Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 05

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Last week’s violent, harrowing battle took place just a third of the way in the season, so a cooling-off episode was expected and not entirely unwelcome. Now that we know the lengths Tsumugi will go to protect her friends, it’s nice to spend time with them as the recover from their wounds and try to make it up to her.

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Since Izana was alive and in contact with Sidonia at the end of last week, I knew Nagate was alive, I just didn’t know how bad her injuries would be. So it’s with great joy and relief to see her recover from those injuries. She lost an arm and a leg, but in this sci-fi world limbs can grow back, she chose mechanical prostheses so she could recover faster and get back on the line.

While part of this choice is her not wanting to be left behind or to be useless for too long, I still respect her going with her non-mad scientist grandma’s suggestion, and I liked her positive attitude about the whole thing. Nagate and Yuhata’s reaction to her suddenly splitting the fingers on her new hand from five to ten is pretty priceless: by turns surprised, fearful, and impressed.

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Tsumugi was the big question mark last week. We learn after the battle she’s lost 90% of her body mass, and as we know, that kind of diet can kill a human. But she’s super tough, and all she needs is time and patience to grow her placenta back. Nagate, extremely concerned for her well-being, sits at her proverbial hospital bedside.

In what turns out to be a tease from last week’s preview for this episode, the nude Shizuka Nagate encounters is merely in his dream, albeit a dream he’s having while a recovering Tsugumi has her “arms” on his head.

Nagate calls the girl in his dream “Shizuka”, the name he first assigned to her face, but it might’ve been more accurate to address her as Tsumugi, as this could be her unconscious avatar, hinting that she can communicate this way, in addition to her half-cute, half-unsettling dolphin balloon puppet.

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When Nagate wakes up, he’s so elated Tsumugi is okay, he hugs that puppet, whose reaction to the sudden intimacy rivals Asahina Mikuru for pure adorableness. She moves to beautiful new digs with a view of the stars and a bookshelf to read from (her studious bookworm persona is super-endearing, BTW), but Nagate is troubled with how isolated she is, which is confirmed when Tsugumi, all alone in her tower of solitude, lets off a sigh.

Nagate and Izana ask Yuhata if she’ll let Tsumugi move to the residential area where she can be closer to everyone else, but she refuses them flatly. As much as I love Tsumugi, I knew their request would be a long shot, practically speaking. Tsumugi could cause a lot of damage in there if the ride gets bumpy.

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And it does get bumpy, as Sidonia is closing on the Lem solar system and must initiate another harrowing deceleration maneuvers. This is where Sidonia the character comes into play in the episode; simply slowing down in space is a momentous event fraught with peril. An air raid siren pierces the tranquil residential block, warning everyone to lock their harness into something sturdy.

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Unfortunately, Nagate and Izana don’t hear the sirens or the warnings, because they’re spending their downtime deep in the guts of the ship, finding themselves in a ladder shaft when the bumpy ride begins. Thankfully, due to Nagate’s incredible luck and physical toughness with an assist from Izana’s bionic limbs, they survive the maneuver with bumps and bruises.

Those are a small price to pay for achieving their goal: locating a hatch in a pipe that leads to Tsumugi’s room. She can now stick her balloon avatar out and gaze upon the gorgeous residential block.

Giving her her first look at the civilization she’s protecting, and feeling the community of the res area, is Nagate and Izana’s way of thanking her for saving them, and doing their best to quell her loneliness. It’s a great feel-good, non-battle victory.

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The feel-goodness continues when Nagate heads home to find he’s been evicted an his dorm is now the home of a new recruit. But that’s okay, because all he has to do is call a friend and crash with them until he can find a place of his own! Who does he call: Kunato? He probably labels his food. The Honoka sisters? He’ll walk in on them naked and get thrashed again. Yuhata? “Fraternizing with a superior officer” issues.

No, he calls Izana, who is relaxing and soaking in her very cozy-looking bath, talking with her grandma on the videophone. Izana has been trying to get closer to Nagate since before Shizuka died. Now, thanks to fate, Nagate has come to her. Will she capitalize on this latest chance? Her initial reaction suggests she’ll have to overcome some nervousness.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 04

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Sidonia sticks to its strengths—intricate space battles, mayhem, and impending doom, not comedy and romance—with an episode-long epic battle of adernaline-pumping perfection. G550 is gunnin’ for Sidonia, literally. Its kill or be killed, and the episode never lets you forget how thin the line is between life and death.

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Tsumugi uses her man-made kabi claws to bust out of the trap the first wave of Gauna built around her, and in the process she seems to glean the Gauna’s intent for the humans, including her friends. Whether it was just another Gauna biological reflex in response to external stimuli, or a conscious, sentient effort to provoke Tsumugi, she reacts badly,  disobeying everyone’s orders and going on a destructive rampage of every Gauna in sight, despite being heavily damaged herself.

