Clockwork Planet – 01 (First Impressions)

One of the downsides of choosing what anime to watch, in part, by their promotional art, is that just as a mechanical clock will one day fail, sometimes a piece of art will let you down. Clockwork Planet is evidence of this. The promo art didn’t look that bad at all, but the show’s a dud.

Just to give a quick recap: In a post-apocalyptic world built almost entirely of gears (?) Miura Naoto is a fairly wimpy tinkerer who dreams of becoming a proper clocksmith. Just when he wishes out loud that automata would rain down upon him, one does, a state-of-the-art model named RyuZU. Naoto shows what he’s got by repairing her.

Then RyuZU becomes Naoto’s trusty servant, in a very silly ceremony in which she sucks on his finger (though it’s an efficient way to collect genetic material with which to imprint).

Later, they check into a love motel because his house was destroyed when she dropped in. Naoto can’t help but see RyuZU as a pretty girl and not a mere automaton, because, well, she looks like a pretty girl.

Meanwhile, Marie Breguet, who is some kind of scientific-commercial big shot despite being (or at least appearing to be) very young, laments the loss of an automaton (RyuZU), clashes with the military, and finds out that said military is going to purge the Kyoto Grid, sending 20 million people to their deaths. She also sleeps in the buff…because…

I needn’t go on. World made of gears? Casual military mass murder? Characters who look like little kids? A very low-budge and unattractive production? I believe I’ll pass.

Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume – 05

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If one believes we were made in our creator’s image, we do our creators honor by making robots in oursPlanetarian posits the possibility that we might’ve done a better job, as Hoshino Yumemi exhibits the kind of pure, unswerving selflessness and nobility befitting an angel; a kind not all humans are capable of summoning, for myriad reasons.

Unlike God with us, Yumemi’s makers kept things simple, both due to their limited budget and the more important limits to how human we can make robots. Because of this, Yumemi sacrifices herself to save her customer, following to the letter the Three Laws of Robotics.

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The Customer doesn’t run out to stop Yumemi from approaching the giant battle mech, and you can’t blame him. It’s a miracle he’s managed to stay alive with such an unrelenting mechanical monster firing high-caliber round after round at him, in addition to flinging and armored vehicle in the air as if it were a Hot Wheels.

Yumemi provides a diversion at a crucial moment that the Customer, down to his last grenade, cannot squander. So he fires his last show and disables the mech, but not before the mech opens fire at Yumemi, tearing her in two in a fraught sequence that’s painful to watch in its inevitability.

The balance of the episode is an extended, and at times unbearably sad goodbye, as the halved Yumemi only has 600 seconds of battery life left.

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The Customer weeps for her as he would a fellow human; no, moreso, as her following of her robotic directives bore the sheen of heroism, and at the end of the day it makes no difference whether she was artificial or not; she was a person to the Customer, and to us.

She’s a person because she’s utterly unique in her collected experiences, memories, and the evolution of her programming stretched across over 44 years—29 of them waiting, like Hachiko, for her co-workers and customers to return like they say they would. When they don’t, and she starts to think no one is ever coming back, she thinks she must be malfunctioning.

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The Customer’s arrival reassured her that she was not wrong to trust that someone would return. And while her body goes off-line, and it’s gutwrenching to hear her voice fizzle out and her green eyes go gray, the show fittingly leaves a sliver of hope by having the Customer retrieve her memories.

Perhaps, one day, when…whatever is going on with the world ends and peace returns, those memories can be put in a new body, and Yumemi can continue her job immersing customers in the vast, inspiring sea of stars.

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P.S. The stirring piece of music that accompanies the end credits of this final episode is stunningly, hauntingly gorgeous; melancholy and hopeful all at once. If I ever find it, it will surely be included in a future Weekly ED entry.

Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume – 04

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Yumemi has followed Mr. Customer out of the Planetarium, but only to escort him to his car. After that, she’s programmed to return and await more customers. If none come, she’ll still wait.

As Mr. Customer walks through the city with her, a part of him hopes her synthetic eyes will become open to the reality of the situation. There is no car, there are no people, there is no power.

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But for much of this episode, Yumemi remains blissfully unaware of the dystopia around her. A bump here, an accident there; the dearth of people can be chalked up to the rain…which will never end.

Customer sees an unbroken bottle of scotch and worries it could trigger a mine. But Yumemi picks it up and offers it to him, (correctly) believing it’s merely a bottle of scotch.

But for every demonstration that Yumemi is a dumb robot, there’s another moment when both I and Customer have to wonder, despite knowing what we know.

She even comes up with a wish to the robot gods: that the heavens be a place where robots can be with the humans they served in life, and can continue to serve in the afterlife. Very Asimov-ian.

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The show likes to play with our sensibilities about humans and robots – one minute showing Yumemi staring into space or falling on her face; the next saying something truly unique and inspiring or even simply flashing a look that suggests sentience.

