Val x Love – 03 – Idolization

With her two triplet sisters leveled up, it’s the turn of sixth daughter Mutsumi, proving the greatest challenge due to her occupation as a wildly popular idol. Leveling up means going on a date with Takuma and not only getting through his layers of social anxiety, but avoiding being exposed, which could cause scandal and deep-six her career. That’s tricky when Takuma inadvertently attracts all the wrong attention; he’s essentially the anti-idol to her idol, the source of all their fear and hatred rather than hope and love.

Matters are made worse by the fact the watchdog from Hel Garm is shadowing them, but rather than attack the Valkyrie directly, sends the Gjallarhorn to disrupt her leveling up. In one of the weirder and more aggravating depictions of the legendary horn, this one takes the form of a small robot with a siren on its head constantly pointing out the presence of MUTSUMI to the public. Takuma just wants to get away, but recalling how Mutsumi just wants to help her family, he takes her hand to lead her away from the gawkers.

Despite having frequented the mall since he was little, Takuma leads them not to an exit, but a dead end, and he and Mutsumi must squeeze intimately into a storage locker as their pursuers close in. Due to their positions and height difference, Mutsumi can’t kiss him on the mouth to transform instantly; she must resort to kissing his chest, which takes three minutes. They just make it thanks to a last-minute assist from the eldest daughter Ichika, and Mutsumi flies them out of there with her signature wings.

While the constant references to MUTSUMI’s ample bust (and ample close-ups of same) weren’t the most necessary, they do paint the picture of the challenges she faces every day as a cute-yet-pure idol. And yet we learn through her inner thoughts throughout the date (delivered with gusto by the squeaky but talented Hidaka Rina) that she has the same desires as anyone else.

While she thought she’d given Takuma nothing but bad memories on their date, when they’re floating in the sky watching the sunset, Takuma actually smiles, fondly remembering sunsets he watched with his mom. Garm and that horrid horn aside, the foes he and Mutsumi had to beat this week weren’t demons, but rather his fear and her fame. On to the next sister!

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Val x Love – 02 – A Pat on the Head, a Peck on the Cheek

This week it’s the turn of Odin’s fifth daughter, the Student Council President Saotome Itsuya AKA Schwertleite. A raven-haired maiden beloved at school for her peerless looks and elegant ladylike aura, Itsuya has somewhat less ladylike plans for Takuma after witnessing what she deemed was a pretty chaste exchange between him and her sister Natsuki.

In her head, she’s not that interested in Takuma at all. He’s just a means to an end: if he can awaken her powers and she can save the world, she’ll get a pat on the head from Odin. It’s a simple, childish wish that she keeps entirely to herself, until a frosti shows up ahead of schedule and she suddenly has to level up with Takuma in a hurry.

The thing is, her full-speed-ahead approach doesn’t work on the nervous, petrified Takuma, and once she starts to undress and moves in on him, she suddenly loses her nerve as well, as she can no longer reconcile her mature outward manner with her inner innocence.

Seeing her freeze up in fear causes Takuma to remember what his mom did to calm him down—a good old head pat—so he gives one to Itsuya and it manages to do the trick. The extent of their hanky-panky is that head-pat and a kiss on the cheek just like Natsuki’s, but it’s enough.

With Natsuki just barely holding on against the monster (even getting all bondaged-up and getting her outfit torn), Itsuya swoops in with her chain of white crosses, enveloping the frosti so Natsuki can finish it off with a giant sword. Mission complete, and now two of Odin’s daughters have leveled up. Seven to go.

We also learn that Itsuya’s treasurer in the StuCo is actually Garm, named for Garmr, a helldog/wolf whose howling heralds the coming of Ragnarök. He’s listed as a “watchdog” and sports a level three times higher than Natsuki’s. If he starts something, head pats and cheek pecks may not be enough to beat him.

Val x Love – 01 (First Impressions) – Love is the Source

This is the story of Akutsu Takuma, who is huge and scary-looking and thus is always likened to an akuma or demon and ostracized. In reality, Takuma is just as scared of people as they are of him, and prefers to live and study alone.

And yet, after a discussion among class boys about the school’s three most beautiful girls, Takuma comes home to find not just those three beautiful girls (in the middle of undressing no less) but five other women of various ages, all of whom have the same last name Saotome which isn’t his. He doesn’t like this situation, but it’s been this way for some time.

