Kiznaiver – 02

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As the Kiznaivers’ teachers deal with the guilt of allowing their precious students to be appropriated in such an extreme manner, Sonozaki assigns the Kiznaivers themselves their very first mission: self-introductions. And she’s not talking about giving your name, class, and blood type.

She wants the deepest, darkest secret each of them carry within them, for if they’re really going to be All for One and One for All, they need to grasp the essence of who one another are, as well, perhaps, to experience the catharsis of finally releasing that which has never been released in their lives.

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And no, they don’t get a choice in the matter. Dishonesty and incomplete answers result in penalties in the form of the continued shocking of Agata, who is still in the control room with Sonozaki.

When she sics a pair of attack dogs at “Mad Dog” Tenga, Tenga accidentally goes first when, in a fit of panic he confesses to being a cynophobe. The next trial involves demolishing the facility they currently occupy.

Meanwhile, Agata doubts he has anything he doesn’t want to say, because he “doesn’t know himself.” Sonozaki releases him, with what is sure to be a catch.

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When a countdown nears zero for the next confession after Tenga’s, it’s Niko’s turn to reveal her secret, or at least what she thinksis her secret: she’s a Phony Eccentric; she only dresses and moves and talks weird because she’s worried with her looks and smarts and wealth could cause more trouble for her and others.

Just as they do with Tenga, the others don’t see the confession as a big deal. In fact, they consider Niko eccentric simply because she thought it necessary to pretent to be eccentric rather than act in a more socially normal way.

Yuta is next, as Niko notices a poster with a smiling fat kid. That fat kid is Yuta, and his dark secret—that he was once round—was something he felt would cripple his school prince status. The thing is, plenty of princes were/are fat. Again, it’s no big deal to the others.

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That leaves Agata, Chidori, and Maki. Maki runs off rather than be the next one to confess, and ends up in a morgue where a female corpse in a school uniform calls out to her creepily. I must say, Sonozaki and the organization she works for really put a lot of effort into this house-of-horrors, considering it’s only necessary for this one mission.

The other Kizzies head to the roof, where Agata is hanging precariously in a gondola and will plummet to his death until the self-intros are complete. He attempts to give one by confessing he doesn’t care or feel anything about anyone, probably because he doesn’t care about himself.

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This doesn’t get a ding-ding, but it does prompt Chidori to climb over to Agata and begin a rant about how cool and cheerful he used to be, and how he used to take care of her and be there for her.

This culminates in a confession that she loved that Kacchon and wants him back more than anything; a confession we all knew was coming a mile away. All of us, that is, except for Agata, who never realized Chidori liked him even as she stayed by his side though all his struggles.

He amends his confession to state that he feels happy about how she felt/feels about him, and feels happy that he feels happy, and since becoming a Kiznaiver made that happen, maybe it’s not so bad, aside from all the danger games.

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And so there, after falling to their not-deaths onto a big landing cushion, Agata and Chidori and the other three all celebrate their catharses. Of course, there’s one more who needs to reveal her secret: Maki. And it’s what I expected when I saw her in that morgue: she murdered someone.

Now, clearly, being a murderer is, in the grand scheme of things, far worse than having been fat in their earlier years. But the fact everyone put the same weight and importance on their closest secrets, no matter how varied they were, is another important lesson about what it is to be Kiznaivers.

Before, they kept the most difficult things to say inside. Now the facades have fallen, those things have been said. The group was skeptical of being able to open up to virtual strangers, but no matter what else they were or are, they are a lot more than strangers now.

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Kiznaiver – 01 (First Impressions)

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Hmmm…now this is more like it: a bold, brash, imaginative, absorbing counterstrike to the comparatively staid, restrained Kuromukuro. Space Patrol Luluco isn’t all Trigger is up to this Spring; in fact, that’s just an appetizer for this, the main course…KIZNAIVER.

Rather than beating around the bush, Kiz gets right down to brass tacks: this is a story about youth, pain, and the ability or inability to fell and share in it, as part of a larger plan to eliminate interpersonal conflict in the world, which has been around since we were in caves.

Rather than a literal cave, Agata Katsuhira inhabits an figurative one that protects him from physical pain at the cost of not feeling any emotional pain either, to the consternation of his friend and classmate Takashiro Chidori.

