Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 09

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This is Hannah filling in for the Magical Churl, Preston.

This week Magata Labs opens up; not only do the police arrive, but so does Moe’s rival in love, Gidou Setsuko, whom we hadn’t seen since the pilot. Not only does she make fast friends with Shimada (though later denies it as they get drunk together), but she also wastes no time effortlessly pushing Moe’s buttons by describing how Sohei uses her place “like a hotel.” Moe, a brilliant but very emotional young woman, finally purges the thought her man actually did as Gidou claimed.

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With the police there, and unwilling to maintain the fiction that Magata isn’t alive for a week, the time to solve the locked room murder mystery grows short. After looking at the video files and the code that recorded and compressed them, Saikawa has a pretty good idea what happened, and encourages Moe to deduce it for herself rather than telling her.

She comes up with the theory that Magata Shiki entered the room with child, and the child she’d give birth to was the one who murdered her. But he still doesn’t know how that child left the room, when there’s no record of it. That is, until Moe provides a spark to a new line of thinking, as she promises she’ll solve the case “more or less” by 7:00 PM.

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That “more or less” gets Saikawa thinking about how the release of Red Magic and the more recent blackout effected the labs’ clocks. Turns out they were delayed by a minute, so when the system went back on, a minute of footage was overwritten—the very footage of Shiki’s daughter leaving the room.

It was just a minute, but it was all she needed. Saikawa rushes to Shimada to confirm, to find her drinking with Gidou. And you have to hand it to Horie Yui and Hikasa Yoko, they know how to shoot the breeze while downing brewskis.

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One of the final pieces of the puzzle comes when he and Shimada do some hacker stuff (I’m no expert) and find some suspicious code many tens of thousands of hours ago governing Dr. Magata’s door. Saikawa then avails himself of Moe’s talents, asking her to multiply 256 by itself, then calculate how long ago 65,535 hours before 7:00 AM two days ago.

It only takes her a few seconds to determine it was Feb. 10, 4:00 AM, seven years ago: the day and time Red Magic version 4 came online. And that version was always meant to go haywire exactly when it did, orchestrating the events that led to the murder of Magata Shiki and Shindo. This is one of the always-adorable Moe’s finest moments, and she savors all the profuse praise Saikawa sends her way.

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When Moe’s uncle arrives at the lab, it’s past 7:00 PM and time for Saikawa to make his presentation on the locked door murder. Specifically, he intends to tell the killer herself, thereby inducing a confession due to said killer’s pride. That killer would be “Michiru”, the alternate personality of Magata Shiki, who now resides within the lab’s computers.

In effect, Shiki got what she always wanted: she shed her limiting physical body. And now she’s finally “meeting” Professor Saikawa. We’ll see if he’s able to impress her, as Moe impressed him (and me, and everyone else) with his brilliance. And let’s not forget this latest epiphany only came because Moe mentioned how it didn’t really matter whether his watch was off or not with regards to solving the case by or around 7.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 03

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I went into this episode hoping for some answers but prepared for more questions, and got both. First, the indisputable answers: the figure in the wedding dress on the robotic cart is, in fact Magata Shiki. Magata Shiki is dead, and because her arms and legs were amputated, someone murdered her.

The rest—how she was murdered when no one went in her room, nor did she ever leave, in fifteen years—remains, well, a mystery. To say nothing of the identity and motive of the killer.

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As a result of encountering Shiki’s delimbed corpse, everyone, including Saikawa and Moe, are in a bit of shock; not knowing quite how they feel, let alone how they should feel. But Saikawa and Moe are also two uncommonly smart cookies, so they soon find a bit of solace from the horror before them in trying to unravel the mystery that comes with it.

The geography of the room and its apertures (one big, one small); the impeccably-kept surveillance tapes spanning a decade and a half (they didn’t rewind-and-reuse, like convenience stores); the custom security system called “Red Magic” that is so flawless, last week’s error seems planned; there’s a lot to sift through, and Saikawa attempts to do so; sucking down cigarette after cigarette in the process.