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The deus ex machina has a screw loose, and it informs the overarching peril of the situation rather nicely. What ultimately finally stops her attacks is when Izana tries to go after her and calm her down, and gets heavily damaged in the process. It’s been a little while since pilots I actually knew and cared about turned red on the CIC board, so when it’s Izana’s turn my heart sank into my stomach. Thankfully, Tsumugi gets to Izana and agrees to retreat for now, for her sake.

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The Guardes manage to take out the second wave of Gauna without Tsumugi’s help thanks to a shift to long-range tactics, and then enter ring formation to destroy G550’s core. But even this tactic backfires, as the equatorial trench they create is the perfect aperture for a massive Hyggs cannon the surviving Gauna fuse into.

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Sidonia is huge and slow, so I knew any beam launched at her would have to be somehow prevented outright, blocked, shifted, or absorbed by someone. In another case of the computer displays creating visceral reactions, the amount of red the damage analysis predicts makes it clear if none of those above things happen, it’s Game Over.

Tsumugi manages to deflect the beam enough so it misses Sidonia, but only by a few hundred meters to starboard. At this distance, the mere force emanating from the beam is enough to nearly shake Sidonia to pieces, and alarmingly, all the CIC displays go to static as the shock hits, and it was all I could do to pray those displays wouldn’t go dark, and that breaches wouldn’t occur.

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With G550 charging for another salvo, and both Tsumugi and Izana unaccounted for, Nagate decides to rush in headlong and uses his engine pack as a precision projectile, causing a Death Star-style chain reaction that brings that sweet, sweet sound of Bubble Desintegration. Once again, Nagate one-ups Kunato and emerges the hero.

It’s a costly victory: Nagate and Izana are both found, but Tsumugi is in tatters, and Izana fears she’s dead. They didn’t lose a lot of Guardes, and Sidonia wasn’t seriously damaged and didn’t need to carry out emergency maneuvers, but with Tsumugi’s fate unclear and the Gauna stronger than ever, it’s no longer simply “nice” to have Chimera on their side; it now appears absolutely essential for the battles to come.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 03

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Kobayashi’s coup went off without a hitch, and she immediately changes Sidonia’s course, both literally and figuratively, in a chilling scene that makes it obvious there was no love lost between her and the not-so-Immortals. And yet this doesn’t mark any kind of sea change in the day-to-day operations of the ship, nor do higher-ranking officers like Yutaha have any problem with the new change of leadership. After all, Kobayashi’s bosses never were in the spotlight; it’s hard to mourn their loss. Or maybe Yutaha is simply being pragmatic.

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Either way, big changes in how Sidonia wages war are being implemented, from upgrading the armor of the Type-18 frames, to impregnating Placental Hoshijiro with a human seed, making her Tsugumi’s mommy. I really like the creep-factor this kind of sci-fi body mod/body horror stuff lends to Sidonia’s “world,” one already full of oddities.

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At the same time, this episode doesn’t forget about the sheer majesty of simply floating outside Sidonia. The careful camera placement and motion really sell the idea of how vast space is, and how the terror of that vastness can cause people like Kobayashi to take extreme steps to preserve their tiny civilization.  

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Where Sidonia continues to flail and fail is at comedy, particularly anything involving Nagate seeing naked ladies. All of the careful physics go out the window as they resort to cartoon violence, smashing a heavy metal door into Nagate, who hits the wall hard, and then has the door smash down on him, a sequence that would surely have put him in the hospital.

Like a previous instance in the first season where his face swelled up after getting beaten for a similar transgression, seeing his CG face get bent up here breaks the uncanny valley in a bad way. But most of all, this attempt at lightweight comedy comes off as ham-fisted and obvious, nothing like the expert precision of other areas of the show.

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This is more like it: giving us a glimpse into Yutaha’s spartan quarters gives us a glimpse into her character off-bridge: she dresses down, builds scale models, and tries to keep up with the news. Sure, emergency maneuvers would send most of the contents of her room flying along with her, but those are rare enough.

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While checking the logs of who’s gone to see Tsumugi, Yuhata discovers Nagate and Izana have been occasional visitors. I was expecting some kind of confrontation, but instead Yuhata is merely curious, and the others even invite her to lock hands with them, as they had come to do with Tsugumi (or rather Tsugumi’s balloon “sock puppet” avatar). Tsugumi continues to nicely toe the line between cute and creepy.

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When her sharp eyes spot a 500-core Gauna force heading their way, Kunato requests to intercept it with Tsugumi. Yuhata wants to see how she works in a formation, and so denies the request, but she’s overruled by Kobayashi, who is eager to see the full extent of the chimera’s powers. Perhaps because Kunato wasn’t among those who locked hands (a pilot superstition I’d expect him to shun), things go very wrong when he flies Tsugumi into a Gauna placenta trap. This, after Kunato guaranteed defeating the force would be a cakewalk.