Val x Love makes an interesting choice to ease us into its supernatural elements by first presenting everything mundanely, and offering only hints as to what the Saotome sisters really are, why they alone don’t fear him, and why Takuma has allowed them to take over the house he inherited from his departed parents.

What is prevalent throughout the episode are references to a spate of recent “suspicious attacks” that many attribute to akuma; but until one actually appears, one could imagine people were only being superstitious (if you didn’t watch the OP, that is). In reality the attacks are being caused by summoned demons, one of which Takuma encounters when he’s out shopping with the second-youngest sister Natsuki, on the orders of the second-oldest, Ichika.

The other sisters gather on the roof to watch the result. Turns out the nine of them are Valkyries of Valhalla, brought to Midgard by Odin to save humanity. Because “love is the source of a maiden’s power”, the more they are loved, the stronger they are. Natsuki was chosen by the others to level up first, and after Takuma is wounded saving her from falling debris (not the first time that’s happened), she disrobes, has him massage her breasts, and kisses him.

In a massive flash of heavenly flame, the giant akuma is utterly eliminated, and for a few moments we see Natsuki in her Valkyrie form as Siegrune, The Blade, before passing out in Takuma’s arms. This makes Takuma Einherjar (named after those who died in battle and go to Valhalla), here the lover of the nine Valkyries appointed by Odin to raise their levels.

If that all sounds like a lot of poppycock, I’m here to tell you…it’s not the worst? I was expecting more comedy from a show that had it among its genres, but it mostly arose from the fact such a large brute as Akuma is so intimidated by everyone, and yet has what in his case is a case of very-unlucky lechery. The akuma designs are marginally striking, while the action was brief but convincing. High marks also go to Technoboys Pulcraft Green-Fund, who composed all of the music.

For those who see the Valkyrie angle as just another excuse for a lame harem, consider that Takuma’s strong reluctance to have in one feels more genuine than most harem MCs. His introverted personality and public perception that constantly feed his self-loathing make him a sympathetic lead. As he is the source of love that powers the Valkyries, they too could fuel a transformation in him from someone who only hopes to become a quiet, respectable person to something far greater.

Macross Delta – 03

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The plot: Mirage and Messer don’t like Hayate and Hayate isn’t helping his case. He skips class and doesn’t take his training seriously and only survives his final examine because Freyja sings to him.

And until Hayate needs help, Freyja was under-performing as well. However, in her case she both takes the training seriously and her fellow songstresses are far more supportive and understanding.

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The Problem: This episode paints a bleak picture for Macross Delta. When all the extraneous, predictable and force-fed nostalgia is stripped away, all that is left is a beautifully-rendered but vapid show.

Worse, there are so many characters fighting for screen time, and each is so distractingly over-designed, that there’s no room for the main characters to breath. For goodness sake, the three street children from last week’s throwaway phone joke did not need to become recurring secondary characters.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.03.25 PMIncluding the girl with the ai octopus hairpiece on her head, 5 of these characters have speaking lines and I have no idea who any of them are beyond ‘pilot’ or ‘deck crew’

Counting the slap-stick Mercat, who’s antics are clearly telegraphed as a teaching tool for Hayate to using in his exam, this episode features sixteen secondary characters, three main characters and that’s not counting the Aerial Knights who teaser us after the ending credits. Too much!

Even if Delta weren’t choking to death on frivolous characters and predictable plots, other plot elements feel purely nostalgic. Flying in VF-01 trainers (and being told they are ‘cute’) feels forced and without in-show purpose.

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You will probably enjoy it: because it’s wondrously rendered and packed with details. Even Elysion Colony floating in the bay itself is a visual callback to Frontier and Macross 8, and anchors this show within the greater universe.

You may not enjoy it: because the plot is predictable and the characters, what little we get to see of them, are Macross archetypes: Low-stress anti-war fighter ace, bright eyed loli-songstress whose spunk will win the day, and a rainbow of inconsequential ‘advance the plot’ secondary cast characters.

Sadly, Mirage’s tsundere character is about the most original thing here, and it’s only somewhat original to Macross, not anime in general. I am seriously tempted to rate this a 7.

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Macross Delta – 02

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Delta quickly wraps up last week’s cliffhanger with Mirage swooping in to rescue Hayate & Freyja’s falling, crippled variable fighter and the Aerial Knights retreating, having collected the data they were after.

The remainder of the episode sets out to establish more of the world, context for Freyja’s ability, character relationships and how Hayate & Freyja ultimately join Walkure.

