Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 15 – Clones Aren’t Just People…They’re Some of the Best

Suck up to the researchers. Words Kozaku Mitori lived by while she was at the facility. Put on a happy face, be chipper, never show them you actually hate their guts and everything they’re doing. But even if it was an act, her secret rebelliousness was futile. As long as she was cooperating, she was giving in to their control.

This became untenable when her chipper attitude led the researchers to pairing her up with Dolly. Like Misaki after her, Mitori initially found the lonely sick girl to be a pain in the rear, but Dolly’s sad, beautiful soul eventually wore her down, until she was looking forward to their visits. More importantly, her smiles were always genuine.

More than anything, Mitori saw Dolly as neither a clone nor a lab rat, but above all, a human being, deserving of rights and care. So when she saw the condition of Dolly’s body as a result of the researchers’ merciless experiments, she used her ability to learn more about her, and became even more outraged.

Sadly, nearly every adult in a white lab coat is a psychopathic, redeemable monster who tortures and murders children without blinking an eye. So it’s no surprise that her protests don’t just fall on deaf ears, but mocking laughter, which fuel a smoldering fire of hatred for The System in Mitori’s heart.

For dropping the nice girl act and breaking the rules, Mitori is held in solitary for months, never getting to see Dolly again. But one day her cell door is unlocked and she finds the place deserted. She vows to wage a one-woman campaign of vengeance against the Governing Board who approved what was happening to Dolly.

Her attempts ended in failure, mostly because she was acting alone and even 10,000 of her wouldn’t be enough to tough the bigwigs. Enter Kihara Gensei, who puts his trust in hatred and thus in their aligned desire to bring Academy City to its knees. Again Mitori picked the losing side and lost, this time to the good guys”.

Following Kuroko’s beatdown, Mitori lies in the sewer having utterly given up…until Misaki pays her a visit. She still has every intention of turning her over to Judgment, but before that, she has a personal matter to attend to and could use Mitori’s assistance. You see, the Dolly they know may be gone, but her memories were transferred to her clone sister, who is still alive…and they’re going to free her.

Where as everything involving her researcher handlers at the facility was about bending to their physical and psychological control, Misaki spares the Mental Out remote and plainly asks Mitori if she’ll accompany her. Aside from Mitori not having much else going on, Misaki knows that if Mitori felt the same way about Dolly as she did, she’ll gladly tag alone of her own free will.

Thanks to Misaki’s ability, the pair are able to easily infiltrate the facility and remove “Dolly II” from her stasis tube. A tearful reunion ensues, where again Mitori doesn’t have to put on any act; she’s overwhelmed by emotion upon finding this girl who is for all intents and purposes the same Dolly who knew and loved her, and whom she knew and loved.

This episode and scene in particular are the perfect way to wrap up the arc of Kozaku Mitori, who started out as a shadowy, one-dimensional baddie but soon evolved into a full-fledged character beyond black-and-white labels. Her alliance with the geezer and resulting actions may have been misguided, but everything she did was out of a desire to hurt those who hurt Dolly, and you can’t argue with that.

Misaki too, gets a nice catharsis in this reunion scene. At first she’s so guilty about misleading Dolly and failing to learn the whole picture before it was to late, and feels like she’s not entitled to forgiveness or affection. Dolly, of course doesn’t care about what happened in the past; what matters is that she, Misaki, and Mi-chan are together again. It’s what she’d been dreaming about in that tube, and now it’s a reality.

Thanks to Dolly, and her clone, Misaki and Mitori not only became strong individuals capable of setting their own courses in life, but were able to endure the cynicism and cruelty of the villainous scientific complex and retain their humanity. As Mitori tried to make clear to one of those villains, Dolly is a person, not a clone of fodder.

She also happens to be one of the best people, with a warm and kind soul. But even she wouldn’t be who she was (not to mention free of captivity) without her two friends. Hopefully they’ll never be separated again.

