All posts by Karen

X-Men: TAS, Episode 1: Night of the Sentinels, Part I

Let’s start with a note on format: I’m taking screenshots from the official Marvel DVDs of this series. While I was glad to support the show by buying the official release, these DVDs don’t have much going for them beyond that. The special features are virtually nil. I have all of SheRa: Princess of Power on DVD, and those sets have tons of extras, including episode commentaries, featurettes, and even the entire series bible; my X-Men discs are just kind of sad in comparison. I don’t know what necessitated putting out such a bare-bones release here (maybe some legal restrictions?), but I hope someday, we get something better.

I’m impressed with how this episode has aged overall. The visuals are often too dark and muddy (a problem that plagues much of the show), and the backgrounds are often very perfunctory, even by the standards of the time; the only area where care seems to have been taken with the bg art was Xavier’s mansion. Still, this episode has to introduce 10 different characters, plus the entire world of the X-Men, and does it pretty darn well, all told. It’s also patently ridiculous at times, but the ways in which it’s ridiculous function better as satire than I’m entirely comfortable with.

Anyway, enough preamble, time for Night of the Sentinels!

We open with a news report about mutant violence and hysteria, which seemed overblown to me at the time. As a child, while I was aware of racism and bigotry, I thought of those as being largely problems of the past; understanding and acceptance of different types of people had improved within my lifetime, and I had every reason to believe that this was something that would only continue to improve as I got older. I thought that if super-powered mutants ever existed in real life, the response to them would be much calmer than this show portrays, because people have to be smarter than this. On some level, I think I’ve always been a little mad at the world for disappointing me about that, ever since.

“I’m telling ya Lorraine, we shoulda known something was up with that kid when she kept wearing that raincoat even when it wasn’t raining. Now she’s blowing up VCRs, and we can’t tape General Hospital? That was the last straw!”

Jubilee’s foster parents are agonizing over what to do about their mutant foster child, and it’s surprisingly hard-edged. Her mother even asks if the father regrets taking Jubilee in, and whoah…isn’t that the kind of thing you’re never, ever supposed to say as an adoptive parent? Granted, she didn’t know Jubilee was listening, but still, introducing the idea “maybe your adoptive parents don’t actually want you,” seems like a pretty dark place to go right out of the gate. This show is really dark for a kids cartoon, notorious for it actually, but I’m still surprised sometimes at the ways in which it’s dark.

Jubilee whines that she used to be a normal kid, and I wonder if she ever was, really. She was a gamer girl in 1992, and weren’t all girl gamers at that time vilified and harassed constantly? I read it on the internet, it must be true!

Five feet tall, I can believe, but 90 lbs.? Yeah, and I’m Scarlett Johansson, pfft. Someone lied on their Mutant Control Agency paperwork.

We get our first look at the mutant-hunting Sentinels, and by God, are they ridiculous looking. They were terrifying when they were first introduced in Days of Future Past, but that was in the context of the whole world becoming an unbelievably horrific place; seeing a bright red-and-purple giant robot strolling down a suburban street just looks ridiculous. Also ridiculous is the amount of collateral damage Sentinels are authorized to allow while capturing mutants; apparently it’s totally fine to destroy houses while in pursuit of target mutants. Part of me wants to laugh at this, and part of me realizes it’s actually not funny; you mean, ideological zealots don’t care who they hurt or what they destroy in the process of rounding up “dangerous” people? HAHAHAHAH what a huge exaggeration that has no relevance at all to current societal problems!

One tiny little dog does not approve of the giant robot in his neighborhood and hassles the Sentinel; remember this dog, he’ll be important later.

Jubilee takes out her frustrations on some space aliens at an arcade in the mall, and someday, when I watch this show with my daughter, I will probably have to explain what an arcade was. Jubes breaks the machine with her mutant powers, and tries to blow it off by being too cool for school, but naturally it doesn’t work. The arcade owner really should just chill; once the Sony Playstation comes out in a few years, electric-type mutants with poor impulse control are going to be the least of his problems.

“Dude, it was a Robocop cabinet, I did you a favor here.”

Jubilee runs out of the arcade and collides with Rogue and Storm, who were clearly on a shopping spree. In fact, considering the fact that they have about ten packages, I wonder how much of an allowance Xavier gives them for “personal expenses?” Meanwhile, Gambit is introduced flirting with the cashier at a stationary store; this wouldn’t be noteworthy, were it not for the fact that it’s so clear they’re both thinking about knocking boots that it’s actually kind of disturbing. Like, I have seen hentai less sexually charged than this scene between Gambit and this nameless cashier lady.

Sentinel bursts into the mall, causing havok, and captures Jubilee. Rogue and Storm take exception to this, and Storm changes in a flash of lightning from her normal clothes into her X-Men uniform. It bugs me a little bit whenever Storm does this, because it looks too much like magic, and mutant powers are not supposed to be magic. Technically she could be using lightning to incinerate her outside clothes to reveal her uniform underneath, but eh, I still don’t like it. Rogue’s initial response to all the mall shoppers running and screaming for their lives is “Must be sale,” said in a very deadpan way; this is why the entire world loves Rogue.

“Ah keep tellin’ ya Sugah, if you didn’t keep frying your clothes like that, we wouldn’t need to go to the mall once a damn week!”

“As if you don’t LOVE IT.”

“Ah do.”

Rogue and Storm retrieve Jubilee from the Sentinel, which involves Rogue decking it with an escalator, than flying up and punching the snot out of it. Jubilee is amazed that other people have powers more useful than breaking  VCRs, and seems to be somewhat in awe. Rogue eventually sends the Sentinel flying into the card shop where Gambit is busy flirting, nearly nailing him. I’m 90% sure she didn’t mean to do that, but I guess we’ll never know.

The Sentinel blasts Rogue and Storm out of commission for a little while, leaving Jubilee to run into Gambit. He actually catches her in his arms, making this the best thing to happen to Jubilee all day. Granted, her day so far has involved being betrayed by her foster parents, getting yelled at, and getting attacked repeatedly by a giant robot, so it’s kind of a low bar to clear, but still; Gambit has her in a princess carry. You cannot put a dollar price on that.

Suddenly this trip to the mall was not such a bad idea. Now, onward, to Dippin’ Dots!

Unfortunately, the version of this story where Gambit and Jubes have a romantic date at the mall will have to be continued in my fanfiction, because the Sentinel catches up and proceeds to blast the shit out of Gambit. When the Sentinel looks like it’s about to finish Gambit off, Jubilee belts the sentinel with her fireworks power. I like the fact that Jubilee’s first proper use of her powers is done to protect Gambit; that’s my girl.

Dear Sentinel 9872, this scan has revealed insufficient information. Please do a more thorough scan, and send all of your findings to my phone Mutant Control Agency Headquarters.

Jubilee bolts outside and runs into Cyclops, who easily takes out the Sentinel by using his optic blast to sever the Sentinel’s head from its body. Now forget you ever saw him do that, because if you remember, you’re going to spend all of Night of the Sentinels Part II wondering why he doesn’t just do that a few more times, and many Sentinel-related problems could be avoided. Jubilee succumbs to some knock-out gas the Sentinel emitted before its unfortunate decapitation, and blacks out. Scene shift to the Mansion, yaaay. The backgrounds in the mall were just too depressing.

Jubilee wakes up and destroys the lock on her door, since that’s what you do when people rescue you from a rampaging giant robot; break their stuff. She begins sneaking through the mansion, only to run into Beast, doing some kind of experiment. Beast muses aloud that it would be really fascinating if his experiment were to suddenly explode, so Jubilee wisely books it out of there. She then gets a view of Morph, the male character created for this show with Mystique’s shape-shifting power. Hmmph. I feel like I should have a lot to say about Morph, but I’m not sure what that is yet. Maybe I’ll wait until next episode…oh, wait, never mind.

Beast’s Log: –Still no progress creating an anti-dandruff shampoo that doesn’t dry out the scalp. Shampoo +Conditioner hybrid is still years of testing away.

Professor X and Jean appear, with the professor upset that the existence of the X-Men is going to be revealed to the world “like this.” Err, what were you expecting exactly, Charles? Did you expect to send out a press release that said “Today I’m proud to introduce my private militia, the X-Men,” and get favorable media coverage? It was always going to go down like this. Jean realizes that something is amiss, and the Professor puts out an alert that “an intruder” is afoot. Kind of rude to call Jubilee an intruder when she’s a guest, but I understand that it’s important to find her before she hurts herself.

“I always thought the public launch of the X-Men would be a joyous occasion. I had even hoped for…cake.”

“I can bake you a cake, Professor.”

“It’s not the same, Jean.”

In her zeal to get away, Jubilee accidentally crashes a Danger Room session meant for Gambit and Wolverine, which is definitely not something you want to be in the middle of without superhuman agility. Gambit tries to get her to safety, but he has Wolverine to deal with, who’s still oblivious to Jubes’ presence. Interesting choice to introduce Wolvie over halfway through the episode, by the way; you would think they would have put him front and center. Since Jubilee doesn’t know yet that the Danger Room is for training, and Wolverine is only pretending to beat up Gambit, she blasts Wolverine with her fireworks, sending him flying. Apparently, whenever Jubilee is protecting Gambit, her mutant powers increase by about 50%; that’s a girl with her priorities straight.

“Hah hah Wolverine, you just got beat up by a 90 pound girl!”

“You really believe she’s only 90 pounds, Bub? And I thought I was the one who just hit my head.”

Storm takes Jubilee outside for a heart-to-heart about who the X-Men are. Jubes is less than enthused about being taken to Xavier’s School for the Gifted, pointing out that “gifted” is a euphemism. That’s a really politically loaded comment that I’m afraid to touch, and I don’t mind admitting it. Storm tries to console Jubilee about her situation, but Jubes gets her bitch mode on for some reason and points out that the people at the mansion seem a little old for school, like they might have been left back because they failed. Wow! Is that how you treat someone who just rescued you, kiddo? I like you, but you pick all the wrong times to get vicious.

Storm then does a gratuitous display of her powers, allegedly to show Jubilee the importance of learning to control your abilities, but mostly to get back at Jubes for being a snotty little brat; no one would hold it against her.

“How big an allowance does Professor Xavier give you if you join the X-Men?”

“It’s $200 a week. In 1992 dollars.”

“WHERE DO I SIGN?”

Inside, everyone gathers in the war room, planning their next move. Wolverine asks if anyone’s called Jubes’ parents, and it’s important that he’s the one to ask that; when he finds out that they haven’t heard back from her family, he effectively becomes her parent, right then and there. All you need to do to get on Wolvie’s good side forever is blast him in the spleen with some explosive energy, he respects that sort of thing. Professor Xavier has somehow hacked information out of the disembodied Sentinel head (don’t ask), and found out that the Sentinel had Jubes’ information because it had access to her profile from the Mutant Control Agency.

The gang then discusses what the MCA is, and I feel like I need to quote this:

Cyclops: Professor Xavier, could the government be plotting against mutants?”

Xavier: No; the Mutant Control Agency is a private organization with occasional support from the government.

….

…Wow, what a critically important distinction, Professor. I’m sure Cyclops feels so much better now. Of course, it’s a little rich that anyone’s surprised that an organization called “The Mutant Control Agency” has an interest in controlling mutants, but that’s one of those things we just have to shrug off. It would make a lot more sense if it were called The Mutant Outreach Program or something, but we gotta make some allowances for this being a kids cartoon.

While the X-Men are all busy discussing the MCA and its “hidden” agenda, Jubilee hops a bus to go see her foster parents. Great security there, X-Men, but I guess hacking that giant Sentinel head was pretty distracting. Gyrich from the MCA is asking Jubes’ parents about her friends, curious if the X-Men are among them, but they claim not to know about Jubes friends because she’s only been with them “a year.”

Your kid has lived with you for an entire year, and you still don’t know who any of her friends are? What the hell is wrong with you people? I know I’m supposed to have some sympathy for these folks, being caught in a dangerous situation they were totally unprepared for, but damn, are they making it hard to care about them. Jubilee then promptly gets captured by the Sentinels, because without Gambit there to motivate her, her powers are still weaksauce.

Back at the mansion, Professor X comes up with a plan to sneak into the Mutant Control Agency and destroy their files, so that hundreds of mutants will get their anonymity back and hopefully be safe from the Sentinels. Gambit suggests doing it himself, and hey, that’s a great idea! And no, I’m not just saying that because I obviously want to marry him like his character. Gambit is a professional thief; getting in and out of places without being seen is his specialty. Even if the Sentinels were to show up, he’d pull some ruse to distract them and then get away, the other thing he’s really good at.

But no, Professor Xavier decides that for a stealth breaking-and-entry mission, he does not want the free services of the best thief in the known world, but instead wants a team of Beast, Wolverine, Morph, and Storm; Storm, the woman who cannot go five feet without announcing her presence. You know, Cyclops is going to get hammered later for how this mission goes south, but really, this was all the Professor’s fault from the very beginning; he put lives in danger the minute he refused to send in the best qualified person.

