Cop Craft – 06 – Jump Out If You Want To!

While they’re a formidable duo when they’re on duty, I might just like Tilarna and Kei better when they’re off duty, as it presents so much more opportunity for the two to talk and interact off-the-cuff. And both professionally and personally, they’ve built up a nice rapport. Just take Tilarna using an elixer to eliminate Kei’s cat allergy, but not to tell him about it until he wakes up with Kuroi in his room and is breathing fine.

Even so, things only go so far, and Kei would rather continue to live alone, so he’s trying to find a place for Tilarna, with little success (realtors in San Teresa are apparently racist). And when their leisurely crepe lunch is interrupted by a stolen truck shearing off the side mirror of Kei’s car and he gives spirited chase, Tilarna would kinda rather be anywhere but in the passenger seat, losing years off her presumably otherwise extremely long life.

With a bit of reckless driving, Kei manages to wreck the rig, which is full of…legal porno mags. Tilarna decides to be useful and move Kei’s car out of the flow of traffic, but neglects to set the parking brake, so it rolls right back into traffic, into the grill of another passing truck, and into utter ruin.

Tilarna gets to see a whole new side of Kei at the station; that both of someone who just lost some(thing) precious too them, as well as someone who acts like a little kid who wants their toy when they meet with Chief Zimmer for a new ride. Tilarna also gets her first look at human porn, which is doubly shocking to her considering how little photography exists where she’s from.

Kei gets his colleague Tony to pose as a fence and arrange a deal with the Semanian truck thief, who is indeed trying to make a killing selling the stuff across the gate. One wonders why he didn’t simply buy up a lot of porn legitimately, as there’s no doubt he’d still make a profit re-selling it in Reto Semani. Kei also gets his new car—a repo’d Ferrari 812 Superfast (which costs over $360,000 US) and takes it for a spin while Tilarna meets with Cecil.

Tilarna came to Cecil for driving lessons unaware that “ex” meant “ex-lovers,” something that embarrasses her. When asked, Cecil isn’t sure whether she likes Kei, but she doesn’t hate him, and simply wishes he’d treat her as an equal rather than a kid, hence her desire to learn to drive. Cecil warns her that might be tricky, as there’s a good chance Kei sees a lot of his lively younger sister, whom he lost ten years ago, in Tilarna. They have tended to act like siblings, haven’t they?

The next day, the porn deal goes south when the Semanian kid is double-crossed and Tony is captured at gunpoint. Kei is temporarily blinded by being too close to a gun blast. so Tilarna grabs his hand, tosses him into the passenger seat of the Ferrari, and shows her what she’s learned. (The automotive pedant in me would question whether she’d know how to work the controls of a car so different from the Jeep Cherokee she trained in, but never mind.)

What matters is, Tilarna doesn’t quite drive like anyone else Kei has ever driven with—which is to be expected—and she gets an absolute goddamn kick out of it; a true need for speed! It’s immensely fun to see the tables turned for once, and Kei begging for death and being given the option to jump out the car window. Tilarna launches the F12 like a projectile into the fleeing baddie, wrecking them both.

Thanks to modern automotive safety, nobody is seriously hurt and the perp is arrested. When Kei starts to scold her again, Tilarna speaks up for herself and gains a deserved apology from Kei for going too far about the Mini before. At this point he believes the Ferrari is still reparable, and agrees to go with her on more driving lessons, but it soon bursts into flames, GTA-style, and he’s back to the same blind rage and despair when his Mini was busted.

He eventually cools down, and when he arrives home (by bus) from a meeting with the real estate agent, he finds Tilarna has already made a cozy home for herself on the lower level of his house, and invites him in. Looks like he’s not going to get rid of her so easily…if that’s even what he wants at this point. After all, it’s not every day you get to have your beloved little sis back in the form of a knight from another world!

