Kakegurui – 05

I may have bristled at least week’s structure (spend the entire first half introducing Ikishima, someone not involved in the second half’s gambling) but it was a blessing in disguise, putting a welcome kink in the gamble-a-week rhythm of the show to this point. Also, a poker game this layered with lies, deceit, and glorious twists needed more than two halves of an episode; it needed three.

Liberated from the need for setup (ably achieved in the first half) the crazy-faces showed up early and often here, as did the twists, the most important one being that the moves of the seemingly superfluous fourth player, Tsubomi, are being controlled by Kiwatari, the only non-livestock in the game.

Tsubomi and Mary are aware of this (Tsubomi isn’t so great at hiding the cheating), but in the tenth and final game, when Kiwatari tells Tsubomi she’s not allowed to beat him, Tsubomi does her stuff: painstakingly picking and peeling back the emotionless facade Tsubomi had built to repress the trauma of losing her beautiful locks of hair, roughly hacked off by Kiwatari himself once she became livestock.

Tsubomi tells her that losing intentionally here, when she has a perfect opportunity to prove she’s not “lifelong livestock”, would be like a “motionless pig in an open cage.” Unable to accept that, Tsubomi’s facade cracks, beats Kiwatari in the round, and becomes a human again.

The game would have ended with Tsubomi in first place, if the chip count, which we’d been getting from Kiwatari, was accurate. Turns out that is the last and final twist in the game: Mary and Yumeko falsified their debt reports (just like Kiwatari did), then swapped them, so the boards in front of them at the card table gave Kiwatari the wrong figures to do his math throughout the game.

It’s a total defeat brought on by Kiwatari’s confidence in his control over Tsubomi, as well as his hard-headed belief he can judge everyone as if they were cut from the same cloth. Meanwhile, Tsubomi may still technically be livestock, but regained her will to live and fight for solvency.

The council secretary Igarashi worries about what Pandora’s Box President Momobari (whom she seems to love) has opened by allowing someone as inscrutable as Jabami Yumeko to roam free. However, when Igarashi says “the usual things” that one can use to control a person don’t work on her; she’s not entirely right.

I have no doubt if Yumeko’s friends were threatened, she wouldn’t stand by and do nothing. And now Yumeko has two friends—Ryouta and Mary—who may be leveraged against her in the future. We’ll see how she deals with that as she faces off against more and stronger opponents.

Kakegurui – 04

Gentleman that he is, Ryouta offers Yumeko a small contribution of 1 million yen ($9000 US) but she tells him she’s got cash on hand; the council hasn’t yet come to collect her massive debt. Instead, she, Mary, and other livestock are presented with “Life Plans.”

With these, the council is “collecting” by taking ownership of Yumeko and Mary’s futures and planning them out accordingly, stripping them of all human agency. In Mary’s case, she’ll marry a lolicon Diet member and have three kids, grow old, and die. Yumeko is likely in for a similar fate.

We also learn there’s yet another downside to being livestock: non-livestock like towering brute Kiwatari feel empowered to demand, say, that Yumeko strip in a dark corner of the school.

When she refuses, he threatens to violate her. With Kiwatari and his two goons to deal with, the noble Ryouta is hopelessly outmatched, but still looks ready to try rescuing her.

That’s when the “fun” is interrupted by piercing and accessory-laden student council member and Beautification Committee chairman Ikishima Midari. Rather than outright stop Kiwatari’s assault, Ikishima challenges him to a round of Russian Roulette with a massive revolver. Kiwatari retreats, so she retires to a bathroom stall to play alone.

Ikishima (voiced by unhinged-girl extraordinaire Ise Mariya; see Aku no Hana), like Yumeko, literally gets off on the thrill of gambling, but takes it to a very visceral extreme, playing with her very life rather than chips or cards. Yumeko promises she’s repay her for saving her, and Ikishima seems very excited at the chance to collect.

That first half is to introduce Midari, but she plays no role in the remainder of the episode, which is given over to the “Debt Adjustment Assembly.”