This is compounded by the fact this is anime, so neither Customer nor Yumemi look all that realistic. But if I encountered a robot that looked and acted just like a human in a place like that, I’d want to get her out of there too.

There’s one last battle mech between him and the way out of the city. He hunts it while he lets Yumemi think about whether to come with him. Leaving means leaving behind any hope that the power will come back on, Miss Jena will operate properly, and customers will return. But she has a customer, right here and now. If they part, she won’t be able to serve him.

Assuming Customer didn’t die in the mech attack, I’m very interested to learn how she chooses…and if Customer’s comrade’s words—“Do not talk to it” were a serious warning the Customer is choosing to ignore…at his peril.

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Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume – 03

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The Mr. Customer of a few days ago would never have been patient enough to sit through a planetarium projection, much less allow the robot host to recite a spiel about being courteous during the show that he’s already heard several times. But just as the proximity of a human seems to be ever-so-slowly changing Yumemi, the proximity to such a painfully positive, upbeat, oblivious robot seems to be changing Mr. Customer.

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The show finally begins, and it’s hauntingly gorgeous, as planetarium shows tend to be if you’re into that kind of thing. More than a movie theater, having the entire dome above you turned into a screen really gives you the sense of how small and insignificant we are, and how vast space is.

Not only that, Yumemi proves to be a pro at astronomy and the rich mythology tied to it. Mr. Customer sits in awe of her command of the material and the confidence with which she presents it. For a brief time, she ceases to be simply an annoying robot and becomes an omnipotent being even the deities in the stars seem to bow to in deference.

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Then the power goes out, putting a damper on the show. No matter; Mr. Customer asks Yumemi to continue her part of the show without Miss Jena’s help. As he suspected, her language is vivid enough for him to create the pictures meant to be projected on the dome right in his mind’s eye.

Yumemi recites a story about humanity’s persistent, almost instinctual drive to reach the stars, starting with the sky and working their way up with each generation.

She also reveals the ability of the planetarium to serve as a time machine; I myself keenly remember looking up with awe at the starry sky 1,000 years into the future. There is no more basic—or more powerful—way to see that future. Ditto the past; as it takes years, centuries, and millenia for the light from stars to reach us as tiny faint spots.

Yumemi’s optimism and absolute certainty that humanity’s path will only continue to lead upward stands in direct, defiant contrast to the fallen world outside the walls of the Planetarium; a world Yumemi can’t begin to fathom or even perceive.

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Her only exposure to it has been through Mr. Customer, whom she calls because he’s just like any other customer, pre-apocalypse. And when that Customer gets up to leave, Yumemi says goodbye with her usual programmed charm. However, that isn’t the end, as I had suspected.

Almost as if she searched her database for some kind of protocol that would extend her exposure to Mr. Customer, Yumemi asks what transportation he’s using; when he says car, she attempts to connect with someone to take him to his car. Unable to connect (since there’s nothing to connect to), she takes discretionary measures by deciding to accompany the customer to his car. It’s a clever way to humanize her further without breaking her robot rules.

And just like that, leaving the idealized haven of Yumemi’s world isn’t so easy, those robotic eyes start looking more and more misleading, and the reverie continues.

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Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume – 02

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I continue to enjoy how efficient, pure, and lean Planetarian is. There are moments of bigger things—a flashback to the devastating war that left the rest of the city ruined; Mr. Customer’s bad dreams—but is mostly just a guy fixing a planetarium projector while a robot hostess watches.

And yet, discovering this haven, miraculously untouched by the war outside, and its simple, cheerful guardian, has suddenly provided Mr. Customer a break from the struggles of the outside world. In here, he’s a repairman, with the client marking the time often (she estimates 75 hours of operable time left before she has to return to hibernation due to limited power).

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Of course, Yumemi is also a pretty inquisitive robot, programmed to learn and become more than she was originally. And as Mr. Customer tinkers away, making slow progress, she keeps him entertained by bringing up her desire to dream, or shed tears.

When she repeats her question about when the projector will be fixed, verbatim, Customer switches up the answer, asking her to pray—not just to any god, or his god, but to the robot god. Her databases dig up a recorded discussion by the people she worked with about a robot heaven free of all the troubles robots experience.

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Even as Mr. Customer successfully completes repairs on the projector, Yumemi has less than 60 hours left, which means he has just that much more time with her before he has to return to the “real” world, leaving this oasis of hope and dreams behind. Yumemi’s limited time weighs over the episode. And she still doesn’t quite grasp that the world has changed dramatically in 8,000 hours.

Planetarian is only five total episodes, and we’re through two. What kind of ending (if it is a definite ending) is in store for us: is Yumemi doomed to be limited to the confines of her relatively primitive hardware of which she is composed? Will she be forced to shut down in the next few days? Will Mr. Customer let it happen and move on, or try to change her fate, heartened, in spite of himself, by her boundless positivism?

