Gibiate – 02 – Lights Out

Remember my comment about being able to feel the enthusiasm of the assembled talent emanating from the first episode? Yeah, that wasn’t the case this week, as Gibiate joins the list of anime I won’t be continuing this Summer. It’s a disappointing, but unavoidable cut considering its misfires.

However, things start out okay, with Kathleen recording Sensui for posterity, then sparring with him to determine his ability. He’s pretty good, and is even trained in Western swordsmanship. If only he had a more worthy opponent than the Gibia.

I also like the explanation both for Sensui and Kenroku’s RPG glow-up and Kathleen’s own cheerful attire: in such dark times, one must look as awesome as possible. This means Sensui not looks very much like a lone-wolf FF protagonist. Kenroku now rocks blue hair, making the two more discernable from a distance.

There’s also a beat where Kathleen’s mom—an Edo-period history buff, which is kinda convenient—informs Sensui how his lord and guardian ended up dying. Sensui carries the guilt of not being by his lord’s side at his end…ignoring the fact the lord sent him off into exile for his own missteps. I imagine Sensui didn’t even consider that betrayal.

Despite a relatively solid first half involving character interactions in the light, Kathleen and Senroku mostly remain ciphers while Sensui is your typical stoic honorable samurai. Then the lights of the camp go out and all hell breaks loose…and unfortunately not in a good way.

First, the ease of the Gibia’s attack calls into question how this camp even survived as long as it did. This night doesn’t seem any different than previous nights other than the fact Sensui and Senroku have joined the survivors, so I guess that’s when the plot decides it’s time to expose the camp’s many many logistical and tactical flaws.

“No backup lights or power” is pretty egregious. “Guards firing off all their ammo in all directions” is another. The supposedly brilliant Yoshinaga deciding to burn the camp to create light that will repel the Gibia, only for fire to be too dim to make any difference. Of course, all of this is overridden by an unavoidably fatal flaw: the Gibia designs and CGI is embarrassingly horrible.

This camp looks utterly doomed if it wasn’t for Sensui stepping up with the katana Maeda finally gets to him, but only after the old man suffers wounds we know will eventually turn him into a Gibia. When there’s a Gibia with armor too thick, Senroku tosses a grenade at it. Oddly, the blast disables the Gibia but doesn’t hurt Sensui—who was standing right there.

The Gibia attack that must have claimed at least a quarter of the already fewer than 100 survivors. And yet only one person gets a hero’s sendoff, complete with cheesy Casino keyboard music: Maeda, who we barely knew. There’s no accounting for how many others were lost or whether this whole camp thing can continue.

There’s also the little matter of Gibia being a virus, and that by slashing them left and right like a crazed banshee, Sensui gets their blood and guts and other fluids all over the damn place. Isn’t that, like, a problem? Never mind; this episode has killed by enthusiasm for continuing with Gibiate. Which is a shame, because the first episode had so much potential.

Gibiate – 01 (First Impressions) – Samurai Pandemico

Okay, this might not seem like the best time for an anime about a goddamn pandemic, but there are times when battling literal monsters seems preferable to the current sociopolitical situation, and it looks like Gibiate will have plenty of that, so let’s dig in, shall we?

It’s 2030, and a virus that transforms humans into monsters has spread across the globe (likely hastened by anti-maskers). Kathleen Funada is one of only one hundred people in all of Tokyo who hasn’t been infected.

There’s an immediate realism and intimacy to introducing her via a home video diary of events for posterity. And despite her idolish appearance, her gloom is palpable, and reflected in the de-saturated palette.

Meanwhile, all the way back in 1600, samurai Kanzaki Sensui and ninja Sanada Kenroku are on a boat leaving Edo. Both have been exiled; Sensui because he took the blame for his lord’s strategic blunder; Kenroku for murdering a motherfucker (who apparently deserved it).

When they’re caught in a horrific electrical storm, they both pass out and wake up in Edo, now Tokyo, 430 years later. Definitely some shades of Kuromukuro, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and potential for amusing fish-out-of-waterage (and samurai ownage).

The two wander the strange streets until they encounter a man who transforms into a bizarre beast (the CGI is merely passable). With no weapons, the pair can only do so much, but they’re fortunately saved by Kathleen, armed with a heavy-duty taser.

Sensui and Kenroku accept a ride with Kathleen and an old man named Maeda, neither of whom doubt the origin of the two very traditionally dressed and spoken men. By the same token, the pair aren’t particularly freaked out by the “wagon” that’s faster than any horse. They learn they’re in what was once Edo, and that the monsters are called Gibia.

Maeda gets dropped off to grab a katana he owns so Sensui can be useful, while Kathleen drives them to the camp where what’s left of Tokyo’s uninfected hold out. She introduces them to her mom, whom she later laments is so “mentally broken” she can’t tell humans and Gibia apart.

They then meet Kathleen’s boss, Professor Yoshinaga, who is trying to develop a cure for the virus and end the last two years of misery. He may look like a Final Fantasy villain (thanks to awesome character design by Yoshitaka Amano), but Sensui also looks particularly “Amano-y”, so I’ll trust that both of them are good guys for now, and just ridiculously cool-looking.

