Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau – 03

The docile, frightened, and mostly defenseless denizens of Falaina are absolutely no match for the surprise attack by the efficient, emotionless raiding parties of Skylos, who use their thymia to kill with rifles, spears, swords and maces. Chakuro tries to run away carrying Sami, but he trips, and the way her body falls indicates that she’s already dead.

Ouni manages to get released from his cell, and proves more than capable of killing a good number of the enemy…but one man simply won’t be enough. Back in the fields, soldiers advance on Chakuro, but in his combined grief and rage he manages to hold them off with his Thymia until Lykos arrives.

Lykos, or rather Lykos “#32” as she’s called by an oddly giddy and sadistic pink-haired associate who holds a high rank among the enemy, was originally sent to exterminate Falaina. It would appear she failed, and regained emotions.

Now her brother, Commander Orka, is content to leave her on Falaina as a human experiment, to see how long she lasts among the “sinners.” The enemy withdraws, but after torturing two of their soldiers, Ouni learns they’ll be back in just a week’s time. Lykos, it would seem, has picked Chakuro and Falaina over her brother and home country.

It doesn’t look like pacifism and negotiation are in the cards, nor does there seem to be a “misunderstanding.” The people of Falaina are in a war with their very existence in the balance, period. While it isn’t great to see Ouni shed so much blood on his own, I see few alternatives.

As for Chakuro, after a gorgeous but immensely sad funeral service for the dozens lost, including Sami, he simply wishes he could die right then and there. He doesn’t want to be in this world anymore.

Who can blame him? I’m not even sure I want to be here. While the heroic arc obviously requires some initial hardship to be overcome, it was not fun watching men, women, and children callously mowed down. There also seemed to be a lot of the enemy soldiers simply…standing around for long pauses while their victims try to process what’s happening.

Other than Ouni, Lykos, and maaaybe Chakuro (if he can learn to control his power) this entire community looks utterly unequipped for the conflict ahead. Hopefully a few steadfast defenders will be able to curb further slaughter.

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Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau – 02

What I thought was the start of some kind of grand adventure involving Chakuro, Ouni, and Lykos turned out to be more of a quick stop. Lykos (which isn’t her real name) shows them the creatures called “Nous” that suck all emotion out of humans, leaving them “heartless.” Chakuro and Ouni only get a brief taste of the experience, but I imagine neither of them wanted to get a longer one, as intriguing an experience as it might’ve been.

They’re brought back to Falaina, where Ouni is thrown in jail, Lykos returns to the custody of the elders, and Chakuro is freed after “cooling his head”—just in time for the extraordinary periodic phenomenon involving swarms of glowing star locusts. Chakuro breaks Lykos out of confinement so she can see the event with him, and jealous vibes immediately emanate from Sami.

Having been away from…whatever it was she was doing on that other island, Lykos is definitely starting to show more emotion, and when she remembers the time her father gave her a piggyback ride (out of practicality, not love or any other emotion) she can’t help but cry. Chakuro thinks it’s normal, and it proves she has a heart. And anyone’s heart would be stirred by the light show they get.

But that night, Lykos almost told Chakuro something very important, and the next day, really really wants to tell that something to the council of Elders. She best she gets is Suou…but by then, any warning she might’ve given is too late: another island sidles up to Falaina and an attack is launched by its highly-prepared and more technologically advanced occupants.

Those we see are wearing clown makeup (not a great first impression), and Chakuro and Sami stare up at their airship in Miyazakian awe…right until they open fire, Sami jumps in front of Chakuro, and gets riddled with bullets. I was not expecting that! Poor Sami!

It’s a bold, dark new turn for what had been an pleasant Utopian slice-of-life. That’s not quite right: the introduction of Lykos and her lethal magic last week marked the beginning of the end of the “good times”, while the locust swarm was the punctuation mark for the Mud Whale as a place of peace and contentment, and even that peace may have been artificially maintained, as the elders likely knew something like this was possible and/or coming, and have kept all of the Marked in the dark.

It would seem our protagonist and his society are viewed as “sinners” in the outside world, perhaps because they still possess the emotions the Nous feed on and make no effort to purge them. Thus ends Chakuro’s official archive of the Mud Whale, and the beginning of his personal diary.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau – 01 (First Impressions)

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau, or Children of the Whales, begins with a funeral of a much-loved and admired 29-year-old teacher. She didn’t live a long live because she’s “Marked”, like 90 percent of the inhabitants of the Mud Whale. The Marked can use Thymia (magic), but are cursed with those short lives. The Unmarked, who live much longer, serve as the Mud Whale’s leaders.

It’s an efficient introduction to all the necessary whats and wherefores of this world that avoids being dry, and indeed is suffused with quite a bit of emotion due to the funeral of someone who went too soon. It’s also clear that as 90 percent of the population is doomed to die young, this mini-civilization travelling the shifting seas of sand aboard the Mud Whale may not have much of a future…unless there’s a change in the status quo.

Our window to this world is Chakuro, the teenage archivist of the Mud Whale who is not only Marked, but also “cursed” with the compulsion to record all he sees and hears, while trying to keep his own personal emotions out of it; a kind of Mud Whaleipædia. Other introductions include his sister Sami (also Marked), the chieftain Taisha (Unmarked), and her heir apparent Suou (also Unmarked).

One day, Chakuro looks out onto the usually empty horizon and spots a “Driftland”, a rare island full of supplies for the Mud Whale. He and Sami join a scouting party, who use their Thymia to keep their boats from sinking into the sand.

Chakuro finds a sword, and when he wanders off to look for Sami, he finds an injured Marked girl with a tan and light blue hair, surrounded by swords and holding a bloody one. The ruins, the swords, the tuna cans suggest a completely different culture at work on this island than the Mud Whale, a self-contained miniature world that has diverged due to isolation.