In other housecleaning, Mikoto’s circle of friends celebrates Kuroko finally being 100% and out of her wheelchair, and then Mikoto visits a recovering MISAKA in the hospital. But Mitori, Misaki, and Dolly were the refreshing narrative and emotional core of this epilogue, and I was more than fine with that.

The effects of their reunion seemingly carries across the network of Sisters, as MISAKA has a vague sense of deja vu and a sudden desire to visit the ocean. She’s most likely glimpsing Dolly’s beautiful dreams—which can now be a reality.

Dropped: RikeKoi

I couldn’t even get through the sixth episode, so it’s time to cut bait on this one. Himuro can be cute at times, but she and Yukimura are almost too (romantically) dumb to live, the art sucks, the science is very shaky and the show has become a repetitive snooze-fest.

RikeKoi – 05 – Experiments in Tedium

Meetings tend to be boring, and the first meeting we witness of the researchers and their professor, Ikeda, is no different. For one thing, Ikeda’s frequent “muscling up” routine isn’t particularly compelling.

For another, in reporting the results of their experimentation thus far to their professor, Himuro and Yukimura don’t add anything new for us, the audience. It feels like a recap, with further romantic progress halted so a heretofore unseen character can get brought up to speed.

Ikeda is intrigued by the research, but suggests that his students branch out to other subjects in order to amass more useful and accurate data. This is interpreted as branching out to the lab as a whole, which is only six people, only one of whom is remotely “normal” (Kanade).

The resulting experiments, in which Yukimura and Kanade share a straw (which is blocked by Himuro) and Ibarada and Inukai (childhood friends who know each other extremely well) have a competition to see who can raise the other’s heart rate the most, carry little scientific or comedic value. Frankly, the whole exercise felt like a drag.

RikeKoi is starting reveal the overarching flaw in its premise: Not whether two scientists can determine through science whether they love each other, but whether they should, and if that results in worthwhile entertainment. In the case of this episode, the answer is a firm “yah, no.”

RikeKoi – 04 – A Date Packed with Data

When Himuro and Yukimura show up to their first date in their normal lab outfits disputing the arrival time within hundredths of a second, things seem destined to go pear-shaped from there. Fortunately, Kanade and Kousuke are there to observe, document, and course-correct, so Kanade helps Himuro pick out more suitable garb.

The two also have a data-collecting app with which they can tally various reactions during the date, from a racing heart to uncertain thoughts. Yukimura is almost ready to hit the latter button when Himuro appears in a cute outfit, whereupon he spams the former button.

Things go pretty smoothly from there, until Yukimura hesitates when the itinerary calls for them to hold hands. Himuro decides to wait for the bus while he settles up the bill, but she’s confronted by a pickup artist who was just caught two-timing his girlfriend and ended up with no one.

Himuro skillfully, hilariously rejects this guy like he’s never been rejected before, providing a damn PowerPoint—magically created for just this instance!—illustrating the reasons why she won’t accept his invitation. When he forces the issue, Yukimura steps in, takes her hand from the guy.

He then makes an impassioned speech about how neither he nor Himuro have time to waste on “animals who have abandoned all reason” and storms away. He worries he made an ass of himself, but Himuro is duly impressed.

Yukimura proves a scaredy-cat in all things amusement park ride, but obviously Himuro doesn’t mind whenever he takes her hand for support, and is afraid of a couple rides herself, culminating in the two huddling together on the Ferris Wheel. Yukimura presents the gift of earrings, chosen using a mathematical formula created just for that decision.

Himuro is touched, and when Yukimura apologizes if they didn’t meet the “base conditions of a date”, Himuro presents the data collected thus far indicating her happiness increased exponentially. Furthermore, even if this data isn’t sufficient to prove their hypothesis, it invites the collection of more data, ergo more dates in the future.

RikeKoi – 03 – Just Get Married Already!

Fourth-year undergrad Inukai Kousuke takes the stage, and at least momentarily gives Ayano a crisis in confidence, since he mentions how he holds his current lover in his arms twice a day and has spent over 227,000 yen on her.

