Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 11 – Be Very Afraid

Kishima Nagi is on the mend, and wonders if her psychiatrist, Dr. Kisugi Makiko, thought her fits of pain were only in her head. Nagi doesn’t know that Kisugi discovered the vial of the mysterious drug Scarecrow used to heal her. Kisugi experiments on lab rats, but soon it’s clear she’s graduated to unwilling human test subjects, who are turning up all over town as the victims of a serial killer with a very specific method of ripping open the jaw and sucking out the victims’ brains.

At night Kisugi roams the dark halls of the hospital, preying on patients by heightening their fear (she’s capable of seeing someone’s weakness the same way Jin could see their flowers) then sucking the fear-filled blood like a vampire. She revels in being able to rip out her own eye only for it to regenerate; clearly she’s her own test subject as well, and she’s downright drunk on the fear of others.

She determines that the best-tasting fear comes from those who’d normally have none, like bold young women, which is why so many of her victims are high school girls. But as a psychiatrist she is also considering using her talk patients as food/research fodder. One of those patients is a young Miyashita Touka, sporting long hair and flanked by her mother, who fears she has Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This confirms that while we enter the world of Boogiepop with Touka as a high schooler, Boogiepop has been showing up in her body since far earlier. Excusing Touka’s mother, Kisugi has Touka talk like a man, and before long, her other personality is out, and wastes no time describing who they are (neither man nor woman, for one thing) and what their mission is.

Boogiepop tells Kisugi that she’s a predator for people so normal it’s easy for them to be “set off” like fuses into someone who could be a threat to the world. Boogiepop exists to eliminate threats to the world without mercy. Their discussion puts Kisugi on notice as someone who should probably stop what they’re doing lest they incur Boogiepop’s wrath, but it may be too late.

Kisugi doesn’t seem willing or able to control herself anymore; she’s in too deep. Though if there’s a bright side to all this, it’s that she won’t end up killing Touka as she considers here; we know Touka will be fine, and that her “disorder” won’t be “cured”, nor should it be. So the question is, how will Boogiepop, possessing Lil’ Touka, take Kisugi down? Or will Towa, whose serum she’s messing with, do it for them?

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Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 10 – Keep Calm and Scary On

Boogiepop and Others is hard enough to follow without having surplus episodes piled atop one another, but the day after last week’s conclusion to the Imaginator arc, that’s just what happened: four episodes dropping at once, comprising an entire arc. Because this first of the four had its own OP, ED, and self-contained story, I’ve decided to watch and review them each separately, as if they aired on different days.

This is the story of how Boogiepop got her admittedly bizarre name. She’s responding to a question from our favorite benevolent alien, Echoes, while the two are wandering a ruined, post-apocalyptic landscape. A stuffed animal that crumbles in his hand suggests it’s Earth of the distant (or not-too-distant) future. Wherever and whenever it is, it’s super creepy.

Boogiepop’s name origin story starts with a detective named Kuroda, AKA Scarecrow. Like Orihata Aya/Camille, he’s a synthetic human working for the Towa Organization. His colleague Pigeon gives him his next mission: checking up on fellow member Teratsuki Kyouichirou, suspected of betraying Towa. We learn from Kuroda that Towa is a vast network primarily dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of human evolution; both how we got to where we are, and what comes next.

Teratsuki kinda fades into the background as Kuroda finds someone more intriguing at one of his sprawling medical facilities: a young Kirima Nagi (younger than the previous episodes in which we’ve seen her). She notes that her somewhat unusual first name is based on the sentiment of “keeping calm no matter the situation”, and her personal situation is not optimal: diagnosed as “growing pains,” she has fits of pain so intense she can’t even describe it.

Nagi is also very much like the young woman we’ve seen in the present thus far: gorgeous, upbeat, direct, intensely curious, and dedicated to the truth: a natural detective in larval form. Once Kuroda gets past her guard (Naoko), he presents the results of her request for him to investigate her: he discovered her agent was embezzling her money and got him fired.

But despite all the qualities that make our Nagi Nagi in the present, this past Nagi is deeply uncertain and apprehensive about who and what she should become, if and when her condition is healed. Kuroda asserts that everyone feels that way on the road to coming into themselves. He himself dreamed of becoming a superhero who, unlike a detective, didn’t have to worry about all of the peripheral crap that comes with solving crimes. Just rush in, get the job done, and call it a day.

