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.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 04

After its best episode yet, I wasn’t under any assumptions that the show would keep getting better and better, but last week is followed up by a solid, satisfying outing that explores the new status quo among the class now that Glenn is actually giving a shit; this is something that couldn’t be explored last week because of the far more pressing terrorism.

It’s Magical Competition time, and the games will be performed before the queen herself (and Rumia’s biological mother) Alicia VII, but Class 2 is unenthusiastic. Glenn assures them he’s after nothing less than Victory, and appoints those he believes are the best in the individual fields the various events focus upon.

Because the whole class is involved, and Glenn is so confident, everyone becomes engaged and motivated, and Sistine becomes his very active advocate of his strategy. Only Rumia and we know the truth: Glenn actually would have preferred to use only his best students for all the events.

But he can’t go back now; he’s in too deep. I appreciate that he’s bearing the discomfort that comes with knowing he’s dug himself in a big hole, but is willing to stick it out for the good of his students. In fact, he doubles down by entering a bet with Class 1’s instructor Halley involving three whole months of salary…and the bastard is already hungry!

The competition prep is punctuated nicely by a B-plot involving Queen Alicia’s guilt over abandoning Rumia (even if it was for her own good), as well as a glimpse of family life with the Fibels. For her part, Fibel considers Sisti’s parents her mom and dad, and Sisti her sister, so that’s all there is to it.

We later learn on the day of the competition that Celica is an old friend of Alicia’s, meaning not only does the queen tolerate her familiar manner, but she also trusts Celica’s faith in Glenn. That trust is validated when Class 2 goes on to place in all the events thus far, surprising everyone, including themselves and Glenn.

I believe a non-trivial amount of their success is thanks to the confidence Glenn instilled in them all, backed up by Sistine and Rumia, which allows them to focus and maximize the skills they need to harness. It’s also great to see Glenn put Rumia in the Mental Defense event, knowing full well from the past couple episodes how tough she is (more than Sisti, to be sure).

When Glenn sees Rumia’s badass Class 5 competition, Jaill, he starts to sweat a little, especially when the instructor in the even turns out to be a real perv. But to Jaill’s credit, he’s not an overly aggressive or disrespectful opponent; he simply believes he’s the best and Rumia is as frail as she looks.

He’s mistaken, and the revelation that he ends up unconscious while standing while Rumia is still awake to take the win was another great surprise. Competition episodes can be a bore, but this one excelled by leaning on its characters and their relationships. It was a lot of fun.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 03

This week the party of Mercenary, Zero and Albus arrive in the bustling trading town of Formicum. Zero reports to the guards at the gate that she and Albus are Merc’s sex slaves, and they’re allowed to pass at half cost…though it could be argued you can’t put a price on Merc’s reputation.

Once there, Zero shows Merc some gems, and he tells her she only needs one small one to buy a fine set of new threads, which she does. I like the look, even if the clothes are a bit baggy on her. Zero also shows off her utter lack of modesty by trying to change in front of men and women alike. That’s so Zero!

Once they’re settled in…at an inn, Merc tries to sneak out but Zero spots him and they go out drinking, only to re-encounter another Beastfallen who has three captive girls who Zero knows are not witches. So Merc enters and wins a duel with the wolf-man and the girls are freed.

The sprightly dialogue between Merc and Zero continues to entertain, and it’s always fun to watch Merc take down a baddie. But as Merc’s defeat is never remotely in doubt, the whole episode lacks any kind of serious stakes. Still, it’s a pleasant enough watch for an overcast Monday afternoon.

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.

 

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 02

Wenias is a world where inaccurate assumptions abound while forgiveness is in short supply. It’s in a state where most witches hate humans, most humans hate witches. And it’s one assumption—that Mercenary is a witch-hunter rather than a present witch-harborer—that leads to an episode of trouble for Merc, Zero, and their third member Albus.

Merc & Co. are welcomed to the village with open arms, because they appreciate his service as a beastfallen witch-hunter. But when an old woman reports a ring stolen and Albus produces that very ring (which he found in the spring outside of town), the villagers, wracked with grief and pain from witch raids, turn on a dime and demand justice.

The villagers have been through too much, and suspect outsiders so much, that it doesn’t matter if Albus is in fact innocent, and they’re immune to calm discussions, only taking it as further proof of guilt. So Merc has to scoop up Zero and Albus and skedaddle while they still can. But the villagers, desperate to blame and punish someone for their ills, pursue them deep into the forest.

Only one villager—the old woman who lost the ring—has the trio’s side, and shows them a safe escape route. She does this to thank Albus for finding her ring—which was given to her by none other than the great witch Sorena—but also because she to is a witch, albeit one in hiding.

The older generation seems more open to negotiation, cooperation, and forgiveness regarding “the other side”, while the younger people on both sides want blood and fire to satisfy their thirst for justice. And yet just like this little incident with the ring in the village, Sorena herself fell victim to a misunderstanding, having been performing magic when a plague broke out.

