Re:Creators – 04

(For this week’s Re:C I’m filling in for Franklin, who is currently battling a bit of a backlog in both inbox and anime queue. Ganbatte, Oigakkosan! —Hannah)

After learning her creator died in an auto accident, a rudderless Meteora does a fair amount of soul-searching, starting by purchasing the game she’s in and playing it all the way to the end, in an effort to both learn more about herself and the person who created her, in hopes that information will help her make an informed decision about what to do next.

She painstakingly reports all of this to the others, as well as presents her hypothesis about this world only being able to take so many “translations” of creations before it crumbles under the weight of all the “contradictions.” For the fourth straight episode, this involves Meteora talking and explaining in a measured tone for an extended period of time—until the sun sets outside, in fact.

And while it does manage to hit some emotional beats towards the end—basically, she likes her creator, his creation, and wants to fight to get everything back to the way it was—it once more expose’s this show using such scenes as a crutch to keep the audience appraised. It’s too much tell and not enough show.

The chatting continues in a dark warehouse, where the onna-kishi Alicetelia has captured her creator and forced him to revise her world so there isn’t so much dang war, only for it not to work. The Military Uniform Princess assures her that this is an our worlds-vs.-their world situation, she’s leading the revolt, and could use able warriors like Alice.

We meet Beardy, who like Yuuya is content to have fun in this world for a time, and not in a rush to return to his world. Mamika also softens “Alice-chan’s” character somewhat by questioning rash side-taking, especially with people like the MUP, while tucking into boil-in-the-bag curry, the package of which bears Mamika’s likeness.

One of Matsubara’s fellow creators then calls him, informing him that one of his creations—a young mecha pilot—has suddenly appeared, along with his mecha, who on the surface looks like he’d be on Team Celestia/Meteora. That leaves just one more main creation from the promo art and OP to introduce: the Oushino Ougi-esque Chikujouin Makagami, who looks more like Team MUP.

As this is a 22-episode run, it’s not unusual to not have all the main players introduced after four episodes. But there remains a sluggishness and a feeling that we’re not seeing as much of the potential of this premise as we could, and are instead hearing a whole lot about it from static characters as other characters sit around in rooms listening.

To be blunt, I’m eager for Re:Creators to get out of those rooms and start kicking some ass out in the world. With the lines starting to be drawn among the creations according to how they want to proceed, hopefully we’ll get more actual confrontations soon.

Re:Creators – 03

The Gist: The conflict between the good guys and Magical Slayer Mamika is quickly broken by the arrival of an unnamed medieval woman (or onna-kishi if you will) riding a quasi-Pegasus. While Mirokuji Yuya could probably have defeated the new arrival, she retreats almost as quickly as she appears.

Thus follows a lengthy exposition sequence where Yuya and team good guys have a bunch of food at a family restaurant. Celestia is still wounded but not so much that she doesn’t want to learn more from this quasi-bad guy and he’s not so bad-a-guy that he won’t accept a free meal. Especially if it includes a tasty ice cream parfait.

During their exchange, we learn that the Military Uniform Princess approached him along with an old man, who is most likely the detective with a gun shown in the opening credits. However, Yuya saw through the MUP’s request and immediately blew her off. After all, her idea of modifying their worlds via their creators strikes him as unimaginative when that same line of thinking could give them so much more power in their own worlds…and that’s ignoring the fact that their own worlds are not much more than cages.

Yuya would rather live in our world and experience all the fun after all. He’s not even mad that his world is ‘messed up’ for our enjoyment—he’d even like his friends (and enemies) to be in our world, to share in all the fun…

Later, Team Good Guy experiments with what Yuya mentioned: can Mr. Matsubara change Celestia’s abilities by writing about them? What about having Celestia’s illustrator, Marine, make an illustration? The answer is a masterfully done ‘No’, including a great use of sound design…but it brings the group closer together, including Celestia telling Souta he has time to learn how to be a better and more confident illustrator.

Also, Marine has a contract with Meteora’s development company and offers to take her on a tour of the building…

Elsewhere, the Military Princess talks to no one in particular about her need to destroy the world. It has something to do with Setsuna, no doubt her creator and the girl who committed suicide in the opening of episode one, and who has some relationship with Souta. Mamika watches on silently from the sidelines…

The Verdict: The balance of action, character and exposition was tighter this week, and the depth we gained from the characters added charm and nuance to their being. That said, not a lot happened—again—and it presented another boatload of sometimes clunkily-delivered exposition.

