Fire Force – 11 – Flowers of Edo

On Captain Oubi’s order, Hinawa regales the newer members of the 8th with the tale of how the 8th got started. Hinawa was a sergeant in the Imperial army at the time (as was Maki, a general’s daughter), and his lieutenant was a kind fellow named Tojo who had his sidearm “baptized” in case he has to put an Infernal to rest.

Well, Tojo is the one to be infernalized, and when the time comes to put him down, Hinawa can’t pull the trigger because his gun isn’t baptized. While off duty, he comes upon the scene of a fire where Oubi, head of the amateur firefighters, takes exception to the Fire Force soldiers who delay putting a docile Infernal to rest because it won’t “score enough points.”

Hinawa and Oubi decide to team up and put the docile Infernal to rest, and Oubi eventually starts the 8th Company as a different kind of Fire Force, one primarily concerned with putting Infernals to rest as respectfully and properly as possible while ensuring the safety of the living.

The company starts with just the two of them, but Hinawa urges Oubi to recruit Maki, whose work ethic, compassion and dedication to her duty make her the perfect match for the company they want to create. When Maki hears this in the present, she’s overcome with happiness, as she initially thought she was just brought in as a “meat shield.”

The reason for all this reminiscing? Aside from the fact it’s fun to learn about how the 8th got started, it was their first call that brings them to the present matter at hand, as it’s likely that the first Infernal they put to rest was artificially created by the Evangelist.

The location of that first call was Asakusa, the jurisdiction of the 7th Company, headed up by Captain Shinmon Benimaru. Beni does things a bit differently too, as his company doesn’t officially answer to the empire, and they dwell and work with traditional technology.

Oubi and the 8th visit the 7th’s HQ unannounced, and meet Benimaru, his lieutenant Sagamiya and two tiny twin fire soldiers Hinata and Hikage. But Beni doesn’t like another company stepping on his turf, and won’t hear them out. Just as Shinra is challenging him to a fight he’ll likely lose, fire bells sound outside—an Infernal has been spotted.

Shinra and the 8th then bear witness to the way Beni does things, as well as demonstrates his compound 2nd/3rd-gen abilities to both create and manipulate flames. He uses them in much the same way firefighters of the hikeshi system of old Edo: to demolish buildings and even entire blocks in order to stop the spread of the fire. His ability just enables him to do it on his own and with great efficiency (not to mention style).

The people in his jurisdiction, much like the people of Edo during those fires, aren’t outraged by the apparent wanton destruction. On the contrary, they know Benimaru is doing what must be done to protect the city, and hope that if they ever Infernalize, he’ll be the one to put them to rest. Fires and the destruction caused to stop them are a fact of life for them. For as the saying goes, “Fires and quarrels are the flowers of Edo.

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Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 10 – Keep Calm and Scary On

Boogiepop and Others is hard enough to follow without having surplus episodes piled atop one another, but the day after last week’s conclusion to the Imaginator arc, that’s just what happened: four episodes dropping at once, comprising an entire arc. Because this first of the four had its own OP, ED, and self-contained story, I’ve decided to watch and review them each separately, as if they aired on different days.

This is the story of how Boogiepop got her admittedly bizarre name. She’s responding to a question from our favorite benevolent alien, Echoes, while the two are wandering a ruined, post-apocalyptic landscape. A stuffed animal that crumbles in his hand suggests it’s Earth of the distant (or not-too-distant) future. Wherever and whenever it is, it’s super creepy.

Boogiepop’s name origin story starts with a detective named Kuroda, AKA Scarecrow. Like Orihata Aya/Camille, he’s a synthetic human working for the Towa Organization. His colleague Pigeon gives him his next mission: checking up on fellow member Teratsuki Kyouichirou, suspected of betraying Towa. We learn from Kuroda that Towa is a vast network primarily dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of human evolution; both how we got to where we are, and what comes next.

Teratsuki kinda fades into the background as Kuroda finds someone more intriguing at one of his sprawling medical facilities: a young Kirima Nagi (younger than the previous episodes in which we’ve seen her). She notes that her somewhat unusual first name is based on the sentiment of “keeping calm no matter the situation”, and her personal situation is not optimal: diagnosed as “growing pains,” she has fits of pain so intense she can’t even describe it.

