Category Archives: Reaction

Posts in response to anime. We would call them “recaps,” except we’re not that diligent.

Cradle Con 2018

I hadn’t been to a con in years and felt like it was time to get back in the swing of things. Still, I didn’t want to deal with the crowds and hassle associated with a major convention. Cradle Con, a brand-new comic convention, held at The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York, fit the bill very nicely. I ended up deciding to go pretty much at the last minute, so I wasn’t really prepared to cover it anime-blog-style; plus, for some of the time I had a two-year-old in tow, and she was low on patience. Nevertheless, there were some aspects of the con that I wanted to mention here.

The first is the venue. The Cradle has been host to a bunch of cons (including the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo, which is coming up again in August), but this is the first time I’ve actually been there for an event. I’m pretty sure I’ve been to the museum in the past for normal museum-going purposes, but being there while an event is going on is a unique experience. You’ll be cruising through the dealers’ room, looking for good deals on comic books and video games, and next thing you know, you’re navigating around a fully restored WWII-era bomber. They didn’t really separate the museum exhibits from the convention activities, so it was an interesting mixing of worlds. Most of the conventions I’ve attended have been in boring hotels, or the hellmouth that is the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan (don’t get me started on that place), so this sort of eclectic atmosphere was inviting.

The first event I went to was a Jpop concert with Nicole Oliva. I hadn’t heard of Oliva before, but she’s an operatically trained singer, and takes her anisongs quite seriously. She’s got a powerful set of pipes and a really laid-back stage presence that makes you feel at ease, and her concert easily surpassed my expectations. I mean, of course she sang Moonlight Densetsu, which I expected, but then she also sang the Sailor Stars! theme from the fifth season, and the newer theme to Sailor Moon Crystal. Her version of 1000 Words from Final Fantasy X-2 gave me chills, and I don’t even like Final Fantasy X-2.

The A10 Thunderbolt II behind Ms. Oliva made a better backdrop for an anime concert than you might think.

Sometimes while in the shower, I imagine getting up on stage at a con and singing my version of Suteki da ne from Final Fantasy X, or Hacking to the Gate from Steins; Gate. The only problem with this plan is that I’m a tremendous coward and will probably never do this. In the meantime, while I try to grow a spine, we can all appreciate Oliva’s performance, since she actually knows what she’s doing.

Next I attended a panel on self-publishing by comic artist Jay Stuart of Poppycock Productions. Most of his work is horror, which isn’t my cup of tea, but he had a lot of good tips on self-publishing…the kind of nuts-and-bolts stuff they don’t tell you until you’re halfway through formatting your comic for print, and then you realize you have a major problem. His advice will likely prove very useful in the event that I ever get back into making comics, which will totally happen as soon as I catch up on my novels and all of my other projects for this blog. Totally.

I also attended the costume contest, which was a lot of fun. Technically Cradle Con has three costume contests: one for kids, one for teens, one for adults. I’m surprised a new con can get enough cosplayers to hold three separate cosplay contests, but I guess that’s the advantage of Long Island; we are stupid overpopulated. We can always find enough kids who want to dress like Pokemon and women who want to dress like Spider-Woman. Anyway, I only attended Saturday, so I only got to see the Adult cosplay contest. Some of the franchises that were represented on stage included Sword Art Online, Sailor Moon, and Final Fantasy XV. There were also quite a few excellent Star Wars costumes; I may not be a Star Wars fan myself, but man, are those people dedicated.

A  note on cosplay photos: I did actually take photos during the con, but I wasn’t sure whether or not I should post them. People who go to Otakon and AX in cosplay know that they’re going to end up included in photo galleries on numerous websites, but that’s not necessarily true of a local con like this. I also didn’t have a press pass, and there was no indication when I was taking photos that I was taking them for any larger purpose, so it just felt kind of morally questionable posting these pictures to Otakusphere. If I go to Cradle Con again next year, which I hope to do, I’d like to go officially as press and then take photos of EVERYTHING.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a con without my husband and I spending way too much money in the dealer’s room and Artist’s Alley; here’s our haul:

If you’re wondering “How can you afford all that stuff?” the answer is hahaha, WE CAN’T. We kind of blew all of our fun money on this one event and can’t buy anything else for a while. If I go to Anime NYC in the fall, I’m not going to be able to buy anything there except a keychain and a can of soda.