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From mer-cats to gilled street kids with webbed fingers selling organic fish cellphone bracelets, the world around Macross Elysion, Delta Platoon’s HQ, is a fantastical buffet of extraneous but enjoyable details.

It’s all lovingly rendered but Hayate literally grabs Freyja and runs her out of the scene because they have so little narrative purpose, beyond a minor nod to Ranka Lee’s squeezable organic cell phone in Macross Frontier. Even the brief scene in the Aerial Knight’s mountain castle, which includes a column-like pipe organ in the background, only repeats information we’ve already been told.

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As to the joining Walkure part, Freyja is given an audition, which she fails and Hayate is outright offered a piloting position by Delta Platoon Arad Molders. Later, on her way back to the city, Freyja’s tram suddenly halts and one of the passengers goes var-mad. Freyja is knocked to the ground but she sings her way to safety and passes Walkure’s final, secret audition test.

Delta deserves serious credit for its solid sound design.  Music cues are tight. We can feel Freyja’s frustration in the droning elevator-pop of the tram ride and feel her surprise as that music cuts off with the lights and is replaced by something more ominous. Subtle too, that omens music is fun-house style goofy, which softly hints that not all is as it seems to the viewer.

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As to the character relationships, Mirage and Hayate are immediately set up as rivals (and, probably, long term love interests) due to Hayate’s natural skills and matter of fact criticism of the military and rules following. It doesn’t help that Mirage was out of sync during combat too and they both know it.

More broadly, we see Arad’s fatherly relations with with his pilots and other admin, as well as how most people are scared of Elysion’s Captain Ernest Johnson, who is probably Zentradi but looks like an adult version of Teen Titans’ Beast Boy. We also see the Aerial Knights have a lot of internal conflict, which will no doubt be their undoing.

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Stray details and speculation: The Aerial Knights’ SV-262 Draken III’s appeal to be capable of docking with a Ghost on the end of each wing. This not only looks pretty cool, but could imply reliance on artificial intelligence to bolster their numbers. (AI is also generally outlawed in the Macross universe, following Sharon Apple’s rampage in Plus and whatever the heck the androids of Macross Galaxy were up to in Frontier)

Also worth noting the Aerial Knight’s resemblance to the pre-space era earth villains in Macross Zero. The fighters look similar, also had purple, and the characters had feudal sounding titles and ranks…

Also also, Walkure’s VF-31 “Siegfrieds” are named after a dragon slayer, which is important because “Draken” means dragon in swedish.

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Delta’s strength is that it is very well produced: tremendous precision went into its sound design, visual styling, animation and world building. It somehow even keeps its 17+ characters recognizable and coherent.

Delta’s weakness is it has 17+ characters to show us, tons of world building to get through, and some technobabble about singing/fold-space potential, and even more alien races than Macross has ever tackled before.

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It does a good job balancing that all out, but there is so much packed into this episode, I found it hard to absorb in one sitting. More critically, despite the extraneous detail scenes that serve as points of ‘rest,’ the shows maximum level of information density stops individual elements from standing out.

It’s like playing a game for the first time with 2 years worth of DLC turned on from the very beginning!

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Macross Delta – 01

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Note: This is a repost of my January review of the preview special, updated with the rest of the episode that more recently aired.

Cute, quirky, idealistic heroine whom the serious male protag helps out? Check. Rather than Ranka Lee, we have Freyja Wion. She’s also voiced by a first-time seiyu (Suzuki Minori), who does a pretty good job balancing goofiness, earnestness, vulnerability and determination.

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If you’re not put off by Freyja’s bubbly enthusiasm, you’ll want to root for her almost immediately. She’s on the run from an arranged marriage to audition for Walkure, a “Tactical Sound Unit” that uses music to fight the Var, which unlike the Vajra aren’t a primal alien race, but a disease that infects everyone, potentially making anybody a weapon in its arsenal.

While there’s a lot of terminology right out of the gate, Delta doesn’t drown you in it, and also assumes this isn’t your first Macross rodeo (my other exposure to the franchise is the excellent 25th anniversary series Macross Frontier). Like that show, the world is lush and detailed, only the visuals here in 2016 are even more smooth and refined, particularly where CGI is concerned.

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The male protag, Hayate Immelmann (probably named for the turn), is initially put off by Freyja’s weirdness, but ends up rescuing her, though having been someone who’s dreamed big in the past and gotten nowhere, he remains skeptical of her lofty aspirations.

