Great Pretender – 05 – Cooking Up Something Good

Turns out Dickens wants Salazar in cuffs, so Makoto’s efforts to keep him free to care for his son goes nowhere, and Makoto has no choice but to cooperate lest he end up in prison himself. So as Eddie, Laurent, Abby, and a camera watch closely, Makoto cooks up his very first batch of Sakura Magic, a drug that doesn’t really exist.

Having watched sufficient instructional videos, Makoto is able to pull it off, though the candy is a little rough-looking. Abby is ready to taste-test and offer another performance, but first Eddie presents Laurent with the ten million dollars in ten suitcases, and Agent Dickens’ troops bust in, automatic weapons drawn.

Dickens makes no effort to conceal the fact that Makoto was her mole. She also promised no one would get killed in the raid, but that’s before an enraged Abby suddenly pulls a gun on the cops. Laurent dives to shield her, but the two end up riddled with bullets and die in a puddle of blood on the floor, to Makoto’s absolute shock. Naturally, I immediately questioned whether they had actually been killed, or if this was simply a larger con in play.

If it is, Makoto goes off script and takes Dickens hostage, forcing the cops to back off. He urges Salazar to escape, but in the confusion Eddie sneaks off and overloads the pressure on a tank, blowing up the entire lab. Makoto ends up under a wounded Salazar, and ends up chasing a hobbled Eddie. Eddie gets the jump on him and starts beating him with a traffic cone before Salazar, okay after all, punches him out.

That’s when things get weird. Dickens conducts an interrogation that ends with her accepting a bribe of 100 million dollars, again to Makoto’s shock. This cleans Eddie out of his international assets, but he’s free to leave and make it all right back. Naturally, Makoto is disgusted with Dickens’ shady conduct, but before he can protest too much he’s knocked out.

When he comes to, he learns what I expected: Laurent and Abby were fine, and Dickens and her team were fellow con artists, part of a much larger scheme to take Eddie for all he’s worth. “Dickens”, who really goes by Cynthia, hosts a huge celebration for the whole team on her private island, and everyone receives a cut in the numerous millions of dollars.

It’s understandably quite the surreal experience for Makoto. Despite the predictability of the outcome, Makoto being in the dark for the majority of the long con nevertheless lent an air of suspense, which helped the proceedings feel like more than the sum of their elemental parts. When people start going their separate ways but Laurent offers to take him under his wing, Makoto asks them to wait three or four years for him to get his affairs in order.

They agree, and Makoto returns to Japan. But just as soon as he arrives, he dumps his sack of American cash on the front desk of the nearest police station, confesses to having conned people out of it, and indicating his wish to pay back those he scammed. Looks like he’s going for a clean slate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those years he told Laurent to wait would be spent behind bars (again). In any case, the LA designer drug adventure comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Cop Craft – 07 – Keep Your Friends Close

Tilarna and Kei suddenly find themselves deep in the world of vice and political intrigue, as Tilarna serves as bait for a john at a high-end brothel, and they end up arresting Cole Mozeleemay, a powerful Semanian politician running for mayor of San Teresa. While Cole didn’t get far at all with Tilarna before Kei and the cops take the hotel room, the fact he touched her hair is enough to make her upset Kei didn’t bust in sooner.

Mozeleemay very publicly asserts his innocence to the press (gaslighting them in the process), while his ambitious politician’s wife commits to helping him get through this (but that doesn’t mean he can touch her). Tilarna is as expected disgusted by Earth’s slow, plodding brand of justice, especially when even that kind tends to slow even more when a powerful person is involved.

All Kei tells her is that this is the way it is, and that she’s going to have to resign herself to that, as he has over the years. She needs a friend—someone other than Kei—and is comforted when she has a chance encounter with Zoey, the woman who was kind to her at the brothel, and who is also an amateur photographer.

Zoey actually needs help moving after the police raid, and Tilarna, being nice, helps out. Knights may be solitary by nature, but the more Tilarna hangs out with Kei, the more used to relationships she gets. Her need for female companionship must have been stronger than ever considering what she went through and how Zoey (unlike, say, Cecil) can relate to the life.

Tilarna and Zoey become fast friends over their brief time together, and Kei just happens to return to the spot where they split up to pick her up later that night. She’s also enchanted by Zoey’s photography. They continue to hang out despite Kei’s warnings not to get too involved with people they’re investigating (Zoey believes Tilarna is merely a rich runaway).

Meanwhile, the already-tenuous solicitation case against Mozeleemay takes another blow when a list of the club’s clients is leaked to the media. Some of the names are real and some are fake, creating more reasonable doubt for Mozeleemay’s lawyers to use in his defense.

We learn that Zoey is the one who provided Mozeleemay with the list, in exchange for enough cash to afford the gorgeous apartment with an ocean view. Mozeleemay shows his true colors once more when he offers extra pay for a quick trick, but Zoey spurns him. Mozeleemay’s wife, who is following him, spots Zoey exiting his car.

Tilarna, increasingly distraught over the increasing possibility she went undercover and endured what she did for no good reason, brings up the possibility of an employee at the club being the leaker. Jamie shows them the video stills of everyone who accessed the list, and sure enough, Zoey’s photo sticks out.

