THE REFLECTION – 02

This week’s THE REFLECTION didn’t so much move the plot forward as provide voices and context to the various players we saw in action last week. But I couldn’t help but wonder if most (or all) of the new information presented this week could have filled in all of the long pauses last week, adding pace and urgency to what was, if I’m generous, a slog.

Upon inspecting Red’s Baltimore apartment, X-On concludes that she’s stalking him. She wants him to teach her how to use her powers properly so she can use them for good like him, but he’s “not feeling it” and would rather she redirect her focus on someone else…say “Wraith.”

Meanwhile, after his little battle in New York Ian saves some suit fuel by hitching a ride on a jetliner’s wing before landing in his very Tony Stark-like Malibu beach mansion, where a team of men (rather than robots in Tony’s case) disassemble his suit to reveal a bearded old musician who had one big hit, “SKY SHOW”, in the 80s. The Reflection gave him a new life as a hero, a mantle he’s comfortable staying in the suit to nurture.

While the bad guys, seemingly led (or at least counseled) by a guy who looks just like Stan Lee, ponder their next move, eager to gather more ability users to their side, Red researches “Wraith” and notices something on the NYC camera footage (though the zoom-in-and-enhance only reveals a larger blurry black blob to us).

Then there’s that group of high school girls in Japan we saw in last week’s cold open. As their classmates talk about NYC, they prepare to decide on a name for their “group”, suggesting they have powers and are ready to work together to use them. It’s no coincidence that the ED consists of four Japanese girls in what looks like school uniforms singing and dancing.

But again, due to the questionable animation (gutsy in theory, lazy-looking in execution), and inefficient use of time, I’ll have to qualify last week’s “watchable” 7 with this week’s “niche appeal” 5, as this is certainly an acquired taste. Put together, THE REF is an underwhelming 6 so far…but I still want to know what happens next.

2014 World Cup – “Itai!”

Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel

This photo kind of says it all. Things were surprisingly promising at the half, knotted up at one goal apiece thanks to a stoppage time equalizer by Okazaki Shinji, but then Colombia brought out the steamroller.

The match was another story of Japan’s impressive technical proficiency being nullified by apparent indecision in the box and physical domination by a larger opponent. Still, Blue Samurai fought hard and with heart.

This concludes RABUJOI’s very brief coverage of Japan at the 2014 World Cup.

(Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel/Howler Magazine)

 

 

 

 

2014 World Cup – KUSO!

wc3

Well, Japan was aggressive, hogging the ball a whopping 75% of the time and out-passing something like 5-to-1, but none of their shots went in the goal. Even though Greece was a man down, they seemed to be playing for a hold, which would net them at least one point, and not trying to win for three, while depriving Japan of two more.

After their scoreless draw, Japan and Greece share the dank basement of Group C. All is technically not lost, but Japan missed a crucial opportunity to control their own destiny, and it doesn’t bode well that they weren’t able to deliver a decisive blow to the weakest team in the group.They play Colombia next Tuesday, and they’ll be playing for pride…and a very slight glimmer of hope.

2014 World Cup: “Jitaku iku katsu ka”

jpn

“自宅行く勝つか” is as close as we (with the help of Google) could get to saying “Win or go home”, which constitutes Japan’s remaining choices.

Beat Greece, and they’re still in Group C contention. Lose, and they’ll be eliminated (and we’ll only have one more post here commiserating their quick exit from the tournament, for those of you who don’t care about soccer).

The match starts at 6PM Eastern, or 7AM in Tokyo. Blue Samurai will be looking to play more aggressively, having only managed one goal by Honda Keisuke against Ivory Coast, which just fell to Group C leader Colombia 2-1.

Photo by Javier Soriano / AFP Photo

2014 World Cup: 100 Seconds Short

wc2

At the end of a football-packed day in which Greece fell to Colombia in the first Group C match, Japan got an early goal by Honda to take a 1-0 lead that they couldn’t quite hold, as Ivory Coast equalized and took over the lead in a second half offensive burst in which both goals were scored within 100 seconds, the fastest interval of the tournament so far.

