Astra Lost in Space – 05 – The Kids Are Alright…Right??

Even after last week’s harrowing ordeal, the crew is not yet ready to pack up and leave Shummoor—not until they’ve gathered enough food. Thanks to a successful hunch from Charce, they learn that the pole trees, once their nemesis, are actually the yummiest food on the planet, and with the stores filled, the Astra departs from Planet #2.

The crew are also grateful to Yunhua, whose voice had both physical and psychological healing effects for all who were poisoned. That gratitude quickly shifts to straight-up admiration when they learn she’s the daughter of the superstar singer Lucy Lum. She then enlists Luca to give her a haircut, and Quitterie bristles as all the guys swoon.

Meanwhile, back home, Aries’ mom Emma listens to her daughter’s last video message to her, saying all is well—and probably isn’t watching it for the first time. It’s been over forty days since Team B5 was last seen on McPa, and Ulgar’s father has gathered all the other parents to decide whether to call off the search and declare their children permanently lost.

Emma is not ready to make that determination, and even correctly conjectures that the reason there’s neither remains nor luggage on McPa is because their kids are somewhere in space, still alive. But many of the parents are past the “denial” phase of loss (or don’t love their kids as much as her) and are ready to give up.

Meanwhile, at the very same time, many thousands of light years away, not only are their kids perfectly fine…they’re living it up on a tropical beach.

Planet #3 is Arispade – which is 99% water with one tiny islet that features a wealth of food and a sugar-white beach on which to break out and show off one’s swimsuit. It’s paradise. It’s so paradise, Quitterie almost loses it; after all they’ve been through, why are things suddenly so easy and comfortable that she can totally see herself living out the rest of her days on that beach?

Since this is, in fact, Kanata no Astra‘s beach episode, it wastes no time delivering the goods, as Quitterie insists on comparing boob sizes with Aries and Yunhua, and also assures Aries she’ll have no problem attracting Captain Kanata with her “spicy” bikini. The implication flusters Aries.

Back on the ship, there’s more good slice-of-life, with Quitterie pressing her attack upon Aries, urging her to go ask Kanata out, or at least find out if he already has a boyfriend. Aries actually musters the courage to ask him if he’s popular with girls (he says he’s popular with “all humans”) and then asks if he has a girlfriend (he says all girls are his friends). Neither Aries or Quitterie are happy with Kanata’s lame replies. Quitterie exacts swift punishment by sticking Kanata’s toothbrush up his nose; Aries goes to bed early; dejected.

Meanwhile, Luca thinks he’s making progress becoming friends with Ulgar, having fashioned a bow, arrow, and fishing poles for him to do what he apparently does best: shoot and hunt. Yet Ulgar remains aloof and hostile, and becomes…something else entirely when he learns that Luca’s last name is Esposito, and that he’s the son of a senator back home.

Ulgar’s reaction—like a switch had been flipped in his head, combined with the image of the gun we saw a couple weeks back, spell nothing but dread for the final scene of the episode, an otherwise placid sunset repast among the crew members, with only one person absent: Ulgar.

After waxing romantic about the time they have and how neither photos nor medically secured memories will ever adequately convey the emotions they’ve felt in the last fifty-or-so days, and Luca remarks that he doesn’t even believe there’s an enemy among them, that enemy finally reveals himself, and points his gun at Luca’s head, warning he’ll shoot if he moves.

And that my friends is how you go from a solid “8” episode that lacked any danger or difficulty for twenty-two minutes, to a solid “9” in the twenty-third. The good-old cliffhanger. It doesn’t even matter if the most likely of the crew to be the bad guy is the bad guy (unless he isn’t, and there are more twists afoot); that was marvelously done.

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Astra Lost in Space – 04 – Songstress of the Mushroom Kingdom

In addition to action, adventure, and danger, there’s also quite a bit of plain old life aboard the Astra, and whenever the crew is not working against the clock to save their skins, there are little quiet moments of that life: Zack accidentally walking in on a naked Quitterie (and even worse for her, not blushing about it); Funi coming up with a new way to address Kanata (“Aye, yeah!”); or Kanata basically telling the traitor, whoever they are, to “do their worst.”

