Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 12 (Fin)

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Zvezda looked down and out, and we were honestly at a loss in predicting how they were going to dig out of the hole they found themselves in. After all, we left last week with Galatika toast and Kate and Itsuka surrounded by guys with guns, with only big words to bandy. Defeat against Governor Jimon seemed inevitable barring a miracle. They got several.

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Kate may be up against the wall, but aside from passing out for nap time, she never abandons her belief that she will ultimately prevail over the cigar-chomping boob of an adversary. The final battle is an highly amusing push-and-pull: Jimon has his magic shield, magic cigar smoke, and giant retro mecha, but Kate has Dva, Natasha and her tentacle monster, Roboko in human disguise (complete with Total Recall-style transformation), who snatchs the real Galatika from the traitor Yase, and White Robin, who helps out the bad guys and coaxes White Egret to her side.

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Even Pepel/Goro revives, woken up by White Falcon/Kaori, who turns out to have a thing for him. We’ve been listening to Maaya Sakamoto voice Lightning for going on forty hours, so it’s fun to hear her as Kaori, whose voice is more emotional and varied than Light’s. Some units of the JSDF defect to Zvezda, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Kate taking over the driving of Plamya’s motorcycle, flashing her inexpirable license to Asuta when he asks.

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It’s a totally absurd, logically dubious hyper-stylized final confrontation, but full of Zvezda’s trademark charm, wit, and internal commentary about how absurd and logically dubious things are. In other words, a fitting way to end. The crass nihilism of Governor Jimon falls to the optimism, spunk, and gregariousness of Zvezda. Life returns pretty much to normal, but only briefly: a Zvezda-like organization from New York fires the first shot in the next battle, one that actually sounds more fun than the one against the stodgy governor…a teaser for a possible sequel, perhaps. But for now, we’ll bask in the light of Zvezda.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Average Rating: 7.750
MyAnimeList Score: 7.38

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Life imitating art in Crimea

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It’s come to our attention a certain newly-appointed government official in a certain recently-annexed (and still internationally unrecognized) autonomous republic in far eastern Europe has caused a bit of an internet sensation all her own (she even reacted to it).

The republic in question is Crimea, and the official in question is Natalia Poklonskaya. We wouldn’t be surprised if former Ukranian PM Yulia Tymoshenko was also the subject of anime fan art (Hint, she is.)

You’re more likely to see impressively-uniformed stoic old men sitting behind microphones at press conferences in the real world, but attractive young women in high military/government positions are far more plentiful in the world of anime. In the past few seasons of shows we’ve been watching alone, there have been a bunch:

New JOIR PM Sashinami Shouko (Valvrave)
Fleet Commander Ridgett (Suisei no Gargantia)
Lt./Capt./Deputy C-in-C Amane (Majestic Prince)
Director Chouno Ami (Girls und Panzer)
1Lt. Takamura Yui (Muv-Luv Alternative)

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As for Poklonskaya-chan, we couldn’t help but compare her more specifically to a young woman who has also been recently installed in a similar role in a similarly annexed territory, namely Secretary Shirasagi Miki, formerly White Egret of White Light, now working for Tokyo Governor Jimon and overseeing the annexation of West Udogawa.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 11

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With Roboko in pieces, Natasha strung up like a chicken behind force-fields, and Goro in some kind of stasis, Zvezda continues to reel this week on the edge of total defeat. Hope still lives while Kate is free, protected by Itsuka, but her treasured doll Galatika is in Governor Jimon, who is annexing West Udogawa once and for all.

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Asuta and Renge are on the run, constantly moving from one place to another as the special forces hunt them. It’s fun to see the two working together to survive after being on different sides for so long without knowing it. But along with the doll-less Kate, they’re unable to go on the offensive.

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That changes when West Udogawa’s leader, who is harboring Kate, manages to get her one last canister that allow her and Itsuka to transform and make their stand at the very public annexation ceremony that Jimon always meant to be an execution as well, if Venera showed up. She does, and Jimon stirs the pot by destroying Galatika with the acrid black smoke from his cigars. So yeah, like the Prime Minister in Samurai Flamenco, Governor Jimon is some kind of superhuman.