In the end, sound design, charm, production values, and the ongoing mysteries earn it my recommendation. While Yuya was kinda annoying, and talk-heavy, his not-entirely-evil personality and pragmatic outlook on the world was enough not to drag the story down. I also greatly appreciated his annoyance at how slow Team Good Guy was to realize all the things they could try to benefit from.

 

Re:Creators – 02

The Gist: Meteora directs much of the opening story and through her, we learn that the creation effect is not limited to one art form nor main characters. She is an NPC that begins the ending section of an RPG Souta remembers enjoying, after all.

A great deal of eating and exposition later, Souta helps locate the company that created Meteora and the individual that created Celestia. One Mr Matsubara, who agrees to meet them in public. To Celestia’s chagrin, he does not live up to her expectations as a god, let alone a clever man she would associate with.

Then Magical Slayer Mamika shows up, apparently having been sent at them by the ‘Military Uniform Princess.’ (AKA Gunpuku no Himegimi) As a ‘Sailor Moon’-themed creation, she isn’t especially reasonable to negotiate with, nor intelligent, nor ready when her magic attacks cause pain and blood…but she is seriously strong. Much stronger than Celestia without her mech.

Fortunately (or not), Mirokuji Yuya shows up at the end and shrugs off Mamika’s attack with ease. According to Souta, he’s the final boss villain of another game called Exclusive Underground. Where this is going, exactly, and how it will not result in at least one of these characters quickly getting killed off, remains to be seen next week.

Dun dun duuunnnn…

The Verdict: The concept, sound design and animation continue to be top notch this week. Mamika’s magic sound, which is like a cutesy popping bubble, was delightfully bizarre and great contrast to the ‘cool’ designs of the other characters. I loved the music in the opening theme and throughout the episode as well.

Unfortunately, all the exposition around the concept and connecting the cast with Mr Matsubara came at the expense of good pacing. The opening two thirds dragged and the ending third felt rushed. Additionally, while I loved the opening theme, it immediately spoiled several characters appearing in the show to come. That didn’t do Yuya’s extremely short and clunky introduction any favors.

Ultimately, setting the stage for a fanfic mashup world should provide a good series in the long run (22 episodes, to be exact—ed.), but the speed at which thematically discordant characters have been thrown together, and uneventfully thrown together, just didn’t work this week.

Hopefully, the remaining characters will get more time to breathe on their introductory episodes. Otherwise, the crispness of the production and the curious premise will lose their shine quickly.

 

Re:Creators – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Souta Mizushino has pretensions of being a creator. He has the software to draw and sources of inspiration litter the room and world around him, but the spark hasn’t quite hit. He’s only a high school student after all.

Then, while watching the most popular anime of the season on his tablet, he finds himself transported into that world. Right in the middle of a fight that is not going well for show heroine Celestia Yupitilia and her ornate mecha. But the enemy isn’t what Celestia has come to expect from her world and, eventually noticing Souta, they aren’t in her world for very long.

Back on Earth, neither character quite knows how to act. Celestia quickly understands that, to some degree, she is a fictional character and, to some degree, Souta is not responsible for whatever has happened. Just ask quickly, her previous opponent has joined them on Earth and clearly has a grander understanding of what is going on.

Mystery, car chases, a third fictional character with magic rocket launchers appears, and a trip to the convenience store ensues. This. Show. Rocks.

You absolutely should watch this show because it takes all the conventions that could be cliché and does them so right. While we don’t know what exactly is going on and how, there’s a strong implication that human creation is the source of other worlds where people face the triumphs and hardships we imagine, and that even though magic from that world can carry over to our own, Souta himself (and humans in general) are not gifted with magical properties. Nor does Souta get the Re:Zero / Konosuba other-world adventure.

Souta describes himself as the Narrator and, right from the get go,  Re:Creators makes the point that this is the story as he remembers it, full of consequences, action, and thought.

But what really lofts Souta and Celestia above high above expectations is how they respond to their situation visually and through dialog. Anime is full of confused male leads who just repeat whatever ‘unexpected thing’ they hear right back as a question, and confused leads who ask idiotic questions or take an absurd amount of time to accept what is going on around them.

Sure, Souta spends a lengthy walk with his mouth hanging open in shock with a confused look, and has no particular goal moving forward, but he gets what’s going on around him, which lets the world show itself to us, without being overly expositioned in the process.

Celestia fares about the same, processing the evidence she sees and moving through a range of reasonable emotional and tactical responses until some of it is obvious. Her behavior just makes sense, and that makes me tremendously happy as a viewer.