Then we learn he’s talking about 2D girls in dating sims. When Yukimura tells Kousuke he has nothing to be ashamed of Ayano again begins to doubt whether she’s really in love.

When Kanade reaches out during a break, Ayano regales her with a story from her past. When she was in elementary school she was bullied for loving pillbugs. One day, while in the woods, she’s approached by a boy who not only knows what she’s up to, but voices his respect for it.

When she blames the pillbugs, he tells her she’s ostracized not for her hobby, but for having a negative “halo effect” due to her unkempt appearance and standoffish body language.

His call for her to keep her head up and move forward boldly “with beauty and dignity” is something she’s taken to heart, and indeed inspired her not only to pursue a career in science, but as Kanade says, became the cool, beautiful egghead she strove for.

Yet Ayano still feels she’s only partway there as long as she’s unsure of her love. Kanade figures out pretty quickly that the boy Ayano met and was so inspired by and smitted with thirteen years ago was none other than Yukimura. Naturally, the two don’t realize they met each other so long ago.

Rather than try to convince them then and there that they’re soulmates who should by rights be married already were it not for their scientific stubbornness and romantic cluelessness. Better to give them a chance to figure it out for themselves by going on a date.

Neither of them has any problem with this. The problem is, they don’t know the first thing about dates. Enter their three lab-mates, who offer three different versions of how their ideal date would go.

Kanade’s, naturally, involves the teacher she adored in high school, and quickly turns into a sugary shoujo scenario. Kousuke’s involves his tsundere 2D sweetheart, who looks an awful lot like his real-life childhood friend Ibarada. Ibarada’s involves a BL version in which Ayano is a dude with a very detailed backstory.

Eventually they settle on an amusement park date, and calculate the most efficient route to access all 22 attractions. It’s clear they’re overthinking things, but when it comes to actually asking the other out, Yukimura initially pooh-poohs the idea, before asking Ayano out, resulting in her most adorable reaction yet.

RikeKoi – 02 – Love is the Secret Ingredient

This episode is told mostly from the point of view of Himuro and Yukimura’s kohai Kanade, who takes us through a typical day for a fourth-year undergrad at Saitama National University’s department of Information and Computer Science. The two lovebirds continue their dubious research into love, with Himuro calculating their hear rates while she sits on his lap and when he pets her head, activating her prehensile hair.

Then their senpai Ibarada Ena wakes up from her long slumber (she’s up all night playing up to three games at once) and tears down their experiment by pointing out it lacks a control. Who is to say anyone would raise Yukimura’s heart rate when they sit on his lap? When Ibarada sits on his lap and Yukimura pats Kanade’s head, very similar data is returned. Himuro is not happy, but I fear she’s too focused on one particular biological reaction.

Changing course, Himuro and Yukimura use the lab’s communal kitchen to test the theory that food made with love will taste better to the person eating it. Himuro cheats by writing a love message on one omelette but not the other, and Yukimura takes the hint and picks the “correct” dish, thus re-entering Himuro’s good graces. For putting up with their nonsense, Kanade is rewarded with a home-cooked hot meal to accompany the piles of papers she must read.

RikeKoi No. 2 lacks the novelty and energy of the first episode, and the show’s insistence on teaching us scientific jargon while rarely hewing to scientific accuracy is counterproductive (and occasionally patronizing). If you’re going to do a silly love story about two clueless science nerds, don’t bother trying to educate the audience—just go all out and have fun with it!

RikeKoi – 01 (First Impressions) – Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It

One morning, right in the midst of what is clearly their typical playfully adversarial tete-a-tete, grad student researcher Himuro Ayano tells her colleague Yukimura Shinya that she may be in love with him. Shinya replies that he “couldn’t say he harbors no affection” for her. Both are “science-types”—True Nerds—with zero romantic experience, so they decide to attempt to use their beloved scientific method to prove if “Himuro’s Love” is the same as love.

Thus two people who are geniuses in their particular fields undertake a fool’s errand, trying to quantify and analyze something as unscientific and inscrutable as love, stalwart in their absolute faith that everything can be expressed in data; in numbers.