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Qualidea Code – 01 (First Impressions)

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After the earth is attacked by an unknown enemy force, the children wake up from cold sleep, and grow up to become soldiers in the ongoing fight. Three cities in Japan fight from the ground, sea, and air to keep the Unknown at bay, often clashing with themselves in the process, due to the fierce competition borne of rankings.

Like Hundred, QC portrays a futuristic world in which a battle is ongoing with a foe but not to the point of desperation. Gleaming new cities tower over the ruins of older ones, and the humans seem to have enough military power to keep those new cities safe.

Unlike Hundred, not everyone is in love with the MC Ichiya. Indeed, few are, as he’s an arrogant little shit whose catchphrase “I’m all we need” wears thin fast. His speech about wanting to protect his world doesn’t jibe with his refusal to work with anyone…except Canaria, the girl he was with when the world ended.

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He and Cana aren’t a romantic item, just close companions. While he’ll barely interact with anyone else and forces himself to be nice to the adults who saved them all, Cana is the one person he doesn’t mind having around all the time…if she can keep up with him.

The two also happen to be in the top 10 in the rankings and head and subhead of Tokyo region. While he’s only ranked fourth, Ichiya clearly considers himself the best; those below him are scum and those above him are idiots; only he strikes the perfect balance.

That being said, the other two pairs of city heads and subheads at least have distinct personalities. There’s the young, naive, but kind and honorable Hime, ranked first, and her loyal and trusty lieutenant Hotaru. Then there’s the lazy, disinterested redhead, second-ranked Chigusa Asuha and her brother Kazumi, who’s down at #207.

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Ichiya seems like a kind of a dick so far, not the most likable protagonist, considering everyone else presumably went through similar horrors in the past and still managed not to come out as dicks. The most obvious example is Canaria, who was right there with him that day.

Cana calmed him then, and she calms and fortifies everyone still with her “world”, a songstress ability. Another difference form Hundred: the singing is actually animated. Ichiya helps her out by using his power of flight to put her in the best position for the song to be most effective.

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The Unknown are little more than pink CGI blobs of various sizes, like the ones we’ve seen in countless other shows. That aside, the multi-pronged battle involving ground troops, naval vessels, and broomstick air wings, had a nice rhythm and flow to it.

Indeed, even much of what would be the more boring bits of this episode are elevated by music from Iwasaki Taku, with theme songs by both ClariS and GARNiDELiA.

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There’s also the fact the show all but acknowledges the battle with the Unknown is a cakewalk, and so to avoid the three units and individuals from making it all about who earns the most points, Hime decides to end it with an overpowered attack that ends up destroying a section of a crucial bridge, thus nullifying whatever windfall of points she would have gotten from destroying the last of the Unknown.

This all seems pretty straightforward: post-apoc magic power school with clashing personalities at the top and an arrogant MC with a loyal and affable friend. That is, until one of the seagulls flying up in the sky suddenly vanishes in a pink spark, as if passing through some kind of barrier.

That caught my attention in an otherwise competent but uninspiring start to QC: what happened to these young refugees of a ruined world when they went into cold sleep? Is this futuristic new world, and their fantastical supernatural powers, all an elaborate simulation? We shall see.

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Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume – 01 (First Impressions)

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While exploring a ruined “sarcophagus city” post-apocalyptic world, a “junker” stumbles upon Hoshino Yumemi, the robotic host of a department store’s rooftop planetarium. She has been in sleep mode for nearly 30 years, but picks up right where she left off, treating the man as just another customer. After spending some time with her, he initially plans to walk away and leave her, but reconsiders and goes back.

One thing I enjoyed about Planetarian is that so far, it’s very simple: Guy Meets Robot. We only get a glimpse of her being activated by her makers, then three decades pass like the blink of an eye, though she doesn’t skip a beat after waking up.

Also, Yumemi isn’t exactly a smart or sentient robot; she’s very limited in what she can say to and sense from Junker (I also like how he doesn’t have a name; he doesn’t really need one), in addition to being near the end of her operating life.

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As such, their interactions are very one-sided. This isn’t two human beings interacting, and it shows. Junker is mostly put off by how verbose Yumemi is, and always looking for the right combination of words to simply shut her up.

Yet Yumemi almost talks as if she’s making up for all those years being offline with no customers to serve, even though she’d probably act exactly the same if this city and department store were still bustling with customers.

Seiyu Suzuki Keiko manages to strike a nice balance of super-politeness and verbosity without sounding too cutesy, shrill, or, most importantly, too human. Someone like, say, Misaki Kuno, would sound too human. Also, unlike the android in Dimension W, her lack of sophistication adds to the realism.

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Ultimately, I understand why, at the end of a relatively brisk first episode, Junker reconsiders abandoning Yumemi. For one thing, even a hardened survivor such as himself was likely moved by many of the very profoundly sad little moments Yumemi had, whether it was her improvised bouquet, the planetarium show without a projector, or continuing to talk to him long after the door had closed.