In the meantime, the crew is going to focus on food and water, not investigations that will waste time and sink morale. While I’m sure the mystery traitor will cause more problems down the road, I’m glad it’s not totally dominating the narrative or the headspace of the crew members. Instead, the crew splits up to find food on the planet Shummoor, a name that sounds kind of like “mushroom,” and thus a hint about who or rather what is the true king of the planet.

Thanks to some friendly Gruppies, one team makes it back to the ship with giant cacti full of water, while the other team has a pretty big haul of delicious fruits. Unfortunately, those fruits spoil almost immediately after being picked, making them unsuitable for storage. This presents a serious problem: their first day’s haul of food will only be good for five days at most; not nearly enough to reach the next planet.

After Ulgar earlier called the towering Yunhua a “big girl” and “useless”, Luca’s thoughtless joking words about being worried Yunhua inadvertently eating all of what little food they have are the last straw. Aries and Kanata find Yunhua’s glasses and a note saying she’s left the ship and will stay behind for the benefit of everyone else.

Naturally, Captain Hoshijima is not going to remotely accept that; each crew member is precious, regardless of their talents or other perceived value. Thankfully both Luca and Ulgar show at least a measure of remorse for their ugly words.

As to Yunhua’s crushing lack of self-esteem, it’s chalked up to Yunhua’s dream to sing like her mother (a famous professional singer) and that selfish mother’s commitment to making sure Yunhua not only never sings to anyone, but remains as invisible as possible.

Even though Kanata has skills for which he’s been praised (and indeed qualities that made him the consensus captain), he can still empathize with Yunhua, for the trauma in his past stems from an inability to do anything to save his sensei. He knows what it’s like to feel useless, but what’s even more useless is to keep feeling that way.

But Yunhua leaving the ship isn’t the crisis of the week, it’s the mushrooms, specifically, when the Pole Tree releases poisonous spores that knock out Aries, Zack, Luca, Ulgar, Funi, and Charce, who at leasts manages to send an SOS to Kanata warning him not to take his helmet off.

Every planet is going to have a bit of an edge of danger to it—it’s built into human nature to fear the unknown—but I like how Astra smartly builds up its threats with clues, while also presenting possible solutions that, while not impossible, still require the crew to work together—or for individual members to do what is necessary when it’s their turn.

Dr. Quitterie is stumped; the medical supplies on the ship can only make the six patients a little more comfortable, but aren’t sufficient to cure them. As Kanata did with the traitor mystery, Quitterie drops her beef with Yunhua running away (and risking everyone else’s life to look for her) and asks her to help out with the patients.

Charce, still barely conscious, figures out the process of the predatory Pole Trees that rule Shummoor, and their symbiotic relationship to the moss and other plants. When Kanata asks if the ecosystem has some kind of limiter on the predation of animals, Charce says there could be an antidote out there: a medicinal mushroom. Sure enough, Yunhua used that very mushroom earlier to cure an ill gruppie. Kanata runs back out there to find some.

He has no luck, and worse, Quitterie succumbs to the spores, having been around the infected so much. That means the only non-bedridden crew member on the ship is Yunhua. Remembering her chat with Kanata about her dream to sing but reluctance to defy her mom, Yunhua steps up and finally does what only she can do: sing to her ill crewmates, sing with all her might, and by doing so create a soothing atmosphere suitable for healing.

As she envisions herself on the stage, in a glittering purple gown, with her bangs out of her face, belting out a reassuring song, Kanata realizes that the Pole Tree won’t allow access to the antidote fruits unless he’s suffering the symptoms of the poisonous spores. So, in true Classic Sci-Fi Captain-y fashion, he takes a huge gamble, removes his helmet, and lets himself be poisoned.

 

Sure enough, the medicinal mushrooms reveal themselves before him, he eats enough to get back on his feet, and the very gruppie he and Yunhua saved gives him a ride back to the Astra. The other ill crew members eat the mushrooms and recover.

The captain put his crew before himself and they are grateful for it. But Yunhua is even more grateful for Kanata helping her break her chains of self-loathing, leading to her playing a vital role  in the crew’s recovery.

As for the crew, they’ve likely learned some vital lessons for future planetary excursions: just because a plant or a mushroom doesn’t have teeth or a roar doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous or deadly. Anything in this vast universe is capable of ruling a kingdom, and mere humans interlope at their own risk.

