Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 08 – What Friends Are For

This week all the disparate parties involved in this arc begin to confront and communicate with one another, starting with Suema meeting Jin. She watches one of the girls Jin “initiated” walk by while engaged in a phone call, and decides she can’t let this go on. She wants answers. Boogiepop momentarily speaks through Touka offering help, but Suema insists she’s got this.

In the case of Imaginator, I consider it fine for Suema to ask for any help offered; she’s quite out of her depth here. While Jin is initially taken aback by how much she’s been able to figure out for herself, he manages to successfully gaslight her, and even if she doesn’t walk away a convert, it remains to be seen if his plan-reveal-couched-in-artistic-rhetoric proves useful to her solving the case.

Then again, maybe I’m underestimating Suema just as Jin is, or just as Spooky-KotoE underestimates Masaki when he realizes he’s being followed by six or more people. He heads underground to confront them, and uses a nice bit of misdirection to catch KotoE’s goons off-guard (Towa should invest in less disposable goons) and put KotoE herself on her back.

The only problem is, she won’t talk, he can’t really make her talk, and if he kills her he’ll be branded a murderer. Like Suema, Masaki seems doomed to be disappointed in his efforts to crack the case. He’s only caught a pawn, just as Jin can shrug off everything he told Suema as messing around.

When Nagi suddenly shows up to keep his half-brother in check, he slips away, and KotoE reveals she was keeping some goons in reserve. But these goons aren’t any match for Nagi’s skills any more than the first wave were to Masaki’s. She makes quick work of them, including KotoE’s attempts to attack her with a butterfly knife, but isn’t interested in getting any information from her. Her focus is probably catching up to her brother.

When KotoE wakes up, she’s still in her brainwashed mode, but Jin appears and manages to snap her out of it by reaching into her soul and taking note of the missing blooms on her rose (much like Suema’s problem). But while he’s always known of Kotoe’s feelings and yearning, she was mistaken in thinking her sadness mirrored his own; he’s never been able to feel sadness; only despair.

Jin also laments he can’t save her, but will change the world to a place where no one has to feel like she feels ever again. With Spooky E’s brainwashing undone, Kotoe breaks down, but engenders no more sympathy from Jin than a stranger, which is a devastating sight to see. Then Jin moves on to Spooky E’s command center atop the amusement park tower, apparently led there by the part of Spooky that copied his will into Kotoe in the first place.

Jin introduces himself as Imaginator, the one Spooky and Towa have been looking for, but calmly warns Spooky that they’re on completely different levels. They may possess similar brainwashing abilities, but while Spooky basically mind-rapes people by shoving information into their brains, Jin’s is far more…therapeutic? Horticultural? Since he can see everyone’s plant—even Spooky’s—he can control them as he sees fit, adding or removing parts with Imaginator’s help.

Rather than stuff info in the brain, he finds what is lacking, and offers whatever a person desperately desires: to be whole. The result of this: Imaginator will “normalize the psyche” of the human race, eliminating all emotional want and yearning. There are a LOT of problems with such a world, so it goes without saying Imaginator can’t get away with this.

But Spooky E can’t do shit about it; Jin removes his aggression in the blink of an eye, intending to use him to take over Towa, in order to expand his reach and accelerate his plans. While unable to attack Jin, Spooky E decides it better to attack and kill himself, so at least he won’t be the conduit through which the enemy takes control of Towa.

Jin, however, doesn’t believe in enemies, except as parties who exist to be turned into allies with the right manipulation. His plan to use Spooky E as an ally thus backfired, he discovers Orihata tied up in that same location. She begs for help, but Jin isn’t there to save her. He’s there to use her as a sacrifice; the kind that will propel his dreams forward and make them a reality for the next generation.

Poor Orihata: poised to become a tool for Imaginator immediately after Spooky E and Towa did the same. Is there any saving her or Kotoe, and are Suema and Masaki up to the task?

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Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 07 – Great Kid! Don’t Get Cocky

Aya and Masaki have begun running a little act where she serves as bait against drug dealers while he swoops in as Boogiepop and takes them out. It’s worked so far, and Masaki is happy they’re keeping hundreds of people from being hurt or destroyed by the drugs they steal. You even get the sense that Aya’s taking a shine to Masaki, since she seems hesitant when Spooky E orders her to cut off ties with him pending new orders.