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His insulation from the work and from true bonds with other humans makes him a ripe target for bullies, since he offers no resistance to their blows or demands for money.

One such instance of this happens immediately after Chidori storms off (disgusted by Kocchan’s passivity) but another classmate, the Kamina-esque Tenga Hajime, steps in to rescue him unsolicited with the kind of stylish action Trigger is known for.

It’s here where Tenga learns Agata literally can’t feel pain, and starts having fun successfully testing that claim…when a striking, silver-haired class prez type appears.

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Agata comes to on a roof with the girl, one Sonozaki Noriko, who asks him if he’s heard of the Seven Deadly Sins. He has, of course, but she believes those sins have evolved along with humanity since their inception in biblical times.

Rather than pride, greed, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, and sloth, she names new-style sins such as “The Cunning Normal”, “High-and-Mighty”, “Goody-Two-Shoes”, “Eccentric Headcase”, “Musclehead Thug”, and “The Imbecile (g/udon)”.

These aren’t just “sins”, they’re the actual personalities of five other classmates: Yuta Tsughuhito, Maki Honoka, Chidori, Niiyama Niko, Tenga, and Agata himself. The show does not shy away from specific, elemental personality types because it is the uniting of those disparate types that is to be Kiznaiver’s core dynamic.

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“Everyone wants to carve their scares into someone else…connect with someone else,” says Sonozaki. Agata’s inability to do so to this is the reason he’s…the way he is, but that’s about to come to an end.

In Agata, Sonozaki has found the missing piece in her plan to make the union of personalities official. She does so by shoving Agata down a flight of steps, an act of violence he’ll likely feel, even with his formidable pain threshold.

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After the town mascot “Gomorins” wheel an injured Agata through a disco ball-festooned hospital, he awakes to find Sonozaki, along with all of the five “sinners” she “quickly and precisely secured” (i.e. kidnapped) and performed identical operations on, installing something called the “Kizuna System” into their bodies.

She goes on to inform the other six that Sugomori City has always been an experimental testbed for the system, but she is implimenting it for the first time here and now. Kizuna System allows separate people to share one another’s pain. She says Agata only survived his fall because the pain of the trauma was spread among the other five.

She hopes that if pain and wounds were divided evenly and everyone could feel the pain of others, it could lead to peace in a battle-ridden world. The six she’s assembled are the first step. Notably, it doesn’t seem like she’s a part of this union.

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The other five subjects take off, unwilling or unable to comprehend what Sonozaki has told them. But when Niko suggests she’s just having a weird dream, and Tenga threatens to grope her, she smacks him with all her might, and all six subjects feel the sting of her strike, including Niko herself. After a couple more tests, it’s clear: they are now sharing their pain. This is no dream. “All for one and one for all” is their new motto.

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Not only that, but Agata is feeling pain now, something a girl in the very red cold open told him would come to pass one day. That day has arrived, now that he and the other five have the Kizuna System within them, making them…KIZNAIVERS.

The combo of Trigger and Okada Mari is an auspicious one, it’s fun to hear Boom Boom Satellites score an OP again (their OP in Xam’d is still one of my favorites), and the cast is stacked with talent.

Brisk, funky,stylish, and full of beautiful lighting, settings, and animations, Kiznaiver is a top Spring pick out of the gate, and may well bump a couple shows off my list going forward.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 11

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It didn’t happen last week (there was too much going on with Mika coming in to save the day to add one more thing), but it happens here: Akihiro comes face-to-face with his brother Masahiro, who is fighting with pirates. For some reason, perhaps the fact I had a week to let the information settle, the impact of Aki’s hasty story about him and his brother wasn’t lessened by the brief in-show interval between backstory and plot twist.

On the contrary, that Masahiro is among the pirates, piloting mobile suits with other young lads with the same implants as Mika, adds personal stakes to the conflict with the pirates. The Kudal Cadel guy is another goofy throwback bad guy with a resting evil smirkface, but his child pilot minions and Masahiro in particular complicate what could have been a simple matter of “beat the bad pirates and move on.”

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While Takaki isn’t killed, despite ominously telling us what he’s going to do with the rest of his long, long life last week, he is seriously injured, and Tekkadan…has no doctor. When his blood spurts out of his jacket and floats in the low-grav environment, it’s a horrible moment that could lead to an unraveling of morale and cohesion. Even Kudelia freezes at the sight, compelling Merribit to pass her from behind, grab the medkit from her hands, and stabilize Takaki.

