Inuyashiki – 04

Inuyashiki’s fourth episode opens with a ruthless, towering yakuza boss ordering his men to dispose of the naked body of an overdosed woman on his bed, then making another yakuza perform oral sex on him as a form of submission. So…not a good guy.

Then things switch gears completely to the diminutive but lovely Fumino and her boyfriend Satoru, who love each other deeply and agree to get married and have kids. As nice as all that is, I immediately suspected this was either a flashback, and Fumino was that body, or she’s the yakuza boss’ next victim.

The latter turns out to be the case, as Fumino is suddenly abducted while walking home, and wakes up naked on the boss’ bed. He immediately gets on top of her, telling her he’ll “make her his”, but Fumino fights back, getting away and even managing to slash the brute’s wrist with his own katana. While his men tend to his wound she slips out.

She manages to get all the way back to Satoru’s worried-sick arms, but it’s not long before the boss, named Samejima, and his henchmen break into their apartment. Satoru begs for his and Fumino’s lives, promising to pay any price, no matter what it takes, but his pleas fall on deaf ears, and Samejima picks him up by the throat and starts to choke him out.

Enter the Hero, Ichirou, who no doubt heard what has been transpiring and will not have it. After sending the henchmen flying, he puts Samejima in a bear hug, but “shuts down” when a clip is emptied in his head. When he wakes up, it’s just him and a nearly-dead Satoru.

When his magic body won’t heal him, Ichirou uses CPR to revive him, and then uses Satoru’s phone to locate Samejima, who is enjoying a meeting with other yakuza bosses at a luxurious inn.

While his initial encounter with Samejima was not fruitful, Ichirou has clearly gotten the hang of flying and forcing his way through crowds. When Samejima takes him aside, Ichirou does what he should have done the first time: sock the guy in the face.

The other yakuza respond by emptying clip after clip into Ichirou with automatic weapons, but it only stuns him. He activates his flight mode, targets everyone in the inn, and takes out all of their eyes with a fusillade of particle beams.

It’s wholesale justice; Ichirou laying down the law, and before leaving, Ichirou makes sure he properly verbalizes what he’s done: deprived all of them of the means to walk, eat, see their children’s and grandchildren’s faces, touch them ever again…or even take their own lives.

Rather than execute them, he hopes they’ll live long lives, in such a state that he hopes they one day feel remorse for the horrible things they’ve done. I for one am not that optimistic, but at least they’ll won’t hurt anyone—including his family—ever again. The cycle of dead bodies on beds has been stopped; at least with this clan. Obviously, there are many others.

After contacting those watching her with Samejima’s phone, Ichirou locates Fumino, apparently heals her of the harm done by the drugs, and flies her back to her love, Satoru.

I’ll point out that Satoru is nothing special in the looks or money department—indeed, he’s very much a young Ichirou—but love, like that yakuza scum, is blind. Satoru and Fumino have good and gentle souls, and I was bowled over with relief and joy to see them reunite.

Ichirou slinks off into the night, claiming he’s “nobody special”, but in reality, he was this couple’s savior. It’s good to see him getting better at this hero thing, especially not getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of evil in the world and the impossibility of stamping it all out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do as much as you can, and he will.

And so, Inuyashiki continues its M.O. of putting its audience through hell before showing them a glimpse of heaven. Whether it was the intro of Ichirou as a feeble sadsack or the stunningly awful but thankfully temporary twist in Fumino’s fate, the show has no qualms about putting characters and viewers alike through the ringer, but rewards us for sticking around by delivering breathtakingly righteous justice to evildoers.

Only Shishigami Hiro has escaped retribution…so far. But the strongest yakuza boss in the world is a cakewalk compared to Hiro. If Ichirou can’t defeat him and he can’t defeat Ichirou, they’ll have to figure…something else out.

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Inuyashiki – 03

As soon as Hiro realizes the old man he killed wasn’t effected by his “air gun”, he bolts, and by bolt I mean launch into the sky and scream off like a fighter jet. Thus, the big standoff between him and Ichirou is postponed. But as he wakes up from a nightmare of the death he witnessed, Ichirou knows he’ll have to find and confront him sometime.

This boy is like him, but whether his powers have twisted him into a monster, or he was always a sociopath and only now has the means to do as he pleases, Ichirou knows he’s the only one who can stop him. Essentially, some whippersnapper needs an ear-boxing.

Hiro isn’t the first evil, nor is he the only evil in the world, or even in the vicinity of Ichirou’s home and work; far from it. You don’t need to be killed and reconstructed by an advanced alien race to be a dickbag that doesn’t care about anyone or anything, as evidenced by the kids who attacked a homeless man, or a group of athletic young toughs who plan to kill a man for daring to tell them to wait in line.

Like any and every great hero, Ichirou doesn’t buy into a world where the strong unrelentingly prey on the weak. Why should he? He may be one of the two strongest beings on the planet. No, with strength comes not carte blanche, but noblesse oblige. Just as Hiro was a bad person before getting reconstructed, Ichirou was always a good and just man.