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Cop Craft – 03 – Tilting at Windmills

We soon find out where Tirana went—to O’Neill in order to get her into the Pioneer Club run by Elbaji. O’Neill makes sure she looks the part with a skimpy cocktail dress, hose and heels, and attempts to walk like an Earth Girl are unsuccessful. But it doesn’t take long for her to find Elbaji, because he comes right up to her at the bar to make a pass.

Once they’re alone in Elbaji’s office (with two of his guards) and he learns who she is and what she’s after, the chatting is replaced with fighting. Tirana pulls a sword out of her purse and relieves the guards of their hands in the blink of an eye, but Elbaji has a sword too, and soon overpowers her (she left her good sword with Kei, after all).

As Kei learns though Wikipedia (natch), a Knight of Mirvor leaves their sword behind when they are taking a temporary step away from their chivalric code, be it temporary or permanent. But it isn’t long before Kei is on Tirana’s trail as she’s captured and brought to some abandoned temple ruins in an undeveloped district of the island.

Chief Roth tells him to hold his position and wait, but things down at the temple are moving very fast. After Elbaji gives Tirana to Zelada for questioning, Zelada, a supposedly otherwise venerable wizard, leaves her alone with disposible guards, which she quickly dispatches and follows Zelada to his horrifying workshop, where she finds thousands of jars containing fairies in various stages of dismemberment.

Elbaji confronts her there, and as before, he shows off some of the noble background he shed in order to find his own fortune in America: the Land of Opportunity where Money is God. Tirana looks like she’s in trouble again with nothing but a stick to fight with, but Kei arrives in the nick and tosses her her knightly sword.

In a wonderfully-drawn fight full of bold flourishes, Tirana shows what a Knight of Mirvor can do, particularly one who was taught swordsmanship from Lord Verada Vreideni. And just like that, a bad guy I thought she and Kei would have to deal with for some time dies right there on the ground in a pool of his blood.

Unfortunately, the “psychic bomb” Elbaji had on him is a dummy; the “fairy” inside is just a doll. Now reunited, Kei and Tirana find a passage out of the temple and track down Zelada, but the arrest is interrupted by the arrival of Chief Roth, which is very confusing for Kei, considering Zelada sure looks like the guy who killed his whole unit in The War.

Roth shoots Tirana and orders Kei to let Zelada go. Turns out he’s a hardcore xenophobe who wants to use the threat of the psychic bomb to re-separate the two worlds, politically and culturally. Never mind if many humans have adapted; he doesn’t want coexistence, period.

But like Elbaji, Chief Roth doesn’t last long, as Tirana’s sword caught the bullet, and her getting back up is enough distraction for Kei to pull a second gun from his ankle holster to kill Roth, who up until tonight had been like a father to him. Roth’s grand plot also seemed a bit too sprawling and ambitious for a man of his relatively humble station. We’ll see if anyone else in his unit or the department harbors similar positions and goals.

The chase for Zelada continues, leading to the tallest building in the city, Forest Tower. The results would be disastrous if a psychic bomb were detonated there. While on their way to the roof, Tirana notices that Kei’s sidearm has a faint hint of latena, created from feelings put into an object or weapon. Thus, he might not be entirely useless in the impending fight with the red wizard.

This was another strong entry from the great-looking and sounding Cop Craft, which really gets its world-building, little details, and combat right. It’s villains have a tendency to drop pretty quick, but its not like Elbaji or Roth were particularly compelling (though Elbaji’s forsaken noble past wasn’t nothing). More than anything, it’s fleet, fast-paced, and fun, and the central partnership is starting to gel nicely.

Cop Craft – 02 – Fearful Kitten

When gunshots won’t bring down one of the zombified baddies, Tirana ignore’s Kei and kills it with her sword. Kei then impugns Tirana’s honor by insinuating she’s working against the case for profit, Tirana puts her blade to Kei’s neck and warns him never to insult her like that again, and Kei points his pistol at Tirana’s face.