She was blamed and burned to death, leading to the violent witch rebellion that rages on. But the witch-in-hiding with the ring believes there’s still hope that witches and humans can—and must—coexist peacefully, someday. The developing Merc-Zero-Albus trio is small-scale but important proof that she’s right.

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.

 

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 01 (First Impressions)

In a world where witches are hunted and burned by normal humans, a half-man, half-cat “beastfallen” witch-hunting mercenary encounters a petite, seemingly young witch named Zero in a forest.

They make a pact: the Mercenary will be Zero’s guard as she searches for her associate Thirteen. In exchange, she will make him human. She’ll do so using magic from the Grimoire of Zero, so-called because she wrote it. She impresses that upon a young witch named Albus who tries in vain to hunt the Merc. 

Fresh of the heels of Re:Zero, this similarly-named, similarly-set new show eschews the modern-guy fish-out-of-water angle for a more straightforward pact-between-classic-foes story.

The nameless (for now) Mercenary fears and hates any and all witches, and kinda hates himself too, for causing his family and village to suffer and die. But he’s got a good heart, so he’s not going to leave a hungry, cute little girl in the forest.

Does he bite off more than he can chew, oh, definitely. And a great deal of the appeal of this otherwise not-too-original fantasy milieu is in the relationship that forms between the Mercenary and Zero, complete with lots of informal, playful banter.

It’s an intro that doesn’t try to do too much, but gives us a good-enough glimpse of the situation and then focuses on the two lead characters, quickly breathing life into both so we care about them immediately.

Is there excessive explanation of “sorcery” and “magic” and the differences between them? Sure, but because Merc wasn’t totally informed himself, Zero’s lessons at least serve the story rather than simply bring us up to speed.

Also, there’s the fact that this seemingly-young girl literally wrote the book on magic, to the extent that fellow magic-user Albus has his ass handed to him when going up against the author. And they’re on a journey to a place with a defined goal, which can be nice for contrast when watching other, more mysterious shows.

Add the fact it’s a Monday show, and Zero looks like a keeper.

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!

Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Amatsuki Meguru is a rural island girl who’s moved to Tokyo. She dreams of becoming a super hero. Kisaragi Sumire is a tsundere who’s secretly already a hero fighting power ranger style villains, and she doesn’t seem to like it. There’s a magic hedgehog too, and magic coins, and a transformation sequence, and a boss-bady to defeat right out of the gate.

You can skip KTTA because nothing of remote cleverness happens in it. The plot is completely by the numbers introduction of a magic world and a wide eyed novice quickly stumbling into a place of importance, and a partner who doesn’t want to be a partner. It’s wrapped in a blanket of safe, optimistic characters, acceptable but unremarkable animation and design, and a complete lack of humor.

Wacky friends from left to right — A girl dressed like a lamb who ends every sentence with “bah,” a fortune teller, the ‘normal’ girl… and a Trap.

The Verdict: like many shows this season, Twin Angels isn’t terrible. Rather, it’s built with the minimum necessary effort to make a functional story. It relies heavily on convention but, even though the villain’s minions almost look like they are wearing costumes and explode into sparkles when defeated, there’s no sense of irony or fun here.

Oddly, this is the third show I’ve seen this season about a girl from the country side trying to make it in Tokyo. While that doesn’t have any meaningful impact on the story so far, it’s a weird thread to see repeated. Regardless, I have no desire to watch, let alone review, this show.

Youjo Senki – 12 (Fin)

The Gist: Topping all but the second episode, this week’s Tanya outing owns some lengthy, thoughtful and horrifying dialog. Despite what high command may think, the war will not be over and that is strictly because humans are too animalistic — too emotional — to follow the rational path and surrender.

The Republic rises in Africa, joined by survivors from the Kingdom and Alliance. The Kingdom mobilizes at home, and we see weapons of war rolling along the rail tracks in the Russian federation and in America as well. (Even Anson’s daughter has volunteered for service, yellow magic eyes and all!)

It all threatens to swallow Tanya and her fragile battalion. But Tanya is having none of it. In a fiery speech to her recently deployed African troops, she vows that the battlefield is no place for God. That her soldiers will put him out of work and that she will slice him into pieces personally and feed him to the pigs.

Back at home, among the frustration and angst of high command, the leadership has come to believe in her. She IS a monster in the body of a little girl and, no matter what, nothing will stop her from her goals.

Dun dun duuunnnnnn!

The Verdict: I have tremendous respect for this show ending on a largely talky episode, and in a so very Tanya-talky way. From her cold, calm, and horrifying explanation to high command on why they are wrong, to her frothing mad rant to her soldiers, it’s all very off putting and terrifying.

I do wish Serebryakova got a bit more screen time, and I do wish I had a sense of where any of this was going, or that it had gotten to this point 2-3 episodes earlier, but, if a second season will come our way, I think it will deserve your watching.

