makes up for the lack of exciting action. The visuals are nothing fancy, but get the job done, while the eclectic soundtrack is superb. If ACCA continues along this offbeat tack, it should secure a firm place on my Winter watchlist.

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Macross Delta – 25

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The predictable patterns of Macross Delta continue into the penultimate episode, where the action and daring of last week transitions into a relatively quiet, exposition-filled outing (well, quiet until the ending).

Berger Stone shows up again and again launches into a wordy infodump that includes references to other Macross shows. The Windermereans (mostly blindly) rally around Lloyd, including King Heinz, who shows his knights how little time he has left.

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Stone basically lays out that if Lloyd uses the Star Singer to create an interconnected humanoid network, it will be very bad, but we already knew that. When Freyja hides her bandaged hand, she hides it way too obviously to not be noticed by Mirage and Hayate. Walkure is wounded and scattered, but Kaname intends to step up to the plate, and if she has to go down, she’ll be going down swinging for the fences.

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Mirage once again gives way so that Hayate can hang out with Freyja. Though Freyja is literally marked for death, the events of the final episode will be instrumental in confirming whether her hand crystal will kill her, or if the limited age of Windermereans will continue to be a problem.

The show takes the effort to bring Hayate and Freyja closer together by revealing that his Dad once visited Windermere and gave lil’ Freyja the little device she still carries with her, and ends with the classic Macross theme “Do You Remember Love?”, once sung by Lyn Minmey and other singers.

But it’s telling that it’s Freyja’s laugh, not her song, that helps ease his heart. After all, Stone just told everyone songs are a weapon.

 

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Not just a weapon, but the weapon. After some peaceful space credits, the episode upshifts, raising the stakes for the endgame, as the giant NUNS fleet I initially thought Chaos would have to somehow stop, falls under the spell of Mikumo’s Song of the Stars (sung under duress/hypnosis).

Thus brainwashed, the captains and crew of the ships activate the dimensional weapons in their weapons bays, utterly destroying the fleet in a matter of moments. Thousands of souls cry out, and Lloyd looks on approvingly, apparently that much closer to his ultimate goal of galactic domination.

The remnants of Walkure, and Chaos’ handful of ships and fighters now seem hopelessly outmatched against the terrifying might of Lloyd’s newest and most powerful weapon: their friend and comrade.

We’ll see if and how they manage to defeat him, and who will join their cause, and who among those we’ve come to know will be sacrificed in the name of galactic peace.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 09

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At the end of last week, Rokuro and Benio’s slowly burgeoning friendship looked to be in absolute tatters with the news that Rokuro indeed killed everyone at Hinatsuki Dorm, including her twin brother Ijika Yuto.

It seems like the only thing that can turn things around is if Yuto were to suddenly show up, not only not dead, but so frikking evil that Benio would be left wondering how the hell she ever cared for him in the first place.

Well…that’s pretty much exactly what happens! Though I’m sure why Yuto is showing up right here and now just as Seigen is in the middle of a story that was painting Rokuro in such a bad light, only to go “that’s not the whole story!”…except to put poor Benio through the emotional wringer.

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And speaking of emotional wringers, Rokuro certainly went through one two years ago. The night of the Hinatsuki massacre, when Yuto shows his true colors and turns all his fellow trainee exorcists into Kegare, is straight out of a horror film, complete with drab palette and grisly deaths of cute girls.

Frankly, I don’t see what Rokuro could have done in this situation. As Seigen states with certainty, the only thing for a person who’s been corrupted by Kegare is to give them a quick death before they can commit any atrocities that further mar your memory of them.

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Yuto speaks of these times with such detachment and nonchalance, grinning his stupid evil grin the whole time, to the point that Rokuro simply can’t take anymore, arms up, and starts attacking him.

A stunned Benio looks on but sees that Rokuro is only doing damage to himself (Yuto, who has a blue gauntlet to Roku’s red, parries every strike with the flick of a finger), so she stops the fight, taking a hit that Rokuro can’t hold back in time.

Then Yuto…kinda calls it a day and fucks off, hoping Rokuro will “entertain” him better next time.

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When Rokuro and Benio emerge from Magano and Seigen takes Mayura home, Benio can’t think to do anything but prostrate herself before Rokuro and ask that he forgive her for all of the pain and grief and trauma her brother caused.

Rokuro is stunned by this sight, and repeatedly tells Benio to raise her head; they were both hoodwinked by the little blue-haired bastard, all their lives, and if anything, they share the blame for being ignorant to the evil within him.