I think the implication is supposed to be that Xavier doesn’t full trust Gambit yet, whereas he does trust the others, but still; stupid, stupid decision.

Cyclops confronts the professor about his concerns about the mission, namely that attacking a civilian organization is not the way to teach people that mutants are not to be feared. It’s really interesting that we’re already getting this schism between Cyclops in the Professor this early on, although it’s never fuly developed here the way it is in the comics. The Professor really has no response to Cyclops, so he cops out with “we have no choice,” and leaves it at that. I kind of feel like all of Professor X’s terrible decisions in the entire series were front-loaded into this one episode, because I don’t think I’d remember him as fondly if he were normally like this.

“Look, all I’m saying is, if you want people to learn to like us and even trust us, this is not the way. This is not how we win hearts and minds.”

“That’s an excellent point, Scott. My well-reasoned counterpoint to that is that I am the boss of you, and you will do what I say.”

The crew finally catches on to the fact that Jubilee is missing, and Wolverine decides to go after her, despite the fact that he’s just been assigned the MCA mission. Cyclops and Wolverine have power struggle/testosterone spewing competition, then Wolvie storms off; if you make taking a shot every time this happens part of your X-Men:TAS drinking game, you’ll probably have a very good time, but that’ll be the end of your liver.

Mission time! For some reason, everybody’s tagging along on this mission (except Jean and Prof. X) even though only Wolverine, Storm, Beast and Morph are supposed to go inside. En route to the MCA complex, the group has an interesting discussion about what makes mutants the way they are. One of Beast’s suggestions is “television!” which is delightfully meta; see, it’s a good thing this program that you’re watching is teaching you how to deal with being a mutant, because it might be turning you into one. Discussions like this, by the way, are what put this show a cut above typical action cartoon fare, at least in my mind.

Wolverine catches up with the rest of the team, having lost Jubilee’s trail. He sheepishly says that he “got bit by a dog, too,” and AHA! Remember that little dog from the beginning of the episode, the one who was hassling the Sentinel like “stay way from my house, dude!” That dog bit Wolverine, apex predator; canine has balls of steel. Great guard dog, 14/10.

You know who has really good night vision and wouldn’t need to use binoculars to scope the joint out? GAMBIT.

Storm whips up some clouds to lower visibility (I guess she has her uses), and the guys head into the complex. There’s an interesting little bit where Morph gets thrown over the fence, then uses his shapeshifting power to impersonate a guard and take him out. What’s neat is when Morph copies the guard’s appearance, he also copies the weapon the guard is using, then uses said weapon to shoot the guard. Then when he shifts back, the weapon disappears.

This is interesting to comics geeks because this isn’t how Mystique’s shape-shifting works; she can copy anything, but it’s cosmetic when it comes to devices that people may be carrying. If Morph can make his copied objects functional, that actually makes his powerset more like a cross between Multiple Man and Mystique, but he’s going to die in about ten minutes, so I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

Storm electrocutes a guard (nice job being gentle on the puny humans there, team), and Wolverine uses his claws to destroy the door inside. Beast already lifted the key from one of the guards, meaning there was no need to destroy the door, but look; Wolverine needs an excuse to use his claws on something. It’s actually a bit of a problem for this show that Wolverine is constantly brandishing his claws but can’t do much with them, because if he used them on a person, things would very rapidly get too bloody for the Y-7 rating.

“I can’t decide which one I love more; nineteenth-century poetry, or assault and battery.”

“No one’s asking you to decide, Bub.”

The inside team encounters a laser trap. Beast quotes nineteenth-century poet Coventry Patmore, of all people, then uses his agility to disarm the trap. I’m curious what went on behind-the-scenes here; who on the staff was a big enough fan of Coventry Patmore to include his poetry in an episode of X-Men, but was still okay with Beast’s dismissive quip “A minor poet for a minor obstacle,”? Maybe someone had to read Patmore in college and this was their revenge? In any case, it’s delightfully incongruous with the rest of the episode, like about 50% of everything Beast does.

Outside, Cyclops is worrying how the inside team is doing, wishing he had some way of keeping tabs on what they were doing. Gee, if only there were someone on the team who had the power to keep everyone in constant telepathic contact, that would be mighty convenient. Come to think of it, aren’t there two people with telepathic abilities, both of whom stayed home for no apparent reason? At some point, you have to wonder if Professor X is trying to sabotage this mission.

Morph says “It looks like clear sailing from here,” so of course a bunch of gun-toting guards are just waiting to ambush the X-Men. This is why I’m not too broken up about Morph’s imminent death, by the way; who but a moron tempts fate like that? Plus, he teased Gambit not once but twice during this episode, and that’s not acceptable.

Storm opens the door, enemies await on the other side, and we’re done with this episode! Next time, we’ll see the conclusion of this storyline, and commiserate a little more about how everything bad that has ever happened is actually Professor Xavier’s fault.

 

Catching up on Steins;Gate 0

I haven’t been too enamored of any of the Summer anime I’ve seen so far, so this seems like a good time to dip into some things I’ve been meaning to watch for a while. Steins;Gate 0 started airing in the spring, and even though I’m a huge fan of the original series, I didn’t watch it. I didn’t watch it for a kind of stupid reason, now that I think about it.

See this show is an alternate timeline from the original, and I didn’t feel as tempted to watch the show as I would have if it were “canon,” so to speak. But now that I’m watching Steins;Gate again, I realize that making these kind of distinctions between alternate timelines and canon timelines is kind of against the entire spirit of the show. On this show, alternate timelines happen; even when the world line switches, you know the alternate reality is playing out in it’s entirety. In the primary timeline, Makise Kurisu is dead, but Okarin gets to visit a timeline where she’s still alive; the Kurisu in that timeline is very, very important, even if she doesn’t exist in the main reality.

At the end of Steins;Gate, Okabe Rintarou goes back and time and manages to just barely save Kurisu from being murdered. Steins;Gate 0 is the story of what would have happened if he’d failed. I didn’t think I wanted to see a world where Okarin was mourning the woman he loved, but it’s really interesting how well this works as a point of divergence.

The brilliance of the original series is that Okarin goes from being a fake mad scientist (pretend name Houoin Kyouma) who says things like “the organization is out to get me!” and pretends to have vast science-based power over reality, to being the real thing, without ever really meaning to. By the end of the show, Okabe Rintarou is actually more powerful, due to his ability to influence time, than Houoin Kyouma, the character he invented, ever was. He successfully becomes what he always pretended to be, almost by accident. However, in this timeline, once he fails to save Kurisu, he throws Houoin Kyouma and any pretensions of being a powerful figure away; how can he possibly be powerful, if he can’t even save Kurisu from dying at the age of 17?

What we get with Steins;Gate 0 is a version of Okarin who’s not only discarded his alter-ego, but is embarrassed by the very idea of Houoin Kyouma. Having real experience with tinkering with time and causality, he knows too much to boast about what it might be like to have that kind of power. He’s also suffering from PTSD due to everything he went through in the original series, on top of losing Kurisu, so he’s in a very rough place overall.

I can’t see Okabe and Moeka together without thinking of that one brutal scene in the original where he nearly beat her senseless; fortunately, Okabe seems to have the same problem, so it’s not like that aspect of the series has been forgotten. Okabe knows he’s gone to some very dark places, even if none of it technically happened from anyone else’s perspective.

What’s great about it is that I think the viewer really wants Okarin to don his trademark lab coat, make a cool pose and do his patented mad scientist laugh; maybe even say his catchphrase “El. Psy. Congroo.” very seriously, despite the fact that it’s gibberish. And I think he will again, someday. But for now, he can’t do it; the part of him that was fanciful and goofy died with Kurisu. I think the series is ultimately going to be about getting that part of himself back, even though that’s not his goal.

Kurisu does have a presence in the show, both in alternate timelines, and in the form of an AI named Amadeus, based on her memories. Amadeus is important, because I think a version of Steins;Gate with no Kurisu at all would just be too depressing, but therein lies the rub; she’s a crutch for the audience, just as she is for Okabe himself. As much as Maho, a likable new character introduced this season, warns Okabe otherwise, we want to believe that Amadeus is somehow the real thing; that she has real feelings, and she’ll fall in love with Okabe all over again. Introducing a Kurisu AI is experimenting with time travel in a different way: if you really could save someone’s memories in a computer, wouldn’t talking to them be like going back in time to when they were alive?

I didn’t realize until I started watching again how much I’d missed the intelligence of Steins;Gate. There are other anime with intelligent scripts, but there’s something special about the way the show toys with our fears and hopes for the future. In fact, Steins;Gate may be a little too intelligent for me, because I have a helluva time figuring out what’s going on. I didn’t really thoroughly understand what happened in the first season until I rewatched, and the same thing will probably happen here. After catching up on the first cour, I said to my husband. “I’m so happy. I’m so confused, but I’m so happy.”

My face whenever I’m trying to figure out what just happened in Steins;Gate, only with more drooling.

Now that DARLING in the FRANXX is over, I’d like to pick up S:G 0 as the new show to write too-long blog posts about. This is a dangerous proposition, since I never know what the hell is going on in S;G, and writing about it at length is going to reveal the extent of my ignorance. After all, I was the person who, during the first series, predicted that Mayuri was an evil mastermind. Granted, I was half-kidding, but still; I was a little off the mark there.

Speaking of Mayuri, she’s busy rolling with the punches, throwing parties and making costumes for everybody like none of the World War III stuff going on is a big deal. It’s implied that Mayuri knows basically what happened in the previous series, but not the details, and this would not work with many characters. With Mayuri though, Okabe could have said “Once I made a time machine that involved sending text messages to the past, except I changed time so that you died, so I had to undo all the messages I ever sent and go back in time to before I invented the time machine,” and Mayuri would just nod and say “Okay!”and not require further explanation. I’m still not convinced if Mayuri is kind of stupid or really, really, really smart, and I think that’s the point.

Suzuha and Kagari, wondering how it is that there’s enough demand for CRT TVs (even in 2010) that they can both have jobs in a CRT TV shop. I’m not sure how I feel about Kagari yet, but I don’t think you can watch this show without loving Suzuha.

So yeah, I feel a little dumb for not picking up this show in the spring like I should have, but what can I say: mistakes were made. I watched Uma Musume for some reason, so my judgment regarding what shows to start at the beginning of any given season is a little suspect. (Not to suggest that Uma Musume was horrible, because it wasn’t, but it’s still no Steins;Gate.) Now I just need to catch up on Full Metal Panic and I can count myself among the people who actually watch good anime again…at least, until next season.

Blogging X-Men: The Animated Series

X-Men: The Animated Series is not anime, and even the most vocal proponents of widening the definition of the term would not label it as such. It’s an American cartoon, and arguably doesn’t belong on a blog called Otakusphere, which is mostly about anime most of the time. However, X-Men:TAS was kind of like my gateway drug to everything otaku: discovering the X-Men cartoon led to a passion for American comics, which led to a passion for anime and manga, which led to me becoming…well, me. If I hadn’t become a huge X-Men fan at the age of 11, chances are I would be a vastly different person today.

Maybe I would be a better person. I mean, maybe if I hadn’t wasted so much time with cartoons, comics and anime, I could have become a doctor, found a cure for cancer, and already gone down in history as one of the most important people to have ever lived. Maybe I should be pissed as hell at the X-Men for keeping me from sundry achievements in medicine, astronomy, or theoretical physics. Instead, I became the kind of person who writes thousands of words about cartoons on the internet, and I think I should probably just go with that at this point.

I tried to have my cake and eat it too by blogging the 2011 X-Men anime; it was anime and X-Men at the same time, score! Unfortunately, it was a pretty terrible show. Still, I was probably harder on it than I should have been because I was mad at it for the unforgivable crime of not being the X-Men show I really wanted to write about. So I apologize, X-Men anime; you were kind of bad, but I could have been nicer to you.

Now I want to cut the nonsense and go through my childhood obsession show episode by episode, which I think I’ve really wanted to do for a long time without consciously thinking about it. This will probably be like my Tomb Raider project, something I dip into from time to time when I’m taking a break from anime.

Let’s start by going down the cast list before diving into the show proper, so I don’t drag the individual episode posts off-topic by waxing poetic about certain characters. It’s funny that I think of this roster as being the “classic” X-Men line-up, when it’s really not at all; in fact, to comic fans at the time, this team probably seemed like a slap in the face. Where were X-Men stalwarts like Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Kitty Pryde? Why was Gambit included, when he was only created about ten minutes before the show aired? Even so, for better or for worse, I’ll always think of this team as my X-Men.

Cyclops

Character created: 1963

Power(s): Constant beam of concussive energy issuing from his eyes.