Astra Lost in Space – 03 – This Is NOT It!

Aries has heterochromia. It’s a detail I never noticed in the first two episodes, until it was explicitly mentioned this week. I thought I was so sure they were the same color, but I looked back on those episodes, and sure enough, one of her eyes is more yellow; the other more green. My eyes just…didn’t notice.

It’s a subtle and clever way for the show to communicate not only that one’s eyes (or other senses) can fool them, but that things could be going on right out in the open and we may not even notice them until it’s too late. The same goes for Kanata, who both suspects and doesn’t suspect everyone. Like us, he may suspect Yunhua and Ulgar the most, but just because we know the least about them.

On their twenty-fourth day in space, Zack anounces that the Astra has arrived at Planet #2, Shummoor, but the rest of the crew is too busy shooting the breeze, which should be seen as progress. Then Funi (and her puppet) start talking about how she was adopted the same day she arrived an an orphanage, and how she overheard adults saying “put her on Beego and we’ll illuminate them all.”

Change “Beego” to “B-go (or 5)” and “illuminate” to “eliminate”, and it sure looks like everyone was put on this ship because they wanted to get rid of them in one fell swoop. With this theory afoot, Kanata decides to tell the others that there’s a traitor in their midst. Ulgar finally reveals something about himself: he’s the estranged son of the school vice principal, a man able to transfer students and choose who goes on what team.

I loved that this exchange marked the return of the haunting music that backed up the first episode’s cold open; a piece that captures both the unfathomable size of space and the equally unfathomable variety of perils it offers. And yet the greatest danger to everyone may be someone among them, not anything out there.

All this talk of a traitor is too much for Quitterie, who loses her composure, even pushing Aries away when she tries to comfort her. The fact is, no one can prove they are or are not the traitor. So Aries decides to table that particular dilemma for now, and have some snacks before heading down to the planet.

Both in this defusing of a volatile situation and in the insight she offers vis-a-vis the possibility of the traitor being on the kill list themselves, making theirs a suicide mission—Aries proves she’s far brainier and tougher than her space-cadet-with-a-photographic memory exterior would suggest.

In the midst of the discussion about this potentially suicidal traitor, another act of apparent sabotage goes down: a hole is blown in the ship’s hull, rupturing a water pipe.

Charce finds fragments and determines that it was an accident, not treachery from one of their own: a meteor pierced the hull, causing damage that if not repaired will spell the end of the ship. It’s actually comforting that it was a truly random, chaotic event, something that happens in space all the time, and something even the traitor did not expect to happen when it happened.

After reciting a couple more lame, vague “survival tips,” Kanata quickly and decisively assigns tasks to each member of the crew, each according to their strengths as he knows them. And after the events of last week, where he made decisions and acted when no one else could, the crew responds by going along with his assignments without protest. He also instills in everyone a palpable sense of “we can do this” by dint of sheer charisma.

The crew springs into action…well, all but Yunhua. Yunhua gets water in her face and some of it ends up down her throat. Because water forms balls in zero-G, she starts to drown, but Quitterie, the closest thing to a medic on the crew, acts quickly to save her, absorbing the water with a cloth. Yunhua is left alone to rest, and while it’s highly unlikely she meant to almost drown, I couldn’t help but think she was up to something arranging to be left on the bridge with no one watching.

Once a series of cables connect the backup generator with the gravity reactor thingamajig (technobabble), the system still throws and error due to a weird bird/bug-like critter flying about that the computer does not recognize. If they can’t nab it, they’ll plummet to their deaths.

The resident marksman, Ulgar, volunteers to shoot the thingy with Luca’s glue gun, as Luca and Kanata keep him steady. He succeeds, and the ship’s gravity and power are restored, halting its death dive into the planet’s atmosphere. Thanks to the talents of the individual crew, and their ability to work together as a unity under Kanata’s direction, the latest crisis is averted.

But that doesn’t change the fact there’s a traitor in their midst. As Luca praises Ulgar’s marksmanship and claims that with a real gun he’d be “unstoppable,” Kanata retorts that guns haven’t been legal in a very long time. And yet there Ulgar goes, into his quarters, to pull out a case containing…a gun.

