Comet Lucifer – 02

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We return to the caverns where Sogo, Kaon, and the mystery girl who emerged from the giant Giftdium crystal basically stand around trying not to get smushed, incinerated, or riddled with bullets from two dueling mechas: the one that seems to be protecting the girl, and the one piloted by Gus Stewart (who apparently isn’t drunk anymore).

The former ends up winning out, as it has an answer for everything Gus throws at it.  Then the kids fall down another big hole, but this time we’re shown how they survive: the girl’s mecha catches them and cushions their fall. Then Roman and Otto appear literally out of nowhere and call a truce so they can all escape the crumbling caverns.

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Back at the cafe above which Sogo lives, the group determines their next moves. Roman postpones the arranged wedding until further notice, and they wait for the girl to wake up. When she does, she seems to parrot everything Kaon says and beam with glee at every new word, object, or piece of tarte tatin placed in front of her.

In other words, she’s a sponge for information, and seems to be experiencing everything for the first time. She’s also a very cute little kid. While Kaon and the girl are in the shower (amazingly, Sogo doesn’t walk in on them) he finds a curious green rock on the floor. When he tries to saw into it, it reveals itself as some kind of bizarre creature that can talk.

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Meanwhile, Gus Stewart wallows in his failure, but is presented with an even more sophisticated “assault bipetal armor” code-named Efreet, which he agrees to use…well, I’m a little fuzzy on his exact goals…furthering the prosperity and greatness of the entity he serves? Restoring a bit of his old lustre from back in the days of the “Great War?” The city we saw seems like a gorgeous and wonderful place to live; I’m wondering why all these military types are so keen to shake things up when they already have a nice thing going.

And in a rather harsh contrast to the cute, hyper little girl flitting about laughing and naming things, Gus breaks an old comrade out of jail: a killing machine of a kid named “Pack” who makes Gus’ plans even more nebulous. Does he need a co-pilot for Efreet? Will Pack be piloting his own beside him? If capturing Felia (the girl) is his goal, is there really a need for this homicidal maniac?

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Disjointed narratives and clashing tones aside, it was fairly obvious after the mecha protecting Felia vanished without a trace, and a small green ball fell out of Roman’s car, that that green ball was the mecha in miniaturized form, and that one way or another, it was going to activate while inside the cafe, causing a huge amount of damage.

That is indeed what happens when Felia messes up her telekinetic powers and drops hot curry on Sogo. This occurance, along with a crest on Sogo’s hand, show that this mecha, which Felia calls Moura once it appears, isn’t just protecting her, but Sogo as well. Who can say when this bunch of kids will cross paths with Gus again (or other government officials/evil dudes), but I imagine they’ll be able to hold their own with Moura on their side.

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Comet Lucifer – 01 (First Impressions)

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Well, I know one thing: We’ve got ourselves the first real breaktaking looker of the Fall so far in Comet Lucifer. From lush cityscapes to solid mechanicals and bright, attractive character design, there’s plenty to look at, and there’s shades of both Castle in the Sky and Eureka Seven in the futuristic-fantasy setting, as well as the premise: young crystal miner Sogo finds the rock of his life, along with all the accompanying baggage that comes with it.

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Sogo is so excited by his new find, he takes to speeding through the streets of Garden Indigo well above the recommended speed. As a result, he nearly hits a little girl and a dog, but does hit his friend/love interest Kaon (Takahashi Rie), who as it turns out doesn’t mind, because she needs to get away in a hurry.

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A victim of family tradition, Kaon is being pursued by her betrothed, Roman Valov, a man she has no intention of marrying (and accompanied by his henchman Otto), and gets Sogo mixed up in the chase, to the near-death of both of them. Fortunately for them, gravity and hydrodynamics apparently work different in this world, so despite falling perhaps a thousand feet into a yawning chasm, both survive the landing without a scratch.

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Down there in the deep, a newt startles Kaon, who gloms onto Sogo before remembering herself, and the two just sit in awkward, blushing silence. I liked this little scene, because like her suddenly employing him to aid her escape, it says a lot about their relationship without the need for words, while also serving as a resting spot between big action set pieces.

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That second set piece comes when Sogo’s story and the parallel story of a government salvage team working to activate and retrieve the same rock he ended up with in the beginning come together in the caverns. Just as Kaon got Sogo mixed up in her marital crisis, so too has the crystal he found (or rather, found him) gotten Sogo and Kaon mixed up in something even bigger.

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The crystal in his pocket reacts to the larger one in the caverns, and an unconscious ethereal girl in a feathery dress literally falls into his arms, to his and Kaon’s shock. This isn’t just reminiscent of when Sheeta fell into Pazu’s arms, but also the Hollywood film Stardust in which a beautiful maiden falls from the sky as a shooting star.

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Just when the girl appears, however, the salvage team bears down on the kids, with strict orders to secure the “Lima” at all costs. One of the amphibious salvage mechas is about to snatch up the girl when an even bigger, tougher, more ornate mecha, apparently summoned to protect the girl, materializes and beats the salvage mecha to a pulp.

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With the most immediate threat dealt with, Kaon asks Sogo “What now?” What, indeed. As indicated by the references I made, there’s a lot of stuff derived from previous works in play here, but Comet Lucifer is nevertheless a well-executed and above all attractive and fun addition to my Fall watchlist that I’ll be sticking with…for now.

