Kuromukuro – 04

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A handful of demons are still at large all over the globe, but there’s no imminent existential threat to humanity. But Kennosuke still has a challenging battle to fight: adjusting to the modern world, where even the eating utensils are different, to say nothing of the kind of food people eat.

Much of this episode’s first half is Ken settling into Yukina’s uncle’s house, much to Yukina’s consternation. Samurai otaku Koharu, on the other hand, is delighted to have a real life samurai around to criticize the little men in the box (TV) whose stances are all wrong.

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I must say I fall more on Team Koharu in terms of Ken’s fish-out-of-water antics being immensely entertaining and amusing. The show really flexes its slice-of-life and comedy muscles, after previously showing it can do hand-to-hand combat, mecha battles, and general peril.

I especially enjoyed how Ken turns everything—from the strange food to the pet ferret on the roomba—into little mini-battles that test his mettle. As the uncle says, he really is a warrior, and warriors don’t always make the best houseguests, but they are fairly predictable in their behavior and values…especially a distinguished samurai such as Kennosuke.

Of course, there will always be hiccups, like repurposing Yukina’s favorite towel as a loincloth. But that’s just part of the fun, as Yukina’s often mortified reactions are as funny as the words or incidents by Ken that cause them.

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So this isn’t the most heavyweight episode, plot-wise, but it does continue to gradually build up a bond between the two leads, Yukina and Kennosuke. She’s tasked with taking him to the mall (which he mistakes for a castle), and she takes the task seriously, even though she’s reluctant. Something about Ken rubs her the wrong way (especially now that she learns they’re about the same age) because he’s new (or rather old) and different; shaking up her old mundane life.

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But as I said last week, there’s an upside to Kennosuke, beyond laughing at his archaic way of speaking and the unique ways he sees certain aspects of modern life, and its that very shaking up of Yukina’s life; giving it sudden and profound purpose.

When Ken looks around at all the happy kids at the mall, he remarks that the world has become a very peaceful place, and so his princess did not sacrifice herself in vain. It’s a very poignant, melancholy moment, which is expanded upon when Ken essentially assures Yukina that her father—who was dismissed as a whack-a-doo for his theories on alien demons—was right.

Of course, her father being right doesn’t change the fact that he left, something Yukina, who seemed close-ish to her father in the flashbacks, probably laments/resents about him. But when Ken sees and verifies his bigfoot-like photo of a demon, it’s as if a missing piece of a puzzle has fallen into place. I’m all for badass mecha action, but quiet episodes like this that develop the players are welcome too.

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Kuromukuro – 03

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After the yellow “Demon” retreats, Ouma spots another part of the world (other than the mountains) that hasn’t changed since his time: a castle. When he calls out to be given an audience and gets no reply, he is confused. When he gets a look at Yukina’s outrageous-for-his-time outfit, he scolds her.

When Yukina starts talking to a “box”, a lady appears inside of it, and the castle’s floodlights come one, he believes it all a matter of demon trickery. This is a man stubbornly clinging to his time, but this week he finally relents, even if it means becoming, as he sees it, ‘useless’.

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What Ouma does not and will not set aside is his honor, which means even though he considers Yukina his hostage, he shan’t lay a hand on her, nor any woman or child. That policy is tested when he’s quickly re-captured by the UN, escapes again, and comes afoul of Sophie. She surprises him by taking him down and putting him in a hold, but she releases him when he gropes her. While not every female soldier in this day and age would have reacted as Sophie had, in this case he was lucky.

What’s nice about Japan is that many man-made things haven’t changed much in four centuries; not just the castle: Yukina’s uncle Yakushi Osho is a monk, and wears the same basic threads as his forbears of yore. He manages to finally calm Ouma in a great little scene in which the two men sit together and speak plainly.

Even so, when Ouma is in transit flanked by UN guards, he runs into Yukina’s precocious little sister Koharu, who came to the lab to see her sister and wandered off on her own. Koharu gets in trouble with the guards holding Ouma, who knocks them out for threatening to raise a hand to a child, something he cannot abide in any century.

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Now, it’s a bit implausible and convenient for Koharu to have such free rein in a high-security facility, and that of all the halls of the vast complex, she crosses paths with Ouma. Then again, Ouma seems to be a bit of a man of destiny, while Koharu is a known “adventurer”, as some little kids tend to be. She’s also a bit of a samurai otaku, and cheerfully greets him with the traditional –de gozaru vernacular.

She also follows him out into the woods, but it isn’t long before a demon “Cactus” gives them the jump. Koharu is captured, and Ouma must run back to HQ for help—and his “steed.” He enlists Yukina’s aid, promises seppukku if it turns out he’s wrong, and the steed flies to his location to scoop the two of them up.

