Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 12 (Fin)

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Zvezda looked down and out, and we were honestly at a loss in predicting how they were going to dig out of the hole they found themselves in. After all, we left last week with Galatika toast and Kate and Itsuka surrounded by guys with guns, with only big words to bandy. Defeat against Governor Jimon seemed inevitable barring a miracle. They got several.

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Kate may be up against the wall, but aside from passing out for nap time, she never abandons her belief that she will ultimately prevail over the cigar-chomping boob of an adversary. The final battle is an highly amusing push-and-pull: Jimon has his magic shield, magic cigar smoke, and giant retro mecha, but Kate has Dva, Natasha and her tentacle monster, Roboko in human disguise (complete with Total Recall-style transformation), who snatchs the real Galatika from the traitor Yase, and White Robin, who helps out the bad guys and coaxes White Egret to her side.

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Even Pepel/Goro revives, woken up by White Falcon/Kaori, who turns out to have a thing for him. We’ve been listening to Maaya Sakamoto voice Lightning for going on forty hours, so it’s fun to hear her as Kaori, whose voice is more emotional and varied than Light’s. Some units of the JSDF defect to Zvezda, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Kate taking over the driving of Plamya’s motorcycle, flashing her inexpirable license to Asuta when he asks.

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It’s a totally absurd, logically dubious hyper-stylized final confrontation, but full of Zvezda’s trademark charm, wit, and internal commentary about how absurd and logically dubious things are. In other words, a fitting way to end. The crass nihilism of Governor Jimon falls to the optimism, spunk, and gregariousness of Zvezda. Life returns pretty much to normal, but only briefly: a Zvezda-like organization from New York fires the first shot in the next battle, one that actually sounds more fun than the one against the stodgy governor…a teaser for a possible sequel, perhaps. But for now, we’ll bask in the light of Zvezda.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Average Rating: 7.750
MyAnimeList Score: 7.38

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Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 11

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With Roboko in pieces, Natasha strung up like a chicken behind force-fields, and Goro in some kind of stasis, Zvezda continues to reel this week on the edge of total defeat. Hope still lives while Kate is free, protected by Itsuka, but her treasured doll Galatika is in Governor Jimon, who is annexing West Udogawa once and for all.

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Asuta and Renge are on the run, constantly moving from one place to another as the special forces hunt them. It’s fun to see the two working together to survive after being on different sides for so long without knowing it. But along with the doll-less Kate, they’re unable to go on the offensive.

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That changes when West Udogawa’s leader, who is harboring Kate, manages to get her one last canister that allow her and Itsuka to transform and make their stand at the very public annexation ceremony that Jimon always meant to be an execution as well, if Venera showed up. She does, and Jimon stirs the pot by destroying Galatika with the acrid black smoke from his cigars. So yeah, like the Prime Minister in Samurai Flamenco, Governor Jimon is some kind of superhuman.

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We flashback to ancient days when Kate first stopped growing in order to gain the power to conquer; we also see Jimon’s wife leave him and the family fall apart because his job is all that matters to him. We’re a little fuzzy on why Asuta “rejects” Renge and the two part ways, but his ambition to live in a world where people can make their own decisions is admirable. He need only brush Evil SuperDad aside and he’ll be golden!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 10

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We’re only hearing about this now, but apparently all of Japan is locked in a brutal civil war between Tokyo and the rest of the country, and Tokyo is winning. Only the district of West Udogawa has remained neutral, but the threat of Zvezda is used as an excuse to invade. This week Zvezda’s HQ is destroyed and its members apprehended one by one.

The show attempts to preserve its laid-back, tongue-in-cheek, optimistic tone throughout, but there’s still a pall of despair and desperation over everything. Without their lair or transforming powers, Zvezda is just a bunch of wide-eyed dreamers in ridiculous garb hiding in a playground, but Governor Asuta (on his own conquest kick) has decided now is the time to snuff them out once and for all.

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To that end, White Light is absorbed by the Tokyo Special Forces, with Falcon becoming a city hall stooge, Egret installed as new commander of the puppet force, and Robin given the task of helping round up what’s left of Zvezda, knowing Asuta’s among them. It’s here where her fierce personal justice—for which she was originally recruited by Falcon—tells her she’s on the wrong side.

