Ore Monogatari!! – 24 (Fin)

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All good things must come to an end, whether it’s the most charming and engaging romance in recent memory, or a lovely but ultimately dead-end relationship between two incompatible people. Yes, that’s right, kids, this also marks the end of Rinko+Takeo, as Ichinose swoops in, sweeps Rinko off her feet, places her on a bed of maringue, and drizzles caramel sauce on her.

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…PSYCH! They remain a couple to the end. Ichinose is unsuccessful in stealing her away, despite his firm believe that A.) Rinko is his muse, and B.) he’s a better fit for her. Takeo, as usual, is a worrywort who finds it necessary to prepare for a life without Rinko should Ichinose succeed, as dense to the depths of Rinko’s love as Rinko is of Ichinose’s feeling.

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Even though we knew there was no way in hell this couple would break up in the last episode, it still managed to maintain a respectable tension, as we basically absorbed Takeo’s anxiety. But despite his worrying, he puts up a brave front, and doesn’t despise Ichinose. In fact, for all their differences, he can relate to him simply because he too likes Rinko. Suna, meanwhile, is just glad to see these new sides of Takeo; it means he’s growing as a man.

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Takeo also suspects, quite correctly, Rinko has no clue about Ichinose’s feelings, but is simply helping him out because she’s a good person, because he asked, and because she loves cakes. When Ichinose forgets his tools (no doubt distracted by Rinko), Takeo has no problem answering the call and bringing them with his superhuman speed. And as he watches Ichinose work, Takeo is rooting for him to win. He can win the pastry competition; Takeo is simply hoping he’ll lose the competition for Rinko’s heart.

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Ichinose himself can’t help but regard Takeo as a good man too, even if he feels he’s the better match for Rinko. It’s a great dynamic, with no one overtly evil or villainous or ridiculous. Even Ichinose’s extreme bluntness in his intentions as expressed to Takeo and Suna make sense, considering Ichi is a far better pastry person than people person.

He wins the Gold with a pastry containing all of the same qualities as Rinko, even naming it after her before confessing his love and asking her out—in front of Takeo and Suna, no less!

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Rinko is shocked and taken completely by surprise, but it doesn’t take long for her to formulate her response: She’s fine helping him out at the pastry shop, but she’s no muse, and her heart belongs to Takeo, as it has always belonged since she first laid eyes on the big lug. All of Takeo’s anxiety washes away in the warmth of that pronouncement, and shortly afterwards, Takeo gives her a big ol’ hug and does something he’s been working hard to do since they became a couple: call her Rinko.

Appropriately, it’s as big a deal for her to hear him say her first name as it is for him to say it, so when Takeo promises he’ll learn to use it more casually, I was also thinking Rinko would, at the same time, learn to hear it without her heart melting into goo.

An there you have it, peeps: My Love Story!! (Well, not mine…theirs). It has been quite a fun ride, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ll dearly miss this day-brightening, mold-breaking show, which is the first this Summer to have the good sense and manners to thank the audience for watching at the very end! Trust me, show: the pleasure was all ours.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 23

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Quite unexpectedly, we enter the penultimate episode of this lovely series with the most profound and troubling dilemma yet to face the lovely couple of Takeo and Yamato. The former has encouraged the latter to work part-time at her favorite patisserie, Les Cerises. In the process, he may have just handed his girlfriend over to a superior potential mate. At least, that’s the feeling he gets once he learns that the young, up-and-coming patissier, Ichinose, is on first-name basis with “Rinko.”

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At first, Takeo is intent on being happy and supportive of Yamato as she pursues her passion; a craft she’s very good at but until now hasn’t gotten professional exposure to. It’s also a craft Takeo doesn’t share with her, and it isn’t even something he can talk with her that much about. Ichinose can, and he’s able to dazzle Yamato in ways Takeo can not: with his pastry expertise.

That lack of a shared passion (ignoring their passion for each other) combined with the ease with which Ichinose calls Yamato Rinko (and the difficulty Takeo has even thinking about doing the same) combine to create a profound inferiority in Takeo, as he watches things unfold from afar without fully understanding the full context…nor the fact that Yamato may not actually like Ichinose that way, despite her respect and admiration for his mad skillz.

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While Takeo considers that Yamato could well be falling for Ichinose, Suna all but confirms Ichinose is falling for Yamato, judging from his careful analysis of Ichinose’s stare.