Our loot included three My Little Pony Classic Blind Boxes (which caused me a lot of pain, since I got TWO freakin’ Princess Sparkles and not one Glory), a bunch of Frozen toys to keep the little one happy, a collection of Suburban Fairy Tales by Francis Bonnet, (which came with a neat-o Rapunzel sketch), Suikoden II for PS2 with the strategy guide, a set of Magic cards that my husband just had to buy because he is a slave of WoTC, some X-Men issues from the early ’90s to fill out my collection, an X-Factor trade paperback, a really cool figure of Saber from Fate/Stay Night riding a motorcycle, and a helpful pocket-sized container of hand sanitizer.

All in all, good clean fun. It seemed like everyone around me was really happy to be there, and I think there’s an excellent chance I’ll be heading back to my favorite aviation museum in 2019 for Cradle Con 2.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 23

To be frank, I was a bit disappointed in this one. After the reveal that Issiki has God-tier chef skills, I wanted to see him cook with magical powers: slice an onion instantaneously, juggle shrimp while devaning them, boil water with telekinesis, that sort of thing. The fact that he just sort of cooks efficiently and blends flavors well is a bit of a let-down, but I guess there’s always dojinshi.

Nevertheless, the kids find it hard to believe that the goofy dude who was always running around naked save for an apron is such a skilled chef, which intrigues Alice. As a non-Polar Star resident, the fact that the former Seventh Seat hates wearing clothes is new to her. I like this little reminder that the rebels aren’t just Polar Star people; it’s a mixed alliance.

“At your place, the male seniors run around naked? Is it too late in the semester to move into your dorm after I get myself un-expelled?”

In an example of art improving upon life, this episode introduces the World Gourmet Association, this word’s equivalent to the Michelin Guide. I wish the WGO existed in real life, because even though I understand why it evolved that way, it’s still weird that the preeminent ranking system for fine restaurants is managed by a subsidiary of a tire company. It’s not often that I look at real life and say “Hmm, the Food Wars! version of this makes much more sense,” but there’s a first time for everything.

The judges are named Anne, Charme, and Histoire; I don’t know what to make of that. Histoire happens to be a black guy, so you can reset the “It has been X days since we’ve seen a black person in anime” clock.

Tires? What tires?

The match between Isshiki and Jurio is centered on eel, and I, uh…I have a really bad association with eel. Have you ever heard of The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass? Never read that book with an upset stomach; don’t read German literature in general with an upset stomach, come to think of it, but that one in particular. In any case, this is one time I’m not tempted by the dishes on display at all.

Jurio makes a fairly boring looking eel dish, which is only made interesting by the over-the-top reaction shots it provokes; I thought they had been pretty tame with the lewd foodgasms lately, but apparently they were just saving all the lewdness for this one episode.

I like these better when they’re naughty in a surreal way (like with tiny chick-Somas attacking Erina), rather than outright porny looking. That could just be me though.

Isshiki counters by making a dish that includes ingredients created by his juniors at Polar Star and I’m…somewhat underwhelmed. I get that it shows great cooking genius that he took these relatively unrefined ingredients and was able to blend them into one cohesive dish, but why was he out to prove Polar Star’s reputation in the first place? Did he anticipate that someone was going to insult the honor of his dorm, thus he prepared for that far in advance? Until further notice, I’m going to have to assume that in  addition to his near-supernatural cooking skills, Isshiki can also see the future because he is a witch. He must run around naked all the time because he communes with his forest gods through his skin or something.

Today’s Food Porn: Hitsumabushi, Polar Star Style. Eel and cheese? That sounds really unappetizing; this dish is only getting the “food porn” designation on a technicality.

Oh, and after Jurio gets eliminated, Rindou promises to take over for him. Oh, Food Wars! Do you really think I’m going to believe that we have a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing Rindou cook before the end of the season? Don’t make me laugh, no one’s buying it.

