Grand Blue – 10 – Tell No Lies in the Ocean

The club finally makes it to Okinawa for real, and while events don’t unfold much like the overly dramatized preview last week, it’s an enjoyable outing and as a complete diving noob I was also educated as I was entertained.

The beach house is short on bedrooms, so Iori and Kouhei immediately jump at the first chance to compete to see who gets a bed and who gets the floor (even though there’s an huge unused sofa in the living room).

Their constant bickering and competing mars an otherwise enjoyable day at the beach, and Grand Blue notably doesn’t employ the usual slow upward pans. Yet even though Chisa isn’t really having fun, Aina is jealous that she’s out there with Iori.

It’s not all fun and games, as the newbies Iori Kouhei and Aina have to pass a bunch of tests and exams in order to be cleared for diving. Because he’s stashed with Nanaka and Azusa overnight, Iori can’t sleep (without choking himself out) so he studies instead.

Ultimately all three pass, and the next day their practical exercises commence. Diving Time! Here Grand Blue gets super-instructional, and the hand signals are accompanied by the voices of those making them. I learned about how a diver descends and ascends, as well as the standard 60-psi limit to remaining underwater.

Not only that, I learned it only takes one diver hitting that 60-psi limit for all of the divers’ dives to ends. It’s a team exercise, and so the team ascends as one. Traumatized by the much less “team-y” tennis club that rejected her, Aina is worried about being the first to hit 60 and “causing trouble.”

But as Iori explains, she has nothing to fear or be ashamed of; their seniors aren’t the kind who will hold it against her for shortening their dives. Rather than needlessly worry about what others think, she should focus on improving her underwater breathing. As with anything, it will improve with practice, and Iori gives Aina the comfort and confidence to keep at it.

And herein lies a competition far quieter than the far more annoying ongoing one between Iori and Kouhei: that between Chisa and Aina for Iori’s attention. Whether Chisa is on the boat with him or he’s comforting Aina, the women are watching each other very closely. I wonder if anything will come of it?

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Qualidea Code – 02

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QC scales things back quite a bit in the combat department, as after last week’s big battle with the Unknown, all that’s left for our three heads and subheads is to patrol the areas Hime destroyed as they undergo repairs. Right off the bat, you see what the show is trying to do: get three different pairs (each one with a malcontent) who don’t really like each other to start getting along, for the good of their civilization.

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The patrol job was just as boring to watch as it must’ve been to patrol, though the “positive” sides of the pairs—Hime, Canaria, and Asuha (sorta)—do their part. Ichiya, Hotaru, and Kasumi, the “negative” sides of the pairs, mostly just snipe and make the engineering students doing the repairs wonder if they’re always so dysfunctional.

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After that, it’s apparently time to put our group in swimsuits for the sake of fanservice, only halfway through the second episode. Not only that, only Hotaru ends up sporting a halfway-practical suit for deep-sea swimming. The others wear pretty bikinis more suited for the beach—including Cana, who can’t swim and doesn’t go in the water. I’m also pretty sure Asuha had sandals when she went in the water, but quickly lost them.

Odd choice of apparel aside, it’s Kasumi, who also can’t go underwater for various reasons, who ends up completing their mission: to find and take out a submarine Unknown that was spotted last night by a couple of kids who went out to kiss (they view these memories with the help of Yaegaki Aoi, who Kasumi seems interested in and vice versa).

Asuha ultimately ends up serving as bait for the Unknown, which Kasumi takes out from the surface with his rifle, impressing Ichiya in the process. And yes, Ichiya is otherwise just as haughty and obnoxious as the first episode, and Canaria doesn’t call him on it enough for my taste.

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All’s well that ends well…but I can’t shake the feeling I’ve been here before. The brother-sister pair who have trouble with their feelings; the arrogant fiery upstart and his more passive, charming partner; the serious chick who melts before her tiny, cute partner; even the two adult COs: the more wild, slightly pervy guy and the more straight-laced, mom-like lady.

While this show is considerably less over-the-top than Hundred (and more gender-balanced), it’s also not offering all that much in the way of originality, which means it’s more of a show I’d watch if nothing else is going on.

The one thing I liked about last week that sets it apart is that seagull disappearing in the sky, indicating some kind of barrier. We see the gulls again, and then it’s confirmed that there is indeed a barrier, and the adults are worried the Unknown may be starting to breach it from under the sea.

While this does some damage to my theory about the whole world the kids live in being a simulation (enabling superpowers and such), I’m interested in anything that will hike up the peril for these kids. Things are just a little too easy and a little to comfortable right now.

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Comet Lucifer – 02

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We return to the caverns where Sogo, Kaon, and the mystery girl who emerged from the giant Giftdium crystal basically stand around trying not to get smushed, incinerated, or riddled with bullets from two dueling mechas: the one that seems to be protecting the girl, and the one piloted by Gus Stewart (who apparently isn’t drunk anymore).

