Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 06 – Protecting Unstable Hearts

For whatever reason Orihata Aya, AKA “Camille”, is beholden to the Towa Organization’s Spooky E, and he treats her like a disposable tool, urging her to hurry up and sleep with Anou Shinjirou, as well as gather clues that will lead to finding Boogiepop. Already, we see that “Camille” is bound in chains of fear, deference, and servitude. Who will break her chains, and is that even what she wants?

At least in this instance, Masaki intervenes, “saving” Aya from Spooky, who assumes the kid is an enemy of Towa when he’s just good at martial arts. Spooky shocks Masaki unconscious, and when he comes to he doesn’t remember his assailant. She apologizes, but Masaki likes her, and wants to do anything he can for her. So she asks him if he knows anything about Boogiepop.

Back at Shinyou Academy, Asukai Jin’s cousin Kinukawa Kotoe reaches out to Suema Kazuko, the school’s resident researcher of weird tings, regarding Jin’s odd and suspicious behavior of late. Suema promises to look into it, and before you know it, she’s hiding in a classroom into which Jin invites two girls, who promptly remove their tops and undergo some kind of magical ritual.

When it’s over, they feel like all the weight of their lives has been lifted and that they can do anything…for Jin. This is how Jin and Imaginator are taking over the world: one schoolgirl—one fragile adolescent mind—at a time. At some point someone’s going to have to stop them, but I imaging Boogiepop will again only play a supporting role. Suema, for her part, has always longed to “take on the darkness [her]self.”

In an auspicious crossing of paths, Suema encounters Anou as she’s talking with Niitoki Kei. Kei has kept her distance from Suema’s friend Touka (and vice versa), but not just because Touka’s guy rejected her, but because she knows Touka’s “other side.” Anou still seems pretty out of it, unable to remember what he’s doing at the academy while feeling like something important is missing.

Scenes of Aya talking to Masaki are intercut with scenes of Suema finding Aya on the roof, ready to die. Aya wants death to free others from her, not to free herself from Spooky E and Towa. Her self seems to the least important thing to her, whether that self has been tampered with by supernatural forces, or if it was always in a troubled, fragile, easily manipulated state…as most kids entering adulthood after all.

Both Aya and Masaki have initially believed the rumors going around that Boogiepop is a reaper that takes the lives of girls at the peak of their beauty so they’ll never become ugly, but Suema corrects her: Boogiepop is there to lend the helping hand to fragile young hearts that adults won’t provide, as adults they feel adolescence is just a phase everyone goes through, and will pass.

The reality is that sometimes it doesn’t pass, and you either get kids who kill themselves rather than continue suffering, or try to make others suffer as a salve to their own. In that regard, Boogiepop is there to protect them from themselves as much as those forces that would hurt or use them.

Rather than Boogiepop, the one doing the reaping here, or rather gardening, is Jin/Imaginator, as we see him “convert” more and more willing and in some cases eager young women to “their side.” The fact that this is visualized as Jin tending the roses so that they have roots, stems, leaves, and blooms – the height of their beauty.

Their hearts may thus be said to be complete and at peace, but they’re paying for it with their free will. It’s swapping one set of chains for another. I for one hope Suema, no doubt with help from Boogiepop (and others), can manage to shine a light on that darkness.

So…everything’s starting to make a little more sense, but this still felt like yet more setup, and with so many characters shuffling around, it’s hard to find firm ground on which to plant my feet and actually care about anything consistently.

Hopefully, as with previous mini-arcs, the payoff will be satisfying enough to make it worth all the setup. This seems like a show in which the destination is better than the journeys, or at least in which the destinations must be known before the journeys can be fully understood or appreciated.

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Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 05 – Love at First Sight

This week the POV shifts from Asukai Jin to Taniguchi Masaki, the kid he saved from bullies along with the girl he was with. We learn more about both Masaki and the girl, Orihata Aya, who had actually just met him in that alley and tried to save him by offering her body to the guys.

Masaki is a transfer student from abroad who is just trying to do well, but gains some unwanted attention. Fortunately for him he not only had Asukai on his side when things got rough, but met Aya and basically fell for her the day he met her, due to her courage in that situation.

While Masaki seems normal enough (and is apparently Kirima Nagi’s brother, another interesting connection) there’s something off about Aya, and even he, who likes her, notices it. She’s extremely eager to please, as if she has no will of her own, but is rather driven by a curious pair of edicts: no one is allowed to hate her, and she has no right to fall in love.

Shift again to Anou Shinjirou, who played along with the other classmates who eventually beat up Masaki in the alley, but didn’t get killed by Asukai because he didn’t participate. He was just putting up a front for the other guys; in reality, he fell for Masaki as quickly as Masaki fell for Aya, and wanted to get closer to him. But he found that hard due to Aya, whom he learns is famous at her school for being promiscuous.