At it’s lowest, Tanya is a combat procedural with an unusual aesthetic. At it’s height, it transcends nihilism and delves right into an antagonistic relationship with God, and man’s own nature. Good stuff, that.

Youjo Senki – 11

The Gist: In a lovely bit of symmetry, Colonel Anson tears through Tanya’s forces, followed by a suicide self-destruct gambit when Tanya finally over powers him. Fortunately, the ever loyal Serebryakova is there to save the day and Anson is out of God’s game for good.

It’s a genuinely exciting fight, with vibrant colors, and remarkably effective use of space considering much of it is 3D models rendered over clouds. It’s also full of lovely details, like the Kingdom Mages, who ride steampunk brooms, reinforcements arriving ‘in 600 seconds,’ and Anson’s use of outlawed weapons.

On the emotional front, the battle reasserts an ongoing question in Youjo Senki: “Despite her name and actions, is Tanya truly any more evil than anyone else?” Given Anson’s shallow thirst for revenge, his use of illegal weapons, and the Kingdom troops’ indifference to the war, the answer seems to be ‘not much?’ for the time being…

Following the battle, we get a happy ending of sorts. All 11 of Tanya’s troops have survived, the Republic surrenders, and celebration awaits. At least, until Tanya realizes the Empire is walking into a trap that will cost them the war in the longer term…

The Verdict: despite a general familiarity with World War 1, I’m actually unclear on exactly what Tanya has realized (too late). However, the narrative implication that she now sees the Empire as doomed and, therefore, herself as well, are quite clear. Her faith in the one, logical institution she believes in is shaken and only Serebryakova knows it. What this means for next week, I have no idea?

That said, I see no coherent way for Youjo Senki to resolve itself in a single half and hour. Likewise, the first season has been sluggish enough that I don’t think it warrants a second season. Will it get one anyway? I have no idea.

Will I watch it if it does? …Maybe.

Youjo Senki – 10

The Gist: Team Tanya successfully wipes out the Republic’s forward command, which allows the Empire’s plan to unfold without a hitch. A massive explosion is set off under the Republic’s southern position, Empire tanks surge through the scattered survivors, and the Republic’s main force is encircled.

From inside their submarine escape vessel, Team Tanya has every right to pre-celebrate victory. However, little do they know, Colonel Anson and a boat full of Kingdom Mages is about to run into them, putting their lives, and indeed the success of the entire plan in question.

Following the credits, we flash back to Serebryakova being an un-wakeable weirdo sleeper on the submarine for some humor. Will the improved Anson finally match Tanya’s output? Will her team of 10 stand a chance against a full regiment of broom-riding mages? Beyond this battle, what’s Youjo Senki’s end game? Only a few episodes remaining to see…

The Verdict: Like the battles it features, this week’s episode landed a string of successes, with the caveat that things may go off the rails, structurally, by the end. The flow of battle and strategy was easy to understand and visually interesting, and we got a broader emotional range from Tanya and crew while on the submarine.

However, there’s an over arching haphazardness of editing throughout Youjo Senki. On one hand, it tries to cram a lot in per-episode but what it crams in isn’t always relevant or impactful. The Empire’s board meeting between government officials and the military didn’t really add to any tension over the success of the plan for example. Anson’s scene on the Kingdom ship reduced the surprise impact of his arrival at the end of the episode for another. There are plenty of other short moments in hallways and at tables where characters repeat information we already know too.

Combined, these little delays and wheelspin shave time off of other moments, not always for the better. In some ways, the opening attack from Team Tanya didn’t even feel like a scene in it’s own right, since it was so brief and the potential failure was so brief as to add no tension (It would have been far stronger to end on that in the previous episode, and leave us guessing what Tanya will do if her target was wrong to begin with).

Youjo Senki – 09

The Empire devises a plot lure out the Republic’s main-force, crush it, and end the stalemate in the Rhine. This involves railway logistics and a lot of leg work (flying work?) on Tanya’s troops’ part to deceive the Republican troops, and it looks like there are casualties amongst her unnamed ranks.

However, the big push is that Tanya and eleven of her troops will be riding V1 rockets behind enemy lines to launch a surprise attack against the Republic’s three possible command centers. If her team takes them out, which is likely, the war with the republic will be over in an instant.

Ultimately, this episode is yet another strategy and battle presentation, with an emphasis on setting up more battle for next week. We get a cameo from Tanya’s classmate and Doctor Schugel, and Serebryakova gets a little character development via Tanya’s lieutenants (who see her as bizarrely unflappable and charming amidst what should be horrifying, and what horrifies them) and there’s even a bizarrely lengthy joke after the credits, regarding one of Tanya’s men being removed from active service because he ate a rotten potato.

Unfortunately, the result falls in with Youjo Senki’s more mediocre offerings. It’s not bad, just a straight forward war and internal workings of an army storytelling. Without a focus on Tanja’s inner workings, or giving her agency over the intrigues of the day, or without learning more about God, that makes for a purely watchable experience.

16rating_7