It’s only now, like Hiro, that he’s able to act on his kind and virtuous nature. When it looks bad for the poor man surrounded by much larger ones, Ichirou takes out the trash. But he doesn’t kill anyone, nor is there any malice in his actions; only a desire to stop a great wrong from being committed, and ensure the safety of those who cannot ensure it themselves.

Once his “Grampy-sense” detects a family struggling to escape a house fire, he wills the machinery within his back to come out and propel him to the danger in time to save them. He does so by singing the theme to Astro Boy.

At first, his built-in jetpack is a little too much to handle; he screams bloody murder as he’s flung every which way, a scene that’s as awesome as it is frikkin’ hilarious. In a show that gets as intense as this one, it’s nice to know we’ll always have some moments of levity.

He gets the hang of it pretty quickly, and manages to save not only the crying children’s father, but their grandmother as well. Instead of thanks and praise, he asks that they not mention him to the authorities, and having just been miraculously saved by him, one hopes they would respect his wishes.

Ichirou is an unconditional hero to all, not because he can, with his wondrous new powers, but because he feel he must. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he stood by and did nothing when his actions can make a positive difference in the world. Compare this to his pre-transformation, when he was just trying to maintain, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer for his trouble. A man of inaction, no longer is he.

Hiro, while a monster, seems to remain tied to his humanity through his best friend Andou, whom he finally convinces to come to school, promising to protect him. He is, or at least is trying to be, a hero of one…unfortunately for the rest of the world, not to mention Andou.

When the bullies return to Andou’s desk and threaten him, Hiro wastes no time taking the wrist of their strongest and squeezing it hard enough to make him cry, apologize, and insult himself and his friends.

I can’t tell whether Hiro is using laser-sharp precision to apply just enough pressure to the guy’s wrist, or struggling as hard as he can not to squeeze to hard, snap his arm off and expose himself at school. I like how there’s uncertainty in something like that.

Hiro takes Andou to the roof where the bullies initially told them to meet, but they already left with some girls. Hiro gives Andou some binoculars and starts pointing out into the distance and saying “BANG.” Eventually, Andou pans to where Hiro was “shooting”, and finds the four bullies dead, all shot in the head with invisible bullets that leave no trace; the scared-shitless girls having no idea what just happened.

It’s too far. Andou is a gentle soul; he can’t take this shit, and wastes no time rejecting Hiro and warning him to stay away when Hiro refuses to turn himself into the police. All of the things Hiro did to that point to impress Andou—humiliate then kill bullies, boast of his ability to nuke China with US missile, steal thousands of dollars from the ATM—only serve to disgust Andou and push him further away.

Their friendship is over, but Hiro reacts the same way he does to everything, save his brief encounter with Ichirou: calmly. Too, calmly, if you ask me. Without Andou to provide even a semblance of a tether, Hiro’s monstrous acts may only increase in scale and scope.

Inuyashiki likes to punch below the belt, as when an adorable mama cat and her kitten walk past a charmed Ichirou, only for the mom to get hit by a car right in front of him. Exhibiting uncommon goodness that makes one’s eyes well up, he takes the cat into his arms, even though he can’t do anything for her…then learns that he actually can.

Ichirou scans that dead cat and fixes her right up, and she and her kitten stride off like nothing ever happened, giving Ichirou the one thank-you he wished he always got: no thank-you at all. Ichirou is overcome with joy and gratitude for the gift he has been given, and immediately stops by a hospital to heal as many people as he can.

And yet, as he’s been going around left and right saving lives, his opposite Hiro is out there taking them, as if the universe itself were maintaining the balance from suddenly having two such immensely powerful beings in such close proximity. If both were evil killers, humanity would be toast, but Ichirou is as good as Hiro is bad.

Witness the ending, in which the camera mercifully doesn’t follow Hiro inside another house for another routine family-killing. It just stays there, frozen, and we realize just how goddamn quickly Hiro purges the house of all life before walking out, spotting two passing boys—clearly friends—running past, and thinks long and hard about killing them too.

By holding his fire, was he trying to prove to himself that he can control himself when he needs to even without Andou? Perhaps he still has a degree of restraint, owing to the same sense of self-preservation that induced him to escape from Ichirou. But that restraint can’t last.

The first two episodes introduced our characters: the third explored their powers further and illustrated how far they can take those powers—in both moral directions. Hiro seems to be on the path to ruin; Ichirou, on the path to sainthood. But in a universe of balance, perhaps neither will ever reach their destination.

Inuyashiki – 02

Last week I watched with intense interest and wonder as Iyunashiki suddenly received a new lease on life out of nowhere; this week we get to know the other person who was killed and reconstructed by the alien ship: Shihigami Hiro. Ironically, he’s not the hero, but the villain, as is made quite clear by the end of this episode.

With a calming, pleasant lilt to his voice (he is excellently voiced by live action actor Murakami Nijirou), and on a mission to convince his recently beat-up friend “Chakkou” to come back to school, at first Hiro doesn’t seem that bad…but when he mentions there’s a slasher who’s killed eight people, I knew immediately he was talking about himself, well before he opened his face to show Chakkou what he’s become.

