Astra Lost in Space – 02 – Not Here to Make Space Friends

The Astra lands on the planet Valvrave Vilavurs, a lush planet teeming with flora, fauna, and water to stock up for the twenty-day journey to the next stepping stone in space. Kanata distributes tasks to the crew, but encounters immediate resistance from Quitterie, who doesn’t seem interested in doing anything dangerous. As if being lost in space wasn’t already dangerous…

After encountering a giant dragon-like flying beast with a turtle-like head (hence the name “tur-gon”), most of the crew heads into the forest to forage amongst all manner of alien critter and trampoline tree, while Ulgar and Yunhua, the quietest of the group so far, fill the Astra’s water tanks from a nearby stream.

What had been a jolly good time turns into a nightmare when the singularity reappears, with space staring at them from the other end. This time, however, everyone manages to get away, thanks in part to Aries’ photographic memory…and because the sphere may well have “given up”, if it’s capable of that kind of thought.

Back on the ship, Quitterie reiterates her desire to make friends with precisely no one, then makes it that much harder on herself by telling her sister Funicia she’s not really even her sister, then running off, requiring everyone to head back out to look for her. Zack, her childhood friend, explains that she’s always found it hard dealing with people or making friends since she was basically raised by dutiful servants.

Funi, who was later adopted by Quitterie’s absentee doctor mother (and not welcomed by Quitterie) gets separated and ends up on a trampoline tree as it stretches up vertically towards the setting sun (neat tree, that). This puts her in prime position to be snatched up and eaten by a tur-gon.

To stop that from happening, Kanata takes action when no one else will, finding the tree closest to the cliff and using his decathlete skills to run and jump from tree to tree until he’s close to Funi. Unfortunately, a tur-gon grabs her, but he uses Luca’s javelin to injure it, and it drops Funi harmlessly back to the treetop.

Kanata manages to reach her, but loses his footing and falls backwards over the edge. Like Funi when she was captured, or Aries and Kanata’s troubles in open space last week, this show loves almost killing off members of its large cast, and since I’m still new to this show, it hasn’t yet been clear that it won’t actually follow through and do it for real at some point.

But not this time, as Quitterie makes herself useful and launches a series of parachute plants (also neat, those), one of which catches Kanata, who gently drifts down to solid ground. Quitterie thanks Kanata and apologizes for her behavior thus far, and Kanata’s quick-thinking and heroism cements his role as the consensus captain, with Charce as his second-in-command.

With Kanata now in a place of leadership, his hard work finally paying off, and Quitterie finally being honest about actually wanting friends and family, not to mention everyone having more than their share of delicious tur-gon meat, the crew is sitting pretty after the first completed leg of their 5,000 light year-plus interstellar odyssey.

But Zack informs Kanata of a disturbing discovery he’s made: the communications system was sabotaged…recently. That means it was either done just before they boarded the ship…or there’s a traitor in their midst. Absent any evidence, I suspect Ulgar the most, since he’s so quiet and standoffish, but I’m not sleeping on it being Yunhua, or Charce, or heck, even Zack himself, trying to cast away suspicion on himself by reporting it.

One thing’s for (mostly) sure…it’s not Kanata or Aries. But who ever it is (if it indeed is one of them), the mystery adds a measure of looming peril to what has otherwise been an bloodless quest. The crew has been extremely lucky to survive their trials so far. That luck can’t hold out forever.

Advertisements

Astra Lost in Space – 01 (First Impressions) – The Final Frontier: Getting Along

ALiS immediately sets the mood and grabs our attention by throwing us into the inky nothingness of space to float with poor Aries Spring (Minase Inori). She has no idea how she got there, but is understandably terrified, until she spots someone approaching her with an open hand.

Now that we know how bad things are going to get for Aries, the narrative rewinds back to the day Aries sets of for the five-day “Planet Camp.” Shortly after arriving at the spaceport, her bag is stolen, but the very fit and valorous Hoshijuma Kanata gets it back…only to be arrested by cop-bots.