Picture of Rindou, for no reason at all. RINDOU~~~~~~~~~

So Isshiki wins, which upsets Nene, since she has a beef with Ishiki going back to childhood. I feel for her here; it’s not easy to be a normally-talented person who’s always in close proximity to a total genius. However, she’s a total snob, so my sympathy only extends so far.

Enjoy little Nene’s look of wonder before she decided to adopt a permanent Resting Bitch Face for the rest of her life.

Soma then reveals the next step of his evil soba plan, which is to stir fry the noodles in a giant wok. Apparently this is a horrible idea, since frying burns the shit out of the noodles and destroys the subtle nuances of flavor that the judges will be looking for. I think Soma has decided that there’s no way he’s going to compete with Nene on the noodles themselves (which is logical), so he’s basically throwing that aspect while he makes the rest of the dish as delicious as humanly possible. I can’t see WGO-type judges going for this though; even if his dish does taste better overall, you can’t de-emphasize the soba noodles in a soba challenge and expect to win. I’m hoping that whatever workaround they come up with to have Soma pull this out isn’t too unbelievable.

Oh my, is the next episode the season finale already? It seems like they have an awful lot to wrap up in one episode, but maybe something unexpected will happen that will call the competition to a sudden halt. Like, maybe Azami will realize in the middle of the Shokugeki that his ideals make no sense, and all he ever wanted was for Saiba-sempai to tell him that his dumplings were tasty or something.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 10

I love how Fuka throws a giant monkey wrench into the drama of this show. LLENN thinks that the situation with Pito and M is something she must silently bear alone, her personal burden, yet Fuka will just blab to anyone they bump into “Yeah Pito is going to kill herself after the game, lol who does that?” So against LLENN’s wishes, the world’s most rockin’ Rhythmic Gymnastics team has been pulled into Operation Don’t Let Pito Die Until We Kill Her.

Post opening, there’s a scene where a team tries to ally with Pito’s team, she refuses, an then they agree to have a cease-fire until both teams are properly separated. Pito naturally breaks the ceasefire immediately and shoots the other team in the back, leaving just one survivor. If this is supposed to be another example of how crazy Pito is, it doesn’t really work, since I kind of agree with her here. If the other team knew enough about Pito’s reputation to want to team up with her, yet didn’t see this coming, they kind of did this to themselves.

I appreciate Pito and M’s silent communication. “Honey, will you please lend me your handgun? I gotta shoot these stupid doofuses in the back.” “Yes, of course dear.”

This is another time when actually playing MMOs would probably give me a different perspective on this, since I have no idea how popular and commonplace this kind of “gentleman’s agreement” is in competitive shooters. However, it’s been pretty clear from the start that GGO is a “kill or be killed” sort of culture, and once the game starts, all bets are off. Maybe that sort of “let’s all be honorable combatants” thing would work in ALO, but it seems like it’s just foolish here.

Pito does let the last survivor get away, since the girl supposedly doesn’t shoot, and she’s not going to bother killing a non-combatant. It’s clear Pito does have her own brand of personal honor, for whatever it’s worth; it’s just inexplicable to everyone else.

“What are we gonna do?” “Destroy Team PM4 with an anti-tank rifle!” “What are we NOT going to do?” “Gymnastics, LOL!”

The rest of the episode primarily focuses on Team Rhythmic Gymnastics executing their plan to break M’s shield, taking away PM4’s defensive advantage, which they do. It’s a pretty neat plan too, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the rules in GGO change to stop bodies from being considered “immortal objects” for 10 minutes, because man, players are getting a LOT of mileage out of that rule.

In the next patch, dead bodies will not function as immortal objects, and will instead disappear immediately, like fairy dust. Thanks a lot, LLENN and SHINC.

As an aside, I like the fact that the Machine Gun Lovers got taken out offscreen with no fanfare. Being a gun fetishist is kind of a bad thing in GGO, because using a weapon because it’s cool probably means you don’t have a strategy beyond that. Look at Pito; I think she uses about 12 different weapons, depending on range and the terrain.

