TenSura – 20 – A New World In The New World

After a massive celebratory feast in which the capital doesn’t waste a bit of the megalodons they slew last week, and a hot bath with the ladies including Milim who is soon off to meet with other demon lords and warn them not to mess with her bestie, Shizu’s lingering regret is expressed in a dream of the promise Rimuru made to her, bringing tears even to his slime-eyes.

With the latest crisis easily dealt with and a formidable retinue of powerful warriors and specialists beneath him, Rimuru now feels confident to leave his capital and head to the Kingdom of Ingrassia, where Shizu’s students still require training and guidance.

His only companion is Ranga, who gets him there in three days and then hides in his shadow. For the first time, Rimuru’s in a big human city, and is amazed by the level of tech, from huge glass windows to teleporters at the academy. It’s hardly Esthar, but it’s a definite leap from his still impressive capital.

Ther, Rimuru meets the grandmaster, a former student of Shizu’s named Kagurazaka Yuuki, who sees Shizu’s mask and initially considers Rimuru a threat. They exchange powerful blows that destroy all the fancy furniture in the room, but when Rimuru insists he’s not a bad slime, he learns that Yuuki is from a time in Japan not too far removed, and a ravenous otaku to boot.

The ensuing exchange of pop cultural references is an absolute delight to behold, as both of these transplants revel in the rare instance being among their own kind. Yuuki is particularly astonished that there have been nineteen Final Fantasys, that Glass Mask and The Five Star Stories are still going strong, and that the Sagrada Familia is almost complete. He doesn’t care a whit about the prime ministers, however.

Even better, Rimuru transforms to Slime Mode and converts some blank paper Yuuki supplies to print a king’s ransom of volumes he’s accumulated in his vast slime memory, while also eliciting some scolding by the Great Sage, who considers it a “waste” of her abilities when it’s actually anything but!

Gifting Yuuki such a wealth of material from his old home proves beyond any doubt that Rimuru is indeed not a bad slime, and someone who can be trusted. When Rimuru brings up Shizu’s regret, Yuuki agrees to give Rimuru a job at Freedom Academy, teaching the five young, powerful, but short-lived “Summons.”

While Rimuru is initially overwhelmed by how, er, exuberant these five kids are, you can’t help but want him to succeed in finding a way for the misfits to survive longer than five years. His capital is essentially in cruise control, with his subordinates able to handle any number of threats in his absence.

With these five, Rimuru is definitely scaling back the scope of his assistance, but this is a project only he can undertake, what with his perspective, abilities, and most importantly, his connection to Shizu. I also have no doubt we’ll be seeing Shizu’s extremely powerful former student, Sakaguchi Hinata, in due time.

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BEATLESS – 02

Arato doesn’t really yet know he has a fugitive in his house, so I’ll forgive him for letting Yuka enroll Lacia in a fashion hIE competition that she then promptly wins. Still, considering all the danger he encountered upon meeting Lacia, you’d think he’d be a bit more careful.

But nope; the fashion thing goes through, Arato tells his friends at school (who agree with me that he’s probably not taking this seriously enough) and even lets Lacia accompany him on the train when he leaves his tablet at school.

Lacia shows him the nice view from the school roof he’s never seen, but the episode suffers from a lack of stakes or impending doom until the very end. Arato doesn’t sense any danger, which makes him less informed than us. If he had any notable qualities, that could be forgiven, but he’s pretty much a big not-steaming pile of meh.

That makes the fact he stumbled backwards into ownership of an elite luxury hIE all the more grating. He hasn’t really done anything but accept ownership; presumably he’ll start to experience the negative consequences of his choice, but this week he doesn’t.

Instead, he merely tags along during a live Lacia fashion shoot and “analog hack” that goes on too long and attracts a dubiously large crowd. It never comes across as anything but a tremendously bad idea.

All the while, I was thinking that at some point, Memeframe will come looking for her in some capacity, although perhaps the destruction caused in their escape hindered their ability to track their property. As for Arato’s nerdy friend Kengo, he’s paid a visit by Kouka, who doesn’t seem particularly interested in having an owner or following commands.

If Memeframe isn’t going to come into the picture soon, maybe Kouka and the other escaped fugitives can bring the storm…because this ep was too heavy on the calm.

Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 06

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All ye Izana+Nagate shippers can rejoice, if only briefly, as the two settle into a lovely little domestic situation, complete with Izana making Nagate dinner and tripping on the tatami. The hungry Nagate has the choice of saving the onigiri or Izana, and in the moment when both she and the onigiri are in the air, I wondered which he would save. He made the right choice.