Hiro demonstrates his new powers to a shocked, amazed, and slightly freaked-out friend: he kills a bird by pointing at it and saying bang; then makes all the TVs in an Ikebukuro electronics store broadcast porn. Harmless fun, right? Well, no…harming animals for no reason is a telltale sign of sociopathy, which  I’m willing to bet our lad had before his transformation.

The only thing that’s changed is that with his new body, he now has the ability to make his twisted impulses a reality. He can make dozens of cars crash into each other, and he can kill anyone by pointing at them and saying bang. He’s like a far more efficient Yagami Light, only without even a hint of justice.

His only glint of humanity is that he considers friends and family off-limits (at least for now), even if he couldn’t care less about anyone else, and offers to kill the one(s) who beat Chakkou, which Chakkou, not being a sociopath, obviously doesn’t want. Unfortunately, he has little choice in the matter; Hiro is a force of nature now and his appetites are formidable.

Case in point: in one of the grisliest, most fucked-up scenes I’ve seen in an anime in a long time, Hiro randomly picks a house and goes room-to-room executing its occupants: a mother by the stove, a father bathing with his young son (his body pins the boy under him so he drowns in the bath…just awful), and finally, the teenage daughter upon coming home.

The father and daughter have time to beg for their life, but Hiro gives them an order they can’t obey—don’t cry or beg for your life—and punishes them with death. First, he asks the girl his age if she reads any manga, and is momentarily excited that she likes One Piece and has a favorite character he approves of.

The casualness with which he carries out his rampage leaves no doubt: Hiro is an irredeemable monster that needs to be put down before more families suffer his wrath.

But with that body and the weaponry and defenses it contains, there’s only one person who can be the hero to slay this beast: Iyunashiki, the titular “Last Hero.”

Upon coming home, Ichirou can hear the last screams of the daughter Hiro is torturing, but the fact he still doesn’t have much luck is demonstrated when he gets stuck in traffic and is too late to save her. Clearly, he hasn’t explored the extent of his own abilities yet, or he would have, i dunno, run really fast or flown to her aid (unless his body doesn’t actually allow that).

In any case, upon inspecting the house and the family of victims, Ichirou discovers Hiro is still lingering there. Hiro assumes he’s the grandpa, and shoots him in the head before leaving, but Ichirou isn’t the grandpa, and while he was knocked down, the bang didn’t seem to cause any other damage.

I’d hope that with our hero meeting the villian, the slaughter of innocents will cease…or at least slow. But who am I kidding? These two are, at worst, equally matched, and with Ichirou’s clumsiness and Hiro’s give-no-fucks attitude, quite a bit of collateral damage will be in order. Hiro believes he’s a god. He won’t give that up easily. But neither will Ichirou.

P.S. While I love the visuals of the OP, the rap metal theme (which may owe a bit to Rage Against the Machine) and its English lyrics is a bit cheesy. Ah well. 

Inuyashiki – 01 (First Impressions)

Inuyashiki Ichirou has, at least to me, a pretty impressive name, but his life is depicted as…less impressive. Like Japan, he’s old. It’s worse: even though he’s just 58, he looks more like he’s in his 70s or 80s. His kids are in high school, and they’ve never been that impressed by him.

He finally makes enough money to buy his family a new house, and they’re underwhelmed by its size and the fact it’s next to (and in the shadow of) a much bigger house owned by their neighbor Oda, a successful manga artist.

Ichirou’s family abandons him and has dinner at a family restaurant (ironic) while he’s stuck with all the boxes.

Speaking of boxes, Inuyashiki Ichirou would seem to have checked off a lot of the ones he was expected to: got an education, a salaried job, a wife and two healthy kids. He finds a tossed-away dog and names her Hanaka, but the family just sees her as a nuisance and a burden.

He’s alone. So alone, when he’s cavalierly diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer and given three months to live by a doctor with one of the worst bedside manners I’ve ever seen, not one member of his family answers his phone calls.

He doubts they’d even cry if he told them; they’d probably just curse him for being so weak and frail and ineffectual. His daughter tells her friends he’s her grandfather, for Christ’s sake. This is a sad man on every level; thank god he has Hanaka to hug.

But while out walking her, he and another younger man with dark hair we only catch a glimpse of are apparently flattened by a crashed alien ship. Willing to take responsibility despite their tight schedule, Iyunashiki is painstakingly reconstructed with non-organic material.

He looks exactly the same, but Ichirou doesn’t feel right. He’s very thirsty; he no longer needs glasses; oh, and his arms, back, and head all retract to reveal various types of bizarre machinery, scaring the heck out of Hanaka.

I couldn’t help but think of the changes the MC of Parasyte went through, only rather than being infected with an alien parasite, Ichirou is only alive because the aliens were nice enough to rebuild his body, and mind, in perfect detail…only better.

One could say he’s been given great power, and with that comes great responsibility. When he encounters a gang of youths attacking a homeless man (who they call a “cockroach” with fireworks and with metal bats at the ready, Ichirou steps in to stop them.

First of all, I sorely hope roving gangs of kids beating up the homeless isn’t, like, a thing in Japan. That’s doubly distressing considering how much respect elders are supposed to be shown by youth in Japan, and how large a proportion of the population the elderly are becoming.