Nagi is also very much like the young woman we’ve seen in the present thus far: gorgeous, upbeat, direct, intensely curious, and dedicated to the truth: a natural detective in larval form. Once Kuroda gets past her guard (Naoko), he presents the results of her request for him to investigate her: he discovered her agent was embezzling her money and got him fired.

But despite all the qualities that make our Nagi Nagi in the present, this past Nagi is deeply uncertain and apprehensive about who and what she should become, if and when her condition is healed. Kuroda asserts that everyone feels that way on the road to coming into themselves. He himself dreamed of becoming a superhero who, unlike a detective, didn’t have to worry about all of the peripheral crap that comes with solving crimes. Just rush in, get the job done, and call it a day.

This perks Nagi up, and she says Kuroda should definitely become a superhero. Their visit is cut short when she starts having fits of pain, but when she grabs him, it leaves a raw mark, almost like a burn. That clinches it for Kuroda: Nagi is one of the “NPSLs” its his usual mission to locate. She’s evolving to the next stage…but it’s a rough gestation, which is keeping her in a hospital bed, unable to realize her own dreams.

Thus Kuroda—”Scarecrow”—decides to make a grand, superheroic gesture to Nagi, whom he’s decided to be the recipient of his heroism. He ransacks a Towa facilities to find a serum that would normally act as a catalyst for human evolution. Because Nagi is already evolving without it, administering it offsets the “possibility” that is tearing her apart from within. With one injection, he enables her to live the (relatively) normal human life she enjoys in the present.

While his act was both heroic and kind from the perspective of those of us rooting for Nagi to survive and thrive, it also broke a lot of Towa rules, and they send an assassin to eliminate him for his treachery against the organization. That assassin, Sasaki, is lightning quick of foot and deadly with a knife, but Kuroda demonstrates he can be pretty fast himself. While the two may look like a couple of regular-looking schlubs, they move like superheroes.

While Kuroda gets away, it isn’t before Sasaki gives him a wound from which he knows he won’t recover. That’s when a “reaper” appears, in the form of Touka, offering a chance to judge him favorably for doing something heroic for someone, even if it led to his demise.

Kuroda wonders if he’s speaking to a near-death delusion, but we know she’s really there. He calls her “creepy bubble”—like a boogieman that pops into and out of existence. Thus the title “Boogiepop”. When Sasaki finds Kuroda’s body, the Scarecrow is smiling, and why not? It may have cost his life, but he saved Kishima Nagi. For one night, he was a superhero. And one night was enough.

Darling in the FranXX – 19 – Talented Yet Terrifying

Frikkin’ scientists, amirite? It’s said Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, but the moment they tasted the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Eden pretty much ceased to exist anyway. Eden is an impossibility in a world where humanity is aware that there is far more to the world than the limited, tedious paradise they inhabit.

Knowledge is simultaneously what makes humans humans and what constantly threatens to destroy them. It is humanity that developed world-ending nuclear weapons; it is also humanity that maintains the delicate balance that has kept those weapons from being used for over seven decades and counting.

This week on DFX we learn a lot more about Dr. FranXX, formerly Werner Frank, eccentric maverick scientific genius. We also learn that APE began as a collection of elite scientists, and they recruited him to work on something that has always fascinated humans: how to make immortality a reality.

It’s all too poetic that humanity developed the ability that could massacre most of the human population in one day, while we still have a long way to go before we’re all immortal. And yet, I can’t help but think the same thing that staves off nuclear war is the thing that keeps us from advancing too far in achieving immortality.

That thing is fear. If there is ever a global nuclear war, it could end humanity. If there is ever a breakthrough that makes humans immortal, it will also end humanity; just in a different way.

But that’s the real world. Here in DFX humanity advances far beyond the “safe zone” of maintaining humanity as we know it, thanks to brilliant minds like Frank and his colleague Karina Milsa.

Their efforts are admirable, but to quote the incomparable Dr. Ian Malcolm, they were so preoccupied with whether they could achieve immortality, they never stopped to ask whether they should.

The Magma Energy mining system developed by APE ends up gradually  desertifying much of the Earth’s surface. But Magma Energy also grants humans—now essentially immortal—to build grand structures like Plantations in which to live. It’s just evolution, right?

Only Magma Energy has another side effect: the emergence of the inscrutable, ruthless Klaxosaurs. It’s as if the world was trying to correct humanity’s technological overreach, and restore its mortality.