As abruptly as Ichinose enters the Ore Monogatari!! world, he’s still given a fair hearing and development all his own. He’s a talented fellow, but up to this point been a bit of a lone wolf lacking a certain…something that deprived his work of warmth and love. The more time he spends with Yamato, the more he comes to think of her as his muse.

So when Takeo comes by the shop and Ichinose learns he’s Yamato’s boyfriend, I can understand, considering his inexperience in dealing with such matters, why Ichinose is so curt and abrupt in running up to Takeo and demanding he break up with Yamato immediately, as he sees himself as the better fit. And Takeo understands too.

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Takeo put Yamato in the position to meet someone who might be better for her, and he can’t dismiss that possibility out of hand. It’s pretty devastating how effectively and succinctly Ichinose wraps up Takeo and Yamato’s unlikely relationship, even if he’s oversimplifying and underestimating the depth of Yamato’s love for Takeo.

It’s not a coincidence that right after Takeo concedes that “there may be others who are better” for Yamato out there, that we cut to someone who’s been tossed around by the show as someone who may be better for him in Suna’s big sister Ai, who may even understand him more than Suna. Takeo’s greatest strength, throughout his life and the show, has been putting others before himself, to make those others happy.

This week we see why that’s a weakness, as he puts himself and Yamato in a pretty good position to destory everything they’ve built these last twenty-odd episodes. But again, that’s only if we take Takeo’s inferiority and Ichinose’s desires as the law of the land. While things are in a precarious position, we have yet to hear how Yamato—no, Rinko—feels about things. And I wouldn’t be surprised she has no intention of switching boyfriends.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 22

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YAY! It’s Suna and Yukika’s time to shine! It’s their turn for falling into love and floating around on a cloud like Takeo and Yamato! It’s time for Yukika to create a new PURAIMUTAIMU to replace the one from Kindergarten! They go to the zoo with the show’s lead couple, and both seem to enjoy themselves. We’re headed towards a foregone conclusion, right?!

Well…not so fast, there.

Yes, they do have a good time at the zoo; initially Yukika talk to Suna or even be too close to him without becoming paralyzed, but when the other couple encourages her to make some memories, she pipes up, gets them into an animal trivia competition, and singlehandedly wins it, but only because they were counted as a couple when Suna takes her hand. It all looks very fun and pleasant and awkward in all the ways first dates can be.

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But the problem isn’t whether they had fun; it’s a matter of magnitude. Suna had a nice enough time; he didn’t not enjoy himself. But from Yukika’s perspective, it was categorically THE HAPPIEST DAY OF HER LIFE. It’s the same with how they feel about each other: Suna doesn’t dislike Yukika, but Suna is the love of Yukika’s life and has been for most of her conscious life.

She’s placed him on so high a pedestal that his comparative wishy-washiness actually ends up hurting her. Last week I entertained the possibility Suna actually liked Yukika, but she didn’t let him finish his sentence, but in the absense of further evidence, we have to conclude he doesn’t like her enough. As much as we may want it to work out, and for Suna to finally start dating a nice girl, it’s just not going to work.

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Soon Yukika becomes unable to continue working towards something she can’t imagine ever working out, due to that magnitude problem, and resolves to cut herself off from not only Suna, but Takeo and Yamato, cold turkey. This is an obvious overreaction,but an understandable one considering where she’s coming from socially (there’s a reason she’s so good at zoo trivia; she spends much of her time reading). What I like is that Takeo and Yamato don’t try to force the issue or over-meddle, they just give Yukika the opportunity to reassess her next move.

In the end, she too thinks severing all ties with the three others would be too sad, and Suna meets with her to give her a gift for her ten years of chocolates, and they reach a kind of closure, agreeing to remain friends. I appreciate the show didn’t try to hard to force Suna into what in hindsight was a pretty long-shot relationship. Suna is, despite his forelorn appearance and lack of girlfriend, actually a pretty content fellow, and it would take a much more powerful romantic spark than the one Yukika was capable of mustering to convince him to leave that place of contentment and try something new.

And so it is with a sense of logical resignation we consign Yukika to Ore Monogatari!!’s roster of “Losers”, joining Saijou and Ai and underlining that sometimes even when conditions are right things don’t always work out as perfectly as they did for our lead couple.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 21

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For White Day, Takeo gives Yamato cookies he baked. You heard that right: gives her cookies he baked. And while he’s his own toughest critic on said cookies, the fact that they even exist bowls Yamato over; she declares them too precious to eat—and meaning it—but still takes a bite and is delighted with them. Finally, Takeo gets to experience what she’s been able to since they met: watch someone he loves enjoying something he made.

