Nil Admirari no Tenbin – 03 – Tsugumi’s First Suitor is a Book Burner

After Tsugumi spoils the lads with breakfast of a quality far higher than they get at the cheap restaurant down the street (and they all ask her to sing for them more), they go on their daily patrol…which the show skips entirely, probably because it knows it’s boring. Not to mention, it seem like having four people in a patrol is an awful lot, unless you expect a lot trouble every time, which seems paranoid.

And yet, even with four, they’re unable to stop a suspected cursed tome from being burned in a nighttime incident in which the thugs get away. Tsugumi can tell the book isn’t cursed, and meets its owner, doctor (and dreamboat)-in-training Sagisawa Rui, who comes out of left field to be her first (un-)official suitor of her new partoling-librarian life.

After Fukurou is assigned a police liason, Tsugumi hits the town on her own, visiting the flirty shopkeep who rudely propositions her once again despite the fact she has no interest (though his weird fluffy pet Perry is a hell of an icebreaker). Hey guy, maybe tone it down a bit!

She bumps into Sagisawa again, who is delivering his homemade kaleidoscopes for the shopkeep to sell, because in addition to being a sweet young doctor-in-training he also creates kaleidoscopes, which let you “look at the world in a different way”. Ack!

Oh and a guy with an actual cursed tome runs past, and before Fukurou can chase him down he ends up splatted by a subway car. Again, for a four-man patrol they’re sure aren’t very good at catching people they want to catch!

Furthermore, what could have been an opportunity to test Tsugumi’s toughness in the face of blood and death was squandered. Why present such a gruesome death as part of her job, then not have the MC react to it at all?

They suspect the book has been made cursed intentionally by a group they’re simply calling “Karasu” due to the crow feathers they leave behind as a calling card. That group is in opposition to Kagutsuchi, a group that seeks to find and destroy (rather than purify) all cursed tomes…and if a couple of uncursed tomes get burned, so be it.

Sagisawa Rui invites Tsugumi to a more intimate rendezvous in the park where he gifts her a kaleidoscope, and then gets into a rather unsubtle debate about whether to preserve or burn cursed tomes that betrays his beliefs on the matter to be in opposition to Tsugumi’s.

That night the police liasion informs Fukurou that Kagutsuchi is meeting on the eighth floor of a building in Ginza…but the building only appears to have six floors, not including the roof! Huh…

Anyway the leader of Kagutsuchi turns out to be Sagisawa. Why he put on that whole performance to Tsugumi before with the burning non-cursed book or the kaleidoscopes, I have no idea, but in the end the first lad who seemed to be a nice fit for her turns out to be a bad guy, at least from Tsugumi’s book-loving perspective.

After she declines his offer to join Kagutsuchi, he burns the tome in front of her and then leaps out the window, which would have been cool if we didn’t see him land on a tablecloth his henchman stretched out for him. For some reason that seemed really lame and caused me to laugh out loud.

So yeah, Tsugumi’s job seems pretty boring and tedious and full of unwanted passes by men…until it’s suddenly not, and even then gets rather silly because as I said, hot pursuit is not Fukurou’s forte. Maybe lose those bulky overwrought uniforms and…I dunno, run faster?

Owari no Seraph – 09

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Owari no Seraph brings the action this week, starting with a gloriously ridiculous cold open in which a squadron of Vampire Apaches are taken out by a line of Demon Army archers, before two higher-ranking Vamps fly a C-130 into Shinjuku’s barrier wall, blasting a huge hole in the humans’ defense.

It looked for all the world like a suicide attack, but not only do the two co-pilots survive without a scratch, but they even carry on a casual, Joss Whedon-style dialogue, like it’s just another day at the office.

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Things are a bit tenser for our young Moon Demon Company members, as the war literally comes to them and doesn’t ask if they’re ready. Thankfully, they are, and we get to see the whole gang flying and slashing through the air in a brilliant sequence that captures the tense chaos. Unlike many action blockbusters, the relatively steady camera makes it pretty easy to see what’s actually going on, which I appreciated.