After M’s shield is broken, LLENN moves in to take out Pito, except Pito gets sniped in the head by the one girl she let escape earlier, yet survives. I’m on the fence about whether or not this annoys me; on one hand, Pito was shot in the head (through the eye no less), and she really should be dead. Then again, they are inside a video game, where missing limbs grow back after ten minutes and dead bodies become impenetrable titanium shields; real-life rules only apply intermittently.

We learn that Pito must be using a Nerve Gear, which is probably better proof of how insane Pito is than anything we’ve been shown so far. “You know all those critical safety protocols that VR games added after Sword Art Online? Yeah, I don’t want those.” While she recovers, the rest of PM4 fends off another team, but it’s all for naught; the team has infiltrated the log cabin where Pito is recovering! Oh noes, how will Pito and M ever get out of this conundrum???

Pito picked up a version of the Photon Sword that Kirito made famous, so it’s all good. I know some people groan at the references to Kirito and Sinon on this show (especially Sinon, who’s been mentioned at least three times), but personally I like it; I like the fact that SAO S2 is acknowledged and in continuity here. The fact that players actually learned things from the last Ballet of Bullets and adopted new weapons/tactics makes the whole situation more credible.

So with the rest of the opposition further whittled down, it looks like our Pito/LLENN face off is finally about to happen. If LLENN ends up perching on the top of Pito’s photon sword and then backflips off at some point, I will do a dance in my chair. I’m not proud of that, I’m just saying that it’s going to happen.

Last thing I’ll mention is how I love how LLENN and the gymnasts have decided that they’ll team up in exchange for lots of yummy sweets next time they meet. Who says that girls using submachine guns and anti-tank rifles can’t be feminine when they feel like it?

“Look, lives are on the line here, but I think we can all agree that what’s really important is CAKE. Are you prepared to give us more cake?”

Amanchu!~Advance~, Episode 11

Normally I don’t like to say things like “this episode was a giant trash fire,” because that’s harsh. No matter how much I didn’t like something, using that kind of language is unnecessarily cruel to the people who made the show, and the fans who enjoyed it. In general, I think people are way too quick to compare things to trash and/or excrement just because they didn’t happen to like them.

That said, this entire episode revolved around burning dead grass, so I feel comfortable saying that it was a giant burning grass fire of an episode; that’s just a statement of fact.

Before we go any further, your Weekly Pikari Troll Face: honestly, none of the Pikari faces were that choice this time around, so here’s a version of Pikari Entire Family Troll Face.

The sheer size of Grandpa continues to be an odd mix of adorable and terrifying.

After last episode’s neat flashback to the early days of scuba diving, this episode has the show returning to entirely land-based antics that mainly feel like a time-filling exercise. Pikari gets sick on her birthday, and everybody brings her cake; later on, they all go to a traditional dead grass fire burning ceremony on a mountain, and we learn that Kokoro is a boy. Whooop.

It had occurred to me that Kokoro might be a feminine-looking boy rather than a masculine-sounding girl, but I never mentioned it in any of these posts because I honestly didn’t care. Other than being mildly surprised, it seems like Pikari and Teko don’t care that much either, so I’m kind of flummoxed as to what the point here is. I think Pikari realizes that she’s probably his first crush, and treats that with the gravity it deserves (whereas in the past, she probably assumed it was just a kind of hero-worship on Kokoro’s part), but that’s really the only good part of this episode; the rare opportunity to see Pikari be the mature one.

Oh honey, are you ever on the wrong show. You have no idea.

While we’re talking about gender on Amanchu! here for a moment, maybe this a good time to talk about how Pikari and Teko’s relationship has been portrayed. I think during the first season, you could choose to see their feelings for one another as “just friends” if you wanted to, but it’s become increasingly difficult to do that. The imagery with the two of them has gotten more and more romantic. Still, they never refer to themselves as lesbians, are never referred to that way by anyone else, and it’s never made explicit that their love has a sexual aspect.

For me personally, it really doesn’t matter whether the two girls have sexual feelings for each other; they obviously love each other, and that’s what matters. However, if you’re watching from the vantage point of looking for an increase in LGBT representation in anime, then the fact that Teko and Pikari are strongly hinted to be lesbians without that ever being confirmed is probably annoying. I don’t really know what to make of that, by the way, I’m just noticing it.