But it’s not just pity that brings Junker back. Yumemi, and her rooftop planetarium, are the probably the closest he’ll ever get to the world of thirty years ago. War has turned everything to shit, and yet here is an isolated, untouched island of civilization that was; the proverbial “little planet” of the title, where can be lost in reverie.

I was moderatley impressed with the simplicity and originality of this show, and will be back to check on Junker and Yumemi next week.

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Rakuen Tsuihou: Expelled from Paradise

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Hannah Brave (Braverade): It’s been a while since we last got together and watched a movie as a trio, so when I came upon a solid-looking film written by Urobuchi Gen (Aldnoah.Zero, Fate/Zero, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass, Gargantia) and directed by Mizushima Seiji (Fullmetal Alchemist, Gundam 00, Natsuiro Kiseki, UN-GO), I thought I’d corral the staff (everyone but the busy Oigakkosan) and kick back for some shared big-budget sci-fi entertainment. Here’s Zane to start us off.

Zane Kalish (sesameacrylic): Let’s see…BOOBS! Agh, let me start over. 98% of humanity has left earth (or, to my mind, expelled themselves) and abandoned their physical bodies to live in the Utopian cyber-society called DEVA.

Our heroine, Angela Balzac (not un-ironically named for the author of The Human Comedy, and voiced by the awesome Kugimiya Rie), comes from that all-digital world, and as an officer in System Security, is responsible for preserving the status quo.

That means going where she’s sent. So when an Earth-based hacker named “Frontier Setter” offers the citizens of DEVA the chance to travel the stars aboard the Genesis Ark, Angela transfers her consciousness into a artificially-created body and travels to Earth to deal with the threat.

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Preston Yamazuka (MagicalChurlSukui): Once there, she meets her guide Dingo, a charming, Han Solo-esque rogue. Following close behind him is a huge swarm of giant sandworms, and he has her help slaughter them so he can sell the meat to locals. Then Dingo deactivates the network link on her mecha, rendering it a useless hulk that he sells for scrap.

At this point you may be saying “Wow, this guy’s a dick!”, but taking Angela off the network was actually a good idea considering she’s after a master hacker. And Angela gives as good as she gets, dick-wise

Hannah: Indeed. The opening act is all about the clash of cultures between Angela’s clean, gleaming, sterile Utopian DEVA and Dingo’s dusty, dirty, slimy, crude world. The Angela of this early part of the film is insuffrably arrogant and condescending, which makes sense considering where she’s from. She also refuses any kind of help or offers of food and rest, stating that time is of the essence and she wants to complete the mission by herself.

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Zane: Those refusals, borne out of her independent spirit and her pride (she’s not going to rely on some primitive earth ape!) come back to bite Angela pretty hard, as she learns that living on earth, in a body, isn’t so easy. When she gets cornered by some unsavory sorts in a town alley, she can only fight them so long (and a kick-ass fight it is) before she runs out of gas.

Either due to a lack of food and rest or some kind of bug, Angela takes ill, and Dingo must nurse her back to health. This is the first time her armor starts to crack and I feel sympathy for her, but it won’t be the last. But it wasn’t just arrogance that led to her illness; it was ignorance, having never been in a physical body, she had no baseline for what was supposed to feel normal or abnormal.

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Preston: Once Angela’s better, she and Dingo track down a supplier of a substance that can be used for rocket fuel, who lets them monitor a buy. Curiously, Frontier Setter sends only remote-controlled vintage robots, many of them custom-designed, on the deal.

Then the couple finds a lone robot that seems like more of a welcoming party than a sentry, and they learn the truth: “Frontier Setter” isn’t a human being, it’s the AI for the Genesis Ark project, which has been left on for more than a century, and is not only carrying out its original directive (remotely building the Ark up in orbit), but has gained sentience. Enter WALL-E comparisons (especially since DEVA is a lot like that film’s Axiom)!

Hannah: This encounter and revelation is the point at which the film becomes more than a sci-fi unlikely buddy flick and enters more philosophical ground, the likes of which Asimov and Dick often tread upon. Frontier Setter is an independent sentient artificial Intelligence in a world where most of humanity has adopted virtual collective existence out in orbit.

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Zane: What’s fascinating about Setter is how Dingo has more in common with him, with regards to everything form what humanity is and should be, to rock music (Setter even writes his own based on what he’s heard), than Dingo has with Angela. Angela, and the place she’s from, is far more alien. Body of flesh, body of metal, doesn’t matter; they think the same.

Hannah: The encounter also marks the successful completion of Angela’s mission. When Setter arranges the necessary equipment to zap her back to DEVA (he lives to serve humans, after all), Angela prepares to leave, but not without offering her heartfelt thanks to Dingo for all he’s done for her.

She also offers him DEVA citizenship, and without putting on the hard sell, simply asks him why he prefers Earth. His powerful response is a veritable thesis on the human condition and questions like “Where are we going?”.