Meanwhile, Spooky E is trying to get his hands on Imaginator, and finds an in in Kinukawa Kotoe. We get a little backstory about how she’s known Jin since she was five and fell in love at first sight. Unfortunately, Spooky E gets a hold of her, and doesn’t turn her into a terminal, but copies himself into her body, so he can more easily gather information from a local bar.

Using cash from the vast Kinukata coffers to bribe someone in the know, Spooky KotoE learns that Imaginator can control peoples’ minds and turn former allies against one another, in addition to sending them flying without touching them.

The next day Masaki finds KotoE with Aya, and she knows about their Boogiepop charade. Spooky tells Aya, a synthetic human who has been trying for some time to crossbreed with normal ones, to try crossbreeding with Masaki before they “cut him loose.” But Masaki doesn’t want to stop the Boogiepop act; he wants to do it alone, without exposing Aya to danger.

Of course, Aya’s already in a heap of danger, as is he; Spooky E switches up the plans once again; he’ll let Masaki go off and keep being Boogiepop, right up until he ends up a corpse in an alley. Aya wants to go after Masaki to help him, but Spooky E disables her, informing her that Towa and Axis have abandoned her. As far as he’s concerned she’s a tool he no longer needs.

As for Masaki, everyone may think he’s stupid, a moron, or according to Nagi, in danger of getting too cocky, something clicks about what Jin said to him about Aya not being as calm as she seems. To properly protect her, he’ll need to learn more about what’s going on…a lot more.

This week didn’t close the Imaginator arc, but by eschewing Touka/Boogiepop, Jin, and Anou Shinjirou, it felt a bit more focused and grounded than last week, while still propelling the story. I don’t know if the classic shounen hero in Masaki will be able to prevail, but I’m pretty sure it will involve the real Boogiepop at some point.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 06 – Protecting Unstable Hearts

For whatever reason Orihata Aya, AKA “Camille”, is beholden to the Towa Organization’s Spooky E, and he treats her like a disposable tool, urging her to hurry up and sleep with Anou Shinjirou, as well as gather clues that will lead to finding Boogiepop. Already, we see that “Camille” is bound in chains of fear, deference, and servitude. Who will break her chains, and is that even what she wants?

At least in this instance, Masaki intervenes, “saving” Aya from Spooky, who assumes the kid is an enemy of Towa when he’s just good at martial arts. Spooky shocks Masaki unconscious, and when he comes to he doesn’t remember his assailant. She apologizes, but Masaki likes her, and wants to do anything he can for her. So she asks him if he knows anything about Boogiepop.

Back at Shinyou Academy, Asukai Jin’s cousin Kinukawa Kotoe reaches out to Suema Kazuko, the school’s resident researcher of weird tings, regarding Jin’s odd and suspicious behavior of late. Suema promises to look into it, and before you know it, she’s hiding in a classroom into which Jin invites two girls, who promptly remove their tops and undergo some kind of magical ritual.

When it’s over, they feel like all the weight of their lives has been lifted and that they can do anything…for Jin. This is how Jin and Imaginator are taking over the world: one schoolgirl—one fragile adolescent mind—at a time. At some point someone’s going to have to stop them, but I imaging Boogiepop will again only play a supporting role. Suema, for her part, has always longed to “take on the darkness [her]self.”

In an auspicious crossing of paths, Suema encounters Anou as she’s talking with Niitoki Kei. Kei has kept her distance from Suema’s friend Touka (and vice versa), but not just because Touka’s guy rejected her, but because she knows Touka’s “other side.” Anou still seems pretty out of it, unable to remember what he’s doing at the academy while feeling like something important is missing.

Scenes of Aya talking to Masaki are intercut with scenes of Suema finding Aya on the roof, ready to die. Aya wants death to free others from her, not to free herself from Spooky E and Towa. Her self seems to the least important thing to her, whether that self has been tampered with by supernatural forces, or if it was always in a troubled, fragile, easily manipulated state…as most kids entering adulthood after all.

Both Aya and Masaki have initially believed the rumors going around that Boogiepop is a reaper that takes the lives of girls at the peak of their beauty so they’ll never become ugly, but Suema corrects her: Boogiepop is there to lend the helping hand to fragile young hearts that adults won’t provide, as adults they feel adolescence is just a phase everyone goes through, and will pass.

The reality is that sometimes it doesn’t pass, and you either get kids who kill themselves rather than continue suffering, or try to make others suffer as a salve to their own. In that regard, Boogiepop is there to protect them from themselves as much as those forces that would hurt or use them.

