NIGHT HEAD 2041 – 02 – Diner of Illusion

In addition to showing us a lot of cool stuff, NH2K41 can add another feather to its cyberpunk cap: it’s able to cover a lot of narrative ground in these two episodes. There’s a lot of information to convey, and while it isn’t always the most elegant or subtle (we learn the Kuroki brothers were abandoned because…they mention it while looking at a photo) it’s all easy to digest. And Takuya’s whiskey on the rocks looks frikkin’ epic.

The show also wastes no time connecting our two pairs of brothers, as Yuuya has a momentary vision of the Kirihara brothers, who are once again just trying to fill their stomachs in an unassuming diner. Unfortunately for them, the fugitive Miracle Mick is there, along with a Harley Quinn-style femme fatale, who uses Mick’s celebrity to bilk a 2D three-man band out of all their cash. She, not Mick, is the one with the psychic power: the power of mind control.

It isn’t long before the Thought Police (Takuya and Yuuya’s squad) show up, but they’re just there for Mick and the woman using him and manipulating the musicians, whom she sics on the cops like brainwashed dogs. The order comes down to arrest everyone in the diner, even the cute waitress, but when they start getting rough Naoto gets pissed off and uses his psychokinesis to fight back, stopping all the bullets Neo-style. In the process, Yuuya learns he has a skill: psychic shields.

Naoto, Naoya, and the waitress are able to flee, while Mick and the band are arrested as scapegoats. Then the mischievous woman, Kobayashi Kimie, reveals she’s a cop who was working undercover to bring Mick down. She also demonstrates her powers of illusion in one of the coolest manners possible: by “stabbing” the four squad members with glass spikes. It’s as pretty as it is gruesome.

That’s when Takuya, Yuuya, Reika and Michio learn that it isn’t that the supernatural doesn’t exist, but that the government wants the public to think it doesn’t exist. Psychics, like the four cops are about to awaken to be come, are the exclusive purview of the government. If they have to use supernatural powers to root the civilian world of the supernatural, so be it.

The waitress Naoto saves isn’t particularly thankful, as now the cops will be after her since she’s a Psychic too (though not, as she says, a “monster” like the brothers). She thanks them before shuffling off, warning them to keep a low profile. That may be tough in what is clearly a police and surveillance state where everything that has a microchip could be watching or listening.

The fact that when the Kirihara brothers escaped from the lab where they spend fifteen years, only to find themselves ten years further into the future than they expected, doesn’t help matters. Naoto thought they were going somewhere where their own kind were accepted and coexisted with regular humans. Instead, the opposite has happened.

Clearly the girl in the school uniform is a part of the experiments at the lab, as she’s returned unconscious and with a weak pulse, but alive after an apparent trip to the future. The question is, is there any way to prevent the awful post-WWIII dystopia that exists in 2041?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 02 – Unnatural Police

Whether Katou likes it or not, money and not hard work makes the world go ’round. When he stops to watch a pair of street comics believing they’ll benefit from a real audience, Kanbe simply deposits 10,000 yen and they immediately stop performing and go out drinking. Katou is right that they’d probably continue working if they didn’t get a windfall from Kanbe, but Kanbe is right that their end goal was cold hard cash, so why waste everyone’s time?

Just as it got Kanbe on the force in record time, money makes the wheels of justice turn a little smoother, even if the sound of those wheels doesn’t sit right with Katou. Kanbe got in at the ground floor, but clearly has big plans for his new official position, as he smells drugs on the pair of comics and brings them in for questioning.

An old-fashioned detective manages to get the name of their supplier, but Katou’s AI/AR glasses and deep pockets net the same result. This round may be a tie, but the perps wouldn’t be in her were it not for Kanbe’s (or his AI’s) sensitive nose. The dealer is a male model who is popular with female models from a certain agency.

Katou and Kanbe then engage in some good old-fahsioned stakeout on the dealer, and Kanbe tries (and not surprisingly likes) instant Cup Noodles for the first time. But Katou keeps the stakeout up far longer, and his stink intensifies as the junk in his car propagates. Katou learns with help from his human asset Mita that the model is getting his supply from a yakuza underboss, aided by a gorgeous raven-haired go-between.

Katou follows this go-between…to her and Kanbe’s house, or rather their palace. Turns out she’s Kanbe Suzue, and she’s either Daisuke’s wife or sister (they very closely resemble each other). If he’s James Bond, Suzue is both gadget-master Q and attractive information broker Moneypenny.