Voice Actor: Norm Spencer

At the time, I didn’t care much for Cyclops; he was just a boring authority figure. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate him. He’s usually a competent leader, but suffers from the deep-seated fear that if he ever screws up, Professor X might just drop him back in the orphanage where he found him.  He loves the professor as a father figure, but on another level he resents the hell out of him; on the show, he never seems to realize this. In the comics, he absolutely did.

The comics-version of Cyclops is one of the few characters who went through genuine character development, without said development being constantly compromised by resetting him back to the status quo. Cyclops, towards the end of his life, had changed dramatically from the person he was introduced as. Unfortunately, he’d changed into a person I didn’t like at all, but that doesn’t take away from the achievement that he was a Marvel Comics character who actually (and believably) changed as a person due to his experiences. He’s dead now in the comics, but his entire character arc represents a singular achievement; until they inevitably revive him and screw it all up again, that is.

It’s nostalgic to see this innocent version of Cyclops, basically a big Boy Scout troop leader who’s trying so hard to please his adoptive father and his girlfriend that he can’t see that he’s grinding himself down in the process. In the world of the animated series, Cyclops seems to agree with the Professor’s principles, whereas in the comics (I almost said “real life”), he finds that he doesn’t. In a way that makes Cyclops problem more subtle on the show than it was on the page; the problem isn’t the ideas he’s being forced to represent, its the fact that he never was given a choice in the first place.

Wolverine

Character Created: 1975

Power(s): Enhanced agility and senses, super-accelerated healing, claws protruding from hands; skeleton bonded with super-strong metal, which is not a natural power but the result of tampering by Those Evil Government Types.

Voice Actor: Cal Dodd

Another character who’s grown on me tremendously over the years. At the time, it bugged me that Wolverine was so obviously the star and we were all supposed to like him; it annoyed me how much screentime he got, and I wished everyone else would get equal time in the sun. I didn’t really care for his gruff attitude, and I thought that having knives come out the back of your hands was a boring superpower; to be fair, it still is.

Once you crack the Wolverine code, and realize that Logan is the most sensitive of all the X-Men– even moreso than teenaged Jubilee– then he suddenly becomes much more interesting. He’s been deeply scarred by losing practically everyone he’s ever cared about, but his memory has been so tampered with over time that he’s not even sure who those people were. He’s always mourning someone, but he doesn’t always know who it is. Both in the comics and on the show, Wolverine’s stories have tackled surprisingly complex themes about identity; if you as a person are the sum of all your previous actions, how can you even know who you are if memory is fallible?

I think the X-Men movies to date missed a lot of opportunities to take advantage of the strengths of the comics, but one area where they absolutely succeeded was with Wolverine: casting, attitude, etc. And Logan is one of the best superhero films ever made, to the point of not feeling like a superhero film at all. Wolverine’s cinema presence is having an odd effect on me though; I never found cartoon Wolverine attractive in the slightest, but now that I associate him with Hugh Jackman, I’m finding early ’90s Wolverine to be oddly sexy, and it’s weird. I really need this to stop, because everyone and their Mom knows that Gambit is supposed to be the sexy one.

Rogue

Character Created: 1981

Power(s): “Life-sucking” touch that sucks out other people’s strength, memory, and superpowers, either temporarily or permanently; flight, super-strength and near-invincibility have been permanently stolen from Carol Danvers, AKA Ms. Marvel.

Voice Actor: Lenore Zann

Everyone loves Rogue. You can tell even the animators loved Rogue, because whenever she’s onscreen, the art quality seems to go up by about 30 percent. Everything about the show will look dull and kind of muddy, then Rogue flies into the room, all crisp linework, and suddenly, it almost looks like an anime.

Rogue was my favorite character for a long time, even though as a kid, I really didn’t understand the nature of her problem. I remember thinking it was weird that she complains that her power doesn’t allow her to touch anyone, whereas she touches people all the time; that’s what her gloves are for! It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that Rogue’s real problem was that she couldn’t have intimacy. I guess this is what happens when you discover X-Men before you discover sex.

The animated series version of Rogue has a bit of a problem though, because she’s much, much more open to using her life-sucking power than she is in the comics. This changes the nature of the character a bit, because it’s hard to believe that she deeply hates her superpower when she uses it all the time. The problem is, if she didn’t use it, then the audience wouldn’t really know who Rogue is supposed to be. I think Rogue’s issues, and her moral issues with stealing other people’s powers and memories, were on the cusp of being too dark for a kids show to deal with. They tried admirably though, as the Ms. Marvel flashback episode demonstrates.

One thing that used to really bug me as a kid was that Rogue would always get thrown around, run over by trucks, etc., just because she was the only one who could survive that kind of punishment. I hated seeing my favorite girl get pummeled just to show off how strong the enemy was. It still kind of bugs me, but now I understand that one of the reason that happens is that Rogue intentionally takes hits for the rest of the team; at the time, it seemed like all the villains were just being really mean to her. Stop throwing Rogue into things, meanies! What has she ever done to you? Besides possibly stolen your memories and powers, that is?

Storm

Character Created: 1975

Power(s): Ability to manipulate the weather, which manifests as wind-riding (flight), throwing lightning, making snow, and doing basically whatever the writer can think of that is even vaguely weather-related.

Voice Actors: Iona Morris, later Alison Sealy-Smith

There are almost as many versions of Storm as there are comic books published. You have original, Earth-Mother Storm, Saavy Thief Storm, Megalomaniac Storm, Competent Leader Storm, Vicious Brawler Storm, etc. She’s a character who’s gone through a lot of changes over her publishing history, but with much less consistency than Cyclops. When Chris Claremont was writing her back in the ’80s, she had a definitive personality; ever since then, every writer has put their own spin on her. You never really know what you’re going to get with Storm these days.

Almost by necessity, the cartoon goes with the most boring version of Storm; naive, Earth-Mother Storm. This is because if she was shown as being as smart and competent a field leader as she often is in the comics, then she’d be taking over Cyclops’ role. Plus, her backstory– the stuff that makes up the core of Storm’s personality– actually was too dark for the cartoon to deal with. We’ll get to this in more detail in episode 4, but basically, we got a severely watered-down version of Storm on this show because the real one just wouldn’t have worked on a program rated Y-7.

Even Storm’s skin color is toned down; on the show, she could pass for a white woman who just got back from Hawaii and has a great tan. It was a little bit of a shock when I read the comics and realized that Storm was actually black. From our modern perspective, it’s  appalling that they changed Storm’s character design to make her more appealing to white people, but I think it’s better to shrug this off as a bad decision and let it go; it was 25 years ago. We have enough to worry about with racial representation in today’s programming.

Even with all these limitations, the TV character still has some charm. I love when she gets snarky, because it’s such a contrast to her typically grandiose way of speaking. But it wasn’t until I read the comics that I realized why Storm was actually an interesting character, as opposed to a boring character with interesting powers.

Beast

Character Created: 1963

Power(s): Enhanced agility, with enlarged hands and feet. Technically his blue fur and ape-like appearance isn’t a mutation, but let’s not get into that. Also genius-level intellect, although it’s never been clear if that should really count as a mutation.

Voice Actor: George Buza

One part mad scientist, one part Frankenstein’s monster, one part loopy English professor who really wants you to do well on the exam; I love this version of Beast, full-stop. He’s like a blast of pure joy whenever he’s on screen. In the comics they tried to give him this existential angst, and it was usually more annoying than interesting. Even on the show, he still had a dark, brooding side, but they didn’t overplay it the way they did in the comics.

What’s really fun about going back to this show as an adult is getting all the literary references centered around Beast that went completely over my head as a kid. One thing that sticks out in my mind is when Rogue and Gambit go to visit him in prison during Season One, they bring him a copy of You Can’t Go Home Again, to which Beast responds “Thomas Wolfe; an old friend.” Any old friend of Thomas Wolfe’s is a friend of mine!

As much as I like the character, I find I have very little to say about him in this incarnation; he’s just wonderful. Wonderful things are self-evidently wonderful, you don’t really have to explain it.

Gambit

Character Created: 1990

Power(s): Ability to kinetically charge objects so they’ll explode, enhanced agility, some kind of hypnotic tomfoolery that the show wisely ignored completely.

Voice Actors: Chris Potter, later Tony Daniels

I’m going to break with protocol and give away a closely-guarded secret here. If you know any female, any woman at all, who was on the cusp of puberty in 1992, she was in love with Gambit. Like, if you gave her a form and asked her to fill in her sexuality, if she’s being honest she would ignore the boxes for “straight” and “gay” and add a box called “Gambit,” then check that box three times.

I didn’t have relationships until relatively late in life, and up to this point, I have allowed people to believe it was because my standards were very high; in reality, the reason why I didn’t date for so many years was because I never ran into anyone who looked sufficiently like Gambit to make it worth the bother.

Why was I so into Gambit? Why were so many of the girls I knew into Gambit? I think it’s because he’s kind of like the archetype of the mysterious, handsome guy who knows a lot of stuff you don’t know. Adults often find his character grating for just that reason, but when you’re 11, you’ve never seen that kind of character before, it’s still exciting to you.

Gambit was another character where the show wasn’t able to explore his darker aspects, but unlike Storm, I think this actually worked in his favor, making the cartoon version the superior incarnation of the character. The trick with Gambit is he’s supposed to have some really dark stuff in his past, and oh, if only the X-Men knew what it was, they’d be forced to kick him out in disgust. But the moment you reveal that stuff, if it really is dark and sinister, he stops being viable as a hero; if it’s not dark enough, then the audience feels lied to. The comics successfully threaded this needle until about 1995, then after that most of what they did with Gambit was just embarrassing. Even now, most writers have no clue what to do with him.

A part of me will always love Gambit the way he appears here, An 11-Year-Old Girl’s Introduction to Sex. I have changed over time, and am no longer strictly Gambit-sexual (I also found a place in my heart for Squall Leonhart from Final Fantasy VIII), but this cartoon character with an odd obsession with playing cards and the color pink will always be my first love…I mean, my first cartoon crush. Same thing?

Jubilee

Character Created: 1989

Power(s): Ability to discharge brightly-colored energy from her hands that functions similarly to Cyclops’ eye lasers. Ability to make ’90s slang sound even more cringeworthy and painful than it actually was at the time. Ability to be a brat.

Voice Actor: Alyson Court

If Wolverine was the obvious star, Jubilee was the obvious Point-of-View character for the young audience, and I resented her for it. It was so obvious that I was supposed to relate to Jubilee, when I vastly preferred Rogue, Gambit, or Beast. I think her dialogue, peppered liberally with early-90’s slang, sounded incredibly dated even at the time, but that could just be my memory playing tricks on me.

That said, Jubilee has a lot going for her as a character. She took over the role that Kitty Pryde had in the ’80s as the X-Men’s resident teen sidekick, but while Kitty had to be annoyingly perfect at just about everything (at least to me), Jubilee is refreshingly average. She’s not supposed to be gorgeous, or brilliant, or particularly powerful as a mutant, but she knows what she wants and goes after it with considerable aplomb. She also has about zero tolerance for bullshit, something not true of the more romantic Kitty; as an orphan on the streets, she had it rough way before she found out she was a mutant.

Like Storm, Jubilee was basically turned white for the cartoon; you would never know that she was supposed to be Chinese. However, unlike Storm, this was true of Jubilee in the comics until pretty recently, so at least it was consistent.

Right now I kind of feel bad for Jubilee, because she’s been a horrendously abused character. First she was kicked off the X-Men on to a satellite team where she didn’t really belong, then she did nothing for about a decade, then she lost her powers, then she got turned into a vampire (seriously, a vampire), and God knows what else. I think they restored Jubilee to normal recently (meaning, she no longer drinks blood and is back to shooting fireworks out of her hands), but to say she’s been through the ringer would be an understatement.

Even though I wasn’t fond of her initially, it’s nice to see Jubes here as she was meant to be: energetic, bratty, and really excited about being part of a superhero team. To me, the most interesting thing about Jubilee is the fact that Wolverine was (and is) a much better father to her than he ever was to any of his actual children, but this show takes place before Wolverine’s kids were invented, so we’ll have to put that aside for now.

Jean Grey

Character Created: 1963

Powers: Telekinesis and Telepathy. Ability to become a giant, invincible firebird flying in space, but that may be from an alien possessing her, or maybe it was really her all along? It’s complicated.

Voice Actor: Catherine Disher

It has recently come to my attention that I have no clue who Jean Grey is.

On this show, she’s very feminine and altruistic; definitely the Mom of the team. However, for most of her character’s history, she wasn’t like this in the comics. When Stan and Jack invented her in the ’60s, she was Stan Lee’s typical “pretty girl” character; practically indistinguishable from Sue Storm or any of Lee’s other female creations. When Claremont reinvented her in the ’70s, it was as a fiery redhead, with special emphasis on the “fiery” part. The character died in 1980, then after she was revived years later, writers tried to write her kind of like Claremont had written her, only a little less fiery. (At least, that’s what I think; to be completely honest, I haven’t read the early issues of X-Factor yet.)

