SSSS.Gridman – 04 – Truly Vexing to Watch

Akane is pretty sure Yuuta is Girdman, but not 100% sure. She wants to investigate further, which includes questioning Rikka when the two take the bus to school on a scorcher of a day. The two also end up joining Rikka’s friends Namiko and Hass on a group date with the Youtube group of college boys called Arcadia, despite the fact neither Rikka nor Akane are really into group dating…or any dating at all.

Yuuta doesn’t really like the idea of Rikka going on any kind of date that doesn’t involve him, and Gridman can sense he’s troubled about it (though Yuuta tells him not to worry about it). Yuuta and Shou decide to basically shadow the group date, as it involves two women they’re both emotionally invested in (in Shou’s case, Akane; in Yuuta’s case Rikka).

Neither really ever had anything to worry about; the only two women remotely  interested in Arcadia are Namiko and Hass. Akane is far more interested in learning why Rikka is spending more time with the guy she suspects to be aligned with her arch-enemy Gridman.

Akane also ditches the other girls at her earliest convenience, and succeeds in killing all but one of them with a kaiju. Rikka later catches on to the fact three of the four members of the group were killed and erased from the collective memory of society (including her friends), so she meets with the last surviving member, Yamato, to warn him of his impending doom.

She’s almost too late, as the fog that serves as the precursor to the latest kaiju attack envelops Yamato. It’s Samurai Calibur who ends up saving them both from the kaiju. Yuuta and Gridman deploy, but they end up having to fight not only the insectoid kaiju that killed the other members of Arcadia, but Item as well, who is singularly interested in defeating Gridman and nothing else.

All four members of Neon Genesis decide to sortie at once, but when combined with Gridman’s deployment, the computer they’re all working through basically freezes, freezing all of them in turn. Rikka scares the shit out of Shou by unplugging the computer, then plugging it back in and rebooting it, but doing so actually solves the problem, as the whole of Neon Genesis simply isn’t able to sortie simultaneously.

Instead, only one of them, the tank from last week, sorties, combining with Gridman into Gridman Max, defeating the insectoid kaiju. Item then reaches his time limit and reverts to his human state. It’s another victory, albeit a close one.

Later, at the shop, Yuuta works up the courage to ask Rikka out to grab something to eat, but she misinterprets it as a suggestion for the whole group to have a meal together. Mind you, Yuuta could mend the misunderstanding with two words: “just us,” but of course he doesn’t, mimicking Wile E. Coyote in the “trying something only once” strategy.

This was an episode in which the large-scale battles between Gridman and kaiju took a backseat to the high school romantic drama unfolding between Yuuta, Rikka, and Akane. Yuuta has proved pretty inept at getting Rikka to notice him in the way he’d prefer, but he should have plenty more opportunities, especially since she doesn’t have the slightest interest in Arcadia’s Yamato.

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 02

Sakura has a new key, a new staff, and new clear cards, but neither she nor Li can detect any magic emanating from them. Sakura wonders why these kinds of things are happening in Tomoeda again, while Tomoyo is simply disappointed she wasn’t present for Sakura’s first card capture in a while with a fitting outfit or her camcorder.

As much as Sakura wants answers, for the time being there’s not much for it than to continue on with her middle school life, slices of which are wonderfully presented this week without any shoes dropping. Sakura intends to join the cheerleading squad, the girls have art class, and Syaoran is stubbornly non-specific in the “things” he has to “take care of” which preclude him joining any clubs.

Still, just two eps in and I’m a fan of Sakura and Syaoran, because neither try to be in each other’s lives every second of every day. They each have their own stuff going on, and each respects one another’s need and right to be individuals. Pretty enlightened relationship strategy for middle schoolers!

 

CCS:CC is also full of little life lessons about not worrying too much about things outside your control. Sakura resolves to do what she has to do and put one foot in front of the other every day, and she’ll cross bridges when she comes to them.

One problem that often arises is the need to conceal magical things—like Kero-chan—from her older brother Touya. Kero must be completely still when he’s around—kinda like Hobbes—but Touya can’t help but wonder what’s going on when he sees fruit sauce on Kero’s mouth, and later spots beads of sweat. Amusingly, Sakura employs literal hand-waiving to distract her bro.

After dinner, Tomoyo presents Sakura with a new outfit (the first she’s worn in years, a meta statement referencing how long it’s been since the last CCS series), but no sooner does Sakura don the garb of a magical girl than she, Tomoyo, and Kero suddenly find themselves in a giant white cubic room with no doors or windows, an eerie situation well-sold by both visuals and the soundtrack.

When Sakura and Kero try to touch the walls, they bend out of the way, and before long, the entire cube starts to wobble like Jell-O. Kero deduces the material is similar to rubber, and that they’re inside the equivalent of a giant cubical balloon.

The seamstress Tomoyo, armed with her trusty pincushion, proceeds to pop the cube once Sakura summons her Staff of Dreams to capture another new card: “Siege.” Just like that, the trio are back in Sakura’s room, and have to play things cool when Touya checks in.

Let’s face it, neither of the two challenges Sakura has faced so far have been all that difficult to crack, nor the cards difficult to capture. However, there are still numerous unanswered questions, and while a new dream only adds to them, Sakura’s friend Eriol in England is holding off on contacting her until “the time is right”; presumably not until she captures more clear cards.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 01 (First Impressions)

Why am I seriously considering belatedly picking up a reboot of an 18-year-old anime I never watched and know nothing about? Simple: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card is gorgeous, massively charming, and surprisingly easy to jump right into.