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We flashback to ancient days when Kate first stopped growing in order to gain the power to conquer; we also see Jimon’s wife leave him and the family fall apart because his job is all that matters to him. We’re a little fuzzy on why Asuta “rejects” Renge and the two part ways, but his ambition to live in a world where people can make their own decisions is admirable. He need only brush Evil SuperDad aside and he’ll be golden!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 10

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We’re only hearing about this now, but apparently all of Japan is locked in a brutal civil war between Tokyo and the rest of the country, and Tokyo is winning. Only the district of West Udogawa has remained neutral, but the threat of Zvezda is used as an excuse to invade. This week Zvezda’s HQ is destroyed and its members apprehended one by one.

The show attempts to preserve its laid-back, tongue-in-cheek, optimistic tone throughout, but there’s still a pall of despair and desperation over everything. Without their lair or transforming powers, Zvezda is just a bunch of wide-eyed dreamers in ridiculous garb hiding in a playground, but Governor Asuta (on his own conquest kick) has decided now is the time to snuff them out once and for all.

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To that end, White Light is absorbed by the Tokyo Special Forces, with Falcon becoming a city hall stooge, Egret installed as new commander of the puppet force, and Robin given the task of helping round up what’s left of Zvezda, knowing Asuta’s among them. It’s here where her fierce personal justice—for which she was originally recruited by Falcon—tells her she’s on the wrong side.

As if to clear her vision of the artificial justice the powers that be purport to uphold, Renge sheds her mask, stands between Zvezda and the guns. Asuta decides to surrender to his father, but as far as his father’s concerned, he’s a casualty of conflict. Renge whisks him away just in time, but as the curtain falls on the episode, they, like Zvezda, are still on the run with very little in the way of power. We’ll be watching with great interest to see if and how their justice serves them in the closing acts.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 09

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Apparently it was onsen week, as Samurai Flamenco, Nisekoi, and now Zvezda all featured hot springs. Of the three, we’d have to say Zvezda’s offering was the most creative and impactful. Having both White Light and Zvezda hold their company retreats at the same hot spring, and not knowing the either would be there, is both silly and brilliant—as is having the elderly innkeepers be on opposite sides.

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When White Robin bumps into Dva, one would think Robin would immediately engage in combat, but it doesn’t go that way; Dva buys her a soda and they simply relax in this neutral place. After all, both “companies” are there to relax; maintaining a truce with the enemy keeps things from getting unrelaxed. But thanks to White Egret, a battle breaks out anyway.

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While not happy with Miki picking a fight with Dva, Falcon decides to launch an all-out assault. Watching different halves of the assembled “employees” pull off their robes to unveil their true colors was a great bit of stagecraft, and the innkeepers duelling as Kate dozes below them is both thrilling and hilarious (Kate shows a lot of her kid-side this week by being immodest in the bath, conquering milk, and getting drowsy when its her bedtime). What was really cool was how casually Renge learned that Egret and Dva were Miki and Asuta all along.

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Asuta still doesn’t know Renge is Robin, but we thought it was significant that Robin saved Dva before she knew who he was—not because she was betraying White Light, but because she didn’t see him as a threat. Now she knows, and her immediate reaction is tentative. As the war between White Light and Zvezda escalates (it sure looks like Yase betrayed Zvezda and their HQ has been blown up), there will probably be more instances when Renge will have to choose what matters more: duty or love.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 08

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Zvezda has been very zany, witty, whimsical and fun over its first seven outings, but it’s not what you’d call sophisticated drama. This episode aims to change that, as Zvezda’s secret base is infiltrated deeper than ever before, while the history of Zvezda’s dependable rock General Pepel AKA Shikabane Gorou is explored deeper than before. The show decides not to immediately jump into the confrontation between Asuta and his dad, instead revealing the mysterious commander of White Light, who harbors a personal grudge against Zvezda and its chief, Gorou.

Things start off innocently enough, as Gorou is checking out pastry exhibition, which is hilariously random but also disarming, since maybe the old man’s just there for the sweets. After their big battle last week, Asuta, Kate, and Robo are simply kicking back, and the lead voice actress in Kate’s favorite anime turns out to be White Light’s commander, White Falcon. Things take a turn for the worse when she bombards Kate, Asuta, Robo, and Tasha with puppeteer waves and invites herself to their base, where she deploys a large White Light contingent.