Suzue also seems to be a bit less of a stuffed shirt than Daisuke, donning casual work clothes as she works on various machinery in what could only be described as the Kanbe’s Batcave. The bottom line is that again Kanbe has acquired as much if not more intel from the power of his purse than Katou has managed with his vintage gumshoeing.

That doesn’t stop Katou from storming out of Kanbe Manor, reconvening with Mita, and securing a spot at the mob boss’s latest drug and sex party. Things start out fine as he nabs the distracted boss’s smartphone, but he doesn’t make it past the massive bouncer, and has to be saved by the police mascot “Patrol”, whom he assumes is Kanbe but is really Mita, who had been paid by Kanbe to secure the smartphone.

On the rooftop, Daisuke and Suzue arrive via goddamn Apache helicopter and, after purchasing the whole building, proceeds to gas the entire place, using the floor-penetrating missile devised by Suzue. The boss and twenty others are arrested for drug-related charges, as well as suspected in the murder of a model that came up in the beginning of the episode.

That something that felt like a throwaway line at the time grew into an entire season of The Wire (only with a happy ending) speaks to the strength and agility of the storytelling.

Still, Katou still isn’t okay with Kanbe’s methods. Katou feels insulted on behalf of everyone Kanbe pays off to achieve his goals, and yet he can’t argue with the results. Lives were saved, bad guys caught, and justice will be done, and all at the nifty price of US $770 million. All while he got bogged down and almost killed trying to do things his way.

I mentioned The Wire above because it did indeed take an entire season of episodes to achieve what Kanbe did in a matter of days. Katou feels a lot like a sober McNulty before the systems stacked against the Good Guys fully crushed his spirit. He’s good at his job; what one on The Wire would call “Natural Po-lice”.

Meanwhile Kanbe is about as unnatural a po-lice as you can get. But despite coming off as a bit of an asshole, he’s not in this for the money, but to do something good and worthwhile with it. As incompatible a package as Kanbe presents to Katou, the contents are the same. He’s good police too, and they’ll achieve a lot more good by working together.


P.S. The cars in this show are very well-cast so far. Katou drives a staid, reliable Toyota Corolla E160 Axio. Kanbe’s daily driver is a third-gen Bentley Continental GT. The casanova they’re tailing drives a loud bright-red Porsche Cayenne Turbo. And a woman no doubt after sesameacrylic’s heart, Suzue gets around in a slick yellow Alfa Romeo 4C, an appropriate machine for a true gearhead.

P.P.S. Unfortunately, this is the last episode of Millionaire Detective we’ll be getting for a while, as the remaining episodes have been delayed due to you-know-what-19. We’ll miss it, as it had Top-5 potential, and will most definitely pick it back up if and when future episodes air. UPDATE: It is now scheduled to re-air, starting with the first episode, on July 16. Fingers crossed!

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 04

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ACCA steps back from the larger national coup plot to let Jean continue his inspection duties, this time to Suitsu, which may be the most isolated district in Dowa, seemingly frozen in time due to a noble class that insists on the preservation of “tradition and formality.” Not only are any outside forms of technology forbidden, those like Jean who come from outside are given a tight leash so as to limit cultural contamination.

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Not surprisingly, there are many in Suitsu who aren’t too happy about that, and have been organizing for some time. Jean happens to get scooped up by a group of them who believe he overheard their talk of a coup. Turns out their coup isn’t the same coup Jean’s mixed up in. These guys simply want to open Suitsu up, allow it the same freedom as the other districts to grow and develop, not simply fester like some dusty diorama.

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But apparently, the coup attempt that occurs when Jean is around isn’t the first of its kind by any means. All such former attempts were squashed and all records of them happening kept secret from the outside districts. Jean, for the record, seems sympathetic to the rebel cause here, even offering potential clients from his home to help Suitsu open up. But he stops short of getting involved, serving more as an observer.

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Unfortunately, all the adventures he witnessed will be subject to a gag order as a condition of his being allowed to leave, and anyone arrested in the coup attempt freed. It’s basically a hard reset, with one important difference: we saw how Jean reacted to being in the middle of a mini-revolution.

Did the cigarette he received in his hotel room and Crow/Niino’s intense surveillance of him indicate he’s involved in the larger coup? Or like his Suitsu excursion, is he merely being moved by forces outside his control, like a leaf in the wind?