Anyway, this show has really been trying my patience lately. The first half of the show was pretty nicely front-loaded with scuba scenes, but then spent much of the second half goofing off. I mean, I don’t even need the show to focus that heavily on the diving– I know it’s a slice-of-life series as well– but if they’re not going to do a diving plot, it would be nice if the story they did tell felt like it had a purpose. It looks like the final episode will return to diving, but unless that ends up being one hell of an episode, it feels like too-little-too-late at this point.

Oh, and would just like to point out that Mato-chan-sensei is once again hanging out with her teenaged students and blowing off the love of her life; I’m beginning to seriously worry about this woman. Oh, and they brought back Kotori, Teko’s dream buddy from the first “lucid dreaming” episode, and that’s not right! Please, I’m trying so hard to forget that those episodes happened or that I ever liked any of them in the first place!

*sigh* This episode, man. This episode.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episodes 21 & 22

Things are coming to a boiling point on Food Wars! Oh my God, did I just say that? I really just said that. In theory I could go back and delete that sentence and try to open this post another way, but it’s too late now, the die has been cast.

Anyway, flashback time! Episode 21 gives us the background on Saiba (Soma’s Dad) and Azami (Erina’s Dad) that we’ve been craving for a while, but it manages to raise as many questions as it answers, if not more. Long story short, Saiba was the most brilliant chef of his generation, hero-worshipped by his classmates, but the constant pressure to perform eventually got to him and he cracked. Azami’s crazy, Stalin-style plans for food-world domination seem to be based on the idea that he’s never going to let another chef go through what his idol Joichirou Saiba went through…somehow. I guess if a talented chef tried to walk away from Totsuki under Azami’s reign, he’d have them dragged before a firing squad, and that’s his solution to the problem? It’s not entirely clear.

One thing this episode did clarify was how the Elite 10 works. I’ve thought for a while that the rankings weren’t strictly representative of talent; if they were, Erina should be ranked higher than the tenth seat, right? Turns out things like class participation matter, which is why Saiba was never No. 1 of the Elite Ten despite being the undisputed best chef in school. Being Rindou-centric, I wonder how this applies to Rindou, who is No. 2 on the Elite 10, just like Saiba was; there seems to be a parallel between those two because she’s probably his daughter  for some reason. I wonder if Rindou could be No. 1 if she wanted to, but never shows up to class; that sounds like her.

We still don’t learn anything about Soma’s mom; best guess is that Saiba started working at a diner called Yukihira, named after the owner, and married the boss’s daughter, but that’s speculative. We don’t even know for a fact that Soma is his biological son; he could have married a woman who already had a child. Granted, given the resemblance and all, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to think that these two are related; I’m just saying, the background is so vague that nothing is certain.

My best guess, which will probably be laughed at by people who have read the manga and know all the answers already (meanies), is that both Soma and Rindou are Saiba’s children, with a woman named Yukihira. When they were still very young, Ms. Yukihira left, taking her daughter with her, and leaving Soma with his Dad. Later on, Ms. Yukihira married a man named Kobayashi, explaining Rindou’s surname. Meanwhile, Rindou knows that Soma is her little brother (hence her special treatment of him), but Soma doesn’t know because Saiba finds the whole subject painful and refuses to talk about it.

There. My theory is probably completely wrong, but it felt good getting it out there.

This episode also gives us another glimpse into why Soma is special as a chef; it’s not talent, because he isn’t far and away better than his contemporaries the way his father was. It’s the fact that he always runs head-first towards a challenge, and enjoys living like that. It’s not just that he tries hard (which he does anyway), but that he seems to have been born with this rock-solid sense of self that cannot be shaken by anything, even repeated failure. “Keep trying, don’t give up,” may be a trite message, but I think they’ve found a novel way of expressing it with Soma; it’s more about how he views the challenge than the fact that he keeps trying.

“We’re stuck in a cage with Nikumi’s boobs and Alice’s ego? HOW WILL WE SURVIVE????”

