Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online – 01 – The Girl with the Pink P90 (First Impressions)

SAOA:GGO (rolls right off the tongue) gets right down to it, dropping us into a Gun Gale Online battle royale called Squad Jam beside teammates LLENN and M. Thanks to the patient tactical mind of M, much their time in the Jam is spent not getting shot at, and when they are, it’s to draw dumb enemies into getting shot by smarter ones, all while LM stays clean.

LLENN resents having to play the decoy, but can’t argue that it works, and you have to go with what works in a battle where the team that’s dominating are professional fighters IRL, likely in the game for the training. They show off their skills so blithely, M is convinced that winning isn’t their main objective.

LLENN and M’s is, however, so once the field has been thinned from 23 starting teams to 8, they head somewhere isolated where the pro team will come for them (uninterested as they are in ambushing their opponents).

The pros work like a well-oiled, by-the-book machine, precise and practiced in movement and speech. But because they’re so damn orthodox and true-to-life in their tactics, and since winning isn’t their goal, M thinks he knows how to beat them, and prepares a tiny surprise.

That surprise is the unbelievably diminutive LLENN popping out of a suitcase, previously just another unremarkable piece of the garbage strewn across the street that the pro team leader realizes is a hiding place a beat too late.

A beat is all LLENN needs to go off with her pinkP90, using her super-human speed and agility to take the pros down one by one until only two remain. M wasn’t under-utilizing LLENN before, he was saving her for when it was the right time for her to shine; when it mattered most.

The remaining two pros could probably have made a fight of it, but LLENN’s superhuman abilities render their training program contaminated, as M suspected…so they both resign. We pull back from LLENN on a TV as six school friends watch, then turn to their host, the very tall Karen, for whom LLENN is her avatar.

And there you have it. If you’re a hopeless SAO consumer as I apparently am, you were likely satisfied with this start, which had a nice pared-down feel to it despite the scope of the Squad Jam, easing us back into its world without piling on new faces or places.

Until the reveal of LLENN’s player, we were in-game the whole time. We followed just two gunners in a relatively compact location as they talked strategy, let things unfold and waited for pieces to get into optimal position before striking with all available force. And we learn Karen plays as a chibi in a kind of negative size-compensation.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 07

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After just leaving Aihara Aiko and her squad behind to die, Guren indulges Yuu’s desire to save the hostages rather than kill them to end their suffering and retreat. But since these noble attacks are decoys to allow the main Shibuya force to move without detection, it doesn’t really matter how they proceed at Nagoya city hall, as long as the count of able-bodied soldiers doesn’t go down too far.

Shinoa tells Yuu to be calm more than once when discussing what’s to be done about the hostages, but she’ll suffer no deviation from her orders: if they can’t save the hostages in five minutes, everyone is to retreat, no ifs ands or buts. Narumi’s squad will back hers, while Guren, Shinya, and his team will target Crowley, Belle, and Horn. But as Shinya and Yoichi’s first shot demonstrates, these nobles won’t go down so easily.

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While I can see what the show was trying to do by building up the attack, the orders not to die and the setting of the watches, and all the talking didn’t help the pace of this episode, nor did the apparent contradiction in abandoning one squad to die but saving another in a much more dangerous situation. But when the battle finally begins, things pick up nicely, as we see just how easily Guren’s people can mow down vampire foot soldiers.

Still, it’s nobles Guren is after, and when he finally crosses swords with Crowley, what is surely his best strike is easily turned away. Crowley is more bemused than anything else by the sudden attack, but admits to his two lieutenants that in the short-term, humans can actually be somewhat entertaining. The result of their efforts isn’t in doubt for him, but he’ll patiently see what they can do.

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Guren on his own is clearly not enough against Crowley, but Shinya undermines the element of surprise by announcing he’s behind Crowley. Before he can say “checkmate”, both Guren and Shinya are in a pile, and have to regroup. Meanwhile, Yuu and the others are done early, so under pressure from Yuu, Shinoa decides to dedicate three minutes—no more—to helping Guren out. Interestingly, this week there’s no downing of PEDs, though one would think those would come in handy against nobles as they had in the past. Maybe they took some earlier and they haven’t worn off yet?

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In any case, Guren and Shinya, wounded and soundly outmatched, are forced to scurry from one room to another at an increasingly slow clip, with Crowley and his ladies always catching up. Yet as long as they’re keeping the nobles busy, the mission continues to be a success. It’s just…it would be really nice if these three vampires could be brought down.

But considering how easily we’ve seen Guren take care of Yuu, I don’t see how Yuu is the man to do it. It will have be a concerted team effort, as it was for their first bagged noble. But all that might be moot once Mika arrives. Could he join forces with Yuu to beat Crowley, in service of his ultimate goal to free and protect Yuu from those who would hurt or use him? Stranger things have happened.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 06

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Unlike the foppish Lucal, Crowley isn’t above treating the humans as a legitimate threat, or at least a nuisance more pressing than a smattering of ants at his feet. Testing the power of the demon gear of a dead soldier on his lieutenant Chess, then cutting himself and noting it isn’t healing; he’s carefully assessing the advancing enemy before acting.