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Then Director Shindo arrives on the island via helicopter with Shiki’s younger (but notably more adult-looking) sister Miki, who is shocked to learn Shiki is dead. Moe, while going over in her head the part of her video conversation with Shiki relating to her feelings for Saikawa, thinks it somewhat coincidental that Miki, the last surviving Magata, should arrive around the same time her sister is found dead and mutilated.

For the record, we also learn how Moe met Saikawa (when she was a fifth grader) and why she developed feelings for him (he was the first adult she ever met who was smarter than her). The implication is, her towering intellect had made her hunger for stimulation; for a challenge.

While she initially hated Saikawa for being smarter, she clearly now sees him as a means for her to exercise her intellect. He expanded her humdrum world, by doing nothing at all but existing.

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It seems like Moe is about to mention something about her (deceased) parents, but Saikawa is concerned with how late Shindo is; when they return to the helipad, they find him dead from a knife to the back of the neck. It’s another surefire murder,  and just as Shiki never left her room, he never left the helicopter cockpit, and only used thumbs-up from inside. Perhaps the killer was there all along. But then what’s Mika’s part in all this?

Even more intriguing—and more than a little, well, wrong—is another monologue by the director accompanying another flashback (the one in the car last week was indeed a flashback involving a younger Shiki). This past Shiki is confirmed as only thirteen, but as he puts it, it’s “a long thirteen years”, in which she absorbed and retained everything she possibly could, and now wanted to “lose” something…which is pretty heavily implied to be her virginity.

It was up to Shindo, the adult in this situation, to put a stop to whatever was going on in the car and Ferris Wheel, but for various reasons, he couldn’t. Now both he and Shiki are dead; murdered…by who? How? Why? We’ll need quite a bit more ‘expository dialogue’ to find out.

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Owarimonogatari – 01 (First Impressions)

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Owari means “end”, so it looks like this latest story marks the beginning of the end of the Monogatari series, which is celebrated as an epic masterpiece by some (ahem) but derided as a tedious, talky, overwrought glorified harem piece by others (…jerks!), with any number of less extreme opinions in between.

The cold open and tremendous OP indicate the primary subject of this series will be the enigmatic, doll-like, too-long-sleeved niece of Oshino Meme, Oshino Ougi, with a theme of mathematics, or numbers. But in a change from other recent series, Ougi isn’t the one with the problem, i.e. the oddity/apparition.

Rather, the person with the problem is Araragi Koyomi himself. The setting of the episode is deceptively sparse—a locked classroom they can’t exit—but that classroom becomes the perfect stage for a dialogue that expands the setting across space and time, where Ougi establishes from Araragi’s testimony that the classroom itself is an apparition, likely one of Araragi’s own making.

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Combined with a less-rushed (for a weekly show) 48-minute runtime and a couple new takes sparkling visuals This latest narrative twist in the Monogatari formula keeps things fresh and exciting. The series has aired largely out of order, but there’s something both orderly and poetic about saving the end for last, only to go back two years to an experience that changed his outlook on life significantly and causing him to “put a lid on his heart”; at least until he meets Hanekawa Tsubasa.

There’s a new face in this past story, too: the silver-twin-tailed Oikura Sodachi (very appropriately voiced by Kitsu Chiri herself, Inoue Marina). Two years ago, when she and Araragi were first-years, she assembled the class to ascertain the culprit in wrongdoing that led to an unnatural deviation in the math test scores of the class.

Oikura can also be distinguished by her intense dislike, even hatred of Araragi Koyomi, because he always scored higher than her favorite subject, math. To add insult to injury, Araragi didn’t even participate in the suspect study group. But the assembly goes nowhere for two hours, with the students fiercely debating but not coming any closer to discovering the culprit.

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Oikura made Araragi preside over the assembly, but when he loses control, he goes back her her pleading for an end to this unfruitful madness. She relents, calling for a vote…and SHE is the one the class chooses as the culprit. Stunned, and essentially ruined as a student, she never returns to school after the incident, which makes sense as we’ve never seen her before in later series.