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As I said last week, the setting of all this fighting couldn’t be more gloomily appropriate: the ruins of Shinjuku are a constantly unsettling reminder of what’s already been lost and how little is left. Particularly striking is the shot of a school—once the site of silly clubs and laughter and columns of teammates chanting “Fight-o”—converted to a field hospital. Even if all the vampires were to drop dead, we’re not even sure humanity’s gene pool is diverse enough for the species to survive. And many humans will die before this new offensive is over.

I also liked the contrast between the urgency of Yuu & Co. with the relative calm of Guren and his immediate subordinates. They’re veterans who have seen it all, or close to it, and they seem a little more comfortable in their skins and confident in their abilities. Even when Guren spots Feris with a scope and Feris stares right back, it doesn’t faze him. He’s also on a first-name basis with the others, like the power-punching Mito.

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Like Guren, Feris is just kind of chilling as the underlings get valuable battle experience; ready to swoop in if there are any problems. Mika is with Feris, but soon goes off on his own. Feris’ insistence he drink someone’s blood takes Mika back to his first days as a baby vamp, during which Krul Tepes was trying to get him to do the same.

Mika refused a human boy’s blood, and knocked a cup of Krul’s own blood out of her hand…but the sound of that blood pouring and splattering on his face has a visceral effect, and in a moment of possible weakness, possible necessity, he finally digs into her arm. She’s very clear: Mika is her dog, and will always be her dog. In the present, he still carries vials of Kurl’s blood—no one else’s—and he has 10 days of it before he needs more, during which time he hopes to find Yuu.

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That makes Krul’s blood a drug that keeps Mika alive and not a reasonless demon. Turns out, it’s also drugs that, in a pinch, give the humans the edge they need to have a chance against higher-ranking vamps. Shinoa whips them out as casually as Bleach’s Kuchiki Rukia introduces the body-swapping Soul Candy to Ichigo.

In both cases, a fundamentally terrifying biological transformation is treated like taking your Flintstones vitamins. But that’s Shinoa for you; always keeping it light and breezy.

Then there’s the fact that she gives everyone, including Yuu, more than the maximum of two the human body can tolerate, almost assuring that when he’s in a tough spot, Yuu might get stupid and take more than two.

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There’s a foreboding to the truck driven by Corporal Nagai taking them to the front line, but that’s replaced when an Apache ambushes them. The team works together to save Nagai and destroy the chopper, but they end up separated when the street collapses and they fall into the subway below. Yuu is with Shinoa and the unconscious Nagai and head for the nearest base, while Mitsuba, Yoichi and Shihou head to the defense line where they’ll ideally meet up later.

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Meanwhile, as Mika is milling around, looking for Yuu, a cloud of dust is kicked up, and a detached vamp limb flies by his face. As the dust clears, we see Guren, ready to exterminate his next target. It’s kind of fitting that Yuu’s brothers, past and present, meet before Mika and Yuu, though I don’t see either defeating the other, nor do I see Yuu being brought up unless Yuu himself enters the fray.

However this goes, the buildup in the end, presented without music—just the falling rain and a cut to silence—was very effective. Guren v. Mika: Who ya got?

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Owari no Seraph – 08

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Ahh, good ol’ Omotesando Station… I remember it well, travelling on the Ginza Metro line between Shibuya and Shimbashi. It was in a far better state of repair when I was there. On Owari, after the fall, it’s been re-purposed as a creepy lair for the team’s next targets: seven vampires. Shinoa says they’d probably do okay fighting individually, but better to work together and defeat them without a scratch. For once, Yuu agrees.

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They enter not to find fello Metro users like myself, but the vampires’ thralls, who give their blood in exchange for protection from the monsters above ground. They glare at the soldiers as they press on to their primary targets; saving them is secondary, and for once, Yuu doesn’t protest. They glare because they wish they had the power to choose a different fate for themselves besides this or death.

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When Mitsuba gives the order to prepare their weapons, Yuu takes it upon himself to cut down an unarmed vamp, their first catch of the day, following the letter but not necessarily the spirit of his orders. This irks Mitsuba, but he catches her hand before she can slap him again, then maneuvers her out of the way of a second vamp’s strike, whom he takes care of without any trouble. Two down, five to go, and Yuu’s first rescue of Mitsuba.