Livestock are invited to play Blind Man’s Bluff (AKA Indian Poker) in order to try to transfer their debt to someone else in exchange for a lower sum—a much lower sum in Yumeko’s case. And just Mary’s luck: she ends up in Yumeko’s group…and Kiwatari’s there too.

Two issues: First, so much time was spent on the intro of Kiwatari and Ikishima that this game is left unfinished. Unless Ikishima plays a role in this gamble next week, it would have made more sense to save her intro for later, establish Kiwatari as a rapey dick quickly and efficiently during the game, and have the whole game contained within this episode.

Second, while BMB is a fairly simple game, the way it’s employed here, and the way it’s explained, threatens to sap all of the enjoyment out of the proceedings. It’s very convoluted and requires a lot of words—too many, in fact—to get the point across of what is going on.

Still, I enjoyed watching Mary utterly reject the life plan the council (and that stupid “kiddy” council member in the bunny suit) laid out for her, as no matter how comfortable and happy a life it might be, it’s not a life she chose. This motivates her to put in an effort to try to claw out of her situation.

She even breaks out her crazyface, as does Kiwatari (the latter looking for all the world like he wouldn’t be out of place in Attack on Titan), but Yumeko doesn’t join the party. She remains quite calm as the episode pretty abruptly ends without any resolution.

Surely more wrinkles will be added to the game as things escalate, but of all the ways Kakegurui could shake up its formula, giving half an episode over to two character intros and then rolling credits before a game can finish didn’t quite work for me, especially when the game itself required so much narration to lay out.

Kakegurui – 03

Upon watching the “official match” between Mary and porcelain-faced council member Nishinotouin Yuriko, Yumeko becomes excited at the prospect of the chouhan bakuchi style game they play, in which swords are used rather than dice, and how they land determines the distribution of chips to a wild extent.

It’s not a gamble for the weary, but as Yumeko is a compulsive gambler, it’s perfect. However, if I didn’t know better, I’d say there was more to her facing off against Yuriko than simply wanting to play or win, and that gets back to Saotome’s humiliating, devastating loss to Yuriko in the episode’s opening moments.

Yumeko takes exception to Yuriko “showing a weakened human a glimmer of hope than beating them into despair” and calls the councilperson a loan shark, the lowest of the low, and a piece of shit to her face. She even messes with the characters in her distinguished name to show that her favorite numbers are right there, but missing a couple in the middle, a “perfect name for an airhead.”

This is Yumeko exercising psychological warfare on a highly accomplished and studied opponent—and largely succeeding. And while there is a practical purpose for getting Yuriko riled up, I don’t doubt Yumeko also takes satisfaction in putting Yuriko in her place, suggesting she won’t let people like her have their way with livestock unchallenged.

Add to that the fact that, naturally, Yumeko’s opponent is cheating (with the dealer using magnets to manipulate one—but only one—of the metal swords), and it looks like this gamble will take the same shape as the previous two, with Yumeko prevailing at the last second and Yuriko’s mask finally cracking and breaking.

However, we get a different outcome, and notably no overt “gamblingasm”. Instead, Council President Momobami enters with two other council members, to oversee the result of the sword toss, which is something neither Yumeko or Yuriko expected, and puts Yumeko 310 million yen (over $2 million) in debt to Yuriko.

Momobami’s presents makes Yumeko suspect she was not only the victim of magnets, but a “badger”, and that this was a multifaceted cheat that may have required the ignorance of both players. Yuriko may have won, but she certainly doesn’t look or seem to feel like she won. Meanwhile, despite her immense new debt, all Yumeko is focused on is facing off against Momobami, which is her right as newly-minted livestock.

As for the hazing and bullying that results from her initiation into the livestock, it runs off Yumeko like rain from a fireman’s hat; when they call her the common cat name “Mike”, she simply gets on her knees and starts talking and washing herself like a cat, completely immune to the students barbs and, on the contrary, scaring them off with her bizarre antics. Here’s hoping this is a preamble to Yumeko becoming an inspiration to all livestock.