Could it be as simple as one of the most obvious suspects in the crew actually being the traitor? Or is the reveal of the gun more misdirection? Like Aries’ different colored eyes, the answers may have already stared me in the face long before I discover them for myself…

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.

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.

Darling in the FranXX – 23 – New Battles to Fight

As Hiro and most of Squad 13 and the surviving Nines head into space aboard a gigantic Klaxosaur mothership, part of a massive fleet on autopilot to Mars orbit, Michiru stays behind.

Kokoro believes that because she can no longer pilot a FranXX, she has no more purpose, other than perhaps staying by Zero Two’s side as she continues to get remotely cut by the VIRM attacking Strelizia. Since she feels herself so useless, she neither expects or wants anyone burdening themselves for her sake, but Mitsuru won’t hear of it.

A VIRM fleet intercepts Hiro and his Klaxosaur fleet, attempting to block them from reaching Strelizia, who they’re surrounding. But thanks to Nine Alpha being compatible as Hiro’s pistil, and some teamwork on the part of Squad 13 and the other Nines, Hiro is able to blast through the walls of enemy ships and reach Strelizia, which is believed inert due to not having a Stamen.

Alpha gets Hiro to the access hatch, but self-destructs soon after to take out a particularly large, nasty VIRM. The other Nines sacrifice themselves in similar fashion, going out doing what they were always created and designed to do: to fight in battles like this.

Humans like Squad 13 have other battles to fight, whether it’s the fight in which Kokoro and Mitsuru have to start over after losing their memories, protecting one another and awaiting the new life they created, or Hiro keeping his promise to Zero Two.

When he makes contact with her in Strelizia’s cockpit, Zero Two tells him she left Earth so that Hiro could remain a human, and help rebuild civilization with his Squad 13 family. But that’s not what Hiro wants. He wants to be with Zero Two, like they promised they would be, even if he becomes a “monster” like her.

He believes even Zero Two wanted this despite her actions, because she left the last page of her story blank. By returning to her side Hiro is filling that blank page with a new ending, one in which the lovers never part.

Their reunion triggers a major transformation in Strelizia Apath (or Apus, as it’s spelled in the subs this week), its mask shattering to reveal an enormous Zero Two, replacing or transporting her human body on earth into the cockpit with Hiro.

Now fully awake and in her true form, Strelizia unleashes a new and devastating arsenal of weaponry that annihilates the VIRM fleet in moments, likely ending Squad 13’s last military battle and freeing them to begin the next battle: surviving and rebuilding.

However, Hiro and Zero Two won’t be joining them, at least, not for a while. Devices emerge from the Martian moons of Phobos and Deimos, and their combined beams open a warp gate to systems heretofore long out of mankind’s reach (though at this point the couple can probably no longer be called 100% human, what with the horns and all).

The VIRM’s fleet at Mars is destroyed, but their main fleet is still out there, and their mission to enslave humanity and the Klaxosaurs remains in force. Rather than wait for them to threaten the solar system again, Hiro and Zero Two will take the battle to them.

That means saying goodbye to Futoshi, Ikuno, Zorome, Miku, Goro, and Ichigo, as well as Kokoro and Michiru. It would be nice if they could all fight their individual battles in the same place, but it’s not to be, so they’ll all have to just wait and see if Hiro and Zero Two will ever return to them.

 

Darling in the FranXX – 22 – Nothing Remains Stagnant

The aftermath of the huge battle between the Klaxosaurs and VIRM is even more bleak than that following the destruction of Plantation 13. Squad 13 are just trying to scrape by with their year of rations remaining, hoping to grow crops to one day restock their food supply.

The goal to survive, not fight, hasn’t changed, but nearly everything else has. Everyone is worn out and hungry. A pregnant Kokoro can barely keep down the tiny ration food she’s eating. Zero Two is in a vegetative state, and worryingly, cuts are starting to appear on her arms out of nowhere.

Zero Two kept her promise and went to where Hiro was, but despite sitting right beside him, Zero Two is currently too far away for him to keep his.

The Klaxosaurs don’t offer any help; they’re busy fighting the VIRM, and the dead bodies of both entities falling to the ground, narrowly missing their meager crops. Adults like “New Nana” don’t help, absent explicit orders from “Papa” (who let’s face it, is never “coming home”.)

