Net-juu no Susume – 04

A new series of cute loot and a bonus point campaign spur Morika, already in high spirits upon becoming partners with Lily, to splurge a little. Only a happy circumstance takes place at the convenience store as she has to wait a few minutes for the store’s e-money system to boot.

Those minutes are spent suddenly learning that the store clerk is also a fan of Fruits de Mer, and goes on and on about it in a way Morioka find very fulfilling. They have so much fun talking, the clerk neglects the fact there’s a guy who needs his cigs!

Even so, it was exhilarating for Morioka to finally talk with someone about MMOs in real life. In the game, Hayashi encounters Kanbe and Lilac, the latter of which has just gone to the loot outlet and picked out some stuff that’s very fluffy and cute, but Kanbe prefers what she usually wears.

We also meet Lilac’s real-life player, who both laments not having snatched up Hayashi as her partner and seems to have a bit of a spark with Kanbe. Hayashi manages to score both rare and common loot, but lucky Lily takes the cake by scoring the whole set.

When in-game, NjS packs a lot of neat details, like the way Lilac sees Hayashi as a sensitive guy (compared to Kanbe) rather than what he actually is—a she; Pokotarou suddenly spawning in the same space as Lilac, obscuring her avatar; or Himeralda’s player playing as her husband, who plays Pokotarou; a surprising and clever occurrence.

But NjS makes good use of both of its worlds, and seems really balanced this week. Sakurai is depressed about not being able to see Morioka, and as he lists off all the ways he’s tried, Koiwai rightly suspects him of stalking, which isn’t good.

But then…Koiwai stakes out the convenience store, bumps into Morioka as planned, and works his businessman magic. Morioka is initially like, “why is this guy talking to me?!” and rightly so, even if she weren’t naturally shy; but once they get to talking they establish a quick rapport, though Koiwai comes off as a little pushy in gaining her contact info.

When Koiwai shows Sakurai what he’s done, how he managed to get a date with Morioka, Sakurai’s expression is of shock, which if the camera had lingered would have surely turns to dejection. Is Koiwai simply helping Sakurai out, or does he want to date Morioka? I hope it’s the former; besides seeming like a nice guy, what kind of friend would stab him in the back like that?

That brings us back into the game, where Hayashi goes to a, yup, dejected-looking Lily, who reminds them that since they’re partners, he can come to her to talk any time. Morioka, through Hayashi, words things very carefully in telling Lily the story of how she ended up in the hospital on an IV all the way to accepting a date from a former work colleague.

The coincidences are far too many, and Sakurai is no fool; he connects the dots, flipping Hayashi’s gender to make her Morioka. Now all he needs to do is believe the deduction he’s just made and proceed from there. After all, despite thinking he’s had no contact with Morioka, all this time he’s had all the contact, and they’re already partners, for gosh sakes. It’s high time the RL players need to catch up to their MMO counterparts.

Advertisements

Charlotte – 13 (Fin)

char131

As we open on the Charlotte finale, the situation is dire and the task ahead for Yuu—locate and steal the ability of every person in the world—seems impossible. But the show wisely infuses dark comedy into the mix, like Yuu fumbling with his English flash cards, and the task starts to get easier with every ability he steals, including mind-reading and the ability to speak any language early on.

Yuu becomes even more of superhero badass as he travels the world, getting in, plundering, and getting out. He even earns a nickname: “The One-Eyed Grim Reaper (Shinigami)”, which he’s a bit embarrassed about.

char132

But he’s not just stealing powers from criminals or people like he used to be who only use them for selfish purposes. He also has to steal from the likes of a Peruvian girl with healing powers, helping her village stay healthy. He pillages her power without hesitation, then realizes he can heal his eye, go back in time, and bring Kumagami back. But remembering how far he’s come, and the primary goal of his mission, he abandons such a move as mission creep.

char133

As he moves around the world gathering tens of thousands of abilities, he becomes stronger and better at it, but at a steep cost: his memories short and long term, along with his very sanity. The episode follows him in a similar manner to when Ayumi died and he started falling. This time his intentions are honorable, and he’s literally saving the world and thousands of young people from horrible fates, but the toll on his individuality and soul are no less severe.

char134

The one thing that seems to anchor him to the past he can’t see anymore are Nao’s flash cards. Even though he doesn’t remember who gave them to him or why he treasures them so much, a part of him always wakes up when he focuses on them. Nao isn’t watching over him this time, but by giving him those cards, she is the sole reason he doesn’t totally lose himself or, while in the Arizona desert at the end of his tether, doesn’t give up completely.

char135

While a single episode could never do the scale of his mission justice, and the speed with which Yuu reaches his final target, a girl in Beijing, the efficiency, excitement, humor, and breathlessness of his journey that takes place this week and only this week can’t be overstated.

