One Punch Man 2 – 02 – This Isn’t Normal

When the ruffians get predictably rowdy, Sitch sics his heroes on a couple of them, leading the werewolf-like Garo to step to and waste everyone; only Sitch is spared as a witness; Garo promises to be back “in six months.” Hey, even human monsters have to manage expectations!

Meanwhile, both Hellish Blizzard and Sound-o’-Speed Sonic are headed to Saitama’s house. The former is flanked by two goons, while the latter is first detected by Geno’s cybor-sense. Saitama, meanwhile, is just having fun playing with King’s PSP, which he stole and accidentally erased King’s data.

Saitama would much rather spend his afternoon playing games than dealing with anyone, but as usual he doesn’t get his way. Blizzard arrives first, asking Saitama to join her faction, and threatening reprisal if he declines. Naturally, Saitama refuses, and flings her so-called goons off the damn balcony.

Even though he’s just met her, Saitama can tell that Blizzard isn’t hero material as long as she uses weaker people to prop herself up while bullying others into joining her. Saitama doesn’t care about rankings (nor should he, considering how under-ranked he is), and proves Blizzard can’t make him do anything by easily weathering her esper attacks.

In the middle of their spat, Genos and Sonic show up, and Saitama and Blizzard are witnesses to their street brawl. Blizzard is astonished that someone like Genos is calling Saitama his “master”, while she considers Sonic to be another S-Class monster far beyond her abilities.

Genos and Sonic proceed to show her just how powerful they are, with increasingly fast and devastating attacks, but it leads to nothing but a big ol’ stalemate. When Genos loses his temper and prepares to blast the whole damn area to smite Sonic, Saitama intervenes…because he doesn’t want his area blasted.

Sonic thus gets what he wants: another one-on-one round with his “rival.” But again, Sonic is put in his place all too quickly and easily, thanks to a “side-stepping” attack by Saitama that multiplies Sonic’s ten afterimages exponentially. Defeated, Sonic retreats, but promises this isn’t over, because of course he does.

Back at Saitama’s place, Blizzard explains why she’s so obsessed with keeping the top B spot and gathering followers: she’s never been anything but second-best in a family that also contains Terrible Tornado, her older sister. She’s then overwhelmed again when King arrives…only to ask Saitama for his game back.

It’s clear to Blizzard that not only is Saitama no normal Class B hero, but has a preternatural ability to draw the strongest monsters into his orbit, where he can then demonstrate how much stronger he is than those comers. And that’s his appeal: overwhelming power, minimal ego and ambition. He’s a hero for fun. Why do people have to keep making it not fun?

Speaking of which, Garo comes across a Class A hero by chance and ends him without breaking a sweat. No doubt Garo will soon find himself another one of Saitama’s satellites…perhaps they can make each other break a sweat for once.

One Punch Man 2 – 01 – How Did it Come to This?

“The first sequel in three and a half years…I’M FEELING THE HYPE!”

—King, breaking the fourth wall

I too am feeling the hype for the first OPM sequel in three and a half years…it’s a lot of years! That seems like several RABUJOI rating tag designs (not to mention presidential administrations) ago. But here we are, and perhaps wisely, OPM takes things nice and easy, offering a mostly quiet and laid back return in which Saitama’s only action in the episode happens so fast we miss it.

He and Genos are crossing off items on the errand list on a beautiful day, inspecting figurines for heroes like “King” (while Saitama goes unhonored) when a reptilian pervert appears. At the same time, the real Class S, Rank 7 Hero King shows up in the flesh. The crowd immediately recognizes their imminent savior, while the low-level baddie is so scared of his mere reputation, he surrenders without a fight.

That’s just as well, because King privately would rather be anywhere else…specifically, playing the newest sequel to Heartthrob Sister. So King’s a reluctant hero who’d rather laze around, right?

Well, there’s more to it than boredom or will to fight. When a giant, advanced robot called G4 appears and challenges King to mortal combat, King asks if he can use the bathroom (so he can go full strength and make sure the robot gets the best data from the fight). That leaves Genos to deal with G4 while King…cowers in the bathroom.

Turns out King isn’t a real hero at all; he simply keeps ending up near giant monsters who are dealt with by someone else, leaving him to suck up all the credit. And that someone else turns out to be Saitama. Genos assures his master he’ll be fine on his own, so Saitama leaps up to King’s 22nd-floor apartment to play some games.

Of course, Saitama is there for more than games—he wants answers, like why King ran away from a fight. When a giant bird monster appears and Saitama stops it with one hand, King wets himself and confirms that his entire reputation is a lie. And King can’t very well claim to be the victim of mass public misunderstanding, since he’s always had the agency to correct the record.

He’s just lacked the courage to do so, and at this point, when he’s been credited with so many victories he’s regarded as The Strongest Man Alive, who can blame him? To come clean is to face unimaginable backlash from the public, who may in turn come to distrust all heroes, worried there may be other frauds.