Merribit also lets Orga hear about the recklessness in not having a proper doctor aboard in such a dangerous environment, saying he’s “not being a good boss” by letting something like that go on. Orga can’t argue with her on that, and seems glad for the honest criticism. Still, things could have been a lot worse. They could very well get worse, as Naze accepts a challenge from the boorish, bizarre-looking pirate leader Brooke Kabayan, even as he’s suspicious about why the pirates are so eager to take on a far more powerful Teiwaz.

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We spend some time in orbit around and on Earth—I believe for the first time. Ein is already getting ribbed by superiors for his Martian roots, while Fareed and Gaelio visit their boss (and Fareed’s lordly dad) then Gaelio’s family residence, where Fareed’s betrothed (and Gaelio’s little sister) plies him with tea she’s recently learned how to make.

It’s all very civilized and bougie and dollhouse-y, and we see Fareed is as comfortable here as he is on a ship or in a mobile suit. He’s decided to be more or less hands-off with the Kudelia issue. Gaelio and Ein especially may want revenge for slights or lost comrades, but Fareed is playing a longer game (his ultimate goal seems to be running the whole damn operation), and not dirtying his hands with work he doesn’t have to do. It’s apparent the Brewers, the pirates who attacked Tekkadan, are being financially backed by Gjallarhorn, or someone working for it.

In a stark contrast of worlds, we see Masahiro being mercilessly beaten by Kudal for failing to secure the hostage, as the other human debris boy pilots can only stand there and watch. It doesn’t look like it would take much to turn these guys against their harsh pirate masters, the fact that Mika killed Pedro makes at least one of them put revenge ahead of a better life, which they’d certainly have under Orga’s command.

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While waiting for Takaki to wake up, Akihiro runs himself down for having had so much fun being on Tekkadan, and explains how his brother is with the Brewers. He blames himself for everything that happened, because human debris isn’t supposed to have “fun”, meaning the opportunity to explore his potential as both a fighter and a person.

Even freed of oppression, he still wears that red stripe down his jacket to remind himself of his place in the universe. He doesn’t lament what he is, but rather the fact he strayed from the limited view of who he’s allowed to be, programmed into him from years of abuse.

Orga and Mika, however, don’t let him fall in that trap. Orga promises to take responsibility. No more letting Merribit, or Naze, or Mika, or Akihiro down. He’ll help Akihiro get his brother back, if that’s what he wants, as well, because Akihiro’s brother is Tekkadan’s brother.

Tekkadan and the Turbines are portrayed as principled organizations that do things the right way, while the Brewers aren’t, and don’t. They shouldn’t be taken lightly moving forward, but they’re also a good opportunity for Orga to show what Tekkadan can do when looked down on. Here’s hoping they teach the Brewers a lesson.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 10

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Except for the battle at the very end, this episode was even quieter than the last, but also another episode that reminds you in no uncertain terms that This ain’t your Daddy’s Gundam—and it’s all the better for it. Last week was about forming a new family with Teiwaz. The Turbines are still with Tekkadan, but will set them loose on their own before long. This week is heavy with introspection and backstory, but all of it happens to be top-shelf stuff, thanks to a powerful, often tear-inducing script by Okada Mari.

I don’t want it to sound like this was a tear-jerker start to finish: in fact, there were just as many tears of joy over what Tekkadan & Co. have now achieved and their bright future than there were tears of sadness or longing over dark pasts. Laughs, too: all of a sudden Euguene think’s he’s an expert on women and looks down on the still “orphaned” Orga, who claims not to care about women, because he already has a family.

Meanwhile, those who have families outside Tekkadan like Biscuit and Takaki listen to their messages in private so as not to be insensitive to those who have no other family or who lost them long ago. The two share the dream of sending their bright sisters to school so they can one day be strong enough to stand on their own. The Isaribi has really become a home too, judging by all the hand-painted symbols on the walls.

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As a family, Tekkadan grows a little more complex, as Naze introduces Orga to the Teiwaz liason officer that will be joining his crew: Merribit Stapleton, with whom Orga had his meet-cute last week while drunk. Like all newcomers, Orga is cautious, and Merribit’s warm friendly manner with him will take getting used to, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment these two shared, particularly their elevator scene.  Orga may “just” be obeying orders by “tolerating” a “Teiwaz stooge”, to put it indelicately, but Merribit might just want to be friends too, and I look forward to her continuing to work with, and work on, young Orga.

