Sword Art Online: Alicization – 03 – Don’t Freeze

Kirito settles into a pleasant routine, waking up in the church, going to work with Eugeo, eating stale bread. He wants to get to the Central City, but knows the only way is through the Gigas Cedar. When he asks Eugeo if there’s anything stronger than his ax, Eugeo produces the Blue Rose Sword, which he retrieved from the End Mountains where he lost Alice.

Kirito uses his latent sword skill to make an immediate mark, albeit in the wrong place, while Eugeo can’t make a scratch. A dead end, or a simple matter of persistence? Eugeo brought the sword home in hopes of learning to wield it, but laments that when the Integrity Knight came for Alice, he wanted to do something, but just couldn’t move.

That night Kirito has a chat with Selka, whom he learned is Alice’s younger sister. Selka doesn’t like how Eugeo’s mood darkened after Alice was taken, especially when it came to her. It wasn’t her fault her sister was taken, so why can’t he be friendly with her? Kirito doesn’t have the answers, but does tell Selka that it’s fine to cry whenever one feels like it.

Unfortunately, he also tells her something she never knew: why Alice was arrested by the Axiom Church. That new information sends her to the End Mountains, all alone, perhaps in hopes of committing the same crime and reuniting with Alice, as farfetched as that seems.

As she left before dawn, she gets a good head start on Kirito and Eugeo, who rush off after her. Apparently they mount this rescue at a time when Eugeo doesn’t have to chop at the Gigas Cedar, otherwise he’d be shirking his calling and risking justice. When Eugeo uses System Call to illuminate a cattail, it surprises Kirito; characters are using RPG-style interfaces in a virtual world.

 

When they reach the main chamber where the bones of the dragon lie following Selka’s scream, Kirito and Eugeo discover that she’s been captured by—you guessed it—a band of goblins. Figures. Unlike those of Goblin Slayer, they seem content to sell Selka rather than use her as their plaything, but are only interested in selling the meat of males like Kirito and Eugeo.

Eugeo gives away their position, but as the goblins advance, he suffers another acute case of fear paralysis, which means an unarmed Kirito will likely have to deal with the horde all by his lonesome.

Advertisements

Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 04

bryn41

Brynhildr continues to suffer from a highly erratic tone that shifts jarringly from one scene to the next, to the point where it even seems to be confusing the characters. To whit: Ryouta stabs Saori in the heart like it’s the most natural thing in the world for an ordinary high school student to do. After Saori hangs up and is ejected, turning into a mass of organic goop, revealing a horrifying-looking parasite, only then does Ryouta react viscerally, stomping it out like a bug.

bryn442

Ryouta has gotten mixed up in some extremely awful, bloody, amoral, supernatural shit…but aside from that one little yelp, he doesn’t seem the least bit traumatized by what he’s seen and done. The episode’s attempts to lighten the mood with some fanservice-laced mixed onsen nonsense and domestic issues fail, because the gap between the two moods is too wide. The show yanked me from unspeakable horrors to oppai-grabs with whiplash-inducing speed.

bryn43

Mix two tones on the exact opposite moods too carelessly, and they’ll compromise each other, resulting in an impotent neutral mood, or just outright confusion. As it stands, it feels like two different shows in one, both of which would be better if the opposing tone was removed. I’m more interested in Ryouta’s resolute leap into the dark, messed-up world of the lab girls, not a half-assed high school harem. Here’s hoping new addition Takatori, an AA+ witch sent to eliminate the others, steers things more towards the former.

5_mag

Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 03

bryn31

One thing you have to hand with Brynhildr: it’s not laying the peril on thin. The present situation of Neko and Hana on the run escalates into a crisis when Ryouta learns they need to take a “death suppressant” pill every day or they’ll die horrible deaths, and they only have five days of pills left. Then the crisis escalates into disaster when Neko leaves a pot of boiling water unattended for ten seconds and burns up their supply.

bryn32

Just like that the five days are pared down to one, and then even less than that when Hana starts to bleed, having gone almost a full day since her last pill. The overarching mission, then, which provides this episode with thrust, is clear: find more pills, or the girls die. Ryouta, having already forfeited his life by getting involved, decides to take it upon himself to find a way to make it happen. Our main gripe with the plan is that the pills the girls need are commercially produced, rather than a top-secret proprietary drug formulated by the lab.

bryn3a

Then again, the evil guys in white coats at the lab may be morally bankrupt butchers, but they’re butchers with scientific backgrounds, so it’s not totally ridiculous the drug would have a code Ryouta could memorize. That tiny code is the single clue that gives them any chance at all, and also reveals that Ryouta is the opposite of Neko in that he’s able to remember everything, even the things he’d rather forget.

bryn33

Neko, meanwhile, loses memories when she uses magic, even those she wants to remember. This proves important when a conveniently-placed slash by Saori (another, far higher-level witch sent by the lab to kill her) reveals that Neko has the same moles as Kuroneko after all, they’d just shifted to her boobs once she grew some. It isn’t as if I thought they weren’t the same person all along—why beat around the bush?—but this seems to confirm it for certain.

bryn34

Seeing those moles fills Ryouta with joy that his friend is still alive, but now he knows why she doesn’t remember him. If only he could give her some of his ability to remember, he could help her, but I’m not sure the rules of this show work this way. Then there’s the fact that his joy is immediately stomped out when Saori slices Neko into several pieces. Again, the show doesn’t hold back in tormenting its characters and kicking them while they’re down.

bry35

I assume all this torture is meant to toughen them; if they can survive this, then they stand a chance against the lab. All the girls sport “hahnests” (…harnesses?) on their necks with three switches: one prevents them from using magic for a day, one terminates them (last week’s WTF moment), and the third does…something else; something “worse than death”. Ryouta’s hoping that something else is the key to saving Neko