Ichirou is quickly beaten into the ground by the kids, who believe they’ve killed him and figure they might as well kill the homeless guy too. Honestly, this is the scum of the earth.

But in a hilariously, thoroughly satisfying, absolutely righteous climax to this sad tale of an old, weak, ineffectual man, his body acts on its own; targeting all the bad eggs Terminator-style, plotting firing solutions, and launching a non-lethal barrage of “fireworks” that spook the kids into scattering before they do any more harm.

Even better, his body’s OS uses its scan data to discover the identities of the young assailants and broadcasts a posted video of their activities on every screen in the city. They’re eventually found out and likely to be caught by the police and punished for their crimes. It’s probably better than they deserve; I was fully prepared for Ichirou to kill them.

But he’s not a killer. What he has become is a hero. More importantly, by risking his life to save another and becoming emotionally overcome by the weight of that sequence of events, Ichirou cries tears of joy. He may still look like a spent old man, but he’s never felt more alive, and I sincerely doubt this will be the last of his heroic acts.

Inuyashiki paints a pretty bleak picture of Japanese society, to the point it was pretty damn unpleasant to watch how Ichirou was treated by everyone in his life. The show is clearly on his side, and, well, so am I, even if I agree with his kids that the house he chose is a little depressing. It’s refreshing to see an anime for once not focusing a bunch of teenagers, instead starring a family man desperate to catch a break.

Due to the extreme nature of his transformation, he’ll likely be keeping this a secret from his family and everyone else, which means he’ll still have to play the role of the man he used to be. Hey, every hero has to have an alter-ego, right? They also have to have an arch-nemesis; my money’s on that younger man at the sight of the alien crash serving that role.

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 04

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In Magipro, Ruler is what Mokuou Sanae can’t be in the real world: in control. She always ranked at the top of her class, but speaking out of turn at the office where she worked got her reassigned by a boss who wanted her to learn her place. She always saw everybody in the world as idiots to be brought to heel. It’s how she ruled as Ruler, and it was her downfall.

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Getting Ruler’s backstory was a sure sign that she’d be the next victim, despite having come up with a devious scheme to steal Snow White’s Magical Candies. As it happens, her desire to keep distance from her subjects by insulting them at every opportunity became her fatal flaw when she relied on Swim Swim to transfer Snow White’s candies while she held her pose to keep Koyuki from moving (the flipside of her magical power to control).

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As such, Swim Swim took it upon herself to doublecross Ruler, only taking half of Snow White’s 50,000+ candies and distributing them evenly to all but Snow White herself, La Pucelle…and Ruler. That puts Ruler in last place at the time of the rankings, and it kills her.

Tama seems torn up by the coup, but the twin “angels” are fine with it, and acknowledge Swim Swim as their new leader. In a nice twist, Swim Swim was the young girl who Nemurin said could be a princess if she tried hard enough. But Swim Swim couldn’t be the true Ruler until the old one was eliminated. And so it comes to be.

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The entire situation disgusts Koyuki, who was ready to die rather than let anyone else die in her place before she learned Swim Swim only took half of her candies. But Souta isn’t so dedicated to Koyuki’s ideals, especially if it means Koyuki’s death. So La Pucelle re-vows to be Snow White’s knight, doing whatever is necessary to keep her alive and safe – whether Snow White wants such treatment or not.

With the sixteenth magical girl entering the field, Koyuki will no doubt continue to need protection, not just from those who would eliminate her, but from her own stubborn refusal to defend herself at the cost of others.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 03

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Once Sister Nana and Winterprison find a recording of Fav telling Cranberry retired Magical Girls die in real life as well, it isn’t long before they make the connection to the sudden real-world death of Sanjou Nemu, and start to worry about their own lives. It’s no longer a fun game. The lives they have as magical girls are the only lives they’ve got..and they’ll have to fight for them.

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We spend a fair amount of time with Ruler’s gang: twins Yuna and Mina, the doglike Tama, and the quiet but equally loyal Swim Swim. Ruler keeps emotional distance from her “subjects” by calling them idiots and useless, but she clearly cares about them and has taken it upon herself to make sure no one drops out.

Yuna and Mina initially try to depose Snow White with a PV, and get close, finishing second in popularity polls. But once the truth of their plight is out, that petty jealousy is twisted into a competition for their very lives.

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Koyuki reacts to the news exactly how you’d expect someone with as much purity and empathy as she has: lamenting her situation and even feeling guilty about always taking the top spot.

Souta tells her it’s good and right to feel that way, but for now all they can do is keep surviving for the day they can perhaps find a hole in Fav’s oppressive “that’s the way it is” system. I doubt that will actually happen before most of the girls die, but still! Until then, Souta vows to be Koyuki’s sword.

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She’ll need it. Ruler wastes no time plotting to exploit the “update” to the game that allows girls to exchange candies. She believes it’s a move by the game’s admins to egg the girls on into taking candies from one another, now that they’re exchangeable. And there’s no more tempting target than Snow White, sitting on hundreds if not thousands of candies, and with no personal desire to hurt her fellow magical girls.