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Their honeymoon doesn’t last long, however, as Tsugumi manages to find a path into Izana’s house and lets herself in, having made creepy noises beforehand that made Izana happy to see Nagate’s face. What I imagined was residual damage from deceleration was only their friend trying to reach them.

Tsugumi may be awkward within Sidonia, but out in space her thrust enables her to accelerate eight times the speed of the Type 18s, even if she meekly admits she has no idea how she can do it.

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Not as far as I can throw you, mate.

Discovering the how she can’t explain is certainly one of Kunato’s objectives, along with Ochiai, Yure, and Kobayashi. The mad scientists and megalomaniacs with dwarf planet-sized chips on their shoulders are now running Sidonia, and I’m not sure they’re the best people to keep the colony safe. More like they’re about to plunge it into oblivion to satisfy their hubristic desire to dominate the Gauna.

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On a more personal level, Tsugumi’s new pilot Mozuku can tell that Tsugumi really likes Nagate, and I imagine her performance and efficiency increase when he’s around. That makes Nagate a valuable asset to Mozuku’s brother…for now. But when they’ve developed a new chimera who’s faster and stronger than Tsugumi, all bets will be off. Tsugumi’s sentience, and desire to live a peaceful life with Nagate, mean nothing to these people. She’s a tool, and Nagate is grease.

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That grease is on a mission to find a new home on the outer wall, leading him to the Residence Bureau and its enthusiastic, yellow pantsu-wearing realty officer. I’ve said this show is a bit clumsy with comedy, but one beat that elicited a good chuckle was Nagate’s “I’m not looking up your skirt” look as he rapidly turns away the moment she turns around. Her “You lucky dog!” line refers both to his dispensation to live wherever he wants (owing to his rank and status) and the fact he got a peek.

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Both the residential office and the hobby shop Yuhata frequents are nice world-building moments that expand the scope of Sidonia beyond the military we see every week. People are going about their normal lives amidst all the shooting and fighting and exploding outside. Showing us these places lend the episode a distinct calm before the storm feeling to this episode.

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Izana is understandably disappointed when she learns Nagate is moving; the liked the thing they had going on, she’d given him a spare key, and she was just about to tell him he could stay for good if he wanted to. But Nagate isn’t leaving Izana; he’s inviting her to move in to his house with him and Tsugumi, and she accepts, after making him squirm a bit. Izana has always had the best facial expressions on this show, and she displays some great ones here.

Did I mention the new house perched on the outer wall is amazing? Sidonia regularly elicits “I want to go to there” feelings, but rarely as strong as here. It’s also nice to see Nagate actually reaping the rewards of putting his life on the line day in day out for Sidonia. Tsugumi’s wish to sleep in bed with him is sweet, if a little weird. Nagate may either want to set some house rules or procure a bigger bed.

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We transition from domestic bliss on the outer wall to an epic multi-shot pull-in to a research facility where Ochiai and Yure’s new Graviton Beam Emitter is about to be test-fired. In addition to providing a sense of the ships humongous scale (though peanuts compared to their ultimate target), the bright lights on the ship’s barren, crater-pocked surface evokes the iconic moon scene in 2001.

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The bring white lights give way to the piercing red of the unsettlingly Gauna-ish light of the beam, which punches a 100km-wide hole in a passing dwarf planet the crew thought would be a good target for mining. Nope, just target practice. The ambitious new class of leadership is interested in one thing: taking out that giant Hive Cluster. If it means hundreds of people will die horribly, so be it.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 05

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Last week’s violent, harrowing battle took place just a third of the way in the season, so a cooling-off episode was expected and not entirely unwelcome. Now that we know the lengths Tsumugi will go to protect her friends, it’s nice to spend time with them as the recover from their wounds and try to make it up to her.

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Since Izana was alive and in contact with Sidonia at the end of last week, I knew Nagate was alive, I just didn’t know how bad her injuries would be. So it’s with great joy and relief to see her recover from those injuries. She lost an arm and a leg, but in this sci-fi world limbs can grow back, she chose mechanical prostheses so she could recover faster and get back on the line.

While part of this choice is her not wanting to be left behind or to be useless for too long, I still respect her going with her non-mad scientist grandma’s suggestion, and I liked her positive attitude about the whole thing. Nagate and Yuhata’s reaction to her suddenly splitting the fingers on her new hand from five to ten is pretty priceless: by turns surprised, fearful, and impressed.

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Tsumugi was the big question mark last week. We learn after the battle she’s lost 90% of her body mass, and as we know, that kind of diet can kill a human. But she’s super tough, and all she needs is time and patience to grow her placenta back. Nagate, extremely concerned for her well-being, sits at her proverbial hospital bedside.