Still, Frank and Milsa’s massive scientific intellects are re-purposed to developing anti-Klaxosaur weapons: a robot that would come to be called the FranXX. At first it had a single pilot. One of the test pilots was Milsa, who loved Frank and married him, but was lost in a prototype accident when the robot went berserk.

Upon losing the only person in his life Frank had a close connection to, he lost another part of his humanity, and so stopped caring about the future of mankind and simply focused on how much further he could progress it; how much better he could make weapons with which to defeat their new enemy.

FranXX became piloted by male-female pairs, restoring a measure of the reproductive drive lost by the proliferation of immortality treatments. Mankind put themselves back into a state of godliness and thus rebuilt Eden and locked themselves in for an eternal stay.

Only the pilots, parasites of FranXX were involved in fighting the Klaxosaurs outside of Eden (or, in the case of Mistilteinn, just beyond its borders). Meanwhile adults lived their endless tedious lives in the Eden they built, and forgot all about Klaxosaurs in the first place.

APE eventually located the Klaxosaur “leader,” and sends Frank to investigate. Of his team, only he is spared by the “Princess”, whom he regards as the most beautiful being he’s ever seen. But she can smell the blood of her Klaxosaur brethren on his hands, and exacts punishment in the form of tearing off his arm.

This ordeal does not discourage Frank in the least. Considering how far he’d come to come face-to-face with such a fascinating being, it stands to reason he’d keep pushing to perfect mankind’s defenses, not for it’s own sake, but like climbing a mountain, because it (being discovery) is simply there.

Frank seeks no earthly rewards or accolades; only more knowledge, and the self-recognition that he progressed the technology as far as he “humanly” could.

This brings us to the present, where Frank is now known as Dr. Franxx, and he’s grizzled and partially mechanized. APE, still his bosses, wiped Kokoro and Mitsuru’s memories without his knowledge or consent, thus in his mind impeding the path he himself set to achieve the results they seek. Frank/Franxx never had any problem achieving results. The problem lay in the means with which he used to achieve them.

Regardless, results are results, and they’ve given him enough clout to allow Squad 13 to have a candid audience with APE in order to state their wishes: for Kokoro and Mitsuru’s memories to be restored. No can do, APE cites; they cannot restore what is no longer there; the memories were removed, not merely blocked.

Upon learning this, Hiro gets upset, and tells APE they can no longer consider people who did such things to them their “Papa”, i.e. their authority to which to be subservient.

When the APE members don’t even bother answering Zorome’s naive question about how many Klaxosaurs they’ll have to kill to become adults (because the answer is “you will never be adults”) “Papa” lost their last advocate in Squad 13.

They may need Franxx’s know-how and connections to have any success at opposing APE, but that doesn’t mean Hiro will ever forgive him for what he did to both him, Zero Two, and whoever else he used as mere tools or variables in his grand experiments.

We also learn how Zero Two came to be: when the Klaxosaur Princess attacked him, he managed to come away not just with his life, but a clump of her hair…hair containing her DNA…which he used to clone her, thus, presumably, creating Zero Two.

So will he help Zero Two, Hiro, and Squad 13? Have they rekindled his belief that humanity isn’t really human unless they can love, struggle, and die? I hope so; the kids need all the help they can get.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 39

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No big battles this week, just lots of stock-taking and important setup for the next conflict. Just as Lafter, Azee and the rest of the Turbines contingent say farewell to Tekkadan, Iok Kujan launches a major crackdown on Turbines, making the split well-timed. It’s Jasley (hoping to manipulate the “spoiled brat” who tells Iok its the Turbines and not Tekkadan he should go after.

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Thus you have the head of one of the illustrious Seven Stars families doing the dirty work for a rogue member of Teiwaz who wants to rise, and for whom Naze is in the way.

Even Iok’s subordinates aren’t quite sure what he’s on about, but Julieta joins the fight for her own reasons: she’s eager to become stronger and a good old-fashioned Gjallarhorn crackdown is as good an opportunity as ever.

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After Atra calms down and tells Kudelia what the shopkeeper told her long ago (“babies are like clamps”, keeping men from running off), Kudelia understands Atra’s sudden urgent need for someone to have a baby with Mika. But Kudelia doesn’t see why that someone can’t be Atra herself.

Even after all Atra has done throughout the adventures of Tekkadan, she still thinks she’s “not nearly good enough” for Mika, but she’s wrong. The fact is, she may be the only one for Mika. That being said, she has a long way to go, what with Mika not-quite joking about babies looking tasty.