Genos incinerates G4’s outer body, leaving the feistier, laser-ridden inner body to contend with, which he does thanks to the cloud of an exploded fire extinguisher and the fact Genos is simply the stronger party. Meanwhile, King realizes it’s this Saitama guy who keeps saving him again and again then rushing off, leaving people to credit King with the wins.

Saitama is very magnanimous about this whole ordeal, though part of that is simple realism: no matter what the truth is, the public thinks he’s the Ultimate Hero. So rather than let them down, Saitama suggests King start to live up to the title he never wanted, by becoming stronger.

He also invites himself to future video game sessions, no doubt to check and see if King can follow through or will continue to cower in the corner. After all, just because he was found out by Saitama doesn’t mean the “coincidences” that caused all this will end.

Genos presents Dr. Kuseno with the remains of G4, asking him if any of them can be integrated into his systems to become stronger. The cyborg that destroyed his home is still out there, and while Genos is more focused on his hero duties and living up to his Class, his hatred of his nemesis has not dissipated, but continues to fuel his drive.

From there we’re invited to an “Explanation Meeting” by the “The Earth is in Danger Prophecy Emergency Countermeasures Team”, led by Sitch. He has gathered dozens of criminals and n’er-do-wells (and protected himself with Class A heroes) because the disaster the prophecy fortells will surely require everyone’s fighting abilities, not just good folk. Among the “ruffians” is our old friend Sound-o’-Speed Sonic, who still thinks he can take Saitama on.

Also suspicious of Saitama’s quick C-to-B rise is Class B’s Rank 1, Hellish Blizzard. Both of them have Saitama in their crosshairs, but Saitama is content to wait for all comers while gaming with his new buddy King. There’s also one more lad at the very end who I’m probably supposed to remember, who seems excited about the prophecy of the End of the World.

It’s a strong return from one of my favorite action/comedy shows of recent years. There was a lot of exposition and people talking about fighting Saitama without actually doing so, but proper table-setting must precede a good feast. I’ve also heard this doesn’t look as good as the first season (the studio shifted from Madhouse to J.C. Staff), and perhaps that’s true, though it’s been so long I didn’t notice. I’m just a man of simple tastes, and I’m glad it’s back.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 13

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The royal selection process becomes a lot more interesting when Reinhard officially endorses Felt, but you can’t take the slums out of the girl, and Felt turns the court off with her poor breeding and independent, tell-it-like-it-is nature. I’m still firmly on Team Emilia, but I do enjoy Felt rubbing her contempt for the situation in everyone’s faces.

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Rancor builds among the court that just as a sewer rat shouldn’t be allowed to participate, neither should Emilia, a “filthy half-devil” with The Witch’s features. That sets off Subaru, who shouldn’t even be there to begin with, but he won’t stop barking, until Anastasia’s knight Julius confronts him, questioning his claim of being Emilia-tan’s “best knight.”

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Not to side against the protagonist, but Subaru is way out of line here, and I’m not sure I’m supposed to believe otherwise. Emilia really doesn’t want to grab him by the arm and lead him out like a mother taking control of her unruly child, but that’s exactly what happens, and it’s pretty ugly.

Far more surprising, and not altogether plausible, is Old Man Rom’s entry into the throne room to rescue Felt. He’s arrested immediately, and only spared summary execution when Felt changes her mind and agrees to participate in the selection.

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Mind you, Felt’s going to do things her way, which means rule with a healthy hatred of the country she struggled to mightily to survive in, and those who rule it. She breaks off an intense pledge to destroy the country all these rich bastards hold so deal and build a new one in its place. It sounds, on the surface at least, a lot like Emilia’s “everyone is equal” platform, only those who were on top in the old system won’t be equal to the 99% under Felt’s rule.

Felt may be just as contemptuous of the process as Subaru was, but she has a right to be, when considering the life she’s lived and the fact she’s a legitimate participant; Subaru is nothing but an interloper, good intentions be damned. And when Julius challenges him to a duel to show him what the knights he mocked are made of, Subie continues to learn, quite painfully, just how out of his element he is in this arc.

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It’s brutal to see him so out of sorts and so powerless to do anything about it. And this time, he doesn’t even have Emilia backing him up, because he’s going against his promise to stay put, which was a really bad decision.

Also bad? Thinking his Shamac spell would be of any use against a knight of Julius’ stature. Subie cannot lay a finger on him, and gets beaten within an inch of his life for refusing to yield. He also ignores a frantic Emilia’s cries to stop this madness, but he ignores them.

This is about more than just preserving Emilia’s pride—something he’s all too ill-equipped to so anyway—but his pride as well. The only problem is, he’s all alone on this one.

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What’s shocking is just how little Subaru realizes how much harm he’s done in these last two episodes. That makes it that much more torturous when Emilia finally lets him have it after he wakes up from his unnecessary beating. Her anger and disappointment cast a gloomy pall on what would otherwise be another gorgeously-lit bedside scene.

To be fair, Subaru physically can’t tell Emilia about any of the previous timelines, but even if he could, how can she trust anything he says when he so brazenly breaks promises he made to her and causes so much chaos in the midst of a delicate succession process?