At the Medical Examiner’s office (Cecil, Kei’s ex), they determine that Rick’s murderer and the guy Tirana slashed were both dead before they were killed: place under a wizard’s spell and manipulated like remote control zombies. But it doesn’t take an M.D. or Ph.D. to pick up on the fact that Tirana and Kei’s relationship is having a tough gestation.

Kei drops Tirana off at her hotel, but within minutes she’s tossed for not surrendering her sword (indeed a ridiculous request to make of a knight), and she calls his cell. He considers leaving her to sleep on the ground for the night, but reconsiders and picks her up. The moment her face of dejection turns to joy is a sight to behold.

At Kei’s place we learn why he wears a mask: a cat allergy. But he was the only person at the station who would take the cat in, so he’s keeping it “temporarily.” This leads Tirana to laugh and realize Kei is more of a softie than he lets on, and then thanks her for letting her stay. Appropriately, Kei later checks a translator and learns she was flubbing his name intentionally to the phrase “fearful kitten.”

I liked how those neat mini-mysteries were organically solved this week, as Kei and Tirana put down their defenses and act more like the professional partners they’re supposed to be (Tirana also mentions that despite her childlike appearance she’s 26). The veil is also lifted on the identity of the villains and their plan. A club owner from Semaani named “Mr. Elbaji” meets with a “terrorist” named “Mr. Kareem.”

The former demonstrates a prototype “fairy bomb” that enables his on-staff wizard, Zelada the Sage, to control humans without the time and effort of getting them hooked on fairy dust (like the two zombies Kei and Tirana have encountered). They test it on a couple doomed cops who respond to a call. Once the bomb is perfected it could be used as a superpower-threatening WMD.

After Rick’s suitably morose funeral which Tirana observes from a respectful distance, she and Kei inspect the corpses of the cops, which again suggests they were fairy dust users, but since they’re cops, there’s something else in play here. Tirana suspects gold to be a factor, unaware of just how big the threat is becoming.

Kei believes a digitally-controlled manufacturing device is in use, and some digging reveals that a Mr. Elbaji is in possession of such a device. Obviously from a world where justice is dispensed more quickly and the ideals of chivalry still rule, Tirana wants to go after the guy immediately, but Kei tell her they need to find proof and do paperwork first.

During dinner at a diner, Tirana goes to the bathroom, but leaves her sword behind, something she said was as important as her life (and which got her kicked out of her hotel). By the time Kei realizes she didn’t go to the bathroom, it’s too late; she’s in the wind. Just when the two were getting along, Tirana goes her own way, for her own reasons. When Kei catches up to her, he’s not going to be happy.

Cop Craft – 01 (First Impressions) – LAPD Meets Last Exile

In an illegal drug deal gone wrong, San Teresa Police Detective Sergeant Matoba Kei’s partner Rick is killed gruesomely by an “alien”, i.e. an inhabitant from the alternate world beyond the hyperspace gate that opened up in the Pacific Ocean.

Oh, and it wasn’t a drug deal, though it could have been interpreted that way from the atmosphere and the nature of the dialogue. No, the dealers were trying to sell a fairy in a jar, and one of them isn’t even human, or may have been being controlled like a puppet by a wizard.

After tragically losing his partner of four years, Kei is understandably pissed off. When three roughs from the other side try to extort money for spitting on his car, he deals with them in quick succession, then gets to what’s probably the hardest phone call he’s ever made: to Rick’s wife.

Kei’s CO orders him home to write his report and get some rest, even though he’s far more interested in tracking down the thug who killed Rick and exacting revenge. Still, he obeys orders, comes home (where apparently he needs to wear a dust mask) and feeds his cat, before getting a call telling him he’ll be going on a trip to the gate to pick up a VIP.

What had been subtle little otherwordly changes in the details of ordinary police work becomes a full-on scene out of a Studio Ghibli movie as a massive, ornate Farbanian ship rendezvouses with the far more modest Earth naval vessel. The blue sky darkens to a smoky gray, and a rope ladder is quickly dropped and then raised.

