Dimension W – 03

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After their first big job together (which nets Mira a cool ¥6 million cash) DW slows down a little, giving us a largely slice-of-life episode that still nudges some plot points forward. It also happens to be a slice of the lie of an android who thinks she’s a human and really might as well be one, since she has the same need for a place to live, relax, and heal her body.

After being paid and praised, Mira’s excited about interacting with society and carving out her little corner of it. I like how we first see Kyouma having bad dreams, then refuse to accept Mira in his house – too much gloom in there for her, plus he doesn’t want to lose privacy. Mira is plenty elated by the purchase of her very own trailer.

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However, that trailer doesn’t have a bathroom, so she has to use Kyouma’s. When he inevitably walks in on her, she doesn’t slap him, but just explains that for various reasons related to her unique specifications, she needs the damn toilet too sometimes, so they’ll just going to have to work out a system, whether it’s a door lock or simply knocking.

Kyouma, who hates all things Coil, seems to be (inadvertently or not) denying or at least limiting Mira’s humanity at every turn. He certainly has his reasons, but it’s not exactly nice that he doesn’t even bother saying goodbye before leaving, or help her transport her furnishings to her trailer (which she then has to carry herself, quite conspicuously!).

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He also leaves Mira to her own devices (tehe) in dealing with the snoopy neighborhood kids. Mira figures it out, being firm but not too strict with the youngins’, the most inquisitive of which, a girl named Shiora, asks if Mira is Kyouma’s new wife, and whether they’re “doin’ it” (complete with the vulgar Japanese gesture for sex I first saw in Shimoneta). Kids!

When the kids get a little rough in playing with Kyouma’s stacked car wrecks, and disaster is imminent, Mira springs into action like a superhero, putting the kids’ lives above worries about being exposed. She also scares the shit out of the kids, who assumed she was human.

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Man, I love the composition of first-person POV of Kyouma arriving at his place to see what chaos has been wrought in his absence. That clever camerawork is also used to reveal, in a way that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking, that Mira’s head popped off in the ruckus, and she’s been sheepishly sitting in her trailer all along, holding her head in her lap.

She’s worried that those kids will think she’s a monster, and also knowing she may have taken things a little far, since New Tesla could have easily discovered her, meaning the death of Kyouma, Mary, Koorogi, and probably others. Kyouma may see the beheaded Mira as proof she’s just a robotbut to do so would miss the fact that head aside, she’s acting like a human. The reality is, she’s much more than some robot.

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As for where Kyouma was while Mira was getting into trouble: he gets some info on the “Numbers”, which are mini-coils that draw from deep within Dimension W for their power, and which have caused bizarre accidents like the art museum, which NTE is always quick to cover up.

The incident with the cars has Kyouma brought to the Police department for questioning, but he’s soon released and summoned to the roof of NTE 47, where the COO, Clair Skyheart, is waiting for him.

Kyouma assumes she bailed him out for some reason, but it’s just a matter of her granddaughter Shiora telling her what happened and putting a good word in for him. Claire also wanted to meet another “beast of Grendel”, having been told about him by another apparent former beast, Albert.

Shiora whispers to Kyouma that she and the other kids didn’t tell anyone about Mira’s secret, and hope she feels better. The kids later pay a visit to Mira, who is glad they don’t hate or fear her. Of course they don’t; unlike Kyouma, technology has only ever been a force of good. On the other side of the spectrum, I could have done without Kyouma kicking her butt and calling her junk…

This was a fun episode that explores how far Mira’s come, how far she has yet to go, and how much more Kyouma has to learn about the right way to treat her, in addition to learning a little more about the Numbers. The teaser at the end is more of a preview for the next episode, which suggests Kyouma and Mira’s next mission will take them to a remote island castle where Robo-Murder Most Foul is afoot. Talk about a change of scenery!

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 06

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Gundam IBO is so deft at telling its story, crafting compelling characters, and drawing us in to its world, that even an exposition-heavy episode that would have been boring in less capable hands is almost as engrossing and thrilling as the big adrenaline-fueled battles. One reason is easy: people tend to hew closely to what they know, both about themselves and the world.

The company and family that is Tekkadan is between worlds right now, but they have a place and a home in their ship, if only a transitory one. When we watch Atra and Mika act like an old married couple, we’re comforting that however much has changed, both for better or worse, some things haven’t.

Which will make it that much more impactful (and potentially devastating) when the core status quo is seriously challenged. Which it certainly will once Tekkadan reaches out the Jovian mafia, Teiwaz, for help, and Fareed continues his slow-burn pursuit.

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But that comes later. IBO recommends we be on our guard by checking in on the outside parties pursuing Tekkadan, but also welcomes us to kick back and enjoy the slice-of-life aboard a ship that’s equal parts military contractor transport, orphanage, school, and embassy.

Like any small community, everyone must pull their weight. Atra has settled in as the cook, and the better food is crucial both for growing young ones and morale of the older ones. Even Fumitan flashes her technical skill, getting hired as communications officer. But until this week, with the exception of securing funding from Nobliss, Kudelia has felt increasingly useless.