Ruler doesn’t plan to eventually take all of Snow White’s candy. As far as she’s concerned, it’s written in stone that Snow White will die, tonight. She is not messing around, and while her subjects aren’t the most reliable, they are still magical girls with unique powers.

Whether Koyuki survives depends on how capable Souta is of protecting her, as well as how far she’s willing to forsake her cherished ideals of purity, righteousness, and beauty. Because shit’s about to get ugly fast.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 02

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This week we get to learn a bit more about the other magical girls and their various affiliations, the method by which Fav will determing which magical girls will be culled, and most importantly, the consequences of being one of those girls.

Calamity Mary is a loose cannon, in this for herself. Top Speed looks after Ripple, to whom trouble seems to always come. Ruler leads the largest alliance of girls, and won’t let anyone in her group drop out.

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While some of the girls’ abilities leave me wondering how they collect “Magical Candies” to determine who survives, with Snow White and La Pucelle there isn’t really any wonder. Koyuki is a good-deed-doing machine, and just being with her keeps Souta out of the points basement.

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Unfortunately, someone has to “go” every week for the next eight weeks, and this week is no exception. And while Nemurin’s “deeds” include saving the world and space multiple times, because she’s only doing it in people’s dreams, her candies are only dream candies.

She doesn’t seem to mind, since she’s having fun helping people in dreams. And in the real world, she’s getting ready to end her NEET status and move forward in her life, so if she’s the first to lose, it’s not that big a deal.

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Of course, things aren’t that simple. It was disquieting enough to see Nemurin’s avatar get rubbed out, followed by the curt message that she’s been “deleted.” It’s quite another matter when, after the stroke of midnight on her last night as a magical girl, Sanjou Nemu “says goodbye to everything”, and her mother finds her lying dead in her bead.

Now we know this isn’t just a competition to remain being a magical girl. These girls are fighting for their lives. Most, including Koyuki, aren’t aware of this yet. Fortunately for her, she’s at the top of the points. But that makes her a target; Ruler in particular sees her as an eyesore. We’ve got a tough, bloody, slightly frilly battle ahead of us.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: The story of Himekawa Koyuki, who has loved magical girls since she was a little kid, suddenly being selected to become a real magical girl by the mobile game MagiPro. She immediately set to work helping townsfolk, and the first fellow magical girl she meets in person is her childhood friend Souta, a boy. One day, MagiPro’s mascot Fav announces the number of magical girls in the region will be halved from sixteen to eight.

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Why You Should Watch: It’s above-average in terms of general looks and production values, once you get used to its character design, which tends towards the cute. Sure, Koyuki’s almost painfully earnest and naive, but the show seems fully aware of this, and unlike Gakkou Gurashi, doesn’t wait until the end of the episode to drop the hammer down.

It’s right there in the cold open: one magical girl standing over the bloodied corpses of her rivals. Even so, it’s nice to ease into this suddenly miraculous world along with Koyuki, and even though we know she’s doomed, we can still enjoy the little bit of good times she has early on. Her friend Souta’s situation is also an interesting wrinkle.

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Why You Shouldn’t Watch: The presence of over sixteen characters, most of which billed as mains, can be intimidating, and also allows for an almost overwhelming helping of moe (each magical girl has their own specific…very specific look). The show owes much to Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Koyuki owes much to Madoka herself, while the format suggests a marathon/tournament on the scale of Akuma no Riddle or another Lerche series, Danganronpa.

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The Verdict: Unlike Touken Ranbu, MagiPro had a hook to it that made me invested in the protagonist and look forward to the next episode. There’s a lot of exposition in both shows, but for some reason it felt more natural and less drawn out here, and the concept was a lot simpler and, more importantly, actually executed well.

Koyuki’s transition is quick, but we feel the same wonder she feels, and the same dread when she sees the ominous word “halved” in the chat room. She’s committed to be a “pure, righteous, and beautiful” magical girl, but she may have to rethink that strategy if she doesn’t want to be a dead one.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 12 (Fin)

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Both this sequel series and its final episode share the title “insight”, meaning “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.” Throughout much of the story, the public at large didn’t have much insight into anything beyond what they collectively felt they wanted in the moment.

Their growing enthusiasm with becoming one, fueled by Gelsadra’s brief rule and new ways of doing things, created a new enemy that no one saw coming until it was too late, due to their lack of insight into themselves. That enemy was the pervading atmosphere.

Everyone was to blame, but an individual was still needed to represent collective guilt and collective culpability; a bad guy who the Gatchamen would beat so badly, the atmosphere would become too terrifying for anyone to want to be a part of it any more.

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As Tsubasa explains to the public on the Milione Show, in the second phase of their plan, she says Hajime took that role. She used Berg-Katze’s power to become Gel-san, then told her G-men comrades to beat her mercilessly before a live nationwide audience.

Hajime was the ultimate hero of heroes in Gatchaman because he realizes her role in protecting the planet goes beyond simply saving whoever is right in front of her, but, when necessary, saving everyone from themselves, even if it means putting her life on the line. Rather than go with the flow or settle for quick votes and easy answers that feel good, Hajime thought, long and hard, about what she, Ichinose Hajime, could do.

