Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 12 (Fin)

z121

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.

z122

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.

z123

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.

z124

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.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Average Rating: 7.750
MyAnimeList Score: 7.38

Advertisements

Life imitating art in Crimea

crimea

It’s come to our attention a certain newly-appointed government official in a certain recently-annexed (and still internationally unrecognized) autonomous republic in far eastern Europe has caused a bit of an internet sensation all her own (she even reacted to it).

The republic in question is Crimea, and the official in question is Natalia Poklonskaya. We wouldn’t be surprised if former Ukranian PM Yulia Tymoshenko was also the subject of anime fan art (Hint, she is.)

You’re more likely to see impressively-uniformed stoic old men sitting behind microphones at press conferences in the real world, but attractive young women in high military/government positions are far more plentiful in the world of anime. In the past few seasons of shows we’ve been watching alone, there have been a bunch:

New JOIR PM Sashinami Shouko (Valvrave)
Fleet Commander Ridgett (Suisei no Gargantia)
Lt./Capt./Deputy C-in-C Amane (Majestic Prince)
Director Chouno Ami (Girls und Panzer)
1Lt. Takamura Yui (Muv-Luv Alternative)

shirasagi

As for Poklonskaya-chan, we couldn’t help but compare her more specifically to a young woman who has also been recently installed in a similar role in a similarly annexed territory, namely Secretary Shirasagi Miki, formerly White Egret of White Light, now working for Tokyo Governor Jimon and overseeing the annexation of West Udogawa.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 11

zvez1111

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.

zvez12

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.

zvez113

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.

zvez114

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

zvez101

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.

zvez102

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.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 09

zvez91

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.

zvez92

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.

zvez93

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.

zvez94

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.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 07

zvez71

Going into the treasure hunt, we predicted Renge would be forced to choose a side, as her new friends Kate and Roboko were being targeted by her superior White Egret, disguised as Madame M. The hunt is just a means to and end: exposing and capturing Zvezda members, but Kate and Natasha take over and make it a real thing. This could mean that part of Kate’s power is making her own whims, wishes, and beliefs come true through manipulation of time and space, a talent akin to Suzumiya Haruhi’s.

While Renge is a member of White Light to better herself and fight evil, Mikisugi seems to take pleasure in looking down on people; she teases Kate and arrogantly tries to shoo off Renge by phone, only to be talked down to herself by her superiors. A box of men is released on the school when Kate activates a trans-dimensional portal in the pool, and White Light’s operation is cancelled. And even though Asuta often questions the validity of his fellow Zvezdans’ wild theories about history and mythology (the voice of reason keeping the show honest), even he can’t deny the fantastic stuff that goes on this week.

zvez72

Kate drags him into that dimension, then wanders off, and next time he sees her, she’s a towering shadow monster demanding he let her conquer him. He chases her back into the regular world, where he happens to have his Dva mask on when he bumps into Renge. Kate unleashes a massive attack that appears to disperse all parties involved, but the flurry of dark seals stops before it reaches Asuta and Renge. Everything returns to normal abnormalcy, and the item conquered this week by Zvezda could be Asuta’s skepticism.

It could also mark the conquest of the last remnants uneasiness with his new life with Zvezda. The school, his last sanctuary of normalcy, was invaded by Zvezda, White Light, and the Tokyo Special Forces, but he’s not that upset about it. What makes him upset is the final twist we never saw coming: those Special Forces are under the direct command of Tokyo’s governor, who just happens to be Asuta’s estranged father. That means he knows about UDO and Zvezda; it could also mean he knows where his son is and what his son is up to. That is, if people in this show weren’t so easily fooled by masks.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Gorou can do Morse Code by foot…but not well.
  • Asuta really doesn’t want to do the “Treasure Dance”, but Renge, Natasha and Roboko goad him into it with incessant chanting. Renge smiling when she knew she’d won was a nice little detail.
  • Kate doesn’t remember anything about the evening after she and Asuta jumped into the pool, which means Asuta was the only person who remembers that bizarre stone version of the school sitting in the desert.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 06

zvezda61

Working his ass off as indispensable all-round doer of cooking, laundry, cleaning, and TP acquisition, school is Jimon’s last refuge. So naturally in the cold open he has that refuge snatched away by the surprise transfer of Kate and Roboko to his class. They and the rest ofo Zvezda aren’t there for Jimon, but for the “Udo Bride”, an ancient treasure Kate learns about by a dubious flyer published by the “Treasure Club.”