In the early 2000’s, written by Grant Morrison, she was a brainy, aggressive genius, who was very interesting but seemed to come out of nowhere. Then she died again, and they’ve since brought her back, as recently as a few months ago. I have no idea what her personality is like now, because I’m not buying X-Men Red: it’s not happening, Marvel.

I’m kind of fond of the motherly, calm version of Jean we get on the show, even if she’s not really consistent with her comic counterpart, because at least I know who she’s supposed to be. Towards the end of the show they tried to play up the “fiery redhead” angle a little more, and it mostly just felt forced. TAS Jean is like your Mom, or rather like a mom on a 1950’s sitcom, and trying to give her an edge just doesn’t work.

One thing to note about Jean is that her Jim Lee-designed costume made the worst transition from page to screen. Her ’90s outfit was just some strange aerobics-type getup, but when Jim Lee was drawing the X-Men, everyone looked so damned gorgeous it didn’t even matter what they were wearing. On the show it just looked dumb, even when it was on-model, which wasn’t often.

Professor X

Character Created: 1963

Power(s): Extremely powerful telepathy. Technically has the ability to use mind control, although he never does it because if he did, the X-Men would have no enemies and it would be a very boring series.

Voice Actor: Cedric Smith

Just like TAS Gambit and Beast are my preferred versions of those characters, the cartoon Professor Xavier will always be the real professor to me. As much as I enjoyed Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of the character (especially in Logan), I felt like his Xavier never quite escaped the shadow of Captain Picard. When I think “Professor X,” I hear Cedric Smith’s voice.

A lot of the character’s appeal can be pinned on Smith’s performance, which was serious and intense without quite crossing the line to sounding pompous; well, okay, sometimes he sounded pompous, but I’m pretty sure it was intentional. But I think the cartoon distilled what was good about Xavier without getting caught up in his domineering, paternalistic baggage. He was commanding, and a father figure, but generally always seemed like a nicer person to me than his comic counterpart.

What was really striking to me (though I only realized this recently), is how much of his dialogue on the show takes the form of questions. Xavier is supposed to be very intelligent, but sometimes his arrogance undermines this; on the show, he had the humility to always know how much he didn’t know. I wish his comic version was as perceptive.

In the name of “progress,” the comics have ditched Xavier and his dream of human-mutant peace; I think that was a terrible mistake. I have no interest in a group of paramilitary fighters with superpowers who grumble about how “naive” Xavier was with his dream of coexistence; I get enough ideological terrorists in the real world, thanks.

Where the X-Men are concerned, my happy place will always be a relatively small team, holed up in a nice mansion in Westchester County, with Professor Xavier at the helm. If I think the X-Men were more likable and interesting in this incarnation than they are currently, it’s undoubtedly part nostalgia, but it’s not only that. To me, for all it’s flaws– often hokey dialogue, limited animation and all– this show really captured what the X-Men are supposed to be about. I wish they were still like this, but if I can’t have that, at least I’ll always have this show.

Next time I feel like writing a silly amount of words about the X-Men, we’ll tackle the pilot episode of the series, and how you know a kids cartoon means business when they kill off a character in Episode 1.

DARLING in the FRANXX, Episode 24

A few missteps aside, I feel like this stayed exactly the show I thought it was all along: all about the beauty of life, specifically the continuation of life through sex, conception and childbirth, with a thin veneer of shiny mecha antics. I know a lot of viewers wanted something else from it, and I can respect that; but for me, this was in my wheelhouse from moment one.

Hiro and Zero Two go on their “honeymoon,” traveling through deep space toward the VIRM homeworld. This is not as unusual a honeymoon as you might think; my honeymoon was spent exploring different aquariums. Space has a lot in common with the bottom of the ocean floor.

They don’t have very much to say to one another, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, since they’ve merged (their metaphorical marriage), they’re supposed to be communicating on a deeper level than speech. If neither Hiro or Zero Two says much of interest in this episode, beyond “I love you,” it’s because the real communication going on is supposed to be stuff they couldn’t put into words anyway. I get that, but I think this could have been communicated to the audience better. If this show had been 26 episodes instead of 24, we could have spent a whole episode exploring what it’s like to be inside their heads, but as it stands, we just have to assume the two of them have a rich inner life that we’re not seeing.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, we see the lead-up to Kokoro having her baby, in which Useless Nana manages to actually be helpful for once. See, the future is so bright that even the crappy Nana is being nice! Then the baby’s born and I kind of lose it for a moment.

Of course, thanks to anime genetics, the baby looks exactly like Kokoro, even fresh out of the womb. I wonder what’s that like; when my girl was born, she didn’t look anything like me, and still doesn’t; she takes after my husband, full stop. Sometimes I think that the main reason I want to have another baby someday is because I might have one that looks like me. Selfish? Yes, but everything about having kids is this weird mix of extreme selfishness and selflessness.

I’m trying to imagine what it must be like to see a baby for the first time, as Mitsuru does, when you’ve never seen pictures of babies, or even knew about the concept of a baby until recently. Then again, even in real life, I think parents don’t really understand what a baby truly is until it’s born. It’s one thing to have an idea of this cute little thing, but when you first see it, those impossibly tiny hands and fingers, you realize that you never had a clue what you were in for. So I guess Mitsuru’s experience is pretty universal, really.

Hiro and Zero Two are all set two destroy the VIRM home planet, but VIRM has a trick; using Hiro’s humanity (since he’s still at least partially human), they manage to lull him into unconsciousness and screw up the bond between him and Zero Two. The solution to this problem comes very close to being a Care Bears Solution: everyone links hands and thinks about how much they love Hiro and Zero Two, aided by the statue of Zero Two’s body that now serves as a conduit between worlds. What stops it from being a Care Bears Solution, to me anyway, is that it’s Ai, Kokoro and Mitsuru’s daughter, that jars Hiro back to reality. Ai, and the entire process that transpired to create her, is basically the antithesis to VIRM’s entire program; it makes sense to me that she– perhaps the very idea of her– would be the trigger that would kick VIRM out of Hiro’s head.

So Hiro and Zero Two transform one last time, their final offspring, and destroy the VIRM home planet. Of course VIRM isn’t destroyed forever, because bad ideas can’t be destroyed forever, but they’re set back for long enough that our crew on Earth has time to get a foothold, which is all we need.

Back on Earth, everyone’s going crazy having babies, and I think it’s important to stop and look at this for a moment. It would be really easy to misinterpret the message of this show as “have lots of babies, that fixes everything!” but that’s clearly not exactly what’s going on. It’s critically important that Ikuno plays a crucial role in helping humanity get back on it’s feet. She doesn’t have a child, probably couldn’t if she wanted to at this point, and it doesn’t matter; there would be no future without her. Similarly, Zorome and Miku haven’t had kids a decade after the main conflict ends, and for all we know, they never will; it doesn’t matter one way or the other, because they’re contributing to the future too, teaching the children.

I can understand, given all the positive imagery of children and babies in this episode, how it might seem like a kind of pro-childbirth propaganda (especially in light of Japan’s declining birthrate.) But I really don’t think the point is that everyone should have children; not everyone in Squad 13 does. What everyone does do, is pitches in to help make the world a better place for their friends. Kokoro does it through motherhood, Ikuno does it through science, Miku does it through teaching, and Futoshi does it through cooking. Goro does it through exploring, letting the human thirst for knowledge overpower his fear.

I just don’t think the creators are saying “Hey, all you people out there who aren’t making babies? You should get on that! Babies rock!” What they are doing (and here I go putting words in other peoples mouths), at least from my vantage point, is asking a question: what are you doing to touch the future? Are you contributing to making a better world for everyone, like the Squad 13 kids are? Or are you just kind of doing whatever makes you happy at the moment? Are you like one of the “Adults” from episode 10, plugged into the pleasure machine, happy to stay there until the battery runs out?

And that again is an oversimplification, because it’s not everyone’s responsibility to save the world. For some people, just taking care of themselves, getting through the day in one piece, is enough of a challenge, and that should be respected. But if we want the world to get better, at least some people have to be committed to making the world a better place; it’s not going to happen on it’s own.

I think you could also interpret this show as being a counterpoint to the kind of transhumanism depicted in cyberpunk works like Ghost in the Shell; illustrating that it’s our primal biological functions, like eating and making babies, that define us as human. But that’s not quite right either; at the end, Zero Two and Hiro have both gone through tremendous physical changes (and ZT was never really human in the first place), but Ichigo believes that they were “more human than anybody else.” In Darling in the Franxx, the definition of human doesn’t revolve around whether or not you can reproduce, or if you have pale skin instead of red or blue.

As an aside, I said last time that maybe Ikuno would hook up with Naomi, and that does seem to be what happens. There’s no evidence that they’re lovers, but they’re clearly close. Ikuno gets perhaps the saddest ending of all the kids, but at least she’s not alone.

It’s also worth noting that the kids (well, they’re not kids anymore, but whatever) give up using Magma energy, and seem to commit to renewable energy. I think that’s a pretty transparent message about how humanity should abandon fossil fuels and find other ways of generating power. A lot of the stuff in this episode isn’t exactly the way it appears, but hey, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes showing fictional characters giving up on using the remains of dinosaurs to light their houses is a way of saying “You know, you should really considering giving up using the remains of dinosaurs as a way to light your house.”

Anyway, I don’t know if I’m ever going to have another baby. It cost us 6K to have the first one, and that’s with insurance: I think, for some reason, one night in the newborn ICU wasn’t covered, so we were stuck paying that off for a while. It’s become prohibitively expensive to have children, and from what I understand, it’s worse in Japan than it is here in the U.S. (though that isn’t the only reason for the declining birthrate). So even if the creators of Darling really do want everybody to go out and have a bunch of babies, it’s not going to work unless they start writing some checks. (Maybe that’s what the new Trigger Patreon is for?)

Whether or not I have another child is dependent on a lot of factors, only some of which are financial, and I guess that’s not really the point. What’s important is, am I living a life worthy of Zero Two– or, more importantly, of Ikuno? That’s what this show is leaving me with, and for that, I’m thankful. It was hardly a perfect show, and it would have likely benefited greatly from having a few more episodes to play around with. But I think it’s heart was in the right place; maybe a tiny fetal heartbeat, not quite strong yet, but clearly there.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 12

In the final episode, we learn that LLENN is an evil genius who’s just been hiding it well this whole time. The fact that she knew that mocking Sword Art Online was perhaps the one way to really push Pito’s buttons and get her to lose her cool shows just how good she is at manipulating people when she wants to. We can only hope that she continues to use her powers for good instead of evil, and the devastating loss of the second P-chan doesn’t drive her to a life of crime.

Just like the Elder Wand will not kill it’s owner, P-Chan II will self-destruct before shooting LLENN. Oh God, I just made a Harry Potter reference, please let this be a one-time thing.

I like the fact that the final battle was relatively short, giving the story lots of time to wrap up outside the game. There was one thing I didn’t understand: why did M bother to take Fuka hostage instead of killing her? I know he wanted Pito to lose, so he could have kept Fuka alive to support LLENN (which is ultimately what happened, of course), but that gives away the game to Pito. Yet when Pito shoots him as a traitor, she does so for other reasons, not because he left one of their enemies alive for no apparent reason. It’s just a little off.

Pito thought she had prepared well, but LLENN knew her one weakness; she had no defense against vampire munchkins.

I’m just going to choose to think that M’s reasoning was “Fuka is too awesome to kill,” in which case I must wholeheartedly agree with him. In this episode, we get to see more of Miyu, the player behind Fuka, and naturally, she’s great in meatspace as well. I know M has this all-consuming, twisted love for Pito, and nothing can change that, but there’s a sick little part of me that wanted him to drop Pito like a hot potato once Miyu started hitting on him.

Goushi: “Thank you for your sexual interest in me, but I only like crazy bitches.”

Miyu: “Have you SEEN me play GGO?”

Goushi: “Holy FUCK you’re right, you are everything I’ve ever dreamed of, you barely-restrained psychopath.”

In any case, I love how brutal the final battle is; it needed to be, or else Pito wouldn’t have believed that she had met her match in LLENN. As I predicted last time (not like it was hard to see), the other team comes in from offscreen and grabs the win at the last second, but do you really think they enjoyed it? You just know that no one discussing the second Squad Jam is going to talk about the winners at all; they’ll be talking about Pito, LLENN, Fuka, and those intense Amazon women.


“We won, but…it feels so hollow…*sniffles*”

I’ll admit, they had me for a fraction of a second; when they introduced the club owner as “Pito,” I actually thought, very briefly, that she really was Pito and all of the hints that Pito was really Elsa Kanzaki were false leads. Of course, the Karen on the show is smarter than this Karen sitting right here, and knew immediately who the real Pito was. I’m telling you: evil genius. Do we know what field Karen is studying in college? If it’s political science, the world is doomed to fall under the thumb of her adorable hegemony.