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When they confront the final five, three more pop out from behind Mitsuba, and one of them grabs her by the throat. But in one of the vamps’ sillier choices, he decides not to kill her immediately, but wait until Yuu and the others have engaged his comrades to do it, by which time it’s too late, and Yuu slices him in half.

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With Mitsuba rescued by Yuu once more (who regards her as his family), the team closes ranks and mops up the remaining vamps, armed with second-rate weapons no match for their cursed gear. In all, it’s a good first subterranean fight, packed with peril but ultimately not too difficult to pull off with the lessons they’ve learned.

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The girl who told them about the vamps in the station lowballed the figure to save her own friends/family, something Yuu doesn’t hold against her when they return to base camp, where other former thralls are being tended to by the army. When Mitsuba learns from Shinoa about Yuu’s past, and how it so closely resembles her own, but his denseness annoys her and she storms off without telling him anything. There’s pretty textbook romantic bonding exercise in practice here, but not unearned due to solid fundamentals and decent voicework by Iguchi Yuka.

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The second half opens with Shiho getting a derelict Hummer H2T running again to shorten their trip to Shinjuku. While Yuu grows up a lot in this episode, the comedic scene the show allows as a breath between life-and-death ordeals successfully reminds us he still is a kid, judging from how stoked he is about driving a car for the first time. This is Yuu as a charming, wide-eyed kid, not an annoying angsty or arrogant; and it’s nice.

The shot of Shiho gathering the others, as Yuu drives into the frame and crashes into a lamppost, demonstrates decent comedic timing (plus it looks like Yuu is having a ton of fun, which I can speak to having driven one of those brutes). Shinoa sitting in the drivers seat is a nice sight gag, as is her off-camera revenge over the lads for laughing at her.

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Once everyone’s aboard and they near the Shinjuku barrier wall, they spot a Vampire Noble, the first we’ve seen in action since Yuu ran from Ferid. Everyone bails as they set the Hummer on a collision course with the vamp, but he stops the three-ton SUT with one hand and flings it back at them like a toy. *GULP*. They had a relatively easy time with vamps up till now, but it’s clear this will be a little different.

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The noble is so fast he’s upon Shinoa before she can raise her weapon. Yuu is able to block his blow and disarm him, showing her yet again why he and Shiho are Guren’s favorites. The noble is a little impressed as two more noble vamps descend from the sky, flanking him.

Yuu asks if they should retreat from this. Let me repeat that: Yuu mentions retreat. But it’s too late; Shiona believes they’ll still have a chance if the five of them work as one unit at the very limit of their demon power, but she doesn’t pretend there won’t probably be a casualty or two.

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The lady vamps have come to bring their comrade to the front lines, and he grudgingly goes along with them, sparing Yuu & Co. from a fight but promising he’ll drink their blood when they meet again, casually tapping him on the shoulder before flying off. That easy arrogance really ticks Yuu off, but Shinoa is still visibly terrified from the bullet they just dodged.

Even if Yuu had what it took today to take that noble on one-on-one, his friends would get killed as he fought without teamwork. Shinoa also does what Mitsuba couldn’t: thank him promptly for saving her life, noting that as Guren said, he really does care about his friends. Her gratitude brings the bashful boy out in Yuu.

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Those nobles were pretty damn scary, but they’re gone for the moment, and while the episode ends with the team staring down a Shinjuku under assault, about to enter that inferno themselves, it ends with an upward pan right into the smoke, as upbeat music plays. It will be tough going from here on, but they’re going in together, and whatever they face in there, they’ll get through it with teamwork.

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Steins Gate – 13

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How to follow up a cliffhanger that belongs in the pantheon of cliffhangers (along with “Mr. Worf, Fire” and “Boomer Shoots Adama”)? The same way those were followed up: by dropping us right back into the same moment it left us; in this case, with Moeka shooting Mayuri in the head. Moeka is aiming at Rintarou when Suzuha bursts back into the lab and takes out all of the other gunmen.

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She left to go turn on the 42″ CRT downstairs, and then returns to buy Rintarou and Kurisu just enough time to activate the time leaping machine, during which Kurisu too is shot right in front of Rintarou. Right after Steins;Gate’s best ending to date, we get its best cold open. The adrenaline was pumping from start to finish, even though I was reasonably certain Rintarou would get away.