The time for second chances and slaps on the wrist are over for Subaru, who has never seemed more out of place in this fantasy world. Bottom line: the Emilia before him and the “vision” of Emilia in his mind, are two different people, and he has to come to terms with that.

What does Subie do to counter Emilia’s litany of harsh truths? He digs himself an even deeper hole, selfishly rattling off all of the ways Emilia is indebted to him. That goes about as well as expected: Emilia agrees to repay all of those debts quickly, so they can then part ways, then walks out of the room, stating how she had—past tense—hopes for him. Ouch.

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So far, in this arc, the bad guy is Subaru, but I hope it doesn’t stay that way. The hole he started digging last week became a virtual mine shaft into the bowels of the Earth, and he has no one to blame but himself. Climbing out won’t be easy, even if he dies and wakes up back before all this awful business at the palace.

At the moment, I can’t see any other way to earn back the trust and respect he lost today than…by not losing it to begin with. But what would impress me even more is if Re:Zero Subie didn’t rely on the Reset button, but found another way to redeem himself.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 12

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No sooner does the Twin Maids arc conclude than the pieces are gathered for the next arc, one centered on the struggle to claim the throne. Those pieces include a grizzled chauffeur who is clearly more than one; a catgirl emissary who turns out to be a guy for some reason, and the other young women vying for the crown, including one who was in my blind spot.

Meanwhile, all’s well at Roswaal’s mansion, and Rem is far more affectionate towards Subaru. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to show us much of Emilia and Subie’s date in the village, but I’m not complaining about the show’s efforts to move on to the next big storyline without undue dilly-dallying.

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Subaru is able to accompany Emilia to the capital, but mostly so he can be treated by the catlike Felix, a skilled magician and healer. But we know what he’s really coming: to look after Emi-tan and make sure no more trouble befalls. her. Emilia, for her part, would rather Subie take it easy after nearly being eaten by evil dogs so many times.

The return to the capital is marked both by reunions with old faces (the apple vendor; Old Man Rom) and new (the lovely but insufferably haughty Priscilla Barielle and her knight). Another knight kisses Emilia on the hand and sets Subie off; I for one think he’s being a bit over-possessive throughout the episode. His heart’s in the right place, but don’t crowd the girl, Soobs.

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Emilia tells Subaru to stay put when she answers the summons for the latest selection process at the palace, but Subie can’t stay put, and Rem, now a solid friend, ally, and admirer, doesn’t make him stay, and even gives him her blessing. Emilia’s reaction to seeing him there—with rival to the throne Priscilla on his arm, no less—is understandable; she was really hoping Subie would prove she can trust him not to go overboard for her sake by giving him One Job, and he could not obey.

Sure, it’s for her to say where Subaru should go and who he should meet with, but it’s not Subaru’s job to watch and inspect every move she makes, either. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s looking like these two could use some space, or a least some perspective. Who are they to one another, exactly, could help inform how they interact and avoid clashes of this nature.

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Two capital characters conspicuous in their absence throughout the episode were Reinhard and Felt, as the last time we saw the two the former had knocked out and arrested the latter. I joined Subaru’s curiosity in what the heck actually went down with all that, and this episode gives us the answers we seek.

Felt is, like Emilia, Priscilla, and two others (one with a Kansai accent, rather bafflingly), a candidate for the throne. Not only that, she’s the one Reinhard will be routing for to become queen. Felt’s entrance at the end is pretty badass, and the look in her face is appropriately bemused and overwhelmed.

Not only that, Felt is someone, like Emilia, I’ve always rooted for, but now they find themselves on different sides of a power struggle, with eager entourages and followings watching their every move. This should be interesting!

Subaru may not have died and reborn in a long time—something that builds its own tension—but for now, that takes a backseat to more pressing issues of imperial rivalry and intrigue, just as Emilia was mostly on the margins of the Twin Maids arc. May the Best Girl win!

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Ushio to Tora – 28

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The East/West youkai decide Asako can go on her merry way, but Mayuko is to be sacrificed. Obv., Asako ain’t taking that sitting down, and tries with everything she has to fight back, but the monsters are too strong.

Asako’s only kept from being killed by the barrier when Mayuko starts flexing her oyakume descendant muscles, saving her with a protective magic. I’ll admit, it’s a little strange seeing Mayuko use magic, but all this hullabaloo seems to have awakened her true power.

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Mayuko is willing to be thrown into the forge, but Asako stops the youkai, and offers herself as a sacrifice so Mayuko can perform her duties as the oyakume. Mayuko doesn’t like this one bit, but she can’t stop Asako from sacrificing herself. Only Ushio and Tora, arriving in the nick of time, can do that.

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For a second there, I really thought this was the end for Asako, which would make things very tragic indeed for Ushio, who’d have to carry on fighting Hakumen having lost one of the people most important to him in the world. Indeed, Asako only remembers Ushio when she’s about to leap into the flames—and she does leap in—but Ushio jumps in before her and catches her.

Both of them are badly scorched, and the youkai start attacking them mercilessly for interrupting their plan, but Tora steps in to take the punishment, and Mayuko uses her magic to protect them and eject them from the building.

