GANGSTA. – 07

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Another night, another nightmare Worick has about the day his life changed and became inextricably tied with Nicolas’. Only this time, Ally is there to give him a comforting hug to calm him down. This week fills in most of the remaining blanks of that fateful day, giving us a full picture of that early scene of a blood-soaked Nic standing over Worick, missing an eye. In short: it isn’t quite what I thought went down, but that’s a good thing.

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But first, both thanks to Theo and Nina, Nic and Doug are all fixed up, and Nic thanks Nina by taking her on a ride as he does his flying-between-buildings thing, which looks terrifying and hella fun at the same time. It’s a great little scene, because it shows how close Nina and Nic are, and how much Nina trusts him, but also that neither Doug nor Nic hold any grudges against each other. If anything, Doug is embarrassed most of what he said during the fight went unheard by his one-time opponent. Doug also learns that Nic is a rogue, like him, and from the West Gate, which is a big deal.

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As Monroe, Paulklee, Corsica and Christiano (whose boss is a schoolgirl) meet in a dark smoky room trying to maintain balance in Ergastulum, Ally is with Dr. Theo trying to do the same thing with her head. He has her on mild tranq to keep her calm and is optimistic she’ll eventually recover now that she’s not seeing her dead pimp anymore.

Ally also gets to break out her newly-learned sign language to thank Nic and ask if she can hang around for the time being. Does Nic really not understand her “weird” signs, or was her message fully received, with Nic essentially replying that of course she can stay; that she didn’t even have to ask. Thus Ally really connected with both of her handymen roommates this week.

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That brings us to that day, or rather that night the show has given us glimpses of for many weeks now. Turns out Nicolas didn’t randomly kill Wallace’s family in some kind of contract job. In reality, Wallace saved Nic’s life by buying a supply of Celebrer to keep him alive. The mercenaries fired him, leaving him with Wallace.

When Wallace’s abusive father found out Wallace was smoking, he puts the cigarette out in Wallace’s eye, a scar he still carries on his face. Nic made the sign for “kill”, and saw Wallace’s lips word something, which he took as an order to kill…everyone, including himself, when he was done with everyone else. Wallace stops him, telling him he can’t die until he’s suffered more; much more.

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So there you have it: Wallace sic’ed  Nic on his father and family, not knowing the full extent Nic would go, and unable to undo what he did, took it upon himself to stay with Nic to ensure he’d endure the punishment of a long, tortured life. But has the life Nic has lived really been worse than a quick death? In reality, it hasn’t been all bad, what with he and Worick developing a friendship and symbiotic business relationship…not to mention getting to hang out with Good People like Nina and Ally.

These years have proven Nic hasn’t just been pretending to act like a human. He is one, albeit a deeply damaged one. Still, every time his bad eye hurts, Worick remembers that night, and remembers the hatred he had for Nic and all Twilights, while simultaneously pitying him/them. And there’s a nasty, efficient-looking pair out there hunting down and mutilating great numbers of Twilights. Nic is almost certainly one of their targets. And it’s clear there’s a part of Worick—perhaps residing in that festering eye socket—that doesn’t care if this is where Nic finally exits.

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GANGSTA. – 06

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Nic spends the episode recovering from his injuries (Paulklee shot him with drugs, not bullets) under Nina’s admirable ministrations as the clouds continue to dump rain on Ergastulum, as if to wash away the blood of the last battle. But the duel with Doug and the shootouts that accompanied it may only be a taste of what’s to come, as the Corsicans are about to throw off the delicate balance that has been sustained by going after the Christianos, a family beholden to Monroe.

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It’s fitting in an episode called “THORN” that everyone deals with various literal and emotional thorns in their sides or minds. Both Nic and Worick carry a lot of baggage from their highly traumatic pasts. Nic was the son of a prostitute shanghaied into mercenary service; Wallace is the unwanted and unloved son of a drunk, violent crime boss whose light we know is destined to go out.

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Wallace got over his prejudice for his perceived low-rent bodyguard and befriends Nic and even teaches him to read and write, most likely out of a desire to have one friend in his life; someone who doesn’t curse his existence. While we’re still missing a couple of bits and pieces in the middle, the genesis of their friendship, which would persist for decades to the present, is making more and more sense.