Anou finds where Aya lives and spies on her, but is interrupted by a very large, very ugly man who looks like a roadie for Aerosmith in the 90s. The roadie, whom we later learn has the name “Spooky E”, proceeds to “reprogram” Anou’s mind, wiping all his personal desires and ordering him to attend Shinyou Academy to await further instructions.

Now Anou is a part of the Towa Organization as a sleeper agent, only with no agency…essentially a puppet (Spooky calls him a “terminal”). His change in behavior endears him to a girl, who sends him a love letter that Spooky makes him forget. But Asukai has been watching Anou since the alley incident, and intentionally or not manages to remove the Towa programming, restoring his memories and free will.

Anou re-discovers the love letter and answers it, meeting the girl in question in a dark, deserted office building. But the “girl” there is Boogiepop in disguise, and when Spooky E appears to re-reprogram Anou (he set a trap), Boogiepop stops him and decides to go on the attack. Spooky gets away, but Anou is still of sound mind…for now.

Boogiepop promises if Anou gets in trouble again, she’ll be there for him. Then she gives him the real love letter, urging him to show up on the actual meeting date the day after tomorrow. Meanwhile, Masaki asks Aya out again, and of course Aya agrees. But while apparently waiting for Masaki, she’s confronted by Spooky E, who calls her “Camile” and wonders what she’s doing there.

This episode connected a few more strings in an increasingly dense narrative web, bringing into focus players that were present in last week’s events but not given emphasis until now, and seemingly opening a third party in the present situation. You have Boogiepop, Asukai/Imaginator, and now Towa Organization.

And then there’s Aya: is she one of Towa’s terminals, whose emotional engagement with Masaki may be degrading her programming? Will she stop worrying about being hated and let herself be loved? Lots of question marks floating around.

Plastic Memories – 03

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Oh dear…last week’s revelation that Isla has only 83 days left (and quite a few days fewer than that now) had rekindled our interest in Plastic Memories, but after a total dud like this third episode, I don’t see how I can ever trust it again. I mean, seriously, three eps in and we get a hokey, uninspired moving-in/living with a girl episode?

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Rather than anyone telling Tsukasa what should be obvious to anyone who’s been around her for a few years that yes, indeed, Isla will meet the same fate as all the other giftia they retrieve every day, the guys in the office instead offer him increasingly ridiculous advice that Tsukasa carries out Wile. E. Coyote style, to no avail.

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It’s cliched, repetitive, and boring, killing all urgency and goodwill created last week. Worse, the fact several days go by as Tsukasa struggles to connect with Isla in their dorm where she used to live alone. He never bothers to wonder whether Isla prefers to keep professional distance despite the fact they have to live together, a stipulation for which there is never any good reason given, so all we have is the implication that “well, if they’re not in the dorm there’s be no opportunities for lame comedy.”

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Things take a turn for the dark and pathetic when Tsukasa, now just treating Isla like a normal human girl, which she clearly isn’t, insists on shopping for clothes for her, unaware she has so little experience with street clothes she doesn’t know how to put them on. It’s nice to know Isla wears panties, but I don’t think that was the reason we were welcomed inside her changing room.

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The most irritating part of all of this is that Isla likely knows her time will soon be up too, which is probably why she’s trying to avoid making happy new memories or getting closer to anyone. She really doesn’t seem to want Tsukasa in there for that purpose…though I would hope she’d reconsider whatever feelings she has for him after witnessing his unbelievably stupid hijinx.

By the end, he realizes the only thing she’s really comfortable doing is serving him tea. We apparently had to waste a whole episode for him to learn that.

As unflattering as Tsukasa was this week, we also learned that Yasutaka and Kazuki, the two people we know without a doubt know Isla will be gone in less than 80 days left, are petty cruel people. What do they have to gain by keeping that info from Tsukasa…Productivity?

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Plastic Memories – 02

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This second episode of Plamemo was better than the first, which I can chalk up to getting to know the cast and particularly the protagonist a little better. I can also get on board with the fact that any workplace with such a somber job is probably going to be as laid back and cheerful as possible to avoid going mad with second-hand grief.

That being said, I’m still not fully on board with the whole concept of Giftia retrieval, nor do the additions of two more boilerplate characters like the ulcer-ridden Takao, who is just used for a joke, and the overly-informal veteran Kaji Ryouji Yasutaka, who feels like he needs to touch everyone during his intro. I think Michiru hides because she doesn’t want him to touch her.

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As derivative a character in look and feel as he is, Yasutaka does consistently bring one thing to the table: brutal honesty. For all of Tsukasa’s narration and other characters’ exposition, Plamemo has been unusually skittish about answering or even bringing up the tough questions that might allow us to make a better emotional connection.