Still, I think they’re being a bit hard on themselves. These two strike me as too young to feel responsible for what happened years ago when they were still younger and less attuned to the world, let alone their own selves.

I liked their commitment to becoming stronger together at the end, but Yuto is a brutally dull and tired manic villain archetype, and a great deal of the episode was merely exposition and reaction shots.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 08

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As expected, Mayura confronts Rokuro and Benio over their sudden change in living arrangements. What I didn’t expect is that the episode didn’t go for goofy comedy in the sparring between the girls. Instead, they represent two different philosophies of life.

Mayura thinks Rokuro’s suffered enough already; Benio respects his abilities and believes he’s obligated to use them, and Rokuro, when pressed, sides with Benio, believing the benefits of being an exorcist outweighs any personal costs.

While Mayura rushes out, believing she’s been rejected all over again, the reality is both she and Benio make good points.

As for Rokuro failing to notice her feelings, well girl, that’s because you have to tell him, in no uncertain terms, about those feelings, while he has your undivided attention. Mayura should know this having spent most of her life by Rokuro’s side.

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While storming out, however, Mayura leaves her good luck charm behind, which is actually a legit charm that hides her spiritual power from hungry Kegare. Considering how important it is, I can’t imagine how she could have misplaced it so easily, unless she’s unaware of how important it is to her safety.

In any case, she gets captured and yes, tentacled, by a nasty little Kegare that becomes a nasty BIG Kegare, chortling the whole time. Of course, I never thought for a second Mayura was going to buy it (as gutsy a move as that would’ve been), and right on cue Rokuro swoops in to save her, then swears to protect her no matter what.

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Losing Mayura would have been a brutal blow to a kid who’s already received a few, but we simply didn’t know the extent of the trauma in his past…until this week, when his former master (and Mayura’s Dad!) Seigen appears to clean up Rokuro’s mess, run him down a bit, and challenge him to a duel in which he must exhibit intent to kill; a tall order for someone who’s still getting back on his exorcist feet.

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We cut away from the reunion of master and student in Magano numerous times to check in with the guys at the dorm, who prove far more useful at asking questions that lead to extensive (but unfortunately inartful) info-dumping by Jissama (Seigen’s father-in-law).

The final third of the episode suffers from being bogged down in all this exposition, but things do pay off a bit at the end, if you were someone who wanted a fresh wedge between Rokuro and Benio (for the record, I’m not that someone).

Benio learns the tragedy that killed numerous promising students at the Hinatsuki dorm was not the result of a Kegare attack, but the result of Rokuro killing them, the victim of something called “Kegare corruption.”

Since Benio’s whole reason for being is to destroy the Kegare who took away her family, learning Rokuro is to blame for the tragedy, this is definitely an, er…setback for the future parents of the Miko.

Of course, the jury’s still out about whether Rokuro chose to go berserk or if it was something outside his control—I’m guessing the latter—I’m still not convinced Benio’s twin brother is dead. Let the kid explain, Benio! Well, if he’s even willing or able to.

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Musaigen no Phantom World – 02

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Some concerns going into week two included “can the show keep me engaged in its elaborate magical mechanics?”; “can Ruru’s schtick be consistently better than silent beats it replaces?”; and “is this a lovely show that’s simply trying too hard, riding the coattails of superior past KyoAni work?” Those concerns were somewhat allayed in an episode that built on the strengths of its first outing.

Haruhiko, Reina, and Mai demonstrate solid teamwork that exploits each of their skills, and this time there’s a fourth potential member added to the mix in Minase Koito. She’s talented, and she’s been talented for a long time, but her teacher wants her to learn how to work with others.

When Minase gives the others the cold shoulder and beats them to their job at an abandoned factory, she learns pretty quickly that going it alone is not always the optimal route.

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To whit, her sound-based attacks on the phantoms are cancelled out in the same way her headphones cancel out noise. To incapacitate the phantoms, the good old-fashioned brawn of Mai is needed. Haruhiko is the one to determine what’s stopping Minase’s attack, and directs Mai to smash it.

That leaves Minase free to use her shout to take out the multipliers, Reina to swallow them, Kirby-style, and Haruhiko to seal the sound-cancelling robot by sketching it in his new sketchbook. Not a bad days work…only it doesn’t have the effect of Minase changing her tune and deciding to join their team, nor should she. She levels modest praise on the others’ efforts (ignoring Haruhiko’s entirely) and slinks off, aloof as ever.