No matter, Aries and Kanata eventually join their six fellow high school students (plus one little sister with an alter-ego in the form of a hand puppet) at the gate and before you know it, they’re on a 9-hour FTL journey to Planet McPa.

The meetup at the gate and the trip paint the characters in broad strokes, but the bottom line is they’re all very different personalities—pretty typical for a Lerche show. Within a couple minutes of setting foot on McPa, those clashing personalities are immediately tested by a weird floating orb, which I’ll just call a singularity. One by one, it sucks up the students who can’t outrun it.

After a very trippy visual sequence, everyone finds themselves floating in space, near a planet that doesn’t quite look like McPa. You couldn’t ask for a more nightmarish scenario, especially considering these are just kids with zero experience in space. Fortunately, there’s a spaceship in orbit, just within the range of their thruster suits.

They head to the ship, open the thankfully unlocked hatch, and climb aboard. There’s a grand sense of adventure afoot, and the music really helps to sell it. That’s when they realize there are only eight of them—poor Aries is still out there, drifting further and further away.

With insufficient fuel for a two-way trip in their suits, Kanata decides to use a tether to reach Aries, and we return to the end of the cold open, with Kanata reaching out to take Aries’ hand…only his rope is just too short. Disaster! Whatever to do? Kanata decides to go for broke and detach himself from the tether so he can grab an eternally grateful Aries.

But while they’re safe for the moment, there’s another problem: on the way back Kanata runs out of fuel, but his trajectory is five degrees off, meaning he and Aries will fly right past the ship. It’s time for the others, putting aside their initial differences to create a human chain outside of the airlock that snags Aries and Kanata and pulls them aboard.

That’s when they learn of several more problems—there are always more problems in space than in…not space, after all. They’re 5,012 light years, or more than three months, away from home, with only enough water for 20 days and only enough food for three.

With the aid of Zack Walker, he of the 200 IQ and spaceship license, he manages to calculate a route that will enable them to resupply at planets within twenty days of one another…but there’s only one possible route. Even so, the fact that there’s a remotely feasible plan bolsters everyone’s spirits.

With hope in their hearts (and probably very little food in their stomachs) Kanata is chosen as their captain, and they all take their places as the ship’s FTL activates, and they head off, through hardships, to the stars, on a very simple mission: Get Home Safe.

The last act seems to blow by extremely fast as solutions present themselves almost too easily, and while many members of the cast showed different sides, the jury is still out on others, but over all this was a strong start to a good old-fashioned space adventure. No convoluted factional conflicts or supernatural chosen ones…just nine kids probably in over their heads, but who have no choice but to grow up and do the best they can.

Fate/Grand Order: First Order

fgo11
“Who are you callin’ a foo?”
What do we have here? A Fate/stay night spin-off involving a time-travelling, future-saving organization. The first fifteen minutes are full of interminably dull introductions and info-dumping, including those of the supposed two leads, Fujimaru and Mash, who are also dull.

There’s also Fou, a weird white squirrel thingy that wears clothes, makes awful high-pitched sounds, and generally doesn’t need to exist, and Director Olga Aminusphere, who aside from having an obnoxious name, seems like a low-rent Tousaka Rin.

fgo12
When the doctor’s the highest-ranked officer left in your compound, time to start worrying
First Order essentially blows up that dull beginning by putting Fujimaru and Mash in an emergency situation that has them travelling back to 2004 where the outcome of a standard Fate-style Holy Grail War has ended up suspended for some reason.

Mash becomes a demi-servant prior to dying, with the inexperienced “commoner” Fujimaru becoming her master, to the chagrin of the aristocratic Olga.

fgo13
Dark Saber – Almost worth the price of admission
The two dull protagonists must, with the limited help of Olga and a lot of help from a particularly helpful (and badass) Caster, take out the remaining “dark” versions of Archer and Saber, in order to end the Holy Grail War and correct the singularity that is dooming humanity’s future.