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Before he learns just how fully he’s been backstabbed (be it by Jasley or McMurdo or whoever), Naze has a long talk with Amida, about Lafter likely finding another man, and about how much Tekkadan reminds him of the Turbines when they were just starting out.

It was Naze and former-mercenary Amida who started it, fell in love, then went to work gathering women living and working in horrible conditions and creating a family where all could thrive and protect one another. Change the gender and it is pretty famliar…only the Turbines have since expanded to 50,000 members. Not mentioned: how many of those are Naze’s children.

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But Tekkadan is no longer a fledgling; not only does it have its wings and the wind underneath, but something to work towards for themselves: the Kings of Mars. When Naze sees the head of the Gjallarhorn hammer above, coming down upon the Turbines, he insists Orga and Tekkadan stay out of it, even if it’s the exact opposite reflex Orga has.

Naze knows someone in Teiwaz is doing this. Who is irrelevant, it’s why that concerns him: it’s bait to lure Tekkadan to ruin, and Naze won’t let Orga swoop in just as their enemies planned. As much as they’ve done and promised to each other, Naze and Orga aren’t family; Orga and Tekkadan are, and that’s what he must protect from this latest threat.

That’s especially true with Rustal and Vidar still sizable thorns in McGillis’ side. McGillis’ own grand plans are suddenly not only in play but at legitimate threat. “Doing what he can” may not be enough to keep Tekkadan from the rough stuff once they lose the security blanket that was the Turbines.

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Macross Delta – 21

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The HayMirFre triangle was set aside entirely this week; instead the episode focused on Kaname and the roots of Walkure, starting all the way at the beginning. It’s a long story, but the ladies are incarcerated until further notice, so there’s time to tell it. It’s a story that was only hinted at before, and digging deep into the group’s history mitigates the fizzling out of suspense from last week’s infiltration.

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The last couple of episodes have been full of uncertainty for all, but the flashbacks this week are instrumental in showing that this has almost always been the case. When Kaname was first hired by Chaos, nobody knew what they were doing. Once idols with fold receptors were collected, their first “shows” were utter failures. Even Makina and Reina don’t get along for a long time. Two other Walkure members quit due to stress.

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It’s also instructive to see just how ragtag Chaos was long before Hayate and Freyja joined it. Kaname was simply a survivor on a war-torn planet; Makina from a family of skilled mechanics and engineers; Reina is a genius hacker. None were born idols; they grew into it, as did the symbiotic relationship between Walkure and the Delta Platoon, leading to the rescue of a young pilot named Messer from a battle on Alfheim.

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Of course, one member of Walkure was born an idol, with no other dream but to sing. That, of course, is Mikumo, who was introduced to the others quite suddenly after Claire quit, and has a powerful and immediate impact on them all.

Even Reina and Makina bond over her transformative power of song, which she uses to introduce her self rather than, you know, speaking to them. When Mikumo is suddenly singing in the brig where the others are being held, it’s a neat (if somewhat jarring) segue out of the flashback and back to the present.

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Back on Windermere, Lloyd has Heinz use his newly amplified song to put thousands on Al Shahal in a coma to do research, but Heinz’s frail body can’t take the strain. When Keith discovers the Heinz is riddled with the same frozen malady that claimed his father, only far earlier in life, he is furious, and confronts Lloyd, who pretty much confesses to murdering King Gramia (to east his suffering), and that he and Keith cannot “fly in the same skies”.

Lloyd goals are about far more than preserving the fatherland and expanding the empire. As Berger finds out, he may be after the ability to join the minds of all mankind into a network; unlocking perhaps the most powerful ability of the protoculture. If Gramia, Heinz, and even Mikumo or Freyja are the eggs he has to break, so be it; he must have his omelette.

But he’s running out of time. Mikuno’s “issues” were fixed aboard the medical frigate, and while she now knows she has no childhood memories because she’s a genetically engineered clone, she’s no less committed to singing for the cause she was created to serve.

Delta and Walkure are headed to Windermere. Whatever anyone’s personal issues or doubts, there’s a galaxy out there that needs saving. Time to get to work.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 05

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I’m on the older side, so as I watched the magnificent origin of the relationship of young Yatori and Ikta unfold, I couldn’t help but think of Captain Picard and Guinan (I also thought of Muppet Babies, for what it’s worth). In addition to the fact that TNG had an Oscar-winning actress on TV before it was cool, one of the great big unanswered questions of the show was the history of those two.