Something tells me his attitude will have changed when this episode concludes in April. He even seems to come under a little bit of a spell from her overflowing charisma—until she loses her foothold and he has to catch her in an awkward position that has him at gunpoint for suspected perversion by Mirage, a soldier in Delta Platoon, Walkure’s escort unit.

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The misunderstanding is corrected just in time for a city-wide Var Alert. The Var infect the local Zentradi base (as in Frontier, the green-skinned giants are normally allies of the humans here), and Freyja and Hayate become naught but two more ants on a massive battlefield, running for their lives.

Then we’re introduced to the four members of Walkure who run towards the danger, transforming into their magical songstress forms: You have the Sheryl Nome-esque star Mikumo, the tomboyish Reina, the girly Makina, and the sporty leader, Kaname.

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Working in concert with the Delta Platoon, they neutralize the effects of the Var with their music, as the battle on the ground is essentially one big music video. This is a departure from Frontier in that the effects of the singing on the enemy aren’t known until later in the show. Here, Walkure is an active participant in the combat, and also in protecting the hordes of citizens with swarms of multidrones.

As one would expect of an experienced and practiced pop music group, Walkure knows exactly what to do and carry it out swiftly and efficiently, but also with an ample helping of style. So confident is Mikumo in her powers of charm, she gets right in a Var-infected Zentradi pilot’s face and cures him on the spot, getting him to exclaim that iconic line, “Deculture!”

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But that’s not all for enemies. In orbit, the planet’s space fleet is attacked by the Aerial Knights, a group of badass male warriors who look to be the Walkure Girls’ rivals and foils. When they engage the Delta Platoon on the surface, they learn they’re more than a match.

Be it the Huge Capital Ship Getting Blow’d Up Real Good in orbit or the Zig-Zagging Dogfight in the skies, Delta doesn’t separate itself much from Frontier in these areas, but it does distinguish itself in sheer quality and refinement. There’s nary a frame out of place, and as previously stated, the CGI is far better integrated into the regular animation than the older work. The plane, ship, cockpit, and HUD designs are also new and very cool-looking, all with a welcome nod to the past.

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With all the big battles and explosions going on, the episode could be excused for completely forgetting about Freyja and Hayate, but when the Knights push Walkure and Delta into a corner, we come back to them, trying not to get caught in the crossfire. Then Mikumo emerges from the pile of wreckage, ready to rumble anew, and changes the tune—literally—to a more aggressive but still upbeat song.

Freyja’s little heart-shaped stone on her head starts to glow (as it did when Hayate fell on her), and she can’t resist singing along and running towards the battle rather than away. It’s an inspiring sight for young Hayate, seeing her risk her life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, without a care in the world that things won’t work out.

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So…what does the newly-aired episode add to the preview? Nothing that changes my original score of an 8. Right after Freyja runs off, Hayate commandeers a partially-wrecked mech to back her up. As Walkure detects Freyja adding her voice to theirs (and it’s a nice voice), Hayate takes out baddies with the grace of a dancer.

Eventually, he gets lost in the song, and he and Freyja spend a little time in Glowing Naked Blue Sky Land before enemy fire snaps Hayate out of it, and the two start plummeting to the Earth. With their fates uncertain (though not really; they’ll be fine) the episode really just replaced one ellipsis with another, only now Walkure and Delta Platoon have seen a little of what these two crazy kids can do.

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Macross Delta (Preview Special) – 01

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A couple of things: First, to my surprise, Macross Delta won’t be airing until April as a Spring 2016 show (which is for the best, as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle both a Gundam and a Macross at the same time). Second, while this isn’t a complete episode, it is comprised of 391 of the 450 frames of the first episode, or over 86% of the total. So we get a pretty good look.

A lot of those 391 frames contain some pretty familiar stuff…but this is Macross, so you go in fully expecting that.  Cute, quirky, idealistic heroine whom the serious male protag helps out? Check. Rather than Ranka Lee, we have Freyja Wion. She’s also voiced by a first-time seiyu (Suzuki Minori), who does a pretty good job balancing goofiness, earnestness, vulnerability and determination.

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If you’re not put off by Freyja’s bubbly enthusiasm, you’ll want to root for her almost immediately. She’s on the run from an arranged marriage to audition for Walkure, a “Tactical Sound Unit” that uses music to fight the Var, which unlike the Vajra aren’t a primal alien race, but a disease that infects everyone, potentially making anybody a weapon in its arsenal.