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The Valentines/White Day proceedings were an effective and logical segue to the next arc, “Find Love For Suna.” Turns out there was no one to find; someone was watching him and circling him from afar all along, becoming a little bolder every year, especially after Valentines, and possibly borne out of the knowledge she’s running out of school years to follow Suna. This girl, Amami Yukika comes close enough that she enters Takeo’s keen “follower radar”, misjudging her as someone with malevolent intentions, then rescuing her letter from the river.

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If any show can make a stalker girl sympathetic, it’s Ore Monogatari!!, as well as the talented voice of Kayano Ai, who gives Amami the right blend of delicate femininity and forthright determination. Judging from Suna’s photo album, Amami has literally been in the background of Suna and Takeo’s lives since kindergarten when she fell for him when him after he saved her from a thrown dodgeball. The trouble is, she hasn’t made any moves to get him to acknowledge her (all her Valentines letters were anonymous), so she hasn’t been acknowledged.

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“Takeo Cupid” wants to help in any way he can, but he also realizes it’s Amami who will have to do the heavy lifting like, you know, talking to Suna. All she really needs is a push…or rather, several pushes, as she’s so overwhelmed by suddenly being in the foreground with Suna (rather than watching him from afar) it’s hard to breathe, let alone talk. Still, when he not only refers to her by name but the fact he’s known of her existence since kindergarten, she confesses her love to him right there in the street, with Takeo looking on. Then she runs.

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This is where a second nudge by Takeo is needed. He brings her back to Suna (who almost seemed to be waiting for them), where she tells him she wants him to watch her and learn more about her before he gives her his response. I thought this was overly cautious on her part, since it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility he’d say “sure, let’s go out.” Suna isn’t opposed to going out with girls, just girls who talk shit about Takeo.

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They exchange cell numbers, and an initial bond is formed, to my relief. But Amami needs a couple more nudges, as she finds it hard to break out of her usual routine of stalking-kinda-not-stalking. Takeo sends Suna off to walk her home, but she still can’t talk, so Takeo then brings in Yamato for a female perspective on the thing. She shares her experience having difficulty making moves toward a relationship, but as we’ve seen the benefits of making those moves have been more than worth the stress involved.

Ultimately, they determine the best way forward is for Amami, Suna, Takeo and Yamato to do a double date, in this case to the zoo, which Suna promptly agrees to. Takeo tells him he doesn’t have to, but Suna knows that, and wouldn’t say he’s going if he didn’t want to. That doesn’t mean he’s going to say straight-up “Yes, I want to go on a double date with Amami to see if it will work out because she seems like a genuinely good person and possibly a good match as well.”

Even if asked directly, he won’t answer that directly, but the seeming lack of enthusiasm can’t be taken as an actual lack of it. I imagine he’s just as interested to see where this goes as Takeo, Yamato…and me. Lord knows Suna has demonstrated throughout the show that he deserves a good woman, and not just because he’s good-looking.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 20

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In a show full of romantic firsts, it’s pretty amazing OreMono!! has kept the Valentine’s Day/Chocolate episode in its back pocket…where one would assume it would melt! But here it finally is, with only four more episodes to go, and I think holding out was a good move, what with Takeo and Rinko so well-established as a loving couple.

I like how once more Takeo’s secondary friends come to him looking for help by having a group Valentines Day with Yamato’s friends. Suna, ever the stalwart best mate, deflects them, saying they had their fun for Christmas (and one of them, Osamu, even ended up dating one of the girls).

Even better, while Takeo appreciates Suna standing up for his right to be alone with Yamato, the truth is he doesn’t mind making it a group thing at all, nor does Yamato, for they are always looking for ways to spread the love they already have in droves for each other. Suna calls him a “do-gooder”, but c’mon now…so is he.

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Yamato is also eager to spread her wide knowledge of baking chocolate-making with her girlfriends (including Nanako, who wants to make something for Osamu) while working on a secret side-project specially for Takeo. It’s great to see both the boys looking so forward to getting chocolate while the girls look forward to giving it.