In what turns out to be a tease from last week’s preview for this episode, the nude Shizuka Nagate encounters is merely in his dream, albeit a dream he’s having while a recovering Tsugumi has her “arms” on his head.

Nagate calls the girl in his dream “Shizuka”, the name he first assigned to her face, but it might’ve been more accurate to address her as Tsumugi, as this could be her unconscious avatar, hinting that she can communicate this way, in addition to her half-cute, half-unsettling dolphin balloon puppet.

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When Nagate wakes up, he’s so elated Tsumugi is okay, he hugs that puppet, whose reaction to the sudden intimacy rivals Asahina Mikuru for pure adorableness. She moves to beautiful new digs with a view of the stars and a bookshelf to read from (her studious bookworm persona is super-endearing, BTW), but Nagate is troubled with how isolated she is, which is confirmed when Tsugumi, all alone in her tower of solitude, lets off a sigh.

Nagate and Izana ask Yuhata if she’ll let Tsumugi move to the residential area where she can be closer to everyone else, but she refuses them flatly. As much as I love Tsumugi, I knew their request would be a long shot, practically speaking. Tsumugi could cause a lot of damage in there if the ride gets bumpy.

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And it does get bumpy, as Sidonia is closing on the Lem solar system and must initiate another harrowing deceleration maneuvers. This is where Sidonia the character comes into play in the episode; simply slowing down in space is a momentous event fraught with peril. An air raid siren pierces the tranquil residential block, warning everyone to lock their harness into something sturdy.

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Unfortunately, Nagate and Izana don’t hear the sirens or the warnings, because they’re spending their downtime deep in the guts of the ship, finding themselves in a ladder shaft when the bumpy ride begins. Thankfully, due to Nagate’s incredible luck and physical toughness with an assist from Izana’s bionic limbs, they survive the maneuver with bumps and bruises.

Those are a small price to pay for achieving their goal: locating a hatch in a pipe that leads to Tsumugi’s room. She can now stick her balloon avatar out and gaze upon the gorgeous residential block.

Giving her her first look at the civilization she’s protecting, and feeling the community of the res area, is Nagate and Izana’s way of thanking her for saving them, and doing their best to quell her loneliness. It’s a great feel-good, non-battle victory.

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The feel-goodness continues when Nagate heads home to find he’s been evicted an his dorm is now the home of a new recruit. But that’s okay, because all he has to do is call a friend and crash with them until he can find a place of his own! Who does he call: Kunato? He probably labels his food. The Honoka sisters? He’ll walk in on them naked and get thrashed again. Yuhata? “Fraternizing with a superior officer” issues.

No, he calls Izana, who is relaxing and soaking in her very cozy-looking bath, talking with her grandma on the videophone. Izana has been trying to get closer to Nagate since before Shizuka died. Now, thanks to fate, Nagate has come to her. Will she capitalize on this latest chance? Her initial reaction suggests she’ll have to overcome some nervousness.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 04

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Sidonia sticks to its strengths—intricate space battles, mayhem, and impending doom, not comedy and romance—with an episode-long epic battle of adernaline-pumping perfection. G550 is gunnin’ for Sidonia, literally. Its kill or be killed, and the episode never lets you forget how thin the line is between life and death.

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Tsumugi uses her man-made kabi claws to bust out of the trap the first wave of Gauna built around her, and in the process she seems to glean the Gauna’s intent for the humans, including her friends. Whether it was just another Gauna biological reflex in response to external stimuli, or a conscious, sentient effort to provoke Tsumugi, she reacts badly,  disobeying everyone’s orders and going on a destructive rampage of every Gauna in sight, despite being heavily damaged herself.

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The deus ex machina has a screw loose, and it informs the overarching peril of the situation rather nicely. What ultimately finally stops her attacks is when Izana tries to go after her and calm her down, and gets heavily damaged in the process. It’s been a little while since pilots I actually knew and cared about turned red on the CIC board, so when it’s Izana’s turn my heart sank into my stomach. Thankfully, Tsumugi gets to Izana and agrees to retreat for now, for her sake.

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The Guardes manage to take out the second wave of Gauna without Tsumugi’s help thanks to a shift to long-range tactics, and then enter ring formation to destroy G550’s core. But even this tactic backfires, as the equatorial trench they create is the perfect aperture for a massive Hyggs cannon the surviving Gauna fuse into.

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Sidonia is huge and slow, so I knew any beam launched at her would have to be somehow prevented outright, blocked, shifted, or absorbed by someone. In another case of the computer displays creating visceral reactions, the amount of red the damage analysis predicts makes it clear if none of those above things happen, it’s Game Over.