If that sounds a bit vague, it is. And while there’s a bit of a thrill seeing the heroic spirits back in action, albeit on different sides, it’s all a bit bloodless. No, not literally; there’s plenty of blood, but the dead, empty city isn’t the most exciting stage for otherwise cool-looking battles.

fgo14
“Look Mash, I’m helping!”
Mash’s transformation into demi-servant may have been a sign of her inner courage and toughness, and her new dominatrixy outfit is pretty boss, but neither she nor Fujimaru manage to ever make me care all that much about them or their sudden newfound friendship, as they’re less actual characters and more combinations of character traits. Takahashi Rie and Shimazaki Nobunaga try their best, but simply don’t have enough to work with here.

fgo15

And aside from a few nice images and some competent action, the most striking thing about this Fate spin-off is its lack of the same distinct visual sumptuousness of Unlimited Blade Works (to date the only other Fate property I’ve watched), due to this not being a ufotable series, and clearly having a smaller budget to work with.

Placing the fate of humanity’s future on the shoulders of two barely-there, uninspiring characters we barely got to know in over an hour-long special just doesn’t provide the gravity or stakes it should. As we’re between seasons, I had time to check this out, so I did. And it was…okay. In all, it feels like a superfluous wade into the shallow end of the Fate franchise pool, rather than a deep or meaningful dive.

16rating_7

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 18

ange181

Ange arrives aboard the Libertus flagship and mobile HQ Aurora, with her knight, filled with flowery ideas about convincing her former Arzenal comrades to join forces with the DRAGON to put out the Light of Mana. Unfortunately for her, Jill isn’t going to fight with people she doesn’t trust, and she sure as hell doesn’t trust the DRAGONs; nor does anyone else aboard the sub. Why would they, after all the death and destruction their raids caused?

ange1821a

The Aurora is shiny and bright and being run just as Arzenal was, but I’m glad the episode shows us that wasn’t always the case. Seeing the state of the Arzenal survivors when they first set off, it’s not surprising that if Jill kept them alive they would rally around her cause, even if the odds were hardly in their favor.

ange182

Jill held the crew together…well, most of them; Salia, Ersha, and Chris deserted and joined Embryo, which will prove telling later in the episode. I was also glad for the “slice-of-life aboard a rebel submarine” after. Momoka’s role as ship’s cook; the three bridge girls becoming mail-riders; a drunk and depressed but still grateful Emma; and especially Hilda, who’s really happy Ange is back, and even happier she hasn’t slept with Tusk yet. Hilda and Ange have had their spats, but they’ve come out of it all as something resembling friends, and it’s clear Hilda wouldn’t mind if they became something more.

ange183

But I knew something about Jill’s mission is off, and we should have seen it coming when Roselie, one of the most oblivious and least informed characters on the show, says “Jill is only one we can trust in the world.” An enraging memory of being beneath a nude Embryo seals it: liberating the world isn’t as important as her personal vendetta, which twists into an obsession within the cramped confines of the Aurora. Whenever she says “Libertus”, she’s actually referring to her own selfish whims.

ange184

She tells Ange she’s changed her mind about working with the DRAGON, but only to use them as cannon fodder, one more tool to reach her goals. Ange refuses to obey, but Jill is ready for that, having endured the bitter taste of the princess’s insubordination many times before, by threatening to toss Momoka out of an airlock if Ange doesn’t fall in line. And now we know: Jill has become Admiral Cain.

ange185

Tusk’s very suspicious late-night visit to the paramail hangar (this is a submarine carrier,  donchaknow) is explained, as he releases gas throughout the ship while he, Ange and Vivian don gas masks. Tusk may be a horny fake-klutz, but he’s also one hell of a knight for Ange, preemptively preparing an escape route should their encounter with Libertus go sour, which it surely did, and in a breathless hurry.