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He ends up in the memory of the cemetery where Mayuri is looking up at a grave, and we learn the significance of that memory. The grave is Mayuri’s grandmother’s, and she’d visit it every day. One day, Rintarou watched as she became bathed in Rembrandt Lighting he feared would lift her up and away, so he ran to her, embraced her, and told her she can’t go anywhere, because she’s his “hostage” now.

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The cemetery is only a temporary stop, however, as Rintarou wakes up just before 5:00 PM the same evening Mayuri gets killed. Without stopping to explain anything, he cancels the party and runs out to look for Mayuri.

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Of course, Kurisu, being a genius, figures out pretty quickly that Rintarou used the time leap machine, it worked, and now has memories of the, or rather a future. But he’s in too much of a hurry and can only promise to tell everyone everything later, even Mayuri herself; his curtness frightens her. Of course, considering he just watched her die, I can’t expect him to have acted any more calmly.

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It’s that emotional trauma he carries that makes him slip up, realizing too late the trains were stopped by a bomb threat, likely for this purpose. The Mad Scientist finally has The Organization after him, and always seems to be one step ahead. A chase, a take-down, and Rintarou and Mayuri separate. He tells her to run, and she does, right into an alley where a waiting car runs her over.

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Rintarou is close to home, so he’s able to use the time leap machine again, but at this point I’m starting to think about Waremete, a Fall 2014 show I watched but left the reviewing duties to Zane. Turns out the visual novel it’s based upon was released a year after Steins;Gate. 

Here, as in WareMete, a protagonist tries multiple times to save someone, but no matter how they change the events of the day that someone dies, the person always finds a way to die, as if the timeline is attempting to balance itself. That’s what seems to be happening here.

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I say that because the first two times Mayuri is killed, it’s due to SERN’s actions, but SERN couldn’t have made Nae run up to Mayuri, trip, and accidentally shove her onto the subway track. That’s not outside interference; that’s…something else. Breaking the pattern of Mayuri’s deaths isn’t as simple as isolating her. Maybe it’s the watch?

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And then, there’s the possibility that Mayuri simply can’t be saved, no matter how many times Rintarou is able to go back. Pair that with the fact the trauma of watching her die is cumulative, and it won’t be long before Rintarou is simply too emotionally broken to have the necessary wits about him, which is all the more reason to tell the others what’s going on.

It all comes back to the cemetery memory. Was Rintarou only reacting to the strange light, or was there really something to his fear Mayuri was about to disappear? When he embraced her, was he only delaying the inevitable? SERN and time seem to be conspiring against him, and he is in way over his head.

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S;G reviews are back!…but only once a week.

PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 11 (Fin)

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I appreciated that the last episode of Psycho-Pass, possibly ever, featured more Akane kicking ass and taking names – in a metaphorical sense, and less over-the-top than some previous episodes where she was a bit too Bruce Willis-y. Here, she uses her clear coefficient as an effective shield in the face-off with both Togane Sakuya and Kamui, arresting the former and accompanying the latter to Sybil’s core.

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Still, a number of troubling adjectives surfaced while watching this episode; adjectives like ‘neat’, ‘tidy’, ‘convenient’…even ‘hasty’. Nothing you particularly want in an episode of Psycho-Pass…especially a finale. And yet it was probably inevitable, with a ton of material set up and just eleven episodes to resolve it.

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Of course, one could spin those adjectives to something more positive: this was a breathless, efficient finale; not a minute was spared, and no one can say it didn’t Get Things Done. Not too far into the episode, Chief Kasei is lethally eliminated by a Dominator, something that would be utterly unthinkable in the show’s first season.

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Yes, there’s a rather convenient subterranean shortcut from the subway lines where Akane and Kamui were to the bowels of the MWPSB HQ where Sybil lives. But who cares? This is where they were going to end up one way or another. And when Kamui points his Dominator at Sybil itself, Sybil basically surrenders, eliminating a good deal of the brains that make it up in order to clear its coefficient. This is odd, considering I thought they were criminally asymptomatic, but I guess conditions changed that.