She’s being unfair: as she makes clear in her elevator speech to Mika and Atra, she might just have the most important role in Tekkadan’s survival—her pursuit of Martian independence. But she’s still restless and wants to make immediate positive contribution to what she sees as a microcosm of the planet she wishes to free, so I like how she settles on the one important role the ship glaringly lacks: a teacher.

That’s doubly important considering how un- or under-educated Tekkadan’s crew is. Most of the youngest are illiterate like Mika, who doesn’t even know why Kudelia is going to Earth, while Atra doesn’t even know they were headed to Earth (technically, they’re headed to Jupiter for the moment).

Mika smiles a bit when Kudelia says she wants to make everyone happy, because to hear Kudelia, complicating his life by expanding his world through reading and writing is the key to that happiness.

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And Kudelia would be right: as long as Mika and the others aren’t properly educated and remain in the dark about how the world works, they’ll always have a disadvantage that makes them vulnerable to those who do. Their potential enemies are getting smarter as the dumb ones exit stage right.

Enter Fumitan, who Orga seems to trust enough to not only make her comms officer on a mission requiring radio silence whenever possible, but leave her alone on the bridge. In my Mika-like ignorance (Mika would trust whoever Orga trusted), I’d hope Fumitan and her close-up eye-narrowing were only a red herring, not something more sinister. But I can’t discount that she’s the new internal threat to Tekkadan, and someone to worry about far more than the hapless Todo.

Similarly, Fareed is light-years ahead of Coral in antagonistic competence. He lets Tekkadan go so he can learn more and more about them, and in particular the weapon that’s keeping them alive. That weapon isn’t the outdated Barbatos (about which he already knows plenty), but its pilot Mika. Fareed reaches out to 2nd Lt. Ein Dalton for more insight into that pilot, and considers rewarding him by letting him join the pursuit mission. “I understand your feelings. I’ll think about it.” So far, that’s Fareed’s credo.

One of the unsung (no pun intended) elements that makes IBO such a great show to immerse oneself in (like an Utawarerumono hot bath) its its excellent score, and the theme that plays under Fareed’s talk with Ein is quintessentially Fareed: quiet, subdued, exacting, and inquisitive, building to more dramatic instrumentation when Ein expresses his desire to avenge his fallen comrades.

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Back aboard the Ex-Will-O’-the-Wisp, Biscuit wonders if Tekkadan is suffering from mission bloat on its first mission. Is this simply to tough with the manpower and equipment at their disposal? Shouldn’t they ask for help, like from a subcontractor? Biscuit asks these questions, but he’s fully aware of the answers: no and no. This is Tekkadan’s first mission, and they can’t compromise or fall short on the promises they’ve made.

Orga has to be bold, not just to make a name for the company, or cement the loyalty and confidence of its employees. It’s all for Mika. Her His eyes are there” every time he turns around. Mika is always ready for action; ready to be told what they’re doing next. To Orga, Mika is stronger and cooler than he’ll ever hope to be. So he, in turn, must be as bold and cool as possible.

That leads to taking shortcuts like balancing the fate of the entire mission on the presumption that Fumitan is one of the good guys who shares his values and goals. Or getting in bed with pirates and mobsters. Or embarking on a mission before determining the fate of your well-connected ex-CEO who ran off with a suitcase full of cash. We’ll see if Orga’s increasingly bold stance to carrying out his mission will pay off or lead to his downfall.

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Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus – 01

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By request, I went back and gave Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor Exodus a once over. Like any second season for a show, whose first season I did not have a chance to watch, SnF:DA-E had a serious challenge before it: digesting an obviously complex sci-fi/alien invasion plot populated by dozens of characters coherently AND simultaneously presenting the new content and basis for the second season.

[Soukyuu no Fafner’s original season aired in Fall 2013 Summer 2004.]

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For all intensive purposes, SnF succeeds — I vaguely understand who/what/where everything was and is now and SnF’s strong visual effort makes a compelling argument for why I should give it a chance.

Unfortunately, while the clips effectively paint each character’s archetype in an approachable way, much of the flashback dialogue came off as unintentionally funny. “I’m doing it for my Bro!”, “Oh No, I killed an Ally!” “General, you are bleed! We must find survivors!”…it all rings a little hollow.

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To sum up: Aliens attack and kick humanity’s duff. However, humanity eventually fights back with brain-powered mecha that are piloted by teenagers. A major battle happens on Hawaii, one of humanity’s last food-supply bases in the Pacific, and…well…basically it all falls apart.

Whatever happens to the pilots, which the clips imply was mostly not winning, the UN ultimately nukes the island three times and still doesn’t manage to kill the aliens. However, a little girl with a crystal in her shoe is spared and that brings us to the new stuff…

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Following the war, a artificial island is made, which may also be a submarine and is hidden by a cloaking device out in the ocean. All of the old teenagers are there and most of them have moved on to other things. One is a teacher, another an engineer, some guys are drawing Manga on tablets, others are cooking curry.

