Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 08

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Zvezda has been very zany, witty, whimsical and fun over its first seven outings, but it’s not what you’d call sophisticated drama. This episode aims to change that, as Zvezda’s secret base is infiltrated deeper than ever before, while the history of Zvezda’s dependable rock General Pepel AKA Shikabane Gorou is explored deeper than before. The show decides not to immediately jump into the confrontation between Asuta and his dad, instead revealing the mysterious commander of White Light, who harbors a personal grudge against Zvezda and its chief, Gorou.

Things start off innocently enough, as Gorou is checking out pastry exhibition, which is hilariously random but also disarming, since maybe the old man’s just there for the sweets. After their big battle last week, Asuta, Kate, and Robo are simply kicking back, and the lead voice actress in Kate’s favorite anime turns out to be White Light’s commander, White Falcon. Things take a turn for the worse when she bombards Kate, Asuta, Robo, and Tasha with puppeteer waves and invites herself to their base, where she deploys a large White Light contingent.

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It’s a very nice dastardly plot because it comes out of nowhere, as does Falcon herself. Even so, she makes a lot of progress because she identified and isolated Zvezda’s most conventionally powerful (i.e., non-magical) member at the moment. The connections come fast and furious: the pastry chef Pierre was thrown out of the gang by Gorou’s wife(?), Tsubaki; White Falcon is really Tsubaki’s sister (possibly making her Gorou’s sister-in-law); Itsuka is Tsubaki’s daughter. All these ties both enrich and explain the underlying conflict between Zvezda and White Light; now it more closely resembles a family feud.

This episode also bucked the trend of focusing on Asuta (the ostensible protagonist) or Kate (the ostensible leader of Zvezda), and focused on the underutilized but incredibly Badass Old Dude; his Old Dude friend who’s really good at baking (and stopping steamrollers); and his Old Dude past, which shaped the Old Dude he is today. After being disguised as a stationary bronze bust for the last two weeks, he gets his time in the spotlight, brings a welcome dose of seriousness and gravitas, and shows Kaori that he won’t allow himself or Zvezda and the ideal of world conquest to be defeated as neatly as she’d planned.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

 

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Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 07

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Going into the treasure hunt, we predicted Renge would be forced to choose a side, as her new friends Kate and Roboko were being targeted by her superior White Egret, disguised as Madame M. The hunt is just a means to and end: exposing and capturing Zvezda members, but Kate and Natasha take over and make it a real thing. This could mean that part of Kate’s power is making her own whims, wishes, and beliefs come true through manipulation of time and space, a talent akin to Suzumiya Haruhi’s.

While Renge is a member of White Light to better herself and fight evil, Mikisugi seems to take pleasure in looking down on people; she teases Kate and arrogantly tries to shoo off Renge by phone, only to be talked down to herself by her superiors. A box of men is released on the school when Kate activates a trans-dimensional portal in the pool, and White Light’s operation is cancelled. And even though Asuta often questions the validity of his fellow Zvezdans’ wild theories about history and mythology (the voice of reason keeping the show honest), even he can’t deny the fantastic stuff that goes on this week.

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Kate drags him into that dimension, then wanders off, and next time he sees her, she’s a towering shadow monster demanding he let her conquer him. He chases her back into the regular world, where he happens to have his Dva mask on when he bumps into Renge. Kate unleashes a massive attack that appears to disperse all parties involved, but the flurry of dark seals stops before it reaches Asuta and Renge. Everything returns to normal abnormalcy, and the item conquered this week by Zvezda could be Asuta’s skepticism.

It could also mark the conquest of the last remnants uneasiness with his new life with Zvezda. The school, his last sanctuary of normalcy, was invaded by Zvezda, White Light, and the Tokyo Special Forces, but he’s not that upset about it. What makes him upset is the final twist we never saw coming: those Special Forces are under the direct command of Tokyo’s governor, who just happens to be Asuta’s estranged father. That means he knows about UDO and Zvezda; it could also mean he knows where his son is and what his son is up to. That is, if people in this show weren’t so easily fooled by masks.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Gorou can do Morse Code by foot…but not well.
  • Asuta really doesn’t want to do the “Treasure Dance”, but Renge, Natasha and Roboko goad him into it with incessant chanting. Renge smiling when she knew she’d won was a nice little detail.
  • Kate doesn’t remember anything about the evening after she and Asuta jumped into the pool, which means Asuta was the only person who remembers that bizarre stone version of the school sitting in the desert.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 06

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Working his ass off as indispensable all-round doer of cooking, laundry, cleaning, and TP acquisition, school is Jimon’s last refuge. So naturally in the cold open he has that refuge snatched away by the surprise transfer of Kate and Roboko to his class. They and the rest ofo Zvezda aren’t there for Jimon, but for the “Udo Bride”, an ancient treasure Kate learns about by a dubious flyer published by the “Treasure Club.”