The Verdict: Solid writing, fantastic voice work and music, extreme density of content (especially in the epilogue-as-prologue, where a mysterious girl commits suicide by train), and top shelf animation put this very very close to a perfect 10. It only falls short in comparison to my other 10s (Re:Zero’s emotional roller coaster or the pure splendor of Fate or the originality of FLCL). Give it time though, it may just get there.

For now, go right now and watch it!

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 02

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Asterisk War took a page from its cross-town rival Rakudai Kishi by wasting no time infusing its characters with more depth and nuance. That included another piece of Ayato’s past puzzle with his big sister telling him to temper his immense power and vowing to protect him, and reaching Détente with Princess Julis, whose sharp edges are smoothed considerably this week. 

While haughty and dismissive in the first episode, here she’s reasonable and not totally opposed to friendship with Ayato, who after all just saved her from an unwanted confrontation with Lester (who, alas, remains a meatheaded moron).

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Julis also—seemingly reluctantly, but actually not—agrees to take Ayato on a tour to repay her debt to him, as well as show him around the city. She even replies to his Good Morning in class, which surprises the rest of the class.

Julis is on Ayato’s immediate right, but he learns to his left is Sasamiya Saya, his childhood friend and daughter of a weapons inventor. And what a great school: not only can students pull guns on other students without anyone blinking, but teachers can hit students for being late due to oversleep! Fantasy indeed.

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And it’s in this classroom that it’s confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that yup, this is going to be a harem. Saya senses Julis’ conflicted will and offers to show Ayato around for her, but of course Julis actually does want to show him around, so the two start clashing immediately. The Asuka/Rei resemblance of the two, both visually and personality-wise, did not go unnoticed.

Then Claudia and her boobs show up, and Julis and Saya instantly form a smaller-boobed alliance, refusing to give Ayato up and deciding it better for the two of them to show him around together. Claudia withdraws, promising she’ll get Ayato to herself eventually. How nice it is to be wanted!

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When she gets Julis to admit she was in a duel with Ayato,  Saya is dubious, because even someone of Julis’ level would have their ass handed to them by the Ayato she knows. This is a nice callback to the flashback in the cold open, in which Ayato easily defeats a bunch of bigger, older students for his sister’s sake, but goes too far.

Julis resents Saya claiming the two of them are on an equal level, and a duel between them almost breaks out until there’s another glowing-arrow attempt on Julis’ life, and the two work together to blast the masked culprits, with Saya revealing her ginormous weapon.

And because the culprits were hiding in a fountain, and the fountain is destroyed, the girls get soaked to the bone, revealing their bra, or in Saya’s case, lack of bra, just as Ayato returns. Fortunately, he receives no physical punishment, as he’s able to avert his eyes in time.

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Cut to the next day, when Ayato joins Saya at the Ogre Lux facility to find the weapon best suited for him. Ayato has his eyes on Ser Veresta, which was apparently his sister’s Lux, which Lester also happens to be interested in. However, the sword immediately rejects Les, who gets no higher than a 32% compatibility rating that drops into negative territory when he tries to force the issue.

All the while, Ayato is startled by the feeling of chains tightening all around him. Ser Veresta has its eyes on him, proceeds to come at him with deadly intent. And thankfully, they got something other than canned Star Wars lightsaber sounds for Veresta.

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After dancing with it for a while, Ayato stands firm and waits for it to shoot at him from behind, whereupon he grabs it and thrusts it into the ground, taming it and earning a 97% compatibility rating in the process. Claudia is duly impressed, but not altogether surprised, as she was hoping Ayato would be useful to her plans to restore the Seidokan to greatness.

She seemingly rewards Ayato by inviting him to her apartments later that night, and naturally, Ayato comes in through the window just as Claudia is getting out of the shower. Far from outraged, Claudia seems charmed by Ayato’s choice and time of entry.

Speaking of charmed, the theme song that plays the episode out was the biggest surprise of all this week: a hauntingly beautiful piece called “Waiting for the rain”, composed by Swede Rasmus Faber with captivating vocals by Sakamoto Maaya. This wasn’t a bad episode, but I’d be tempted to keep watching Asterisk War just to see and hear its wonderful ED!

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GOD EATER – 04

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This week Lenka’s charges are suspended and he’s officially assigned to Fenrir East’s First Unit, along with Alisa and Fujiki “Wears a hat and scarf like he’s cold, but wears a crop top like he’s hot” Kouta. While Lenka’s look is pretty understadted, the other two’s elaborate outfits seem laughably impractical, especially considering singular mission they’ve been tasked with: Save The World.