While there’s a lot of terminology right out of the gate, Delta doesn’t drown you in it, and also assumes this isn’t your first Macross rodeo (my other exposure to the franchise is the excellent 25th anniversary series Macross Frontier). Like that show, the world is lush and detailed, only the visuals here in 2016 are even more smooth and refined, particularly where CGI is concerned.

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The male protag, Hayate Immelmann (probably named for the turn), is initially put off by Freyja’s weirdness, but ends up rescuing her, though having been someone who’s dreamed big in the past and gotten nowhere, he remains skeptical of her lofty aspirations.

Something tells me his attitude will have changed when this episode concludes in April. He even seems to come under a little bit of a spell from her overflowing charisma—until she loses her foothold and he has to catch her in an awkward position that has him at gunpoint for suspected perversion by Mirage, a soldier in Delta Platoon, Walkure’s escort unit.

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The misunderstanding is corrected just in time for a city-wide Var Alert. The Var infect the local Zentradi base (as in Frontier, the green-skinned giants are normally allies of the humans here), and Freyja and Hayate become naught but two more ants on a massive battlefield, running for their lives.

Then we’re introduced to the four members of Walkure who run towards the danger, transforming into their magical songstress forms: You have the leader, the Sheryl Nome-esque leader Mikumo, the tomboyish Reina, the girly Makina, and the sporty Kaname (thanks Starqo).

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Working in concert with the Delta Platoon, they neutralize the effects of the Var with their music, as the battle on the ground is essentially one big music video. This is a departure from Frontier in that the effects of the singing on the enemy aren’t known until later in the show. Here, Walkure is an active participant in the combat, and also in protecting the hordes of citizens with swarms of multidrones.

As one would expect of an experienced and practiced pop music group, Walkure knows exactly what to do and carry it out swiftly and efficiently, but also with an ample helping of style. So confident is Mikumo in her powers of charm, she gets right in a Var-infected Zentradi pilot’s face and cures him on the spot, getting him to exclaim  that iconic line, “Deculture!”

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But that’s not all for enemies. In orbit, the planet’s space fleet is attacked by the Aerial Knights, a group of badass male warriors who look to be the Walkure Girls’ rivals and foils. When they engage the Delta Platoon on the surface, they learn they’re more than a match.

Be it the Huge Capital Ship Getting Blow’d Up Real Good in orbit or the Zig-Zagging Dogfight in the skies, Delta doesn’t separate itself much from Frontier in these areas, but it does distinguish itself in sheer quality and refinement. There’s nary a frame out of place, and as previously stated, the CGI is far better integrated into the regular animation than the older work. The plane, ship, cockpit, and HUD designs are also new and very cool-looking, all with a welcome nod to the past.

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With all the big battles and explosions going on, the episode could be excused for completely forgetting about Freyja and Hayate, but when the Knights push Walkure and Delta into a corner, we come back to them, trying not to get caught in the crossfire. Then Mikumo emerges from the pile of wreckage, ready to rumble anew, and changes the tune—literally—to a more aggressive but still upbeat song.

Freyja’s little heart-shaped stone on her head starts to glow (as it did when Hayate fell on her), and she can’t resist singing along and running towards the battle rather than away. It’s an inspiring sight for young Hayate, seeing her risk her life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, without a care in the world that things won’t work out.

Even though Freyja stowed away on a ship to the wrong planet, it looks like she’ll get her audition after all—we’ll just have to wait until April to see how it goes. Until then, I know I have a big, bold, upbeat new Macross to look forward to when the chill breaks.

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 10

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Lots of changes this week, starting with no cold open and a brand-new OP. We’ll miss the first OP (a rare instrumental theme) but the new one features a rousing techno-death metal piece and introduces new characters, suggesting this show could be going another season. I thought Nanami was going to stick around for a while, but I really like where the show went instead, in perhaps its best first half-episode to date.

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In last week’s moving outing, Nanami showed up out of the blue and had a great arc, but we were a bit weary she’d be along long, owing to her non-main character billing and absence in the old OP and ED. And so it came to be: after visiting the observatory and earning the friendship of the others, and knowing she’ll be remembered and thus won’t die, Nanami’s beacon is ejected and she turns to goo. And then, no one but Ryouta cares.