With Renge and Jimon’s secret identities secure, the sudden arrival of his colorful “cousins” doesn’t faze her; on the contrary, she swoons when she learns Jimon proposed to the school idol Shirasagi Miki when he was little (though he was instantly shot down). It’s kinda funny and ridiculous that the school accepts a grade-schooler and a robot to middle school, while Iitsuka and a fully-clothed Natasha look more at home. Meanwhile Gorou is ingeniously disguised as a bronze bust in the courtyard.

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That first scene with Miki seemed random, but sets the stage for the Treasure Club mystery: it’s all another elaborate ploy by Shirasagi, AKA White Egret, AKA Madame M (lotta aliases pilin’ up!) to trap Zvezda, whose members she’s identified by the UDO levels they gave off while at the club meeting (the inexplicably interactive film reel was a nice touch). As Egret she ordered Renge to stay home, but the fact Renge couldn’t stay away (and indeed is so enthusiastic she shows up in full adventurer’s kit) could be a potential wrench in her gears.

This episode was full of interesting interactions between people who’d normally be enemies warming up to each other at school. In that regard, where Zvezda and Renge are concerned, it’s every bit a sanctuary and “neutral space” to them as it had been for Jimon. But Shirasagi is poised to ruin all that by unmasking the Zvezdians (her flyers will serve double duty as Zvezda power-negating talismans, another clever touch). Renge could learn Jimon and her new friends are all members, meaning she’ll have to pick a side.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • We noticed Roboko was eating her udo lightly grilled; nice continuity!
  • Not sure where Jimon dredged up tha “Treasure Dance” thing, but it sure was weird…and the positive, reverent reaction to it was even weirder!
  • The episode never forgets for a moment that Kate is at the end of the day a little kid, who doesn’t conserve her energy and ends up falling asleep all the time
  • To that end, we like how she initially tried to use a more polite, formal affectation while at school, but the more tired she got, the more she just forgot to use it, confusing Renge.
  • Roboko’s Schoolgirl mode made her sound a lot more like Morita Moe. We also liked how she was prepared to punish Jimon should his insulting of Kate continue.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 05

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Who would’ve thought both Jimon Asuta and Komadori Renge are chronic sufferers of both Voice-Blindness and Hair-Blindness? After all, neither of them had realized they were right on top of one another in a batle between Zvezda and White Light, despite the fact both have fairly distinctive hair and neither disguises their alter-ego’s voice. We know, anime have a certain license when it comes to disguises, so we’ll forgive the fact it takes Asuta seeing a much less noticeable detail than Renge’s purple twin-tails—her homemade strap—to figure out she’s White Robin.

What’s a little harder to forgive is that after teetering so close to the two finding out what their “secret jobs” are, the show pulls up at the last minute. Letting it happen would have been brassy, and there was potential in the scenario of Renge and Asuta knowing each others’ secret identities but maintaining their friendship, with the challenge of keeping it secret from their respective organizations. It would shake up his non-Zvezda life for the first time since, well, running away from home, which happened offscreen anyway.

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About that: knowing full well that White Robin is Renge, Asuta saves her from Kate and Natasha’s terrifying tentacle boss, essentially committing an act of treason against Zvezda not just to save Renge’s life, but to save her from being unmasked and publicly humiliated. That part actually wasn’t bad, because it reiterates the fact Asuta still finds all this Zvezda business a bit silly. He knows Renge is trying her best to be a better person, like him. He won’t stand by and let others burn that down for no reason.

But then Renge had to be wearing a mask under her mask, making it so Asuta now thinks White Robin is a stranger. It’s the easy way out. But no one says she won’t unmask him one day, and they’ll be back at that intriguing crossroads we got a taste of this week. If nothing else, we did get to watch a lot of Asuta/Renge interactions, something we’re a fan of since they have such a natural, relaxed rapport. Her fair, earnest response to him saying he wanted to conquer the world was particularly sweet.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We liked Asuta’s protests to all the histrionic exposition regarding White Light. There’s only so much BS he can take in one sitting.
  • That being said, we think Zvezda’s definitely rubbing of on him, as he snaps covert photos of Renge all day, sneaks into the girls locker room and rifles through her things, all rash actions he wouldn’t have undertaken prior to becoming “Dva.”
  • We enjoyed all the coded dialogue between Renge and Asuta, accurately expressing their moods while keeping the details secret.
  • As an example that the conquests vary greatly in scale from week to week: this week Kate merely conquers the low bar back flip…barely.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 04