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The battle left Mai and Reina’s uniforms filthy, which leads to them showering at Haruhiko’s, but the show doesn’t go down the easy road of having Haruhiko intentionally or accidentally peeping on them.

In fact, the whole scene at his house (the impressive library in which is the source of all his trivial knowledge) was surprisingly innocuous, for what I perceived to be a gift-wrapped harem scenario. Oh, but wasn’t the little sight gag of Ruru sitting among Haruhiko’s figurines just perfect?

Even the next day, with Mai and Reina doing stretches in their bloomers in front of Haruhiko, he’s not sketching them, but a phantom he wishes to summon. He’s only accused of being a creeper when he reacts inappropriately to their next job, which will be at an all-girl’s dorm.

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This dorm, which is ridiculously pink and fuchsia, and its inhabitants are being harassed by a peeping phantom UFO with a camera. They stake out the place, but realize it won’t come until it has something to see, so Mai and Reina kick Haru out and change. Sure enough, the UFO arrives, but it proves a handful, dodging all of Mai’s swipes and stabs and scoring lots of juicy pics in the process.

Haruhiko, meanwhile, is in the catch-22 of his services as a member of the team being required, but the girls being embarrased about being just in towels, which turn out not to be Chekhov’s Towels as they never come off. I loved the physicality and architecture of the sequence, in which he’s constantly going out the window and back up the stairs and into the fray.

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He even uses blood from an inadvertent attack by Reina (for getting tangled up in too exciting a position for him) to summon his phantom, Marchosias. Again the show has a little fun with our expectations, as despite all of Haruhiko’s past accurate sketches of their phantom foes, Marchy turns out to be a fluffy little puppy with wings (that transition from flame-wreathed demon to pink skull cloud to pup was wonderful).

Marchy help—a little, I guess—in rounding up the voyeuristic lil’ stinker, and Reina gobbles him up. The show’s theretofore restraint with amorous material pays off and heightens the sense of surprise when Reina decides to suck on Haruhiko’s finger…and not because she knows her saliva has healing properties, but because she just felt like it.

As for Minase, she peeks her head in, but again claims to be #notimpressed with the team. Sure, they’re not the most professional and efficient, but they get the job done and entertain in the process. If she joined them, a good team might become great. One wonders what will end up swaying her, but I’m glad the show’s not rushing her initiation. Then there’s that strange device Ruru found…

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Musaigen no Phantom World – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Winter 2015 season gets off to a whimsical, colorful start with Musaigen no Phantom World, the first episode of which called to mind everything from Haruhi Suzumiya and Charlotte to Chu2Koi and Amaburi. So immediately, then, we have a bit of an issue: this show reminds me of a lot of good shit.

The challenge then, will be to differentiate itself and make its case as a show worth watching for more than the trademarked lovely KyoAni eye candy (though I’ll admit, on Hump Day that might be sufficient anyway). And amidst its familiar setting, themes, character types, animation and dialolgue styles, MPW’s first episode still managed to distinguish itself.

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First, it makes a point to play off our expectations vis-a-vis fanservice. Atletic, busty female lead Kawakami Mai is more concerned with getting the job done than showing a little skin here and there. Shy, impressionable first-year Izumi Reina‘s boob looks ripe for grabbing, but male lead Ichijo Haruhiko manages to course-correct just in time, but thanks to “aid” from his pixie sidekick Ruru, still ends up in a bad position. Finally, Mai has a practical reason for bouncing her boobs up and down: it’s the only way to succeed in a limbo contest.

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Second, all three characters have their positive qualities. Ruru is adorable, obv., but she’s also quite savvy, serving as both a foil and an ally in Haruhiko’s exploits. Mai’s can-do attitude and fighting spirit is tempered by the need to occasionally sigh over dire financial straits (while scolding Haruhiko for sighing along with her). Reina, also frikkin’ cute as all get-out, also sucks stuff up like Kirby, which was very unexpected.

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The phantom-hunting team also gels quickly but believably. All three are competent in very specialized areas, but if one of the three wasn’t present for the utility pole phantom limbo-off, they would not have been able to achieve victory. Haruhiko’s freakish book smarts let the group know what they’re dealing with, Mai’s freakish athleticism appeases the phantoms, and then Reina eats ’em up. Even Reina is sold enough on how good a team the trio makes that she casts aside her initial uncertainty about joining.

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With such good chemistry coming off this trio, one wonders what MPW has in store for the fourth, a rose-haired, perpetually headphones-donning girl who looks like a lone wolf uninterested in teamwork.