I for one feared the worst for Sami, but thanks to his Thymia Chakuro deflects the girl’s sword strike, she passes out, and he carries her to the rest of the party, where Sami is safe and sound. He also picks up a strange, intelligent furry mammal who tags along.

They take the girl, whose shit tag reads “Lykos”, back to the Mud Whale, and she is brought before the elders, who clearly fear she’s an unstable element that will shake up the status quo, flawed as it is by the short lives of the Marked. She is also deemed “emotionless”, and likes saying “I/we lack that.”

She simply doesn’t belong here, but the fact that she’s proof of an outside world beyond the Whale is a kind of infection that instantly takes root there, thanks to the fact Suou happens to be releasing a gang of rebellious Whale-dwellers from the “Bowels” or dungeon, led by Ouni, who happens to have the most powerful Thymia on the Whale.

As soon as Ouni hears there’s someone from the outside world, he acts quickly to pluck her from the elders, as well as Chakuro, who was spying on them.

Ouni and his gang aren’t interested in living out their short lives on the pathetically small Mud Whale; they want to explore and find what else is out there. Since Lykos is from out there, he takes her and Chakuro accompany him back to the Drifland to find more clues.

Thus the lines of conflict are drawn: the faction who wishes to maintain the Utopian society, studying to find a cure for the short lives of the Marked; and the upstarts who reject the Mud Whale as the one and only world they need concern themselves with, even if contamination with the outside world could doom the Whale much faster. Chakuro finds himself in the middle, but if there’s one thing he’s sure of, whatever happens, he’ll record everything he sees, hears, and experiences along the way.

CotW is a lush fantasy yarn in the spirit of Nagi-Asu or Gargantia with attractive character design, a warm pastelly-watercolor aesthetic, and an appropriately robust score. While it lacks the immediate visceral punch and grandeur of Made in Abyss, it has a lot of potential, especially once the small world of the Mud Whale starts to expand at Ouni’s behest.

Mekakucity Actors – 08

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While this episode didn’t quite make all the connections we thought it would (between Takane, Haruka, and Shintaro, for instance), it still confirmed and shed light on a great many things. Granted, it did a lot of this while people were statically lounging around in a room, but that room had a striking design with mod furnishings we see from multiple, schematic-like angles, all Shaft mainstays.

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Prior to discussing with Shintaro what the Mekakushi-dan he’s now a member of know about their “situation” Tsubomi and the others visit the hospital, but don’t see Haruka. They do meet Hibiya, and when his eyes turn red they promptly take him with them to HQ, realizing he’s one of them, in a earlier state of development they all went through in one form or another.

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Also, the giant snake void portal thing we’ve witnessed is something they all have in common: they all experienced life-threatening events with loved ones; both were sucked in, but only one came out, and with superpowers. We catch a glimpse Tsubomi’s pivotal event in the cold open. Striking stained glass windows also depict it, as well as those of Kano, Seto, and Momo.

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These windows had us equating the past, present, and future Mekakushi-dan members as something very similar to “saints”, once-ordinary people who were touched by something very similar to a “god”, and can now perform something very similar to “miracles.” But they—and those lost in the “void”—could also be described as martyrs; their past wishes having ended their lives as normal humans.

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One more connection made this week, and quite by accident: while checking in on Marry (who was supposed to be watching Hibiya but dozed off), he spots a photo of Kido, Kano, and Seto with none other than Ayano. As of yet, Shintaro hasn’t displayed a power, nor do we know of a time when his life was in danger that would cause them one to be bestowed upon him.

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But in the non-standard ED (with more anecdotal lyrics), we see what seems to be his last encounter with Ayano, who loved him, and he definitely seems to make a wish: for her not to die. Is she, and the others’ loved ones in the void, really dead, or can they be retrieved, perhaps in exchange for returning their powers? We’ll see…at least I hope we will.

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Mekakucity Actors – 07

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Last week’s episode started with Takane running as fast as she could (though not swinging her arms the way you’re supposed to), apparently worried for Haruka. To illustrate her state of mind, the entire town around her was blowing up and crumbling to dust. It was as if her world could not exist without him. Ultimately, it wasn’t a case of the world that disappeared around her that day, but of her disappearing from the world, at least in her corporeal state.

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After a meaningful discussion with the extremely perceptive Ayano in the hallway, Takane realizes she loves Haruka. I was fully prepared for Haruka to end up dead when she returned to the hospital. But before she can even leave the school, she collapses, and that’s the end of Takane That Was. It’s a horrifying and profoundly sad moment in an episode full of bad things happening to good people, possibly due to hasty decisions they make.

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During her transformation to the avatar we were first introduced to, we catch a glimpse of a small girl in black, who is most likely responsible. She also seemed to speak with Haruka in the hospital and hastily struck a deal that put him in a new body as well. Did Ene transform as a result of her wish to be with Haruka, who had just lost his body too? That small girl in black also resembles the “monster” in the post-credit “fairy-tales” (this week’s almost moved us to tears). She kinda reminds me of Shinobu so far.

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Obviously, this monster girl is up to something, messing with the lives of people who used to be normal. But more and more connections are being made between those people, suggesting they may be able to figure a way to respond to what’s been done to them. These “small world” connections needn’t necessarily be over shared supernatural powers.

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A primary purpose of friendship in general is to enrich one’s life, as well as affirm it through continued contact and familiarity with others. Takane, Haruka, Ayano and Shintaro were once ordinary friends. Takane is now in Shintaro’s phone and computer, trying to be the girl “he needs” Ayano couldn’t, but now she’s on the cusp of reuniting with Haruka. On the one hand, she’s been cursed. On the other, she has a second chance.

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