As if to clear her vision of the artificial justice the powers that be purport to uphold, Renge sheds her mask, stands between Zvezda and the guns. Asuta decides to surrender to his father, but as far as his father’s concerned, he’s a casualty of conflict. Renge whisks him away just in time, but as the curtain falls on the episode, they, like Zvezda, are still on the run with very little in the way of power. We’ll be watching with great interest to see if and how their justice serves them in the closing acts.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 09

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Apparently it was onsen week, as Samurai Flamenco, Nisekoi, and now Zvezda all featured hot springs. Of the three, we’d have to say Zvezda’s offering was the most creative and impactful. Having both White Light and Zvezda hold their company retreats at the same hot spring, and not knowing the either would be there, is both silly and brilliant—as is having the elderly innkeepers be on opposite sides.

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When White Robin bumps into Dva, one would think Robin would immediately engage in combat, but it doesn’t go that way; Dva buys her a soda and they simply relax in this neutral place. After all, both “companies” are there to relax; maintaining a truce with the enemy keeps things from getting unrelaxed. But thanks to White Egret, a battle breaks out anyway.

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While not happy with Miki picking a fight with Dva, Falcon decides to launch an all-out assault. Watching different halves of the assembled “employees” pull off their robes to unveil their true colors was a great bit of stagecraft, and the innkeepers duelling as Kate dozes below them is both thrilling and hilarious (Kate shows a lot of her kid-side this week by being immodest in the bath, conquering milk, and getting drowsy when its her bedtime). What was really cool was how casually Renge learned that Egret and Dva were Miki and Asuta all along.

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Asuta still doesn’t know Renge is Robin, but we thought it was significant that Robin saved Dva before she knew who he was—not because she was betraying White Light, but because she didn’t see him as a threat. Now she knows, and her immediate reaction is tentative. As the war between White Light and Zvezda escalates (it sure looks like Yase betrayed Zvezda and their HQ has been blown up), there will probably be more instances when Renge will have to choose what matters more: duty or love.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 04

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Like every far-flung, wacky Zvezda adventure Jimon Asuta has ended up on, this latest one has a very modest, innocent start: he cooks Roboko’s typically raw udo. That becomes a much bigger deal than he thought because A.), Roboko only eats raw udo; B.), raw udo is Roboko’s sole energy source, and C.), that was the last of the udo in the kitchen. When he heads down to the basement (50m underground) he finds a huge growth of udo (looking very similar to the core of Laputa, by the way) and learns that the entire Zvezda HQ runs on the stuff. But something’s no right: the udo starts to die, and all the lights go out. Adventure time!

It’s the ease and deftness with which Zvezda snowballs little incidents that makes it such a fun show to watch; like Space Dandy, it keeps you on your toes, not knowing quite what’s going to be on the menu from week to week. This also makes sense, as Zvezda is commanded by a little girl who can be fickle, impulsive, and just downright random, and also needs afternoon naps. This week the mission to find the original udo is undertaken by Asuta, Kate, and Natasha, about whom we learn a lot more. Last week we got Gorou and Yasu’s story, but Natasha’s story gets a lot more texture and depth, as the trio descends further into the “Super Ancient Udogawa Civilization.”

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What also gets a lot of texture and depth is the vast, crazy underground setting itself; from Natasha’s little 8-bit locator device to the montage of RPG-like battles and events to the alien look of the place, it’s definitely a pleasing change of scenery full of neat little details. There’s a great sense of occasion and grandeur to the journey, which for Natasha becomes a journey to her past, which she must confront in order to complete the mission. While her childhood story starts out relatively normal—she reclusive child who spent her waking hours building robots—it takes a bizarrely intriguing (and very apropos for Natasha) twist.

The foray into the past starts with a dream that Natasha has while sleepwalking into Asuta’s bed. Natasha isn’t quite clear about it, but she either ran away from home, like Asuta, when her parents insisted she stop inventing, or they weren’t her parents at all and took her to the “land of the faeries”—Ancient Udogawa. In any case, she was alone and lost—and then she wasn’t—when she met Roboko and then Kate, to whom she swore fealty. It’s fitting then that Roboko saves her again from the dark, shadowy echoes of her past, giving Kate and Asuta time to pollinate the Udo. Any charges of a deus ex machina are negated by this simple fact: Roboko could eat cooked Udo all along; she just hadn’t gathered the courage to try it.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 03

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First, a confession: we’re not tobacco smokers; never have been. They just didn’t agree with us, unless we were very drunk, and even then, we paid a price the next day. That being said, we’ve always been very accepting of smokers’ right to smoke. We once lived with three smokers at once. When laws banned smoking in most bars, we felt like the bars lost their ambiance. And of course, we grew up seeing heros and villains alike enjoying a good smoke, and usually looking pretty cool while doing so.