Valentine’s Day arrives, and we’re reminded how popular Suna is with the ladies when a small avalanche of chocolate pours out of his locker. Takeo asks a question on my mind as well—what does he do with it all—and he simply says he accepts it, gives reciprocating gifts on White Day to those who gave him their names…and that’s it. As much as Takeo may want his buddy to find love, no one has “clicked” for Suna the way Rinko clicked with him. That many of the girls who pursued Suna talked ill of Takeo behind his back surely contributed to that lack of clicking.

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The after-school Valentine’s Day group date goes swimmingly, with the guys convincing the girls to distribute the chocolates they made as if they were giving them to guys they liked. Each successive group event has had the girls gravitating less towards Suna alone and more evenly to the other guys. In a perfect world, each girl would click with each boy like Rinko x Takeo and Nanako x Osamu, but for now they’re content to exchange contact info and hang out sometime even without Takeo or Rinko around. Progress!

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But Takeo is confused—stunned, really—when Rinko suddenly says she’s in a hurry and scurries off. He’s so shocked he can’t quite walk in a straight line and mistakes a vending machine for his front door, because he expected to get chocolate from the girl he liked, for the first time…and didn’t.

Now, I was pretty sure, with so much time left, Rinko was “busy” getting Takeo’s chocolate. Then Takeo remembers two things: she actually did give him cookies at the cafe, and he simply neglected to savor them; and she spoke with great longing for fancy expensive chocolates.

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Takeo then decides to make up for the fact he didn’t properly enjoy Yamato’s chocolate buy buying her the chocolate she said she wanted, a nice subversion of the whole “Girls give on Valentines/Guys give on White Day” system.

But on his way out—and thank GOD Rinko was a safe distance from the outward-swinging door, or she would have been launched off the balcony—she’s standing out there with the biggest, prettiest chocolate dessert she’s ever made for Takeo.

And while they don’t end up locking lips, Takeo does send one hell of an air kiss off his balcony to Rinko, who catches it with giddy elation.

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So all in all, it’s a great Valentine’s for Takeo. The next day, he gets one more surprise (as do we!) when a very pleased-looking Mariya presents both him and Suna with obligation chocolate, a day after Valentines out of respect for Rinko. After she takes her leave Suna says she’s a good person, and that people who fall for Takeo—his sister, Rinko, Mariya—tend to be good people.

That gets Takeo thinking that a good person is what Suna needs, not just some fangirl who thinks it’s cool to talk shit about his friend. And as they shuffle off to class, someone who is potentially another one of those good people watches them go from around the corner…a silver-haired girl who must’ve given Suna chocolates. Could love finally be on the horizon for our boy Suna? I’d be down for that!

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Ore Monogatari!! – 19

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For most of the run of this tremendously touching and often uproariously funny show, Gouda Takeo has been portrayed as both a mensch (a person of honor and integrity) and an Übermensch (a goal for humanity to set for itself, given form). Yamato certainly sees him as a virtually flawless mate.

Yet when Yamato gets to sit with Takeo’s tough (and very pregnant) mom Yuriko, she—and we—get an entirely new perspective on Takeo. His mom still sees him as a little kid who will run out in the street and get killed if you don’t stop him. She’s also pretty confident Takeo is a wimp, in that he, like his father, worries about her too much.

Yuriko is basically handing her grown son on to another woman so she can care for him. She’s teaching Yamato a valuable lesson that she already intrinsically understands: Takeo is tough and strong about some things, but not definitely not everything. That’s where she comes in: just as his mom did, Yamato needs to protect him.

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In Takeo’s cool dad’s flashback, we see that Yuriko has always been tough and selfless, putting herself in danger to spare others pain, a big part of being a mom. Those qualities made her future husband fall for her right then and there. Yuriko isn’t overestimating her abilities when she keeps a fellow pregnant woman from falling down steps, she’s acting reflexively.

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Yet the rescue ends up hurting Yuriko, and when Takeo has to get her in a cab to go to the hospital, we see the weakness she still sees in her boy: he kinda falls apart. It’s thanks to Suna that things don’t get worse. Takeo may be great at saving strangers, but when it’s his mom, who he’s always seen as an invincible, indomitable force of nature, in trouble, his worry overwhelms him and prevents quick and rational decisions.

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When we see Yamato during these trying times for Takeo, she’s never frowning or outwardly worried, but has her usual cheerful, glowing smile. She goes to Takeo’s and cooks dinner for him. She comforts him with a simple touch of his arm, like a magical girl. She takes care of him, in a preview for how things will be for the formal hand-off (i.e. marriage one day). Yamato may be much twee-er than Takeo’s mom, but she shows she’s just as tough and able to protect Takeo.