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Of course, things aren’t any safer out there: a Tora lookalike named Guren has arrived to fight the youkai and destroy the Beast Spear on behalf of Hakumen. Guren’s crew and the youkai engage in an aerial battle while Ushio, Tora, and the girls fly away with Jeimei.

Saya enlists Kappa to help heal Asako’s burns, but Ushio doesn’t have time for medical attention, and rushes back into the fray, even against those who no longer know who he is and don’t wish him well. Tora, unable to let his meal get killed by someone else, soon follows him, and the two show the youkai how well they fight together, and that the present Beast Spear is still a powerful weapon.

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Before Ushio returns, Mayuko leaves with Jeimei to fulfill her destiny, leaving Asako with Saya and the Kappa. When Ushio and Tora get back, Mayuko is gone, but Ushio doesn’t persue her. He knows he was lucky to come away from the day with one of his friends alive and free. He’s going to trust in Mayuko’s strength, get back to the fight with Hakumen, and eventually come to get her back.

Things are still in a pretty dark place in Ushio to Toraland: Asako’s in bad shape, while most everyone still forgets who Ushio is, and may well still be convinced a new Beast Spear needs to be forged. I’m guessing he has to address the mass amnesia (which is likely curable) and get his allies back before he can fight Hakumen in earnest. Lots of trials still ahead for our hard-headed protagonist.

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Ushio to Tora – 27

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Our easing back into the world of Ushio to Tora seems at first like it will be a bit of a respite for Ushio, as he and Asako butt heads when passing each other in a romantic sakura-strewn street.

Then Ushio questions his default conduct towards Asako (to yell at her, feigning disinterest, and for her to yell back) when he realizes this kind of foolishness might not be able to go on for another year because for him, there might not bea next year.

So he offers, in his very Ushio-to-Asako way, to walk her home, and the two are on cloud nine—right up until Asako suddenly loses all memory of who Ushio is. So does her family. And when Ushio heads to the Kouhamei Sect HQ for help, they’ve all turned to stone. Sooo…not a rest episode, then!

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Instead, it’s more of a Murphy’s Law episode, where everything bad that can happen to Ushio does happen. But even that turns out not to be 100% the case, as Tora, bless the big furry guy, remembers Ushio all to well, to Ushio’s giddy delight. You wouldn’t forget someone you’ve promised to eat one day, now would ya?

Whatever is going on, Tora’s no affected, and he suspects neither is Mayuko, who he’s always thought was a human who never feared youkai or monsters as much as she should. Mayuko has taken Kirio into her home and is showing him both simple kindnesses like a hot breakfast, and the idea that simple kindnesses need not be things that send one into a spiral of self-hatred for being unworthy of such.

Unfortunately, Ushio and Tora are a little to late to get to Mayuko. Ushio meets amnesiac Asako, who wants nothing to do with him and suspects he has no good reason to be bothering her friend. The two exchange slaps, but then things take a turn for the worse: the heads of the East and West, all amnesiacs, arrive to take Mayuko and Asako captive. Ushio and Kirio try to stop them, but they escape.

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THey pursue, but Kagari and Raishin strike them down, and after dreaming of the Beast Spear shattering, Ushio wakes up in Saya’s house. She remembers him too (again, to his giddy delight) and they’re protected by her barrier from the culprits behind all the amnesia going around: memory-devouring hiyou; one of Hakumen’s latest tactics against Ushio.

Not only that, but the time-traveling Tokisaka is there. He saw the same thing Ushio dreamed—the spear being shattered—and reported it to the East/West alliance, all of whom had had their memories wiped. Thus fear and apprehension swept across the ranks, and fear is Hakumen’s most powerful weapon.

Things are bad, but there’s still plenty to hope for. Mayuko and Asako are both safe for the time being. Mayuko remembers enough of Ushio to candidly lay out the nature of the triangle she forms with him and Asako, who is starting to remember (though isn’t keen on the idea of loving a guy who loves her if it makes Mayuko cry).

Furthermore, Mayuko is confirmed (if it wasn’t already pretty clear) as a descendant of Jeimei, whose soul lives on in the spear. That means if Ushio, Tora, and Saya can’t fix the memory loss, the East/West guys may try to forge a new Beast Spear with her. It never rains…

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One Punch Man – 12 (Fin)

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With just one episode left, One Punch Man doesn’t waste any time with an OP or recap; we’re plunged right into the hugely-anticipated Saitama-Boros bout. It’s everything I could have hoped for. As Saitama claims an early arm from Boros, below the ship the S’s finish off their opponent, led by Silverfang/Bang, who grabs the foe’s core before he can regenerate his body around it, showing sprightliness beyond his years. Drive Knight also warns Genos not to trust Metal Knight, potentially presaging interhero treachery.

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Meantime, it’s back to the Main Event. Yep, all my shows are ending the same way, but that’s okay, as they’ve all used slightly different approaches to the Final Epic Duel. OPM gets into abstract territory by unleashing a lush and dazzling rainbow of colors, textures, movements, and styles of line, with ironically very little damage being done to either combatant. Hell, Saitama is punched literally To The Moon—what I assume is an equally iconic image in the manga.