Finally, Kokoro collapses and upon examination learns she is pregnant. All Nana says that means is that she can’t pilot a FranXX as long as she remains with child. She gives her the option to abort the fetus or not, but carrying the child to term isn’t mentioned.

It seems clear at this point that Mitsuru remembers something of his role in Kokoro’s current situation; how else to explain how helpless he feels in wanting to help her. He reaches out to Hiro, but Hiro has is own problems, and feels just as helpless over his inability to help the one he loves.

The episode continues to pile on, as Squad 13 wakes up to find their crops are not long for this world, apparently due to nutrient deficiency in the soil as a result of magma energy mining. The world itself seems to be rejecting their existence.

Two Adults who look to contribute a crucial role in helping the children survive and create a future are Hachi and Nana. After what he heard from and saw with Dr. Franxx, Hachi isn’t your typical adult human automaton, and follows the late doctor’s posthumous e-mail, retrieving Nana and discovering that all of the rejected parasites are in cryo-sleep.

Franxx’ last orders for Hachi and Nana were to become the surviving children’s new adults, and to take care of them until they can take care of themselves.

While chasing a “sleepwalking” Zero Two, Hiro witnesses wounds spontaneously appearing. He finally discovers the reason after reading her last illustrated page of her storybook, in which the prince is “left alone” when the princess has to go far away. Zero Two’s mind is still one with Strelizia Apath, which is out in space fighting against the VIRM. Its wounds become her body’s wounds.

At around the same time, Goro and Hachi learn that Mistleteinn still has soil with enough nutrients to grow viable crops, allowing them to survive after their rations run out.

Hiro and Goro’s opposing positions on how to proceed clash when Hiro announces to the others that he’s going to space (specifically, Mars orbit) to where Strelizia is fighting. Keeping his promise to Zero Two is the only reason he’s alive.

Goro is pissed by Hiro’s selfishness, but also the timing of his announcement, just when he’s found a glimmer of hope for the rest of them. But there’s no convincing either of them that the other is right. Hiro will go to space, and the others can’t stop him.

Meanwhile, Nana, who had been convinced she no longer served a purpose, finds a new one in comforting a crying injured parasite.

After saying goodbye to Zero Two, Hiro prepares to launch, using the Klaxosaur ship left to them by the princess, along with the choice to “fight or accept your ruin.” Well, turns out nobody wants to accept their ruin, because every Squad 13 and Nine member who is able decides to join Hiro on his interplanetary odyssey, committed to making sure it isn’t a one-way trip.

They’ll go to Mars, help/save Strelizia, come back, and build their future—because while nothing is ever stagnant, they deserve a little stability after how hard they’ve worked, fought, and suffered.

Inuyashiki – 06

Hiro manages to escape the cops without killing anybody, but the damage is done: his mother has seen him treated the way a terrorist would be treated, and that’s going to be hard to explain, especially when his face and deeds are all over TV, the internet, and word-of-mouth.

Hiro lands nowhere in particular, but it isn’t long before he comes across Watanabe Shion, who is willing to harbor him in the cramped apartment where she and her grandmother live. Shion, the poor lass, doesn’t believe the news…except the part about his “complicated” family situation.

This served to endear him even more to her; she’s an orphan. Both her parents died of cancer, and she believes she won’t live long either. Her classmates may ultimately conclude Hiro was a bad egg despite being cute and nice, but Shion can’t do that. And you really feel for her and yes, worry about something on the TV or internet setting Hiro off on another rampage.

After a quiet, polite dinner, and in a scene reminiscent of Leon, Hiro gets up and points his finger at the heads of Shion and her grandmother…but in a genius bit of cutting that leaves you hanging for just a moment…we see he didn’t go through with it, as he’s having a nice breakfast with them the next morning.

This is an 80-90% Hiro episode, but the bit with Ichirou and Andou serves as a nice, lightweight intermission from the tense and emotional goings-on with Hiro. Very lightweight, as it happens. Andou, being very scientific in helping Ichirou maximize his powers, has Ichirou interface with is phone so that he can communicate hands-free at any time, like an iPhone in his brain.