Re:Creators – 08

I found last week’s episode a bit plodding and tedious, but as Altair’s identity is discovered by all and a confrontation of ideologies mounts, this week’s sequence of emotionally-resonant conversations and its closing confrontation earns it a higher grade.

The briefing to the group proper on what they know about Altair so far kinda goes off the rails when Yuuya’s creator appears with a dismissive, aloof atitude, and Yuuya, sees it as provocation to sic his esper on him. Blitz’s artist is also there, but these are merely intros for people who may or may not play key roles later.

Showing Yuuya as an unpredictable hothead was nothing new, but I appreciated Meteora’s meet-up with Souta, in which she senses he’s trying to get something off his chest and tries to make it as easy as possible.

Souta still dances around matters far too much for my taste, but it’s definitely a start, and Meteora shows how she’s morphed from a fish-out-of-water game character to a warm, patient, understanding person who considers Souta a friend and hopes he feels the same.

Despite their wildly clashing worldviews (and for the record, Alice’s take on the “world of the gods” isn’t all that unfair or inaccurate) Mamika continues to embrace Alice as a dear friend; one she believes in an hopes will believe in her.

Alice does, and can, as she can tell from her words and actions that for all her naivete Mamika has a strong and pure heart. But Alice is caught off guard when Mamika suddenly jumps off the skyscraper they’re both perched on (Tokyo City Hall) and heads off on her own, indicating it could be the last time the two friends see each other, either on the same side, or at all.

Chiku’s been busy tailing Souta during his meetings with Mamika and Meteora, and she’s pretty sure not only that Souta knew Altair’s creator, but that the creator is dead, and Souta feels at least partially to blame. Not willing to wait for him to spill the beans, she used what he’d given others to paint a larger picture for herself, and Souta’s reaction makes it clear she’s spot-on.

As such, Chiku now has leverage on Souta, and isn’t about to let him get away with avoiding the reckoning she feels should surely await the protagonist of a world as messed-up as Souta’s. So she swaps contact info and promises him they’ll go on a “date” soon. Unless he wants to be exposed, he’ll do as she says.

As for Mamika, her ultimate destination this week is Altair’s lair (an ‘Altlair’, if you will) to confront her with the knowledge she’s gained, affirm that she considers her a friend too, and offers to help “save her soul”, and that of her creator. For all the talk of creators and/or creations expressing their affection for one another, Altair is having none of it.

She hates everyone and everything and wants to destroy it all, and her response to Mamika’s olive branch is to launch a fusillade of sabres into Mamika’s body. If talk failed, Mamika was always prepared to do what was necessary to stop Altair from destroying anything or anyone else, so she casts Magical Splash Flare in a thrilling finish to the episode. No matter who emerges from the resulting conflagration, things will never be the same.

Re:Creators – 07

I realize Re:C is a 22-episode run, enabling it to take its time when it deems it necessary, or when the plot demands it. But despite a couple of characters gaining important information for the road ahead (or at least drawing closer to it), I really struggled to figure out what actually happened this week, which is hardly ever a good sign that the episode itself was necessary.

The interesting multi-vector battle on the riverbank never met its potential, as Mamika flexes her mahou shoujo muscles to put an end to the duel between Celestia and Alicetelia as well as between Blitz and Mirokuji.

As a result, the Celestia/Meteora and Alicetelia/MUP factions go their separate ways, and we’re treated to the former faction….simply sitting around doing nothing yet again.

Chikujouin Makagami also goes off on her own, but only to visit and promptly murder her creator off-camera, no doubt using her power of words. In the process, she reads her own source material, starts to understand her situation better, and vows to “regroup” and continue her “Miracle Great Emperor Plan.”

I like how Chiku is only on her own side at the moment, but there’s such a thing as being too far-removed from and un-invested in everything else going on.

Meanwhile, Kanoya Rui’s creator has a hunch about MUP being the creation of a doujin artist on a DeviantArt-style site, and hits paydirt—before Souta comes clean about knowing her.