My knowledge of the franchise is its own “clear card”, and yet Keroberos’ super-abridged intro at the beginning gave me the gist. From there we join Kinomoto Sakura as she starts her middle school life, along with her best friend Daidouji Tomoyo and her boyfriend Syaoran Li, with whom she rather dramatically and beautifully reunites.

All seems well in Sakura’s life, but after she has a startling dream about clear cards, she discovers all of the “Clow Cards” she’d amassed have become clear, blank, and devoid of power, which I imagine could be a problem since the cards are the source of much of her power.

This situation has Sakura reaching out to fellow magically-inclinded friend Yuki (who can transform into an angelic alter-ego) and her friends in England, but no easy answers are forthcoming. Tomoyo tries to distract her from her troubles by assuring her she has no shortage of cute costumes waiting in the wings for Sakura’s future use.

In another trippy dream sequence, Sakura’s cloaked tormentor faces her again, but she’s able to summon a crystal that transforms into a key, much like the one she’s always used to summon her magical staff. The next day, when she and Kero-chan are attacked by sharp gusts of wind, she releases the new staff.

With the staff, she’s able to focus the winds into a captured card of a type she’s never seen before, and just like that she’s back in the card-capturing and mystery-solving business.

CCS:CC features top-notch animation with very satisfying movement and modern special effects, while the retro-inspired character design, voice work, sound effects and music lend an irresistible nostalgic feel. The dialogue is also a nice balance of humor, drama, and romance. In short, I may not know much about the CCS universe, but I definitely like what I’ve seen so far.

Kino no Tabi – 01 (First Impressions)

After fourteen years, Kino is back on broadcast. I only caught a handfull of episodes from the original series, but the formula seems to be pretty much the same: Kino is on an unending journey astride her trusty motorized steed Hermes, traveling from country to country and never spending more than three days there, the “perfect length.”

The first country she encounters here is one where “killing is not prohibited.” Since she’s good on the quickdraw, she’s confident in holding her own there, but also curious if the country will be what a fellow traveler moving there expects it to be: a place where he can kill with impunity, and the home of an infamous serial killer, Regel.

Upon entering the country, Kino finds it to be a placid, bucolic place, where people walk the streets without fear and warmly interact with one another. Everyone also seems to be armed. The country’s culinary specialty is a delicious-looking tower of crepes. An old man representing the country invites Kino to settle there; Kino kindly declines.

Then the boorish traveler Kino encounter outside the country’s walls appears and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t give him all of her stuff. Kino hides behind Hermes, preparing for a protracted fight, but before the man can fire at them, he’s shot through the arm by a crossbow-wielding lady from the window of a nearby building. The entire town, fully armed, descends upon the man.

Then their leader, Regel himself, informs the traveler and would-be killer of the true way of things in this country: while killing is “not prohibited”, it isn’t permitted. The only killing that’s done is by the citizens as a whole; rising as one against anyone who would try to kill another. It is their way of maintaining justice and peace, and at least in their case, it seems to work.

Back on the road, Kino encounters a second traveler, who unlike the first is trying to find a safe country where he doesn’t have to worry about killing others to survive. While there is killing in Regel’s country, it’s not the kind this fellow need worry about. The legend he hears is not of the serial killer Regel, but of the country’s famed crepe towers.

As for Kino, she’s headed for the next country, which is sure to be completely different from this one, which will no doubt provide another fable about a certain aspect of life.

Yuuki Aoi is a worthy successor to Maeda Ai, and aside from some bursts of action (in this case violent and bloody) the overall presentation is calm, relaxed, and understated, as befits a slice-of-life series that focuses on a very unique and interesting transient life. Count me interested!

New Final Fantasy VII Anime to be produced by SHAFT, directed by Shinbo; Q4 release to coincide with FFVII PS3 reboot

Many anime fans will remember in 2005 Square Enix teamed up with Madhouse to create the prequel OVA Last Order: Final Fantasy VII. That was a decent effort; a solid 3 if not a bit higher in our rating system. We were left wishing that the FFVII story got a 13 or, even better, 26 episode run. I mean, the story is already there, all it needed was full expression in anime form, with maybe a few embellishments here or there, and obviously upgrades to the visual effects of the epic 1997 PSOne game.

Well, those who wished for an anime will be delighted to hear that Square Enix, SHAFT, and Akiyuki Shinbo will be teaming up to create an all-new, 26-episode run titled simply “Final Fantasy VII”. To be precise, only those who enjoy Shinbo and SHAFT anime will be delighted by this news.

Still, Shinbo insists he will be careful to meld the popular FFVII story with his own unique style, adding more humanity to the characters than the game offered, and carefully selecting the best voice talent for the crucial characters of Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Vincent, Aerith, Sephiroth, etc.

Shinbo has also indicated he will try to add more levity humor to the overall very dark story, drawing from Zetsubou-Sensei for inspiration. The series is due out for the Fall 2011 season, close to the Q4 release of the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII reboot for PS3. RABUJOI will stay on top of this story as further developments are revealed. Until then, get ready for a FFVII renaissance. We hope it’s everything we’ve hoped for! April Fools desu.