Episode 22 gives us an update on the expelled Totsuki students, with Alice, bless her, taking everything in stride. I’m glad the show acknowledged the fact that as a Nakiri family member, Alice couldn’t just be tossed aside by Central the way Azami wants; it seemed pointless to introduce her Dad in a position of power, and then have him stand by idly while his daughter was disrespected. So the kids have not been sent crying back to Totsuki, because Alice has too much pull for that, so they’re around to watch the Team Shokugeki. Central retaliates by placing the rebel students in an actual cage while they watch the match, and wow, way to be petty, Central.

We see the current line up of the Elite 10 for the first time, and RINDOU IS DRESSED FOR COOKING! I repeat, RINDOU IS DRESSED FOR COOKING! Now I don’t honestly believe that we’re going to see her cook anything before the end of the season, but hey, it’s a nice gesture at least.

Meanwhile, the Rebel Alliance (heh) has gathered some other student chefs who haven’t been expelled: Kuga the Chinese Food specialist (which should have been obvious if I thought about it), Isshiki the Naked Apron Senpai (former 7th Seat in the Elite 10), Copy Chef Subaru (the guy who disrespected Takumi’s Mezza Luna, but that’s okay because he’s on our side now), and…this guy.

Megushima Toskue. Does anyone remember this guy at all? Because they introduce him like we’re supposed to recognize him, but I swear I have no memory of him being on this show before.

Despite the fact that everyone in the arena is rooting for Central, including the host, we’re led to believe that this is going to be a fair contest, because the Elite 10 have their pride and feel like they shouldn’t need to cheat to crush the rebels. When Nene (6th Seat) gets assigned her specialty, Soba, she’s actually embarrassed that she got such a lucky break, which is cute. I’m wondering how Soma’s going to pull out a win with this one, because he knows damn well that he can’t outcook Nene with traditional soba. They are presenting his diner experience as some kind of superpower (“only SOMA truly knows how to cook for the unwashed masses!”), but I don’t see how that’s going to help him here. We shall see.

More interesting is Isshiki-sempai, who’s being a goofball and having a good time like always. That is, until his opponent has the gall to insult the residents of Isshiki’s beloved Polar Star Dormitory, and Isshiki is just not fucking having it. Apparently he’s been hiding his God-like cooking skills from all and sundry, and now that he’s defending the honor of his dorm, he’s going to show us what he can really do for the first time…including using a knife like Himura Kenshin. I’m intrigued and– not gonna lie– a little aroused.

Cooking Battousai is not amused by your remarks.

Mimisaka is facing off against someone we don’t know, unless this person has also appeared on the show before and I just forgot; Food Wars! has too many characters and I can’t keep track. Remember when it was just Soma, his dad, that chick who lived next door, and that was it? Those were the days…except we didn’t have Sexy Naked Apron Ninja Chef Isshiki back then, so I think we’re doing better now. I’m pretty happy now.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 9

This show has done a lot to assuage my initial fears. From the very start, my biggest problem with the concept was that Gun Gale Online, the game itself, just didn’t look fun to play, and after the last few episodes, I really can’t say that anymore. Personally I’d still prefer to be flying around as a wind fairy in ALO any day of the week, but I admit that I can see why the strategic-yet-visceral gameplay of GGO would be fun.

We get the Pito-Rampage-of-Terror that we were all but promised last episode, and boy does she deliver. I get the impression that Pito is just someone who has an innate talent for violence, like Frank Castle as the Punisher. She doesn’t do any ridiculous acrobatics or make any insanely hard shots or anything, she’s just really quick and decisive and make the shots she needs to make. I hesitate to use the word “realistic” in regard to anything that happens on this show, but I think there is an element of realism to her “massacre” that makes it effective. If she just could just magically shoot people with twin machine guns while doing 15 backflips in the air, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

“I have slain your army; please send another. No really, please send another, I love killing people.”

However, as deadly as Pito is, I think the “ten minute massacre” in the title also refers to LLENN taking out about 20 other players. What’s interesting is that LLENN doesn’t want to fight; she wants to take the line of least resistance and slip out of sight, only to resort to fighting three other teams when she has no other choice. I wonder if there’s an element of LLENN lying to herself here; pretending she’s the nice gal who only fights when she has to, when in reality she’s even more dangerous in combat than Pito is, because she doesn’t waste time grandstanding.