Tsumugi manages to deflect the beam enough so it misses Sidonia, but only by a few hundred meters to starboard. At this distance, the mere force emanating from the beam is enough to nearly shake Sidonia to pieces, and alarmingly, all the CIC displays go to static as the shock hits, and it was all I could do to pray those displays wouldn’t go dark, and that breaches wouldn’t occur.

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With G550 charging for another salvo, and both Tsumugi and Izana unaccounted for, Nagate decides to rush in headlong and uses his engine pack as a precision projectile, causing a Death Star-style chain reaction that brings that sweet, sweet sound of Bubble Desintegration. Once again, Nagate one-ups Kunato and emerges the hero.

It’s a costly victory: Nagate and Izana are both found, but Tsumugi is in tatters, and Izana fears she’s dead. They didn’t lose a lot of Guardes, and Sidonia wasn’t seriously damaged and didn’t need to carry out emergency maneuvers, but with Tsumugi’s fate unclear and the Gauna stronger than ever, it’s no longer simply “nice” to have Chimera on their side; it now appears absolutely essential for the battles to come.

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Denpa Kyoushi – 04

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Kagami-sensei’s latest lecture kills two birds with one stone: teaching Irregular Twintails (Makina) the true dignity of maids (Akiba, not regular), while encouraging Potatoes (Kiriko) to get back to doing what she loves: performing as the underground maid idol and YouTube sensation “Cutter Girl.”

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Makina puts up a fight, offering her Wikipedic knowledge of real-world maids and dismissing the Akiba kind as “fakes.” Even so, she agrees to serve as a maid at a cafe run by a friend of Kagami’s who has gotten serving down to an intricate science.

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Kagami, or rather the cafe where he brought Makina, makes a decent case for the dignity of Akiba maids by showing her the amount of skill, initiative, creativity, and people skills required to make a diverse array of “masters” happy. Sometimes that means acting cute or subservient…sometimes it means being standoffish and rude.

He paints maid cafes as a microcosm for society at large, but Makina fires back that most of society doesn’t “get” or approve of maid cafes, so she can’t let Kiriko continue lest she give the school a bad image.

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In the B-part (which Kagami announces by tapping on the fourth-wall), Kagami arranges a live performance in front of a growing crowd of people, with the idea being if society doesn’t approve, she’ll make them approve by delivering a dazzling performance.

Potatoes, suddenly full of confidence, calls Makina’s bid, stating she’d be able to weather explusion better than not being able to do what she loves. She then takes the stage and becomes an instant hit online and off, with Kagami pulling the logistical strings. Now, it would hurt the school’s image if they did expel Potatoes.

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While I’m glad the show seems to be back on track with regard to Kagami tackling the problems of a student or two per week, this will be my final review of Denpa Kyoushi. It’s far from terrible, and often downright charming. In a lighter season, or with higher quality visuals, I’d keep it. But the fact of the matter is I’m reviewing more shows than I want to this season, and Denpa’s iffy production values made it vulnerable for culling.

Class dismissed!

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 03

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Kobayashi’s coup went off without a hitch, and she immediately changes Sidonia’s course, both literally and figuratively, in a chilling scene that makes it obvious there was no love lost between her and the not-so-Immortals. And yet this doesn’t mark any kind of sea change in the day-to-day operations of the ship, nor do higher-ranking officers like Yutaha have any problem with the new change of leadership. After all, Kobayashi’s bosses never were in the spotlight; it’s hard to mourn their loss. Or maybe Yutaha is simply being pragmatic.

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Either way, big changes in how Sidonia wages war are being implemented, from upgrading the armor of the Type-18 frames, to impregnating Placental Hoshijiro with a human seed, making her Tsugumi’s mommy. I really like the creep-factor this kind of sci-fi body mod/body horror stuff lends to Sidonia’s “world,” one already full of oddities.

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At the same time, this episode doesn’t forget about the sheer majesty of simply floating outside Sidonia. The careful camera placement and motion really sell the idea of how vast space is, and how the terror of that vastness can cause people like Kobayashi to take extreme steps to preserve their tiny civilization.  

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Where Sidonia continues to flail and fail is at comedy, particularly anything involving Nagate seeing naked ladies. All of the careful physics go out the window as they resort to cartoon violence, smashing a heavy metal door into Nagate, who hits the wall hard, and then has the door smash down on him, a sequence that would surely have put him in the hospital.