He’s literally limping on a walking stick when a lowlife seeking a bounty and an easy life starts firing crossbow bolts into his back, but the very girl Yuu is after is able to save Yuu by stalling his attacker. Yuu suspects her ability is immense courage, but even after he steals it, she still requires convincing that it’s alright to leave him. After all, he’s not as weak as he looks.

char136

The minute his mission is finally accomplished, he’s picked up by Shun & Co. in a police helicopter and brought home. When he wakes up in the hospital, he’s told he’ll survive his injuries. He’s told this by a pretty silver-haired girl with blue eyes sitting by his bed. Someone who, to him, in that moment, is a total stranger.

Nao introduces herself as his lover, and goes over their history together, right up until his promise to come home. Because he was successful, Nao holds up her end of the bargain, and while she’s truly hurt he doesn’t remember her, she’s just happy he came back in one piece and of otherwise sound mind, something that was by no means certain after the stress of absorbing so many powers.

char137

The show doesn’t make it clear whether Yuu’s memories are gone for good, or whether they’ll return once his body and mind get enough rest. Not plundering any more powers will certainly be good. But regardless, Yuu lets himself fit right back into the family he left behind, and Nao keeps her camcorder going. If his old memories won’t come back, then he’ll just have to make new ones with Ayumi, Yusa, Takajou, and Ayumi.

And there you have it! All in all, a very solid ending, if not quite Charlotte’s absolute best. All I asked was that Yuu and/or Nao survive the series, and they do, and the ambiguity of Yuu’s memory loss and the fact he’s happy to be back and start having fun again lends the right amount of hope that things are going to be just fine. Not a perfect ending, but a happy and satisfying one. And another faith-reinforcing triumph by Maeda Jun and P.A. Works.

9_mag

Charlotte – 12

char121

The harrowing events of last week, which resulted in the rescue of Nao and the capture of anti-wielder actors, along with Pooh’s heroic sacrifice, eventually bring Yuu around to Shun’s big-picture way of thinking. It’s not enough to keep those he loves safe; in order to ensure their safety, he has to save everyone.

But at first, this week, he’s unsure of how to do that. In the beginning, all he can do is heal from the injuries he sustained, accept he’ll probably never see out of his right eye (or time leap), and allow himself to be spoon fed delicious meals provided by Takajou (school beef tongue curry), Yusa (cream stew) and Ayumi (omelette rice that has never tasted so good).

char122

I enjoyed the rhythm of the very people he cares about and wants to help the most visiting his room one after the other, helping him build up his strength with food they made with love. And having almost died, he makes sure to tell Misa to see her parents before Yusa loses her ability and she passes on for good.

Yusa rather ingeniously uses her job on a TV show to visit her parents, and Misa has a cathartic moment in which she actually possesses Yusa on camera to describe the love she tastes in her parents’ otherwise run-of-the-mill soba set. Combined with Yuu’s newfound love of Ayumi’s cooking, there’s some lovely blood family beats to be had this week.

char123

Despite being back on his feet, the one person Yuu can’t get himself to see is Nao, but as her injuries weren’t as bad as is (and let’s face it, she’s a tough one to boot), she’s discharged before him, and ends up visiting him. He asks her what he should do, and she says it’s technically possible, if extraordinarily difficult and dangeous, for him to simply end the entire crisis by plundering the abilities of every wielder in the world.

She almost seems to be shrugging it off as she proposes it, but Yuu agrees that’s exactly what he’ll do: travel the world, find every wielder, steal their abilities, and trusts he won’t turn into a world-ending monster. When Nao asks why, Yuu is upfront: it’s his turn to save her, because he loves her. The reaction of a Nao who didn’t actually save him in this timeline is dubiousness and confusion, which frustrates Yuu unti they’re literally growling at each other, seemingly proving to Nao they have the worst chemistry possible.

char124

But Nao’s rather aggressive inability to instantly accept Yuu’s confession doesn’t sway him; he still loves her, and he’ll still save everyone, including her, in order to repay the debt of her alternate self. She rather perceptively points out that other Nao may have just been taking responsibility, as she brought Yuu into all this to begin with, but she can’t deny Yuu has become someone dear to him that she knows she can believe in.