Hello, cute little girl. I bet Elsa’s rage comes from the fact that she’s saddled with an acoustic guitar; if she was allowed to shred with an electric guitar in a proper band, getting all that aggression out, this whole nasty business could have been avoided. Death Metal saves lives.

At first I thought it was a little convenient that Elsa’s obsession with death was “cured” by one battle with LLENN, but I think I get it now; the fact that there’s a player out there who can match her, and there may be others that she’s not even aware of yet, keeps life interesting enough that killing herself has lost its appeal. I think Elsa is just naturally talented at most things she tries, and she was getting really bored of a life with no challenge. The fact that LLENN can kick her ass was a revelation to her. I fear for what would happen if Elsa met Kirito; she’d probably become crazy-obsessed with him, and then everyone would bitch that the show was all about Kirito again.

Despite her evil genius, LLENN lacks the self-awareness to realize that she’s as feared in-game now as Pito is, and that’s comforting; we should all fear the day when LLENN becomes truly aware of what she is and what she can do. For now, she’s satisfied to run around shooting people with a deranged pop singer in the virtual world of GGO, and that’s a good time for everyone.

Onward, to another gratuitously violent adventure!

This show surpassed my expectations by just being really solid and fun all the way through. There was some food for thought, which I wrote about earlier in the season, but overall, this was a good rippin’ yarn with characters you liked rooting for and action that kept you on your toes. When mainline Sword Art Online returns this fall, it’s going to have some mighty big shoes to fill; well, technically, tiny little pink munchkin-shoes, but you get the idea.

Tomb Raider II, Level 3: Bartoli’s Hideout

A Note on Format

Oh TR fans, you have no idea what I’ve been through to bring you this post. What follows is a sordid tale of technical woe; if you don’t care about that and just want to read about the level (which is understandable), please skip to the next section.

As much as I appreciate being allowed to use Katie’s excellent screen shots, I decided it was time to buckle down and take my own. Sadly, the Playstation Vita doesn’t allow you to take screenshots of non-Vita games (why?), so I had to change systems. I bought Tomb Raider II for the PC, thinking this would make life easier; oh, how wrong I was.

First, I needed to set up a controller. I’ve never been a PC gamer, and the chances of my actually completing TRII with keyboard controls were about nil. Fortunately, we already had a Steam controller, except I couldn’t get the buttons to map right. If you’re using the Steam Overlay (which gives you access to general Steam features no matter what game you’re playing, and is on by default), the action button is reserved for Steam functions, so I couldn’t use it to have Lara grab and fire her weapons. Obviously, I was not going to fight about 20 years worth of muscle memory with a different button configuration, so I had to turn off Steam Overlay, then I was able to map the buttons to the classic Playstation configuration. Except, without the Steam Overlay, I lost the ability to take screenshots within Steam; more on this later.

I was doing okay with the Steam controller, until the lack of a dpad became a problem. Lara just kept getting stuck in corners, and the analog stick liked making her turn in circles instead of setting up for a running jump. So I had to get a separate USB controller, with a dpad…which would have been great, except the game didn’t know that the dpad was there. Eventually my husband resorted to what I can only assume was evil sorcery to get the game to realize that the dpad exists in this reality, and play resumed as normal. Except pressing “s” to take a screenshot, a feature of TRII, wasn’t working for some reason (no idea why), so I had to resume my general method of taking screenshots on this machine.

This wouldn’t be a big deal, except I happen to be running Windows via Bootcamp on a Macbook, so my screenshot command is the somewhat arduous shift+alt+F11. Three buttons, which makes it impossible to take a screenshot with one hand on the controller. This means that when I want to take a screenshot while holding the look button (or any other button), I have to keep one hand on the controller, one hand pushing shift+alt, and use my big toe to push F11. Most of the screenshots in this post were taken in this manner.

If you put aside the fact that I still need to do a gymnastics move worthy of Lara herself to take a screenshot, I have a workable system now, but uh…is it just me, or was this all a helluva lot harder than it should have been? It feels like I’ve taken all the frustration and tedium inherent in the early games of this series and tripled it, all in a uniquely personal way. For a moment during this whole process, I believe I began to hate Steam, Tomb Raider, and even Lara herself, but that’s all passed now. I think. Probably. Mostly I just hate the Steam controller. But hey, I can take screenshots now, as long as I don’t pull a muscle in my thigh!

Thank you to those of you who have joined me for this sad tale of trying to play old video games in 2018; we now return to your regularly scheduled level write-up.

Raiding the Clubhouse

Ironically, considering everything I went through to take screenshots, there wasn’t much in this level that I wanted to take a picture of. Venice is a much prettier level, and a more iconic one t’boot, but I find this one more fun to play. We’re inside Marco Bartoli’s personal stronghold, so the “where are all the civilians?” concern no longer applies; besides, we see more than enough muscular henchman for the area to feel populated. The only really strong, memorable idea in the level is the chandelier-hopping sequence, but somehow, even when you’re solving typical, bread-and-butter Tomb Raider puzzles, there’s something appealing about this level to me.

Despite my enjoyment of this level, I think this might here might be the dumbest looking trap in all of  the Tomb Raider games. These sword-swinging robots just look totally out of place in Bartoli’s mansion. Makes me feel extra-stupid when I time it wrong and get Lara cut in half by one of them.

Maybe it’s because the difficulty balance finally feels right– we may still be fighting a ton of gun-toting baddies, but it’s a lot easier to take them on in this terrain than in the watery canals of Venice. I think TRII starts out a bit too hard, and this level is where the difficulty eases up a bit and allows you to get your bearings. The level also strikes a good balance of giving you decent-sized areas to explore at your own pace, while still having linear parts to move things along briskly.

When I first played this game as a teen I didn’t realize that you could totally bypass these blade traps by jumping into the water; now it seems very obvious. I hate this burner trap though, it’s like a redux of the Palace Midas burner trap only with no grandeur.

There’s also something kind of fun about knowing that you’re in Bartoli’s house, jumping on his furniture and taking his stuff. It’s like the guy posted a “No girls Allowed in Treehouse!” sign on his front door, and Lara just ripped it off and went through without a care in the world.

Library Raider

This game has a pretty sparse script, so we don’t get to learn a whole lot about Bartoli; we probably learn more about him from exploring his home in this one level than anywhere else in the game. I know he’s a crazy, power-hungry cultist dude who just wants to become a dragon, but I’m beginning to think the guy might have hidden depths; no one who has such an awesome library can possibly be all bad.

The whole sequence of climbing up library shelves, shooting out windows, frolicking in the garden and canal outside, then going back into the library to solve more puzzles is an example of the kind of thing that this game does really well; putting several different types of surroundings adjacent to each other, and letting you jump around between them before any of them have a chance to wear out their welcome. All of the TR games do that to an extent, but when TRII is firing on all cylinders, it’s really good at making you leave and reenter the same space about 40 times without even minding that you’re doing it.

At one point I screwed up the resolution and went to widescreen, making Lara look like she just gained 50 pounds. Lara dear, I know those Italian pastries are delicious, but please put down the cannoli! We have work to do.

There’s one thing I want to call attention to here, something that I’ve never understood: the uzis hidden in a pool of water towards the end of the level. Why is this not a secret? Like, you should pick up a dragon, hear a little “ding!” sound and then get the uzis, but no, they’re just there, lying on the ground, as if this is a totally normal pickup. Then when you get the actual Jade Dragon, all you get is shotgun shells or whatever. It’s like the uzis are openly mocking the entire concept of secrets, and I’m not sure how to feel about this. Respect the sanctity of the secret, developers.

One more thing: you know that last enemy, the guy who shoots you from the balcony right after you blow up part of Bartoli’s house? I think he owes us a pickup, at least some automatic pistol ammo or something, and it’s morally wrong that he doesn’t give you anything. Seriously, I shimmied all the way over to that dumb balcony for nothing? Lame.

I feel bad that I wasted a small medi-pack, but there are just too many of those gun-toting guys in the library and I haven’t memorized all the secret ways you can ambush them without taking damage yet. Hopefully I can get through Opera House without using every single medipack I have.

Best: The entire ballroom area, jumping from chandeliers and all. Obviously I’m keen on the library too, but the library is infested with an annoying amount of enemies; the ballroom has just enough opposition to keep you on your toes, but you can primarily focus on solving the puzzle. See, if they made the game nowadays they would probably make the chandeliers swing and stuff in accordance with the laws of physics, but I actually like it better this way.

Worst: That stupid burner trap. I know it’s actually quite easy if you know how you’re supposed to do it, but it plays on the seasoned TR-player’s desire to turn everything into a running jump, and that’s just not cool. Plus it’s just kind of plopped randomly in the middle of the level and doesn’t have a good reason for being there, as opposed to the similar fire trap in Palace Midas.

This is why no one comes to nice parties at your house, Marco. Because you have a fire hazard right in front of your ballroom.

Rating: Three Uzi Clips out of Five

A fun level to play, but it lacks the big ideas and beautiful views of the best Tomb Raider levels, landing it somewhere in the middle.

Up Next: Opera House

So named because completing this level always takes me longer than an entire opera, complete with Valkyries.

DARLING in the FRANXX, Episode 23

This is the first time I’m sitting down to write about this show without feeling good about it. I didn’t hate this episode, but it didn’t quite come together for me, and that leaves me with a weird feeling, because this show has been pretty thoroughly in my wheelhouse so far.

I agree with where the show is going on general terms: Zero Two and Hiro heading into another dimension to put the hurt on VIRM where they live, Kokoro and Mitsuru coming together over the upcoming birth of their child, Nana and Hatchi developing stronger parental feelings toward their charges, etc. But everything in this episode just seemed a little bit too quick, neat and convenient for me. It seemed like getting into space was entirely too easy, the fight against VIRM was too easy, and everything happened just a bit too fast to resonate. I don’t want any of the Squad 13 kids to die, but it seemed convenient that one of the Nines was the only one to die in that conflict.

NOOOOO, DON’T DIE!!!!…Oh wait, it was the blond kid? That’s cool, no one liked him.

Some people have been complaining about the pacing of this show for a while now, but I haven’t been one of them. I liked the deliberate slow pacing of the slice-of-life pacing portion of the show (episodes 16-18), and how that contrasted with all hell breaking loose in episode 20. A ton of things happened at a breakneck pace in 20 and 21, but I still felt it worked somehow. This episode was the first time I felt like stuff was happening so fast that nothing had time to properly land.

I also really disliked Nana and Hachi being in space with Squad 13, as much as I like them as characters otherwise. They really should have stayed on Earth, supervising the other parasites, rather than going off planet on a dangerous mission that could have easily gotten them both killed. Werner Franxx said that Nana and Hachi had to be the “new adults,” and considering what a warped view of adulthood those two have seen, I guess I can’t blame them for not really knowing what that means. Still, it seemed like the only reason Nana and Hachi were there was to deliver exposition, and the transparency of that took me out of the story.

I’m not sure how to feel about Zero Two and Hiro reuniting once again. I understand why Zero Two pulled away from him after merging with Strelizia, because she realized that he wouldn’t have anything resembling a human life if he stayed with her. And showing that selfishness is important; the fact that Zero Two is putting what she wants for Hiro ahead of Hiro’s own wishes mirrors Hiro’s selfishness in putting his reunion with Zero Two ahead of everything else in the previous episodes. This show is doing a good job of showing that love isn’t all sunshine and roses. But the reunion happens so quickly after the parting, from the viewer’s perspective that it deprives their reunion of the gravity it really should have.

This episode is markedly better if you turn off the sound and play Billy Idol’s White Wedding for the last few minutes. Go on, try it.

I do like Giant Zero Two Strelizia and her wedding-dress mech, with her bridal bouquet of explosives. That’s the sort of thing that this show does well, taking really broad metaphors and creating powerful imagery with them. But everything around it undermines the power of that moment.

That said, I’m still looking forward to the final episode; I think there’s a possibility episode 24 could redeem everything I didn’t like about this one. I also wonder if these problems could have been easily solved if the show was slated for 26 episodes instead of 24; maybe just one or two more episodes of build up could have made a huge difference to the pacing. Still, we’re here now, and I’m curious what Hiro and Zero Two are going to discover Beyond the Infinite, or wherever they’re headed.

 

Summer 2018 Anime Season Preview

While last season was absolutely loaded with big-name franchises, this one only has a few; most of the shows listed here are new to anime. Because of that, anime fans seem a lot less excited for this season than they were in the spring, and maybe they’re right to be? I think a lot of people are secretly hoping for a severely sub-par anime season, so they won’t be watching much and can devote the time to catching up on their anime backlog.