Preston: Angela considers physical bodies a kind of “flesh prison”, but Dingo thinks she’s swapped that prison for an even more insidious prison of the mind, in which society is always assessing and judging itself and doling out resources proportional to a person’s usefulness to society.

That’s ideal for Angela, but anathema for Dingo, and probably Setter to, were he to upload to DEVA. It’s a great exchange because neither party is totally wrong or right; humanity has always survived by compromising between extremes.

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Zane: Angela was clearly on Earth too long, because upon making her report to her superiors, she is surprised to learn they don’t recognize the handshake promise of a “rogue AI” that could potentially destroy DEVA (even though he’d never ever do that), and consider Angela’s return to DEVA without “completing her mission” a serious blunder on her part. Then she refuses to return to Earth to destroy Frontier Setter, and the DEVA brass imprisons her into a frightening void that eventually takes the form of an eerie forest of loneliness.

Hannah: So Angela did catch a bug down on Earth: a bug in the form of a different way of thinking from the rigid dogma of DEVA, which believes all potential threats must be eliminated without review. And in her and particularly Dingo’s interaction with Setter, she’s come to think of the AI as just as much a person as any human, digitized or no.

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Preston: That new-found respect and empathy for Setter and his desire to explore the galaxy has thoroughly transformed Angela from smug, superior, arrogant, advancement-obsessed automaton to a passionate, independent, thinking, feeling human being.

Setter proves he deserves the esteem when he comes to rescue her from her prison, resulting in an awesome journey through cyberspace that briefly transforms Setter into a pixelated hat with an “F” and Angela into a blocky SD figure.

Zane: Blocky Angela was awesome! But so is regular Angela, who once Setter takes her to the armory of a DEVA defense ship, licks her chops like a kid in a candy store and starts to devise a way to repel DEVA’s massive attack on Setter’s launch site.

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Hannah: After so much time on God’s green earth, it was good to see the film move into space for some truly beautiful kinetic space battle scenes, in which Angela’s Setter-equipped and multiple support-ship-escorted mecha is a far better flyer and shooter than the virtual humans pursuing them.

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Preston: One thing the show is definitely very light on for such an expansive setting is actual human characters with lines, so it’s startling to suddenly see other DEVA security officers screaming across the desert in their mechas, headed Setter’s way.

These girls are exactly like Angela was earlier in the film: absolutely loyal and firm in their belief what they’re doing and only what they’re doing is right and good. As in The Matrix, anyone still “plugged in” is a threat to anyone who isn’t; there’s a relentlessness to their outright refusal to negotiate or even speak to their targets before opening fire.

They still have their proverbial heads in the sand where now Angela has popped hers out and now sees with her own eyes. But it says something about these DEVA humans that it’s just as likely these girls would undergo the very same transformation as Angela if they had the same experiences she had.

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Zane: The show wisely avoids adding a romantic angle to things, with Angela and Dingo having more of a platonic friendship of mutual respect/esteem and lots of mutual life-saving. This is good for two reasons.

First, there’s already a lot of stuff going on in this film, so we didn’t really need a love story as well. Second, in an effort to get a head start on her fellow officers, Angela stopped her physical clone body’s growth prematurely, leaving her with the appearance of a 16-year-old girl.

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Hannah: When confronted with lots and lots of awesome sci-fi action, I’m usually quick to say I could watch this stuff all day, but even I got a little fatigued by the final siege, exciting and amazing a technical achievement as it is. I respected the sequence more than I loved it, simply because it contributes to the fact this film was nearly two hours long and didn’t really have to be.

Preston:  Though things like Angela’s fierce battle faces, jumping from ammo store to ammo store, and Dingo doing what he can with his dune buggy and hidden arsenals, were all very impressive and fun, I won’t deny I too felt some tighter editing was in order leading up to the big finish.

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Zane: As for that big finish, I kinda assumed Setter would find some volunteers aboard DEVA to accompany him to the final frontier. Alas, there were zero takers. Dingo can’t go, ’cause he’s scared of heights. Even Angela declines.

Even though she’s been expelled from the “paradise” of DEVA to live a dirty physical world in a meat cage that requires daily sustenance and sleep, she already has plenty left to experience and explore on earth; she’s not ready to leave it.

Hannah: Setter laments that his century-long mission has failed, but his human friends disagree: to whomever he finds out there on his interstellar travels, Dingo and Angela are confident he’ll make a very good representative of mankind; certainly better than most DEVA inhabitants, and maybe even better than the two of them. He too is a child of humanity, with mechanical feet in both Angela’s world of rules and technology and Dingo’s world of dirt and guitar riffs.

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GOD EATER – 06

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Hey, remember that show GOD EATER? Which airs sometimes, when it feels like it, but not necessarily every week? Well, it’s still around, and you know what? Those who have been patient with it, like myself, have been rewarded: the last two episodes have been excellent. Episode five tore away the invincibility of the titular God Eaters, and Episode six stripped them of their weapons, making these supposed hunters the hunted, at the mercy of the elements and their own fear.