This perks Nagi up, and she says Kuroda should definitely become a superhero. Their visit is cut short when she starts having fits of pain, but when she grabs him, it leaves a raw mark, almost like a burn. That clinches it for Kuroda: Nagi is one of the “NPSLs” its his usual mission to locate. She’s evolving to the next stage…but it’s a rough gestation, which is keeping her in a hospital bed, unable to realize her own dreams.

Thus Kuroda—”Scarecrow”—decides to make a grand, superheroic gesture to Nagi, whom he’s decided to be the recipient of his heroism. He ransacks a Towa facilities to find a serum that would normally act as a catalyst for human evolution. Because Nagi is already evolving without it, administering it offsets the “possibility” that is tearing her apart from within. With one injection, he enables her to live the (relatively) normal human life she enjoys in the present.

While his act was both heroic and kind from the perspective of those of us rooting for Nagi to survive and thrive, it also broke a lot of Towa rules, and they send an assassin to eliminate him for his treachery against the organization. That assassin, Sasaki, is lightning quick of foot and deadly with a knife, but Kuroda demonstrates he can be pretty fast himself. While the two may look like a couple of regular-looking schlubs, they move like superheroes.

While Kuroda gets away, it isn’t before Sasaki gives him a wound from which he knows he won’t recover. That’s when a “reaper” appears, in the form of Touka, offering a chance to judge him favorably for doing something heroic for someone, even if it led to his demise.

Kuroda wonders if he’s speaking to a near-death delusion, but we know she’s really there. He calls her “creepy bubble”—like a boogieman that pops into and out of existence. Thus the title “Boogiepop”. When Sasaki finds Kuroda’s body, the Scarecrow is smiling, and why not? It may have cost his life, but he saved Kishima Nagi. For one night, he was a superhero. And one night was enough.

Ghost in the Shell: ARISE – Alternative Architecture – 02

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Unlike so many anime on the air today, Arise doesn’t hold your hand too much with long narrations or official introductions or long narrations. Instead, it tosses you into the deep end of its intricate cyberpunk narrative. You’ll either sink from the sheer weight of proper nouns, or swim among all the interesting ideas.

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I’m here writing this, so I was mostly able to navigate the occasionally opaque cybercop-talk of plots layered within plots. There’s a dense, sophisticated story unfolding, necessitating quite a bit of exposition, but it’s nicely balanced with—and sometimes, occupying the same space as—nifty bursts of good old-fashioned cop action.

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Standard fare like busting windows and firing guns, and setting off sprinklers are more setting-specific stuff like a robot containing the two minds of identical twins working together, or Motoko’s colleague being implanted with false memories until he’s not in control of his own body. Arise is a show that blows stuff up real good and makes your mind churn.

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As for Motoko, she’s fearless, reckless, and superbly competent, neither afraid of mussing her hair or losing a layer of synthetic skin tossing her body at attackers. She and Batou are almost as in sync as those cyber-twins in the heat of battle, tossing guns at one another and not flinching as each kills the bad guy behind the other.

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As to the plot: Emma Tsuda is identified as a tech officer under Motoko’s former 501 colleague, Lt. Col. Kurutsu, who was investigating a hacker known as “Scarecrow” whom apparently had the same disorder she had.

While Emma used cyberization to “structure her attenuating selfhood” (making herself more and more a “Tin Girl”, the “Scarecrow”, AKA Brinda Jr., achieves selfhood by dubbing ghosts, stealing bodies, and assuming the identities of others. The two live within Emma’s body, and though his brain and her heart are fading away, they yearn go on living together after death.

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These odd soulmates are unfortunately pawns in a bigger, more dastardly plot spearheaded by military bigwig (and somewhat scary-looking cyborg) Colonel Hozuki. She’s in cahoots with a foreign weapons cartel, and used Scarecrow to eliminate said cartel’s domestic competition, while trying to pass Emma off as the ringleader in a diversionary massacre.

Motoko and Batou follow Togusa and Emma to a thrilling dock standoff where Tin Girl and Scarecrow desperately transfer to a next-gen mecha. When Mokoto dives in to try to get more info on the virus, they flee again, only to be blown up by a warship just offshore. To top it off, Hozuki, supervising all this from her chopper, is herself hot down by the cartel, reaping what she’s sown.