Souta’s continued refusal to do so is becoming a liability, not just in terms of the safety of creators, but in that all Souta’s character is, at least so far, is the secret he carries. I want more.

Perhaps my favorite part of this somewhat stingy, uneventful episode is one in which Mamika reaches out to Souta, believing they’re alone together, but actually being shadowed by Chiku.

Mamika admits that she may not be in a world where everyone like her gains power from simple “belief” in things, ideals, or people, but that doesn’t mean she’s willing to give up on her usual way of doing things; just modify it to better suit her new world.

She manages what no one else could: get some info about MUP out of Souta. Specifically, her name is Altair, and most likely hates the world of the creators, which definitely makes her capable of “planning something very bad”, as Mamika puts it. I just hope that “plan” isn’t just a MacGuffin.

We’ve seen people suffer and die, but recently, only by Chiku’s hand (well, words). When is whatever Altair is planning actually going to organize into something that actually threatens the world?

Re:Creators – 06

Souta realizes who the MUP’s Creator is (or was), but he’s reluctant to tell Celestia, who is back in normal clothing and is having fun with her new smartphone. And that’s pretty much it for Souta; he carries his secret with him and will have to resolve his moral dilemma another week.

This episode is all about the arrival of another new Creation, Chikujouin Makagami, who is nothing but trouble. Her arrival sparks the big multiplayer confrontation we knew was coming, while being an eminently fun-to-watch player in her own right.

As befits a dynamic-shifting character, Chiku is voiced by the illustrious Sakamoto Maaya, unquestionably one of the best in the business since her debut in Escaflowne two decades ago. She has a lot of fun in what sounds like a fun role to play.

Like a similar scenario in Captain America: Civil War, an eclectic combination of heroes and villains of diverse backgrounds, powers, weaknesses, and worldviews come together and we behold the beautiful chaos that ensues. To its credit, Re:Creators gives characters on both sides the opportunity to express their views one way or another.

The unlikely friendship between Alice and Mamika—one from a war-torn dystopia, the other from a Tokyo not dissimilar from the Creators’— continues with the two discussing how they should deal with the newcomer.

Mamika believes as long as someone is a “good person” they can be a powerful and worthwhile ally, even if their goals don’t mesh with your own. Alice hears her, and compliments her for “knowing where justice lies.”

Chikujouin will test everyone’s sense of justice, because she’s a trickster who loves flipping things upside down and inside out, including lies. When she catches a bookstore clerk in a web of “lies about lies” it seems to give her the power to summon beasts that tear him to shreds.

Kikuchihara and a normally-dressed Meteora (a subtle but nice touch for both her, Celestia, and Rui) determine Chiku is a villain (duh) and start their search, but Alice and Mamika have already found her.

The initially cordial encounter soon sours when Alice smells blood and malevolence all over Chiku, and Chiku realizes she has another mark in Alice with whom she can provoke into “lying about lies.”

Alice, naturally, dismisses everything Chiku says, calls her a “buffoon”, and charges straight at her. Before Chiku can make Alice stab herself with her own spear, Celestia arrives, with Meteora by her side.

Mamika and Meteora plead for calm—everyone’s in the same boat; there’s no need to fight each other—but hotter heads blow over, as Alice thinks no more of Meteora’s musings than Chiku’s.

Alice and Celestia won’t back down, so the two warriors go at it, and Meteora must defend Celestia with her shield. Tokar Blitz enters the fray on Team Alice, but first tells Mamika that she has the power to stop the fight. Mamika knows this, but is afraid to use her powers again after what she did to Celestia when they first met (justifiably so).

And yet it’s Tokar, disabling Meteora’s shield with a gravity round then preparing to finish her off, when Mamika finally says enough and intervenes, saving Meteora and destroying every bullet Tokar fires.

In a battle of clashing powers from clashing genres, I love how it’s the magical girl abilities that seem to be the most powerful here, precisely because they come from such a vague, whimsical, and non-scientific source.