Fighting the Aragami, saving the world; these are meaningless this week. The mission, the only mission, for Lenka and Alisa, is to stay alive. And the harsh, rain-soaked, Aragami-infested world doesn’t make it easy. But we’re drawn into this basic, visceral, at times pathetic struggle for survival.

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Lenka saves Alisa’s life by giving her CPR, and they then hole up in a hotel room. His God Eater is broken, her’s is missing, and he’s at the end of his tether, bleeding out in the corner. Alisa first considers leaving him behind to go look for her God Eater, but instead gets him on the bed and patches him up. It may be an uncharacteristic act of kindness, or a pragmatic move, seeing as how she only had one pill left when she woke up, and she took it. After that, she’ll need Lenka.

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The crux of the episode is that without her drugs, Alisa falls into a state of intense anxiety and helplessness, almost reverting to when she was a small child happily playing hide-and-seek with her parents when an Aragami killed them before her eyes. I didn’t see this as neutering or weakening Alisa as a character. On the contrary, I saw this as finally revealing who Alisa really is beneath the tough-as-nails exterior. The drugs don’t just repress her fear, they repress everything else that makes her a person, making her nothing but a tool for killing Aragami.

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It’s gratifying to see the curtain pulled back and to see some actual emotion in Alisa’s eyes, voice, and body language. In a way, both God Eaters are rendered inert: Lenka because his Arc is dead; Alisa because she’s lost what the Cowardly Lion called “Da Noive”, which had been drug-induced up to this point. Now, she’s back to playing hide-and-seek, against Aragami she could pummel in her sleep under ideal circumstances.

What I appreciate most about GOD EATER’s recent foray into hopelessness is that it’s so utterly and mercilessly stripped away all those ideal circumstances. Now the Aragami have all the advantage, just as they do over all the other helpless humans scattered around the rainy wasteland. Seeing the disheartened look on Alisa’s face, and the look of fear whenever the Aragami find them, really draws us into their plight, where even a simple gesture like Lenka offering his cape thingy is given extra significance.

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When her parents were killed, she was left all alone before she was old enough. Now, at least, Lenka is by her side, and while he’s probably scared too, he’s not as profoundly scarred by his past. He’s for lack of a better term, simply better-adjusted to this world, and doesn’t need drugs to stare down Aragami. And that’s exactly what he ends up having to do, since even when Alisa finds her God Arc, it doesn’t magically make her better in the head. She’s still paralyzed by fear when the Aragami surround her.

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Lenka is bandaged up, but his Arc isn’t long enough to reach the foes, and when it is, he’s only able to deliver a tap to them. You can see the Aragami figuring out these guys are no threat; only food. Lenka knows when it’s pretty much Game Over too, so he drops his useless weapon, puts himself between the Aragami and Alisa, and either makes peace with his end or prays for a miracle. He gets the latter when Lindow comes out of nowhere and easily defeats the low-level baddies.

After making a slightly sexist remark about protecting people being “a man’s job”, he admonishes Lenka for almost giving up and putting his life in someone else’s hands. Lenka, not wrongly, protests that there really wasn’t shit he could do, unless his God Arc magically came back to life, which would be no less a miracle. He and Alisa are safe now, and Alisa is sure to get back on the meds as soon as they get back to Fenrir. But now Lenka, and we, know and understand her a little better, and the rough hand she’s been dealt.

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Back in Flashback Land, Aisha discovers Johannes has been falsifying reports, blah blah blah, then comes to his house, ostensibly to comfort him. Their relationship will eventually produce the dour Souma, and their work will be insufficient against the approaching Aragami explosion and apocalypse.

Alisa’s flashback made perfect sense this week, and added to the power of her arc, but we didn’t even see Johannes or Souma, so I continue to be perplexed by the show’s need to end episodes this way, aside from reminding us that they’re starting to figure out how doomed they are. At least it didn’t interrupt anything important in the present.

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GOD EATER – 05

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I won’t mince words: this episode of GOD EATER brought it. Perhaps not from start to finish, as it started rather slowly, but even that slow start focused on the seemingly insurmountable task before the titular God Eaters. Aegis is only 0.06% complete, and will require tens of thousands of cores from the kind of Aragami they defeated last week. Even the bigger Vajra only cut that number to thousands. And this is as bodies are dropping all over the world. The episode title “All In Vain” would seem to apply.

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Even so, these guys have to try, and if they’re going to go out their and risk their lives, all of them want to go after a bigger prize; the Vajra. Sakuya seems heartened by their enthusiasm, but in Lindow’s absence it’s her call, and she decides to allow the Vajra hunt.

From there, the hunt is on, and it goes swimmingly at first, with Lenka and Alisa taking out the Vajra’s legs while Kouta and Sakuya blast them. Kouta is a little shaky, but Sakuya tells him to trust in the excellent God Arc he wields, and in himself.