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If I didn’t quite get all that right, please forgive me, for I watched this quite late at night, but suffice it to say Motoko and her team are rewarded for uncovering Hozuki’s plot by being given special authority, and tasked with continuing their investigations into the hacking virus, along with any organizations involved.

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Considering Motoko doesn’t wear a military uniform anymore (preferring a fetching red leather suit), it’s clear more authority and autonomy suit her just fine. These first two weeks of Alternative Architecture covered the events of the fourth and final Arise OVA, while the preview indicates we’ll be going back to when Motoko did wear a uniform.

So if it felt like we were just thrown right into the middle of everything—not a bad way to do things in this kind of setting, IMO—it’s because we were; now comes the backstory.

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Jormungand – 07

Valmer breaks formation and goes straight after Karen; the two duel in the snow with guns and knives. In the meantime, Jonah suggests they stay quiet until their inexperienced foes come out of hiding so they can pick them off. In the city, Koko enjoys a Chinese dinner with Chang, while Hugo has her back and both Scarecrow and his sidekick Chocolade eavesdrop. Chang asks Koko to join forces; she refuses. When Valmer is finished with Karen, all of Chang’s men are dead, and they phone it in. Koko tells Chocolade about a trap waiting for them. In exchange for her warning, Scarecrow lets Koko and Hugo escape with them. In the end, Doctor Miami gives Koko the slip once more.

We like Sophia Valmer. She’s a complicated lass; simultaneously infatuated with her beautiful young boss Koko and haunted by voices and images from her bloody past. In a way, she reminds us of Roberta from Black Lagoon, only before she went totally apeshit crazy. She makes surprisingly quick work of Karen, who’d we’d only seen in action against small fries, and whose gunblades proved ineffective against her older, wiser, stronger opponent. Valmer didn’t get a lot out of Karen, but she did see a little of her younger self in her, and gained a new enemy who will try to kill her when next they meet. Let’s face it, you can never have enough off them!

We liked the A/B stories running in tandem, cutting from the cold night in the mountains to the warm, luxurious restaurant in the city. Koko and Chang are really only sitting back and waiting to see whose team will be left standing. We like the addition of Chocolade to provide a pragmatic voice to Scarecrow, and Koko’s little meeting with her in the toilet stall was pretty funny way to confide. We also like how Hugo had to keep an eye on how much Koko had to drink. As for Doctor Miami, she was able to stay a step ahead of all the arms dealers for another day; at least in this two-parter, she was merely a McGuffin.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Jormungand – 06

After successfully repelling pirates, Koko’s freighter makes it to South Africa. Her aim is to meet with the eccentric roboticist Amada Minami AKA Doctor Miami at the DIESA weapons expo. Miami’s a no-show, but they get the GPS of the location where she’s searching for rare butterflies (probably in the Drakensberg). Koko runs into Curry & Co., who plans to pull out of Southern Africa. She also meets Chang of the Daxinghai Group, who invites her to dinner. Her team heads to the mountains to retrieve Miami, but Chang has sent a force ahead of them, led by his lieutenant, Karen, who wields the same gunblades (though not the same wielder) that took Valmer’s eye.

One criticism that can never be leveled against Jormungand is that it lacks strong female characters. In most cases, they’re stronger than their male counterparts. The only problem is, most of them are also a little nuts. After this episode, we can add Karen Luo (Lo? Low?) to the already healthy roster of badass hot chicks with guns. Not only can she bring down Scarecrow’s massive bodyguard with her bare hands (and garterbelted legs), she also reprimands underlings who give away their positions by killing them herself. This lady isn’t going to tolerate incompetence, and if she has to do the job herself, she seems willing.

Karen wants revenge for friends killed in the past under Koko’s brother’s orders…starting with Doctor Miami. If Koko’s guard gets in the way, she aims to sweep them aside. While there’s certainly a personal side to this job, she’s also working on orders from Chang, who is polite and kind to Koko, but probably has not-so-savory plans in store for her if Karen can wipe out her aegis. That makes us wonder  just what Kasper would do (if anything) if an enemy indeed captured his cute little sis. Also, we’re in Africa, so far better known as “The Place Where Valmer Lost Her Eye and Endured Other Hardships.” When she sees those gunblades in Karen’s hands, she drops her rifle. That can’t be good.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)


Car Cameo:
Most of Koko’s team piles into a Volkswagen Touareg 2.