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Two more of Sidonia’s strengths are its thrilling launch sequences and visceral pilot POV shots, both of which contribute to an adrenaline-laced sci-fi spectacle to end the ep. With Tsugumi neutralized, it’s up to the conventional Guardes to avert disaster on the very first leg of Kobayashi’s very possibly ill-conceived new course.

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To that end, all the Guardians that launch—96 in all—lock hands into a ring formation and blast away with authority, which is another Sidonia strength: immensely enticing cliffhangers. The strengths definitely outweighed the weaknesses this week, as they usually do with Sidonia, while building great anticipation for next week’s big battle.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 02

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There’s been some super sketchy stuff going down behind that big KUNATO logo, especially now that Ochiai is in the mix. We see the fruit of his labor in full display this week in the Human-Gauna hybrid “Chimera”, Tsugumi Shiraui.

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The newest enemy Gauna with its “Onion Placenta” is proof the Gauna are not standing still when it comes to developing new weapons with which to attack Sidonia, so it makes sense that the humans should innovate or die. Competing factions among the humans clash over the best way to do this.

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At least here, the ends justify the means, as Tsugumi is able to destroy the enemy Gauna, finishing it off by blasting straight through it. Yuhata and the Guardians are more confused than anything, but it’s Nagate who decides Tsugumi isn’t their enemy, allowing her to do her work unfettered.

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There was probably a better way to sell Tsugumi to the crew than a King Kong-style unveiling, but Kunato has never struck me as being very good at P.R., and the fact he’s now a host for Ochiai made him even worse. Tsugumi is uncommonly courteous and friendly, but when she gets excited upon spotting Nagate in the crowd, her sheer mass shakes the entire assembly hall, scaring the masses and turning them against her.

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Tsugumi is huge and extremely creepy-looking. But in good sci-fi, one can never judge a book by its cover when it comes to aliens who look or act differently from us. Nagate, being the decent sort of chap he is, is willing to keep an open mind, and even visits her at the Kunato lab, convinced she could use some human company, as she is half-human.

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She greets them with a more human-sized but still very alien appendage, and Tsugumi is overcome by glee when Nagate allows her to “touch” him, which she takes as carte blanche to lift both him and Izana up with numerous tentacles and grope them both thoroughly.

But again, it’s not scary, despite the awesome destructive power she’s capable of, because she’s so gosh-darned earnest and adorable. Not sure about the goofy music that announces this is a comedic scene, but whatever.

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As for those factions I mentioned earlier, Kobayashi makes a decisive move against the ruling Immortal Ship Assembly, sending Ochiai’s clone to murder them all, including her would-be replacement, after they vote to impeach her from the captaincy.

While the good old-fashioned acquisition of power is probably a motivating factor, Kobayashi was also diametrically opposed to their defensive posture and refusal to entertain innovations such as Tsugumi. With her and other Chimeras, she’ll be able to take the fight to the Gauna, and presumably start winning the hearts and minds.

Even if she doesn’t manage to achieve the latter (Nagate, for instance doesn’t like how Tsugumi is being forced to fight and kill right out of the proverbial womb) it’s Kobayashi’s ship now, and those who oppose her will do so at their peril.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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I was pretty dejected when Sidonia’s second season didn’t air in October as I initially believed, but I’ve been waiting patiently like a good anime blogger for six more months and two seasons. Now the wait is over…and boy, was it worth it.

Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki (Battle for Planet Nine) the best premiere of the spring – a rich, soaring, booming, squirming sci-fi masterpiece that lays out a fresh batch of challenges and conflicts for the spacefaring remainder of mankind, already hanging on a string last season.

The cold open mirrors the first season’s, in which a space battle turns out to be a simulation run by Nagate, only this time he’s a decorated veteran putting up a high score for the fresh crop of Guardian recruits to aspire to, even if he doesn’t have any inspiring words to say to them.

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We then cut back to whatever it was Kunato was up to with that big door in the first season finale. Even if it means the end of his family, he opens it and steps inside, and his loyal sister Mozoku follows him. This secret forbidden nook of Sidonia turns out to be Ochiai’s lab, and they’re not alone in there. In quick succession, Mozoku loses a digit, then her head, and Norio’s body is taken over by parasites as a strange, not-quite-human figure looks on. Talk about setting the tone!

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Not too much later, a girl who looks like a white-haired Shizuka in Mozoku’s clothes fumbles with her dinner, apparently still getting used to her body (if they switched heads, her high collar hides the signs). She calls Norio “Ochiai”, and “Norio”, really Ochiai, corrects her. A tentacle slithers in “Mozoku”‘s eye. Just like that, it’s the end of the Kunato siblings as we knew them.