You know what though? It’s never going to happen. Even if this season is horrible, I just don’t believe anyone is going to get around to finally sitting down to watch Tatami Galaxy, or the second season of Arakawa Under the Bridge. It’s probably just as well; I hear tell that if you ever finish watching everything in your anime backlog, you get transferred to another world with nothing but your smartphone and a box of Strawberry Pocky, and who needs that? I wouldn’t be caught dead in another world without Almond Crush Pocky.

I’ve used English names where appropriate; in most cases, these shows haven’t been licensed yet and do not have official English titles.

Attack on Titan, Season 3

The biggest name of the season, and consequently the show it would make the most sense to cover here at Otakusphere. Unfortunately, I jumped ship on AoT somewhere in the middle of season 2; I respect a lot of the things that it does, but I just don’t enjoy it anymore. When a story has a tone of not just darkness, but the kind of oppressive bleakness that AoT has, I think it benefits from being concise. This story has gotten dragged out past my capacity to care about this particular world.

If you’re psyched for the return of the show, hey, more power to you; I wish I could be on the same page. But unless I hear that the Survey Corps found a beautiful, Titan-free Utopian city with infinite food, where Eren and Mikasa can get some much-deserved chill time, I’m not watching this.

Free!-Dive to the Future (Season 3)

Yaay, a returning third season of a show that I’m actually up to date on!  This doesn’t happen often. Free! is really the perfect summer show. You could say it’s all pretty visuals and light on substance, but considering what a refreshing take on masculinity the show often displays, that may not even be true. What I particularly love about this show is that it makes me get off my ass and go swimming…like, I’ll be sitting around the house, about to be lazy all day, then I’ll think of how beautiful the water always looks in Free! and actually go outside. I don’t know if it’s even possible to watch Free! without jumping into the nearest pool immediately afterwards.

The thing is, much as I love it, it’d be a pretty boring show to cover episodically…unless I go to town commenting on the manservice. Then I’ll feel like a dirty old lady, but is that such a horrible thing? Is the anime blogosphere even ready for Dirty Old Lady coverage of Free!? Probably not! But now that the idea has occurred to me, I don’t think I can resist.

Everyone who isn’t a fujoshi, go hide. Find the deepest, darkest cave you can find, and hibernate. Make like Green Day and only Wake Up When September Ends, you don’t want to have to see this.

Gintama: Silver Soul Arc, Season 2

I mention Gintama out of a sense of obligation, because it’s a very major franchise that must have a whole lot of fans. However, it’s one of few big shounen franchises that I have no familiarity with whatsoever. I may not have seen every episode of Naruto, Bleach or One Piece, but I’ve seen a bunch; Gintama, not even one episode. Furthermore, I don’t even remember talking to another fan who was into Gintama. It’s always been weirdly invisible to me.

This anime has been airing in different forms since 2005, so it’s not like I’m going to catch up between now and the start of the season. But I feel a sense of what I can only call Gintama Guilt; as an aniblogger, I should at least know what this show is. Maybe I’ll just watch the first episode of this season and then try to make sense of it. I’ll be like those movie reviewers who went to see Avengers: Infinity War and then complained that it made no sense because they hadn’t seen the previous 15 movies…only in a funny, self-aware sort of way? Maybe this is a bad idea.

Overlord, Season 3

This series is a member of the elite club of “Wilson’s shows,” AKA shows my husband will sometimes watch on Saturday morning while I’m still asleep. So I’m not that familiar with it, but I have woken up in the middle of it, and let me tell you: that’s disorienting. Plus, whenever the main dude says his own name, I always think he’s saying “Own goal” and for some reason find that hilarious.

This is another one I won’t be watching– well, I’ll probably see like 5-10 minutes of random episodes while I’m semi-comatose on the couch before coffee, but that doesn’t really count. I do think it’s worth noting that in a season swamped with isekai shows, Overlord stands out as having a clear identity; there just aren’t that many shows where the skull-headed leader spends half of every episode lecturing his legions of minions on the day’s agenda.

Marvel Future Avengers, Season 2

Buh, what? Before putting pen to paper to write this season preview, I had no idea Marvel Future Avengers existed period, let alone that it was returning. Apparently it’s a kids show that hasn’t been too well-received. I wonder: does it deserve all the bad ratings it’s gotten, or is it getting slammed in the reviews because a bunch of adult Marvel fans are trying to enjoy something aimed at 6-year-olds? No idea.

Thinking back to how the X-Men anime turned out, it seems like these Marvel-to-anime productions never go that well. I guess this might have some use if you’re still hyped from Infinity War and need to get your Captain America fix from something…or if you’re six years old. Do I have many six-year-old readers? Kiddos, if you’re out there, please do not read my upcoming posts on Free! S3, okay? Kindly avert your innocent eyes.

Banana Fish

This manga is an institution. I remember hearing about it as far back as the ’90s, although I never got around to reading it. Looking at the description, it really doesn’t look like my cup of tea, but…I kind of want to try it anyway. I think I’ve always been subliminally impressed at how cool “Banana Fish” sounds when you say it out loud; it’s euphonic.

Stories about ruthless teen-aged killers and their evil mob bosses usually don’t hold my attention for too long, but you never know; it all depends on how the story is told. Maybe there’s a good reason I’ve been hearing about Banana Fish for decades now; time to find out.

How NOT to Summon A Demon Lord

One of the aforementioned flood of Isekai shows hitting this summer, this one sounds pretty typical. I’m pretty sure we have a few light novels for this series, but I haven’t read them yet. I could actually read them, then talk about what changes they’ll make to the anime adaptation like a knowledgeable person, but let’s be honest: that’s not going to happen.

The premise involves an awkward gamer guy enslaving (albeit accidentally) two hot girls, so expect the usual suspects to be freaked out by the fact that male fantasies exist. I’ll give it an episode; it’s certainly not being made with me in mind, but it at least has the potential to be funny. If it’s not bringing the humor though, I can’t see why I’d continue. I guess it’s possible that it could have an incredibly interesting fantasy world or something, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Back Street Girls

I usually don’t do this, but this is one time where I think the capsule description should be included in its entirety:

A group of 3 yakuza failed their boss for the last time. After messing up an important job, the boss gave them 2 choices: Honorably committing suicide, or go to Thailand to get a sex reassignment surgery in order to become “female” idols. After a gruesome year long training to become idols, they successfully debut, with overwhelming popularity, much to their dismay. This is where their tragedy truly begins.

…Uh….

….where to start here….

It’s like you rubbed a magic lamp and said “Genie, please give me more representation of trans people in anime!” only to find out too late that this wasn’t a friendly, Disney-style genie; no, this was a true djinn, a proud and vengeful creature of fire and air that has existed since before the beginning of time, slumbering for strange eons, and now it’s insanely pissed at you for waking it up. So it grants your wish, but only in a way that’s more painful than killing you outright; that’s the only explanation for how this show exists.

It’s theoretically possible that this could plumb some interesting gender-bending territory, but most of the people who would be really interested in that sort of thing will probably be so put off by the premise that they won’t stick around long enough to find out. See, now I’m not sure if I want this to be good or if I want it to be terrible; defending a seemingly offensive show that actually has some redeeming value is my typical MO, but it this case….maybe it would be better if it was just God-awful from the getgo, and I never had to think about it again.

I have to try an episode of it though, because…because I just have to. Because otherwise, I’ll never believe that this was a real anime. What kind of whacked-out, fringe studio thought this would be a good adaptation to add to their catalog? It’s got to be some obscure, no-name, little…oh…oh, I see….

It’s J.C. Staff.

That makes a warped kind of sense, actually. J.C. Staff’s output is like a box of chocolates; a box of delicious chocolates that occasionally includes a sheep’s eyeball, for no reason.

Hyakuren no Haou to Seiyaku no Valkyria

One of the aforementioned torrent of isekai shows hitting this season, this one involves a guy who uses his “solar-powered smart phone” to help his allies. Geez, was In Another World with My Smartphone really that popular? Or just a harbinger of things to come?

This fantasy world appears to be Norse-flavored, so we’ll see if dipping into that rich mythology is enough to make this show stand out from the pack. The only anime that comes to mind that’s done a really good job with Norse mythology is Oh! My Goddess, which is a different genre entirely, so maybe there’s some room for them to do something new here.

Huh, now that I wrote that, now I’m sure there are probably about 30 famous anime that are heavily based on Norse mythology, and I’m just forgetting them all at the moment. If you know of any, remind me in the comments; I’ll feel stupid, but you’ll be spreading valuable knowledge.

Shichisei no Subaru

One of the absolute tsunami of isekai shows hitting this summer, except…I think this one may take place entirely in an MMO, without the MMO becoming “real,” so does that even count as an isekai show anymore? Who makes these rules?

Apparently it deals with someone who died in real life but still exists in the game, and I’m having serious .hack flashbacks. Hey, remember .hack//SIGN? Twenty-six episodes of characters saying “How is it that Tsukasa can’t log out?”, “What do YOU think of Tsukasa?”, “Is Tsukasa alive in the real world?”, “Are you waiting for Tsukasa?” “What does Tsukasa think about the fact that he can’t log out?”, oh my God, it was excruciating. But we all watched it for that gorgeous Yuki Kajiura score, didn’t we? Pretty sure Subaru doesn’t have that going for it.

I’ll give this a shot, although to be honest, I can’t be sure if I’m hoping it’s something like a new .hack or dreading it; like, I don’t want to go through another .hack//SIGN experience, but I kind of feel like it’s something we need every once in a while, like an annual physical or something? It’s hard to explain. I’m just going to have to try to get past the fact that every time someone says “Subaru,” I’m immediately going to think “Emilia-tan! Emilia-tan!”

For those not in the know, that last bit was an in-joke about the anime Re:Zero; yes, while talking about anime, I make dumb jokes about different anime. Because I feel the need to show off that I watch a lot of anime; just having this blog is somehow not enough.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger

Vampires and werewolves fight each other in the 1930s; this could be fun. However, it’s being done by PA Works, which I do not associate with this kind of material. In fact, even though they just did Uma Musume and that should be my new association, I will always associate this studio with Hanasaku Iroha, a show that was as interesting as watching individual blades of grass grow. Like, they were beautiful pieces of grass, filled with morning dew and reflecting the sunshine and all, but you were still sitting there, watching grass grow.

It would be entertaining if PA Works applied that kind of languid pacing to supernatural creatures beating the tar out of each other, but they probably won’t; it’ll probably be paced appropriately, but just not that exciting. The best thing for this show would be if the vampires turned out to be crazy-ass Hellsing-type vampires, but then it would be so firmly in the horror camp that I wouldn’t want to watch it, so uh…yeah. Probably not one for me, but there’s potential here, at least.

Happy Sugar Life

LB called my attention to this one a few weeks ago, and I’ve been mildly afraid of it ever since. It’s about a teenaged girl who will do anything to protect her (underaged) love interest, including murder. These kinds of stories just don’t appeal to me, and I’m not entirely sure why.

I could say they make me uncomfortable, but it’s not like I’ve ever had an experience in real life that would give me a basis for being any more uncomfortable with this than any other story with a dark edge to it. I could say that I don’t like it because one of the lovers is underage, but a)age tends to be really arbitrary in anime anyway and b)the two girls may not even have sex, or get anywhere near having sex, so I’m not losing any sleep over that.

Basically the only thing that’s of interest to me about this show is the use of the phrase “Happy Sugar Life,” which should win some kind of prize for Most Ironic Title of Summer 2018: Ezo’la, I may not enjoy your show, but as a fan of smart-ass titles, I salute you.

Grand Blue

Remember how I said I was happy to be done with Amanchu!? Apparently I’m not really done with Amanchu!, because this show sounds exactly like a gender-swapped Amanchu!; a scuba diving show featuring a boy who hangs out around his family’s eponymous, diving-based business.

It’s possible this show will hash out it’s own identity, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid that instead of bitching every week that Pikari and Teko aren’t going scuba diving often enough, I’m instead going to be bitching that this kid and his buddies aren’t going scuba diving often enough, and I don’t want to be that person; I don’t want to be the girl always complaining that an anime isn’t doing exactly what she wants. But, gosh-darnit, is it so much to ask for a show about scuba diving to heavily feature scuba diving? IS IT?

In any case, I’m going to do my best to put thoughts of other shows out of my head when I watch this and give Grand Blue a chance to prove itself. Plus, on another level I’m kind of happy there’s going to be another ocean-centric show; just like FREE!, this kind of stuff really belongs in the summer season, after all. But God help me, if they start pulling any magical realism shit mid-season, I’m going to be pissed.

Harakuna Receive

Another summery show, this one focuses on beach volleyball. Typically you would guess that this show would be full of fanservice, via tons of bathing-suit clad babes and convenient camera angles, but I wonder; that’s not a given these days. Lately these shows about female athletes seem to focus on the athletics more seriously than you would expect. How much fan service was there in Uma Musume? Scorching Ping Pong Girls? Keijo!!!!!!!!?…okay, forget Keijo for a second, but still. There’s definitely a trend of some shows being more subtle with the fanservice and leaving the “lewding” to the doujinshi, and I’m wondering if Harakuna Receive will be one of those.