There are also new teenagers there but they get so little face time that I can only tell you that there is a love triangle between two boys and a girl and nothing else.

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Then the general from nuked Hawaii shows up on a plain with a psychic girl I think and she senses a little crazy girl who likes crayons and maybe the crystal shoe girl who lives in an Evangelion-style clone tube. I don’t know. I don’t really know who any of them are.

Then aliens show up. Probably. And the narrator gives a foreboding forecast of doom.

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In its favor, FnF has sharp, brightly-colored design and wonderful backgrounds. In fact, the backgrounds that are animated in 3D may be the best I’ve seen to date. The mechs are sophisticated if not a little chunkier than Aldnoah’s and there’s a lot of tech-variety, which is admirable.

That said, everything feels sterile and FnF’s human nose design is just bizarre.

So… #butterface?

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Also not in its favor, FnF has too many characters to keep track of. Sure, I’d known them all better if I had watched the first season but it’s a big cast regardless. Perhaps worse, most everyone seems like an anime stereotype.

From the Brooding Hero who’s turned away from his calling as a soldier to the Peppy Tomboy who has no idea the Class President likes her, no one felt unique or exciting.

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Whatever my verdict, it won’t be entirely fair to FnF or it’s fins and even if it had excited me enough to take a deeper dive, now is not the time to go back and retro-review the previous season.

So, for now, I’ll leave it at decent looking but not enough to make the cut this season and, at least for me, probably lost to the sands of time. Sad, a little, cause I’m giving it a low 8.

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Sket Dance 23

Momoka, who has had some success with her voice-acting, is stuggling with capturing the voice and character of a little kid, so the Sket-dan invites her to join them in a series of childlike activities to recall how it feels to be young again. Later, Himeko and Momoka injest a mysterious cola that shrinks them into three-year-olds. Council members Kikuno and Unyuu also drink the cola and transform. It’s up to Bossun and Tsubaki to watch them until Chuuma makes the anecdote.

Apparently the writers couldn’t resist another Muppet Babies episode, only this time involving all the girls. Like the episode where Bossun shrunk, there’s a very nice texture and palette and smoothness to the animation. This episode distinguishes itself with much more action, including the girls chasing a cat, and Bossun chasing a truck on a bike (this seems to be a recurring thing in anime).

I am not a fan of chibi-style anime, which is basically how the three-year-olds are drawn here, but still enjoyed the episode. Besides the quality animation, there were plenty of funny moments – Himeko pretending to be a sumo wrestler, then hilariously trying to reach her hockey stick, for example. Or the return of the mustachioed PapaSwitch(TM). And the twist at the end where the antedote nets the girls the bodies of 27-year-old women, overshooting the mark. And of course, the fact that all of this kidding around was for naught: Momoka has to voice an infant.


Rating: 3

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The principal comissions a picture play targeted at children, and the Sket-dan decide to use Momotaro as a template. However, Bossun and Switch create a random, rambling tale that isn’t suitable for anyone, let alone children, and is summarily rejected. Later, the principal asks the Sket-dan to babysit his rich, standoffish grandson, and find he’s immune to their charms…until they go outside and make him play baseball.

The thing about parodies is, if you aren’t familiar with the source material, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on or why it should be funny. I don’t know anything about Momotaro, and yet the Sket-dan’s parody was still funny because it was so wildly ridiculous in its presentation. Himeko’s constant feedback was also entertaining.

The second segment is funny because it shows how zany and immature Sket-dan can be, and how maturity sometimes has nothing to do with age. Yoshihiko may be ten or so, but he may as well be forty. He doesn’t have friends or fun like kids his age should. He even fears getting his expensive clothes dirty if he plays. So it’s good that Bossun & Co. were eventually able to coax the kid into a semblance of a childhood.


Rating: 3

Usagi Drop 9

Rin and Kouki’s first week of first grade is heralded by a typhoon. Daikichi confers with other married dads at work. It sounds more complicated – and it is – but it looks like the benefits outweigh the costs. When Hitani and Kouki stay for dinner, we get a ‘what if they were one big family’ scenario. The kids get along so well, as do the parents. Things seem so much easier than two people raising their kids alone…

Usagi Drops another lovely, truly heartwarming episode on us. I have to say, Daikichi should thank his lucky stars he has Rin and not Kouki as a kid. Rin is well-behaved and wise beyond her years, but Kouki is…just a typical bratty kid. He’s always loud and dirty, has to be the center of attention, and doesn’t take direction well. But Rin’s effect on (power over?) him astounds not only his teachers, but his mom too.

This episode does a good job balancing the experiences and points-of-view of the kids and the parents, and all of their interactions together were positive. Daikichi starts to get the feeling that yeah, asking Hitani out could work. All that’s really in the way is their inability to actually test that theory, which is obviously a step requiring great courage. I almost thought he was going to ask Kouki “How would you feel if Hitani and I…” but his actual question was far vaguer. Ganbatte, Daikichi!


Rating: 4