Kei doesn’t even notice at first his VIP is there; she’s quick and tiny, and looks like a child. But she’s not, she’s Tirana Exedirika, an anointed “Knight of Mirvor,” and the show’s finest example yet of Range Murata’s art-deco-y character design work. She’s also extremely arrogant, and doesn’t think much of this lowborn cop with only two names (she has a lot more, but often shortens it to two).

Then comes the kicker: this “kid” is Kei’s new partner, as part of a larger cooperation between the UN and her government, the Kingdom of Farbani. Neither Kei nor Tirana are particularly enthused based on their first impressions of each other. But Kei’s boss says if she wants to find her missing VIP fairy, he’s the best cop for the job, personality be damned.

It’s clearly the first time Tirana’s been in the human world, because she can’t help but be intrigued by all of the little buttons and levers all over the place. Of course, when that lever is a handbrake it causes a few moments of utter chaos…but she blames Kei’s driving. (I also got a kick out of her asking what a “Ridgeline” is—it’s a Honda!)

Tirana follows Kei into a girls club run by an informant, O’Neill, and when the bouncer tries to bar her way, she draws her sword, snips his tie, and re-sheathes her sword in the blink of an eye, earning access beside Kei. Here it’s clear that many humans are so distrustful of the others beyond the gate that they don’t even want them around.

As for Tirana, she can’t believe Kei is going to believe the word of a thief. It’s clear she comes from a much more black-and-white system of justice back in Farbani; as Kei succinctly puts it, justice is a lot more complicated in the human world than it was, say, five hundred years ago. Part of that means yes, the cops work with some criminals in order to get to worse criminals.

When Kei and Tirana reach the building where the Mexican gang connected to the fairy smuggling is believed to be, Tirana can smell the latena from someone controlled by a wizard, warning them that there’s trouble ahead. But when the elevator doors open, she says an incantation, transforms into battle mode, and rushes straight into that trouble. Then the guns start blazing, and Kei grabs her and leaps behind a couch for cover. To Be Continued…

There’s a lot to like here. The cop-show cliches are all there, but tweaked just enough by the otherworldly details. Kei is just a normal-looking dude but is voiced by the wonderful Tsuda Kenjirou and his unique blend of pissed-off and apathetic. Tirana is awesome-looking, and Yoshioka Mayu does a good job giving her a sharp edge to compliment Murata’s clean, soft lines (the flubbing of human words and names is also a nice touch). And while there are only short bursts of action this week, they’re very well-animated. A definite must watch!

Gakkou Gurashi! – 06

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Miki wakes up in school to find Yuki standing over her, and then introduces her to “Megu-nee”, someone Miki can’t see, handing the invisible person a bottle of water that just falls to the ground. Miki wonders if her horrible experience at the mall was all a dream, but once Yuki shows her the music room—bright and clean to Yuki’s eyes but trashed and blood-stained to Miki—she realizes it was no dream.

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Miki’s arrival means a disruption of the School Life Club’s routine, and also a potential disruption of Yuki’s presently stable condition. After being with Yuki for a while, she understandably has lots of questions for Rii-san and Kurumi, and she’s not entirely okay with “playing along” with Yuki’s illusions. That’s when Rii-san breaks out her threatening face, but it’s not played for comedy.

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To Rii-san, Miki doesn’t fully understand the situation yet, or know Yuki well enough, to decide that it’s time for Yuki to “wake up.” Indeed, without access to profesional help or drugs, the way things are with Yuki are probably for the best (as long as she doesn’t descend too deep into fantasy). It’s not ideal, but it’s the best they can do.

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More than that, though, to Rii-san and Kurumi, Yuki is more than just the crazy girl who sees things (like their dead teacher Megu-nee) that they have to keep an eye on and take care of. She also represents their beacon of hope, something crucial in their particular situiation.