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The transformed pair then visit the lab to inspect Placental Shizuka as representatives of Kunato Corp. As he puts Numi under full-body paralysis with one prick to her cheek, “Norio” also hits her with a dose of anti-human vitriol (calling them naught nothing but filthy insects, far inferior to Gauna, etc.) before giving her a parasite. Things are moving very quickly.

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Meanwhile, we see why Nagate was so distracted at the simulator, and why he isn’t eating much or acknowledging Izana much: he’s having semi-sexy, semi-horrifying dreams about Placental Shizuka, whom he hasn’t seen in some time. When he crosses paths with Norio on an escalator, Norio insists he forget about Shizuka, who is dead, and stop worrying about the placenta that shares her appearance.

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Yuhata steals Nagate from Izana on a day they’re to go on a trip to the shrine, but only to tell him what Norio did: to give up on Placental Shizuka. Possibly out of pity for having to order her friend to do this, she lends him a rocket pack so he can meet up with Izana at the top of the stairs, surprising and delighting her in the process. It’s a great little glimmer of light and hope in an episode steeped in darkness and dread.

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That glimmer doesn’t last long, as the Gauna alert sounds and Battle Stations are ordered. The third-person shot of XO Yuhata entering the CIC as it comes to life with Gauna threat information, is audiovisual perfection.

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So is the battle that commences, though that’s nothing new where Sidonia is concerned. Using a combination of wide, slightly shaky shots and in-cockpit POV shots, all supplemented with maps, schematics, and other digital information, all of which reveals that this latest Gauna is unlike any they’ve fought before.

In addition to being heavily armed, it has dozens of layers of placenta, like an onion, and it looks like the Guardians are simply going to run out of ammo and/or fuel long before they reach the true body. This force Nagate to move dangerously closer in with his all-new, powerful but untested frame to try to take the Gauna out. Ren, who’s been through some stuff with Izana, stays by his side.

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Sidonia also excels at stepping ever so close to the brink of total disaster and destruction, before being pulled back by some last-minute miracle. Usually it’s Nagate who pulls these off, making him the shining new hero, but this time, he can’t do a thing. In fact, when another Gauna appears on radar (or whatever they use) and heads toward Nagate and Ren at 10x the speed of their guardians, it appeared like the Gauna had Sidonia, and humanity, in check.

But then the second Gauna blows the Onion Gauna to kingdom come with one shot. Everyone gawks at this strange Guardian-sized Gauna, which is being piloted by Norio. Look out, Nagate: the guy who always considered you his nemesis is now faster and stronger than you…and he’s not even really Norio anymore.

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As for the reveal that the “Gauna Guardian” he’s piloting has Shizuka’s voice and talks to him like a beloved master, well, this fake Norio also went and stole Nagate’s fake woman, who introduces herself as Shiraui Tsumugi. The shot of the delicate yet frightening-looking Tsumugi floating in space even bears a striking resemblance to the bone/satellite match cut of 2001, lending it a powerful, mythic aura. Move over…everything else: Sidonia is back, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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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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No. 6 11 (Fin)

Citizens of No. 6 start dying from the parasitic wasps within them. Shion and Rat have found Safu, but she’s become a medium for Elyurias, and while part of her remains to tell Shion she loves him, she isn’t quite Safu anymore. Rat sets a bomb on the main computer core and escapes with Shion, but Safu stays put. When the bomb blows, the prison begins to crumble, and is hastily evacuated. Both Nezumi and Rat are seriously wounded by gunfire from guards. Elyurias transforms into a giant wasp and spreads her power throughout No. 6, removing the infestation of wasps, tearing down the walls, and healing the guys. With eveything Shion hoped for accomplished, he and Nezumi go their separate ways, with Shion returning to a changed No. 6.

Eleven-episode runs can be killer for series with Really Big Ideas like No. 6. As the series progressed, it seemed unsure of how large a story to tell, and unsure how exactly to tell it. Episodes were spent with Nezumi and Rat just sitting around philosophizing. There’s a lot of exposition and lengthly explanation here, too. This was not a perfect ending, and I don’t think it was a great one, either. But it was pretty good.

I was disappointed that the guys came all that way to rescue Safu (though Rats primary goal was destroying the prison) only for her to say a few word and then basically die; she almost feels like a McGuffin. She’s obviously the kind of girl who knows who she loves no matter how little of him she actually sees, and Shion is a mess after Rat carries him off without her, having lost someone he had so much more to say to. But his pipe dream came true – in a deus ex machina, neat-little-package way kinda way. It had a definite ending, which is more than can be said of some 11-episode series.


Rating: 3