While they may be correct that love and other emotions boil down to electrical signals in the brain, science is still a long way from interpreting them to the point of a surefire formula for what is or isn’t love. For one thing, it’s different from person to person!

Of course, that doesn’t stop the two lovebirds from trying via “experimentation”, i.e. wall slams and other close contact that increases heart rate. Much science-y bickering ensues, with their more normal kohai Kotonoha Kanade (an audience surrogate) stuck in the middle.

In many ways, this show echoes Kaguya-sama: Love is War, which also features to surpassingly competent and upstanding people who are utterly incompetent when it comes to matters of love. Yukimura and Himuro are similarly their own worst enemy by insisting on such a high and ultimately impossible standard for what love is rather than simply starting a relationship like normal people.

There’s a level of suspension of disbelief that two grad students as attractive as these two have never experienced romance until now, such late-blooming is far from inconceivable. I also felt the bear mascot explaining math brought the episode to a screeching halt, though I suspect he’ll appear in every episode.

There are also additional characters yet to be introduced who may make things more complicated, but with the unreliable sample size of one episode, I am willing to put forth the hypothesis that I like this show and its quirky couple and it’s worth watching! We’ll see if I’m proven right.

P.S. Like ReLIFE, another rom-com about late bloomers, RikeKoi is being released all at once, Netflix-style. I won’t binge it, but depending on if I stick with it (likely at this point) I’ll probably be watching/reviewing more than one episode per week.

Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 08

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Despite how improbable it looked at the end of last week, Takeru (and Ikaruga’s) chastity survives this episode, as her sister is early to pick her up. Before she says “bye-bye” (never a good thing for her) once more, she injects him with a muscle relaxant, telling him not to follow her because she loves him.

She may claim to know nothing about love or romance, but the fact she’s making this deal to protect Takeru and the others is a clear sign she’s evolved beyond the limitations of the design Alchemist intended. She’s gone from making weapons to sacrificing herself to save her new family.

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Naturally, as soon as Takeru gets the use of his legs back, and the girls get their freedom (and clothes) back, he immediately sets about defying Suginami’s wishes not to follow her. The 35th aren’t going to heed her desire to handle things herself, not if there’s a possibility they could lose her.

There’s a lot of great stuff here: Ootori and Mari, usually at each other’s throats, are still able to fight together when push comes to shove. As for Usagi, she convinces Ootori that it doesn’t matter how dark or dastardly Suginami’s past was, or what she intends to do. All Usagi wants is to bring the Suginami the loves back. 

And while yes, Takeru finally makes Lapis blush by praising her, Lapis quickly changes the subject as the platoon heroically deploys to rescue Ikaruga, all to a thumping techno track that really got me fired up for the battle.

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At Alchemist, Ikaruga reveals to Isuka her true intentions: to ensure the Elves are never resurrected, and to do what she should have done four years ago: get her sister the hell out of there. Isuka says she doesn’t want to leave, but she’s had modifications made to her that causes pain whenever she expresses emotions, so she’s not in a condition to think clearly.

She also shoots Ikaruga in the leg, which convinces her sister to use the nanomachines she’s implanted in herself to transform into some kind of Demon-Ikaruga who can wield antimatter. That’s a lot to swallow all at once, but then again Ikaruga is a pretty smart cookie, so fine.

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At any rate, she gradually wears Isuka down into admitting she feels something for her sister. Unfortunately, that’s just when Haunted decides to break up the sisterly chat and bury his arm into Isuka, a blow that turns out to be fatal. All along, Isuka had only been his pawn, and now that she’s of no further use to him, he wants to recruit Ikaruga. Her response is very appropriate: a hearty Go To Hell and a bullet to the head.

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Haunted exits stage right, but leaves a cyberdragon to deal with the platoon. He should have summoned a pair, because with Usagi at the controls of a railgun, Ootori watching Takeru’s back, and Mari replenishing Takeru’s mana when he runs out of his own, the gang is just able to take the dragon out and save Suginami.