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This is very much an Akane/Kamui episode. There’s a fair amount of Togane in it, but after he’s unable to turn Akane black, he kinda just makes ridiculous faces, which makes me wonder why he was such a big deal in the first place. Clearly he didn’t know who he was messing with. And then there’s Mika, who listened to him and obeyed him…she’s not feeling to great about that now, even if she has no love for Akane.

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After Sybil made immediate changes to its composition, Akane has designs to arrest Kamui, but Togane crashes the party to make one last attempt to ‘darken’ Akane, rubbing in the fact that he killed Akane’s frail grandmother. For a second there I thought Akane’s coefficient was going to rise to enforcable levels, but Kamui is there to calm her, and even if he wasn’t, Akane has a firm enough grasp of the law, justice, and society to overcome any personal demons. She’s just awesome that way.

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Togane shoots Kamui (though we don’t see him explode) and vice-versa, with Akane in the middle. A wounded Togane creeps away and eventually bleeds out, with Mika standing over him. All of a sudden, we’re fresh out of bad guys. All the threats kinda just flew by without that much of a struggle.

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When Akane meets up with Ginoza and her other colleagues there’s another moment when we’re not sure if she’s in trouble or not, but her coefficient remains as clear as ever, and Sybil saw fit to reinstate her just a short time after Sakuya’s mom rescinded her inspector status. Another Kasei cyborg replaces the old one, and warns Akane that they’re on a dangerous new road. Akane assures her – them – that even if that road leads to hell, she’ll walk it with them regardless.

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So it’s Akane’s victory: she neutralized Kamui, but also used him to make Sybil evolve. A ‘collective’ psycho-pass is something the system will now consider for implementation henceforth. Existential threats to society have been averted. And Inspector Tsunemori Akane will continue to not-smoke cigarettes and live a happy and virtuous live as one of the people who protect society, rather than the other way ’round.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 10

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On this exciting episode of Rail Wars! Psycho-Pass 2, Kamui ‘gets to work’ on his largest operation yet: diverting several subway trains into an isolated area, giving him hundred of trapped, scared hostages whose psycho-passes he knows will rise due to the stress of the situation. He’s counting on it.

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He has no particular plan to ‘save’ this particular group of five hundred-odd passengers: they are merely a collective tool for him to get closer to Sybil, by overloading the system with a huge amount of Dominator discharges, and thus PP data, exposing a lower-security backup network which his team will hack to locate Sybil’s physical location.

Pretty intricate plan, but let’s not forget, he himself is a collective being, which explains why he’s okay with all the sacrifices. Well, that, and the fact that until the world is freed from Sybil, all of the people under her control are legitimate targets.

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Aoi and Naoto aren’t in this show to help out with the train, so it’s up to Akane to Do Something. Only Chief Kasei has placed her on standby in the wake of her grandma’s kidnapping. Togane, just barely keeping up his charade (or at least thinking he is), gets in her way, but doesn’t block her entirely.

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Togane lets her visit Kasei, who is really his mom. The Chief suggests Akane slake her restlessness by being a good little inspector and kill Kamui. Doing so would get rid of Sybil’s increasingly serious problem, and also would turn Akane into a criminal, at which point Sybil can finally judge her too.

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Interesting how Sybil doesn’t particularly care how Kamui is killed, but very much wants to go by the book where Akane is concerned. Kasei tries to ‘motivate’ Akane by reporting the sad news that her grandma was found beaten to death.

Learning of this certainly shakes Akane to the core, who starts screaming in the thankfully empty office. But after a quick chat with the Kogami in her head (?) she takes a deep breath and springs back into action. She’ll deal with the Kamui threat…her way.

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Akane and Kasei get into a meaty little philosophical debate that was once the norm of this show, during which Akane applies the Omnipotence Paradox to both Kamui and Sybil. Both entities are collective in nature and thus neither can judge the other without being judged itself. But Akane tells Sybil (not just Togane’s mom) that this is a perfect opportunity for it to ‘evolve’ beyond its flawed operation and false facade of perfection.

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Akane makes arguments Sybil can only refute by basically saying stuff on the level of “shut up, you don’t know us!”, but that’s not too surprising since A., it’s Togane’s mom and not all of Sybil addressing her in this instance, and B., Akane is one smart cookie. She drives really slow, though. 70 kph? C’mon, this is the FUTURE, not to mention an emergency operation…put your penny loafer down.