7_mag

Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 02

bryn21

Brynhildr alternates between silly and dark, intriguing and repetitive this week, and a familiar pattern emerged: Vexed by her resemblance to Kuroneko, Ryouta tries to make nice with Neko; Neko rejects him and tells him to stay away; Ryouta persists and learns more about her; rinse, repeat. I was annoyed with Ryouta because he was being nosy, but I was also annoyed by Neko’s feeble attempts to keep him away, since at the end of the day she’s probably glad to have an ally.

bryn22

Frankly, if I was saved from dying by someone using magic who resembled an old friend whose dead body I never saw, a few “Go Aways” wouldn’t be enough to discourage me from trying to get some answers. That might be a selfish position to take—don’t worry about how you were saved, just be grateful and move on—but it’s a human one. Sometimes it isn’t enough to know something, we have to know why, even if knowing that isn’t in our best interests.

bryn23

And if there’s one thing the episode makes nice and sparkling clear, it’s that Ryouta would be better off turning around and forgetting about everything he’s seen these first two episodes. Neko, her paralyzed companion Kana, are military experiments on the run from their tormentors. One of their friends was captured (or two, as we get a look inside the transport) , and when she doesn’t talk, they eject her neck plug and she liquifies in a cloud smoke, which…eww.

bryn24

In one of the stranger juxtapositions of tones I’ve encountered in a while, the episode shifts from horrifying flesh-melting to Neko and Kana oging pastries Ryouta has brought them, which Neko proceeds to whiz in a blender so Kana can swallow it. This is more than a little jarring, but also shows that Neko’s determination to keep Ryouta out of her business was weak enough to be forgotten with sweets.

bryn25

That should be a little worrying for Ryouta. It’s nice that he’s helping out these girls and all, but I’m not sure he’s aware of just what a nasty business he’s stuck his nose into, and from which there’s probably no going back at this point. I did like how he experienced firsthand the satisfaction of having saved someone, and came to understand how Neko would feel responsible for deaths she knew would happen but was too late to stop.

6_mag

Black Rock Shooter – 02

Mato goes to a festival hoping to meet up with Yomi, but she’s stood up, with only an “I’m sorry” text in reply. Mato is crushed, and Black Rock Shooter is brutally punished in the dream world. Kagari wouldn’t let Yomi leave, and when Mato shows up at her door, Kagari throws herself down the steps in protest. Mato meets Yomi’s mother, who tells her Kagari’s paralyzation is all in her head, but Yomi has to take care of her. Mato won’t accept that, and confronts Yomi and Kagari in the hospital room. After much heated discussion paralleled by equally heated combat in the dream world, Yomi finally calms Kagari and persuades her to give up the act and go outside. In the dream world, Yomi is freed from Kagari’s chains.

Well now, we’ve got ourselves quite the dual headcases in Yomi and Kagari. For years Kagari has been pretending she can’t move her legs so she can be isolated at home with no one but Yomi. Perhaps more disturbing, Yomi has gone alone with it, enabling her the whole time. In refusing to give up friendship with Yomi, we can credit Mato with freeing not one but two troubled souls who had become far too entangled with one another. Now Yomi will surely get reacquainted with an old friend called free will while Kagari will re-learn how to walk, go to school, and function in society again. Hint: It’s not all about you, kiddo.

The animation stepped up its game – in both worlds. The regular world features some intense close-ups and demented expressions – particularly from the Kagari during her vicious, ultimately cathartic tantrum. The dream world meanwhile was a feast (and not just of macaroons): we were worried that the spare, washed-out palette may grow stale with too much exposure, so what does this episode do? Administer a big dose of Color with a Capital C. Black Rock Shooter has some really sweet-ass weapons, and there’s nary a still frame in sight, as everything – the people, the scenery, and the cameras – are all in constant motion. We could watch this stuff all day.


Rating: 4

Guilty Crown – 13

After the “Second Lost Christmas” that killed Gai, the city center district known as Loop 7 is quarantined by GHQ, now led by former Major, now Chief Segai. Ayase and Tsugami join Shu and Inori as classmates. After two weeks separated from the rest of the city, nerves are starting to fray, so the school council led by Kuhouin decide to organize a cultural festival. It is crashed by rioters who were supplied with military equipment by Segai in disguise, but before they can hurt anyone, Shu uses his new power – drawing out a void so its owner can use it – on Ayase. Her void is a set of prosthetic legs which, combined with his Inori sword, take care of the baddies. But when the TV feed is restored, the other shoe drops: the GHQ is closing off Loop 7 for ten years, in hopes of eradicating the alleged apocalypse breakout there.

We were a bit weary when we heard the words “cultural festival”, but this turned out to be a very good aftermath episode, with lots of good Ayase characterization. There isn’t any way around it, practically speaking: Ayase needs technology in order to prove to herself and others that she’s useful. She blames herself for Gai’s death, and is lost without him or her endlave. Fortunately for her, she’s got a friend who can draw out her very convenient – but still poetic – void that enables her to move as she would within an endlave, only with her own body. Which, any way you look at it, must be an absolute thrill. The final action piece with her and Shu kicking ass and taking names was awesome.

Of course, this was just the eye of the storm. Shu, all his friends, and perhaps tens of thousands of people are now trapped within the confines of a few city blocks. Things were already starting to get chippy, what with bands of the strong starting to prey on the weak. That shit’s only going to get worse from here, unless Shu & Co. can either stop it or break down the walls that surround them. There’s also this interesting dynamic with Segai treating Loop 7 like some kind of zoo or lab; no doubt he isn’t just going to leave Shu and his powers alone. Things may have gone from bad to okay to bad again in a jiffy, but the good guys aren’t without means…or guts.


Rating: 3.5