Japanese players and fans alike wore their hearts on their sleeves, as one should at such an event: alternating between the rapt elation of the goal and the deflated dejection of ultimately falling short of a victory.

Now Japan looks to even their record and gain some points against Greece on 19 June. Greece looked physically and mentally up to the task but seemed to lack the creativity to overcome Colombia’s set pieces. We’ll see if Blue Samurai can keep their hopes of advancing alive in what is still an open Group.

Photos, clockwise from top left, by Jamie Squire, Mark Kolbe, Jamie Squire, and Keith Tsuji, Getty Images.

2014 World Cup: Our Team

japan

A non-anime note: at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, we’ll be rooting for Japan in Group C, because…er…why not? It’s arguably the most wide-open group in the cup. They’ll face their first test against Côte d’Ivoire in Recife tonight. Ganbatte, Samurai Blue!

Nobunaga the Fool – 02

nobu2-2

In this day and age, the word “epic” is exceptionally overused (there’s even a nondenominational Epic Church in our neighborhood), and we’re just as guilty as the rest of society, but in the case of the story rapidly unfolding in Nobunaga the Fool, we feel the term is apt. After a somewhat breathless introduction, things are allowed to settle down a bit, but the fact remains a grand adventure is afoot, one that will shape the future of the Eastern and Western Stars.

Once Nobu has successfully translated his not insignificant combat skills in operating da Vinci’s newest war armor, he and Jane formally meet, and while things get off to a somewhat bellicose start, things simmer down with da Vinci as affable moderator laying out the scenario. He believes Nobu to be the “savior-king” of the East, and lends him the use of his masterpiece (which Nobu christens “The Fool” or “Za Fuuru”) that he may show him the “truth of the universe.”

nobu2-1

Da Vinci has already risked quite a bit to get to where he is, but he strikes us as a man of singular conviction; he has faith that the universe will show him what he wants to see, thanks to the equally extraordinary individuals he chooses to consort with. He’s regarded as perhaps the finest mind of his world, and that world believes he’s defected, so it’s good that he’s met powerful, charismatic new friends.

Nobunaga comes off as a bit of a cocky show-off at times, but never annoyingly, Naruto-ingly so. He doesn’t appear to be that much of a chauvinist, either; that trait is reserved for Toyotomi “Saru” Hideyoshi, who seems to think ogling Jeanne’s bust and grabbing her golden locks is appropriate behavior for an adult (Akechi Mitsuhide is more refined, while Nobu falls between the two in personality). Nobunaga simply warns Jeanne as he’d warn any man, not to draw a blade again unless she intends to take a life with it. We only see him interact with his sister Ichihime for a moment, but it looks like he holds her esteem; such that he insists Jeanne hide herself lest Ichi get the wrong idea.

nobu2-3

There’s a rooted logic and equity to the alliance of da Vinci, Nobu, and Jeanne that forms this week. One seeks answers he can’t get anywhere else; one seeks the power to defeat his foes; and one seeks her destiny, a venture Nobu scoffs at, because ‘why trust your fate to strangers?’ His skepticism aside, the fact da Vinci draws the same cards the episodes are named after indicates that even Nobu isn’t entirely free from destiny’s embrace.

Jeanne’s quest may intrigue us the most, since its true nature is as inscrutable to her as it is to us. She only knows Nobu just might be the right person to help her find it, coarse and bloodthirsty a fellow as he may initially seem. She may not come to love the guy, but mutual respect and cooperation are in order.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • While pulling a dagger on Nobu in such an awkward position probably wasn’t prudent, Jeanne can clearly take care of herself, as evidenced by the punitive blow she delivers to Saru.
  • There’s an Eastern girl with two-tone hair voiced by Touyama Nao who’s looking forward to meeting Nobu. Wonder what that’s about.
  • In addition to the Armor, da Vinci also gifts Nobu with an intricate clock of his own design…which Nobu immediately re-gifts for his brother’s coming-of-age ceremony.
  • Historical figures gathered round the, er, Round Table include Gupta, Hannibal, Alexander, and Julius Caesar. It’s like Civilization: The Animation!