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Ally has her own thorn in the form of  withdrawal due to an appalling drug her pimp plied her with regularly in order to keep her submissive and in line. The horror movie scene that ended last week’s episode turned out to be hallucinations from that withdrawal, and Dr. Theo informs Worick that Ally has yet to fully recover, though it will happen with time. Some thorns can’t be removed too quickly.

When a shoeless, rain-soaked Ally kisses Worick on the street, it’s filmed as if it were a climactic, passionate romantic scene, right up until she tries to undo Worick’s pants and we realize she’s still hallucinating Barry, and is ready to do anything to him if only he doesn’t hurt her. Ironically, Worick does technically hurt her—by head-butting—in order to snap her out of it (not sure how that works medically, but whatever), but since her head’s harder than his he ends up hurting himself more.

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At any rate, it’s one of the show’s best scenes, and combined with Nic’s recovery, the Handymen and their administrative assistant are back in business…just in time for another war. Even in his hospital bed, Nic looks as ready as ever to take on whole battalions on his own, but a part of me thinks Worick would really rather just kick back in his apartment and talk about his crappy day with Ally-chan.

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GANGSTA. – 05

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As fellow A/0 Tags Nic and the dreadlocked kid fight furiously up on the rooftops, the normal gangsters take bets below. but when Worick arrives, he determines not only that Nic is depending on an overdose of Celebrer to fight and shrug off his stab wounds, but that the kid words for the Paul Klee Guild, and Nic shouldn’t even be fighting him.

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Of course, the kid, Doug, took the job to take out Monroe for the opportunity to fight a fellow A/0, and is loving the fight, but when he’s winded and Nic hasn’t broken a sweat, he realizes the fight is tainted. This is drugs, not merely natural talent and skill, at work. Finally, Doug’s master, Gina Paulklee of the guild, arrives with her very able assistant Ginger, to break up the fight and punish both Doug and Nic with multiple gunshots.

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Such is the price of going against the “Three Laws” instituted once Tags were freed from slavery. We finally learn what they are thanks to Gina: “Don’t take action against Normals”, “Obey your master”, and “Defend Yourself”. To break one of those laws is to upset the delicate balance of Ergastulum, which Gina and her guild work to maintain.

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Doug is left for dead, but Worick can and wishes to only carry one person, and that’s the wounded Nic, to Dr. Theo’s, where Nina looks after him. Meanwhile, Alex is seeing her old pimp in the alley even though he’s supposed to be dead, and even hears him coming up the stairs to the Handymen’s office. When Worick calls, the office is abandoned.

Did the pimp survive, or is Alex merely hallucinating due to PTSD? I’m guessing the latter. Either way, the fifth episode ends with our trio of protagonists roughed up physically and emotionally. I’m guessing next week won’t be the beach episode…

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GANGSTA. – 02

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Everyone in the city of Ergastulum seems to be hanging by a thread in terms of keeping their internal organs internal, so it’s striking to see a relatively well-adjusted little girl living amongst all this violence and danger.

I guess it helps to be the nurse for a well-respected mob doctor, Theo, as well as good friends with Nic, who seems to be the most powerful cat in town, even against his own “kind”, a class of Shizuo-like supermen called, among other things, “tags.” Nina may be small and frail, but she’s tough, hard-working, and definitely a good influence around the feral Nic.

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Nina’s boss Dr. Theo, neutral in the various wars of the city, wants Nic to take care of somebody trying to bully him into joining an organization, theatening Nina in the process. In the chess game of these two sides, the guy targeting Theo already sent some wiseguys after Nina, but Worick sniffs them out, and uses Alex (or “Ally” as he now affectionately calls her) as a distraction so he can ghost the three of them.

Worick congratulates her on her measured reaction to the violence, but it’s clear she’s not exactly okay being around it, perhaps choosing to turn the despair inward. Ally later marvels at Nina’s stomach for this business, but this is Nina’s home, and always has been; she’s simply used to it.

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We’ve seen how well Worick and Nic work as a team, but in this case, against a fellow “tag”, Worick leaves the bulk of the work to Nic. His target actually gets a knock or two in, but only because both Nic and Dr. Theo are screwing around to a remarkable degree, considering Nina’s right there in the crossfire. But Nic, an “A/0” rank, is just giving his “B/2” opponent three minute lead time to do his worst. Once those minutes are up, Nic does what he does and carves the guy up, though doesn’t kill him.