From the moment Celestia and Meteora appeared, Chiku is on the sidelines, literally, and once the swords start to cross and the bullets start to fly, she kick back, cracks open a juice and enjoys the show.

I for one appreciated this approach, because beyond its meta value (she, like us, is eagerly awaiting what will happen next) it’s in a trickster like Chiku’s nature to play sides off each other, then step aside and let everyone beat each other up, leaving her unscathed.

This was the Re:Creators episode I’ve been waiting for, and it felt the fleetest of the lot so far. It’s an episode where everyone’s disparate personalities are on display and where interesting things happen when they butt up against each other.

Having Yuuya and Rui sit this particular battle out keeps things from getting too chaotic too fast—though I’m sure we’ll see larger and more complicated battles in the future.

I’m also glad it’s Mamika, who not only has the “purest” powers but also the “purest” sense of justice, who not only has wherewithal but also the moral compulsion to stop the fighting before someone gets hurt too badly.

She may be “naive” and may not come from as bad a place as some of the others, but she knows what she needs to know: that there’s a better way to solve problems than trying to kill each other. As such, she’s emerged as an important bridge between the pro and anti-MUP factions.

Those who don’t like it better be ready to taste an assortment of colorful hearts, stars, bows, and crescent moons.

Re:Creators – 05

Episode five is talky, like the previous four, but the quality of the conversations ticks up thanks to a generous helping of light humor and a few significant steps forward with the plot, as the “good” creations add mecha pilot Kanoya Rui to their ranks and forge an official alliance with the Japanese government.

Things are lighthearted at first, as Kanoya proves to be very mild-mannered when not riled up, then things get tense as the JSDF raids the home of Kanoya’s creator. This is where I came to appreciate Meteora as the official spokesperson of the creation/creators. Measured and precise in her words, she’s able to calm the situation and put the soldiers at ease. None of the others in that house could have done it better.

They end up before a board of government bigwigs called the Special Situations Countermeasures Council, and briefed by the council’s General Coordination Officer, Kikuchihara. The proceedings are understandably a bit stiff, but things are lightened considerably when Kikuchihara informs Meteroa of the missing JSDF weaponry she “borrowed”, for which she can only offer a sheepish but sincere apology.

Fortunately, Kikuchihara is a stabilizing force, like the Meteora of the bigwigs, and has an open enough mind to appreciate the creators and creations’ situation, while acknowledging the former’s status as persons, offering them legal status and government protection.

Their shared goal of fixing what the Military Uniform girl broke and returning everyone to whence they came is sure to go easier with the coordination with Kikuchihara and the council.

Despite likely being offered government-funded accomodation, Meteora and Celestia decide to remain at Marine’s house, which is just fine with her, as it’s made her home life more fun, as “every night is girl’s night”, as Meteora puts it.

The four guys (one of whom, Kanoya, is voiced by a girl) aren’t as enthused, as Kanoya’s creator’s house was destroyed, but of far greater concern to Souta is his sudden realization of the origin of the Military Uniform girl: it would seem her creator is Shimazaki, who took her life by jumping in front of an incoming train at the very beginning of the first episode.

It makes sense that Military Uniform girl is trying to overthrow/destroy the world of creators, considering it’s a world that essentially rejected her creator. Hopefully more will be revealed about Souta’s specific connection to Shimazaki. Until then, some nice incremental progress was made, with just the right amount of comical flair to avoid things getting to stodgy, but enough seriousness to maintain credibility.

Re:Creators – 04

(For this week’s Re:C I’m filling in for Franklin, who is currently battling a bit of a backlog in both inbox and anime queue. Ganbatte, Oigakkosan! —Hannah)

After learning her creator died in an auto accident, a rudderless Meteora does a fair amount of soul-searching, starting by purchasing the game she’s in and playing it all the way to the end, in an effort to both learn more about herself and the person who created her, in hopes that information will help her make an informed decision about what to do next.