See, now that I’ve said that, this show will probably be 99% bouncing boobs and I’ll feel like an idiot for suggesting otherwise. Still, if it’s all boobs I won’t watch it, but people who enjoy boob anime will have one show they’re into this summer, so it’s all good. I’ll give this a chance to see if they’re going to take the volleyball angle seriously, but I won’t be terribly disappointed if they don’t.

Hanebado!

Another girls’ sports anime, this one about badminton. You know, a few years ago I would have passed over this without a second glance, but now I’m looking forward to it. If Scorching Ping Pong Girls could make ping pong exciting for me, when I have no interest in it, this show can probably do the same thing for badminton.

Come to think of it, whether or not I care about the real-life sport seems to have no bearing on how much I like a sports anime. I couldn’t possibly care less about football, but Eyeshield 21 is one of my favorite series of all time. Hmm, now that I’ve made that connection, I’m kind of hoping Hanebado! will turn out to chronicle the adventures of a girls’s badminton team managed by Satan, but I’ll probably have to settle for a non-hellspawn team. I’ll manage, somehow.

Cells At Work!

Of all the things to anthropomorphize, now red and white blood cells are getting a cuteness makeover. It’s a clever premise, but I feel like it might be unhealthy for me to watch this show; I’ll over-identify with all the different cellular organelles and it’ll start seeping into my daily life.

“Wow, I feel so energetic today, thank you Mitochondria-chan! I’d better eat a good breakfast to keep White Blood Cell-kun strong!” No thanks, I have enough problems overthinking my biology as it is. I approve of the fact that this show is being made in a general sense, because it’s different, but I’m not watching.

Aguu: Tensai Ningyou

This is going to be a dancing anime, which is cool; we don’t get a lot of those. I haven’t seen Welcome to the Ballroom yet, but supposedly that’s basically a shonen sports anime with dancing, so Aguu: Tensai Ningyou may be more artistic. However, instead of just being about dancing, it’s also about little palm-sized spirits and some kind of civil war going on between them: the war between the “Seamstresses” who somehow create these little spirits, and the “Saviors” who…fight them? Dance the tango with them? It’s all a little vague.

I keep thinking about the fact that “seamstress” used to be a codeword for “prostitute,” and I should really put that out of my mind, because that slang hasn’t been used in like 100 years, but I can’t help it. Now I’m imagining all sorts of things that likely have no relevance to this show, and it’s making it hard to focus. I definitely want to give this show a try, but I really have no idea what to expect. If it seems like the anime is inspired Black Swan, it will trigger my deep-seated fear of all things related to Natalie Portman and I’ll have to bail. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro

A girl tries to get to school; mayhem ensues. This could possibly be really clever and fun, but it also could be really repetitive and stupid. It would be great if the obstacles that Chio encountered on her way to school started off mundane and became more and more elaborate over the course of the show, until there’s a full-fledged alien invasion or something getting in her way, but I’m not sure; the fact that one of the scenarios that Chio is going to have to fight is “a sudden urge to go to the bathroom,” does not exactly fill me with confidence.

I’m assuming this is a short, because it’s hard to imagine a full-length anime with this premise, but I’ve been wrong about that before; we’ll see. If if it’s not a short, it might be downright painful to watch; some things are charming in three-minute installments and should never break out of that mold.

High Score Girl

Hell yeah, an anime all about video games circa 1991! I’m excited for this one. I want to remember my childhood, but of course I didn’t grow up in Japan, so it won’t really be my childhood; still, it feels like a good opportunity to remember someone’s childhood.

Remember the ’90s, back when we thought Francis Fukuyama was on to something with his whole “End of History” theory, and we thought life (and video games) were just going to keep getting better and better forever? Well, we were kind of right about the video games part, but damn, things have just gotten dark since the ’90s. Granted, plenty of awful stuff happened during the ’90s too, but we weren’t aware of it at the time, so it sure seemed like the world was becoming a better, safer place every day….

Okay I’m getting too far afield of the anime preview, but I’m really interested in seeing what this anime does. If it focuses on the culture of ’91, that will be really interesting, but even if it only focuses on video game culture specifically, that too appeals to me. I just hope they don’t make the mistake of making a production that feels identical to 2018 shows with a thin overlay of ’90s era style. I want this to be so ’90s that I’m thinking about Pogs, Tamagotchis and the cool jacket that kid in the Crossfire commercials used to wear. Remember that game? I had that game. I bet you’re jealous now!

Phantom in the Twilight

A supernatural cafe in London, full of hot guys, that only opens at night; if you’ve ever read Otakusphere before, then you probably know that they had me at “cafe.”

Seriously, I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. This could be one of those classy occult shows that anime (and seemingly only anime) do so well, like Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits or Mushi-Shi, but that’s far from a guarantee. Studio LINDENFILMS has a kind of odd back catalog of work, but they did make Poco’s Udon World, a lesser-known show that I really liked, so they’ve got some cred in my book. My fear is that there’s going to be too much emphasis on all the mysterious, handsome men, and the show is going to try to get by on attractive character designs instead of good writing.

The thing with mysterious, handsome male characters that writers often screw up is that if you bring them too much to the forefront, they cease being mysterious. They they’re just handsome, which is boring on it’s own. If the hot guy characters remain enigmatic figures in the background, and the story focuses it’s energy elsewhere, this could be a good show. If.

Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes

It’s a mystery series that takes place in a coffee shop…oh wait, no it doesn’t. It takes place in an antique shop. Well then, fuck you and the horse you rode in on, show! I only watch coffee shop anime!

Okay, I am capable of watching things that take place in other places of business, I just don’t know if this series sounds that appealing. Whenever I’ve tried to watch an anime mystery show, it’s always been pretty poor– GoSick, God’s Memo Pad, etc. Then again, maybe this’ll be the one with good writing that will make me feel bad for my negative opinions toward mystery shows? The fact that the leads are chasing down the mysteries of these old antiques means that the show does have the potential to be interesting, and even poignant, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Tsukumogami Kashimasu

Another antique shop setting…not really antiques, but miscellaneous household goods, which is close enough. Except, this one is a historical taking place during the Edo period, and the household goods tend to be haunted. I kept getting confused between this show and Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes, trying to remember “Which is the show where the items are haunted, and which is the one where they’re worth a lot of money?”

Another show with the potential to fit into that “classy occult” category that I like so much, but it also has potential to be a bit of a snoozefest, I think. It might be entertaining to watch both this one and Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes and see which one comes up with better episodic stories about inanimate objects. I might make a spreadsheet.

Senjuushi

Oh no. Oh noooo. It’s a gun anime. It’s a post-apocalyptic dystopia where people are forbidden from owning firearms, and then the spirits of classic guns materialize to fight for the good of the world, or something.

I have to admit, sometimes I have trouble separating a show from how it’s going to be perceived in the Western fandom, which is unfair. Because all I can think about is the complaints this show is going to spawn about “conservative propaganda” and “alt-right talking points,” and I’m already tired of that discussion, and the show hasn’t even started yet.

Look, I’m not saying that the show is going to be any good, or that political criticism is automatically bad, but can we just remember one little thing here? That this show is Japanese, made from a Japanese perspective, and applying American politics to it (especially fringe American politics that aren’t that well known outside of the U.S.) doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense?  Can we let it exist in its own proper context without dragging it into a minefield where it was never meant to survive?

I don’t know, maybe this will actually be fun to watch, but the so-called “discourse” around this show is probably going to make me want to stay far, far away.

Ongaku Shoujo

It’s about c-level idols, and I’m sorry, but isn’t this called Wake Up, Girls!? I’d like to say that I liked Wake Up, Girls! enough the first time, but the fact is that no one liked Wake Up, Girls! the first time; it’s a show that keeps getting sequels despite having , seemingly, zero fans. It’s one of those anomalies of nature, like how bumblebees can fly when all the laws of physics say that they shouldn’t.

Maybe Ongaku Shoujo will stake out an identity of it’s own, but I have enough trouble getting invested in idol shows that are happy and optimistic from the getgo; I really don’t want to watch a show about sad, wanna-be idols who are living on instant ramen to get by. Only way I’m watching this is if I hear good things about it after a few episodes have aired.

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

This looks to be the more typically bright-and-happy idol show, as opposed to Ongaku Shoujo, so maybe try this if you haven’t had enough Love Live!/Idolmaster/etc. I mean, it’s hard to believe that there’s someone out there who hasn’t had enough of that, but I’m sure this person exists, and they too deserve to feel joy.

I might check out the first episode because one of the girls is named Karen and I like keeping tabs on my anime doppelgangers. But unless this show has something different to offer right out of the gate, I’m focusing my attention elsewhere.

Sunoharasou no Kanrinrin-san

This looks like it’s going to be a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, except one of the girls happens to be a boy. This might end up being the show this season that does some exploration of gender identity, without being ridiculously offensive to 99% of the audience right out of the gate the way Back Street Girls is.

It’s hard to predict with this one; it all depends on how main-guy Aki’s issues with gender are treated. If they use them as a source of cheap jokes, that sounds pretty bad, but if it’s a CGDCT show, it’s hard to see how they could avoid those kinds of jokes even if they wanted to.

I’ll give it a shot, but if the pattern is Aki tries to act like a boy–> the girls treat him like a girl and giggle–> he gets mad, rinse and repeat, I’m not sticking around. Sadly, I think that’s the most likely scenario.

Yuragi-sou no Yuuna-san

Wow, there are a lot of haunted anime this season. This one is about a hot springs inn haunted by the ghost of a 16-year-old girl, and the poor guy who gets roped into helping her with her unfinished business. I might have skipped this one just on the basis of there being so much other occult stuff this season, but I’ve heard some good things about the source material, so I’ll at least give it a try.

It’s made by Xebec, who are largely known to the world as makers of fanservice anime, and largely known to me as makers of Softenni in particular. I doubt it’ll happen, but if this show takes the Softenni approach to broadcast censorship and covers the girls’ privates with pictures of adorable cows and sheep, this is going to rocket up to “must-watch” status.

Island

Man washes ashore on mysterious island, begins mad quest to save the island from its decline; cute girls are involved. My gut is telling me that this is going to be overly ambitious and boring, but hey, my gut has been wrong before. This was one of the first summer shows to air and the first episode is already up on Crunchyroll, so there’s no need to wait if you’re curious.

Jashin-chan Dropkick

Violent slapstick comedy where a deranged gothic-lolita type summons a demon girl, and the two beat each other up a lot or something. I have a weird feeling that this is going to be like the evil twin to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid; a story about a relationship between a human girl and a powerful, non-human woman, only instead of warming your heart and filling you with hope for the future, it just makes you want to sit down and cry.

I have a bad feeling about this for some reason, but studio Nomad does have a pretty solid comedy track record with shows like Ika Musume and Ouran Host Club to their credit. So it could be very funny, I just can’t shake the sinking feeling that the jokes are going to get old halfway through the first episode.

SHORTS:

Cinderella Girls Gekijou, Season 3

I always forget if this is a spinoff of Love Live! or Idolmaster (*checks wiki; it’s Idolmaster.*) Considering I’ve never seen any Idolmaster proper, I’m certainly not starting with this, but I mention it here for an important reason: for idol fans, it seems like this is the anticipated show of the season, more than Ongaku Shoujo or whatever else is starting this year. Which is pretty impressive, considering that it’s a short.

You go, idol fans! Wallpaper the internet with your Cinderella Girls fanart, it’s all good. I don’t have to watch the show to share a tiny piece of your happiness.

One Room 2

The big debate with the first-person-perspective show One Room was whether it was really creepy, or just sort of mildly creepy; I found the first episode so boring that I never properly found out. But apparently some people really enjoyed contemplating that question, because One Room is back with another room…or maybe the same room? It’s probably the same room.

I wonder; if I decided I wanted to watch this season, do I need to watch the original? Like, is there serious One Room continuity? Or is it like “Yeah, he talked to this girl in his room, then they went down to the vending machine and got a soda, then they went back to his room, then she said ‘bye’ and that was the end of the season.” Now I want there to be a tremendously detailed One Room wiki so I can catch up on all the lore!

(I just checked…there is no wiki…I am sad. Someone get on that, please.)

BanG Dream! Girls Band Party Pico

I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what BanG Dream! was until just now. Apparently it’s a K-On-esque show about a bunch of girls who form a band, and Party Pico is it’s little chibi spinoff. If you like watching cute chibi girls do whatever, you probably can’t go wrong here.