Like a previous instance in the first season where his face swelled up after getting beaten for a similar transgression, seeing his CG face get bent up here breaks the uncanny valley in a bad way. But most of all, this attempt at lightweight comedy comes off as ham-fisted and obvious, nothing like the expert precision of other areas of the show.

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This is more like it: giving us a glimpse into Yutaha’s spartan quarters gives us a glimpse into her character off-bridge: she dresses down, builds scale models, and tries to keep up with the news. Sure, emergency maneuvers would send most of the contents of her room flying along with her, but those are rare enough.

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While checking the logs of who’s gone to see Tsumugi, Yuhata discovers Nagate and Izana have been occasional visitors. I was expecting some kind of confrontation, but instead Yuhata is merely curious, and the others even invite her to lock hands with them, as they had come to do with Tsugumi (or rather Tsugumi’s balloon “sock puppet” avatar). Tsugumi continues to nicely toe the line between cute and creepy.

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When her sharp eyes spot a 500-core Gauna force heading their way, Kunato requests to intercept it with Tsugumi. Yuhata wants to see how she works in a formation, and so denies the request, but she’s overruled by Kobayashi, who is eager to see the full extent of the chimera’s powers. Perhaps because Kunato wasn’t among those who locked hands (a pilot superstition I’d expect him to shun), things go very wrong when he flies Tsugumi into a Gauna placenta trap. This, after Kunato guaranteed defeating the force would be a cakewalk.

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Two more of Sidonia’s strengths are its thrilling launch sequences and visceral pilot POV shots, both of which contribute to an adrenaline-laced sci-fi spectacle to end the ep. With Tsugumi neutralized, it’s up to the conventional Guardes to avert disaster on the very first leg of Kobayashi’s very possibly ill-conceived new course.

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To that end, all the Guardians that launch—96 in all—lock hands into a ring formation and blast away with authority, which is another Sidonia strength: immensely enticing cliffhangers. The strengths definitely outweighed the weaknesses this week, as they usually do with Sidonia, while building great anticipation for next week’s big battle.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 02

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There’s been some super sketchy stuff going down behind that big KUNATO logo, especially now that Ochiai is in the mix. We see the fruit of his labor in full display this week in the Human-Gauna hybrid “Chimera”, Tsugumi Shiraui.

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The newest enemy Gauna with its “Onion Placenta” is proof the Gauna are not standing still when it comes to developing new weapons with which to attack Sidonia, so it makes sense that the humans should innovate or die. Competing factions among the humans clash over the best way to do this.

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At least here, the ends justify the means, as Tsugumi is able to destroy the enemy Gauna, finishing it off by blasting straight through it. Yuhata and the Guardians are more confused than anything, but it’s Nagate who decides Tsugumi isn’t their enemy, allowing her to do her work unfettered.

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There was probably a better way to sell Tsugumi to the crew than a King Kong-style unveiling, but Kunato has never struck me as being very good at P.R., and the fact he’s now a host for Ochiai made him even worse. Tsugumi is uncommonly courteous and friendly, but when she gets excited upon spotting Nagate in the crowd, her sheer mass shakes the entire assembly hall, scaring the masses and turning them against her.

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Tsugumi is huge and extremely creepy-looking. But in good sci-fi, one can never judge a book by its cover when it comes to aliens who look or act differently from us. Nagate, being the decent sort of chap he is, is willing to keep an open mind, and even visits her at the Kunato lab, convinced she could use some human company, as she is half-human.

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She greets them with a more human-sized but still very alien appendage, and Tsugumi is overcome by glee when Nagate allows her to “touch” him, which she takes as carte blanche to lift both him and Izana up with numerous tentacles and grope them both thoroughly.

But again, it’s not scary, despite the awesome destructive power she’s capable of, because she’s so gosh-darned earnest and adorable. Not sure about the goofy music that announces this is a comedic scene, but whatever.

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As for those factions I mentioned earlier, Kobayashi makes a decisive move against the ruling Immortal Ship Assembly, sending Ochiai’s clone to murder them all, including her would-be replacement, after they vote to impeach her from the captaincy.

While the good old-fashioned acquisition of power is probably a motivating factor, Kobayashi was also diametrically opposed to their defensive posture and refusal to entertain innovations such as Tsugumi. With her and other Chimeras, she’ll be able to take the fight to the Gauna, and presumably start winning the hearts and minds.

Even if she doesn’t manage to achieve the latter (Nagate, for instance doesn’t like how Tsugumi is being forced to fight and kill right out of the proverbial womb) it’s Kobayashi’s ship now, and those who oppose her will do so at their peril.