Kate and Natasha aren’t like us. They’re not willing to live and let live with smokers. With them it’s Zero Tolerance Total Ban with no quarter for those who transgress, even their own comrade, Yasu, who has a history of misbehavior. We learn that he and Gorou were once gangsters who were in a tight spot and were saved by Kate; they apparently joined Zvezda not long after that. Gorou maintained a healthy fear of Kate’s power when she’s serious; a power we see as she battles the smokers of West Edogawa.

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Kate also possesses tremendous charisma and is able to rally previously scared and frustrated masses of fellow non-smoking residents into a fearsome army of “Smoke Busters.” Yasu’s little mini-revolt doesn’t last long once he sees Kate flash the same red eyes he saw when she was standing atop a pile of bodies, and goes back to Zvezda with his tail between his legs (though he still doesn’t swear off cigarettes.) As for the last bastion of smokers, they seem to turn into soulless ghouls milling around the street. Zvezda heads home, and everyone ends up back in their cozy little spaces.

So if this episode felt too preachy and mean to smokers, remember we’re talking about the whims of a little girl who feels very strongly about the subject. And at the end of the day, she isn’t wrong: second-hand smoke is dangerous. It comes down to moderation in opposition to an action: Kate has none, and is powerful enough not to bother with any. We’re reminded of a kid on This American Life (listen here) who tried to force his family to stop eating meat. His mom made him (grudgingly) admit that he didn’t get to decide what other people are allowed to eat. Of course, if this kid could summon a giant foe-smiting fist, things would be different….

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 02

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Jimon Asuta seems to be happiest at school, a place where he can forget about his problems and expand his knowledge. The problem is, it’s not a boarding school, and after a certain time, the students have to go hope. The school goes by all too quickly for Asuta (School Bell REEEMIX!), at which point his problems reappear: he’s starving and he has nowhere to go. He can’t very well shack up with Renge; this isn’t Chu2Koi!

Yet even under these circumstances, Asuta is weary of following Shikabane Itsuka to Zvezda HQ. Like any healthy lad, he fears the unknown, and would rather not complicate his life even more. But because Itsuka has a sword (and a very intricately-detailed one, at that) and he can’t seem to outrun her, Zvezda HQ is where he ends up anyway. And it’s exactly what you’d expect a secret society led by a weird little girl to look like: Howl’s Moving Castle’s distant cousin, with some Chuck-E-Cheese tubes mixed in for good measure. It’s whimsical and cool-looking (and we later learn it can be hidden from prying eyes).

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When Jimon and Itsuka go inside, there’s a normal genkan with slippers waiting for them, but we still felt a somewhat sinister aura coming off the walls deeper in; as if it was in Jimon’s best interest to stick close to Itsuka lest he Fall Down the Rabbit Hole. Natasha confirms this in her matter-of-fact warning to him, which she delivers while riding a contraption that allows her to move about while lying supine (clearly, comfort is a priority with her). Aside from that, the base is essentially a dorm with rotating chores, where he’s the new guy whose name no one can remember.

There’s a lot of attention to detail this week, both visually (dining room chairs embroidered with the Zvezda logo) and aurally (Roboko’s myriad mechanical sound effects). Not surprisingly, Itsuka is a terrible cook (her food is pixelated; a nice touch) and everyone is afraid to confront her about it, but watching Jimon’s reaction after taking a bite—in which he transcends time and space and possibly catches a glimpse of the beginning of the universe—really drives the point home.

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After Zvezda defeats the giant monster-of-the-week—for which Itsuka’s cooking is indirectly responsible—Jimon is the one who throws caution to the wind and finally calls her out on it. He has to endure her threats for a bit, but ultimately, his cajones led to him finding his place within Zvezda as their cook; turns out, he’s as good at it as she is bad. Ironic that his first act of courage is not in the face of an enemy, but an eventual ally (and Ise Mariya really lays on the surly.)

But not everything is peaches and sunshine: Zvezda has an archenemy in White Light, of which Jimon’s friend/crush Renge is a member (with the alias “White Robin”.) She even encounters Jimon while in her chic White Light garb, but he doesn’t recognize her. Right now he may just be happy he has a place where he can crash after school and be useful. But if he’s joining Zvezda, he can probably kiss Renge’s friendship goodbye.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)