With Renge and Jimon’s secret identities secure, the sudden arrival of his colorful “cousins” doesn’t faze her; on the contrary, she swoons when she learns Jimon proposed to the school idol Shirasagi Miki when he was little (though he was instantly shot down). It’s kinda funny and ridiculous that the school accepts a grade-schooler and a robot to middle school, while Iitsuka and a fully-clothed Natasha look more at home. Meanwhile Gorou is ingeniously disguised as a bronze bust in the courtyard.

zvezda62

That first scene with Miki seemed random, but sets the stage for the Treasure Club mystery: it’s all another elaborate ploy by Shirasagi, AKA White Egret, AKA Madame M (lotta aliases pilin’ up!) to trap Zvezda, whose members she’s identified by the UDO levels they gave off while at the club meeting (the inexplicably interactive film reel was a nice touch). As Egret she ordered Renge to stay home, but the fact Renge couldn’t stay away (and indeed is so enthusiastic she shows up in full adventurer’s kit) could be a potential wrench in her gears.

This episode was full of interesting interactions between people who’d normally be enemies warming up to each other at school. In that regard, where Zvezda and Renge are concerned, it’s every bit a sanctuary and “neutral space” to them as it had been for Jimon. But Shirasagi is poised to ruin all that by unmasking the Zvezdians (her flyers will serve double duty as Zvezda power-negating talismans, another clever touch). Renge could learn Jimon and her new friends are all members, meaning she’ll have to pick a side.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • We noticed Roboko was eating her udo lightly grilled; nice continuity!
  • Not sure where Jimon dredged up tha “Treasure Dance” thing, but it sure was weird…and the positive, reverent reaction to it was even weirder!
  • The episode never forgets for a moment that Kate is at the end of the day a little kid, who doesn’t conserve her energy and ends up falling asleep all the time
  • To that end, we like how she initially tried to use a more polite, formal affectation while at school, but the more tired she got, the more she just forgot to use it, confusing Renge.
  • Roboko’s Schoolgirl mode made her sound a lot more like Morita Moe. We also liked how she was prepared to punish Jimon should his insulting of Kate continue.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 05

zvezda51

Who would’ve thought both Jimon Asuta and Komadori Renge are chronic sufferers of both Voice-Blindness and Hair-Blindness? After all, neither of them had realized they were right on top of one another in a batle between Zvezda and White Light, despite the fact both have fairly distinctive hair and neither disguises their alter-ego’s voice. We know, anime have a certain license when it comes to disguises, so we’ll forgive the fact it takes Asuta seeing a much less noticeable detail than Renge’s purple twin-tails—her homemade strap—to figure out she’s White Robin.

What’s a little harder to forgive is that after teetering so close to the two finding out what their “secret jobs” are, the show pulls up at the last minute. Letting it happen would have been brassy, and there was potential in the scenario of Renge and Asuta knowing each others’ secret identities but maintaining their friendship, with the challenge of keeping it secret from their respective organizations. It would shake up his non-Zvezda life for the first time since, well, running away from home, which happened offscreen anyway.

zvezda52

About that: knowing full well that White Robin is Renge, Asuta saves her from Kate and Natasha’s terrifying tentacle boss, essentially committing an act of treason against Zvezda not just to save Renge’s life, but to save her from being unmasked and publicly humiliated. That part actually wasn’t bad, because it reiterates the fact Asuta still finds all this Zvezda business a bit silly. He knows Renge is trying her best to be a better person, like him. He won’t stand by and let others burn that down for no reason.

But then Renge had to be wearing a mask under her mask, making it so Asuta now thinks White Robin is a stranger. It’s the easy way out. But no one says she won’t unmask him one day, and they’ll be back at that intriguing crossroads we got a taste of this week. If nothing else, we did get to watch a lot of Asuta/Renge interactions, something we’re a fan of since they have such a natural, relaxed rapport. Her fair, earnest response to him saying he wanted to conquer the world was particularly sweet.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We liked Asuta’s protests to all the histrionic exposition regarding White Light. There’s only so much BS he can take in one sitting.
  • That being said, we think Zvezda’s definitely rubbing of on him, as he snaps covert photos of Renge all day, sneaks into the girls locker room and rifles through her things, all rash actions he wouldn’t have undertaken prior to becoming “Dva.”
  • We enjoyed all the coded dialogue between Renge and Asuta, accurately expressing their moods while keeping the details secret.
  • As an example that the conquests vary greatly in scale from week to week: this week Kate merely conquers the low bar back flip…barely.