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 03

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ACCA’s obsession with things getting done over dinner, drinks, and parties continues apace, as Mauve quietly invites Jean to an intimate dinner that, considering Jean’s blushing, almost feels like a date. In reality, it’s a business engagement.

Mauve has been told to stop investigating, but she wants Jean, with his 13-district-wide gaze, to keep his eyes and ears open for intel on the coup rumors. She’s also concerned that if the heir apparent Prince Schwan (a known puffed-up doofus) ascends, it could threaten the peace of the kingdom.

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As for the Prince’s grandfather the king, he seems like a pretty laid-back, kindly fellow, more concerned with the selection of sweets and fruits at the royal gala than anything else.

Schwan’s a pretty typical idiot prince, and it’s not that comforting to know how close he is to the throne, at which time he vows to disband ACCA, install a puppet privy council president, and do other not-so-cool things. Even his secretary Magi only seems to respect the dude so much.

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As for Jean, he’s one of the many ACCA-affiliated guests who are invited to the event, including Mauve, all five chief officers, and Niino, who brings Lotta along as his assistant (but seemingly really just so she can get a taste of the high life, I’m guessing).

As he floats about the palace, Jean can’t help but feel again like he’s being watched, and it’s because, well, he is. There are rumors all over about an impending coup, and there are enough hotshots in one place to actually make something like that a possibility.

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The thing is, Jean, as far as we know, isn’t an intermediary for the rebels planning the coup. At least, that’s not what Chief Officer Lilium thinks. He trusts his instincts, which tell him he can trust Jean. Groshular, on the other hand, is the one he believes is really behind the coup plot. He’s responsible for the rumors, after all – what better way to deflect attention?

Jean is seen as someone who is a big fan of order and preserving peace, concepts both Lilium and Mauve share, which is why they both come to him seeking an alliance with him. No doubt they’ll work and work quickly to stop a coup from happening, if they can. The question that remains is, is Jean really the person they (and we) think he is?

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 02

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Despite the threat of bad things on the horizon, the still-for-now peaceful world of ACCA is a very comfortable place to jump into and spend time, and the show continues a relaxed pace that draws you in rather than makes you nervous or impatient.

While we start with more frankly unnecessary explanation of Dowa and ACCA (though it’s good to now know what an ‘acca’ is), we suddenly find that the “mushroomhead” rookie officer Rail was never going to be able to frame Jean Otus for anything, because the well-informed Jean was on to him all along. It’s a nice demonstration of Jean’s towering competence that it’s important to establish for later on.

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The show keeps things grounded in reality and humanity by continuing to show Jean and others hanging around food and drink. This week we see Jean have breakfast, lunch and dinner, having lively discussions in each one.

Jean’s also often grabbing food for the house and his sister, which is how he bumps into Mauve, who has been ordered to cease her solo investigations, which had to deal with rumors of a coup d’etat plot.

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We also meet an actual not-work friend of Jean’s in Nino, who is a freelance reporter (and certainly looks the part). He’s on good terms with Jean’s sister Lotta too, so Nino is clearly a guy Jean trusts when he tells him not to worry about the feeling he’s being followed.

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I’m loving watching Jean’s far-flung travels between districts, and the way it isolates him from both home and office. He’s out there on his own, autonomous, soaking everything in, doing his job with what seems to be pride.

And yet…is the Jean Otus we’re seeing just an elaborate, near-perfect cover? Chief Officer Groshular believes Otus has something to do with the coup plot, so he has an elite undercover agent following him…who it’s hinted at earlier with a silhouette, then confirmed to be Nino, whom Groshular calls “Crow.” What a tangled web ACCA weaves.

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Right now, it seems just as plausible (if not more so) Jean is totally innocent, and his unorthodox behavior, combined with an inaccurate tip, has led Groshular to cast his suspicions upon him. But it’s intriguing to wonder if we’re only trusting Jean based on what we’ve seen and not the person Jean Otus truly is, hiding just beneath the surface.

Once he arrives in Jumoku, Jean almost looks like Alice, dealing with people and things far bigger (or smaller, in the case of “Tintin”) than they should be. It adds to the disorienting feeling of who is following whom.

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Nino/Crow is clearly perfectly comfortable observing Jean in plain sight; they go back 15 years to high school (though Nino cryptically says he’s been watching him for 30), after all. So is Jean oblivious to the fact his buddy is his tail, or is he well aware, and on his toes to avoid giving Nino anything to work with? Does Jean only pretend to get really drunk to lull Nino in a false sense of security?