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But it’s no big; Saitama takes advantage of the Moon’s weaker gravity to blast himself right back to ex-City A (causing the alien ship to list in the process) and the battle continues. It’s clear both combatants are having a lot of fun, now that they’re fighting opponents who won’t go down instantly. And many a frame in the fight would make a great piece of art to hang on your wall.

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After hearing about so many special moves from so many foes, Saitama decides to break out his ulitmate move: Killer Move: Serious Series…Serious Punch. And No, he doesn’t need to work on that awful name; the fact that it’s awful matches his persona perfectly…not to mention reminds me of “The Paddling of the Swollen Ass…With Paddles.”

Whatever it’s called, it’s the punch that defeats Boros, who remains alive long enough to thank Saitama for a good fight, happy that the prophecy proved true, but also very cognizant of the fact Saitama had plenty of strength to spare and held back; Boros never had a chance of beating him. It’s nice to hear an enemy admit defeat so graciously at the end, rather than cursing and fuming his way to the grave, as many a final boss are wont to do.

As for his surviving crew? The Class S’s round them up and take them into custody, but before that, Amai Mask confronts them and tells them what a terrible job they did due to the destruction of City A and resultant damage to the Hero Association’s reputation. He doubts the media and public will buy that they “did their best”, even though they did.

Amai Mask thus reveals himself as the ultimate villain in OPM; the guy who’s never satisfied with a victory he did not himself create. Metal Knight swoops in like a vulture to pick the bones of the alien ship and develop new weapons…for, uh, for peace. Right.

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Due to coincidence, Tornado happens to be floating right by the exact spot where Saitama bursts out of the wreckage of the ship, where he’s met by an elated Genos. Both of them ignore the little green esper until she protests, and Genos shows some rare saltiness by calling her a spoiled brat and ordering her silence (Bang breaks up an extended fight).

While Amai Mask is initially right and the destruction of City A remains in the headlines for months, news about it, and any public disgust that went with it, eventually fades. The Hero Association builds an even bigger, stronger headquarters, and builds highways sprawling out like spokes from a wheel to every city for quick dispatch of heroes. Humanity comes out of its clash with Boros’ ship stronger than ever.

And, in a comforting epilogue, Saitama and Genos remain Master and Apprentice in mopping up baddies who’d threaten humanity. Sure, there’s still a lot of collateral damage in such battles, but buildings and infrastructure can always be rebuilt. Evil must be punched, and Saitama and Genos will keep punching, for fun and profit. Here’s hoping someday we get to watch them punch more.

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One Punch Man – 11

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I’d call this episode a non-stop action thrill ride, but to its credit, it’s not exactly non-stop. Sure, millions of lives hang in the balance as the Class S heroes fight the alien invaders, but there’s a lovely nonchalance about how they’re fighting, almost like another day at the office, while the ship up above also offers moments of workplace comedy and the inefficiencies of bureaucracy, even on a space pirate ship.

Saitama is laying absolute waste to the ship, but the alien leader’s lieutenants are either off doing their own stuff, hiding out on the bridge, or already dead. That leader, the one-eyed Lord Boros, seems unconcerned with the damage to his ship; instead, he seems to want to meet with the one doing the damage.

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But he doesn’t make it easy. Saitama loses his way, then ends up on the bridge by not falling for the oldest trick in the book (being told to go right when he should go left). Then the blue octopus-like lieutenant shows off his elaborate destructive powers, but is really just tossing lots of rocks at Saitama, who dodges everything, then splits the guy’s head in two with just one well-struck stone.

Down on the surface, the heroes eventually figure out they need to destroy the cores of their foe to prevent him from regenerating. Before they do, a lower-class hero laments that as Class S heroes they’re very stuck in their ways and not prone to listening to their inferiors, even if their ways are futile and listening could get them somewhere.

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When the progress bar on the artillery department tech’s computer finally fills up, the ship prepares to unleash another barrage of shells on the surface, killing all the heroes below, but Tornado arrives just in time and shows just how useful she is to have around by stopping the falling shells, then turning them around and launching them at the ship.

Saitama doesn’t see the effects of that damage, as he’s deep in the core of the ship, having finally found the Guy In Charge, Boros, who tells Saitama here there to fulfill the prophecy of a warrior who is his match in a fight, thus curing him of his existential ennui.

We’ve seen how similar Saitama and Mumen Rider are, but Boros could be an example of what happens when someone with Saitama’s level of ability (or something close to it)  uses his power for so long he runs out of enemies to fight.

Saitama destroys his armor easily enough, but Boros gets right back up, unharmed by one punch and unleashing his full power. Only one episode left to see how many more punches Saitama will need to send this jerk packing.

