Kuromukuro – 12

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As the Gezon-Reco of Efidolg decide to send another of their own (Nouet) down to Japan to deal with the Black Relic that’s been ruining their plans, the school term has given way to Summer break for Yukina, Ken, and Noelle, as well as Akagi, Mika, and Kaya.

Yukina boasts that she needn’t participate in extra lessons despite her deplorable marks, since she’s already been enrolled in what amounts to boot camp at Kurobe, with the always pleasantly profane Tom Borden as drill sargeant and Noelle, Shenmei, and Seb joining both out of solidarity and to stay sharp. Akagi also joins, in hopes of becoming a geoframe pilot.

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What ensues is your standard boot-camp/training episode, with Yukina predictably bad at pretty much everything early on. Indeed, after the first day of exertion she’s skipping dinner to throw up in the sink, but Shenmei grabs her from behind, throws her on the bed, sits on her, and…gives her deep massage and reiki. We’ve seen precious little of Shenmei, but I like how she’s so quietly supportive during Yukina’s descent into her Summer of Hell.

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To add insult to injury, Seb is assigned by her teacher to make sure she and Ken don’t fall behind on lessons. But the training is a long time coming now that Yukina is committed to co-piloting the Black Relic with Ken: she can’t rely on him to rescue her from every little thing.

That being said, Ken still saves her on numerous occasions, whether it’s a hand or word of encouragement, or something more dramatic like saving her from drowning when Tom shoves her into a pool in full kit.

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Ken is punished for “babying the Princess”, but thanks to Tom not thinking when activating the shock collar, Yukina and Noelle also get zapped, and the three zappees get a day off while Shenmei and Tom test the experimental GAUS water-walking system.

The unusual-for-Kuromukuro level of fanservice continues when Noelle shares photos of Mika in sexy fantasy cosplay that Ken can neither resist voicing his outrage and snapping a pic of the pic for his own, erm, records.

When the water-walking GAUS goes literally sideways and water starts leaking in the sinking frame, Shenmei remains almost comically (but also impressively) cool as a cucumber.

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The training continues, with Ken having to push Yukina less and less since she’s pushing herself (though Noelle notices how much he stares at Yukina), and things get easier as she grows stronger and more confident. Where once she couldn’t shoot with her eyes open, now she at least opens one, so it’s only a matter of time before she opens both.

For his continues heroism and lack of betrayal, Ken is rewarded by having his sword returned to him (by Yukina) and his collar removed (also by Yukina), resulting in some very close proximity between the two.

I’m enjoying the slow burn of their mutual attraction and respect, even if it doesn’t go far. Like it or not, Ken has found a new “princess” in Yukina, and thus a new commitment and purpose.

Yukina tells him he gets the sword on the condition he won’t seek his death with it through reckless action. And as the episode closes with a descending Nouet, Yukina’s newfound skills and stamina will be put to the test very soon.

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Kuromukuro – 11

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No sooner than I complained about the show dragging a little do things really start picking up. And while they picked up in more or less the most predictable way they could, it doesn’t change the fact that this was the first Kuromukuro that actually got my heart pounding, both with the suspense (and suspended disbelief either of the leads would die) and the kinda-sorta-maybe budding romance (or at least mutual respect) between those leads.

Fusnarnie is truly a loose cannon this week, and for a second, I thought Mulder and Scully weren’t going to release Kennosuke to deal with the situation. Also, there’s no more playing around with big robots and evacuations; there is blood and death here, and Yukina witnesses it close up for the first time, and reacts exactly how a non-grizzled warrior would: with fear and near-paralysis.

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That fear keeps her alive, though; one wrong move, and she knows she could be toast; this guy only wants her alive long enough to let him contract with Glongur. Before he can, Ken corners him, but he still has his hostage.

This is when Yukina finally springs into action to facilitate Ken’s rescue; quickly darting back and smacking Fusnarnie in the face, a move he clearly didn’t expect her to make. Sure, she stumbles immediately, but she gives Ken just the opening he needs to engage the enemy. Who knows how things would have gone down had Yukina not chosen to act.