Kudelia got a message from her mother, as well, but it wasn’t an encouraging one; her mom wants her to stop all this troubling silliness and come home. I don’t think her mom is simply relaying her husband’s sentiments, but expressing her own sheltered, deeply-aloof, “leave everything to others” nature. Then Kudelia asks about Atra’s parents, putting her own troubles into perspective.

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Atra tells Kudelia a dark tale of an orphan who did chores at a nightclub/brothel for food, but wasn’t very good at it, so never had enough to eat. Unlike many girls like her who likely grew up and became prostitutes for better pay at the club, she ran away, and quickly found out the outside world was even worse, but for one thing: she was free out there.

By chance, she was sitting on a stoop, trying to gather the strength to get back up, when she spotted a young Mika across the street, chowing down. Mika, who by then had also  learned a bit about the world, tells her she can’t have any, and that only those who work get to eat. Atra knows the score, and doesn’t beg. She just looks defiantly at Mika and tells him she will work, before fainting.

Because Mika does have a heart, though, he tells the shopkeeper about Atra, and gets her a job. Now we know Atra doesn’t just admire Mika from afar: Mika saved her when she had nothing. And not just with an isolated handout of a fish, but by getting her the means to fish herself.

From that point on, Mika became someone very important to her—so important, that Atra looks at Naze’s harem, and sees how it could theoretically work for both her and Kudelia to be the mothers of Mika’s children. Of course, she’s getting a bit ahead of herself, but it’s fun to see her thought process; not to mention I needed something to laugh at after that tear-inducing flashback.

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Just as Atra’s story beat Kudelia’s for pure initial despair, Akihito’s beat’s Atra’s. I was amazed they were able to stuff one more story into this episode, but I was very glad for it, especially since it ended by tying everything together. While Takaki was with Biscuit talking about their sisters, he was throwing a lot of standard death flags by talking so excitedly about a future he feels he can reach. Out here, he’s a little more subdued with Akihito out of consideration; but Akihito saw him and Biscuit before, and it reminded him of his own brother, Masahito.

Before he was “human debris” (God, how I hate that awful term), he and his brother helped out aboard a ship where their parents worked. It was attacked by pirates (the same kind of pirates the Turbines warn Tekkadan about), his parents killed, and he was separated from his brother and sold. Just when you thought your tear ducts were safe, too.

Akihito laments that he forgot about Masahito for so long, and doubts he’s still alive, but Takaki thinks otherwise, and now that Tekkadan has the backing of Teiwaz, anything is possible. Even Akihito believes this a bit, unconsciously, as Laffter notices he’s no longer fighting like he has a death wish in the simulator.

Just how much that alliance means comes into focus immediately after Akihito’s story is done, when pirates ambush them. This is where I’d expect a lesser show to act on Takaki’s death flags, but GIBO isn’t that kind of show. Instead, it plays a card it had held since the cold open: Tekkadan left Mika behind so that mods on the Barbatos could be completed, at which point he’s more than capable of quickly catching up.

That’s what he does here to bail out Akihito and Takaki. As with Atra years ago, Mika is more often than not, There When You Need Him. And pirates who would prey on Tekkadan will soon learn that the Iron-Blooded Orphans aren’t ones to be messed with.

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AnoHana – 11 (Fin)(Retro Review)

Originally posted 24 Jun 2011 – That was a properly fitting and satisfying finale. It cemented its place as by far the best series of Spring 2011, along with perhaps the most consistent, moving and best-executed eleven-episode series we’ve ever seen. we were expecting a good ending after the quality of what had proceeded, but we could never have predicted just how much dramatic ass it would kick. Nothing in it felt the slightest bit contrived or out of place; it remained fiercely true to its characters, and above all, was a surprisingly happy ending, and the perfect place to close the book.

After Menma fails to pass to heaven, the busters regroup and it turns into an all out CryFest, with everyone pouring their guts out. Tsuruko gets worked up for the first time. Even Poppo loses his laid-back composure. And in this mega-catharsis, they all finally realize that none of them are alone in their inconsolable grief or guilt. They’re all in the same boat. They can all forgive each other, and themselves. They all love her. And I’m sorry, but Anaru’s little eyelash moment was the perfect way to re-lighten the mood.