Nobunaga the Fool – 01

nobu1-1

Oda Nobunaga, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi: prominent warriors of Japan’s Sengoku period. Jeanne d’Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, Ferdinand Magellan: all prominent European figures. The ambitious Nobunaga the Fool gives its characters iconic names form real-world history which is, if we’re honest, a little jarring at first. Sure, the names are easy to remember, but if those names are lifted from true history in an audacious attempt to tell better stories than the ones these characters actually lived, the show is setting itself up for failure.

But we don’t think Nobunaga is trying to tell better stories, just wildly different ones, answering a question few have probably asked: what if all these historical figures were made to cross paths? For a good long time, the Eastern and Western regions of the real world were indeed quite separate from one another; here they’re literally different worlds, or “stars.” It was the West that was first able to traverse the vast oceans and reach the East; here it’s an ocean of space. There’s a lot of potentially interesting stories in this re-imagined clash of East and West.

nobu1-2

We want to like Nobunaga the Fool. Its creators have taken pains to render an intricate alternate universe and history with clever thematic similarities to our own. This introductory episode also does a good job of immersing us in that universe; after a brief voiceover going over the basics, we’re thrown into the deep end, and get swept back and forth between East and West as disparate events gradually lead to the fated encounter at episode’s end, with Jeanne d’Arc in Nobunaga’s arms, in the cockpit of a mecha meant for him.

This is all a bit…silly, in the same way songstresses have so much influence in the universe in Macross Frontier, or how being as naked as possible is crucial in Aquarion Evol. Those two shows were able to embrace the silliness and balance it with drama and peril, resulting in imminently watchable entertainment. Beyond the tongue-in-cheek nature of the borrowed historical names, Nobunaga commits to its apocryphal tutti-frutti milieu with a certain dignified staidness, but we wonder if it’s trying too hard. Our first impressions can thus be best summed up by Nobu himself: “I have no idea what’s going on, but sure!”…for now.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Congratulations, Tokyo!

tokyo2020

We feel a belated but hearty Omedetou gozaimasu is in order for our Japanese friends, as Tokyo was chosen to host the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in the year 2020 (thus proving Akira right, at least about the Olympics). They won out over Istanbul and Madrid (and commiserations to our Turkish and Spanish friends as well.) When they take place it will have been 56 years since the Summer Games were last played there in 1964, and it’s encouraging to hear that many of those same venues will be reused for the 2020 Games.

Japan has been providing us with superior animated entertainment (as well as food, music, architecture, mythology, cars, and much more) for many years, and we’re genuinely excited to see how they’ll do (though we’re probably as miffed as they are there won’t be any Olympic baseball!) We have quite a few years until they take place, by which time we’ll hopefully have enough cash saved up to visit as the Games draw nearer. Until then, congrats again to Tokyo and our Japanese friends. We’ll crack open a bottle of Asahi Super Dry to your victory!

Jormungand – 16

Kasper, Chequita, and his team are in Jakarta, attempting to meet Colonel Nualkhair, but they’re stood up. They go to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where he laments that a “phantom company” is trying to edge them out of southeast Asia. He orders an assault on Nualkhair’s son’s compound, which is made to look like an accident but will be seen by the phantoms as a declaration of war. The company based in Japan, which is where Koko and her team are headed. During the flight, Jonah reminisces about his previous life. They meet up with Kasper’s team at Narita, and Kasper takes Jonah to see his three orphaned friends at an international school. Kasper asks to speak to Tojo, who once worked for the Defense Intelligence HQ or SR Squad, whom he believes to be the “phantoms”.

With R and Hex dead and Bookman currently hand-less, HCLI moves on to other things, as they’re threatened to be pushed out of SE Asia by a mysterious company that’s messing with their would-be clients. Kasper, who is essentially a beefed-up, more ruthless version of Koko, isn’t going to take it sitting down, and seeks the wisdom of another one from Koko’s team, Tojo. Both teams are so eclectic in their composition, it’s not surprising that they all may have past connections that may prove useful. Tojo is more brains than brawn in ops, so we may be in for a more cerebral arc than the one with R and Hex – though the tidy raid on Nualkhair’s pad was a powerful statement that Kasper doesn’t play around.