But this isn’t out of respect for a worthy adversary. In fact, judging from their casual attitude and banter, Crowley and his ladies are just as certain in the supremacy of vampires. Rather, Crowley suspects the humans are getting help from a high-ranking vampire traitor, and he has a pretty good idea that it’s either Ferid or Krul.

What would surprise Crowly is if his treacherous comrades were the ones having their strings pulled by a lowly human. Such a human might even hold his interest for a measurable amount of time, insomuch as a cool-looking bug would for you or me.

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As Crowley watches, waits, and thinks, Shinoa and Narumi’s squads stand by awaiting the other squads at a rendezvous point. The focus of last week’s battle, here they’re only around for a bit, to show Guren the teams have gelled nicely and that he was right to put Yuu under Narumi’s charge; the two are a lot alike and both enjoy the occasional joke.

But it’s easy to joke around a bit when you’ve come off your last battle unscathed. And the result of a squad that didn’t fare to well is the focus of this week, which could just as easily be titled The Passion of Aihara Aiko. Aihara’s squad of fifteen completed their mission objectives, but lost eight in the process, and Aihara is extremely upset and guilty about it, and her mask of stoicism quickly falls.

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Guren can’t wait for the other squads, so he takes Shinoa’s and Narumi’s and his own and head to city hall to rescue the hostages, leaving Aihara and her men to stay behind in case other squads arrive. Another decimated squad joins them, but so do a couple of Vampire Chinooks. Aihara takes one out with her bow, but the second drops its troops, led by Lacus, Rene…and Mika.

When the vampires capture all of Aihara’s men, she orders them to bite down on their suicide pills. Just like that, her unit is gone, and there’s only her and Mika, who pulls the pill out of her mouth before she can join her comrades. He wants one thing: info on Yuu. And he’s willing to spare Aihara to get it.

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As Lacus and Rene survey the area Aihara and Mika’s exchange is masterful. She’s initially defiant and tells him to go ahead and kill her, but she then gets the feeling there’s something different about this particular vampire while Mika knows she’s met Yuu.

The two then do a little bit of play-acting, with Aihara agreeing to “inform” on the other humans if he spares her life. In this way, she tells only Mika that Yuu is headed to city hall, but sends Lacus and Rene in the wrong direction, which is what both she and Mika want, for different reasons.

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Mika’s fine with leaving Aihara alone at that point, but she doesn’t want him to leave her alone; she wants him to kill her, because her squad, her family, is all gone, and she thinks it’s because of her. She has nothing left to live for. Mika refuses to do it, but she forces the issue by attacking him. She thanks him with her dying breath as she falls to the ground. Lacus and Rene shrug and head off.

Honestly I didn’t remember much about Aihara Aiko until this week, but I will surely remember her now, in this, the tensest and most affecting episode of Seraph 2. Her palpable despair, her sense of loss, her fleeting ‘dance’ with Mika, and the increasing unlikelihood she would come out of all this alive; all of it combined to form a sad but brilliant self-contained tragedy that underlines the challenges humanity faces in directly taking the vampires on.

It also underscored Mika’s single-mindedness. No Crowley- or Hiiragi-type big-picture stuff here: Mika wants to live happily ever after with his family Yuu safe in his arms. And woe betide any human or vampire who stands in the way of that goal.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 05

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This is it; no more messing around: it’s time to start killing vampire nobles. Narumi and Shinoa’s squads plus Shinya are tasked with destroying Lucal Wesker, a foppish vamp who loves drinking blood on his favorite park bench that offers snipers a perfect target. But he sits out there in the open to make a point: he doesn’t fear livestock. He should.

Before they move out, however, Yuu stretches and makes a dig about their target’s name, which is just more ammo for the Narumi team to think they can’t count on these newbies. Both Shinoa and Yuu apologize, with Yuu solemnly stating he only remembers the names of those he wants to protect, then surprises his new comrades by stating all their names, gaining more of their trust.

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Meanwhile, Yoichi is up in a radio tower, learning the sniping ropes with Shinya. But Lucal senses their first shot before they fire it, and sacrifices his right-hand man to block it. He blocks Yuu’s strike with one hand and stops Shinoa’s scythe with his other. At this point Lucal is more displeased with having spilled his glass of AAA four-year-old female blood; it would have been cooler if he’d continue holding it and handle the humans with one hand, without spilling. Alas.

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If nothing else, this fight shows that Guren was right to increase manpower per noble, as Lucal is perfectly able to withstand even a multi-pronged attack with the element of surprise against him. But getting away from one onslaught means sacrificing his own left forearm, which Shiho uses as bait while provoking him to enter their formation, which he does.