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I say just, because Takeru risks everything on the hope one big final blow using all of the mana Mari gave him would be enough to defeat the one dragon. I like that despite the clear skills and teamwork the platoon possesses, they only win by the skin of their teeth. Of course, they were fighting one comrade short.

When the battle is over, the gang can relax, to the pont Mari gloats about saving everyone with her last minute mana infusion, to which Ootori calls her a “fuel tank”…which is a pretty creative insult. As usual, Suginami and Takeru stay above the fray, though she’s glad to be among them once more witnessing said fray.

And despite her earlier assertion she would not fall for Takeru’s smooth words, Sugi does succomb to a comforting head pat and a request that she talk to her friends in the future when she has a problem. She points out that not all girls like having their head patted, but tells him to keep doing it anyway. It’s not intercourse, but right then and there, it’s plenty.

As next week’s episode is titled “Crazy Summer Time”, I’ll be supremely shocked if the girls aren’t in swimsuits for at good part of it.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 07

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This week (and next) is dedicated to Suginami Ikaruga’s personal crisis. But she tells Kusanagi she won’t be “going gaga” over him like the other girls when he tries his noble “I’ll carry half your burden” line on her. He has no idea what she’s talking about, but he has noticed she’s acted different from usual lately, and he would know: the 35th Test Platoon started with just the two of them.

Back then, Kusanagi was beaten by her because he wouldn’t draw his sword on an unarmed opponent. That endeared him to Suginami, who above all seeks and love things that “stick out;” things that are unusual and beg for further study. And Suginami herself is very unusual compared to her fellow platoon-mates; this week we find out just how different.

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Director Ootori calls her a “designer child” created by the lab Alchemist with which Inquisition has always had tense relations. He also suspects Suginami knows of the whereabouts of something called a “Lost Matrix” which could theoretically be used to resurrect the elves, which is apparently a big deal in this world.

Her twin sister Isuka wants to do just that, so now is the time that Ikaruga finally seeks a deal : Isuka gets the matrix, but she gets to watch what becomes of it. Isuka, by the way, is no longer with Alchemist either, having thrown her lot in with Haunted and Valhalla.

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Takeru and the other girls end up following Suginami, but only he and Suginami get away from Isuka’s mercenaries; Ootori, Mari, and Usagi are taken into custody, stripped, poked and prodded by Isuka, who can find nothing exceptional about any of them. She wonders why her sister has become “friends” with such “normal” people (We know they’re not really normal, but Isuka is ignorant to their stories).

As for Ikaruga and Isuka’s story, the two were engineered to be the ultimate scientists; “weapons” with an uncontrollable “impulse for inquiry”. But it was clear in their younger years that Ikaruga got more and more curious about normal humans and their social structures, even “adopting” a wood elf she created (breaking the rules), which was later destroyed.

All this is to say that despite her antiseptic, inhuman upbringing and pre-programmed calling, Ikaruga does have human emotions, or at least more than her sister. She also has a grasp of right and wrong, as she shows despair at the horrors of the lab and, much later, showing affection for her friends by not involving them in her affairs, thus protecting them.

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Knowing her off-limits curiosity would eventually get her labeled as a “defective” Suginami, Young Ikaruga stole the Lost Matrix and broke out of Alchemist, leaving behind Isuka—who had no idea why she couldn’t just stay and keep doing research with her. But as we know from Ikaruga, she and her sister clearly define “things that stick out” in different ways.

She read about a bird who lost her mother, became a human, and had her own child, becoming a mother, and couldn’t help seeing herself in the fairy tale. She befriended Takeru, who thought and acted differently from almost everyone else. Even Usagi’s boobs “stick out”, so to speak, though they’re obviously not the only reason they became friends.

Now, holed up in her safe house with a bandaged Takeru, and little hope of living past the next day or so, Ikaruga wants to go out performing one more experiment of human behavior she wants to try before it’s all over: sex, specifically with Takeru; leading to one hell of a killer smash cut to credits.

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