But, again, it’s all because of Jill. The other Arzenal elders didn’t know about the hostage, nor did they know how bad Jill’s obsession had grown. Because this isn’t just about her killing Embryo for some wrong he perpetrated against her. This is about righting the wrong that was her failure. She failed as Vilkiss’ pilot, but she can save face if she makes Ange succeed for her. It doesn’t matter to her anymore how many of her own people or how many DRAGONs have to be sacrificed.

ange186

Jill recovers from the gas and blocks Ange’s path, but Ange puts the still-woozy ex-commander down with a slick-looking kick, obviously the product of her military and athletic training as princess. Ange’s response to Jill’s scheming: “No one knows what’s right…But I hate the way you get things done!” She then takes to the air with Tusk, Momoka, and Vivian, and enjoys the gorgeous blue sky and warm sun, and even flashes a cute Nausicaa pose before Ersha zooms into range…and not to say “Hi.”

ange187

Ange decides she’ll destroy Embryo herself, in her own way. Jill is right that Ange has been through all kinds of hell and torture and has every right to want to destroy the world, regardless of who’s giving the orders. But Ange has changed. She wants to create a world where she can look Momoka, Vivian, Salako, Hilda, and Tusk in the eye without the shame of having used them as tools to satisfy her thirst for revenge. She wants to protect and preserve, not exploit and punish.

8_brav2

Stray Observations:

  • “If you want to play with your boyfriend in a pink flower garden, do it after our mission is accomplished!” – Harsh burn from Jill.
  • The Opening sequence has been tweaked to include new shots of the Aurora crew, and one interesting still of Hilda holding a nervous Tusk…as Roselie holds Hilda’s hand. I know, these images bear only slight resemblance to actual events in the show, but it’s an interesting choice
  • Tusk casually points out he’s not actually a Norma, but no one is listening.
  • Jill is awful this week, but the show makes sure as villain-y as she gets near the end, she’s far from pure evil, merely incredibly wounded and misguided, with a great weight on her shoulders.
  • I’d say she still has compassion since she let Emma stay with them, but that’s probably because you can never have too many magic-users in your quiver. Another tool, in other words.
  • In the preview, Hilda laments that she only got a little screen time this week, only to be missing from the events of the next episode. Poor Hilda.
  • That same preview shows a naked Salia in what I assume Embryo’s bed, proving Ange’s burn/guess correct.
  • If one considers that at some point in the past Alektra was also in that bed, the romantic web and its resultant emotional fallout grows ever more complex. Like A/Z, Ange has taken a more space opera vibe in its second half: All the conflict begins and ends in bed, or more generally, in people’s hearts.

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 17

ange171
Yeah…he’s definitely going to trip on that screwdriver

While the idyllic limbo of the DRAGON world just suffered a brutal assault, it remains an idyllic limbo, one where Ange must decide whether to stay in, or return home. Tusk, committed to being her knight, will support whatever decision she makes. This is what a knight does: his life is no longer his own.

ange172

Ultimately, Ange decides she has to go home. Messed up as it is, it’s where she truly belongs, and it’s where her beloved Momoka is. Salamandinay grudgingly accepts her decision to return, worried that they may have to fight against each other again, but Ange says whatever else she does moving forward, she’s done fighting the DRAGON, so Salako needn’t worry.

ange173

Vivian is caught between wanting to stay with her mom and going back home to her friends/sisters-in-arms, but her mother uses a nifty analogy to set Vivi’s mind at ease. She’s grown out of her baby clothes, so it stands to reason she’s grown out of her baby home as well.

ange174

Ange, Tusk (whom she finally refers to as her knight, to his knight delight), and Vivi follow the massive DRAGON force through the singularity into Embryo’s world, and find themselves far off course. Turns out Riza’s intelligence was falsified, and they teleported right into an giant ambush.

ange175

It becomes painfully apparent Ange’s world didn’t stand still while she was gone; the remnants of Arzenal First Troop have picked their sides. Salia has gone over to Embryo (and Ange even wonders out loud whether Salia’s sleeping with the creep), and in return, she’s been given a ring and a black Villkiss all her own; finally able to be the leading heroine Jill never let her be.