Last week’s straightforward battle is thus place in a far different and more compelling context, with added dialogue that accentuates how conflicted the G-men really were about beating up “Gel-san”, because it was really Hajime. Yet again and again, she told them not to stop, until they literally cleaved her in two. As a result, she’s in a coma, and the sight of her on TV incites public rage against Gel-san.

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But Tsubasa implores everyone to follow Hajime’s example and think carefully about what is to be done about Gelsadra: Should they expel him from Earth, allow him to stay, or leave it up to the Gatchamen? Unlike all other previous votes, the people have a whole month to decide, and can change their votes as much as they want until the final tally.

As the days and weeks go by, anti-Gel-san sentiment goes from a boil to a simmer, as after longer and more thorough thought, everyone starts to take responsibility for what happened to the atmosphere rather than blame it all on Gel-san, who was, after all, only a naive facilitator with the very best intentions.

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When the vote comes, Tsubasa is relieved that not only do the people (by a narrow margin) agree to let Gel-san stay on Earth, but only a tiny sliver left it up to Gatchamen. Well over 90% of the population decided for themselves. To Suzuki Rizumu’s delight, the people evolved beyond the level of apes.

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After the vote, public opinion is driven a little less by what happens to be the flavor of the week, but greater intuitive understanding of the situation and their own individual power to shape their own opinion. X tells Rui to think long and hard about what to do about the Crowds, who play with the remaining, calm, Kuu-sama. The Prime Minister reminds his salty colleagues in the Diet that everyone was responsible for the atmospheric fiasco, and everyone is responsible for preventing it from happening again.

As for the savior who woke everyone up from their destructive bliss, Hajime does, thankfully, eventually wake up from her long slumber, without any fuss and grateful she slept so well. She’s clearly happy her big plan worked out, since so much of it depended on her fellow Gatchamen as well as the general public to make it a success.

Now, with the world more or less back to normal, the G-men await the next arrival of an alien who might, unwittingly or not, take a certain human quality to its most dangerous extreme. If that ever happens, I’ll be here to watch and cover it. GATCHA!

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 11

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As ‘Lil Gel-san chills at Gatcha HQ with Sugayama, the reunited Gatchamen do battle with the Kuu-sama…to no avail. While easy to defeat, the damn things keep coming, which makes sense, as they’re the granular embodiment of the collective atmosphere. Hajime stops fighting and determines they’ll need to try different tactics to get rid of it. But first, she and several other Gatchamen go on the Milione Show to receive the public’s blessing via smartphone vote. (OD also gets to meet his knockoff, DD).

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As soon as the public votes 84% to leave things to the Gatchamen, the Kuu-sama immediately cease their attacks and aggressive, and switch to fawning admiration for the Gatchamen. Such is the shifted mood of the people. But they’re still hanging around, to which Berg-Katze and Suzuki independently agree the only answer is to kill Gelsadra. So the Gatchamen deploy and start fighting him head-on.

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As we saw in his battle against Joe, Gel is one tough customer, but against the concerted forces of the Gatchamen he is eventually worn down. Only they’re not interested merely in wearing him down. In fact, the G-men make it a point to pummel Gel-san as mercilessly as possible, all while the public watches on streaming media. The Kuu-sama celebrate Gel-san’s imminent defeat, but then…the atmosphere starts to change again.

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People start to pity Gel-san’s treatment, and believe the G-men might be going a bit too far in taking him out. These peoples’ Kuu-samas pop like balloons one by one. Tsubasa tries to stop Sugane from a coup-de-grace, but after all the other assembled G-men salute, he fires off his attack anyway, which teleports through Tsubasa and slices Gel-san in half. Curiously absent in all of this is Hajime.

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The reason for her absence becomes clear a short time later, once the atmosphere has calmed and peace returned to the nation: she wasn’t absent. Utsutsu borrows the life force of her fellow G-men to heal a Sleeping Beauty-esque Hajime, while Tsubasa goes on the air to apologize to the people for deceiving them: Gel-san isn’t dead. They managed to get around the fact that only killing him could calm the atmosphere by “killing” a fake Gel-san, who Hajime posed as for the purposes of the operation.

Hajime understood that the atmosphere everyone had a hand in creating was far tougher opponent than Gel-san or the Kuu-sama, and defeating it would require more than brawn. They needed to convince the people that they were delivering swift and terrible justice to their fallen alien prime minister, and only when he was in smoldering pieces did they start to find such justice distasteful and prefer to move on to other things. I for one just hope Hajime didn’t have to pay for this victory with her own life.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 09

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Considering episode 8 ended with a guy being eaten (or absorbed) by a Kuu-sama, and episode 10 started with the public reaction, I didn’t realize I had skipped an entire episode by accident until I was already through it. I also noted how quickly the plot progressed, leaving me to think the episode I missed was probably superfluous anyway. Boy, was I wrong!

This week, among many other things I missed out on, Hajime diagnoses Tsubasa’s problem: her resolve to run forward with everything she’s got can be both a strength and a liability. Like Tsubasa, I found out that it’s okay to stop and even go back to ensure you’re on the right path, not a path of convenience and expediency.