So yes, I’m sufficiently charmed by MPW to keep going with it. There was a bit of an infodump rather inelegantly thrown in, and it looks no better or worse than the shows I listed up top, but there’s plenty to like and plenty to tune in to learn.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 03

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In the early stages of many an RPG when the party is still being assembled, one often comes across a character who doesn’t want to join, and will only reluctantly/provisionally join if convinced or coerced to do so, and even then, could turn on you or turn tail at any time.

That’s who we have in the stylishly-attired, world-weary lone she-wolf Fremy Speeddraw, and it’s what makes the kind and gregarious Adlet her perfect foil. First, Adlet shows her he’s someone to be reckoned with by chasing her down with a deftness that surprises her. The gets in close and steals her ammo, leaving her with one bullet.

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Then Adlet basically tells her to swallow her outrage and come along, turning his back on her and giving her the choice to shoot him and take back her ammo, or join him. It’s a key moment for Fremy after much argumentative banter between them, and she decides to lower her weapon, either because she doubts the dance will end when she fires her last shot, or, less likely, she just doesn’t feel like shooting a unarmed man in the back just for wanting her to tag along.

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An uneasy accord between those two thus reached, we cut to Nasheitania, who allows herself to get cornered by some tricky fiends, but fortunately has the fiercely loyal Goldof by her side. When they encounter Adlet’s horse and note, Goldof accuses Adlet of abandoning the princess, but Tania is far more understanding, and assures Goldof he’d get along famously with Adlet.

Goldof isn’t so sure about that, but he is extremely adept at combat and killing fiends. Tania and Goldof echo Adlet and Fremy in that each pair has an outgoing/happy-go-lucky and introverted/distrustful personality in it.

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No matter which pair it follows, the soaring sights and the stirring orchestral score maintains the grandeur and scale of the Braves’ journey established in the previous episodes. Though only drawn together by Adlet’s insistence, Fremy sticks by his side as they enter the fortress of a town close to their ultimate destination of the Demon God’s domain.

Though the fortress garrison has been decimated and a mere private commands, he dutifully and confidently informs the Braves of the intricate plan to cast a giant cloud of fog over the lands, blocking the fiends from taking further territory once the Braves press on. This too is a very RPG-like mission, with precise timing and contingency plans involved. Adlet, naturally, believes Plan A will go swimmingly.

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But once Adlet and Fremy strike out for the Braves’ rendezvous point, they are ambushed, not by fiends but by Tania and Goldof. The main reason Fremy gives for not wanting to join the others is her belief the other Braves will try to kill her if they see her (and the only reason Adlet didn’t is because he’s “weird”, i.e. a kind person). Fremy doesn’t believe in kindness, and doesn’t want it. She even tries to get him to agree to one day fight her, but go easy on her, while all he wants to do is fight by her side.

Now, exactly what she said would happen is happening, albeit due to Tania and Goldof’s belief Fremy is the Brave-killer. As blades and bullets fly, Adlet must play the peacemaker, and be the glue that holds the Braves together. And if he truly is the World’s Strongest Man, than surely he can get it done, right?

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Rokka no Yuusha – 02

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While their party is just two and the activities are limited to exploring and traversing the great expanse before them, Adlet and Nashetania’s journey is the perfect opportunity for both them and us to learn a little more about them. Take ‘Tania: she’s so excited and giddy at the prospect of this adventure, she challenges Adlet to a fight. In fact, she uses her powers for things like cutting vegetables. She’s restless, but Adlet and she both need to be focused with a Brave Killer at large.

At night Adlet warns Tania they’ll be sleeping on hard ground under the stars a lot, and we learn she’s no stranger to that. Despite having never seen so much, she has experienced more hardship than you’d think of a sheltered princess, mostly because of the tenuous hold her late father had on the kingdom, and the execution order put out for her before she became a saint. Adlet’s not the only one here who’s had to rough it.

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The bottom line is, outside of arena competition, Tania has zero experience fighting fiends, who Adlet knows they’ll encounter. The “game”, if you will, then shifts from “getting to know each other” to “battle 101.”  I like how Adlet gets a very nervous Tania to laugh, thus calming her. Then Adlet gets right in the (CGI) fiends’ faces and dodges and slashes, while keeping Tania back to support him with her blades.

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Their first battle goes well, and the villagers the fiends attacked are saved from obliteration, but there’s news that one village girl didn’t make it out. Adlet is ready to go after her, but Tania stops him, telling him their primary mission is to find the other Braves, and that no matter how strong they are, they can’t save everybody.