Chris and Ersha are also with her; the former not surprisingly, the latter, a little. They went over to Embryo despite the fact they knew DRAGONs are people, like Vivian, so it’s not like they were in the dark, but it’s also important to remember that all three of these girls were orphans born and raised within Arzenal’s walls, and remain children, who have yearned for a father figure for a long time. It’s understandable they’d be taken in by Embryo’s rhetoric.

ang176
Another day at the office for these three

That Salia is now the captain also means she gets to give formations magical girl designations like “Shining Rose Triangle!”, something Chris isn’t that on board with. It’s a great character beat for all three of these former allies.

ang177

Embryo orders Salia’s team to take Ange into custody, but Tusk and Vivi aren’t having it, with Vivi pulling off an awesome stunt by dropping out of the sun and C4’ing the cables. Salia’s squad regroups and grabs Ange again, but she’s able to activate its teleporter again (by hitting it and yelling, naturally), just as Tusk and Vivi fly into its radius.

ang178

They end up back on the abandoned Arzenal Island, where it all began, with no more of an idea about what the heck they should do next. Then a catalyst for that decision comes ashore in the form of Momoka, Hilda, and Roselie, in frogsuits that give them a start at first, but quickly morphs into elation.

ang179

Again, this group makes sense. These three were able to escape aboard Jill’s sub, Hilda and Roselie were able to patch things up where Hilda and Chris weren’t, and Momoka was going to wait for Ange as long as it took, like Hachiko in a maid outfit. In a very Hilda Power Move, she grabs Tusk’s junk and concedes, a bit incredulously but genuinely, that he’s a man after all, as he was able to keep Ange alive to this point.

So where do we go from here? I think it’s probably a given that a world with Mana is unsustainable, and as difficult as it will be, that world has to end. Maybe Jill’s resistance and the DRAGONs can team up against Embryo? Could there be a peaceful resolution? Will Embryo go quietly, or break out some heretofore MEGAmail? Cross Ange still has eight eps to sort it all out.

8_brav2

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 46

atm461

Things start to get a little weird on ATM! this time around, with Tenchi traveling to different times and places like an animated Desmond. His first stop is a snowy, black-and-white world where he’s the only one in color, aside from the red umbrella of a Momo how doesn’t recognize him until they come into contact, which causes Tenchi to jump to a new place.

atm462

Back in the world we know, Beni is gung-ho about descending into the ship she and Momo first arrived in, and Ryouko is there to make sure she doesn’t fall to her death. Meanwhile, Washuu is in custody, but the Galaxy Police is running into complications what with time being out of joint, the earth being cleaved into at least two parts, and earthquakes raging. Washuu sits in her cage, unconcerned and pompous as ever.

atm463

Tenchi ends up in a colored world this time, though the school before him is unfamiliar, and a young Momo sits on a swing. This is clearly not what he had in mind when he wanted to set things straight. I wonder if the Galaxy Police will swallow their pride and release Washuu…or if Beni getting to her ship will do anything.

6_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 45

atm451

ATM! is best described as a show in which a lot of stuff happens. That stuff doesn’t always make sense or have any kind of narrative substance to it, but it does happen. There’s so much crammed into the show, apportioned a few scant minutes at a time, most everyone is bound to find something interesting. And I do, just about every time.

atm452

ATM! throws stuff out there and sees what sticks. The Alien-inspired “facehugger” scene is one of its funnier pop culture references, and it only takes up a few moments.

atm453

Less subtle is the lightsaber ‘duel’ between Tenchi and Momo, with ‘duel’ in quotes because they’re not really fighting; he’s trying to stabilize her physical form…or something.

atm453a

Like Washuu’s Alienesque booby trap, there’s an attempt to repurpose well-known icons to fit the bizarre story.

atm454

Meanwhile, we’re meant to root for Washuu, even though she’s kinda guilty of murder on a mass scale…or crimes so diabolical there aren’t even laws in place for them. And in a nod to the show’s penchant for irrationality, Washuu is arrested by basically failing to account for Mihoshi’s utter lack of rationality. Airheads have baffled eggheads since time immemorial!

atm455

That brings us to the big finish: the entire world appears to be halved, or possibly split between two dimensions. Tenchi and Momo are dangling precariously over the fissure, from which spouts peach flower petals. It could just be my depraved mind, but I can’t get over the possibility this is all elaborate symbolism for a ‘girl entering womanhood’, with Momo’s protector Beni being unable to ‘stop nature’.