The former ends up winning out, as it has an answer for everything Gus throws at it.  Then the kids fall down another big hole, but this time we’re shown how they survive: the girl’s mecha catches them and cushions their fall. Then Roman and Otto appear literally out of nowhere and call a truce so they can all escape the crumbling caverns.

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Back at the cafe above which Sogo lives, the group determines their next moves. Roman postpones the arranged wedding until further notice, and they wait for the girl to wake up. When she does, she seems to parrot everything Kaon says and beam with glee at every new word, object, or piece of tarte tatin placed in front of her.

In other words, she’s a sponge for information, and seems to be experiencing everything for the first time. She’s also a very cute little kid. While Kaon and the girl are in the shower (amazingly, Sogo doesn’t walk in on them) he finds a curious green rock on the floor. When he tries to saw into it, it reveals itself as some kind of bizarre creature that can talk.

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Meanwhile, Gus Stewart wallows in his failure, but is presented with an even more sophisticated “assault bipetal armor” code-named Efreet, which he agrees to use…well, I’m a little fuzzy on his exact goals…furthering the prosperity and greatness of the entity he serves? Restoring a bit of his old lustre from back in the days of the “Great War?” The city we saw seems like a gorgeous and wonderful place to live; I’m wondering why all these military types are so keen to shake things up when they already have a nice thing going.

And in a rather harsh contrast to the cute, hyper little girl flitting about laughing and naming things, Gus breaks an old comrade out of jail: a killing machine of a kid named “Pack” who makes Gus’ plans even more nebulous. Does he need a co-pilot for Efreet? Will Pack be piloting his own beside him? If capturing Felia (the girl) is his goal, is there really a need for this homicidal maniac?

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Disjointed narratives and clashing tones aside, it was fairly obvious after the mecha protecting Felia vanished without a trace, and a small green ball fell out of Roman’s car, that that green ball was the mecha in miniaturized form, and that one way or another, it was going to activate while inside the cafe, causing a huge amount of damage.

That is indeed what happens when Felia messes up her telekinetic powers and drops hot curry on Sogo. This occurance, along with a crest on Sogo’s hand, show that this mecha, which Felia calls Moura once it appears, isn’t just protecting her, but Sogo as well. Who can say when this bunch of kids will cross paths with Gus again (or other government officials/evil dudes), but I imagine they’ll be able to hold their own with Moura on their side.

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Comet Lucifer – 01 (First Impressions)

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Well, I know one thing: We’ve got ourselves the first real breaktaking looker of the Fall so far in Comet Lucifer. From lush cityscapes to solid mechanicals and bright, attractive character design, there’s plenty to look at, and there’s shades of both Castle in the Sky and Eureka Seven in the futuristic-fantasy setting, as well as the premise: young crystal miner Sogo finds the rock of his life, along with all the accompanying baggage that comes with it.

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Sogo is so excited by his new find, he takes to speeding through the streets of Garden Indigo well above the recommended speed. As a result, he nearly hits a little girl and a dog, but does hit his friend/love interest Kaon (Takahashi Rie), who as it turns out doesn’t mind, because she needs to get away in a hurry.

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A victim of family tradition, Kaon is being pursued by her betrothed, Roman Valov, a man she has no intention of marrying (and accompanied by his henchman Otto), and gets Sogo mixed up in the chase, to the near-death of both of them. Fortunately for them, gravity and hydrodynamics apparently work different in this world, so despite falling perhaps a thousand feet into a yawning chasm, both survive the landing without a scratch.

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Down there in the deep, a newt startles Kaon, who gloms onto Sogo before remembering herself, and the two just sit in awkward, blushing silence. I liked this little scene, because like her suddenly employing him to aid her escape, it says a lot about their relationship without the need for words, while also serving as a resting spot between big action set pieces.

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That second set piece comes when Sogo’s story and the parallel story of a government salvage team working to activate and retrieve the same rock he ended up with in the beginning come together in the caverns. Just as Kaon got Sogo mixed up in her marital crisis, so too has the crystal he found (or rather, found him) gotten Sogo and Kaon mixed up in something even bigger.

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The crystal in his pocket reacts to the larger one in the caverns, and an unconscious ethereal girl in a feathery dress literally falls into his arms, to his and Kaon’s shock. This isn’t just reminiscent of when Sheeta fell into Pazu’s arms, but also the Hollywood film Stardust in which a beautiful maiden falls from the sky as a shooting star.

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Just when the girl appears, however, the salvage team bears down on the kids, with strict orders to secure the “Lima” at all costs. One of the amphibious salvage mechas is about to snatch up the girl when an even bigger, tougher, more ornate mecha, apparently summoned to protect the girl, materializes and beats the salvage mecha to a pulp.