The fact that Akari Shinji Tsukasa got this position at all thanks to his father’s connections is a welcome wrinkle in his heretofore plain beige sheet of a character. It means he knows he has to work that much harder to prove he belongs there, which is hard to do when he’s constantly having to babysit Isla, who seems increasingly incapable of doing anything right. Heck, he couldn’t even serve Takao his tea; she let Yasutaka snatch it.

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I also liked the obligatory professional dinner date between Tsukasa and Katsuragi Minato Kuwanomi Kazuki, who comes off as your standard late-20s/early 30s schoolteacher who hasn’t found a man yet and can’t hold her liquor. Then again, considering her job is not teaching kids but sending them out to tear families apart, it’s not unreasonable for her to want to drown it all out with booze. Yasutaka is made less of a prick by the fact he always gets Kazuki home safe from her routine imbibings.

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In a core dynamic similar to the one going on in DanMachi, Tsukasa and Ayanami Rei Isla are both working harder to improve themselves, in order make themselves worthy of working beside the other. There’s no mention of last week’s utterly unearned love-at-first-sight moment (probably for the best) but it’s good to see Isla actually undergoing training and tests, and her bumbling in the field explained by “rust.”

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As for Angela Langley Soryu Kinushima Michiru, well…she’s a bit of a problem, as I’m guessing she’s supposed to be the third side of a love triangle with Tsukasa and Isla. She hides her unsure feelings for him behind an overly rude and aggressive facade, which she at least has the decency to apologize for.

That being said, I like how her affection for him grows a little when he finds out he’s protecting Isla by sharing the blame for their failures. It not only shows he’s not as incompetent as she initially thought, but also a kind and caring dude. Which makes her jealous that Isla’s so close to him. She’s on the outside looking in.

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That looks to be the case for the foreseeable future, as Plamemo brings the hammer down, courtesy of who else, the truthsayer Yasutaka. He doesn’t give too much away to Tsukasa, only mentioning the consistent decline in her physical data (paired with what looks like a rise in errors). He also tells him Isla’s training is pointless; Giftia retain everything they learn and don’t get “rusty.” Even so, he respects Isla’s guts for doing everything she possibly can to stay in the game.

The most important question so far is answered, at least partially, to my satisfaction, in a private moment between Yasutaka and Kazuki: Isla has 2,000 hours of lifespan remaining. That’s only 83.3 days, which, assuming a Giftia’s max lifespan of nine years, would make Isla 8.99 years old. This revelation floored me, and put Isla’s motivations more emotionally accessible. I wish last week ended this way, rather than with a toilet joke.

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P.S. No, I didn’t really accidentally give lots of Plamemo characters Evangelion names…but I wanted to point out the rather bizarre abundance of similarities to Eva characters in the Plamemo cast…though some are admittedly more of a stretch than others.

Plastic Memories – 01 (First Impressions)

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My first impressions of the futuristic sci-fi anime Plastic Memories weren’t all that great. The show just felt a bit off to me from beginning to end, starting with the protagonist Mizugaki Tsukasa stating in his thoughts that he may have fallen in love with the android Isla the moment he laid eyes on her, before he has any idea who or what she is.

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From there, we go on to Newbie’s First Day, with his new co-workers feeling him out while telegraphing their personalities in the most unsubtle way possible. I just felt like I’ve met all these people before, especially Isla and Tsukasa, only with different names and eye colors. Everyone comes off as a bland cypher.

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The uninspired characters aren’t the only problem, though they’re a big one (the impish Zack and tsundere Michiru are particularly grating). While this is the future and we see some futuristic cityscapes, the show doesn’t feel all that futuristic or special; there’s no awe or grandeur.

More importantly, I have a problem with their whole business of selling androids that are treated like family for nine years, then ceremoniously “terminated” by the team Tsukasa joins. Like…what the hell?

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I don’t doubt there’s money in such an enterprise, and maybe this is my early 21st century liddite-ism talking, but it just feels like the company is exploiting the grief or loneliness of their customers. The crassness is amplified by the generally cavalier attitudes and zany antics of the team members, the fact Tsukasa is sent into the field with zero training, and the fact that Isla fails about 90% of the time.

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The tonal dissonance of the show reaches its apex when Isla finally speaks form her own experience as an aging giftia to persuade the “grandmother” of Nina to sign the release form so they can “retrieve” her. I don’t say this often, but as well-performed and well-animated as it was, this tearful scene felt manipulative, after all the slapstick that preceded it. I was more weirded out by the macabre-ness of it all than moved.

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The seriousness of that scene is also undone when, in Tsukasa’s final scene with Isla in the car is a joke about her having to go potty. Har har. What with Tsukasa being just barely there as a character, and his so far arbitrary and unearned feelings for Isla, and the general discomfort I have with the whole 9-year android business, I believe it best to pass on this show. But I’ll watch another week or two to see if any of the issues I mentioned are remedied.

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