Rather than Boogiepop, the one doing the reaping here, or rather gardening, is Jin/Imaginator, as we see him “convert” more and more willing and in some cases eager young women to “their side.” The fact that this is visualized as Jin tending the roses so that they have roots, stems, leaves, and blooms – the height of their beauty.

Their hearts may thus be said to be complete and at peace, but they’re paying for it with their free will. It’s swapping one set of chains for another. I for one hope Suema, no doubt with help from Boogiepop (and others), can manage to shine a light on that darkness.

So…everything’s starting to make a little more sense, but this still felt like yet more setup, and with so many characters shuffling around, it’s hard to find firm ground on which to plant my feet and actually care about anything consistently.

Hopefully, as with previous mini-arcs, the payoff will be satisfying enough to make it worth all the setup. This seems like a show in which the destination is better than the journeys, or at least in which the destinations must be known before the journeys can be fully understood or appreciated.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 05 – Love at First Sight

This week the POV shifts from Asukai Jin to Taniguchi Masaki, the kid he saved from bullies along with the girl he was with. We learn more about both Masaki and the girl, Orihata Aya, who had actually just met him in that alley and tried to save him by offering her body to the guys.

Masaki is a transfer student from abroad who is just trying to do well, but gains some unwanted attention. Fortunately for him he not only had Asukai on his side when things got rough, but met Aya and basically fell for her the day he met her, due to her courage in that situation.

While Masaki seems normal enough (and is apparently Kirima Nagi’s brother, another interesting connection) there’s something off about Aya, and even he, who likes her, notices it. She’s extremely eager to please, as if she has no will of her own, but is rather driven by a curious pair of edicts: no one is allowed to hate her, and she has no right to fall in love.

Shift again to Anou Shinjirou, who played along with the other classmates who eventually beat up Masaki in the alley, but didn’t get killed by Asukai because he didn’t participate. He was just putting up a front for the other guys; in reality, he fell for Masaki as quickly as Masaki fell for Aya, and wanted to get closer to him. But he found that hard due to Aya, whom he learns is famous at her school for being promiscuous.

Anou finds where Aya lives and spies on her, but is interrupted by a very large, very ugly man who looks like a roadie for Aerosmith in the 90s. The roadie, whom we later learn has the name “Spooky E”, proceeds to “reprogram” Anou’s mind, wiping all his personal desires and ordering him to attend Shinyou Academy to await further instructions.

Now Anou is a part of the Towa Organization as a sleeper agent, only with no agency…essentially a puppet (Spooky calls him a “terminal”). His change in behavior endears him to a girl, who sends him a love letter that Spooky makes him forget. But Asukai has been watching Anou since the alley incident, and intentionally or not manages to remove the Towa programming, restoring his memories and free will.

Anou re-discovers the love letter and answers it, meeting the girl in question in a dark, deserted office building. But the “girl” there is Boogiepop in disguise, and when Spooky E appears to re-reprogram Anou (he set a trap), Boogiepop stops him and decides to go on the attack. Spooky gets away, but Anou is still of sound mind…for now.

Boogiepop promises if Anou gets in trouble again, she’ll be there for him. Then she gives him the real love letter, urging him to show up on the actual meeting date the day after tomorrow. Meanwhile, Masaki asks Aya out again, and of course Aya agrees. But while apparently waiting for Masaki, she’s confronted by Spooky E, who calls her “Camile” and wonders what she’s doing there.

This episode connected a few more strings in an increasingly dense narrative web, bringing into focus players that were present in last week’s events but not given emphasis until now, and seemingly opening a third party in the present situation. You have Boogiepop, Asukai/Imaginator, and now Towa Organization.

And then there’s Aya: is she one of Towa’s terminals, whose emotional engagement with Masaki may be degrading her programming? Will she stop worrying about being hated and let herself be loved? Lots of question marks floating around.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 09

In a change of pace both neat and foreboding, Girls’ Last Tour ditches its usual cute OP in favor of giving us a couple more minutes of “Life.” Chito and Yuuri enter another vast, city-sized facility, and while they assume they’re the only ones Alive for miles around, the facility is still “alive” with a lowecase “a” due to the lights, fans, pumps, and other various machines still working, even after the civilization that built them fell.

They also find a fellow “living thing” in a single, solitary fish, the last fish in a facility that probably churned them out in the billions in its prime. That single fish is kept alive by the one maintenance robot still functioning, much like the robot in Castle in the Sky, many of its not-so-lucky robot colleagues were not so lucky. Last tank, last fish, last maintenance robot voiced by Kamiya Hiroshi (I think?), and two of the last girls…it’s like a last convention, complete with pool facilities.