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Denpa Kyoushi – 03

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Kagami’s voluntary dismissal from school seemingly ended the “weekly student project” format I had become comfortable with and fond for, and all for reasons that didn’t do Kagami any favors in the likability department.

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Still, like me, Hiiragi Koyomi (later nicknamed “Options” by Kagami because she herself says she’s loaded with them) has enjoyed watching Kagami improve the lives of his students with amusing methods, and wants to see more of that at her school.

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Only Kagami doesn’t want to teach, so Hiiragi formulates an elaborate military operation, using all of the resources and connections at her disposal to track him down. I think the overarching joke is that Kagami isn’t really on the run, but just has a very busy schedule of YD activities in Akiba.

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t dig the whole chase sequence. I’ve seen super-rich people put on much better shows than Hiiragi did here, and the show’s animation bordered on the putrid this week, and really didn’t do Akiba justice. Hiiragi’s minions also seemed particularly incompetent, and I wasn’t buying Kagami’s hacking prowess.

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Am I being overly pedantic with a show not intending to be that serious? Perhaps; especially when the chase ends with Suzune literally throwing a big net over Kagami and then tossing him in a burlap sack. Still, it’s good to see Kagami brought back down to earth by his little sister (who knew he liked a certain voice actress) after he was able to defeat the might of Hiiragi family, Jack Bauer-style.

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Hiiragi brings Kagami to his sister’s school, Icho, where he’ll teach first before moving up to Hiiragi. But even if its the poorer of the two schools, it’s still pretty fancy. There, Kagami meets Hiiragi’s No. 2, the mirthless twin-tail he quickly nicknames “Irregular Twintails.” Momozono resents Hiiragi recruiting this NEET “thing” just to make things more “amusing.”

Kagami can absorb Twintails’ barbs, but when she turns her ire on Shikishima Kiriko, a student being expelled for having a part time job at a maid cafe, the situation suddenly becomes YD for Kagami. He agree to take the job if Shikishima is reinstated, and vows to teach Momozono about the dignity of maid cafes. And jut like that, we seem to be back in the “weekly student project” format I didn’t mind. Denpa Kyoushi can keep its chase scenes.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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I was pretty dejected when Sidonia’s second season didn’t air in October as I initially believed, but I’ve been waiting patiently like a good anime blogger for six more months and two seasons. Now the wait is over…and boy, was it worth it.

Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki (Battle for Planet Nine) the best premiere of the spring – a rich, soaring, booming, squirming sci-fi masterpiece that lays out a fresh batch of challenges and conflicts for the spacefaring remainder of mankind, already hanging on a string last season.

The cold open mirrors the first season’s, in which a space battle turns out to be a simulation run by Nagate, only this time he’s a decorated veteran putting up a high score for the fresh crop of Guardian recruits to aspire to, even if he doesn’t have any inspiring words to say to them.

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We then cut back to whatever it was Kunato was up to with that big door in the first season finale. Even if it means the end of his family, he opens it and steps inside, and his loyal sister Mozoku follows him. This secret forbidden nook of Sidonia turns out to be Ochiai’s lab, and they’re not alone in there. In quick succession, Mozoku loses a digit, then her head, and Norio’s body is taken over by parasites as a strange, not-quite-human figure looks on. Talk about setting the tone!

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Not too much later, a girl who looks like a white-haired Shizuka in Mozoku’s clothes fumbles with her dinner, apparently still getting used to her body (if they switched heads, her high collar hides the signs). She calls Norio “Ochiai”, and “Norio”, really Ochiai, corrects her. A tentacle slithers in “Mozoku”‘s eye. Just like that, it’s the end of the Kunato siblings as we knew them.

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The transformed pair then visit the lab to inspect Placental Shizuka as representatives of Kunato Corp. As he puts Numi under full-body paralysis with one prick to her cheek, “Norio” also hits her with a dose of anti-human vitriol (calling them naught nothing but filthy insects, far inferior to Gauna, etc.) before giving her a parasite. Things are moving very quickly.

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Meanwhile, we see why Nagate was so distracted at the simulator, and why he isn’t eating much or acknowledging Izana much: he’s having semi-sexy, semi-horrifying dreams about Placental Shizuka, whom he hasn’t seen in some time. When he crosses paths with Norio on an escalator, Norio insists he forget about Shizuka, who is dead, and stop worrying about the placenta that shares her appearance.

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Yuhata steals Nagate from Izana on a day they’re to go on a trip to the shrine, but only to tell him what Norio did: to give up on Placental Shizuka. Possibly out of pity for having to order her friend to do this, she lends him a rocket pack so he can meet up with Izana at the top of the stairs, surprising and delighting her in the process. It’s a great little glimmer of light and hope in an episode steeped in darkness and dread.