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Rii-san, Kurumi, and Miki can’t escape from the despair of their daily lives the way Yuki can without trying. And because Yuki is convinced the school is just fine and they’re in a club, she and she alone comes up with ways to break up the monotony of survival, like the mini sports fest this week, or the trip to the mall last week that led to the discovery of Miki and Taroumaru.

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When she first arrived, Miki probably figured a good way to repay the girl who saved her was to help her “get better” from her illness, rather than accept and perpetuate her illusions. But now she realizes the three people who aren’t seeing things need Yuki there, seeing the people and places they can’t, reminding them of the world that was, and maybe one day will be again.

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Understanding this, and that again, this situation is not ideal (ideally, Yuki would get professional help), but it’s better than simply living day-to-day not dying and fearing death. So she joins the School Life Club, and to her surprise, Rii-san welcomes her with an open hand, which may just be the first time Miki has embraced a girl’s hand since her friend Kei pulled away from her to go search for help.

Kei may be gone, but Miki is no longer alone. And she’s very glad about that.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 05

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There’s no getting around it: these past two episodes, as fantastic as they were, had their peril somewhat dampened by the fact this is all happening in the past, and we know everyone will survive these events. They actually wouldn’t have made a bad first two episodes to GG!, but considering the shock the actual first episode delivered by delaying the story we get here (and feigning normalcy), I was more than willing to suspend my belief and dive into a good zombie mall episode. And it’s a good one.

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This episode is less about its inevitable destination (Yuuri, Kurumi and Yuki meeting Taroumaru and Miki) and more about the journey it takes to get there. The mall is dark and eerily silent, but Rii-san tells Yuki it’s because there’s a concert in session and they have to be quiet. Malls are usually so noisy with crowds and muzak, so in addition to visual impact of the trashed mall, there’s an aural impact from the white noise so unusual in such a place. And despite knowing she’ll be okay, watching Kurumi dart through the darker stores with her flashlight really does a good job isolating her in a hostile, threatening place that isn’t secure.

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I also liked how the girls spend a bit of time simply shopping like high school girls do, because that’s what they are. If they don’t want to be defined as simply survivors, they have to do more than just survive, but have fun when they can. Of course, that fun is cut short by a sound and their new ward Taroumaru’s yipping, indicating someone is near.

Because they’re on the fourth floor and the zombies have trouble climing steps, they consider the possibility it’s another survivor, but then Kurumi calls off the search when she peeks in a previously-barricaded theater packed with zombies. The wide shots peppered with quick close-ups and those horrible zombie noises accentuate the peril.

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The girls, led by Kurumi, blast through a gauntlet of zombies and hide in what looks like the child care room, which is apropos because Yuki is listing, exhausted from all the unexplained running. She also gets a couple of square looks at the zombies, and, at this point in the timeline, she’s still seeing partial flashes of what happened in her classroom the day of the fall, including an image of a blurry Megu-nee with a bloody arm, suggesting her teacher was infected.

As they rest, Kurumi thinks about the theater full of zombies—many of them kids—and shudders to think how their lives as humans ended, and how scared and alone they must have felt, before they were infected one by one. And in another unsettling juxtaposition of cheery high school girl life and the apocalyptic scenario, Kurumi makes Rii-san pinky-swear not to hesitate to kill her if she gets infected.

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Miki, meanwhile, has been sitting in her miniaturized, stifling little world, until she hears the yips of Taroumaru and is convinced they’re not in her cabin fever-addled brain. She braves the mall beyond her shelter, and immediately gets surrounded. She’s literally ten seconds from zombie lunch when Taroumaru, followed closely by Yuki and the others, come to her rescue.