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It’s a very nice dastardly plot because it comes out of nowhere, as does Falcon herself. Even so, she makes a lot of progress because she identified and isolated Zvezda’s most conventionally powerful (i.e., non-magical) member at the moment. The connections come fast and furious: the pastry chef Pierre was thrown out of the gang by Gorou’s wife(?), Tsubaki; White Falcon is really Tsubaki’s sister (possibly making her Gorou’s sister-in-law); Itsuka is Tsubaki’s daughter. All these ties both enrich and explain the underlying conflict between Zvezda and White Light; now it more closely resembles a family feud.

This episode also bucked the trend of focusing on Asuta (the ostensible protagonist) or Kate (the ostensible leader of Zvezda), and focused on the underutilized but incredibly Badass Old Dude; his Old Dude friend who’s really good at baking (and stopping steamrollers); and his Old Dude past, which shaped the Old Dude he is today. After being disguised as a stationary bronze bust for the last two weeks, he gets his time in the spotlight, brings a welcome dose of seriousness and gravitas, and shows Kaori that he won’t allow himself or Zvezda and the ideal of world conquest to be defeated as neatly as she’d planned.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

 

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 02

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Jimon Asuta seems to be happiest at school, a place where he can forget about his problems and expand his knowledge. The problem is, it’s not a boarding school, and after a certain time, the students have to go hope. The school goes by all too quickly for Asuta (School Bell REEEMIX!), at which point his problems reappear: he’s starving and he has nowhere to go. He can’t very well shack up with Renge; this isn’t Chu2Koi!

Yet even under these circumstances, Asuta is weary of following Shikabane Itsuka to Zvezda HQ. Like any healthy lad, he fears the unknown, and would rather not complicate his life even more. But because Itsuka has a sword (and a very intricately-detailed one, at that) and he can’t seem to outrun her, Zvezda HQ is where he ends up anyway. And it’s exactly what you’d expect a secret society led by a weird little girl to look like: Howl’s Moving Castle’s distant cousin, with some Chuck-E-Cheese tubes mixed in for good measure. It’s whimsical and cool-looking (and we later learn it can be hidden from prying eyes).

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When Jimon and Itsuka go inside, there’s a normal genkan with slippers waiting for them, but we still felt a somewhat sinister aura coming off the walls deeper in; as if it was in Jimon’s best interest to stick close to Itsuka lest he Fall Down the Rabbit Hole. Natasha confirms this in her matter-of-fact warning to him, which she delivers while riding a contraption that allows her to move about while lying supine (clearly, comfort is a priority with her). Aside from that, the base is essentially a dorm with rotating chores, where he’s the new guy whose name no one can remember.

There’s a lot of attention to detail this week, both visually (dining room chairs embroidered with the Zvezda logo) and aurally (Roboko’s myriad mechanical sound effects). Not surprisingly, Itsuka is a terrible cook (her food is pixelated; a nice touch) and everyone is afraid to confront her about it, but watching Jimon’s reaction after taking a bite—in which he transcends time and space and possibly catches a glimpse of the beginning of the universe—really drives the point home.

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After Zvezda defeats the giant monster-of-the-week—for which Itsuka’s cooking is indirectly responsible—Jimon is the one who throws caution to the wind and finally calls her out on it. He has to endure her threats for a bit, but ultimately, his cajones led to him finding his place within Zvezda as their cook; turns out, he’s as good at it as she is bad. Ironic that his first act of courage is not in the face of an enemy, but an eventual ally (and Ise Mariya really lays on the surly.)

But not everything is peaches and sunshine: Zvezda has an archenemy in White Light, of which Jimon’s friend/crush Renge is a member (with the alias “White Robin”.) She even encounters Jimon while in her chic White Light garb, but he doesn’t recognize her. Right now he may just be happy he has a place where he can crash after school and be useful. But if he’s joining Zvezda, he can probably kiss Renge’s friendship goodbye.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)