It looks like the makings of a great noirish cat-and-mouse game thus far, presented with stylish art and a gorgeous soundtrack. ACCA exudes confidence without arrogance, telling a good yarn without getting too serious about it. But always present is that subtle background noise of looming dread in a peaceful world.

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Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 08

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You have to give Utawarerumono credit where it’s due: it certainly knows how to surprise with its content. One episode we’re following Haku as he becomes entangled in one princess or another, the next, he’s on an undercover mission with Ukon and Atui to investigate corruption aboard the Eight Pillar General Dekoponpo’s immense pleasure barge.

It’s all quite wacky and out of left field, but it works, because Haku works so well as a protagonist with an inscrutable talent for being in the thick of things without even trying, and because the characters that surround him are as bright and quirky as he is unassuming and laid back.

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Sure enough, their time aboard the barge reveals a huge, apparently illicit gambling operation centered around duelling giant insects. That doesn’t stop Atui from getting really into the gambling, along with Kosuri, who makes a cameo as another party seeking corruption.

When the bugs get loose and have to be dealt with, Dekoponpo quickly flees, and his sycophantic valet Bokoinante tries to load as much loot onto the lifeboat as possible. These two characters are cartoonish and one-dimensional, but remain amusing in their banter nonetheless.

As for Atui, she proves again she’s a capable warrior, even if she just violently lashes out at her targets with her eyes closed (she doesn’t like bugs). As for her getting covered in a sticky white substance, well…I’m not sure that was entirely necessary.

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As for Haku, when he goes to the general’s office to find hard evidence of corruption, he encounters a furious Bokoinante who has come for his master’s favorite golden statue, which helpfully serves as a shield for Haku when Bokoinante slashes at him.

In any case, Kosuri and Ougi are the ones who end up with the evidence and quickly alight from the ship, while Atui’s spazzy attacks bust a hole in the hull, causing the whole barge to sink. Quite the collateral damage; hopefully Dekoponpo is well-insured.

Haku is saved from drowning by Ukon, but only after he drops the heavy golden statue he wanted to keep. The rest of the giant bugs are dealt with by troops under Oshutaru’s counterpart, Mikazuchi. In the end, they don’t collect any evidence, but as Ukon says, “it’ll all work out.”

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Back home, a strange fog comes upon Haku, along with two mysterious cloaked ladies who invite him to come with them through what seems to be an interdimensional portal. After a trip through some trippy caverns, he ends up in a strange indoor garden, where a familiar-looking woman serves him familiar-tasting tea.

Then an old man asks Haku to tell them all about his experiences since waking up in the mountains with no memory. Word is certainly getting around about Haku and his hard-to-describe but undeniable value to those around him. But I can’t pretend this episode wasn’t all over the place, because it was.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 01

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“‘Scuse me, Ma’am!”

My very first taste of this new project by a franchise celebrating its 20th year is a mere sliver of the first day of school for trainee teacher Masaki Tenchi. For some reason he ends up stranded on a mountain where his compass goes haywire. There, he bumps into one different color-haired girl after another, all of whom end up attending the class he’s teaching back at school.

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I’m guessing this is Hakubi Washuu.

Without any research, watching this is a waste of my time. But I did find out a few interesting things, like the show’s plot, from a trusted source:

In this story, the world is in chaos, thanks to Washu. Now in order to save it, Tenchi Masaki must go undercover as a student teacher at an all-girls school. Unfortunately for him, trouble always comes his way.

Oh, so he’s undercover? The episode didn’t make that clear, but I’d probably know that if I knew the character from other stuff, of which there is much. And he does look a little out of sorts at school.

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As for the world in chaos, well, it’s certainly chaotic for me, being new to the franchise. And that class had Sayonara Mr. Despair written all over it: full of eccentrics. It kinda begs the question: how does teaching at this all-girls school save the world? I imagine I’ll find out.

I also learned that the series (which will consist of 50 5-minute episodes) is sponsored by the city of Takahashi in Okayama Prefecture, in order to promote tourism for the city. That is an awesome idea. I want my city in an anime.

But yeah, this is just an introduction, and it wasn’t interested in cluing noobs in on what was happening. That being said, I can’t say I disliked it. So I will see where it goes.

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