Araragi’s regret from the day of that accursed assembly was that he stood by and allowed the majority to make a determination in total absence of empirical evidence. Oikura was only chosen because most of the class chose her. It’s an artificial justice and righteousness that never sat well with justice-obsessed Araragi, who adpoted the motto “If I make friends, my strength as a human decreases,” which he obviously would later drop once started helping out various oddity-afflicted girls.

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Oikura wouldn’t let anyone leave the classroom until the culprit was found, and they “found” her. Likewise, Araragi can’t leave the phantom classroom his regret created until the true culprit is revealed. Ougi wastes no time deciding it was the math teacher, Komichi Tetsujo, who was responsible for the odd test scores, by changing the exam to match the questions the study group used.

In the end, Oikura organized the venue of her own demise, the assembly, as she was sacrificed by a teacher looking to improve her own stature, and the flawed justice of majority rule. And perhaps she miscalculated because she had so much emotional investment in the investigation, due to her resentment of fellow math whiz Araragi.

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Now that Araragi knows the culprit for sure, the classroom returns to normal coloring, and Ougi opens the door and lets him out. The next day, when he checks the part of the school where the classroom was, there was nothing there; the apparition dissipated. Then he stops by his current homeroom, but in a clever inversion of the episode thus far, rather than being unable to exit, he can’t enter.

That’s because Tsubasa is blocking the door, with news that someone has returned to school after two years: Oukura Sodachi, who arrives just as the teacher who destroyed her departs for maternity leave, as if the two were switching places. This should be interesting.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 06

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Our boy Adlet is in a heap of trouble, with a most of the other Braves either suspecting him (Maura), ready to kill him (Hans and Chamo), or abstaining and letting the others do what they want (Fremy). Only Tania still believes in his innocence, and is both confused and outraged by the positions of the others.

When it’s Goldolf’s turn to offer his thoughts, he offers them in the form of a strike against Adlet, ignoring his princess’ doubts about his guilt. Hans joins in, and Adlet has no choice but to improvise, knocking Fremy out cold and running out of the temple. And thank God he does, too, because I was dead tired of that stuffy glowy room.

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Adlet doesn’t get far, as Hans throws a dagger in his back and he passes out. While out, he helpfully dreams about his backstory, back when he wasn’t even the strongest boy in his village, to when he presented himself before his future master, a pitiful bag of bones, begging to be trained.

We don’t see the in between, when his friend, mother, and village are presumably wiped out by fiends. The longbeard begins the lesson at once by beating young Adlet up, telling him he must smile when things go bad and laugh at despair if he wants to become strong.

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Adlet isn’t smiling much when he wakes up to find Fremy has saved him, but not only to prepare for what she calculates is just a 1% chance he isn’t the seventh brave and her enemy. Still, there’s something to the fact she didn’t make a lot of noise so the other braves could capture them. Perhaps she’s giving Adlet that 1% chance to convince her he’s not lying.

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Adlet doesn’t do so well at first, but then starts to smile again, remembering the words of his master. No matter how dark the night gets, he’ll pierce it with his defiant grin. He doesn’t know how to convince Fremy that his theory about an eighth brave helping the seventh (who then framed him), but he won’t concede defeat.

Even though Fremy flatly refuses to help him, his boundless optimism moves her to ask him why he wanted to become a brave, a question that suggests, for the first time, that she has the slightest interest in anything about Adlet (other than her suspicions he’s the enemy). It’s not much, but Adlet—and I—will take it, and similarly look forward to the morning when he must figure out a way to prove his innocence and foil the real enemy.

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Danganronpa: The Animation – 08

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Naegi catches Oogami Sakura fighting with Monobear, leading him to suspect she’s the mastermind’s agent. The fourth floor contains the chem lab, music room, data processing room and principal’s office, but the latter two are locked, and Monobear creates a new rule prohibiting breaking down locked doors. Fujisaki’s Alter Ego AI discovers new facts about Hope’s Peak Academy, including a past incident that led to the plan to incarcerate students executed by the principal.