See, I’m just mad because after finishing Sound Euphonium S2, I thought I had seen all these ‘girls in a band’ shows, but no, there’s more. I promised myself I wouldn’t watch Kids on the Slope (the boys-in-a-band show) until I finished all the girls-in-a-band shows, and now it looks like it’s never gonna happen. Damn you BanG Dream!, ruining my summer viewing plans!

Asobi Asobase

This isn’t listed anywhere as a short, but I’m putting it in the shorts category because I refuse to believe it’s a full-length show. It’s about girls who play hand games and…that’s it. They play hand games together.

Tonari no Seki-kun proved to me that a show about nothing more than kids goofing off can be great, especially if it’s a short. But unless Asobi Asobase is bringing Seki-kun levels of devious brilliance here, I find it hard to imagine this being entertaining for more than one episode. Hey, maybe I’ll be wrong; maybe Asobi Asobase will be the surprise hit of the season that we’ll all remember years from now. But right now, just thinking about it seriously makes me want to lie down and take a nap– not even kidding, I’m going to spend like two seconds writing something on Encouragement of Climb and then I’m taking a nap.

Encouragement of Climb, Season 3

FUCK YEAH MORE ENCOURAGEMENT OF CLIMB, BEST SEASON EVAH! CLIMB THOSE MOUNTAINS GIRLS, SHOW ‘EM WHO’S BOSS! AOI, TRY NOT TO GET ALTITUDE SICKNESS AGAIN, THAT SHIT IS DANGEROUS! SHOW THOSE LAZY YURU CAMP BITCHES WHAT IT MEANS TO BE OUTDOOR GIRLS!!!!!

…oh yeah, I went there, Yuru Camp fans. What are you gonna do about it, huh? I’d say COME AT ME, BRO! but I’m about to go lie down and take a nap for about three hours, so don’t come at me, that would be bad sportsmanship. Hey, have you ever heard that writing about shows you haven’t even seen for several hours can make you lightheaded and delirious? I just learned that today.

Finishing up the Spring 2018 Anime Season

Here are some closing thoughts on shows I didn’t blog, but still watched this season.

Comic Girls— I lost interest in blogging this episodically about halfway through the season, but still kept up with it. It was a perfectly nice slice-of-life show about girls who draw manga, except I wanted something a little more serious– like Bakuman, only with girls– and that was not this show. I think it’s okay to acknowledge that a show turned out to be different from what you wanted, as long as you realize that the creative team had no responsibility to deliver specifically what you wanted. There was never any indication that the show was going to be anything other than what it was, so really, the fault is with me for looking for something that was never meant to be there.

Still, even if the show wasn’t quite what I was looking for, it did have its moments. Kaos’ struggle with finding her voice through manga was a very relatable depiction of artistic insecurity, and as a result, her eventual success feels more hard-won than it usually does in these learning-your-craft tales. Her self-deprecation and frequent crises of confidence may have seemed over-the-top, but that’s what made it work; she basically acted out every insecure thought that many artists have, but usually force themselves to hide. People who say “I suck” over and over again in real life tend to be annoying, but it works when you’re an adorable anime character with pink braids running down your back, I guess.

This is another one of those shows with yuri moments all over the place, but nobody ever actually uses the word “lesbian,” or any other terminology that would make it explicit. I wonder; do people not count shows like this as increasing LGBT representation because they don’t label it that way? Are they right to feel that way? Nevertheless, I can’t imagine anyone even trying to deny that Kaos is a lesbian; the evidence is overwhelming. Maybe there’s one person out there somewhere who thinks that Kaos isn’t gay, but that person probably also thinks that Attack on Titan is really about bowling.

Uma Musume— This show is unusual in that it ended up being good in a completely different way than I anticipated. At the beginning of the season, I thought that if Uma Musume was going to be watchable to anyone but people with a highly specific horsie-girl fetish, it would need to embrace it’s own audacity: Go big or go home, make it as nuts as possible. Like Keijo!!!!!!!!, I guess.

Instead, they went the other route and made a show that was entirely about female athletes, with the gimmicky elements substantially toned down. Not only was the idol singer aspect minimized after the first episode or two, even the “girls based on famous horses” shtick wasn’t that important; you could take the racehorse connections out of this show, make it entirely about female track runners, and it would remain pretty similar. The horse aesthetics add charm and flair and whatnot, but end up being pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Above all, they managed to make the race sequences exciting, which I wasn’t expecting. Main girl Special Week lost often enough that victory never felt pre-ordained, and the show managed to drag out the races a little bit for drama without slowing them down too much, not an easy balance to achieve.

All in all, a really pleasant surprise this season. I seem to be in good company with this opinion, because despite the jeers before it started airing, I don’t think I’ve heard a bad word about it since it started.

Kakuriyo, Bed and Breakfast for Spirits— This is continuing for another cour, but I wanted to mention it here since I don’t think I’ve talked about it since the Spring Season Preview. Anime seems to have a monopoly on this kind of show: a story that focuses on sometimes-creepy occult creatures, yet with tons of class, warmth and playfulness. If any non-Japanese creators have ever done a show with the feel of this (or Kamisama Kiss, or The Morose Monokenean), I’ve never come across it.

Ai is a great heroine, because she’s a strong character who displays that strength in ways other than kicking ass. I hate this idea that for a character to be “strong,” they have to be a badass ninja who can beat up all of their enemies or something. Ai mainly influences her world through cooking, but she does it in a very assertive, decisive way.

She also doesn’t fall into the typical anime trap of compromising her own safety just to make a stupid point. She refuses to marry the Ogre Inn Master, instead opting to work off her family’s unpaid debt as a cook. However, characters frequently call her “the Ogre Bride” or “The Ogre Master’s Intended,” and she never corrects them, because for a fragile human in the spirit world, having that perceived status is helpful. Either that, or she doesn’t bother correcting them because she really doesn’t give a toss what anyone else thinks.

I don’t know if this really needed to be two cours; my gut feeling is that I’m going to find it dragged out by the time it stops airing in the fall. But maybe the second cour will introduce some twists that keep things lively.

Isekai IzakayaWhen it started, I thought this show was just an inferior version of Restaurant to Another World, and it never did anything to disabuse me of that notion. It’s a serviceable food anime, if you like watching anime characters cook and eat things that look delicious, but that’s really all it has going for it. While Restaurant had this delightful air of magic and mystery, we never get to learn much about the world of Isekai Isekaya; it seems to be a vaguely medieval setting with little character.

That said, this show is pretty much critic-proof. If you like food anime, like I do, then you tend to watch everything, because there isn’t all that much of it; if you don’t like food anime, this would never be on your radar in the first place. The live action bits at the end were intriguing, but sometimes it felt like I was sitting through a boring episode to get to the interesting 3 minutes at the end, which is a shame.

Yotsuiro Biyori— This show gave me exactly what I asked for, nothing more and nothing less: a relaxing, slice-of-life show taking place in a cafe, focusing on four handsome dudes, with a healthy side of food porn. There is a larger plot involving main guy Sui and his cold-as-ice, businessman brother, but honestly, very little happens with that and it doesn’t even matter. This show isn’t quite Yuru Camp levels of comforting, but it’s kind of along that same continuum. As the season progressed, I found myself looking forward to this one more and more every week.

I’m afraid this show will likely be forgotten in the future, but I think it should be added to the list of shows that are great to watch when you really need to chill out: Yuru Camp, Non Non Biyori, Three Leaves, Three Colors, etc.  I don’t feel like there’s any real need for a second season, but if they make one, I will watch it.

DARLING in the FRANXX, Episode 22

This is pretty unusual. “A bunch of intrepid kids save the world” stories are a dime a dozen, but this is the part of it that we don’t normally see; after the world is saved, then what? What exactly has been “saved,” and is any of it the stuff you wanted to save in the first place? This isn’t quite where I was expecting Darling to go, but now that it has, it feels inevitable; for me, I take that as a sign that the writers are doing something right.

I said last time that if Zero Two wasn’t dead, I was going to feel cheated, but actually, that’s not the case. What I really didn’t want was for her sacrifice to be minimized by having her just be sleepy for a couple of days after the battle or something; having her soul merged with Strelizia and going off into space, to fight a perpetual war, is arguably worse than death. I say “arguably” because Zero Two loves to fight, so it’s probably less of a living hell for her than it would be for anyone else, but still…hardly a happy ending for her.

We will now call to order the first meeting of the Special Committee For The Continuation of All Life on Earth. First order of business: does anyone want to live on this Earth? It’s not great.

As far as I can tell, all the adults were absorbed by VIRM last episode, leaving the parasites the only humans left alive, along with former parasites like Hachi and the Nanas. It’s unclear how many parasites are even alive outside of Squad 13, which would be useful to know in reference to how the episode ends, but we’ll get there. Our kiddos are focusing on farming so they’ll be able to survive after their food runs out, except the parched soil they’re surrounded with isn’t proving fertile. Speaking of fertility, Kokoro is getting nauseated about every five minutes, and everyone finally finds out that she’s actually pregnant.

I think it makes sense that Kokoro is horrified when she finds out. Yes, she liked the idea of having a baby, but it was like a fairy story to her; a myth from a long time ago. It’s one thing to imagine having a cute little doll-like thing in your arms, and quite another to be told “Yes, there is another person living inside you now and they will get bigger and bigger until they burst out.” Nana (the useless one) mentions that it’s considered impossible to pilot a FRANXX while pregnant, so in the past pistils had abortions. This is interesting, because when Kokoro was first revealed to be pregnant I thought she was going to have trouble piloting, but she and Mitsuru did pilot together during the last operation, albeit with difficulty. I think we’re supposed to assume she got away with it because she was still early in the pregnancy, but normally pregnant women can’t; their conception energy is being used elsewhere.

All Kokoro does this whole episode is vomit and lie in bed, which is pretty much all I did for the whole first trimester of my pregnancy, so I can relate. They better start allotting her more of the limited food supply, otherwise they’re going to have a VERY dangerous lady on their hands once she hits the 4-month mark. Do not get between a pregnant lady and her snacks.

Dr. Franxx has set up Hachi and Nana(the original, decent one) to be the next generation of caretakers for the kids, which makes me like him more posthumously. I know a lot of what happened on this show was ultimately Franxx’s fault, but at least he knew that and tried to make amends at the end of his life, which is more than you can say for a lot of fictional mad scientists. Anyway, Hachi and Nana discover that the kids who were kicked out of Garden (like Hiro’s original partner, Naomi) are being kept in what appears to be cryostasis; frankly, I thought Papa had killed them all outright the moment they failed as parasites, so this is a pleasant surprise. I assume they can be revived and rejoin the human population, otherwise I don’t see the point of introducing them this late in the game.

Hiro figures out that the catatonic Zero Two he’s left with is just her body, and her mind is in Strelizia, and embarks on a desperate plan to reunite with her. Goro rightfully chews him out for how selfish this is, but it does nothing to change Hiro’s resolve. I think it’s important to show this, the dark side of love. Last episode, Zero Two saved the world because of love, but she didn’t do it for that reason; she did it to get to Hiro, and saving the world was just the icing on the cake, if that. Now Hiro is just as determined to get to her, and the fact that he might doom the world by doing so is just a minor detail to him at this point. Both of them are acting the exact same way, yet Zero Two seems like a martyr while Hiro seems like a selfish jerk.

When the whole squad (save Mitsuru and Kokoro) agrees to go into space with Hiro to reunite with 02, I’m left with mixed feelings. If it’s selfish for Hiro to go, isn’t it even worse for the rest of them to do so, since they’re effectively the leaders of the planet right now? This is why I wish we knew how many other parasite kids were still around; if there’s hundreds of healthy parasites around to do work on the farm and such, under Hachi and Good Nana’s competent direction, what Squad 13 is doing makes a lot more sense. I guess we kind of have to assume that’s the case, otherwise our kiddos have just doomed the human race to extinction.

“We will now call to order the second meeting of the Special Committee for the Continuation of All Life on Earth. Raise your hand if you want to ditch Earth for Mars. Secretary, please note in the minutes that the Special Committee for the Continuation of All Life on Earth is has now changed its name to the Special Committee For Going The Fuck To Space. Meeting adjourned.”

It looks like our final two episodes are going to be in space, and uh…I’m apprehensive about this. Because once Mitsuru and Kokoro were left at home, the rest of the cast effectively became disposable. Thematically, the future of the human race is tied up with Kokoro and her baby (and has been for the entire run of the show), so as long as she survives and gives birth, the good guys effectively “win.” Anything could happen to the crew in space, and I’m not even sure what I want to happen. They could all die defeating VIRM, keeping the Earth safe for Kokoro’s children; or we could get some 2001: A Space Odyssey type stuff with people passing onto a higher plane of existence or something. Or both. Or neither.

I don’t know; my desire for this show to go where no mecha show has gone before is warring with my desire for the kids to come home safe and sound and frolic in their new Garden of Eden (Eva?), and maybe even Ikuno will get to hook up with Naomi or something and everyone will be happy. It could happen.