Free spirit Yuuri is all too comfortable skinny dipping, but Chito keeps her skivvies on in the presence of the robot, even though his “empathy” is just sophisticated software. But being in the presence of such complex electronic and mechanical systems that still function have Chito and Yuuri constantly wondering what “life” really is. That’s driven home by an effective fast-paced montage of all of the various patterns of sound that emulate the functions of organic life forms.

The fact that evolution bred from rebirth and change is required for life is also explored, with the only other robot at the facility being responsible for constructing or deconstructing parts of the facility as its programming dictates. When that includes the aquarium where the last fish lives, Yuuri spearheads an effort to stop the giant ‘bot.

While there was an early running joke of Yuuri constantly saying they should just eat the damn fish, she gradually develops empathy for it, to the point she’s pulling some Mission Impossible-type shit to strap explosives to the giant robot, bringing it down.

In doing so, Yuuri may have saved the fish and its attendant for now, but without the giant robot the facility will no longer change or evolve. The last robot will cease functioning, the last fish will die, and one by one the last functioning systems in the facility will shut down, in time. And since everything is the last of its kind, that will be all she wrote; no more “life.”

It’s a stirringly bittersweet close, as Yuuri and Chito themselves serve as “mutations” in a system that looked poised to self-destruct anyway (when the giant robot destroyed the fish’s home) before continuing their tour. They mostly agree that “life” means something that has an end…which this episode does with a classic credit roll with a haunting new piece of music.

Knight’s & Magic – 04

With Telestale development hampered by a mana-leakage problem, Eru stays sharp by pivoting to other projects, like his Silhouette Gear. In a backyard presumably owned by someone they know, Eru demonstrates the mobility potential of a Gear armed with a grappling hook, as well as the destructive power of the siege weapon attachment, which blows holes in a perfectly good wall for no good reason! Eru even all but admits to Addy that he just came up with these improvements for fun, not for a specific purpose.

Addy and Kid decide to inform their father of Eru’s rapid progress, and word gets to Marquis Dixgard, who sends his knights of the Order of the Scarlet Rabbit to escort Eru and the new units to Fort Casadesus for evaluation. On the way, they’re attacked by Giant wormlike Demon Beasts, but Eru makes quick work of them between all the gadgets he has on his person and the Telestale Knight Runners.

Eru ends up staying behind with the Marquis, who seems like an imperious, possibly dangerous figure. And while he’s suspicious about whether Eru is really a little kid (and he’s right, he’s not, at least not mentally), Marquis is eventually convinced beyond all doubt that Eru is merely an extremely talented and driven young man with a thirst for constant improvement in technology. Dixgard can relate: he used to be like Eru…he just never soared as high.

Not only that, but Eru doesn’t seem angry in the least that the Marquis is taking over the project; after all, Telestale is only one of many ambitious projects Eru has lined up in the future. Whether he completes those projects unfettered by outside forces remains to be seen, as we see the Order of the Bronze Fang on the margins of this episode, and their purple-cloaked female leader is itching to start a war, armed with special Silhouette Knights of her own.

Knight’s & Magic – 03

After defeating a Behemoth almost entirely on his own, the King can’t just not acknowledge Ernesti, so he grants him and his gramps an audience to thank him and ask if there’s any reward he would like. Since Ernesti has the mind of an adult (and a mecha otaku to boot) he asks for the one thing only the King can grant: the secret to creating the Ether Reactor, the heart of a Silhouette Knight.

To everyone’s surprise, the king grants Eru’s wish, but first he must prove himself worthy of such knowledge by building everything around that Ether Reactor before learning how to build it. Eru accepts the challenge with relish, calling such work his “hobby” to the bemusement of all.

From there, Eru works with the Dwarf mechanics and engineers, knight Runners, and his friends and comrades to develop improvements to the Silhouette Knights, including a second set of arms to wield energy staves and a new kind of muscle construction that will make the knights stronger.

Things accelerate fast when he comes up with the design for a smaller “personal” mech he dubs Silhouette Gear, which Addy and Kid get the hang of almost too fast, eager to shoulder some of the burdens their friend is taking on.

Another who gets into the spirit of this inventive binge is Dietrich, who is determined to make amends for his cowardice, which Eru and others have kept largely a secret; now he’s working hard to be strong enough notto run away from a threat next time.