Monobear announces Oogami was his agent, causing strife amongst the students and leading to a fight between Asahina and Fukawa. Later, Alter Ego tells Naegi and Kirigiri he wants to fight with them; they connect him to the network in the hidden room. Later, they and Asahina find Oogami locked in the Rec Room. Naegi breaks the window to unloc the door, and they discover Oogami is dead. Asahina believes the culprit could only be Togami, Fukawa, or Hagakure.

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This was a hefty episode with a lot going on, hence the long synopsis. Not only is progress made in discovering who’s behind all this in the first place (thanks to Alter Ego), Monobear’s mole is revealed, and turns out to be the person we least suspected (other than Naegi). In order to ensure the safety of certain unnamed hostages, Oogami was to kill someone if there was ever a lull in the killing. But with a steady pace of murders more than half the student body is gone, and Oogami must have had enough to decide to turn on her master.

At first we were wondering why Monobear was being so lenient with her (Junko met a sticky end for opposing him, after all), but then it’s clear he turns her into a catalyst for more murder by outing her. The Togami/Fukawa/Hagakure alliance clashes with the Oogami’s loyal friend Asahina, with the calm, logical Naegi and Kirigiri in the middle. Oogami ends up dead in a classic locked-room murder mystery. As usual, while there’s a list of obvious potential culprits, Oogami’s actual killer may well be none of them.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Danganronpa: The Animation – 01

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Plain, average Makoto Naegi is excited about starting a new year at the prestigious Hope’s Peak Private Academy, having been chosen by sheer luck. When he enters he passes out, and wakes up in a classroom. He heads to the gym where fourteen elite students are assembled, each experts in a particular field. A strange two-toned bear, Monokuma, appears, claiming to be the principal.

He tells the fifteen students that they are trapped inside the academy with no hope of escape, and the only way to leave is to kill somebody else; he doesn’t care who or how. The students are all against killing at first, so three days, later, Monokuma gives them videos of horrible events designed to make the students want to leave at all costs; in Makoto’s case, the belief his family is dead.

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We’re always weary of huge casts in anime, especially, when they’re all introduced at once in a “character dump.” It’s not that we dislike them, just that with upwards of a dozen series on tap this summer, keeping track of the casts can be taxing on the ol’ noggins. That’s why we spent a big chunk of time familiarizing ourselves with the cast: names, appearance, and any familiar voices before watching the episode. As a result, we could focus more on what was being said, not on who was saying it.

This will get easier as we watch more, and watch more we will! How can we not? We’re no strangers to the murder-mystery genre, and we’re already seeing thematic shades of Mirai Nikki, Another, Deadman Wonderland, and even Battle Royale. Only this is a locked room murder mystery, and there’s a survivor count at the end of every episode. Everyone survived this week, but with thirteen planned episodes, that number is bound to drop soon, in an order and by twisted methods we couldn’t possibly predict.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Here’s the key to the class portrait above, along with their most distinguishing features. They’re quite a colorful bunch!

1. Hagakure Yasuhiro (dreads)
2. Asahina Aoi (boobs/swimmer)
3. Ohwada Mondo (biker, greaser hair)
4. Togami Byakuya (blonde/glasses)
5. Kirigiri Kyouko (silver hair)
6. Ishimarru Kiyotaka (red eyes/white uniform)
7. Kuwata Leon (red hair/piercings)
8. Makoto Naegi (small/normal)
9. Maizono Sayaka (blue eyes/idol)
10. Fujisaki Chihiro (short/hacker)
11. Celestia Lundenberg (red eyes/goth)
12. Fukawa Touko (dark braids/glasses)
13. Yamada Yifune (fat/cat mouth)
14. Oogami Sakura (street fighter)
15. Enoshima Junko (blonde/big hair)