She painstakingly reports all of this to the others, as well as presents her hypothesis about this world only being able to take so many “translations” of creations before it crumbles under the weight of all the “contradictions.” For the fourth straight episode, this involves Meteora talking and explaining in a measured tone for an extended period of time—until the sun sets outside, in fact.

And while it does manage to hit some emotional beats towards the end—basically, she likes her creator, his creation, and wants to fight to get everything back to the way it was—it once more expose’s this show using such scenes as a crutch to keep the audience appraised. It’s too much tell and not enough show.

The chatting continues in a dark warehouse, where the onna-kishi Alicetelia has captured her creator and forced him to revise her world so there isn’t so much dang war, only for it not to work. The Military Uniform Princess assures her that this is an our worlds-vs.-their world situation, she’s leading the revolt, and could use able warriors like Alice.

We meet Beardy, who like Yuuya is content to have fun in this world for a time, and not in a rush to return to his world. Mamika also softens “Alice-chan’s” character somewhat by questioning rash side-taking, especially with people like the MUP, while tucking into boil-in-the-bag curry, the package of which bears Mamika’s likeness.

One of Matsubara’s fellow creators then calls him, informing him that one of his creations—a young mecha pilot—has suddenly appeared, along with his mecha, who on the surface looks like he’d be on Team Celestia/Meteora. That leaves just one more main creation from the promo art and OP to introduce: the Oushino Ougi-esque Chikujouin Makagami, who looks more like Team MUP.

As this is a 22-episode run, it’s not unusual to not have all the main players introduced after four episodes. But there remains a sluggishness and a feeling that we’re not seeing as much of the potential of this premise as we could, and are instead hearing a whole lot about it from static characters as other characters sit around in rooms listening.

To be blunt, I’m eager for Re:Creators to get out of those rooms and start kicking some ass out in the world. With the lines starting to be drawn among the creations according to how they want to proceed, hopefully we’ll get more actual confrontations soon.

Re:Creators – 03

The Gist: The conflict between the good guys and Magical Slayer Mamika is quickly broken by the arrival of an unnamed medieval woman (or onna-kishi if you will) riding a quasi-Pegasus. While Mirokuji Yuya could probably have defeated the new arrival, she retreats almost as quickly as she appears.

Thus follows a lengthy exposition sequence where Yuya and team good guys have a bunch of food at a family restaurant. Celestia is still wounded but not so much that she doesn’t want to learn more from this quasi-bad guy and he’s not so bad-a-guy that he won’t accept a free meal. Especially if it includes a tasty ice cream parfait.

During their exchange, we learn that the Military Uniform Princess approached him along with an old man, who is most likely the detective with a gun shown in the opening credits. However, Yuya saw through the MUP’s request and immediately blew her off. After all, her idea of modifying their worlds via their creators strikes him as unimaginative when that same line of thinking could give them so much more power in their own worlds…and that’s ignoring the fact that their own worlds are not much more than cages.

Yuya would rather live in our world and experience all the fun after all. He’s not even mad that his world is ‘messed up’ for our enjoyment—he’d even like his friends (and enemies) to be in our world, to share in all the fun…

Later, Team Good Guy experiments with what Yuya mentioned: can Mr. Matsubara change Celestia’s abilities by writing about them? What about having Celestia’s illustrator, Marine, make an illustration? The answer is a masterfully done ‘No’, including a great use of sound design…but it brings the group closer together, including Celestia telling Souta he has time to learn how to be a better and more confident illustrator.

Also, Marine has a contract with Meteora’s development company and offers to take her on a tour of the building…

Elsewhere, the Military Princess talks to no one in particular about her need to destroy the world. It has something to do with Setsuna, no doubt her creator and the girl who committed suicide in the opening of episode one, and who has some relationship with Souta. Mamika watches on silently from the sidelines…

The Verdict: The balance of action, character and exposition was tighter this week, and the depth we gained from the characters added charm and nuance to their being. That said, not a lot happened—again—and it presented another boatload of sometimes clunkily-delivered exposition.