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While Alisa wordlessly walks off when asked to join, Kouta drags Lenka out of HQ and into the slums where he grew up, including to meet his mom, who is very worried about him. They also check out the craters of destruction an aragami battle caused, watch food being distributed, and catch a glimpse of Aegis, mankind’s last best refuge, currently under construction.

The flashy new facility’s completion is dependent on the God Eaters securing the necessary amount aragami cores. The future of mankind rests with the likes of Lenka, Kouta, and Alisa. On them lies the future of mankind. Oh, by the way, DID I MENTION THE FUTURE OF MANKIND RESTS WITH THEM? Well, it does. “It” being…the future of mankind.

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You’d think those upon which something so important rests would be trained prior to going out in the field, or would be discouraged from cool-looking but reckless and unnecessary actions, or punished if they blatantly disobeyed orders from their superiors. The six-man unit splits into pairs to hunt down six cores of a specific type of aragami, but the mission is pretty rocky, as Alisa ignores orders from Sakuya, Kouta fails at his job, and Lenka can’t finish a foe off in one blow, which he needs to do if the future mankind is to rest upon him.

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So yeah, it’s a rough mission, but at least the flaws of the newly-formed unit are borne out in a relatively low-risk setting…right? They also come upon a group of wandering civilians and get to take them back to Fenrir. Lenka gets to see a sliver of the mankind whose future rests on him, including a cute little girl I knew was doomed.

My suspicion was confirmed when they get back to Fenrir and the civvies are turned back at the gate, because none of them possess the latent ability to wield a God Arc. Like the civilians on the aircraft carrier in World War Z, the only civvies who are able to live under the military’s protection are related to the ones doing fighting. It’s a raw but a practical, transactional one; at least more practical than Alisa and Kouta’s (and Sakuya’s) getup.

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Anyway, Lenka learns he’s not necessarily fighting for ALL mankind; just the part of it that’s able to properly contribute to the war effort. The rest are SOL. And we learn a tiny little bit about him: he’s the kind of guy who is upset about such things. When he gave that doomed little girl water, he was convinced she’d be safe within Fenrir’s walls. And fighting for Fenrir must feel like siding with the people who sent that girl to her almost certain death.

Mind you, most protagonists would have a problem with this, and would react by clenching their fists with rage and indignation. And that remains GOD EATER’S problem, after just four episodes in six weeks: for all the distinctiveness of their outfits, I still can’t be all that excited about any of the characters. All their personalities are some combination of nondescript, dull, obvious, and one-note.

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GOD EATER – 03

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GOD EATER follows up its slow, stretched-out, uninspired second episode with a big shot of adrenaline, as the entire third episode is one big aerial battle. It could also have been titled “Enter Underboob”, as after a couple of glimpses of her last week we finally see Alisa in her element (as opposed to sitting quietly on a plane) as a (mostly) efficient exterminator of Aragami.

The First Unit and Lenka in particular gawk from their helicopter as the one-woman army Alisa darts and jumps and repels about the giant transport plane. Not only does it get to show us the extent of her abilities (and her superiority to fellow new-type Lenka), but also the various tools at a new-type’s disposal. Alisa switches from sword to gun with ease, and when she tuns out of ammo, she simply uses her arc to devour an aragami and convert it into more ammo…which is a handy trick.

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When Lindow, Sakuya, and Lenka spot a gigantic swarm of fresh Aragami on the horizon, Lindow decides it’s time to grab Alisa and leave before they get there. It’s a practical and pragmatic call, considering Alisa’s importance to the war effort. But when Lenka jumps down to get her, Alisa pounces on him and proceeds to beat the everloving shit out of him. The message is clear: she’s not leaving the plane. Shortly thereafter we learn why, and see another side of Alisa: the plane is full of wounded survivors, and she won’t abandon them to save her own skin. She values their lives as much as her own (if not more).

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If Alisa won’t leave and they can’t make her, Lindow changes his orders: the four God Eaters will go all out in a defensive stand. They’ll either defeat all the Aragami after them and land safely at Fenrir east together, or they’ll die together.

We get a lot of badass shots of the team about to get to work, and then working. Lenka gradually gets the hang of his arc and is able to keep up with Alisa; while she had a head start I imagine his kill tally was comparable to hers when all was said and done. He even learns to devour.

There are also a lot of smooth moves, like Alisa and Lenka using both versions of their weapons to kill Aragami, or Lindow tossing one into Sakuya’s firing line so she can finish it off. Their flying battlefield, surrounded by sky on all sides, adds excitement and breathlessness to the proceedings.

