Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 03

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First, a confession: we’re not tobacco smokers; never have been. They just didn’t agree with us, unless we were very drunk, and even then, we paid a price the next day. That being said, we’ve always been very accepting of smokers’ right to smoke. We once lived with three smokers at once. When laws banned smoking in most bars, we felt like the bars lost their ambiance. And of course, we grew up seeing heros and villains alike enjoying a good smoke, and usually looking pretty cool while doing so.

Kate and Natasha aren’t like us. They’re not willing to live and let live with smokers. With them it’s Zero Tolerance Total Ban with no quarter for those who transgress, even their own comrade, Yasu, who has a history of misbehavior. We learn that he and Gorou were once gangsters who were in a tight spot and were saved by Kate; they apparently joined Zvezda not long after that. Gorou maintained a healthy fear of Kate’s power when she’s serious; a power we see as she battles the smokers of West Edogawa.

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Kate also possesses tremendous charisma and is able to rally previously scared and frustrated masses of fellow non-smoking residents into a fearsome army of “Smoke Busters.” Yasu’s little mini-revolt doesn’t last long once he sees Kate flash the same red eyes he saw when she was standing atop a pile of bodies, and goes back to Zvezda with his tail between his legs (though he still doesn’t swear off cigarettes.) As for the last bastion of smokers, they seem to turn into soulless ghouls milling around the street. Zvezda heads home, and everyone ends up back in their cozy little spaces.

So if this episode felt too preachy and mean to smokers, remember we’re talking about the whims of a little girl who feels very strongly about the subject. And at the end of the day, she isn’t wrong: second-hand smoke is dangerous. It comes down to moderation in opposition to an action: Kate has none, and is powerful enough not to bother with any. We’re reminded of a kid on This American Life (listen here) who tried to force his family to stop eating meat. His mom made him (grudgingly) admit that he didn’t get to decide what other people are allowed to eat. Of course, if this kid could summon a giant foe-smiting fist, things would be different….

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

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Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 02

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Jimon Asuta seems to be happiest at school, a place where he can forget about his problems and expand his knowledge. The problem is, it’s not a boarding school, and after a certain time, the students have to go hope. The school goes by all too quickly for Asuta (School Bell REEEMIX!), at which point his problems reappear: he’s starving and he has nowhere to go. He can’t very well shack up with Renge; this isn’t Chu2Koi!

Yet even under these circumstances, Asuta is weary of following Shikabane Itsuka to Zvezda HQ. Like any healthy lad, he fears the unknown, and would rather not complicate his life even more. But because Itsuka has a sword (and a very intricately-detailed one, at that) and he can’t seem to outrun her, Zvezda HQ is where he ends up anyway. And it’s exactly what you’d expect a secret society led by a weird little girl to look like: Howl’s Moving Castle’s distant cousin, with some Chuck-E-Cheese tubes mixed in for good measure. It’s whimsical and cool-looking (and we later learn it can be hidden from prying eyes).

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When Jimon and Itsuka go inside, there’s a normal genkan with slippers waiting for them, but we still felt a somewhat sinister aura coming off the walls deeper in; as if it was in Jimon’s best interest to stick close to Itsuka lest he Fall Down the Rabbit Hole. Natasha confirms this in her matter-of-fact warning to him, which she delivers while riding a contraption that allows her to move about while lying supine (clearly, comfort is a priority with her). Aside from that, the base is essentially a dorm with rotating chores, where he’s the new guy whose name no one can remember.

There’s a lot of attention to detail this week, both visually (dining room chairs embroidered with the Zvezda logo) and aurally (Roboko’s myriad mechanical sound effects). Not surprisingly, Itsuka is a terrible cook (her food is pixelated; a nice touch) and everyone is afraid to confront her about it, but watching Jimon’s reaction after taking a bite—in which he transcends time and space and possibly catches a glimpse of the beginning of the universe—really drives the point home.

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After Zvezda defeats the giant monster-of-the-week—for which Itsuka’s cooking is indirectly responsible—Jimon is the one who throws caution to the wind and finally calls her out on it. He has to endure her threats for a bit, but ultimately, his cajones led to him finding his place within Zvezda as their cook; turns out, he’s as good at it as she is bad. Ironic that his first act of courage is not in the face of an enemy, but an eventual ally (and Ise Mariya really lays on the surly.)

But not everything is peaches and sunshine: Zvezda has an archenemy in White Light, of which Jimon’s friend/crush Renge is a member (with the alias “White Robin”.) She even encounters Jimon while in her chic White Light garb, but he doesn’t recognize her. Right now he may just be happy he has a place where he can crash after school and be useful. But if he’s joining Zvezda, he can probably kiss Renge’s friendship goodbye.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 01

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There’s something highly amusing (and cool) about a well-dressed, lost-looking young lass on a pink bike (with training wheels) spouting off about world conquest and not only meaning it, but being able to back it up with zeal. With an already full Winter season, we were kinda hoping to fly under Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda (which we’ll shorten to SSBZ henceforth), possibly saving it for marathoning later on (like we did with Sunday Without God, or what we’re going to do with Nagi no Asukara‘s second half).

Alas, it’s first episode was, like that out-of-place girl on her bike, too conspicuous to ignore, and too absorbing to put off. The premise of the show that neither tanks nor law and order are enough to protect the world; only “Conquest” will do the trick. For the purposes of this episode, “Conquest” means being soundly beaten and having “Conquered” branded on you. They  could be dismissed as inane ramblings of a petulant waif, were she not capable of actually supporting those ramblings with real tank-busting power, and supported by a very stylishly-attired retinue of loyal followers.

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Hoshimiya Kate (Kuno Misaki), is alone on her bike during martial law because she’s starting to question whether there’ll still be a place for her in the world once she conquers it. This is how she meets middle schooler Jimon Asuta, who’s trying to conquer a different kind of world (his life) by running away from the parts he can’t control. He’s a decent lad who offers Kate food and later catches her when she falls from her bike, and for his kindness, she recruits him as part of her world-conquering organization, Zvezda, immediately making his life far more interesting and fun than it had been earlier that evening.

We like the idea of Zvezda fighting against the same forces the Gatchamen would fight alongside; there’s a plucky, impish appeal to their selfish (not selfless) mission. Like Jormungand or The Unlimited, we’re watching things from the perspective of the bad guys, who can often be more fun to watch than the good. And like the dual-identity characters of Star Driver, Kate and her officers have no shortage of charisma, infusing every line and action with maximum panache. Finally, we appreciated that the momentum was never arrested with in-depth explanations of the nature or origin of Zvezda’s awesome powers.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)