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With the most immediate threat dealt with, Kaon asks Sogo “What now?” What, indeed. As indicated by the references I made, there’s a lot of stuff derived from previous works in play here, but Comet Lucifer is nevertheless a well-executed and above all attractive and fun addition to my Fall watchlist that I’ll be sticking with…for now.

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Nagi no Asukara – 03

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Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki and Kaname visit their old abandoned school. Hikari vows to punch the guy who kissed Akari. When he returns home, Akari acts normally, but he hears her crying in bed. The next day Hikari chases Akari’s boyfriend to Tsumugu’s house. Tsumugu tells them both that the offspring of a sea and earth dweller won’t be able to live in the sea. Back at home, Akari tells him she’s decided to end it. Tsumugu builds a watering hole for his new friends. Afterwards, Hikari follows Akari’s boyfriend to his workplace and is ambushed by two girls, one of whom asks Hikari to help her break up her dad his sister.

This was an episode full of characters faced with complications on the paths they’d hoped to take through life, and must choose to either stay on the path or change course in order to avoid further trouble and anguish. One such character is Akari, who is portrayed in both flashback and the present as a selfless, loving older sister who decided she had to mature quickly and be strong for Hikari after their mother died. Hikari has always admired that strength, but also felt bad that she never thought of herself, to the point where he’s a little relieved when he learns of her boyfriend. He may be form the surface, but at least she’s thinking about herself for once.

By the end of the episode, she seems to be back to sacrificing her happiness for others; it would be unthinkable for the daughter of the high priest to be with a surface dweller and be banished, after all. Hikari doesn’t like how quickly she gives in. In fact, this whole episode redeems Hikari to an extent and develops his character, as he accepts not only that Tsumugu is a nice guy and Manaka may like him, but also sees a selflessness similar to his sister’s in Chisaki. His scenes with his sister are very affecting, too – especially when he notices how she trembles when she tries to keep things in. Still, while everyone is well aware of who likes whom, no one has verbalized anything to their respective subjects of affection, and so a tense impasse continues that could grow wearisome if it drags on.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nagi no Asukara – 01

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Sakishima Hikari and his friends Mikaido Manaka, Isaki Kaname, and Hiradaira Chisaki are “sea-dwellers” who have always lived underwater. When their school closes, they must transfer to one on the surface. On their first day Manaka is pulled out of the sea by the fishing net of Kihara Tsumugu, who turns out to be their classmate. Manaka is also cursed with a fish head on her knee when she insults their local shrine’s Lord Uroko. That day, Manaka runs away to escape the surface girls’ teasing and gets lost. Tsumugu rescues her and submerges her in salt water to heal her cracking skin. Later that night she reunites with Hikari, who is increasingly threatened by Tsumugu.

There are a lot of reasons to have reservations about transferring to a new school. Maybe you’re from the country and moving to the big city; that’ll probably get you teased. Or maybe you’re among the few humans who never left the sea and so have a natural “raiment” that allows you to breathe and live down there without any difficulty. Kids are awful anyway; they’re more awful if you’re different from them, and Hikari, Manaka, Kaname and Chisaki are definitely that. It’s a clever, literal take on the “fish out of water” theme. Of course, not all landlubbers are assholes; and Tsumugu is efficiently introduced as Hikari’s rival for Manaka’s heart. There’s nothing too fancy about the Manaka/Hikari relationship – they’re like a sister and her doting big brother. Only Hikari likes Manaka.

Meanwhile, Chisaki likes Hikari, while Manaka taks an instant liking to Tsumugu, which Hikari notices and isn’t happy about. We see that anger causing him more troubles down the road. We also wouldn’t be surprised if Kaname likes Chisaki, thus completing the love wheel. Romance (and science) aside, the sea-dweller town has an otherworldly beauty to it. Nice details abounded, from showing how one can simply swim up to a balcony, the use of special blue fire, and tv weather forecasts talking about salt content. There was also an underlying melancholy to the sea world: the encroaching fishing boats, closed school, and cancelled ceremony all indicate life there becoming increasingly fragile. Decisive action may be needed to prevent its destruction, just as Hikari will have to act if he doesn’t want to lose his beloved Manaka to Tsumugu and the surface.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • We liked the concept of the half-godlike Lord Uroko (one “scale” of the sea god) portioning out fire to the townspeople. It’s too bad he’s a bit of a pervert.
  • The fish head curse he places on Manaka’s knee is deliciously random, if unfair. Being a fisherman, Tsumugu knows just what to say about it to soothe Manaka’s anxiety.
  • We’re wondering if a sea-dweller’s skin cracks and falls away completely, will that mean they’ll die, or simply be unable to return to the sea…we’ll see. 
  • This and Kyoukai no Kanata are both supernatural slice-of-life high school shows. They both look great, but we think Nagi had the stronger first episode overall, if only because it felt less derivative.