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That glimmer doesn’t last long, as the Gauna alert sounds and Battle Stations are ordered. The third-person shot of XO Yuhata entering the CIC as it comes to life with Gauna threat information, is audiovisual perfection.

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So is the battle that commences, though that’s nothing new where Sidonia is concerned. Using a combination of wide, slightly shaky shots and in-cockpit POV shots, all supplemented with maps, schematics, and other digital information, all of which reveals that this latest Gauna is unlike any they’ve fought before.

In addition to being heavily armed, it has dozens of layers of placenta, like an onion, and it looks like the Guardians are simply going to run out of ammo and/or fuel long before they reach the true body. This force Nagate to move dangerously closer in with his all-new, powerful but untested frame to try to take the Gauna out. Ren, who’s been through some stuff with Izana, stays by his side.

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Sidonia also excels at stepping ever so close to the brink of total disaster and destruction, before being pulled back by some last-minute miracle. Usually it’s Nagate who pulls these off, making him the shining new hero, but this time, he can’t do a thing. In fact, when another Gauna appears on radar (or whatever they use) and heads toward Nagate and Ren at 10x the speed of their guardians, it appeared like the Gauna had Sidonia, and humanity, in check.

But then the second Gauna blows the Onion Gauna to kingdom come with one shot. Everyone gawks at this strange Guardian-sized Gauna, which is being piloted by Norio. Look out, Nagate: the guy who always considered you his nemesis is now faster and stronger than you…and he’s not even really Norio anymore.

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As for the reveal that the “Gauna Guardian” he’s piloting has Shizuka’s voice and talks to him like a beloved master, well, this fake Norio also went and stole Nagate’s fake woman, who introduces herself as Shiraui Tsumugi. The shot of the delicate yet frightening-looking Tsumugi floating in space even bears a striking resemblance to the bone/satellite match cut of 2001, lending it a powerful, mythic aura. Move over…everything else: Sidonia is back, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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Denpa Kyoushi – 02

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Depna Kyoushi isn’t winning any beauty contests, but I don’t care as long as it keeps delivering interesting weekly student stories, each of which will inform a different part of Kagami Junichirou’s overarching story of whether he’s teacher material (which seems apparent), or more importantly to him, whether he yearns to teach (still up in the air).

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This weeks student is the class rep, Yukina, who is upset that he’s slacking off in teaching the class. She shoplifts in Akiba to blow off steam, but Kagami happens to catch her in the act. Even without trying, kagami manages to teach one of his students a lesson, though in lecturing her about her actions affecting the lives of others rings as a bit hypocritical, considering he uses his YD philosophy to do what he wants, no matter who it affects.

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But the fact that his actions affect people in a positive way, as both Face Punch and Wicked Blondie are now BFFs, and both consider Kagami to be the one who made them better people and dream accordingly. The game he distributed to his class has also become a school-wide fad, bringing the kids closer together.

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But when internet pics of Kagami appearing to molest someone break out, their faith in him is shaken, but not broken. That’s not the case with the rest of the class and school, which see the photographic evidence and conclude they were betrayed. Kagami is promptly fired after an interview, and it falls on Yukina to come clean about the truth of the anime store encounter.

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When she happens to meet Kagami on a bridge that night (lots of coincidences in this show!) she learns that even if she does the right thing, it won’t bring Kgami back, because he was looking for an excuse to quit. His anime blog that he yearns to work on every waking moment he isn’t watching anime, dropped to second place, and in his YD-addled mind that’s more important to affecting positive change in youngsters.

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Yukina doesn’t let him let her off the hook though. She comes clean to her classmates, and Kagami is exonerated in the eyes of the students, who are on his side at the ceremony announcing his dismissal form the school. He quiets them down with a stirring motivational speech about not letting rules get in the way of going after their dreams, and giving everyone a special weapon for thier mobile games…which means he was listening to Minako after all.

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Having delivered his final lecture (though he should have told them to follow his blog), Kagami withdraws from the school, only to be cornered by Hiiragi Koyomi, fan-wielding chairperson of Hiiragi Academy, an even more prodigious school. She’s watched his month of progress with great interest, and wants him teaching at her school. Just when he thought he was out…

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Denpa Kyoushi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Mr. Despair is back! To be precise Kamiya Hiroshi voices a high school teacher in a class full of students with issues. And he’s more of a Mr. “YD”, what with his self-diagnosed condition that only allows him to “Do what he Yearns to Do.” Kagami Junichiro’s contra-type voice-cast sister Suzune gets him a teaching gig part-time, and it’s up to him to make it something he Yearns to Do.