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Then it’s made plain: while she wanted to live on in the memories of others, Nanami didn’t want the girls to waste what little time they had left on the world being heartbroken over losing her, so she wipes them. Since her power doesn’t work on Ryouta, she transfers herself into his memories instead, which in a welcome moment of levity, her ghost says “used up a lot of his capacity”. While her body is gone, she’s now literally living on in his head, where only he can communicate with her.

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The second half, in which the girls must do well on the upcoming finals to go to the beach, wasn’t as good, but did end up propelling several plots. Neko’s affection for Ryouta is back in the foreground after lots of hanging out with Kazumi (who wants Ryouta’s virginity if she places second to him). Naturally, Neko ends up beating them both; her clueless request for “a virginity” from Ryouta is pretty cute. But even if Ryouta saves her, her memories continue to vanish. Will she forget him, like she forgot karaoke night?

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While at the beach, Neko, Kana, Kazumi and Kotori all experience a warm fuzzy feeling they’ve rarely if ever felt in their lives: happiness and contentment. If only they could all stay on that beach, soaking up the sun. But their most dangerous opponent yet. Valkyrie, who resembles a white-haired Neko—a shironeko, if you will—is now on the loose, not necessarily under control, and itching to everyone into warm fuzzy goo.

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 04

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Brynhildr continues to suffer from a highly erratic tone that shifts jarringly from one scene to the next, to the point where it even seems to be confusing the characters. To whit: Ryouta stabs Saori in the heart like it’s the most natural thing in the world for an ordinary high school student to do. After Saori hangs up and is ejected, turning into a mass of organic goop, revealing a horrifying-looking parasite, only then does Ryouta react viscerally, stomping it out like a bug.

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Ryouta has gotten mixed up in some extremely awful, bloody, amoral, supernatural shit…but aside from that one little yelp, he doesn’t seem the least bit traumatized by what he’s seen and done. The episode’s attempts to lighten the mood with some fanservice-laced mixed onsen nonsense and domestic issues fail, because the gap between the two moods is too wide. The show yanked me from unspeakable horrors to oppai-grabs with whiplash-inducing speed.

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Mix two tones on the exact opposite moods too carelessly, and they’ll compromise each other, resulting in an impotent neutral mood, or just outright confusion. As it stands, it feels like two different shows in one, both of which would be better if the opposing tone was removed. I’m more interested in Ryouta’s resolute leap into the dark, messed-up world of the lab girls, not a half-assed high school harem. Here’s hoping new addition Takatori, an AA+ witch sent to eliminate the others, steers things more towards the former.

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 03

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One thing you have to hand with Brynhildr: it’s not laying the peril on thin. The present situation of Neko and Hana on the run escalates into a crisis when Ryouta learns they need to take a “death suppressant” pill every day or they’ll die horrible deaths, and they only have five days of pills left. Then the crisis escalates into disaster when Neko leaves a pot of boiling water unattended for ten seconds and burns up their supply.

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Just like that the five days are pared down to one, and then even less than that when Hana starts to bleed, having gone almost a full day since her last pill. The overarching mission, then, which provides this episode with thrust, is clear: find more pills, or the girls die. Ryouta, having already forfeited his life by getting involved, decides to take it upon himself to find a way to make it happen. Our main gripe with the plan is that the pills the girls need are commercially produced, rather than a top-secret proprietary drug formulated by the lab.

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Then again, the evil guys in white coats at the lab may be morally bankrupt butchers, but they’re butchers with scientific backgrounds, so it’s not totally ridiculous the drug would have a code Ryouta could memorize. That tiny code is the single clue that gives them any chance at all, and also reveals that Ryouta is the opposite of Neko in that he’s able to remember everything, even the things he’d rather forget.

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Neko, meanwhile, loses memories when she uses magic, even those she wants to remember. This proves important when a conveniently-placed slash by Saori (another, far higher-level witch sent by the lab to kill her) reveals that Neko has the same moles as Kuroneko after all, they’d just shifted to her boobs once she grew some. It isn’t as if I thought they weren’t the same person all along—why beat around the bush?—but this seems to confirm it for certain.

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Seeing those moles fills Ryouta with joy that his friend is still alive, but now he knows why she doesn’t remember him. If only he could give her some of his ability to remember, he could help her, but I’m not sure the rules of this show work this way. Then there’s the fact that his joy is immediately stomped out when Saori slices Neko into several pieces. Again, the show doesn’t hold back in tormenting its characters and kicking them while they’re down.