This episode was a little weighed down by frequent flashbacks that amount to clips from the first cour’s fifth episode, chronicling how Jonah ended up with HCLI and Koko. This smacked of recapping, which we never like to see in regular episodes. The clips didn’t really reveal anything new, but only served as a large, padded segue to Jonah asking Kasper about the kids he promised would be cared for in Japan. He sees them, and their clean clothes smiling faces are a striking contrast to the abject misery of that wretched base. But Jonah just sees them; he doesn’t meet them. He’s almost confirming that he deems his existence incompatible with normal life and other kids in particular. He couldn’t bear it if the sight of him changed the look on their faces from contentment to fear.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 11

Claude forbids Yune to join Alice for a trip to the department store, and she obeys, once again saying one thing while possibly thinking another. Instead Claude, Yune and Oscar go to the park for a picnic. Oscar impresses her with a “spell” that stops the rain and sleight-of-hand tricks, but they remind her of a similar “spell” she put on her older sister that she believes made her blind and weak.

Who would’ve though Yune had a Dark Past She’s Not Proud Of, eh? Well, a dark coincidence at least. Yune’s sister Shione had pale blue eyes, which would have been no big deal in Paris, but in Japan, people gave her looks and even feared her. Lil’ Yune insisted that Shione only look at her, and otherwise keep her eyes closed, sparing her from the looks. Anime eyes tend to be all the colors of the rainbow, but in this realistic period piece, color matters.

It’s an innocent enough sentiment from a concerned lil’ sister, but when Shione grew frail and went blind, Yune blamed herself out of superstition. Shion’s plight is a dreadful shame – but not Yune’s fault. It turns out every time she sees Claude’s eyes, she thinks of Shione. She finally stopped holding everything in, let it all out, and experienced a catharsis. Another cute chapter of a cute series that has just one more cute episode to go.


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 10

Claude is off to Dijon to meet with an important client about new metalwork. Claude has to study his late father’s work, and it brings back memories of his childhood when his father was still alive and business was booming. He’s conflicted about keeping the business running by simply copying what his father did. Meanwhile, Oscar keeps Yune and Alice entertained with a projector and phenakistoscope found while Yune was cleaning the storeroom.

My favorite scene this week was when Yune remembered what Claude told her about the metalworks shop: His father and grandfather worked to make every metalwork sign in the entire Gallery, so their skill is on display everywhere, with signs fulfilling the dual purpose of advertising for the shop it hangs over as well as advertising for the one who made the sign. It’s as impressive as it is sad; the best days seem to be behind both the Gallery and the metal shop.

Claude’s father was a genius with metal, but Claude also remembers him being cold and stern. This new job in Dijon is the latest challenge – can he outdo his departed dad? Oscar has never pushed him to keep the business going. The question is, is he keeping the fires of the forge burning for his father, or for himself? Not much to say about the B story involving Yune, Alice, Oscar, and eventually the whole gallery; it was pleasant enough. People were certainly easily entertained back then!


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 8

Yune and Claude stop by the Blanche residence, and Alice takes Yune by the hand and wisks her off. If it was ever in doubt, this episode confirmed that she sees Yune not so much as a human friend, but as a doll-like ideal of a childhood dream she had. It’s pretty odd that this girl made up a story about meeting a Japanese girl, then meeting her by chance years later. Is she an oracle?

In all seriousness though, while she and Yune chatter away about folk tales and rice balls, Claude is just standing around waiting, when he’s cornered by Camille. From a flashback and her general behavior around him, she had an unrequited love for him. The cold way they interact here confirms that they share some complex feelings, not all good. Camille resents her role as a family bargaining chip – she won’t be marrying for love – but she’s resigned to that life.


Rating: 3.5