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When they hit the Vajra lair, they quickly find themselves surrounded by three Vajra, as well as having about a dozen or so bystanders who come out of nowhere. No matter; the three Vajra are killed by a fourth, a “black Vajra” that even unsettles Alisa. There’s something different about this guy, and it’s not just his looks: he’s much faster, much stronger, and much smarter than the other Vajra.

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The God Eater’s day just starts to plain ol’ suck from there, in a big way: no matter what they throw at this guy, he’s ready with vicious counterattacks. No matter how many pills Alisa chomps or how much Lenka yells, they both get brutally smacked around and sliced up. It’s the first instance where the Aragami legitimately scared me.

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Our outclassed heroes’ only hope is to retreat, but Lenka and Alisa are so badly-wounded the former can only crawl along while dragging the latter, and the Vajra isn’t about to leave wounded prey alone. Lenka finally appeals to a higher power, if there’s one up there, and it would seem that his last-ditch prayer was at least partially answered, as the Vajra doesn’t simply stomp them into jelly, but steps over them. The bad news is, doing so collapses the rock formation upon which Lenka and Alisa lie, causing them to fall from a great height.

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The cut to black, along with the dramatic music with a distinct air of “This Is It” make for a stirring ending…if only that was the end. Rather curiously, after the credits we get another extended flashback with Professor Shicksal and his two colleagues as they celebrate the continued funding of their research, only to be visited by a general who briefs them on the appearance of vicious beasts that have evolved from the “oracle cell” they’re studying.

These flashbacks running parallel to the present-day story continue to not be my favorite, and the timing this week after a present-day cliffhanger was a bit…random. Still, the dark Vajra battle packed quite a punch, and has me eager to see what becomes of the God Eaters.

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GOD EATER – 04

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This week Lenka’s charges are suspended and he’s officially assigned to Fenrir East’s First Unit, along with Alisa and Fujiki “Wears a hat and scarf like he’s cold, but wears a crop top like he’s hot” Kouta. While Lenka’s look is pretty understadted, the other two’s elaborate outfits seem laughably impractical, especially considering singular mission they’ve been tasked with: Save The World.

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While Alisa wordlessly walks off when asked to join, Kouta drags Lenka out of HQ and into the slums where he grew up, including to meet his mom, who is very worried about him. They also check out the craters of destruction an aragami battle caused, watch food being distributed, and catch a glimpse of Aegis, mankind’s last best refuge, currently under construction.

The flashy new facility’s completion is dependent on the God Eaters securing the necessary amount aragami cores. The future of mankind rests with the likes of Lenka, Kouta, and Alisa. On them lies the future of mankind. Oh, by the way, DID I MENTION THE FUTURE OF MANKIND RESTS WITH THEM? Well, it does. “It” being…the future of mankind.

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You’d think those upon which something so important rests would be trained prior to going out in the field, or would be discouraged from cool-looking but reckless and unnecessary actions, or punished if they blatantly disobeyed orders from their superiors. The six-man unit splits into pairs to hunt down six cores of a specific type of aragami, but the mission is pretty rocky, as Alisa ignores orders from Sakuya, Kouta fails at his job, and Lenka can’t finish a foe off in one blow, which he needs to do if the future mankind is to rest upon him.

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So yeah, it’s a rough mission, but at least the flaws of the newly-formed unit are borne out in a relatively low-risk setting…right? They also come upon a group of wandering civilians and get to take them back to Fenrir. Lenka gets to see a sliver of the mankind whose future rests on him, including a cute little girl I knew was doomed.

My suspicion was confirmed when they get back to Fenrir and the civvies are turned back at the gate, because none of them possess the latent ability to wield a God Arc. Like the civilians on the aircraft carrier in World War Z, the only civvies who are able to live under the military’s protection are related to the ones doing fighting. It’s a raw but a practical, transactional one; at least more practical than Alisa and Kouta’s (and Sakuya’s) getup.

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Anyway, Lenka learns he’s not necessarily fighting for ALL mankind; just the part of it that’s able to properly contribute to the war effort. The rest are SOL. And we learn a tiny little bit about him: he’s the kind of guy who is upset about such things. When he gave that doomed little girl water, he was convinced she’d be safe within Fenrir’s walls. And fighting for Fenrir must feel like siding with the people who sent that girl to her almost certain death.

Mind you, most protagonists would have a problem with this, and would react by clenching their fists with rage and indignation. And that remains GOD EATER’S problem, after just four episodes in six weeks: for all the distinctiveness of their outfits, I still can’t be all that excited about any of the characters. All their personalities are some combination of nondescript, dull, obvious, and one-note.

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GOD EATER – 03

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GOD EATER follows up its slow, stretched-out, uninspired second episode with a big shot of adrenaline, as the entire third episode is one big aerial battle. It could also have been titled “Enter Underboob”, as after a couple of glimpses of her last week we finally see Alisa in her element (as opposed to sitting quietly on a plane) as a (mostly) efficient exterminator of Aragami.