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Akane is so bright, that she basically does all the same work and thinking off-camera that we watched Mika do on-camera, only Akane does it properly and doesn’t settle on the conclusion that Kamui seeks revenge against the Togane Foundation. That’s right: Freckles’ research not only doomed her to spend the rest of her existence looking over her shoulder…it wasn’t even such great police work after all, at least not compared to what we’re used to from A-chan.

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Division 3 fails to carry out the Chief’s orders to blow up the trains Kamui and his people are on (killing the hostages in the process) because they acquired the bombs outside the law, giving them criminal coefficients and allowing Shisui to pick them off from above. Then Kamui releases the hostages, and Akane goes after him, but is blocked by Togane, whom she’s suspected all along. You can’t get one over on ol’ Akane, Son. Well, young Akane…

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And because this is such a popular underground junction, Kamui ends up crossing paths with the two. Here’s one guy trying to expose and destroy Sybil, another whose mom is part of Sybil trying to paint Akane black. Akane always finds herself caught between two very strange men, isn’t she? Well, that may be just one, if Kamui is successful in killing Togane. We only hear the trigger being pulled, so that’s hardly a certainty. In any case, it would certainly be meh ending for Togane.

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Zankyou no Terror – 05

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Despite the seemingly random (to the public at large) destruction and disorder they’ve caused, Nine and Twelve’s activities as Sphinx have been highly controlled at every level. They’re not launching their attacks to kill or even hurt people. They’re sending messages Nine hopes Shibazaki will pick up on.

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He does, but it leads him back to “old mistakes” and introduces the opportunity to make them all over again. But what neither Nine nor Shibazaki learn soon enough is that they’re no longer the only players on this board. The cat and mouse have been joined by another mouse, intent on stirring up shit and introducing chaos into what had thus far been a very orderly “courtship dance.”

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That new mouse is Five, a distinctive-looking woman whom Nine remembers from his flashbacks to the facility. Nine never sees Five’s face or hears her voice in the present, but he knows it’s her, because of what goes down this week. Namely, she Ruins Everything: his latest terror plot ends up an even bigger, smokier mess than the one Lisa made in their kitchen.

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Lisa was trying to make an honest effort to get Nine to no longer see her as useless, so she could stick around, as she has nowhere else to go. Nine is not happy to say the least that Twelve brought her home (I’m delighted, personally), but she’s too sick to be thrown out; even he’s not that heartless. But he does predict her getting tangled up with them can and will end badly.

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It can’t be understated how disruptive a force Five truly was this week; not bad, considering we mostly see her painting her nails. She negates Sphinx’s use of cell carriers by causing a wholesale cell blackout. She baits Nine with a fake backdoor then hacks into his computer. After the bomb is allowed to go off, she sends a mass text saying “I found you.” It really shakes up the status quo nicely.

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Meanwhile, Shibazaki has made the connection Nine wanted him to: the bombing targets were all big shots involved with the “Rising Peace Academy.” But targeting these people means he’ll have to investigate them, and they’re not the kind of people who want to be investigated, especially as some are cops themselves.

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So Shibazaki is again in a situation where he can’t help digging too deep until he angers the wrong people. Both he and Sphinx have been outmaneuvered and their agency curtailed. And Five, the one responsible, is right there in the office with him, smiling away. Does Five want to catch and/or hurt Nine and Twelve, or “help” them? I’m just hoping she doesn’t turn out to be one-note chaotic evil.

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Mawaru Penguindrum – 15

In this Yuri-centric episode, a young Yuri lives with her horrible, abusive father, a famous, renowned sculptor. He only loves things that are beautiful, and thinks Yuri is ugly, so he “chisels” away at her, leaving a body part bandaged after each session. It is during this abuse that she meets Momoka Oginome, who tries to gain her trust by telling her about a her diary, which she can use to transfer fate to living things, changing their futures. Before Yuri’s father kills her, Momoka transfers Yuri’s fate; her father and the massive tower that represented him is gone, as are her injuries – but Momoka has to pay the price, and dies. Masako infiltrates the bathhouse and makes off with half of the diary, but Yuri still has the half she stole from Ringo.