Helvi pilots the newly-redesigned SilKnight that Eru was instrumental in developing, in a suite of tests including a mock battle with the school’s Runner ace Edgar in an unmodified Knight. Helvi only loses because she runs out of mana, but it’s a great first step towards Eru’s goal of learning the secrets of the Ether Reactor.

Notably, there aren’t really any “threats” this week, nor even any technological setbacks that frustrate Eru or slow him down in any way. But trouble looms as there’s a mole within the development team feeding info to a seedier group of people. Eru didn’t really run into any significant problems this week, but it looks like that may change in the near future.

Knight’s & Magic – 02

Last week’s K&M was conspicuous in its lack of serious mortal peril, but this week brought the danger from the beginning, as a “Division-Class” Demon Beast (called a “Behemoth” but really more of an Adamantoise) rampages on a fort protecting the capital and several knight runners end up squashed and/or smashed to death.

As that same beast nears the forest where the students are training, Sefania and Addy fight over Eru until the order to get the hell out of dodge is given…only Eru doesn’t leave with the others. Instead, he sees one of the runners protecting them running away. It’s Dietrich, a pilot who saw his comrade get hit by the Behemoth’s breath and simply lost his nerve and turned tail.

Eru helps himself to Dietrich’s cockpit, using his dual gunblades to customize the robot to his smaller frame in a nifty bit of MacGyver-like innovation rife with less-nifty technobabble. Bottom line, Eru is able to increase the robot’s speed, agility, and strength, and with the aid of reinforcements, is able to bring the beast down by sending a pulse of lightning through its eye, leading to a monster aneurysm and Game Over for Mr. Behemoth.

Dietrich’s comrades lament his death and sacrifice and curse themselves for thinking ill of him for running…until Eru emerges with an unconscious Dietrich. I’m sure Eru won’t tell them he’s the one who brought the robot back into the fight, while when the cards were down, Dietrich was a coward. But whatever comes out of it, word of a child outperforming all the other knight runners gets to the king, and he wishes to meet Eru ASAP.

This K&M was fun in its execution of the boss battle, but there was no getting around the fact it was a rehash of the first episode’s “Eru Is Good At Everything And Everybody Loves Him”, and it felt smaller and less sprawling than the first, which covered several years. Maybe Eru’s dealings with the kings and/or the knight runner elite will provide some challenge for him, but as he never struggled that mightily against a damn Behemoth, I’m not holding my breath!


Knight’s & Magic – 01 (First Impressions)

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: the title of this show is stupid. What’s with the apostrophe? That doesn’t belong there, before an ampersand! That aside, even if it were Knights & Magic, that’s still a painfully generic title, which does an otherwise fun and inventive show no favors.

Yes, it’s true: aside from the awful title and the oft-overused “killed in real world, reincarnated in the fantasy world” trope, K&M turns in a damned entertaining and absorbing first episode, covering no less than three different timelines in the life of one Ernesti Echevarria, a very pretty, short-statured boy who happens to have the soul and intellect of an elite video game programmer…and mecha otaku.

In “Eru’s” new world, magic works a lot like programming, so he’s a wiz who not only quickly rises in the ranks of the youth in magical training, but spreads the wealth around. Quickly befriending twins Ady and Kid Olter, he teaches them magic and they get quite good at it.

He also befriends a dwarf, Baston, whose father makes him a gunblade with which he basically tests out of the fundamentals class so he can be in the more advanced silhouette knight design course. Eru is a kid who’s going places, but he’s a very modest, decent sort of kid without a shred of arrogance, as so far, hes able to back up his words with action every time.

Three-quarters in, and it seems K&M‘s only casualty will be a dead horse at the hands of Demon Beasts, but Eru & Co. get their first taste of combat, with him and the twins helping to save their older (and legitimate) sister Stefania from a suspiciously huge horde of the beasts, while and even larger boss-level monster looms for next week.

Just as Eru gets his first taste of magical combat in which he’s the combatant, rather than someone being protected, we get a decent first taste of K&M, it’s world, its workings, and a surprisingly likable core cast (including Takahashi Rie’s voicing of Eru).

It did seem like an odd choice to have so much voiceover narration in the epsiode, and to only show Kurata “inside the head” of Eru just once. However, the real world prologue does serve a purpose in that the reincarnated protagonist possesses gifts and perspective neither a boy nor anyone in his new world would otherwise have.

Overall, a pleasant, upbeat, and attractive first outing. I’ll be back!