Adlet agrees with her until she lets go of his horse, and then charges off anyway, which is Classic Adlet: after all, how can he call himself the Strongest Man if he can’t defeat the Demon God and save the people? He wants to do it all, and in this case, Tania indulges him.

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And this time, it may just get him in serious trouble, as the “girl” in the smoldering ruins of the village seems to be doing just fine taking out all of the fiends. When she notices Adlet, she introduces herself as Fremy Speeddraw, so named because of her rifle and the ability to summon bullets at will. She doesn’t like other humans, suspects Adlet is there to kill him, and refuses to lower her rifle to his non-provocational stance.

Meanwhile, more fiends arrive at Tania’s location, and while she’s able to deal with them herself, she loses her horse in the process. Then the person she’s been searching for, Goldof, who once let her win in the arena, presents himself before her, a newly-made Brave, like her. Tania says this now makes them equals, but Goldof still insists on bowing before her and pledging his life to her protection.

Then Goldof tells her the name of the Brave Killer is Fremy. This should be interesting!

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Rokka no Yuusha – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: A sweeping fantasy epic about the rise and gathering of of the “Braves of the Six Flowers”, six warriors chosen by the Goddess of Fate to save the world from the reawakened Demon God and its fiends. The first we meet is self-(and oft)-proclaimed “strongest man in the world” Adlet Mayer, who crashes a sacred ceremony between two lesser warriors and embarrasses them and the entire institution.

For this, he is imprisoned, but he makes a friend of a pretty maid who visits him in his cell, and they chat about the Braves. Adlet spends many weeks in a cage, but when the signs of the Demon God awakening filling the sky, the mark of the Braves appears on his hand.

He is then sprung by jail by the maid, who is really the Nashetania, the princess of Piena, who has also been chosen as one of the Braves. She and Adlet mount horses at strike out into the world to rendezvous with the the other four.

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Why should you watch? If, like me, you’re a big fan of the whole concept of RPGs like FF, which follows a relatively set but time-tested formula from game to game, evoloving with technology of the time (I’ve played FF for NES all the way up to PS3, and looking forward to FFXV for PS4) and switching up its character types, settings, and battle systems. Up until recently there were no direct sequels, as if each FF was really the “final” of its kind.

But the first FF wasn’t the final one as it was believed to be by its creators, nor will FF ever really disappear, despite all the missteps the studio may have taken throughout the years, because fantasy is elemental and eternal. Going back to the carved stones of the Epic of Gilgamesh, they have always been both a tale of how we came to be and an escape from where and who we are.

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Rokka no Yuusha understands this simple fact intrinsically, and attaches new trappings to well-traveled roads in its execution, in the best tradition of FF. The Meso-American fusion motif, with the Tenochtitlan-style capital, makes an immediate escapist impact, and as we move on to our cocky but capable protagonist Adlet carve his way through two of the best warriors in the land, his constant protestations of being the “strongest in the world” sound less and less like idle boasting.

That’s particularly true when we see what becomes of Adlet for stepping out of line and shitting all over the city’s traditions: he’s thrown into a big pit to rot. But far from despairing, Adlet simply uses the time to train and allow his wounds to heal, knowing he could escape at any time. And as I immediately knew the “maid” was actually Princess Nashetania (great name, BTW) I’m not entirely certain a part of Adlet didn’t know it too, judging by how he tells the maid to relay the message, and his lack of surprise when she shows up to free him.

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Why should you watch? Perhaps for the same reason I will be watching: If you’re annoyed, rather than comforted and excited, about the umpteenth execution of the epic fantasy formula. Also, while the show got off to a quick start with Adlet’s battle, things bog down quite a bit in the cell scene. The dialogue is natural at first, and I liked Nashetania’s fidgeting as Adlet talked about himself, but then things descended into pretty transparent infodump territory, though that’s just another familiar mark of this genre.

The Verdict: This second effort by studio Passione (the first being Rail Wars!, which Hannah quite liked) that we’ve seen is a strong entry in the epic fantasy genre, and gets off to a convincing start, immersing us in its lush setting, familiar yet intriguing mythology, and the sense of a grand adventurous journey commencing.

Its attention to detail in matters of combat, production, and costumes impressed mightily. And while Adlet’s a cocky bastard, he has an honorable goal, and Nashetania should be good for him (and vice versa). We’ve yet to meet most of Braves of the Six Flowers to meet, but I’m already sold.

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