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Suisei no Gargantia – 01

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While retreating from a failed all-out attack on an alien enemy’s base Galactic Alliance pilot Lt. Red (Ledo) and his mobile weapon Chamber are swallowed up into a space-time distortion. He wakes up after six months of hibernation to witness several humans trying to open his hatch. Hungry for answers, when they leave Chamber alone for the night he gets out to explore, but he is discovered by locals Amy and Pinion. He grabs Amy as a hostage and runs, but he ends up outside, where Chamber ascertains that they’re on a giant seagoing ship on Earth, a world mentioned only in legend.

Not that it was hard, but this series kicks Majestic Prince out of the water for pure space battle porn, starting with a battle to end all battles that not surprisingly goes pear-shaped for the humans. We went into this episode with high expectations. The director helmed and drew several episodes of the original Eureka Seven. It’s produced by Prod I.G., which usually does top-notch work. And the series comp and script were penned by Urobuchi Gen, who we know is capable of excellent stuff, having also written Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Requiem for the Phantom.

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Throw in some great female seiyus (including the voices of Kotoura, Sasami, Koko, Mei, and Erza), and what looks like a huge budget, and you have all the ingredients for success. And succeed it does. The opening battle is a tour de force of sci-fi mayhem, with a lot of different weapons and formations and tactics flying around the screen. After that thrilling and auspicious start, the episode slows down and takes its time; we go from a fantastic hi-tech world to somewhere that wouldn’t be out of place in a Miyazaki film, only with battleships that float rather than fly. We can be lucky to see one of these worlds in a series; this one has both.

The rolling-out of characters is also kept to a minimum, allowing us to get a feel for what we’re in for. Red is a fish-of-out-water, but he’s not alone; his trusty mecha Chamber is there to help him, and it won’t be long before he can communicate with the natives, the vast majority of whom are quite attractive. Swift, fire-haired Amy in particular is a great contrast to silver-haired, cool, calculating Red. They’re ideal stand-ins for their respective worlds, and it should be fun to learn more about this new world Red finds himself in, and  what he does with the adventure fate has handed him.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Nothing says “implacable foe” like when an attack that massive and well-coordinated still fails.
  • We liked what Colonel Kugel said before heading to his death. He’s not about to let Red die for him before his time.
  • This episode flowed very well throughout, and we loved the shift from the breakneck space battle to the slower and more casual pace of the second half on Earth.

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 01

Young, fiery, and talented vanship pilot Fam and her copilot Giselle are members of a band of sky pirates who race to the aid of the two princesses of Turan, Lillia and Millia, who have been ambushed by the treacherous Ades Federation led by Premier Luscinia. In exchange for their rescue from the battlefield, Fam demands the Turan flagship, the Lasas, in return. Her colleague Dio Eraclea boards and feints a scuttling in order to escape the battle, but as Turan’s capital is vulnerable to Ades attack, the ship will have to be quickly mended.

It’s been eight years and a month since Last Exile concluded, and even as the Fall 2011 Season started, we had to wait a little longer. The first series wasn’t perfect, but it was (and still is) one of the best-looking we’ve ever seen, had a lot of ingredients that really got out juices flowing, and indeed stoked our passion for anime that strives to transcend its medium. If ever a universe deserved a sequel, it was Last Exile…and here we are. Studio GONZO returns in force, Koichi Chigira is back to direct, as is our favorite character designer, Range Murata, and Hitomi Kuroishi, who composes a haunting and exciting score. The voice cast is excellent, with Aki Toyosaki (Railgin’s Uiharu, Hanasaku Iroha’s Nako) providing the voice of Fam, who kicks ass every which way, and her more tranquil partner Giselle is voiced by Aoi Yuki (Shiki’s Sunako, Puella’s Madoka). The princesses are Ai Kayano (AnoHana’s Menma, Memo-cho’s Ayaka) and one of our favorites, Miyuki Sawashiro.

This opening episode quickly re-establishes the crazy steampunk world of floating armadas, sky pirates, and gorgeous cities. It’s attention to detail is impeccable. Last Exile’s CGI was ahead of its time, but Fam manages (unsurprisingly) to surpass it, fully utilizing the widescreen HD environment and all the other new tech. From the quiet nighttime opening to the fantastic aerial battle on a clear blue day, this episode has all the scale and epic-ness of a full-length, big budget film combining all the best elements of Miyazaki and Final Fantasy. With everything that went on, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to get into the myriad characters, who occupy three distinct factions so far (warlike Ades, peaceful Turan, and opportunistic pirates), but we like the Fam/Giselle duo so far, and their blue-collar tomboy lives should clash nicely with the pair of princesses. We’ve looked forward to this series for a long time, and all it took was the opening episode to propel it to the best of the season so far.


Rating: 4

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – Retro Review

What’s one of my favorite films – animated or not – in existence? Why, the twenty-six year old Pre-Ghibli Miyazaki masterpiece known as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, natch. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, but I never tire of it. Why? I could waste a lot of words and end up with nothing but paragraphs of inane babbling which I’ll spare you. Lots of reasons.

It’s a spectacularly gorgeous movie. Just about every still frame could be framed and put on the wall of a gallery as far as I’m concerned. The music sends up all the hairs in the back of my neck, it’s so good. The characters are rich and varied, and the cast is full of powerful women. I honestly don’t even mind the Disney sub, though it can be distracting hearing Captain Picard and Admiral Adama doing voice work.

Anyway, as I said I could go on ad nauseum, but do yourself a favor and watch this film. If you have anything bad to say about it, just keep it to yourself, because I don’t want to hear it, ok? That may sound immature, but understand this film and I were born in the same year. If, as a newborn, I was able to go see this film, I would have. And there’s nothing less mature than an infant. Rating: 10

RABUJOI World Heritage List