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One Punch Man – 10

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After taking out the “Lizard King”, who she dispatches far easier than one would deal with a hangnail, the tiny, green-haired Terrible Tornado is immediately picked back up by the Hero Association. We get a little whiff of her power, which seems to involve summoning whatever means are necessary to destroy her target: in this case a meteor (ironic considering her dinosauric opponent). Another superpower? Keeping her panties (if she even wears any) from being seen despite the extremely high cut of her dress!

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This week Saitama finally meets Tornado, who doesn’t think much of him, and probably wouldn’t even if she saw him in action. Saitama, despite being a B among S’s, was able to tag along and get involved in this high-level meeting because, well, Genos and Bang let him come, and he had nothing else to do (I guess he watered his cactus well).

The Class-S elites gathered in the war room are quite the collection of characters, including a man in a dog suit and a fat guy who keeps eating throughout the meeting (the background eating sounds were pretty funny throughout all the dramatic dialogue). Apparently, a venerable and 100% accurate fortune teller has recently died, but not before giving one final prophecy, portending “big trouble” in the next six months.

Sure enough, a swarm of tengu descend on Hero Association HQ in City A, but they’re quickly sliced in half…but not by heroes.

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No, they’re killed by even more powerful enemies: aliens from outer space! In a huge, mean-looking mothership that wouldn’t look out of place in Nausicaa. The ship lays waste to City A—a more than 98% loss—but the Class S heroes work together to make sure that’s where the destruction ends. That won’t be easy, as the wounds by the swords of Atomic Samurai and his student on the ugly-looking aliens heal as quickly as they can be made.

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But as the heroes decide how they’re going to deal with the big alien mothership, Saitama, acting alone, burrows out of HQ, leaps up into the ship, and just starts pounding people. It’s his style: getting things done when nobody is looking, despite the close proximity of all those pairs of important, influential eyes.

Then again, the likes of Bang, #3 overall, believes he’ll soon reach the upper crust of Class S. Doing stuff like bringing down an alien mothership and defeating the cyclopic alien boss will certainly help his case. The question is, whether he’ll be able to take any credit, or once again be derided by the public as a hanger-on/fifth wheel/glory hog.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 09

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Considering episode 8 ended with a guy being eaten (or absorbed) by a Kuu-sama, and episode 10 started with the public reaction, I didn’t realize I had skipped an entire episode by accident until I was already through it. I also noted how quickly the plot progressed, leaving me to think the episode I missed was probably superfluous anyway. Boy, was I wrong!

This week, among many other things I missed out on, Hajime diagnoses Tsubasa’s problem: her resolve to run forward with everything she’s got can be both a strength and a liability. Like Tsubasa, I found out that it’s okay to stop and even go back to ensure you’re on the right path, not a path of convenience and expediency.

As a result of going back, I found episode 9 did more than simply fill in a few blanks; it further enriched the episode 10 I accidentally skipped to—itself a great episode.

For instance: I learned what led to Tsubasa no longer being by Gelsadra’s side, but returning home to Nagaoka. The public didn’t immediately react to the Kuu-sama’s “feedings” negatively; most people welcomed them being a “hammer of justice” as they punished those who committed crimes, be they petty or serious.

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Tsubasa can’t be on board with this, because she’s not a weird alien who uses cold logic to solve everything. She doesn’t see the point of becoming one if those who are hesitant are forced under pain of devouring. Paiman also condemns the acts of the Kuu-sama and hastily announces the Gatchamen will move to detain Prime Minister Gel-san, who is definitely somehow connected.

Paiman’s plan backfires, because he chooses a course of action before fully understanding what he’s up against: the Kuu-sama aren’t minions doing Gel-san’s bidding; they’re a side-effect of his weird-alien methods to unite everyone at any cost. They are of the people, not Gel-san, and as long as the pervading public opinion is of acceptance and contentment with Gel-san’s “regime”, both the Kuu-sama and the majority of the public will condemn the Gatchamen for attempting to disrupt the flow.

Hardcore supporters thus throw stuff at Paiman when he comes to arrest Gel-san; parents take their kids out of his day-care; Sugane’s harem dumps him. The Gatchamen find themselves unpopular; an eyesore to either be spurned, ignored, or, if they persist in their intervention, dealt with.

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The team regroups at HQ, where Hajime decodes Berg-Katze’s riddle: “everyone’s favorite thing that goes in easy but is difficult to get out” is a pervading atmosphere. Sugane says he’s had a lot of fun going with the flow, and wonders if it’s really that bad. And it isn’t, until you suddenly find yourself outside of it.

Hajime seems to take great pride out of being an outsider, whether you’re talking Gatchaman, alien vessel, or general space cadet. Even her hand gestures are subversive, sticking with the scissor fingers while everyone else puts their fingers together for the Ge-ru-ru Salute.

While trying to visit another fellow outsider in Rui, he doesn’t answer the door or his phone. His AI X-san, has to answer for him, worried about its master. At this point Hajime is accosted by numerous Kuu-sama, who are clearly telling not asking, that they become one. In her usual nonchalant-yet-badass tone, Hajime says “Yeah, I’d rather not,” successfully dodging the tongues.