All Guinan said to Riker when Picard was captured by the Borg was that what they had was “beyond friendship, beyond family.” That sums up Yatori and Ikta perfectly. One was raised from birth to be a knight, which is no different from a blade. The other was raised into a world of science and deep, distant thought about mysteries once left to the comfort of theology.

Yatori decides to study abroad with Ikta as his father Sankrei was a celebrated military mind whom she sought for enrichment. What she got was a lifetime companion who not only made her more whole, but whom she made more whole as well.

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Japanese can be at times wonderfully onomatopoeiaic, as I was reminded when Ikta conveys how “stiff” Yatori speaks, even to a fellow kid like him. But throughout their early interactions, Ikta never tries to impose his will or philosophy upon Yatori; instead, he shows her parts of her world and levies suggestions on how she might become something more than the Igsem blade she was forged to be.

A sword, after all, is only an inanimate object; no mater how much intense training Yatori undergoes, she cannot deny her flesh, her blood, and the emotions all humans possess. Indeed, Yatori is as much a sponge as a blade, benefiting greatly from her exposure to Ikta, his father, and the scientists associated with them. She also learns to play, which for Ikta means outsmarting adults.

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It’s really quite invigorating to see these two at an early age right after seeing Ikta bring Yatori down from her killing fever last week. This episode painstakingly explains the bond these two share not with idle exposition, but by telling a story in its own right; a story of two very bright and talented kids bouncing off one another.

Just as Yatori had never met a kid quite like Ikta (nor met any kid period, for that matter), Ikta had never come across such a stern, stiff, duty-obsessed girl. It’s refreshing how quickly they hit it off despite their profound differences in upbringing.

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Their bond is formalized quite by chance, when the adults they followed to a remote locale for a geological survey forgot their gear and turned back to retrieve it. Yatori and Ikta end up on their own, up against a pack of starving wolves, who are treated by the show with the same respect one would show a group of starving people.

Yatori and Ikta have no quarrel with the wolves, but they cannot allow themselves to be killed and eaten for the sake of the wolves. They are meant for greater things. I love how Ikta calls out for Yatori when the first wolf corners him, and Yatori comes through like the knight she is.

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But this is not simply a tale of Ikta coming up with a game plan and Yatori carrying it out. It isn’t simply the knight saving the damsel in distress (who is Ikta in this case). Rather, when the desperate wolves infiltrate the house, and Ikta and Yatori must retreat to a smaller space ton ponder their next move, Ikta rejects Yatori’s pre-programmed intent to protect him at the cost of her own life.

That won’t do at all! For Ikta, any outcome where one of them dies is no good. Chivalric training aside, he rejects the notion that Yatori must lay down her life so that he might live. Having met and gotten to know Yatori, Ikta knows she can be more than a blade.

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So he proposes they look at it another way: she is not the hero and he the recipient of heroism: they are together the right and left hand of a single entity, one far smarter and stronger than either of them alone.

Yatori, still young and relatively impressionable (as well as quite a smart cookie in her own right) can pick up what Ikta is putting down. They work together to outsmart and defeat the remaining wolves, forcing the survivors to retreat.

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In the process, they burn down the whole damn house, and eat what’s left of the dried meat they have on hand. Yatori says it feels like they’re eating the wolves’ meat, which for Ikta is definitive proof that she can, indeed, be more than just a blade.

Not long after that unforgettable, life-changing experience, Ikta and Sankrei go missing…but one day Ikta returns, and Yatori is happy, for it is neither her brother nor her lover nor her dear friend who has returned to her: it is her other hand.

The best part of Alderamin is Yatori and Ikta’s relationship. I’ve said it before, and this episode went and capitalized on that strength, with exceptional results.

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She and Her Cat: Everything Flows – 04 (Fin)

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You’re lonely? Get a cat. They live thirteen years, then you get another one. Then another one after that. Then you’re done. —Katherine Olson, Mad Men

The devoutly-Catholic Kathy may only be telling her daughter this in response to learning she and her boyfriend have moved in together with no promise of marriage, but there’s a grim practicality to her advice, and it’s also oddly prescient of the events that close Everything Flows.