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I assume all this torture is meant to toughen them; if they can survive this, then they stand a chance against the lab. All the girls sport “hahnests” (…harnesses?) on their necks with three switches: one prevents them from using magic for a day, one terminates them (last week’s WTF moment), and the third does…something else; something “worse than death”. Ryouta’s hoping that something else is the key to saving Neko

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 02

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Brynhildr alternates between silly and dark, intriguing and repetitive this week, and a familiar pattern emerged: Vexed by her resemblance to Kuroneko, Ryouta tries to make nice with Neko; Neko rejects him and tells him to stay away; Ryouta persists and learns more about her; rinse, repeat. I was annoyed with Ryouta because he was being nosy, but I was also annoyed by Neko’s feeble attempts to keep him away, since at the end of the day she’s probably glad to have an ally.

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Frankly, if I was saved from dying by someone using magic who resembled an old friend whose dead body I never saw, a few “Go Aways” wouldn’t be enough to discourage me from trying to get some answers. That might be a selfish position to take—don’t worry about how you were saved, just be grateful and move on—but it’s a human one. Sometimes it isn’t enough to know something, we have to know why, even if knowing that isn’t in our best interests.

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And if there’s one thing the episode makes nice and sparkling clear, it’s that Ryouta would be better off turning around and forgetting about everything he’s seen these first two episodes. Neko, her paralyzed companion Kana, are military experiments on the run from their tormentors. One of their friends was captured (or two, as we get a look inside the transport) , and when she doesn’t talk, they eject her neck plug and she liquifies in a cloud smoke, which…eww.

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In one of the stranger juxtapositions of tones I’ve encountered in a while, the episode shifts from horrifying flesh-melting to Neko and Kana oging pastries Ryouta has brought them, which Neko proceeds to whiz in a blender so Kana can swallow it. This is more than a little jarring, but also shows that Neko’s determination to keep Ryouta out of her business was weak enough to be forgotten with sweets.

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That should be a little worrying for Ryouta. It’s nice that he’s helping out these girls and all, but I’m not sure he’s aware of just what a nasty business he’s stuck his nose into, and from which there’s probably no going back at this point. I did like how he experienced firsthand the satisfaction of having saved someone, and came to understand how Neko would feel responsible for deaths she knew would happen but was too late to stop.

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 01

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With an odd name like “Brynhildr” in the title, I couldn’t help but to investigate, hoping the name had some significance and wasn’t just chosen because it sounds cool. And while I know my multiplication tables—I got a great deal on one at Ikea!—my knowledge of Germanic mythology is lacking, so I hope you’ll indulge me.

Brynhildr (one of many spellings) is a shield-maiden and valkyrie, who among other things, was condemned to live the life of a mortal woman for deciding a battle for the wrong king. Kuroha Neko is similarly a being that seems beyond mere humanity, who serves a shield for those prophesied to die, reported to her via walkie-talkie with an as-yet un-introduced character.

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Here’s hoping this isn’t just a show they made because they had a cool CGI model of an observatory telescope lying around, because I liked the mystery that started brewing in the first installment, as well as Murakami Ryouta, an academically gifted lad whose course in life has been defined by the tragic loss of his childhood friend ten years ago.

When Kuroha Neko transfers to his class (a student laughably comments that this is a “rare occurrence”…not in anime, missy!), looking just like that friend, Murakami is hit by shock and hopefulness clashing with facts and logic, but while ten years ago Kuroneko failed to show him proof that aliens existed, in the present he witnesses proof of a whole lot of other things he didn’t know existed.

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While his first meeting with Kuroha results in a slap to the face (you just don’t demand a girl show you her armpits, especially in the middle of class!), their second meeting at the observatory is much more pleasant and cordial, even though it only deepens the mystery of who or what Kuroha is. I enjoyed the subtle and often funny escalation of strangeness, from her apparent ignorance of times tables to strength that should be impossible with such “squishy” arms (Ryota’s term, not mine).

After this episode presented its case to me, a lot of questions popped up in my head about what’s going on and where it’s all headed, meaning the mystery was intriguing enough to hold my interest. As I’d expected, it’s also a very nice-looking show with crisp character designs reminiscent of Red Data Girl. Humor is present and fanservice is retrained; both pluses. I’m looking forward to dancing in the darkness with this shieldmaiden/honor student duo.

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