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Then there’s the sustained action setpiece of this episode: the fight between Joe, who blames himself for Gel-san getting elected, and Gel-san, who doesn’t understand what Joe’s problem is, only that any attack directed at him will be countered in kind, and then some.

Joe is perhaps a bit foolhardy, but who would have thought Gel-san would be so adept at combat, be it dodging bullets on the ground or matching fire with wind up in the stratosphere. It’s a beautiful battle, all the more interesting because of Joe’s inability to gt through to Gel-san not because Gel’s bad or evil, but merely fundamentally wired differently as a living being.

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Back to Tsubasa. Feeling like the bottom’s fallen out of her world, she wanders an increasingly bleak city with ominously gathering clouds and scene after scene of independent-minded folk being bullied into going with the flow, and devoured if they don’t. The Kuu-sama even come after her. It’s all like some terrible nightmare, but then there’s a hand on her shoulder—it’s Hajime’s with an umbrella. And Hajime isn’t there to judge or say I told you so. She’s there to help and support her friend.

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Speaking of friends, Sugane cannot heed Joe’s warning to stay out of the fight, protecting Joe from Gel’s giant shiruken-like weapons, but getting stabbed in the back himself. Like Paiman with his premature arrest attempt, Jou’s attack only made things worse. Meanwhile, after a pep talk from Hajime (she’s all over the place wryly supporting people this episode!) X-san reaches out to Rui’s nemesis Suzuki Rizumu to try to rattle his cage. Rui is nearly catatonic in his bliss, sucking his thumb like the ape Suzuki warned him everyone would become in Gel-san’s world.

But it does rouse Suzuki to action, and he gets out of prison thanks to a VAPE member who is a guard, in order to “change the atmosphere.” Having gotten her Gatchabook back from Hajime, Tsubasa heads home, for a similar change of atmosphere, seeking wisdom from her gramps. And then, in the scene episode 10 starts with, we see one more example of the insidious danger of the Kuu-sama and their fundamental wrongness of their existence in society when a little girl simply can’t abide an older kid shrugging off a recently-devoured friend. Out of the mouths of babes indeed!

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 10

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When Mana’s father is swallowed up by a Kuu-sama, a former (current?) member of VAPE catches it on his cameraphone, forwarding it to Suzuki, who sends it out into the digital continuum, where it catches fire. I like how the means with which Gelsadra and Tsubasa united and consolidated the majority of society are the same means that prove their undoing. As with everything else, enhanced technology effects change much faster than more primative methods, but the door swings both ways.

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When the nation sees Mana’s father getting eaten, followed by a response by Gel-san that inadvertently sounds cold and uncaring, and a warning for those who don’t want to become one to get in line, Tsubasa is beside herself, unsure of what to do, leading her to sit with her grandpa and listen. I found Yuru-jii’s monologue to be a fine, stirring, cogent, unblinking look on Japanese history and society.

He’s seen this “atmosphere” before, and he was caught up in it, as was everyone around him, including his little brother: in WWII. “We lost ourselves, and fought against people we didn’t hate”, all out what was essentially a national inferiority complex. The atmosphere that led to war and the slaughter of millions just kinda snuck up on everyone, until it had become irreversible.

That atmopshere created an empire that would fight to the last man when faced with certain defeat. It took the first and only use of nuclear weapons against an enemy in human history to dissipate that atmosphere. Gatchaman’s sobering critique of the national psyche in the darkest years of Japan’s history stands in stark contrast to the glorification of the military in shows like KanColle and GATE, and I for one am glad shows like this are around to balance the discourse.

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The difference here is, the mood, and atmosphere, or kuuki, has been given physical form by Gelsadra, with the best of intentions, but ignorant to the world, its people, and their inherent desire to break from the crowd. He neutralized their wills, but he did not break them. And so, when word comes down the Kuu-sama are killers and Gel brought them about and is doing nothing to stop them, those very Kuu-sama reflect the changing mood, one of hatred and desire to bring Gel-san down.

I like how it’s Hajime who first comes to Gel’s aid against the amassing hordes of Kuu-sama. They may have physical form, but they can be disspated, or “popped” with the power of the Gatchamen. Gel-san also reassesses what he wants, from something as massive and ultimately impossible as uniting all of mankind as one, to something far simpler and more personal: wanting to see his dear friend Tsubasa.

So he exhales, releasing all of the mood bubbles in his belly and reverting to the form he took when he first landed…which is good news.

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Meanwhile, the Gatchamen muster and start taking out the Kuu-samas, lending a nice action angle to the episode. Rui breaks out of his funk thanks to X, into whom he inadvertently, but fortunately, programmed a sort of “Backup Will”, a fail-safe to rouse him from indolence should he get swept up in the fluffy bliss of belonging. X reminds him that he came up with her, and Crowds, and every other amazing accomplishment, when he was alone, not in the fetal position in the lap of a physical manifestation of the nation’s mood!