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Like SZS, Mr. Kagami will surely befriend his students one by one (at least the girl) and solve their problems, or at least support them in some way so they can solve their own. Unlike Itoshiki-sensei, he’s bringing otaku culture and the academic genius that came up with the theoretical framework for building an “Everywhere Door” a century form now…rather than life-weariness and despair over all the girls’ various psychological conditions.

To this end, the first student he meets, Kanou Minako, isn’t about to jump off the roof of the school, she’s merely singing the theme song to one of his favorite anime. Her arrogance about deciding to become a voice actress (a vocation he believes one is chosen for) leads to a characteristic Kamiya rant, but rather than join in the verbal calisthenics, she simply punches him in the face.

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That earns her the hilarious nickname “Face Punch,” in a practice I hope Mr. Kagami continues as the show progresses. As the episode progresses, he sees that Minako is being bullied by certain girls (led by “Wicked Blondie”) and avoided by all the others, but Minako has an answer for that too: she wants to be a voice actress because she wants to be a hero. She was a delinquent in the past, and a moment of despair, had a line from an anime recited to her that turned her life around: if there’s no hero, then become one.

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But heroes have sidekicks, which is the opening Mr. Kagami uses to intervene on Minako’s behalf, turning the underground school website the bullies use to attack her (a site he created) and using a combination of practical tricks (a well-placed bucket of chalk) and technology (live-streaming video with comment feeds) to exact punishment for their legit crimes of harassment and assault.

Even better, he’s only trolling them, but got them to experience at least a few moments of the fear your personal information was out there for all to see, after they all saw you bullying an innocent girl. No lasting damage is done, save to the bullies’ pride, and they learn the lesson, or as Kagami calls it, his first “lecture.”

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Mr. Kagami didn’t just save Minako here with the bullies, but also in the chat room when she was at her lowest point. The two are able to relate and bond on the premise that manga and anime can deliver life lessons if nowhere else in life is getting the job done. In the end, Minako’s bullying problem is solved, but Kagami is also fully engaged in the class, ready for his next lecture to the next student in need of help.

As you can see, Denpa Kyoushi is nothing special to look at, but it’s full of great voice work (as it should, being a show that brings up voice acting so much!), engaging characters, a surprisingly good script, and brisk pacing. I look forward to more nicknames, more lectures, and the answer to who’s that shadowy figure in the limo watching Kagami: Was he hired with the specific purpose of helping these students in his own unique way?

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Mekakucity Actors – 01

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Kisaragi Shintaro is a hikikomori haunted by two girls. One is a mysterious dark-haired girl in a sailor fuku who talks to him in strange, melancholy dreamscapes. The other is the puckish Ene, a boisterous computer program he downloaded out of curiosity, but has since become a constant (and often quite irritating) presence in his life. When Ene causes him to spill Coke all over his keyboard, he must brave the outside world and a crowded department store to procure a new one.

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That store is taken over by terrorists who hacked the computer-controlled security, and he suddenly finds himself a hostage the first time he’s left his apartment in a year, which seems to confirm many hikikomoris’ worst fears. Despite their apparent proficiency with technology, the crims don’t bother taking away Shintaro’s smartphone, which also contains Ene. When two game fellow hostages arrange a diversion, Shintaro springs into action, hooking Ene into the store’s computers and canceling the lockdown.

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Leaving aside the fact those looked like display units in an electronic store (and hence normally wouldn’t be connected in any way to the store’s security system), this was a low-key yet engrossing introduction to this world, which looks like a city just a few towns over from Naoetsu, the setting for most of the Monogatari Series. Like that and other SHAFT shows, we’re shown a plethora of bumper cards, wide shots, detailed expressive close-ups. I’m a fan of this precise, schematic aesthetic.

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Unlike other first episodes this season that lay out fairly clearly what they’re about through various kinds of exposition, Mekakucity prefers to present most of its first episode without excessive comment or explanation. I know how Shintaro and Ene “met”, that there’s something to that girl in Shintaro’s mind, and that he’ll surely cross paths with the hooded people he meets in the store; but why he’s a hikikomori, who he was before, and where all of this is going are things the show decided not to reveal from the get-go.

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As if to underline its deliberateness, we get what will likely be the show’s OP presented as the ED (a fairly common first episode thing to do), and a rainbow cornucopia of cool-looking characters flash across the screen, most of whom only appeared in this episode for a moment, if that. It’s a little overwhelming, but also enticing and invigorating, like getting used to the interface of a new video game you just cracked open. My questions are many, but answers are sure to come…along with more questions.

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