She goes to Zoey’s place immediately to confront her. Zoey doesn’t answer the door and Tilarna prepares for the worse by drawing her sword, only for Zoey to ambush her…with her camera. She has a photo canvas for Tilarna as a gift for helping her move, but Tilarna is all business, and starts with the accusations. Zoey denies, then asks if Tilarna is a cop, and Tilarna can’t lie.

Then, as the two stand almost back-to-back in front of those huge ocean view windows, a bullet strikes Zoey in the chest, then a hail of bullets shatter the windows as the women hit the deck. Kei, providing backup for Tilarna, manages to shoot one of the two assassins, but he says nothing about who sent him before passing out.

That night, as he watches the news about himself, Mozeleemay gets word that Zoey was shot, and relays the message to his wife when she comes in the room, and noting how it could help him beat the charge. Then he realizes his wife was the one who arranged the hit. She denies it, of course, but taking his hand in hers, tells him he shouldn’t worry about such things—the implication being his job is to win the election; nothing more.

Zoey’s final words to Tilarna before passing out express her disappointment in having been betrayed by someone she thought was a friend. There’s not enough time for Tilarna to explain the complex circumstances, and how she considered Zoey a good friend too. Kei is by her side at the hospital when she learns Zoey has died, and upon returning to her apartment, unwraps the photo Zoey gave her as a gift: a behind-the-back of Tilarna beaming in the sunset. Tilarna takes Zoey’s camera as a memento.

It’s as heartbreaking and poignant as Cop Craft has dared to get so far, and really makes me feel for poor Tilarna. While she’s no fool, she is young, inexperienced, and naive. And Zoey was right when she said Tilarna can’t understand the difficulty of lowborn Semanians trying to go straight in San Teresa. Adding ironic insult to injury, the self-proclaimed advocate of Semanians like her is…Cole Mozeleemay.

Yet look at what he allowed to happen to someone like Zoey, just because he couldn’t keep it in his goddamn pants. I want Tilarna to get revenge, but I don’t want her to get in trouble. At the same time, I don’t want her to suffer the unique turmoil that comes from being perpetually unable to do what is right and just in a world where justice is whatever the most rich and powerful say it is.

As far as Tilarna and Kei’s partnership friendship may have come, Earth still feels like a place that will only continue to eat away at her pure and virtuous soul…as it has already done to him. How can a place like that—which gave her a new older sister then took her away just as fast—ever feel like a home?

Shimoneta – 03

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After top art student and school’s pride, Saotome Otome, caught a glimpse of Okuma and Ayame’s rooftop antics, she literally snags him on a chain and drags him away to her studio, where she presumes he can assist her with (or rather she can blackmail him into) helping her with a romantic problem that is making her art suffer. The subject of her affections? Anna. So when Okuma must tell her who he loves, he says the first girl’s name that comes to mind: Ayame, so as to avoid conflict.

But Otome’s artists’ block is merely a side effect of a much larger problem that afflicts not only her, but much of the population: a decade of PMs and oppression is leaving large swaths of the population unable to express their love, or even identify what they’re feeling as such. This isn’t surprising; dirty jokes and the sexual knowledge that makes them dirty are crucial to natural human interaction. Without them, there’s a large gap that is filled with whatever else people can come up with.

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For a certain unsavory admirer of Anna, that something is stalking and candid photos with threatening messages. Anna is shaken by this, but Ayame assure Okuma she’ll protect her while he tries to get Otome to join SOX, revealing that her friendship to Anna is genuine, even if the two are on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. Anna, after all, is person who made it possible for Ayame to exist in normal society; she’d surely be in jail without her. But with the very survival of the human race is at stake, and so Ayame must act against her best friend.

Anna, for her part, knows Okuma isn’t the stalker, despite Goriki’s suspicions (which are his own way of expressing his own love for Anna), and agrees to a sting in which Ayame will dress as a boy as they go on a date. At the same time, Otome plans her own rescue of Anna by the stalker, shaving Okuma’s legs and putting him in drag (for the second straight episode).

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As they wait in the bushes, Otome cannot help but compulsively draw Anna, her first real model, in her own unique way of expressing her love. The resulting sting is a pretty thrilling and complex bit of physicality, as not only does the stalker turn out to be huge, but there are three of them, and not everyone in a position to protect Anna is close enough to stop their attacks.

Fortunately, Ayame knows right where to kick the first stalker, and Okuma is in time to stop the next one with a devastating right. Interestingly, he moved out of instinct, but isn’t sure who he moved for: Ayame, whom he told Otome he loved on a whim? Or Anna? Heck, why not both!

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Whoever he was trying to protect, he loses his wig and takes a rock to the back of the head, and ends up not only landing on top of a stunned Anna, but his lips and legs end up locked with hers for a not inconsequential amount of time before he gets up, starts to apologize, and passes out from the rock blow.

As for Anna, that sudden closeness to a boy and the touch of his lips seems to awaken her libido with a vengeance. Again, she has no idea what’s going on, but she knows it feels amazing. Will this be an isolated incident eventually forgotten, or will Anna never look at Okuma the same again?

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