This episode began with a fresh new opening sequence, so we knew that a big episode was in store, and it didn’t disappoint one bit, opening up an entirely new can of whoopass by answering a lot of questions hanging out there, among them, who was Momoka? We finally see and hear her, as she befriends Yuri. Momoka has god-like powers. Her diary can transfer fate as easily as transfering subway routes (we friggin’ love that analogy). We also know what killed her, and that was a selfless act that saved Yuri from The Worst Father In The World. So there’s a little bit of Jesus in her, too. And how about the fact that the Tokyo Tower used to be a massive stone skyscraper in the shape of Michelangelo’s David? Weird. Wild.

Was was so amazing about this week is just how much managed to be dished out. Not only do we learn a bunch about Momoka and Yuri, but Shoma realizes the error of sending off Ringo so forcably, and comes to save the day – although, true to fate, he doesn’t have to go far, as he just happens to be in the hotel room right next to the one where Yuri has Ringo tied up and ready to do awful things to. We also have a great surprise cameo by Masako, taking back half of the diary after an excellent little battle between the two feisty women. So now we know just how powerful the diary (penguin drum…) is. And if Ringo was successful in using it previously, than it’s clear she too had to pay some kind of price for every fate she changed.



Rating: 4 ~series elevated to favorites ~

Mawaru Penguindrum 9

From the aquarium gift shop, Himari follows Threetie to a massive, bizarre library where she meets the librarian Sanetoshi, who reads from numerous books stories that reflect events in Himari’s past, focusing on her former best friends Hibari and Hikari, who she broke up with. They are now famous idols.

Well, for those who wanted a dedicated Himari episode (and I count myself among them), look no further. Beginning, middle, and end, this was all Himari. That’s because it was all a dream…but what a dream! I learned things about her I never knew. I credit the series for including so many little foreshadowing visual puzzle pieces which this episode proceeded to assemble to create a picture of her past. The fact it was all a dream allowed for some cool Willy Wonka-esque visuals.

Now I know who the girls in the subway PSAs are! Now I know the significane of the three girls in the ending sequence! Now I know that pink-haired girl in the opening…isn’t a girl! Himari was a spoiled brat who scarred her mother for life. She also could have been in a idol trio named Triple-H (seriously, does the WWE ever tour in Japan?). So much new information, so many new questions. Sanetoshi is real, despite appearing in a dream. And he calls Himari the “Bride of Fate.” Himri wakes up to the news that Shoma has been hit by a car.


Rating: 4

Tokyo Trip Journal 5

8 June, Heisei 22 (Tue)

Riding the subway is actually quite fun, especially when you don’t have any set schedule or anywhere in particular to be. Also, you can ride it all you want for 1000 yen (a bit over $10), so I figured I’d get my money’s worth. It threatened to rain all day, but only momentary sprinkles here and there until something resembling a drizzle at sundown.

I took the subway to Roppongi, and to a very trendy (and Westerny) quarter called Roppongi Hills, right next to TV Asahi HQ. Another art gallery sat upon a high place; in this case the 52nd floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (Mori owns many towers in Roppongi). The Mori Art Museum made the Sompo Musuem seem a little dowdy, not least the which because it was full of much newer and flashier pieces and installations of audio and video. The prices in the museum shop were, shall we say, optimistic?

I made a brief stop in nearby Akebanebashi to check out the Tokyo Tower, which was tall, white, and international orange. Then to the nearest station, Daimon, which via Shimbashi led me to Ginza, of of Tokyo’s swankiest districts. I took a look at a lot of fancy stores like Adidas and Sony, saw the new Nissan Leaf, and got lunch a a fast-food chain called Lotteria, which had very good cheeseburgers and emerald green Suntory Melon Pop to wash them and the fries down. I also bought a bottle of sake.

From Ginza, I took the Ginza line west, all the way to Shibuya, yet another cosmopolitan/bustling/chic ‘hood full of stores selling stuff no one needs at exhorbitant prices. I’m beginning to see a pattern. No matter; I realize these places need to exist. In any case, Shibuya has some of the largest crosswalks; at one notable intersection all automotive traffic stops so pedestrians in all directions can cross. It’s really something to behold and to experience firsthand. From Shibuya I took the Fukushotin line to Meiji-Jingumae, the station closest to the Meiji shrine in Yoyogi Park. I did a bit more walking than I should have, but it was worth seeing such a serene and gorgeous place.