In the end, sound design, charm, production values, and the ongoing mysteries earn it my recommendation. While Yuya was kinda annoying, and talk-heavy, his not-entirely-evil personality and pragmatic outlook on the world was enough not to drag the story down. I also greatly appreciated his annoyance at how slow Team Good Guy was to realize all the things they could try to benefit from.

 

Re:Creators – 02

The Gist: Meteora directs much of the opening story and through her, we learn that the creation effect is not limited to one art form nor main characters. She is an NPC that begins the ending section of an RPG Souta remembers enjoying, after all.

A great deal of eating and exposition later, Souta helps locate the company that created Meteora and the individual that created Celestia. One Mr Matsubara, who agrees to meet them in public. To Celestia’s chagrin, he does not live up to her expectations as a god, let alone a clever man she would associate with.

Then Magical Slayer Mamika shows up, apparently having been sent at them by the ‘Military Uniform Princess.’ (AKA Gunpuku no Himegimi) As a ‘Sailor Moon’-themed creation, she isn’t especially reasonable to negotiate with, nor intelligent, nor ready when her magic attacks cause pain and blood…but she is seriously strong. Much stronger than Celestia without her mech.

Fortunately (or not), Mirokuji Yuya shows up at the end and shrugs off Mamika’s attack with ease. According to Souta, he’s the final boss villain of another game called Exclusive Underground. Where this is going, exactly, and how it will not result in at least one of these characters quickly getting killed off, remains to be seen next week.

Dun dun duuunnnn…

The Verdict: The concept, sound design and animation continue to be top notch this week. Mamika’s magic sound, which is like a cutesy popping bubble, was delightfully bizarre and great contrast to the ‘cool’ designs of the other characters. I loved the music in the opening theme and throughout the episode as well.

Unfortunately, all the exposition around the concept and connecting the cast with Mr Matsubara came at the expense of good pacing. The opening two thirds dragged and the ending third felt rushed. Additionally, while I loved the opening theme, it immediately spoiled several characters appearing in the show to come. That didn’t do Yuya’s extremely short and clunky introduction any favors.

Ultimately, setting the stage for a fanfic mashup world should provide a good series in the long run (22 episodes, to be exact—ed.), but the speed at which thematically discordant characters have been thrown together, and uneventfully thrown together, just didn’t work this week.

Hopefully, the remaining characters will get more time to breathe on their introductory episodes. Otherwise, the crispness of the production and the curious premise will lose their shine quickly.

 

Re:Creators – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Souta Mizushino has pretensions of being a creator. He has the software to draw and sources of inspiration litter the room and world around him, but the spark hasn’t quite hit. He’s only a high school student after all.

Then, while watching the most popular anime of the season on his tablet, he finds himself transported into that world. Right in the middle of a fight that is not going well for show heroine Celestia Yupitilia and her ornate mecha. But the enemy isn’t what Celestia has come to expect from her world and, eventually noticing Souta, they aren’t in her world for very long.

Back on Earth, neither character quite knows how to act. Celestia quickly understands that, to some degree, she is a fictional character and, to some degree, Souta is not responsible for whatever has happened. Just ask quickly, her previous opponent has joined them on Earth and clearly has a grander understanding of what is going on.

Mystery, car chases, a third fictional character with magic rocket launchers appears, and a trip to the convenience store ensues. This. Show. Rocks.

You absolutely should watch this show because it takes all the conventions that could be cliché and does them so right. While we don’t know what exactly is going on and how, there’s a strong implication that human creation is the source of other worlds where people face the triumphs and hardships we imagine, and that even though magic from that world can carry over to our own, Souta himself (and humans in general) are not gifted with magical properties. Nor does Souta get the Re:Zero / Konosuba other-world adventure.

Souta describes himself as the Narrator and, right from the get go,  Re:Creators makes the point that this is the story as he remembers it, full of consequences, action, and thought.

But what really lofts Souta and Celestia above high above expectations is how they respond to their situation visually and through dialog. Anime is full of confused male leads who just repeat whatever ‘unexpected thing’ they hear right back as a question, and confused leads who ask idiotic questions or take an absurd amount of time to accept what is going on around them.