I don’t get what the deal is with these two dudes, desperately holding on for dear life when it’s clear they’ve lost the battle. Guys, your dedication is impressive, but this isn’t not Sword Art Online; you know you can just log out of the game once you lose, right?

Now I’m having flashbacks to Metal Gear Solid and Liquid Snake sneering “You ENJOY all the killing!” and argh, I did not want to think about that today. Now I have Cam Clarke’s voice in my head, and it’s probably going to stay there for about three hours. Damn you MGS and your intensely memorable voice acting!

On another note, I’m beginning to wonder if Pito is really as crazy as M says. We really only have his word for it that she’s planning to kill them both, and for all we know, he could be the true crazy one. You’ll notice that for all of Pito’s ruthlessness in battle, she’s very well aware that the people she “kills” are going to be chilling out in the lobby the moment she’s done with them, and she seems to be perfectly happy about that. It’s still entirely possible that what M told us about her is true, but I’m not certain.

Speaking of crazy, some creepy guy tells Fuka that he wants to kill her and then grope her character’s corpse, and uh…why would you say that? I think the creators just wanted an excuse for Fuka to be able to bludgeon someone to death with her grenade launcher without us having to waste even a second feeling sorry for the dude. Incidentally, that’s the part of PVP gamer culture that creeps me out; I mean, I know it’s not real, and no one’s corpse is really getting groped, but it’s just…why would you even go there? I kind of wish Fuka was there to be awesome and stomp over ever creepy player who says things like this, but sadly she cannot be everywhere at once; sadly, we do not live in a world of Infinite Fukas (although I think scientists really outta get on that right away.)

Anyway, we then get a weird scene where a female player hits on LLENN a whole lot, and it’s kind of irritating. I get that it’s supposed to be humorously awkward, but it just drags on for too long. I do however enjoy how psyched LLENN got at the idea of getting more ammo; you can tell she’s become a true gamer now, the way she lusts after bullets.

This is the face I make whenever I discover a cache of ammo in Tomb Raider, except I’m less maniacally adorable and more just, well…maniacal.

That annoying scene serves a purpose though, because it allows a skilled team to sneak up on Team Death By Loli, and then we’re at the end of the episode. Looks like we have at least one more episode of the girls wreaking utter havok before the inevitable Pito/LLENN face off, so I hope they continue enjoying themselves.

DARLING in the FRANXX, Episode 20

Wow. There’s big episodes, there’s huge episodes, and then there’s whatever this ungodly nonsense was. So much happened in this 24 minutes that I felt overwhelmed the first time I watched it, and only puzzled out some of what was going on after watching it again the next day. I’m still unsure about a few things; whether that’s because I’m being a little dim right now, or because the events of this show do not entirely make sense at the moment, remains to be seen.

Before I get to this episode in excruciating detail, a point of clarification: I had been referring to Werner Franxx as “Papa” in these blog posts, but it’s become increasingly obvious that the term is meant to refer to APE in general. It was kind of ambiguous for a while, especially since Crunchyroll’s subs refer to Papa as a “he,” but now it’s pretty clear that APE=Papa. My apologies for any confusion, but to be fair, it was meant to be a mysterious term for a while.

Okay, now I’m going to go through this episode in more detail than I normally do, in part because it might help me figure out what the hell just happened. We open with the kiddos being briefed by the “new” Nana about an upcoming operation. I wonder if this means that the parasites and their handlers are seen as so disposable, they don’t even get exclusive code numbers. I mean, if Ichigo got killed in action, is there another 015 waiting in the wings? I guess it wouldn’t make much difference, it’s more wondering about the scale of the parasite operation. It’s actually sort of comforting that New Nana doesn’t appear to be a clone of Original Nana, which just goes to show how dark this world is.