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Speaking of breathless, how about that sunset, as seen from the plane’s cargo bay ramp? Or the shot of the absolutely massive Aragami taking the helicopter decoy bait, which definitely looks like a very very good thing to happen, as despite our heroes’ successes, there remain things well out of their league…at least for now.

So…why only an 8? Well, because GOD EATER is very one-dimensional. It’s hella cool and stylish and fun, but it’s ultimately empty calories: immediate satisfaction but no nutrition. The characters are very well-drawn and awesome looking, but there’s nothing below the surface. Alisa, like Lenka, is just another bland cipher we’ve seen a million times before (though Sakamoto Maaya does a good job voicing her).

And while I’m not really going to get into the hefty suspension of disbelief required to accept the physics of the battle (Are everyone’s shoes magnetic? Does no one need oxygen), it was pretty silly how last week the much faster fighter jets were immediately taken out by the Aragami, yet this week the helicopter was completely ignored. GOD EATER remains great fun and this was a far better episode than last week’s, but its core flaws remain, which can’t be ignored.

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Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 12 (Fin)

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Zvezda looked down and out, and we were honestly at a loss in predicting how they were going to dig out of the hole they found themselves in. After all, we left last week with Galatika toast and Kate and Itsuka surrounded by guys with guns, with only big words to bandy. Defeat against Governor Jimon seemed inevitable barring a miracle. They got several.

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Kate may be up against the wall, but aside from passing out for nap time, she never abandons her belief that she will ultimately prevail over the cigar-chomping boob of an adversary. The final battle is an highly amusing push-and-pull: Jimon has his magic shield, magic cigar smoke, and giant retro mecha, but Kate has Dva, Natasha and her tentacle monster, Roboko in human disguise (complete with Total Recall-style transformation), who snatchs the real Galatika from the traitor Yase, and White Robin, who helps out the bad guys and coaxes White Egret to her side.

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Even Pepel/Goro revives, woken up by White Falcon/Kaori, who turns out to have a thing for him. We’ve been listening to Maaya Sakamoto voice Lightning for going on forty hours, so it’s fun to hear her as Kaori, whose voice is more emotional and varied than Light’s. Some units of the JSDF defect to Zvezda, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Kate taking over the driving of Plamya’s motorcycle, flashing her inexpirable license to Asuta when he asks.

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It’s a totally absurd, logically dubious hyper-stylized final confrontation, but full of Zvezda’s trademark charm, wit, and internal commentary about how absurd and logically dubious things are. In other words, a fitting way to end. The crass nihilism of Governor Jimon falls to the optimism, spunk, and gregariousness of Zvezda. Life returns pretty much to normal, but only briefly: a Zvezda-like organization from New York fires the first shot in the next battle, one that actually sounds more fun than the one against the stodgy governor…a teaser for a possible sequel, perhaps. But for now, we’ll bask in the light of Zvezda.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Average Rating: 7.750
MyAnimeList Score: 7.38

Nisemonogatari – 04

Araragi comes home to find Hanekawa and Tsukihi caring for Karen, who has fallen victim to some kind of malady. When he takes a bath, Shinobu appears andstarts talking. She was the one who freed him from his cuffs. According to Oshino, Karen has anoddity called the Wreathe Fire Bee, which causes intense fever and eventually death. Shinobu muses about how long Araragi might live; his vampire side may make him outlive everyone he loves. But he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it. Curing Karen is the priority.

First of all, mad props to the production design (or the anime equivalent of such): Araragi’s house could put many an Architectural Digest cover home to shame with its avant garde, eclectic design. The bathroom in particular is simply nuts – a massive vault with church-like stained glass windows, whirlygigs, and a floor covered in a thin layer of water. Araragi’s room would make Alex DeLarge weep, with its trippy carpet and huge zeppelin model the camera actually flies through during a conversation for no reason. Seriously, who does that? Who cares; it’s awesome. Architecture aside, there’s some major game afoot: Araragi’s dear bigger little sister Karen is very ill thanks to the sting of a supernatural bee, and Kaiki may be responsible.

If that weren’t enough excitement, a very chatty Shinobu of all people appears out of the blue to counsel Araragi, in a lengthy, somewhat risqué scene. One must remember that despite her looks Shinobu is four centuries old (c0mplete with ‘haughty’, old-style manner of speaking), and not a girl at all, but a vampire, and Araragi’s shadow. While they play it as yet another girl teasing Araragi, this relationship is a lot different and deeper than all the others, even Senjougahara’s. Veteran seiyu Maaya Sakamoto adds a haunting, aloof venerability to the vampirette. We’re curious to see if and how they’ll work together, and how Karen will be saved.


Rating: 3.5