Ichirou’s bewilderment and panicky reactions are always a great source of laughs, and this is no exception, as Andou recommends Ichirou test the range of their comms, which he does by launching himself into orbit. An spacewalking astronaut spots him; whether this will be trouble later depends on whether there was any kind of video feed.

Back to Hiro, who doesn’t have much to do besides “watch” TV and surf the internet, specifically chat rooms like “2chan”. He gets sucked in and is unable to “turn off”. The online dialogue is naturally quite vicious, and in his absence, it turns against his mother, who is so upset and ashamed she commits suicide.

Hiro learns this on a breaking news graphic during a comedy show he was actually managing to laugh at. Turns out there’s no escape from his torment, even when he launches himself high into the sky to scream. As I said last week, losing his mother would mean losing the one thing keeping him tethered to a degree of humanity—though we’ll see if Shion steps in to fill that role.

My only nit to pick this week: Why didn’t Hiro locate and rush to his mother the moment the news dropped she’d committed suicide? You’d think he would have at least tried to resurrect her. Then again, if she was totally dead at that point, perhaps even Ichirou and Hiro’s healing powers can only go so far.

Hiro intends to take revenge on those who caused and celebrated the death of his mother. He slaughters a media circus outside his father’s house, sparing his father, despite his role in abandoning his mother for another woman. I guess he still has some boundaries.

However, there are certainly some boundaries that he can easily break through—like the boundary between the legion of trolls and real-life, real-time consequences for their words and attitudes.

Targeting a particularly nasty chatroom, a member of which gave the media his address and name, he first hacks in and tells them that he’ll kill them all. Then he kills the one who ratted him out (even though he insists he was only trolling), then systematically kills each and every member of the room.

The nature of their real-life isolation from each other made it impossible for anyone to credibly warn anyone else, and the speed with which Hiro works makes it impossible for anyone to even process what the hell is happening, let alone defend themselves.

While these trolls were undeniably assholes, they didn’t really deserve to be executed, and Hiro certainly wasn’t the one to pass judgment on them, considering the extent of his own crimes. The grand irony of it all is that if only he hadn’t been caught, Hiro might’ve actually stopped killing; and redirected his life to protecting and providing for the mother who bore him.

ēlDLIVE – 01 (First Impressions)

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Kokonose Chuuta is a high schooler who avoids contact with others and is always talking to a voice no one else hears. One day he’s scooped up by ēlDLIVE, a space police force, who immediately put him to work apprehending an alien criminal, who turns out to be his buxom teacher.

The voice belongs to an alien who lives within him, and with its help Chuuta successfully arrests the alien and is formally accepted into ēlDLIVE. Among the bureau’s members is his classmate and crush Sonokata Misuzu.

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Isn’t it always the way: you try to keep your head down and lead a quiet life helping your auntie at her muffin shop, only to be recruited by a bizarre space police unit? ēlDLIVE presents that rather outlandish scenario, and does it with a brisk pace, confidence, and humor.

Not only that, the person who had been the least human-looking character – Chuuta’s teacher – turns out to be an alien perp in disguise. His crush is pretty generically hostile to him, but at least she’s voiced by Hayami Saori.

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ēlDLIVE is fine harmless fun, but there’s not much to it beyond its vivid candy coating, and while it tries to go out there with kooky alien designs, the weird alien that harmlessly pops out of Chuuta’s chest just…doesn’t look that cool. Nor does Chuuta himself, who I guess is supposed to be an innocent weenie.

Still, both the premise and the execution smacks of a show with limited appeal for actual adults – this has Saturday morning kid’s cartoon all over it, unlike something darker like Parasyte. I don’t foresee ēlDLIVE lasting long on my Winter watchlist, but it is inoffensive and decent for what it is.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 03

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This episode demonstrated how simulations and tournaments are no test of a pilot’s true mettle, any more than good looks and celebrity. The Elite Four won the team competition while Akai took the individual trophy handily, but when it came time to face a real Gauna in battle, their skills and teamwork were all for naught, because Akai chose to be a good boyfriend which was the only slip-up required in such a fast-paced, tense battle to throw the entire team into chaos. When they stopped fighting and started trying to save each other, they had lost.