The professor warns Sensui and Kenroku to avoid being stung lest they want to be Gibia themselves, and if they can hear the sound of drops of water inside their head, it’s a sign they’re already infected. Interestingly enough, the first scene in the episode is Kathleen in a bathtub listening to water drip out of the shower head.

In addition to the Amano design, the OP theme was composed by the Yoshida Brothers, and many other eminent Japanese creatives are involved in its production. It feels more like there’s more passion and sincerity than calculation and cynicism behind this project.

Gibiate is a fun grab bag of classic anime tropes, and I’m already stoked to see how two vintage warriors can contribute to the cause. While it’s too early to tell if it will add up to more the sum of its myriad parts, it is nevertheless a very well-executed piece of entertainment, balancing the dreary bleakness of its future with the occasional vivid flash of hope.

Black Bullet – 02

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Would so many of Tokyo’s elite promoter-initiator pairs really stand around like idiots and wait for the obviously telekinetic bag guy to fire their bullets right back at them? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely a big power move that establishes to everyone that the half-man, half-machine Hiruko Kagetane and his adorable daughter/initiator Kohina are not to be trifled with. Kagetane challenges all the other pairs to find the case before he does, or forfeit their lives, and while he may have caught them with their pants down, there’s still no reason to think he won’t follow through on that threat.

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The case he seeks contains something that the wrong hands could use to bring down the barriers that protect Tokyo from the Gastrea. But as casually murderous and destructive as Kagetane is, he’s not the only evil dwelling here. In its second episode Black Bullet establishes that “cursed children” are pariahs of society, forced to the rough outskirts of the city, and even rounded up and shot in dark corners when they dare to venture in. For every citizen who actively hates, harms, and subjugates them, there seem to be three more who will do nothing to stop it.

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Even Satomi falls into the pit of inaction when faced with an injustice, though he avoids a bad situation out of fear of exposing or involving Enju through escalation. The show plays a neat trick before the incident where Satomi “proves” the bracelets Enju bought for them don’t work by declaring he loves her. At the same time, he bristles when the other promoter refers to his initiator as a mere tool or asset to exploit to optimum effect. Enju is far more than that to him, and we learn he’s gone beyond what many other promotors would have to raise and protect her. The flashback really nicely drove that point home.

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Whatever part of Kagetane is still human is much like Satomi, protecting his daughter just as fiercely—moreso, since he’s far more powerful than Satomi. But while Satomi has striven to give Enju a normal, happy human life, Kohina and her dad are the opposite. They won’t fit into the current system has provided for them. They’re a common product of sustained prejudice and injustice; they are the pot boiling over. Enju flees to her old home, perhaps afraid of being a burden or even danger to Satomi, her self-worth likely having been thoroughly eroded by the barbs of her classmates (its implied Kagetane started the rumor at her school).

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But what she must have come to realize (while hiding in the sewer while he spoke up for her) is that Satomi needs her. He’s the man he is today because of her, and no other initiator will do. I really hope she lets Satomi find her soon. The two of them must keep their footing in the narrow middle ground between the corruption and in society and the rage of the man in the mask. Tokyo may not deserve to be utterly destroyed, but nor can things remain the way they are with regard to the cursed children. But nothing can happen if Satomi and Enju are apart.

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Black Bullet – 01

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I was pleased with how polished and efficient this first episode of Black Bullet was. It offered a little bit of everything: a glimpse of the hellish past that was to the fragile peace of the present, some nice world-building, a hint of comedy, some romantic undertones, and last but not least, a decent helping of action; though not enough to break the budget in the first week. If I were to pick two words to describe it, it would be “competent” and “enticing”—two words with which I’d also describe myself.

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While I noted some exchanges of dialogue were a little transparently expository, at least the information itself was clearly and confidently laid out. One episode in and I had no trouble understanding the core conflict and the systems and weapons in place to fight the enemy, Gastrea. In this regard, I was reminded of the opening episode of Bleach, a similarly self-assured outing that quickly established its house rules and offered up an enticing mélange of action, drama, comedy, and creepy monsters (mind you, one that had no business being sustained for 366 episodes).

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Let’s talk characters: Satomi Rentarou (Kaji Yuki), orphaned by the war a decade ago and apparently adopted by the wealthy Tendo family, fights the Gastrea. Tendo Kisara (Horie Yui) is his adoptive sister not related by blood that Rentarou has feelings for (and runs the agency he works for), while his partner is the pint-sized, pink-haired Aihara Enju (Hidaka Rina), an obligatory human-Gastrea hybrid who represent humanity’s last best hope, along with Varanium, a black metal the Gastrea dislike. While Enju calls Rentarou her “fiancee” and is always messing with him, they’re more of a big-bro-lil-sis pair.

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There’s also a villain in a funny suit with a funny mask who is immune to Rentarou’s attacks and says he’ll destroy the world. That made me wonder if he was some kind of human-Gastrea hybrid before I learned the “cursed children” are only girls. Still, he’s bad news, as is the Gastrea presently at large. Between the overarching conflict with the Gastrea, Rentarou’s potential romantic ventures, his seemingly-abandoned goals to find his family, and the fate of “cursed children” like Enju toeing the line between human and monster, there’s a lot of material to work with. I like what I’ve seen, and definitely look forward to what’s in store.

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