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Just as Gel-san exhaled to release the atmosphere, so too does Tsubasa, taking her grandpa’s advice to do some heavy breathing before setting off and joining Hajime and the other Gatchamen. She races to the city by transforming into an awesome hoverbike-thingy. Thanks to the events of this week, the apes are quickly evolving and thinking for themselves, but the residual caustic atmosphere must be purged in order to move forward. Everyone has to take a deeep breath.

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P.S. Yup, I accidentally totally skipped Episode 9. I’ll be watching that soon and writing a review later. Sorry about that!

Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 08

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When the strange but gentle beasts arrive, the Gatchamen muster as if they were dealing with another enemy harming the public, but this time, at least at the beginning, is different. Similarly, the people are initially scared of the Dr. Seuss-like creatures, but when they only say supportive, comforting things to their “hosts” and embrace them in warm fuzzy hugs, they quickly accept them as a fact of life.  Well, most of them do.

O.D. warns that while they may be gentle, they’re also beasts, while Hajime remains skeptical of the beasts’ intentions as long as she doesn’t know anything about them besides the fact they came from everyone’s mood bubbles. And she has every right to be suspicious, and not just because she has an anti-conscience in Berg-Katze within her bosom sounding alarm bells, because they seem singularly interested to “making everyone one” even though that’s not possible.

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Softened up by Gel’s gentle I-Know-What’s-Best authoritarianism, 82% of the public votes for him to decide what to do about the Kuu-sama. The remaining 18% voted with their own voice, either yes or no, meaning even after all that’s happened, there’s still “conflict” that Gel can’t figure out how to eradicate. But Tsubasa remains firmly on his side and against Hajime’s inquisitiveness, which she deems negative.

That attitude towards voices of dissent is carried over to the majority, who start to single out and oppress the dissenters. An “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality sets in, and the people’s disgust of those not of like mind breeds wishes for those people to “disappear”, so everyone can become one that much sooner. It’s a lot like the Sneetches, only with red mood bubbles instead of stars.

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Even Rui gives up, so comfortable with his new entourage of Kuu-sama that he simply curls up into one of them and sucks his thumb, ignoring his AI X’s pleas for him to snap out of it. I for one didn’t think Rui would fall so easily, but he’s always been a lonely person, and the Kuus are a quick and powerful remedy.

Fortunately, in addition to Hajime, most of the other Gatchamen are not okay with the Kuu-sama, and are simply waiting for something bad to happen as a result of their presence. True enough, Joe is about to go out for darts with a non-red friend who suddenly gets slurped up and absorbed into a Kuu-sama. Yikes!

This is what Hajime, Berg-Katze, Suzuki Rizumu, and others have dreaded. The Kuu-sama are now so numerous and so accepted, getting rid of them will be a titanic task. In addition, they themselves are at risk of being gobbled up and added to “The One” if they continue to oppose the order of things.

It’s a most insidious and efficient alien invasion—and if Gel is to be believed, he didn’t even see it coming. But he did want everyone to be one—which is exactly what’s happening.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 07

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Gelsadra gave everyone the choice of “yes” or “no” for smartphone votes, but he is increasingly frustrated he’s unable to “unite all hearts as one”, as there’s almost always an opposing minority of around 20%, and no matter how hard the other 80% work, that ~20% won’t be convinced. Meanwhile, Gel-san is growing paler, and JJ prophesies that the “scarlet angel” will soon “transform”, and “gentle beasts” will appear “whose names are many.”

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Things have also taken a turn for the dark with regards to Tsubasa, who grows ever more militant and unyielding in her belief Gel-san is humanity’s savior, and anyone who questions her is both wrong and “thinking about too much difficult stuff.” Most outwardly guilty of that is, of course, Rui, but a part of Sugane also thinks things aren’t quite right, as does Hajime. Tsubasa forceably changing Hajime’s scissor sign to a Gel-sign is part-in-parcel of the troubling “with us or against us” atmosphere.

Berg-Katze, who has insight few others do, tells Hajime that Gel is a “piece of shit” who can “go die in a fire.” His usual manic hyperbole aside, it’s a pretty clear warning to watch out; humanity has yet to see Gelsadra’s other form(s) yet, and when Berg first met him, he didn’t fight him, he ran.

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Tsubasa’s fanaticism reaches its peak when Rui begs Gel-san to reconsider the implementation of a third choice for the phone voting: “leave it to Gel-san,” warning it will cause people to stop thinking for themselves, or at all. When faced with the choice of standing by an increasingly fat and unwell-looking Gelsadra and sticking with the Gatchamen, Tsubasa resigns, tossing her book away.

Finally, when Rui is visits Suzuki for advice, Suzuki says it’s too late, he’s just another ape, and very soon—in a flash—everyone will turn into apes for real. Gel-san vomits out all of the thoughts he’d devoured, and they all infect everyone’s present moods, changing color and ejecting the strange, oddly-shaped and colored “gentle beasts” JJ spoke of. Gel seems scared and unaware such a thing could happen, so perhaps he isn’t doing anything with malaice of forethought.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the prime minister of Japan just unleashed a potential storm of pestilence that will devolve humanity rather than save it. How will Gel’s right-hand-woman Tsubasa spin this new development, I wonder?

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