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This is quite a gut-punch, both to me and to everyone watching back on Sidonia, hoping for a quick and easy victory. I imagined one or two of the team members to be taken out, tops, based on the death flags they were throwing beforehand, but all four of the best pilots Sidonia had to offer, all at once, without even finishing off the Gauna? To understate matters, that’s not good. Now, as a matter of necessity, a new four-person group must be formed from the best pilots still alive.

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In most cases, the fate of Akai’s Elite Four would be taken by Kobayashi and Sidonia’s bosses as a cautionary example of how chemistry comraderie, and a sense of family are a double-edged sword; it’s what made the Four such a great team, but against the Gauna, it turned out to be a fatal weakness. Thus, one would think they’d pick four pilots who didn’t know each other or even particularly like each other. But because they’re prominent characters, the most likely candidates are Nagate, Izana, Shizuka, and Kunato.

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I’m well aware that three of those four are involved in a love triangle, which means the very same thing could befall them when the Sidonia hits the fan. But then, maybe Kunato harbors enough hate and angst to balance that out. In this week’s “Kunato Gets Pwned” segment, Akai beats him in the individual competition. He’s so pissed off afterwards that when poor Izana accidentally bumps into him he smacks her to the ground, and she takes a candy apple stick to the leg, which…ouch.

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Let’s not also forget Izuna’s jealousy towards what she sees as Shizuka (the “conventional” woman) getting along too well with Nagate. Izana bumps into Kunato because she’s distracted by that jealousy. When Nagate and Shizuka of all people come to Izana’s aid, we see what could be the next dream team together for the first time. Meanwhile, strategic genius Midorikawa Yuhata, fueled by the death of her brother, could well be the one planning their future battles. But I fear I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 02

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Tanikaze Nagate’s grandfather pushed him to become the best pilot he could be, but he could only teach him so much. In order to realize the dream of becoming a true guardian pilot, Nagate had to face real action. The first appearance of a Gauna in a century on his very first sortie obliges.

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The Gauna itself is a frightening, implacable hulk of a monster somewhat resembling the Giant Warrior from Nausicaä—not at all a bad thing to imitate—with a medusa-like tangle of tentacle-like protrusions, one off which grabs Yamano Eiko’s frame and swallows her whole, then morphs into a rough approximation of her. Very creepy, dark stuff, though notably lacking in gore, at least in this instance.

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Nagate is slammed down early in the battle and would seem to be another casualty, but he gets a somewhat preternatural second wind, picks himself off, and hangs with the Gauna long enough for the others to escape, until a “Heavy Mass Cannon” projectile—essentially a big weight—fired by Sidonia impacts with the Gauma, driving it back, but not killing it. While the mining mission was a bust, the fact they were able to push it back with only one trainee out of eight lost is accepted as a victory.

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It’s something else entirely for Nagate. He does well in battle, but not afterwards. The innocence he lost in the battle is on display in flashbacks to the moments before the battle, when the haughty Yamano refuses to shake hands with Nagate and Izana for good luck, which it turns out she could have used. After the battle Nagate definitely showing signs of PTSD, and is unable to keep his food down. He has the skills, but he has yet to build the fortitude, for the trials ahead.

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So far the show seems to be punishing arrogance and rewarding meekness: in addition to Yamano’s comeuppance, Kunato is shot down (figuratively) for the second episode in a row, being totally ignored and passed by by Akai, the leader of the Elite Four Guardian Pilots tasked with finishing off the Gauna, who is only interested in Nagate, and why wouldn’t he be? Nagate fought the Gauna head-on. That fact also attracts Midorikawa Yuhata, who has the makings of a Nagate groupie who would wedge between the quiet rivalry brewing between Shizuka and Izana.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 01

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“You escapist fools.”

This is how Kunato, a Sephiroth-looking stick-in-the-mud, voices his disgust to a meager but passionate group of protesting pacifists, but it could also describe me. I’ll fully admit it: I’m a bit of an escapist fool. Sometimes I blithely ignore reality entirely preferring to dive into new worlds and new systems. Due to its very-similar but better-executed cel-shaded animation style (still clinical and stiff, but also warmer and grittier), I’m reminded of a world in which humans battled sentient Machiavellian sexually-frustrated naval vessels.