The First Unit and Lenka in particular gawk from their helicopter as the one-woman army Alisa darts and jumps and repels about the giant transport plane. Not only does it get to show us the extent of her abilities (and her superiority to fellow new-type Lenka), but also the various tools at a new-type’s disposal. Alisa switches from sword to gun with ease, and when she tuns out of ammo, she simply uses her arc to devour an aragami and convert it into more ammo…which is a handy trick.

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When Lindow, Sakuya, and Lenka spot a gigantic swarm of fresh Aragami on the horizon, Lindow decides it’s time to grab Alisa and leave before they get there. It’s a practical and pragmatic call, considering Alisa’s importance to the war effort. But when Lenka jumps down to get her, Alisa pounces on him and proceeds to beat the everloving shit out of him. The message is clear: she’s not leaving the plane. Shortly thereafter we learn why, and see another side of Alisa: the plane is full of wounded survivors, and she won’t abandon them to save her own skin. She values their lives as much as her own (if not more).

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If Alisa won’t leave and they can’t make her, Lindow changes his orders: the four God Eaters will go all out in a defensive stand. They’ll either defeat all the Aragami after them and land safely at Fenrir east together, or they’ll die together.

We get a lot of badass shots of the team about to get to work, and then working. Lenka gradually gets the hang of his arc and is able to keep up with Alisa; while she had a head start I imagine his kill tally was comparable to hers when all was said and done. He even learns to devour.

There are also a lot of smooth moves, like Alisa and Lenka using both versions of their weapons to kill Aragami, or Lindow tossing one into Sakuya’s firing line so she can finish it off. Their flying battlefield, surrounded by sky on all sides, adds excitement and breathlessness to the proceedings.

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Speaking of breathless, how about that sunset, as seen from the plane’s cargo bay ramp? Or the shot of the absolutely massive Aragami taking the helicopter decoy bait, which definitely looks like a very very good thing to happen, as despite our heroes’ successes, there remain things well out of their league…at least for now.

So…why only an 8? Well, because GOD EATER is very one-dimensional. It’s hella cool and stylish and fun, but it’s ultimately empty calories: immediate satisfaction but no nutrition. The characters are very well-drawn and awesome looking, but there’s nothing below the surface. Alisa, like Lenka, is just another bland cipher we’ve seen a million times before (though Sakamoto Maaya does a good job voicing her).

And while I’m not really going to get into the hefty suspension of disbelief required to accept the physics of the battle (Are everyone’s shoes magnetic? Does no one need oxygen), it was pretty silly how last week the much faster fighter jets were immediately taken out by the Aragami, yet this week the helicopter was completely ignored. GOD EATER remains great fun and this was a far better episode than last week’s, but its core flaws remain, which can’t be ignored.

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GOD EATER – 02

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It still looks the business, but GOD EATER came down to earth a bit this week. The relatively taut pacing of the first episode was gone, replaced by a plodding storyline that felt dragged out in order to build up suspense for the eventual reveal of Alisa, the self-proclaimed Best New-type who looks to be Lenka’s rival.

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Lots of guys sorta-looking at boobs this week

The slowed and somewhat creaky pace and preponderance of people standing around having casual chats made it much harder to overlook the cliches of the plot, which were many: The kid screws up and ends up in the brig, but sudden circumstances and a ringing endorsement from Major Amamiya’s older brother (and Fenrir-Far East’s top Old-type) Rindou force her hand, and she gives him a fresh chance to prove himself to the brass, who want to take his weapon away.

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All that well-tred ground is made tolerable by the show’s gritty-yet-smooth style, but the battle that results in Eric dying and Lenka getting jailed is needlessly split up into separate parts, killing its momentum. And during the battle, there’s just no sense of urgency.

That is, until after Rindou takes out the “Vajra” (a type of Aragami boss), and a stray Aragami tries to pounce on the unconscious Lenka. If nothing else, I liked the symmetry of an unarmed Lenka saving Eric before (which is the rumor at Fenrir that makes Rindou a fan) and Eric repaying him with his life.

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Back in the present, after Eric’s memorial service, Alisa is on her way via air transport, but all of her fighter escorts are taken out by a swarm of aerial Aragami, creating the emergency that requires Major Amamiya to entertain Rindou’s suggestion they send the kid out again.

But again, the pacing and direction undermine the tension. The rapid-fire events up in the stratosphere just don’t jibe with the slow deliberations of the Amamiya siblings, not to mention the Major’s confronting of Lenka to give him a choice only he can make: Stay in the cell or step out and fight (even though she opposes the latter). Things on the ground are just taking too long.

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Which is a shame, because the bay door of the transport plane opening to reveal a no-nonsense Alisa ready to do battle is a pretty badass way to close the episode. It’s just too bad it didn’t feel like there was enough in this episode to justify leaving this scene for the very end. It lurched its way to this point, and left me feeling gypped Alisa didn’t actually get to do anything.

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