After this, Jintan races home to collect Menma so they can finish things and say goodbye. But she’s fading fast; it turns out, her wish was inadvertently granted: the wish to make Jintan cry. She promised his mom she’d do it. More specifically, to make him break out of his shell and properly grieve, embrace the pain and the love that’s released, and to be able to move on and live his life. By the time he reaches the base, he can’t see her anymore, and is sent into a panic. “Oh no,” we thought; “Will this just end with him still ‘crazy’?”

Thankfully, we had no reason to worry. She says goodbye by hastily scrawling goodbyes to everyone, which sets off another CryFest. All that’s left is to finish the game of “hide and seek” – at the end of which everyone can see Menma – and get Jintan to cry once more, and then she disappears, content and with her wish fulfilled. Closure at last!

What follows is a phenomenal end-credits epilogue, in which Jintan goes back to school and shows signs of giving the long-suffering Anaru a chance; Poppo is working construction and studying for a diploma; and Yukiatsu and Tsuruko become an item (her tiny smirk is awesome. We honestly wouldn’t mind these two as the focus of a spin-off).  This series was an emotional roller coaster, and its makers knew the viewers wanted and deserved this ending and wrap-up. Menma’s ultimate gift was bringing these friends back together.

So what have we learned? Well, first of all, director Tatsuyuki Nagai and scriptwriter Mari Okada put on a romantic drama clinic, and we shall most definitely be looking out for their next works. Secondly, don’t collapse within your own grief. Everyone has it; let it out and make your true feelings known. Don’t let ghosts haunt you. Er…don’t go up to a hotel with a guy you just met. And, of course stay in school!


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

AnoHana 11 (Fin)

That was a properly fitting and satisfying finale. It cemented its place as the best series of the season by far, along with perhaps the most consistent, moving and best-executed eleven-episode series I’ve ever seen. I was expecting a good ending, but I could never have predicted just how totally it would kick all ass. Nothing in it felt the slightest bit contrived or out of place; it remained fiercely true to its characters, and above all, was a surprisingly happy ending, and the perfect place to close the book.

After Menma fails to pass to heaven, the busters regroup and it turns into an all out cryfest, with everyone pouring their guts out. Even Tsuruko gets worked up for the first time. Even Poppo lost his composure. And in this mega-catharsis, they all finally realize that none of them are alone in their inconsolable grief or guilt. They’re all in the same boat. They can all forgive each other, and themselves. They all love her. And I’m sorry, but Anaru’s little eyelash moment was the perfect way to re-lighten the mood.

After this, Jintan races home to collect Menma so they can finish things and say goodbye. But she’s fading fast; it turns out, her wish was inadvertently granted: the wish to make Jintan cry. She promised his mom she’d do it. More specifically, to make him break out of his shell and properly grief, embrace the pain and the love that’s released, and to be able to live his life. By the time he reaches the base, he can’t see her anymore, and is sent into a panic. “Oh no,” I thought; “Will this just end with him still crazy?”

Thankfully, I had no reason to worry. She says goodbye to them all by hastily scrawling goodbyes to everyone, which sets off another cryfest. All that’s left is to finish the game of “hide and seek” – at the end of which everyone can see Menma – and get Jintan to cry once more, and then she disappears, content and with her wish fulfilled. Closure at last!

What follows is a phenomenal end-credits epilogue, in which Jintan goes back to school and shows signs of giving Anaru a chance; Poppo is working construction and studying for a diploma; and Yukiatsu and Tsuruko become an item (her tiny smirk is genius. I honestly wouldn’t mind these two as the focus of a spin-off).  This series was an emotional roller coaster, and its makers knew the viewers wanted and deserved this ending and wrap-up. Menma’s ultimate gift was bringing these friends back together.

So what have we learned? Well, first of all, director Tatsuyuki Nagai and scriptwriter Mari Okada put on a romantic drama clinic, and I shall most definitely be looking out for their next works. Secondly, don’t collapse within your own grief. Everyone has it; let it out and make your true feelings known. Don’t let ghosts haunt you. Er…don’t go up to a hotel with a guy you just met. And, of course stay in school! Rating: 4 ~Series elevated to Favorites~