Miki’s leaving the room and getting rescue shows her that survival isn’t just something to grasp  or hoard alone in a dark, stuffy room, but a gift to enjoy to its fullest, preferably with others. Before everyone piles into the Mini, Miki asks if the others saw anyone else, but it’s left up in the air what became of Kei. With Miki leaving the mall, it will be much trickier for them to ever reunite, but I for one hope she met a better fate than those kids in the theater, or Taroumaru’s owner.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 04

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GG! has taken on a LOST-style narrative, in which the present is constantly being informed and updated by the pasts of its characters. This week it’s Naoki Miki’s turn. While helping Yuki with a hand-drawn yearbook, Yuki asks about one of Miki’s (very good!) drawings of her in a bookstore with another girl. It’s Kei, a good friend of Miki’s from before The Fall.

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An ordinary day at the mall turns into a life-upheaving nightmare for both of them. This is handled with the show’s usual deftness, with particular care taken to lighting, background sounds, camera angles and focus. Miki and Kei manage to hide from all the zombies and gain the puppy of an elderly woman who became one. Survival supersedes processing what the fuck is going on.

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They manage to make it to a safe room, where they hole up in a room with ample food and water. But Kei almost immediately grows curious about the outside world; about what’s going on, and worries that if they stay, they’ll never be found. Miki, on the other hand, is content to stay put and wait for help to come to them. Enough times passes that Kei’s patience runs out, and even Miki’s maneuver of tenderly taking Kei’s hand isn’t enough to keep her.

Kei promises she’ll be back with help, but right there and then, she’s abandoning Miki, who is too scared to leave the mall, or even that room. Her life has shrunk into a miniature, but she’s intent on holding on to what life it is, not risking it on the unknown beyond those walls. When Kei up and leaves, it’s a gut punch, but we knew it was coming, for no other reason than Kei doesn’t exist in the present.

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Meanwhile, at this time, Yuuri and Kurumi and Yuki are off on their own, having not yet met Miki (or Toromarou; we now understand a little more about why he’s a little standoffish with Miki in the present). Yuki spontaneously comes up with the idea for a school trip, using a loophole in the club rules prohibiting leaving school grounds by saying it’s a school function. Yuuri tells her to get Megu-nee’s approval, and she gets it, but we don’t see her get it, indicating Megu-nee isn’t alive at this point either, but just a delusion of Yuki.

That fact is reinforced when Kurumi volunteers to drive Megu-nee’s car. She and Yuuri are willing to maintain the Megu-nee delusion for Yuki’s sake, and must resort to loophole of their own (Megu-nee hasn’t driven in a while, and Kurumi insists she’s better, despite later confessing she only played racing video games).

Kurumi’s journey to the faculty parking lot, through a phalanx of vicious, but thankfully slow and dumb, zombies is breathless in its presentation. I know this is a flashback, but Kurumi still felt so vulnerable out there, especially when her trusty shovel was flicked away. But she gets to Megu-nee’s MINI Cooper, fires it up, and picks up Yuuri and Yuki (Megu-nee only appears in the car once Yuki’s in there, like anthropomorphic Hobbes).

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After a little bit of sliding around the schoolyard and hitting a couple of zombies for good measure, the car bursts out of the front gates, and all of a sudden the saturation of the episode intensifies, as if we were watching a visual manifestation of freedom itself. A quiet, gorgeous, haunting piece of music plays as the Mini drives through the desolate, ruined city, made beautiful by the vivid colors of the setting sun. It feels like a movie. If only it was only that, and they could walk out of the theater into a world where they didn’t have to fight every day for survival.

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That piece of music playing turns out to be on the Discman Kei left Miki before she left Miki. It wakes Miki up in that same room she’s been holed up in, and the contrast between her self-imposed captivity and the freedom being experience by the others isn’t lost on me. Nor is the open transom that indicates Toroumaru escaped, leaving Miki alone, though the dog may well be the one who unites her with the others.

The song plays through the credits, accompanied by black-and-white imagery from the episode. So lovely, mellow, soulful, and sad. This show just keeps getting better.

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