As a result of going back, I found episode 9 did more than simply fill in a few blanks; it further enriched the episode 10 I accidentally skipped to—itself a great episode.

For instance: I learned what led to Tsubasa no longer being by Gelsadra’s side, but returning home to Nagaoka. The public didn’t immediately react to the Kuu-sama’s “feedings” negatively; most people welcomed them being a “hammer of justice” as they punished those who committed crimes, be they petty or serious.

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Tsubasa can’t be on board with this, because she’s not a weird alien who uses cold logic to solve everything. She doesn’t see the point of becoming one if those who are hesitant are forced under pain of devouring. Paiman also condemns the acts of the Kuu-sama and hastily announces the Gatchamen will move to detain Prime Minister Gel-san, who is definitely somehow connected.

Paiman’s plan backfires, because he chooses a course of action before fully understanding what he’s up against: the Kuu-sama aren’t minions doing Gel-san’s bidding; they’re a side-effect of his weird-alien methods to unite everyone at any cost. They are of the people, not Gel-san, and as long as the pervading public opinion is of acceptance and contentment with Gel-san’s “regime”, both the Kuu-sama and the majority of the public will condemn the Gatchamen for attempting to disrupt the flow.

Hardcore supporters thus throw stuff at Paiman when he comes to arrest Gel-san; parents take their kids out of his day-care; Sugane’s harem dumps him. The Gatchamen find themselves unpopular; an eyesore to either be spurned, ignored, or, if they persist in their intervention, dealt with.

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The team regroups at HQ, where Hajime decodes Berg-Katze’s riddle: “everyone’s favorite thing that goes in easy but is difficult to get out” is a pervading atmosphere. Sugane says he’s had a lot of fun going with the flow, and wonders if it’s really that bad. And it isn’t, until you suddenly find yourself outside of it.

Hajime seems to take great pride out of being an outsider, whether you’re talking Gatchaman, alien vessel, or general space cadet. Even her hand gestures are subversive, sticking with the scissor fingers while everyone else puts their fingers together for the Ge-ru-ru Salute.

While trying to visit another fellow outsider in Rui, he doesn’t answer the door or his phone. His AI X-san, has to answer for him, worried about its master. At this point Hajime is accosted by numerous Kuu-sama, who are clearly telling not asking, that they become one. In her usual nonchalant-yet-badass tone, Hajime says “Yeah, I’d rather not,” successfully dodging the tongues.

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Then there’s the sustained action setpiece of this episode: the fight between Joe, who blames himself for Gel-san getting elected, and Gel-san, who doesn’t understand what Joe’s problem is, only that any attack directed at him will be countered in kind, and then some.

Joe is perhaps a bit foolhardy, but who would have thought Gel-san would be so adept at combat, be it dodging bullets on the ground or matching fire with wind up in the stratosphere. It’s a beautiful battle, all the more interesting because of Joe’s inability to gt through to Gel-san not because Gel’s bad or evil, but merely fundamentally wired differently as a living being.

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Back to Tsubasa. Feeling like the bottom’s fallen out of her world, she wanders an increasingly bleak city with ominously gathering clouds and scene after scene of independent-minded folk being bullied into going with the flow, and devoured if they don’t. The Kuu-sama even come after her. It’s all like some terrible nightmare, but then there’s a hand on her shoulder—it’s Hajime’s with an umbrella. And Hajime isn’t there to judge or say I told you so. She’s there to help and support her friend.

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Speaking of friends, Sugane cannot heed Joe’s warning to stay out of the fight, protecting Joe from Gel’s giant shiruken-like weapons, but getting stabbed in the back himself. Like Paiman with his premature arrest attempt, Jou’s attack only made things worse. Meanwhile, after a pep talk from Hajime (she’s all over the place wryly supporting people this episode!) X-san reaches out to Rui’s nemesis Suzuki Rizumu to try to rattle his cage. Rui is nearly catatonic in his bliss, sucking his thumb like the ape Suzuki warned him everyone would become in Gel-san’s world.

But it does rouse Suzuki to action, and he gets out of prison thanks to a VAPE member who is a guard, in order to “change the atmosphere.” Having gotten her Gatchabook back from Hajime, Tsubasa heads home, for a similar change of atmosphere, seeking wisdom from her gramps. And then, in the scene episode 10 starts with, we see one more example of the insidious danger of the Kuu-sama and their fundamental wrongness of their existence in society when a little girl simply can’t abide an older kid shrugging off a recently-devoured friend. Out of the mouths of babes indeed!

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 10

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When Mana’s father is swallowed up by a Kuu-sama, a former (current?) member of VAPE catches it on his cameraphone, forwarding it to Suzuki, who sends it out into the digital continuum, where it catches fire. I like how the means with which Gelsadra and Tsubasa united and consolidated the majority of society are the same means that prove their undoing. As with everything else, enhanced technology effects change much faster than more primative methods, but the door swings both ways.

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When the nation sees Mana’s father getting eaten, followed by a response by Gel-san that inadvertently sounds cold and uncaring, and a warning for those who don’t want to become one to get in line, Tsubasa is beside herself, unsure of what to do, leading her to sit with her grandpa and listen. I found Yuru-jii’s monologue to be a fine, stirring, cogent, unblinking look on Japanese history and society.