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Witnessing these strong women around him inspires Takeo to pull himself together. When his mom gives the wheelchair meant for her to another mother going into labor, Takeo picks his mom up and carries her to the delivery room, surprising her. It’s a gesture that makes her realize he’s not a dumb little kid anymore; he has grown up a little, and he’ll keep growing up into a good man, a good big brother, and if all goes well with Yamato, a good husband and father as well. I’m sure as hell pullin’ for him!

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Terra Formars – 02

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Well, I was right: the show entered its element, as after thirty-eight days of milling around, flirting, and playing catch, on day thirty-nine all hell breaks loose aboard Annex One, as terraformars appear out of nowhere and start wrecking up the place (and the people). Now it makes sense why U-NASA recruited a guy who could hold his own against a bear in a Thai cage match!

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But herein lies the catch, and it’s a pretty big one: this show wants to show a lot that the network censors won’t allow. As a result, so much of the dismemberment and gore is totally blacked out, you can barely tell what the heck’s going on, which kind of kills the intended intensity of those scenes. I’ve a strong constitution for television violence, and can’t help but feel like I’m not missing out on the creators’ vision.

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As for the terraformars, they’re exceedingly dumb-looking. They manage to be terrifying anyway due to their size, strength, and inability to be brought down by huge guns, but they’d be a lot more terrifying if they didn’t have such goofy designs. For the record, I prefer Aliens to Predators, because the Aliens are just less humanoid in characteristics, and thus scarier to me. Ditto the briefly-seen aliens of Independence Day.

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Still, once the bugs appear, things go downhill quickly, especially when they destory all the precious medicine required to fight them. It’s all very bloody and hopeless…and I reiterate: they’re not even on Mars yet! Meanwhile, back in Japan, U-NASA employee and JSADF Major Hiruma Shichisei, finds a researcher from the Bugs 2 Project tending bar in Saitama, seeking information he’ll use to “protect Japan.” Major, after seeing what those bugs can do, good luck – you’re going to need it.

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Terra Formars – 01

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Curiously enough, this show begins with an underground cage match between a very muscular human (not a maiden fair) and a giant bear, held deep beneath Bangkok for the amusement of the super-rich. Hizamaru Akari isn’t doing so well, until he remembers why he’s in that cage: so his beloved childhood friend Yuriko can get a life-saving organ transplant, but even when he “hulks up” and wastes the bear, almost Ghoul-style, his handlers don’t do it. Yup, even in the 27th Century the rich are still assholes.

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Instead the richies “sell” Yuriko to a couple of sunglasses-indoors-wearing characters, Komachi Shoukichi and Michelle Davis of U-NASA, who regret to inform Hizamaru that they tried to save her but simply got to her too late. Hizamaru is wracked with guilt and grief, but they give him an opportunity to see to it no one has to go through what he and Yuriko did again, while saving the world in the process. That means traveling to the place where her virus came from: Mars.

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Upon resting and recovering from a surgery to toughen him (more than he already is) for what lies ahead, Hizamaru meets some of his colleagues, about half of whom are statistically dead already, including the trio of friends Marcos, Alex, and Sheila, along with negative newbie Eva Frost. They make up part of a group of one hundred that comprise the third expedition to Mars, the first two having ended in failure. The virus is believed to be capable of eradicating all of humanity, so developing a vaccine is of utmost importance, which explains the not inconsiderable resources of U-NASA.

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Of course, Mars isn’t just red dust; it’s been partially terraformed over the centuries by shipping algae, moss, and the highly resilient cockroach. Naturally, those cockroaches have evolved in no time at all into gigantic terrifying monsters who’d just as soon squash a human as a human would squash a roach back on Earth. So it would seem both the virus that threatens extinction and the titular “Terraformars” they must fight were originally created by humans in the first place. It’s a big mess, and it’s up to Hizamaru and a ragtag group of tough guys and gals to clean it up.

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We’re in for something totally different thematically speaking next week, be it the space voyage or their arrival on Mars, so as this first episode was more about introductions and exposition, I’m delaying my decision to review this show until I’ve seen it in its element. That said, this wasn’t a bad start, if TF keeps maintains its irreverent tone, “aw shit, what now” milieu, and amusing U-NASA camaraderie, I’ll forgive the uninspired character design and highly-censored (and thus somewhat pointless) gore.

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