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After just one visually impressive episode of Sidonia, this looks like a show I can really sink my escapist fool-teeth into. Like the third Eva film, it starts promising, in the midst of heated action: a young lad named Tanikaze Nagate pilots a mecha through space and defeats one of the alien monsters called Gauma. But then his score is tallied—a perfect 99999—and he emerges from a pod; it was only a simulation. It’s a clever way to serve up a brief taste of the action that’s sure to come.

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After a stirring OP, accompanied by an equally stirring national(istic) anthem, the show zooms out on Tanikaze’s small, dingy, isolated world deep within the bowels of a much larger world, Sidonia, a huge, hive-like mass of civilization with a highly militarized population. Tanikaze goes through quite a bit of physical punishment until he ends up spat out into the society he’d long avoided, where his latent skills as a simulation ace will be almost immediately put to the test.

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Along the way Tanikaze meets the friendly, third-gendered Shinatose Izana (Toyosaki Aki) and the friendly, definitely-a-girl Hoshijiro Shizuka, quickly establishing a potential love triangle. (There are also a great deal of Kitamura Eri clones!) Tanikaze totally bombs in a simulator for the new and unfamiliar Type 18 frame (I can relate, having to adjust from a Gen-6 to Gen-8 Civic!), but when he’s called to sortie on his first day—he’s given a legendary Type 17 frame that Sephiroth Kunato was itching for, thus instantly establishing a rivalry.

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The frames are very cool looking; everything is very cool looking, come to think of it. Like Blue Steel, if this kind of animation turns you off, it turns you off, but I loved the vivid hyper-reality of it all. The episode also lies in wait with a truly holy-crap-this-is-awesome moment when the frames launch into space and we finally get a good look at Sidonia: an insane-looking hexagonal beam thingy stuck through an asteroid, hurtling through space. And of course, what should be a routine mining mission turns into the first real Gauma attack in a century, with Tanikaze right in the thick of it.

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If you visit RABUJOI frequently you’ll notice I haven’t gotten around to Captain Earth’s second episode. There’s a reason for that, while it was a great-looking, competent anime in the best Bones tradition, we found ourselves weary of delving into something we’ve seen so often in the past; something beautifully executed but lacking in the originality department. After this first episode, Sidonia was even better-looking, but also bolder and more inventive, at least to this escapist fool’s eyes.

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Space Dandy – 02

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Space Dandy is the intergalactic comedy that takes its time and hangs out in bars—ramen shops. When none of Dandy’s alien quarry turns out to be rare, he ejects Meow into space, only letting him back into the ship when Meow promises he knows the location of a Phantom Ramen. A wide-ranging culinary journey ensues, with the contents of the bowls growing more bizarre and outrageous as Dandy’s bank account empties.

So what happens here is that Dandy, eager to make a buck, agrees to spend what money he does have matching noodle bowls with his unreliable new sidekick, who Dandy knows is only interested in eating and wasting time. All the while, Meow is inadvertently telling the enemy Dr. Gel exactly where they are by tweeting each restaurant they patronize. Dandy also meets the lovely (and limber) Scarlett, who takes out the first wave of Gel’s foot soldiers not to save Dandy, but as payback for spilling her bowl.

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Honey may give Space Dandy the time of day, but that’s her job. Scarlett is not the least bit seducd by Dandy’s wiles, especially when he asks for money. Still, once QT discovers Meow’s tweets and his phone is disposed of, the threat from the Gogol Empire is neutralized. It’s about this time when we started wondering how Dandy & Co. get themselves killed this week, but the episode’s final act didn’t follow that pattern; not exactly, at least. The only similarity to last week’s ending is that Dandy and Meow end up in another tense, dangerous situation, as the source of the stale but tasty Phantom Ramen turns out to be in a wormhole.

But after that mind-bending journey they emerge on the other side in a very calm, eerily gorgeous alternate dimension, and the comedy is put on hold for the surprisingly moving story of an ancient Earth-trained alien ramen master, possibly inspired by Jiro Dreams of Sushi (which we still have yet to see). The alien lives there alone for centuries, and his tears are the secret ingredient. After hearing the old alien’s tale, out of deference, Dandy lets him decide if he wants to come back with them. He declines, and in a hint of karmic justice, Meow loses his to-go bowl in the wormhole, and only Dandy gets the final taste ever.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)