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Lucal finally got fed up with being messed with by all this livestock, and when he figures his time is up, he refuses to give them the pleasure of having finished him, doing the job himself. I really thought the redhead Yayoi Endo was a goner, but Lucal merely shoved her aside. Their mission is a success, and the Narumi team learns that the Shinoa team, and even Yuu, are people they can put their trust in. It was an enlightening, complete team effort.

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But these two teams are clearly two of the best; after all, three teams each were sent after other nobles. We watched the best take care of business, but the not-best didn’t fare so well. Their hard-won victory begs the question of how the other teams are doing. We don’t see them, but instead check in on Guren as he barely finishes a noble on his own; his elite team of five is working alone.

A dying survivor then arrives to report to Guren that the city hall team’s mission was a fiasco: 26 killed, 19 taken hostage. Guren knows it’s a trap. His comrades know its a trap. But they have to go anyway. His team will join with Narumi and Shinoa’s squad, and take out the target: 13th Progenitor Crowley Eusford, who I recognize from last season as the first noble Yuu & Co. encountered. I bet he’ll be a bit tougher to bring down than Lucal.

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GANGSTA. – 04

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Another day in the life of GANGSTAs reveals new details about Worick (formerly Wallace) Arcangelo and his partner (formerly his bodyguard). Notably, Worick wouldn’t make a bad detective, owing to his preternatural talent for memorization. Chad, who’s known these men since they were 17-year-old boys, periodically brings them in to appease the higher-ups, but makes use of Worick’s skills in identifying some suspiciously cleanly carved-up bodies.

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As far as the present-day goings-on, Ally continues to wring her hands over whether to stay or go (knowing the last girl who lived with the Handymen almost died) and one of their clients, Danny Monroe, and his men end up in a spot of trouble with a kukri enthusiast. Those events are punctuated by flashbacks going back to the day Wallace met Nicolas. Back then, Wally could basically read any book in a minute, and grew bored and restless with his education and stifling living situation.

When he learned Nic was deaf, he felt insulted to have a “defective” guard, but at the same time, Nic gives off an irresistible aura of wildness and freedom (even if Nic is far from free). We also learn more about the “Twilights” and why they’re called that: as the victims (or children of victims) of combat doping gone wrong.

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Whatever the case ends up being, the two seem pretty tight in the present, as both professional partners and brothers of a kind. These scenes also bring up the question: did Nic just snap and kill Wally’s fam and take his eye…or did Wally ask him to blow up his life? There are still key gaps in their backstory, but the show is doling them out at a pretty good clip, and with Nic facing off against a fellow “A/0” ranked Twilight (and a sprightly one at that), I wouldn’t be surprised if Worick will lend a hand next week.

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Jormungand – 08

In England, Koko leads a HCLI bid for Predator UAV sales to “Country B.” She’s up against Euro Group, represented by the accomplished former actress and heiress Amalia Tolokohovsky. Amalia gets a head start on Koko, closing deals with nearly every potential client. Annoyed but undefeated, Koko holes up in her hotel room and orchestrates numerous deals at the 25th hour that flip all of Amalia’s customers. The tables now turned, Koko meets with Amalia. Third-party snipers by angered clients are neutralized by Lutz. Amalia announces Euro Group will pull out of negotiations, and then agrees to a buyback at a 5% premium. Koko is victorious.

Arms dealing is simple business: show your wares to the customer, they buy some, and you go on your merry way, right? Well, not exactly. With past episodes focusing on the prowess of the bodyguards Koko surrounds herself with, all of them were bystanders for her not-so-little UAV war with Amalia, who started it by getting greedy and trying to outmaneuver Koko. That was enough to fire Koko up for some serious laptop-piloting and junk food-munching. Arms dealing at this level is less a simple transaciton and more an intricate Swiss watch with millions of moving pieces, and she simply manipulates those pieces better than Amalia this week, and at the right times.

It’s fun to watch her initially get stood up at client meeting after meeting, and then see her bear down and do the hard work that’s necessary to defeat one’s adversary. She utilized her new CIA friend Chocolade, kept her eye on the prize, and showed former actress Amalia that she’s a pretty fine actress herself, when she needs to be. Her efforts result in pulling a stunning, absolute victory from the initial jaws of defeat, and nobody is hurt or killed in the processs. It’s no wonder why everyone seems to love working for the “princess”. This episode aptly demonstrated what happens when she harnesses her potential.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Car Cameos: Lots – this series doesn’t skimp on recognizable vehicle models. Team HCLI seems to have adopted the Volkswagen Touareg as their go-to car, though they also ride in a Mitsubishi Montero. In one scene a Toyota HiAce drives alongside the ‘Reg. Amalia travels in a white Mercedes-Benz S-Class (a W221). There are also lots of recognizable cars in the airport parking lot: A Subaru Forester and Legacy wagon, a Peugeot 406, Toyota Prius, Lancia Delta, Mitsubishi Montero and Lancer EvolutionToyota Progres and a Volvo C70.