To whit: “She”, whom we learn is called Miyu, is lonely after her friend moves out and gets married. Miyu is so lonely and uncommunicative, in fact, her mother fears the worst when she gets a hang-up phone call from her daughter, and races over, which turns out to be a false alarm.

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It would seem a concerned Daru inadvertently dialed Mom’s number, but the effect of the happenstance is profound: Miyu’s mother is relieved. Miyu sees her mother for the first time in a while. They share a laugh. Daru is relieved too: Miyu is going to be alright. He was hanging onto life until he could confirm that. When he has, he passes away, quietly, in her arms.

Then, a psychic explosion destroys Tokyo and initiates World War III. Just kidding! But that’s kinda what it looked like. That would have been quite the genre shift!

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Naturally, there’s a mourning period for Miyu, whose eye-bags and fetal position recalls another famous, devastating film (only without the drugs). She even feels Daru rub up against her back, the way he did countless times in his life. It’s only a phantom rub, but it doesn’t plunge Miyu into further despair. Instead, she sits up, smiles, and moves forward.

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Not wanting to worry Daru any further, she cleans up her place, finds a job, and faces the world with a smile once more. Then Daru apparently reincarnates as a white abandoned cat, which Miyu finds under a bridge and takes in.

But unlike Peggy Olson in her mom’s scenario of a life with three cats to ward off lonliness, Miyu will either need more than three—to combat the formidable longevity of the Japanese—or find a human. Either way, she’ll be fine. The world still moves, and we still travel upon it.

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She and Her Cat: Everything Flows – 03

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Daru had a rough youth, about which he remembers only bits and pieces: he was a stray along with his mom and three siblings, but after a bird attacked, he was suddenly all alone.

And while the girl may have Daru now, Daru is getting old. Looming over this episode is the fact that one day he won’t be around, and the girl really will be alone in her apartment for two, which she’s seriously let go due to being so exhausted after work.

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But more than that, Daru can only offer his particular cat breed of unconditional love and wordless support. But it doesn’t change the fact that the girl was always conflicted about moving out and leaving her mother alone, and now that Tomoka moved out to get married, she feels even more alone and lost.

She has no career, only part-time jobs; no romantic aspirations as she draws closer to the age people marry; and her cat is too old to even jump on the bed to comfort her as she stews in her depression, pleading for help, but with no one who can hear her.

Sure, it could be worse—her sociopathic crown prince brother hasn’t locked her in the palace dungeon—but she’s not doing so hot, and Daru seems like naught but a band-aid on a gaping wound.

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She and Her Cat: Everything Flows – 02

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This was a brief but lovely, emotionally rich, gently-told story of how the girl and Daru met. A lonely, morose girl who just transferred to school, her busy mother thought it would be a good idea for her to have a companion for all those hours home alone.

Like everything at this point in the girl’s life, she’s initially skeptical. After all, even Daru knew then she had a large hole in her heart he wasn’t sure he’d be able to fill.

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Still, Daru does his best to cheer her up, in a very catlike way: presenting her with a still-alive lizard, while breaking a mug her (apparently dead) father gave her. When the girl sees the cat take up precious few moments she has with her mother, she decides it would be best if both she and the cat were alone.

She puts him in a box with some toys and leaves him by the river…only to come right back when some schoolboys spot the box; she just couldn’t go through with abandoning the poor thing. And her change of heart is rewarded when Daru becomes a conduit for her to meet her first friend in her new town, who likes her cat.

A sunset in the present day reminds both the girl and Daru of the day they met. And now, though they can’t understand each other verbally, they’ve gotten to the point they know what they’re thinking.

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Ghost in the Shell: ARISE – Alternative Architecture – 04

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There were times during last week’s ep when I was a bit lost, dazed and confused, but now I take solace in the fact that Kusanagi was too! I love an episode of anime that tosses all the pieces on the table and makes you simmer with the chaos and the depth of the mystery to solve before solving it this week. It did so bit by bit, both with some of the Spring’s best snippets of noirish dialogue and some of the best combat.

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After Batou attacks her, suspecting her of dirty deeds, and Aramaki’s men dig up the same dirt, it becomes clear to Kusanagi that like us, she doesn’t have the whole picture. Much of the truth of her mentor’s murder is hidden behind blocked pathways in both her memory and sensory perception.