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Ken is able to best Fussy, but that doesn’t stop the guy from trying to take Yukina down with him. He gets perilously close to her—and she’s again too terrified to move—but Ken does what he has to to protect Yukina, stabbing Fusnarnie in the back. Shortly thereafter, Fussy lets himself fall over the railing to his death rather than stay alive in disgrace.

What follows is a pivotal moment in the show, when Yukina makes a connection to Ken when she sees him trembling just as much as she is. Is this his first kill? Probably not, but it’s certainly his first in a while, and in any case killing is never easy, nor was killing Fusnarnie Ken’s first choice (and not just because the agents wanted him alive; surely Ken wants answers too, particularly about his so-called “altered memory.”

But as he shakes, Yukina sidles over to him and hugs him from behind, as much to calm him as to calm herself. It’s a lovely moment and proof of real growth in their relationship.

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Speaking of love interests, I have just plain had it with Akagi, and not because I’m a Yukina x Ken shipper (though I’m certainly far closer to being one after this week).

His impulsive desire to become a GAUS pilot (and belief he has the talent based on his hi-score) is just so dumb for this show; as if he’s some shounen hero in another show who really should have become a pilot in the first episode or two, but instead just talks about it over and over. We get it: dude wants to protect Yukina. I just don’t see him as GAUS pilot, ever. I enjoyed his dad’s incredulous and exasperated expressions, however.

I’d much rather see more of Sophie, who is ostensibly one of the three main characters in the show but has been woefully underused. Hopefully the second half will feature more of her.

Uncle Oshou is another story altogether; he’s a side character who steals nearly every scene he’s in; I especially liked his story about the seated statue and how Ken reacted to it. I also liked how in the same scene, Yukina asks Ken out on a date without even knowing it. And while on the hiking trip, she sticks to the map while Ken of all people embraces the wonders of GPS to get them on the right track. That was unexpected.

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Unfortunately, there’s as much mystery surrounding where exactly Yukina was, who or what rescued her, and what became of the “80’s Electronics Cave Base” as there is surrounding Ken’s past, and those answers still aren’t forthcoming this week, but the hiking trip did allow Ken and Yukina to process their emotions about recent events involving one another, and that made up for it.

Yukina and Ken will still blush whenever he conversation turn slightly romantic, but they’re becoming more comfortable being honest with each other. Ken is devoted to protecting her, and Yukina is just fine with that. She’s very candid about how his rescuing her made her feel, and it’s doubtless a feeling she’d never felt before, just as she never before saw Ken trembling. This episode definitely re-stoked by enthusiasm for the show as it approaches its second half.

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Kuromukuro – 10

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A quick trip to MAL will show you that Kuromukuro currently only manages a very meh 6.95 rating, which for MAL means “Good” but we’ve since come to mean “watchable, but not necessarily recommended.” I’ver certainly dropped higher-rated shows before.

The low score isn’t due to a disgruntled source material audience unhappy with the adaptation, either: it’s an anime original. So what gives?

Well, like Kennosuke’s bizarre experience 450 years ago, it’s kind of hard to put my finger on it, and that’s part of the problem. It’s one thing to be consistently and demonstrably great or terrible; Kuromukuro is merely solid, at best.

It’s not badly put together, and some of the character interaction is quite strong; it’s just not particularly original or exciting. A lack of 9 ratings bear this out: Kuromukuro has entertained, but never wowed.

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I never like quitting a show right in the middle, but with a planned 13 more episodes in addition to the 13 this Spring, I need to start taking a good long look at whether this show will be worth retaining into the busy new Summer season, which promises several new mecha series, the quality of which I can’t vouch for. (Macross will likely be continuing on as well, but I’m unaware of whether it will take a season off).

Basically, things need to start picking up, and soon. This episode promised a lot, but it really only amounted to table-setting. Now, table-setting can be interesting, but this week wasn’t, despite the fact we now have an Efidolg captive and learned more about Ken’s aforementioned experience, both under questioning by UN officials brought in from outside the Kurobe Lab.