6_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 44

atm441atm441a

With only five minutes left till the warhead hits its target, Ryouko is having trouble grabbing the dimensional controller (her body is too voluptuous to fit through the gap in the rock, ironically). While waiting, Momo’s body appears to de-compile before Tenchi touches her with his lightsaber, which cures her, at least temporarily. He’s trying to keep her together, but a more permanent solution is indicated.

atm442

With Yuki and Rui in custody, Kurihara continues her reign of terror, but is stopped by the Jurai sisters, who exercise their authority as members of the royal family. Kurihara is unmoved and calls for their arrest too…

atm443

…and then Gouriki shows up. Forgot about that guy! Washuu has him absorb the wreckage of a building to grow to enormous size and brandish a bat with which to knock out the warhead. He makes contact, and there’s a huge explosion, which the caves are shielded from — but the warhead remains intact and embedded in the earth. Crisis averted…for now. But now will be over soon.

6_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 43

atm431

The Galaxy Police SWAT team starts to besiege Washuu’s hideout in the old school buiding as Tenchi, Momo, Ryouko, Yuki, Rui and Beni arrive. The latter three learn who the voice of the monolith is as she recruits them to launch a counterattack.

Outside, a veteran GP officer tells a rookie that Washuu is responsible for the disappearance of several planets and solar systems, and should neither be taken lightly nor shown mercy.

atm432

The SWAT team neutralizes Washuu’s booby traps, but Yuki is ready with some kind of cannon, while Rui has been fitted with a small spider dangling in front of her head, causing her to go into berserk mode on anyone in range of her stick – all to buy time for the others heading to the caverns.

Tenchi tells Momo and Beni that they’re really aliens who crashed there 1,300 years ago. He enlists Ryouko to climb through the fissure in the rock, where she finds the glowing, dildo-like “dimensional controller” that is supposedly the key to fixing everything.

6_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 42

atm421

As Ryouko surveys Takahashi from a high vantage point, you get the sense she senses something’s up. So when Yuki turns out to be absolutely right about there being a big government conspiracy (though people always sound crazy when they say that) and Kurihara has the Science Club and Momo arrested, Ryouko doesn’t stand idly by.

atm422

Kurihara puts a lightsaber to Tenchi’s throat, insisting she’s done with his games, but Ryouko busts in and uses her diversionary magic to allow Tenchi to escape with the girls.

atm423

Meanwhile, the GP Commander in charge of the operation to extract the “singularity points” finally zeroes in on Washuu, as the warhead is less than 45 minutes from reaching its target. But Washuu isn’t concerned…that is, with anything other than the fact these GP jokers are on her turf. Time and Space are her ‘playground’, and she won’t have interlopers. So what’s she got up her sleeves?

7_ses

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 41

atm411

Half of this episode is spent aboard the Galaxy Police flagship now in orbit around earth, which has come to arrest the “singularity points” (Momo, Beni, and Washuu) before the “dimensional deficiency” they’re causing rises to catastrophic levels and the entire universe implodes. Are these stakes high enough for ya?!

There’s a great Star Trek-like feel to these space proceedings, helped not just by the barely-coherent technobabble, but by the prominent presence of okudagrams, which, to the non-Trekkie crowd, are cost-effective yet sleek and futuristic displays invented by technical adviser, scenic artist, and Japanese-American Michael Okuda.

The going-over of the mission is also a clever way to name-drop the show’s sponsor, Takahashi, Okayama, I believe for the first time.

atm412

Okayama is where the GP is headed, and in cooperation with the government, has created an entire cover story for the operation: a old Russian space station’s orbit decaying. The debate and election are cancelled and the school is evacuated by what look like JSDF troops but are really GP officers in disguise.

The student council stops being a counter-scheming squad and fulfills their actual duty as student authorities. But when the last people besides them who have yet to evacuate are the Science Club of Rui, Yuki and Beni, Momo and Tenchi go after them…just as the GP launches a space-time fluctuation warhead. And those, my friend, are not something to be trifled with. I guess?

8_ses