A thrilling ride ensues, with the steed flying over the massive dam and through the river’s canyon, with Yukina using her phone’s GPS to locate Koharu. They find her just moments before the Cactus makes off with her (covered in some kind of cocoon) and with some UN assistance, Ouma is able to slay the demon.

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For his heroics, he is pardoned for his latest escape, but more than that, this whole ordeal ends up leading to Ouma’s final realization that much time has indeed passed since he went to sleep in that cube. He knows this because the landscape tells him: a great rock cleaved in two by his own (relic’s) hand so long ago, now covered in plants.

Meeting again with Yukina’s uncle, with no lord to serve Ouma knows not his purpose nor why he is alive anymore. But I will rest assured that purpose will be revealed to him in due time, if it hasn’t already. I presume he was awakened so he could join Yukina (distant relation to his former lady?) in fighting the new scourge of demons poised to wreak havoc across the globe.

That he was able to rescue Koharu can be a purpose in and of itself, though it’s true she only ended up in danger because of him. Still, before long everyone may be in danger, at which point his new purpose—to protect those weaker than he—will be clear.

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Dimension W – 01 (First Impressions)

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Aesthetically, Dimension W has a lot in common with previous frenetic, detailed, stylish high-concept anime such as Rolling Girls, Classroom Crisis and Comet Lucifer. What DW has that those shows lacked is a certain maturity and focus to its world and the characters who inhabit it. Some proverbial meat to go with the candy.

In a world about fifty years from now when expensive gasoline is being quickly phased out for clean and infinite energy from the titular Dimension W, Mabuchi Kyouma kicks it old school: keeping his too-cool-for-school vintage Toyota 2000GT on the road by asking for half his pay in gas.

That pay comes from a job that’s become necessary in this new energy economy: he’s a “collector” of illegal coils, from which energy is drawn from Dimension W, getting them out of the hands of unsavory characters in the more shadowy parts of town.

Mabuchi wades in one side of the world to maintain his way of life while ostensibly working on behalf of the other, the imminent energy monopoly of New Tesla Corp. (Shinra, anyone?) which could well destroy that way of life someday.

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Mabuchi doesn’t seem to be thinking that far ahead; he works or money and gas, and has a good thing going. He’s also very good at his job, easily taking down his coil-using targets with good ol’ fashioned steel. But one variable is present at his latest job that he didn’t expect: a young girl one of his targets took captive.

Demonstrating what a consummate pro he is, Mabuchi doesn’t even care when his target has a gun pointed at the girl’s head, because rescuing her isn’t the job; collecting the coils is. So when the girl, who turns out to be an android who can pack a punch in a pinch, frees herself, she slaps Mabuchi for being such an uncaring jerk. This emotion, plus tears, from an alleged “robot,” throws Mabuchi off.

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When he’s woken up from unconsciousness by Albert Schumann, an acquaintance working for New Tesla (who looks forward to the day Mabuchi becomes “his”), he has to leave without the coils he came for, but then realizes he must’ve been had by the robot, using simulated emotions and tears to lower the guard of those she interacts with, making off with the coils.

What he doesn’t know, but we do, is that the girl, Mira, is gathering coilsfrom everywhere she can for her “father”, the reclusive and apparently dying former CEO of NT, Yurizaki Shidou.

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But Mabuchi can’t know that, so he assumes she’s the puppet of a rival collector, tracks her down and captures her. As he’s doing this, Schumann and his men have cornered Dr. Yurizaki, who activates some kind of elaborate coil “bomb” that blows out all the coils in the vicinity (including Mira’s).

The blast also apparently kills Yurizaki in the process, apparently to prevent his knowledge from ever being attained by the company he believes killed his wife and daughter and stole his research. Schumann tries to blame the incompetence of the past executive regime, to no avail.

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With all the excitement of the night givign way to the morning, Mabuchi takes Mira to his boss Mary, whose tech determine’s she’s far, far more than some other collector’s toy: she’s the most advanced and lifelike android he’s ever seen; something that could only have been built by Yurizaki.

Sure enough, when they plug new coils into her, she reacts to her half-nudity with shock and embarrassment (the camera is particularly interested in capturing every line and curve on her body). She even refers to herself as a girl, and it’s hard to argue with her. Finally, she prostrates herself and begs Mabuchi to take her on as his partner in collecting illegal coils.

With her father dead and leaving the implementation of his plans up to her, perhaps Mira sees Mabuchi as a skilled and useful partner in her mission, the particulars of which we’ll surely learn later on. And I’ll surely keep watching.

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