So she makes a deal they pinkie-swear on: they’ll settle down as lovers. Yuu warns her she may be putting too much faith in the one-time “cheating fiend”, but to Nao that’s the point of the deal: if he can pull off this final mission, she’s convinced she’d be in a position to fall for him. Before they part, Nao has Yuu plunder her power first, thus officially setting him on his path.

Once it happens, Nao looks lighter, relieved, and grateful. I want to believe these two didn’t just exchange death flags by mapping out their ideal future together. That is, I’m hoping Maeda Jun doesn’t rip my heart out again; I’m tired of putting it back in my chest!

char125

Having already started his mission, Yuu visits his brother on the hospital roof, who is still mourning Pooh and fills him in. He gets the blessing of Shun, who tells him to go overseas while he and the Syndicate handle Japan. Yuu also takes Takajou and Yusa’s powers, which in the latter means the end of Misa, who writes a tearjerking farewell letter to her sister thanking her for letting her borrow her now and then.

Finally, while packing to leave on a trip to do something he must do because only he can, Nao pops by to wish him Godspeed, and they exchange tokens of their commitment to meeting again. Nao gives him English conversation notes, and Yuu gives her the media player she gave to him. Hopefully this isn’t ZHIEND for these two, because they’ve emerged as one of the better romantic pairings of the year, in one of the finest shows.

9_mag

Charlotte – 11

char111

If it hadn’t already, with this, its third 10-rated episode, Charlotte has established itself as not only one of the year’s best shows, but one of P.A.Works’ and writer/composer Maeda Jun’s best, as well. Even though I knew full well last week’s rescue of Ayumi was essentially a cakewalk that returned us more or less to the status quo, and that there would be hell to pay this week, I wasn’t fully prepared for just how much hell would go down.

Things start out tentatively, however, with Yuu returning to the syndicate headquarters with Ayumi, who meets her big brother for the first time since her memories were erased. It’s wonderful that Ayumi is breathing and free of Collapse, but to learn her memories of Shun are gone forever is the first of many harsh blows to the cast this week.

And hey, we finally learn why the show is called Charlotte, and more importantly, why there’s an outbreak of kids with abilities: it’s the name of a comet that spreads particles across the earth, activating dormant parts of the human brain. It last happened 400 years ago, and there was a witchhunt. When the comet passed again 12 years ago, more kids were bestowed with “magic powers”, and the witchhunts started back up.

char112

Shunsuke shelters a research team working on a vaccine for the “disease” that always leads to such horrible massacres throughout histroy, though he admits there’s little to be done for those who already possess powers except to protect them and wait it out until they age enough to lose them. With his Plunder ability Yuu is the most powerful, most valuable, and hence most at-risk ability wielder in the world, so Shun is committed to protecting him.

However, Shun reveals that for all his planning and good intentions, all it took for his syndicate to be unraveled and all of his friends and family to be put squarely in harm’s way, and for the entire vaccination plan to be put into jeopardy, is the syndicate’s hired driver, Furuki.

char113

Because Furuki has a family, and when that family is abducted and held hostage, Furuki has no choice but to betray Kumagami, who is also captured by a group of foreigners.

These foreigners don’t use the kid gloves on Kumagami, pummeling him, administering truth serum so he spills the beans about every “psychic” he knows and has been in contact with, and ripping out all his teeth and nails. From there, the enemy storms Hoshinoumi’s dorms and Nao is also captured, though she puts up a valiant fight.

char114

Yes, this is all Furuki’s fault for working with the syndicate when he has something as important as a family to be manipulated with by the enemy, but the responsibility lies with Shunsuke for hiring him, and he knows it. He messed up bad, and Kumagami and Nao won’t be the only ones to suffer for it.

Being more or less powerless himself, Shunsuke has no choice but to give in to the enemy’s demands to send Yuu to them, alone. Yuu is the only one who can stand against them, and his only hope is to steal the enemy’s abilities in order to rescue Kumagami and Nao.

Suddenly having all this shit shoveled on his plate almost causes Yuu to blow from his Collapse ability before the operation even starts, but Shunsuke manages to calm him down, and in any case Yuu feels he must save Nao, the girl who wouldn’t give up on him even when he gave up on himself.

char115

Whereas Ayumi’s rescue went like clockwork, here the clock is blown to bits and then the bits are set on fire. Murphy’s Law rules, as infiltrating his two foes reveals they neither have powers nor weapons on their person. While the muscleman is not present, a spry little green-eyed ability wielder ambushes Yuu and gouges out one of his eyes, making it impossible for him to make an emergency time leap (and possibly wrecking his plunder ability too).