I’m liking Gangsta’s grungy style and smash-mouth combat, though at times it reminded me of a Durarara!! fight. In fact, this show could almost pass as a spin-off of that show’s underworld elements. We see the guy Nic doesn’t kill beg his boss for his life and get rejected, showing us that while some like Nina consider “twilights” like Nic to be kind, good people, others just see them as tools, or if they don’t perform, plain old trash.

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Plastic Memories – 03

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Oh dear…last week’s revelation that Isla has only 83 days left (and quite a few days fewer than that now) had rekindled our interest in Plastic Memories, but after a total dud like this third episode, I don’t see how I can ever trust it again. I mean, seriously, three eps in and we get a hokey, uninspired moving-in/living with a girl episode?

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Rather than anyone telling Tsukasa what should be obvious to anyone who’s been around her for a few years that yes, indeed, Isla will meet the same fate as all the other giftia they retrieve every day, the guys in the office instead offer him increasingly ridiculous advice that Tsukasa carries out Wile. E. Coyote style, to no avail.

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It’s cliched, repetitive, and boring, killing all urgency and goodwill created last week. Worse, the fact several days go by as Tsukasa struggles to connect with Isla in their dorm where she used to live alone. He never bothers to wonder whether Isla prefers to keep professional distance despite the fact they have to live together, a stipulation for which there is never any good reason given, so all we have is the implication that “well, if they’re not in the dorm there’s be no opportunities for lame comedy.”

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Things take a turn for the dark and pathetic when Tsukasa, now just treating Isla like a normal human girl, which she clearly isn’t, insists on shopping for clothes for her, unaware she has so little experience with street clothes she doesn’t know how to put them on. It’s nice to know Isla wears panties, but I don’t think that was the reason we were welcomed inside her changing room.

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The most irritating part of all of this is that Isla likely knows her time will soon be up too, which is probably why she’s trying to avoid making happy new memories or getting closer to anyone. She really doesn’t seem to want Tsukasa in there for that purpose…though I would hope she’d reconsider whatever feelings she has for him after witnessing his unbelievably stupid hijinx.

By the end, he realizes the only thing she’s really comfortable doing is serving him tea. We apparently had to waste a whole episode for him to learn that.

As unflattering as Tsukasa was this week, we also learned that Yasutaka and Kazuki, the two people we know without a doubt know Isla will be gone in less than 80 days left, are petty cruel people. What do they have to gain by keeping that info from Tsukasa…Productivity?

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Plastic Memories – 02

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This second episode of Plamemo was better than the first, which I can chalk up to getting to know the cast and particularly the protagonist a little better. I can also get on board with the fact that any workplace with such a somber job is probably going to be as laid back and cheerful as possible to avoid going mad with second-hand grief.

That being said, I’m still not fully on board with the whole concept of Giftia retrieval, nor do the additions of two more boilerplate characters like the ulcer-ridden Takao, who is just used for a joke, and the overly-informal veteran Kaji Ryouji Yasutaka, who feels like he needs to touch everyone during his intro. I think Michiru hides because she doesn’t want him to touch her.

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As derivative a character in look and feel as he is, Yasutaka does consistently bring one thing to the table: brutal honesty. For all of Tsukasa’s narration and other characters’ exposition, Plamemo has been unusually skittish about answering or even bringing up the tough questions that might allow us to make a better emotional connection.

The fact that Akari Shinji Tsukasa got this position at all thanks to his father’s connections is a welcome wrinkle in his heretofore plain beige sheet of a character. It means he knows he has to work that much harder to prove he belongs there, which is hard to do when he’s constantly having to babysit Isla, who seems increasingly incapable of doing anything right. Heck, he couldn’t even serve Takao his tea; she let Yasutaka snatch it.

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I also liked the obligatory professional dinner date between Tsukasa and Katsuragi Minato Kuwanomi Kazuki, who comes off as your standard late-20s/early 30s schoolteacher who hasn’t found a man yet and can’t hold her liquor. Then again, considering her job is not teaching kids but sending them out to tear families apart, it’s not unreasonable for her to want to drown it all out with booze. Yasutaka is made less of a prick by the fact he always gets Kazuki home safe from her routine imbibings.