The fact that we don’t see the real body or hear the real voice of her heroine, only those filtered through prosthetic body and cyberbrain, is one of Ghost’s best conceptual assets. The Kusanagi we follow is only a projection, layered within another projection: the anime in which she dwells. But she still knows herself, and knows when something is amiss, as it is here.

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When the official report is that Mamuro’s grave was never disturbed, she decides to test that report. Turns out the perpetators literally buried the truth below a lie, as the mobile mine trap was buried above the LTC’s real remains, including his cyberbrain.

Once she connects to it, Kusanagi learns a lot more, and is able to remember a plot she had probably already uncovered before her cyber-virus tore up her memory. Mamuro had uncovered a plot by a military and a civilian official to cover up an arms smuggling racket, and those parties then moved to eliminate and then discredit Mamuro.

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After some slick modifications of a mobile mine to get the confirmation from the vice-minister (before not-killing him with a point-blank flash-bang), Batou covers her as she heads to a seedy site where enemy spies were being lured with Mamuro’s cash by the very 501 organization he once headed.

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After a not altogether necessary but still awesome fight with Raizo, Kusanagi gets the rest of the truth from Kurtz. Had Mamuro tried to take down the minister, 501 would have been purged, so she prevented that by letting Mamuro die. Neither she nor the enemy included Kusanagi in their equations, picking up the football dropped by her mentor’s death.

But because she linked with him in the alley where she found him, she was infected with same memory virus he had – the same “fire-starter” virus that played big in the first two eps. Kurtz knew about the virus, and used Kusanagi as bait.

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Considering all that, it’s not surprising Kusanagi wouldn’t want anything else to do with Kurtz or the 501. And with Mamuro exonerated, his recommendation for her goes through. She’s promoted to major and provided an inheritance, part of which was earmarked for her prosthetic body, which is no longer government property.

She may have had to run away from spider girls, dodge blows and bullets from past and future friends, and get her arm torn off, but she’s now freer now than she’s ever been.

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Kusanagi then wipes the rest of the slate clean by undergoing an eradication of all the false memories, planted by the virus, of a mother-like figure who cared for her in her youth. But…were they really false memories? Did Kusanagi really get down to the bottom of things, or simply down to a place she can be satisfied with?

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In the final scene, after a montage of all the future members of Section 9 going about their pre-section 9 lives, Aramaki meets with Kusanagi on the street to report his results: the Captain was replaced and the minister will be quietly tried, and one day Mamuro’s findings will be made public.

In the meantime, he invites the new major to form a team with the independence she always yearned for and her new circumstances allow – a team that won’t simply defend against its enemies, but attack them head-on. With all the pieces thus locked into place, we can gaze on the final product: a pretty sweet re-imagined origin story..

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Kamisama Hajimemashita – 10

The first half is the story of how Mikage met a listless Tomoe, shortly after Yukiji died. Mikage brings him to his shrine, nurses him back to health, and makes him his familiar, with emphasis on “taming” him and making him more friendly to humans. In the second half, Nanami is dragged to a karaoke mixer, but Mizuki, Tomoe, and Kurama are keeping an eye on things in the next booth. When one of the guys makes a move on Nanami, Tomoe takes him out and tells her they’re going home. Nanami thinks he’s irritated because she was with another guy; he doesn’t deny it.

Ah, a two-story episode…and a good one at that, with both halves more than pulling their weight. In fact, while the events vary greatly from one to the other, the first informs the second very nicely. Mikage comes across a wild, hopeless, defeated Tomoe, overcome by grief from Yukiji’s death. Mikage saved him and drove him to become stronger. Tomoe professes that he’s come to detest humans because they’re so weak. But threatening to devour nice young ladies only trying to thank him…is weak. Mikage teaches him this, then  suddenly disappears, and Nanami takes his place 20 years later. You can’t help but wonder what the old earth god’s intentions were.

Tomoe thought he’d put both romantic entanglement with (Yukiji) and outright contempt for humans behind him, but whether he’s starting to feel something for Nanami (who very obviously adores him) or he’s just afraid of another master abandoning him, Tomoe is never far from her side, even at a karaoke mixer. Rather than scold him for stalking her, she’s actually flattered that he’s so irritated by her hanging out with other guys (at least that’s what she thinks is the case). We’d be loath not to mention the best segue to the ending yet, with an unexpected karaoke-style rendition of the ED courtesy of Kurama. Seriously, that kicked ass.


Rating: 8 (Great)