Sure, Souta spends a lengthy walk with his mouth hanging open in shock with a confused look, and has no particular goal moving forward, but he gets what’s going on around him, which lets the world show itself to us, without being overly expositioned in the process.

Celestia fares about the same, processing the evidence she sees and moving through a range of reasonable emotional and tactical responses until some of it is obvious. Her behavior just makes sense, and that makes me tremendously happy as a viewer.

The Verdict: Solid writing, fantastic voice work and music, extreme density of content (especially in the epilogue-as-prologue, where a mysterious girl commits suicide by train), and top shelf animation put this very very close to a perfect 10. It only falls short in comparison to my other 10s (Re:Zero’s emotional roller coaster or the pure splendor of Fate or the originality of FLCL). Give it time though, it may just get there.

For now, go right now and watch it!

Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Aichi Coexistence Private Academy was once an all girls school but, for reasons not entirely clear, it was made co-ed. However, this resulted in the girls bringing weapons to school and, eventually, the rise of the Supreme Five Swords—the baddest warrioresses on campus who ultimately run the school.

Now, Aichi is the destination for male students too tough for the regular school system and Nomura Fudou, our unwitting protagonist, fits that bill to a T…

You may get a kick out of Armed Girls’ if you can roll with how silly it all is. The art is decent enough, with short-cut but acceptable action animation and good enough character designs. Everyone in the cast speaks with a slight accent. All the boys are in drag. The first of the five swords wears a literal devil mask, which breaks cheekily after she and Nomura accidentally kiss. Silly stuff like that.

You may groan and roll your eyes at Armed Girls’ because everyone in the cast is basically a pretentious a-hole, a cliché, or both. (The french girl’s haughty fake laugh is especially cringe inducing)

The pace is also a bit slow, with an over reliance on characters standing still to yell at each other and/or introduce special techniques that don’t stand out visually from each other. The result feels very formulaic and, combined with the characters all being unlikable, Armed Girls’ doesn’t feel like much love was put into its production.

The Verdict: Nomura Fudou seems like the intended protagonist, obviously, but in many ways Rin Onigawara is set up to experience more emotional change along the way. Regardless, I’m not sure Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism actually has a protagonist, as Rin and Nomura  get about the same screen time and neither has an especially compelling backstory, mystery, or quest.

I didn’t find Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism especially funny or exciting. It’s just good enough to review, but not so much so that I actually want to review it. For goodness sakes, the only eventful element of the first episode is Nomura x Rin’s accidental first kiss, which is itself a total cliché…

Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: The story of seventeen swords given human form living together in a citadel. They are charged with annihilating the History Retrograde Army, a group committed to changing history. Rookie Yamatonokami Yasusada is made Captain in his first operation, and his team is wounded without completing their mission.

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Why You Should Watch: TRH welcomes you in to what amounts to a big family full of individuals, each with their own quirks. The clash of personalities suggests an easy chemistry, with even some heated moments quickly defused. Congeniality rules, as all these human swords recognize they all share the same objectives: serve their master the Sage…without getting broken.

Why You Shouldn’t Watch: The episode takes some time to get going. After a dark and murky action scene that turns out to be a dream, it spends an inordinate amount of time on a snowball fight that clunkily introduces the cast one by one.

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There are also too many characters with complex names to keep track of (17 in all), and not one lady among them. Despite a lot of dialogue being given over to explaining the history-preservation concept, the execution left much to be desired, as the ultimate mission just felt like fighting evil foes in an inn. Simply labeling it as something else doesn’t go far enough to sell the concept.

The Verdict: While not a bad-looking show with a nice underlying family element, TRH just didn’t wow me, or even hook me, in any meaningful way. On paper, human swords being sent on missions to save history sounds intriguing, and future episodes may prove more exciting, but the execution in the crucial first episode was lacking. I doubt I’ll be picking up this show in the long term.

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