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In a core dynamic similar to the one going on in DanMachi, Tsukasa and Ayanami Rei Isla are both working harder to improve themselves, in order make themselves worthy of working beside the other. There’s no mention of last week’s utterly unearned love-at-first-sight moment (probably for the best) but it’s good to see Isla actually undergoing training and tests, and her bumbling in the field explained by “rust.”

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As for Angela Langley Soryu Kinushima Michiru, well…she’s a bit of a problem, as I’m guessing she’s supposed to be the third side of a love triangle with Tsukasa and Isla. She hides her unsure feelings for him behind an overly rude and aggressive facade, which she at least has the decency to apologize for.

That being said, I like how her affection for him grows a little when he finds out he’s protecting Isla by sharing the blame for their failures. It not only shows he’s not as incompetent as she initially thought, but also a kind and caring dude. Which makes her jealous that Isla’s so close to him. She’s on the outside looking in.

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That looks to be the case for the foreseeable future, as Plamemo brings the hammer down, courtesy of who else, the truthsayer Yasutaka. He doesn’t give too much away to Tsukasa, only mentioning the consistent decline in her physical data (paired with what looks like a rise in errors). He also tells him Isla’s training is pointless; Giftia retain everything they learn and don’t get “rusty.” Even so, he respects Isla’s guts for doing everything she possibly can to stay in the game.

The most important question so far is answered, at least partially, to my satisfaction, in a private moment between Yasutaka and Kazuki: Isla has 2,000 hours of lifespan remaining. That’s only 83.3 days, which, assuming a Giftia’s max lifespan of nine years, would make Isla 8.99 years old. This revelation floored me, and put Isla’s motivations more emotionally accessible. I wish last week ended this way, rather than with a toilet joke.

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P.S. No, I didn’t really accidentally give lots of Plamemo characters Evangelion names…but I wanted to point out the rather bizarre abundance of similarities to Eva characters in the Plamemo cast…though some are admittedly more of a stretch than others.

Plastic Memories – 01 (First Impressions)

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My first impressions of the futuristic sci-fi anime Plastic Memories weren’t all that great. The show just felt a bit off to me from beginning to end, starting with the protagonist Mizugaki Tsukasa stating in his thoughts that he may have fallen in love with the android Isla the moment he laid eyes on her, before he has any idea who or what she is.

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From there, we go on to Newbie’s First Day, with his new co-workers feeling him out while telegraphing their personalities in the most unsubtle way possible. I just felt like I’ve met all these people before, especially Isla and Tsukasa, only with different names and eye colors. Everyone comes off as a bland cypher.

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The uninspired characters aren’t the only problem, though they’re a big one (the impish Zack and tsundere Michiru are particularly grating). While this is the future and we see some futuristic cityscapes, the show doesn’t feel all that futuristic or special; there’s no awe or grandeur.

More importantly, I have a problem with their whole business of selling androids that are treated like family for nine years, then ceremoniously “terminated” by the team Tsukasa joins. Like…what the hell?

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I don’t doubt there’s money in such an enterprise, and maybe this is my early 21st century liddite-ism talking, but it just feels like the company is exploiting the grief or loneliness of their customers. The crassness is amplified by the generally cavalier attitudes and zany antics of the team members, the fact Tsukasa is sent into the field with zero training, and the fact that Isla fails about 90% of the time.

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The tonal dissonance of the show reaches its apex when Isla finally speaks form her own experience as an aging giftia to persuade the “grandmother” of Nina to sign the release form so they can “retrieve” her. I don’t say this often, but as well-performed and well-animated as it was, this tearful scene felt manipulative, after all the slapstick that preceded it. I was more weirded out by the macabre-ness of it all than moved.

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The seriousness of that scene is also undone when, in Tsukasa’s final scene with Isla in the car is a joke about her having to go potty. Har har. What with Tsukasa being just barely there as a character, and his so far arbitrary and unearned feelings for Isla, and the general discomfort I have with the whole 9-year android business, I believe it best to pass on this show. But I’ll watch another week or two to see if any of the issues I mentioned are remedied.

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