He’s seen this “atmosphere” before, and he was caught up in it, as was everyone around him, including his little brother: in WWII. “We lost ourselves, and fought against people we didn’t hate”, all out what was essentially a national inferiority complex. The atmosphere that led to war and the slaughter of millions just kinda snuck up on everyone, until it had become irreversible.

That atmopshere created an empire that would fight to the last man when faced with certain defeat. It took the first and only use of nuclear weapons against an enemy in human history to dissipate that atmosphere. Gatchaman’s sobering critique of the national psyche in the darkest years of Japan’s history stands in stark contrast to the glorification of the military in shows like KanColle and GATE, and I for one am glad shows like this are around to balance the discourse.

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The difference here is, the mood, and atmosphere, or kuuki, has been given physical form by Gelsadra, with the best of intentions, but ignorant to the world, its people, and their inherent desire to break from the crowd. He neutralized their wills, but he did not break them. And so, when word comes down the Kuu-sama are killers and Gel brought them about and is doing nothing to stop them, those very Kuu-sama reflect the changing mood, one of hatred and desire to bring Gel-san down.

I like how it’s Hajime who first comes to Gel’s aid against the amassing hordes of Kuu-sama. They may have physical form, but they can be disspated, or “popped” with the power of the Gatchamen. Gel-san also reassesses what he wants, from something as massive and ultimately impossible as uniting all of mankind as one, to something far simpler and more personal: wanting to see his dear friend Tsubasa.

So he exhales, releasing all of the mood bubbles in his belly and reverting to the form he took when he first landed…which is good news.

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Meanwhile, the Gatchamen muster and start taking out the Kuu-samas, lending a nice action angle to the episode. Rui breaks out of his funk thanks to X, into whom he inadvertently, but fortunately, programmed a sort of “Backup Will”, a fail-safe to rouse him from indolence should he get swept up in the fluffy bliss of belonging. X reminds him that he came up with her, and Crowds, and every other amazing accomplishment, when he was alone, not in the fetal position in the lap of a physical manifestation of the nation’s mood!

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Just as Gel-san exhaled to release the atmosphere, so too does Tsubasa, taking her grandpa’s advice to do some heavy breathing before setting off and joining Hajime and the other Gatchamen. She races to the city by transforming into an awesome hoverbike-thingy. Thanks to the events of this week, the apes are quickly evolving and thinking for themselves, but the residual caustic atmosphere must be purged in order to move forward. Everyone has to take a deeep breath.

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P.S. Yup, I accidentally totally skipped Episode 9. I’ll be watching that soon and writing a review later. Sorry about that!

GATE – 10

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Itami’s awkward situation is resolved when a “rude” cell phone interrupts Rory’s advances. Moments later, the three special forces teams converge, and Rory takes them all out as they take out one another. So in effect, Rory ends up getting off; only as a demigod, and not as a human.

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The group then goes back on the run, commandeering a van and booking it for Ginza, where the visitors are to pay a visit to the memorial honoring the victims of the special region’s initial invasion attempt. Kuribayashi way way way overreacts to her CO’s ignorance of the situation by pulling a goddamn gun on him (one would think such actions usually warrant court martial).

His ex-wife uses the web to make sure there will be a big enough crowd of fans waiting for them in Ginza to dissuade the bad guys from making any further attempts to kidnap the visitors. She also shows she knows Itami to a T when she accurately describes just how each of the three visitors appeals to him, whether it’s Tuka’s looks, Rory’s personality, or Lelei’s vulnerability.

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The less said about the U.S. president speaking directly to a covert field agent—without any organizational distance or attempt to achieve plausible deniability—the better. Sorry, but a sitting president is more likely to be jizzed on by a salmon than be this idiotically close to this sensitive and covert an operation.

“Agent Graham” is introduced as one of the only survivors of Rory’s massacre (why she spared anyone is also beyond me), and he still tries to salvage the situation by attempting to pluck one or more of the visitors from the streets of Ginza, where the throngs of fans have amassed and been parted like the waves of the Red Sea by Rory, resplendent in her gothic lolita garb.

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Itami, Kuribayashi, and Tomita escort the visitors to the memorial, with all eyes and cameras on them, foiling any designs Graham may have had. Kuribayashi also bumps into her sister, a rookie news reporter, and report everything they’ve been through and everyone who has been chasing them on live TV. Within minutes, all of the CIA agents in Japan are arrested—which almost makes up for her pointing a gun at Itami earlier.

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After praying at the memorial, the group goes back through the gate and returns to the Special Region base. Itami is exhausted, wishing he’d been able to go on an actual vacation, while the three girls all look back on their visit with fondness, whether due to the dazzling technology (Lelei), the shopping (Tuka), or the opportunity to kill lots of people (Rory).

Pina, on the other hand, took something else away from her visit to Japan: they are an enemy her empire will never be able to defeat, and if her empire fights a war, they will not only lose, but be utterly destroyed. She vows to head back to the capital to put an end to the war once and for all. Something tells me she’s going to run into some opposition…probably from some old men.

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