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Like every far-flung, wacky Zvezda adventure Jimon Asuta has ended up on, this latest one has a very modest, innocent start: he cooks Roboko’s typically raw udo. That becomes a much bigger deal than he thought because A.), Roboko only eats raw udo; B.), raw udo is Roboko’s sole energy source, and C.), that was the last of the udo in the kitchen. When he heads down to the basement (50m underground) he finds a huge growth of udo (looking very similar to the core of Laputa, by the way) and learns that the entire Zvezda HQ runs on the stuff. But something’s no right: the udo starts to die, and all the lights go out. Adventure time!

It’s the ease and deftness with which Zvezda snowballs little incidents that makes it such a fun show to watch; like Space Dandy, it keeps you on your toes, not knowing quite what’s going to be on the menu from week to week. This also makes sense, as Zvezda is commanded by a little girl who can be fickle, impulsive, and just downright random, and also needs afternoon naps. This week the mission to find the original udo is undertaken by Asuta, Kate, and Natasha, about whom we learn a lot more. Last week we got Gorou and Yasu’s story, but Natasha’s story gets a lot more texture and depth, as the trio descends further into the “Super Ancient Udogawa Civilization.”

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What also gets a lot of texture and depth is the vast, crazy underground setting itself; from Natasha’s little 8-bit locator device to the montage of RPG-like battles and events to the alien look of the place, it’s definitely a pleasing change of scenery full of neat little details. There’s a great sense of occasion and grandeur to the journey, which for Natasha becomes a journey to her past, which she must confront in order to complete the mission. While her childhood story starts out relatively normal—she reclusive child who spent her waking hours building robots—it takes a bizarrely intriguing (and very apropos for Natasha) twist.

The foray into the past starts with a dream that Natasha has while sleepwalking into Asuta’s bed. Natasha isn’t quite clear about it, but she either ran away from home, like Asuta, when her parents insisted she stop inventing, or they weren’t her parents at all and took her to the “land of the faeries”—Ancient Udogawa. In any case, she was alone and lost—and then she wasn’t—when she met Roboko and then Kate, to whom she swore fealty. It’s fitting then that Roboko saves her again from the dark, shadowy echoes of her past, giving Kate and Asuta time to pollinate the Udo. Any charges of a deus ex machina are negated by this simple fact: Roboko could eat cooked Udo all along; she just hadn’t gathered the courage to try it.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 03

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First, a confession: we’re not tobacco smokers; never have been. They just didn’t agree with us, unless we were very drunk, and even then, we paid a price the next day. That being said, we’ve always been very accepting of smokers’ right to smoke. We once lived with three smokers at once. When laws banned smoking in most bars, we felt like the bars lost their ambiance. And of course, we grew up seeing heros and villains alike enjoying a good smoke, and usually looking pretty cool while doing so.

Kate and Natasha aren’t like us. They’re not willing to live and let live with smokers. With them it’s Zero Tolerance Total Ban with no quarter for those who transgress, even their own comrade, Yasu, who has a history of misbehavior. We learn that he and Gorou were once gangsters who were in a tight spot and were saved by Kate; they apparently joined Zvezda not long after that. Gorou maintained a healthy fear of Kate’s power when she’s serious; a power we see as she battles the smokers of West Edogawa.

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Kate also possesses tremendous charisma and is able to rally previously scared and frustrated masses of fellow non-smoking residents into a fearsome army of “Smoke Busters.” Yasu’s little mini-revolt doesn’t last long once he sees Kate flash the same red eyes he saw when she was standing atop a pile of bodies, and goes back to Zvezda with his tail between his legs (though he still doesn’t swear off cigarettes.) As for the last bastion of smokers, they seem to turn into soulless ghouls milling around the street. Zvezda heads home, and everyone ends up back in their cozy little spaces.

So if this episode felt too preachy and mean to smokers, remember we’re talking about the whims of a little girl who feels very strongly about the subject. And at the end of the day, she isn’t wrong: second-hand smoke is dangerous. It comes down to moderation in opposition to an action: Kate has none, and is powerful enough not to bother with any. We’re reminded of a kid on This American Life (listen here) who tried to force his family to stop eating meat. His mom made him (grudgingly) admit that he didn’t get to decide what other people are allowed to eat. Of course, if this kid could summon a giant foe-smiting fist, things would be different….

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)