Back in Shinjuku as night approached, I grabed dinner at a hole-in-the-wall eatery packed with smoking diners…after much constirnation and head-wrining about where to eat. The simple matter is, there is so much choice, it can potentially be paralyzing. This restaurant has a machine that tilts a mug and slowly pours Kirin beer, pauses briefly to let the fizz subside, then tops it off. Also, the average diner was smoking 3-4 cigarettes during their meal, not after. Smoking indoors is very much allowed at most restaurants and bars. The diners here ate very fast, too…and loud slurping of broth is not frowned upon. Dinner was 1000 yen.

Tokyo Trip Journal 4

7 June, Heisei 22 (Mon)

Here’s when I thought things would get a bit…tricky.

I was a bit anxious about using public transportation, not knowing what all the flashing characters were trying to tell me, but after using it all day I have no idea why I was at all; it was easy as pie. There’s a slight learning curve to the iconography, but with a combination of bilingual signage and distinct colors for lines and numbers for stations, I had no problem navigating my way around Tokyo.

First, I followed the enormous mass of suited salarymen (and women) clutching phones and coffee to Shinjuku station, the busiest train station in the world by daily passengers (more than 3 million) A typicall trip on the Toei or Tokyo Metro subways costs 160-170 yen. I took the Toei Shinjuku line (leaf green) to Kudanshita, a station near the Imperial Palace complex. The imperial gardens and nearby museums were closed, it being Monday, so I hopped back on the subway on the Metro’s Tozai line (blue) at Takebashi bound for Nihombashi. The whole business district area east of the palace is called Marunouchi. The red line is named after it.

Nihombashi had a 19th century stone bridge with intricate bronzework, but was concealed by a highway overpass. In Tokyo, hardly anything save the palace is sacred, and they will build over/around/on top of whatever they don’t feel like tearing down. I also saw the Tokyo Stock Exchange, but couldn’t go inside. After mailing a couple postcards with the help of a very nice postwoman, I got on at Ometachi station and took the Tozai line to Iidabashi (missing Kudanshita from brain fart). That was okay, because Iidabashi was a junction for the yellow Yurakucho line, which I’d take to my next destination, Ikebukuro.

One of Ikebukuro station many exits led up into a Gallery-like mall, where I was surprised to find a Krispy Kreme – they’re all but extinct in Philly. I was fascinated by suddenly being in the same city where the anime Durarara!! takes place, and from what I saw the show portrays the look of the city expertly. In Shangri-la, which takes place in the future, Ikebukuro is a thick and poisonous forest. Here and now though, the place is surging with people and activity. I float around in no particular hurry until lunchtime draws near.

Rather than eat here, I hop on the brown Fukushotin line to Shinjuku-Sanchome, then back on the Shinjuku line to…Shinjuku. After a brief stop at the hoel for a shower, then searched Shinjuku by my hotel for sushi. I espied several businessmen entering a promising place and followed them, and was not disappointed. Utilizing once again the big pictures on the menu, indicated my choice and received large amounts of delicious, dead raw fish and sea creatures, all for under 1000 yen.

As miles of walking in my Nikes had virtually ruined my ankles/knees, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase decent walking shoes with arch support. I went to Keio, one of the massive department stores positioned around Shinjuku Station along with Odakyu and Mylord. Each has at least eight floors, the bottom of which are massive gourmet food markets selling every kind of food imaginable. I wasn’t hungry, unfortunately, but I did need shoes, so I took the elevator up to the fifth floor. The elevators were attended by extremely well dressed and groomed, polite and soft-spoken ladies with white gloves. I found some comfy Gore-Tex Brooks for 15,700 yen, for which I was able to use a credit card.

Thus equipped, and having purchased Buffrin (the only pain medicine with western letters I could decipher; don’t want to be wrong about labels where drugs are concerned) I hoped to lessen the fatigue on my walking bits as the week continued.