I’m curious who this Ayumi-sized girl is and why she’s fighting on the wrong side, but I imagine her masters either have some kind of leverage on her like they did Furuki, or she was raised by the masters to hate others with abilities…or perhaps a wielder betrayed her and she’s sworn to make them pay.

Whatever her motives, she’s only one of the enemy’s tools here. Climbing on Yuu can stabbing him in the shoulder,  she causes Collapse to activate in him, bringing the whole warehouse down.

char116

Shunsuke and his friends rush to the scene to survey the sheer breadth of Yuu’s failure, which was again bourne from Shunsuke’s poor judgement in hiring Furuki. Yuu was able to save himself with telekinesis, but Kumagami wasn’t so lucky: he was run through with several pieces of metal and rebar, using his body as a shield to save Nao.

Now, not only is the syndicate’s ability to identify new ability users and a close friend since the beginning of the resistance dead, their trump card Yuu may be totally neutralized. The only bright side is that they’re able to capture the unconscious foreigners, but I’m sure they have friends too, and right now no user or former user in or out of the syndicate is safe, including the just-rescued Ayumi.

Earlier in the episode, Yuu remarks that the witchhunts happening overseas “have nothing to do with them,” but Shunsuke rebutted that “this story can’t possibly be that easy.” It seemed that way last week, but now there are no delusions. It’s not easy, and this looks to be only the beginning of the hardship. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

10_mag

Charlotte – 10

char101

After all the shock and intrigue of last week’s masterpiece, this week started off a bit slow and rigid, with Shunsuke telling Yuu and Nao the story of what happened after his time leap.

He returned to a time a couple of years before the three of them are captured, tracks down his trusty friends Kumagami (or “Pooh”), Shichino, Medoki, Maedomori, and helps them expand a syndicate of ability wielders. However, something always ends up going wrong, everyone is captured or killed, and Shun has to time leap and start all over.

char102

The re-re-re-built syndicate starts to become more wealthy and secure thanks to gambling winnings, but Shun learns that he loses a bit of his vision every time he leaps, and when he goes blind, he won’t be able to leap at all.

So he makes his last leap count, by working to set up a school to educate and protect ability wielders until they lose those abilities, including his brother and sister. To further protect them while working behind the scenes, his friends help him erase all memory of him from Yuu and Ayumi.

char103

That brings us back to the present, where Shun announces the next mission is to save Ayumi. He may not be able to time leap anymore, but if Yuu uses his true power, “Loot” (or “Plunder”) to steal Shun’s power, than he can time leap and save Ayumi. And that’s exactly what he does.

Being back in a time when his sister is alive—something he took for granted the last time around—is ample motivation to save her this time, and he moves forward with confidence and a solid plan to save her not only from “Collapse”, but from Konishi the knife-wielder as well.

char104

Yuu also finds an understanding ally in the Nao of the past, who has been through a lot less things with Yuu at this point. Still, she believes his story about time leaping without complaint, and also accepts his thanks for her saving him when Ayumi died before. It doesn’t matter that she won’t actually have to save him from himself in this timeline if he saves Ayumi, because the fact she did in the previous one is the only reason he’s still alive, free, and there, in a position to save her. Yuu understands this, and makes sure Nao knows how grateful he is.

As for the Ayumi-saving caper itself, he steals her Collapse ability without a hitch, while he, Nao, Yusarin and Joujirou all go undercover at Ayumi’s school for a coordinated attack. Yusa and Jou are immediately indisposed and taken out of the equation due to their respective fame and suspiciousness, but then again, they both serve as good diversions for the bulk of the students, giving Yuu and Nao room to work.

char105

And work the plan does: Konishi stalks Ayumi once more with her click-click-clicky knife, but Yuu is there to stand between the two. He breaks all the windows behind Konishi, and an invisible Nao kicks the knife away and snips away Konishi’s bangs. Konishi retreats, her warning received loud and clear.

With Ayumi safe and by Yuu’s side, he encounters Pooh and Medoki on the streets, who offer to take him to his brother. I was certain there would be some kind of mistake, Steins;Gate-style, that would prevent Yuu from saving Ayumi once more, but everything went off without a hitch.

It was almost too easy and quick a resolution, but it was still a very satisfying episode that covered a lot of ground and still found time for little moments of comedy. Now, with Ayumi apparently safe, there’s still plenty of time for Yuu, Shun, and the resistance to accomplish even more for the cause.

9_mag