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Interrogation episodes can be great, too, but again, Kuromukuro does not distinguish itself or add anything new to the genre. The interviews are largely dull and uninformative, as Fusnarnie, as he’s called, isn’t interested in giving many detailed answers, and Ken simply doesn’t remember very well what happened.

This is frustrating to him, on top of his whole “continuing to live in shame while his princess is dead” dilemma, and Yukina is just as frustrated (as I was) by the lack of answers from that weird cave with the “demon” who may have been her dad. What could have been an episode of bombshell revelations amounted to little more than more teasing of larger but still obscured things, combined with lots of moping by the main pair.

And don’t get me started on Akagi; this stiff’s cockamamie idea to simply become a pilot without actually putting any work in (and thinking his arcade high score is a gauge of his talents) just fell flat with me. Yukina couldn’t care less about this guy; why should I?

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One of the better parts of the episode was the flashback, in which we see Ken is a member of the soldiers fighting for Yukihime, and not, as Fusnarnie claims, an Efidolg advance guard. Or is he? How far in advance did he arrive? Did he bonk his head and forget who he was, and simply joined the princess’ guard since he’s good with a sword?

I’m not sure how else to explain how he’s able to pilot the Black Relic so easily. Was there something in Yukihime’s blood that made that possible? More to the point, is Yukihime really even dead, or was that light just a tractor beam that took her up to the mothership, where she remains? Lots of questions, as you can see, but precious few satisfying answers.

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I’m not particularly interested in the UN and Sophie being suspicious of Ken, either, seeing as how he’s only served the good guys faithfully all this time. Also, if Fusnarnie is to be believed, Ken betrayed his people; why would he switch back to the “enemy”?

Nevermind, all we get at the end is a somewhat obvious cliffhanger in which Fussy breaks free, kills his captors, summons his “Lion”, and just happens to bump into Yukina in the corridor, grinning when he realizes she’s a wielder. So great; now Yukina probably needs to be rescued…again.

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Rinne no Lagrange – 02

With his comrade Array defeated by the Vox, Izo heads down to earth to take it on. Madoka meets Tadokoro, the fleet captain who runs Pharos along with Lan’s superior, Moid, and a strange girl named Muginami. Madoka is issued a uniform and put her back in the cockpit to battle Izo. When she’s told she holds the fate of the world in her hands, she initially wavers, rendering the Vox ovid inert. After a motivational phone call from her cousin Yoko, who has always been against her piloting Vox, Madoka regains her confidence and the Vox powers up. Izo’s comrade Kirius has joins the fray, while Lan heads to her own Vox.

Not a bad follow-up to the first episode, reiterating how Madoka has been plopped down in the middle of an interdimensional war, a lot of pressure is immediately placed upon her slight shoulders, and she trades her sweats for a tight-fitting uniform like Lan’s. Basically, if she fails, everyone dies, so she’d better not fail. Think Evangelion without all the psychological baggage. Our heroine has never had a problem expressing herself or excelling at any number of athletic disciplines. Since her ovid Vox Aura responds according to the strength of her conviction, it’s important she see this as the life-or-death situation that it is, and not a lark or dawdle. Also, watching her wander the military complex for a decent cell signal was pretty funny.

Meanwhile, Lan, it would seem, seems offput by Madoka’s impression it was ‘easy’ to pilot the Vox. As watching the opening credits, she’s pilot too, but is clear she has some kind of underlying issues that require resolution. As for the third pilot, well, all we know is her name is Muginami, she has big boobs, and her voice is kinda stupid-sounding. She says barely anything and does nothing this week. Madoka, meanwhile, isn’t actually locked in combat all that long. The balance of her two-on-one battle will play out next week, in which she’ll be joined by either Lan, Mugi, or both.


Rating: 3.5

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 01

Young, fiery, and talented vanship pilot Fam and her copilot Giselle are members of a band of sky pirates who race to the aid of the two princesses of Turan, Lillia and Millia, who have been ambushed by the treacherous Ades Federation led by Premier Luscinia. In exchange for their rescue from the battlefield, Fam demands the Turan flagship, the Lasas, in return. Her colleague Dio Eraclea boards and feints a scuttling in order to escape the battle, but as Turan’s capital is vulnerable to Ades attack, the ship will have to be quickly mended.

It’s been eight years and a month since Last Exile concluded, and even as the Fall 2011 Season started, we had to wait a little longer. The first series wasn’t perfect, but it was (and still is) one of the best-looking we’ve ever seen, had a lot of ingredients that really got out juices flowing, and indeed stoked our passion for anime that strives to transcend its medium. If ever a universe deserved a sequel, it was Last Exile…and here we are. Studio GONZO returns in force, Koichi Chigira is back to direct, as is our favorite character designer, Range Murata, and Hitomi Kuroishi, who composes a haunting and exciting score. The voice cast is excellent, with Aki Toyosaki (Railgin’s Uiharu, Hanasaku Iroha’s Nako) providing the voice of Fam, who kicks ass every which way, and her more tranquil partner Giselle is voiced by Aoi Yuki (Shiki’s Sunako, Puella’s Madoka). The princesses are Ai Kayano (AnoHana’s Menma, Memo-cho’s Ayaka) and one of our favorites, Miyuki Sawashiro.

This opening episode quickly re-establishes the crazy steampunk world of floating armadas, sky pirates, and gorgeous cities. It’s attention to detail is impeccable. Last Exile’s CGI was ahead of its time, but Fam manages (unsurprisingly) to surpass it, fully utilizing the widescreen HD environment and all the other new tech. From the quiet nighttime opening to the fantastic aerial battle on a clear blue day, this episode has all the scale and epic-ness of a full-length, big budget film combining all the best elements of Miyazaki and Final Fantasy. With everything that went on, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to get into the myriad characters, who occupy three distinct factions so far (warlike Ades, peaceful Turan, and opportunistic pirates), but we like the Fam/Giselle duo so far, and their blue-collar tomboy lives should clash nicely with the pair of princesses. We’ve looked forward to this series for a long time, and all it took was the opening episode to propel it to the best of the season so far.


Rating: 4

Dantalian no Shoka 11

The entire episode is a flashback to The Great War when Huey was a lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, where he quickly distinguishes himself. It focuses on his captain, Ilas, who switches sides to the Germans. He is writing a war anthology containing the voices of the battlefield. A biblioprincess, Raziel, visits him one night to tell him it is the egg of a phantom book. He meets Huey in a dogfight, at which time Huey tells him he should be dead, and uses the anthology to defeat him. Raziel’s keykeeper – whome Ilas met earlier as a bartender – raised him from the grave to finish the book, but when he didn’t, he returned him to the afterlife.

The subjects of this series have been as wide-ranging as those contained within a library, and I like that. The episodes can be enjoyed individually due to their unique and diverse characters. This week, there’s no Dalian, but another biblioprincess – the third we’ve encountered – but rather than focusing on her and her keykeeper, it’s mostly about their instrument, Ilas. This episode is also full of WWI-era bi-(and tri-)plane action, which when set against the picturesque European countryside, makes for a most impressive and bouyant setting. For Raziel’s (brief) part, she is quite nimble and light on her feet, sporting a very cool get-up.

Huey and Ilas are both total Wright-nerds and adept at “basquet-ball”. They’re both aces (Huey won the Victoria Cross and gave it to his underling without a second thought), but neither consider themselves “warriors”. Ilas is more interested in crafting his poetic war anthology than killing bogies, while we all know that when the war ended, Huey moved on to solving mysteries with Dalian. It must have been strange for Huey’s CO and mentor to die, then suddenly reappear on the enemy side. A nice touch is the key to Dalian that Huey mistakes for the key to the manor – perhaps he didn’t yet know his mystical calling?


Rating: 3.5