Hiro and Zero Two are being briefed on their mission: to implant Strelizia into Star Entity, the great Klaxosaur weapon, and take control of it. Hiro asks if there’s a future for them after this operation, and the way the APE elder words it is interesting. He says that after the battle “the future will belong to humanity,” but that doesn’t really answer Hiro’s question; 02 isn’t human, and it’s debatable whether Hiro is anymore. The APE guys are liars and nothing they say should be trusted anyway, but if you want to get all rules-lawyer about it, saying that the future will be safe for humans is no guarantee of anything for our favorite couple.

Kokoro is throwing up on the regular now, so either she’s a)pregnant or b)ate a bad shrimp recently. I’m pretty sure shrimp is not part of the approved Parasite Diet, so I’m going to assume she’s pregnant. But does she know that she’s pregnant? APE erased her memories of Mitsuru (or at least, they tried to), but did they think to erase her memories of what she read in her version of What to Expect While You’re Expecting? The idea that she might be pregnant and not even know what pregnancy is anymore is pretty terrifying. Can you imagine when that baby starts kicking?

My gut feeling is that she knows; maybe the pregnancy hormones screwed with APE’s brainwashing, or something to that effect, but she’s a bit of a cypher in this episode, so we don’t know for sure yet. For the record, I expected her pregnancy to screw with her ability to pilot a FRANXX (since actually being pregnant kid of mucks up the “piloting is conception” metaphor), but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Our kiddos have an interaction with the Nines, who seem to have a vendetta against them now. Zero Two stands up for her squadmates for the first time. Notice when she says that her friends have “their eyes set on the future,” the camera shows Kokoro’s midsection, and she tenses; yeah, she totally knows. Other than that, the most noteworthy thing about this scene is one of the Nines sneering that Papa only lets Squad 13 get away with things because they’re “necessary tools.” Uh…duh? Does this person expect this to be news to anyone? What do the Nines think they are? You can tell that these kids have no playground experience, because that was an awfully weak insult.

Klaxosaur attack! I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the sakuga fans who’ve been bored to shit for the last four episodes. Further provoking doubt in the efficacy of APE’s memory-erasing technology, Mitsuru and Kokoro are nearly incapacitated by saying each other’s names out loud. Was Hiro the only person that memory-erasing headset ever properly worked on? No wonder APE loves him.

Speaking of Hiro, he and Zero Two are having a romantic heart-to-heart while they prepare for the mission. They’re smart enough to know that all hell is about to break loose, so their words have proper gravity here. It’s one thing to say “If we get separated, I’ll come find you,” as a general statement; quite another when you’re about 60% sure that’s going to be necessary, and probably in about half an hour.

This is when the Klaxosaur Princess decides to crash the party, and here’s where everything starts to get muddy as hell for me. She tells Doctor Franxx that she won’t let the humans do what they want with “our child;” at first, it seems like she means Zero Two, but she doesn’t; she’s referring to Star Entity, the weapon. By the end of this episode, we know that Franxx and the Klaxosaurs created Star Entity together (that’s the only explanation that makes any sense), so…how many layers of deceit have been going on here? Has Dr. Franxx been sneaking out of the Plantation on the back of a horse-shaped Klaxosaur to go work on Star Entity, only for APE not to notice for a while? Or did they know all along, and let him get away with it because they wanted to seize control of the final product? Or maybe Franxx KNOWS that they KNOW and they KNOW that he KNOWS and…*brain explodes*

Okay, obviously I’m not smart enough for this plot twist, so we’ll come back to that later.

Dr. Franxx helpfully informs us that the Princess is the last of the Klaxo sapiens, and…what? Why is she the only one? Shouldn’t there be at least a few more to serve as a kind of ruling class over the other Klaxosaurs? I get that she’s kind of like a queen bee, singular, but it’s not clear why the race would evolve like that.

Interestingly, the Princess doesn’t kill Dr. Franxx once again, even though she easily could; I think she has some regard for him as the “father” of their creation, even if she would never admit it outright. Because now that Star Entity is finished, she probably doesn’t need him alive.

It’s kind of touching, Franxx’s doomed love for the Princess; I’m not going to be all “Werner Franxx Did Nothing Wrong,” but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find him sympathetic. Considering the pathetic state that humanity has been reduced to (which is largely his fault, but eh, details) you really can’t blame him for taking one look at the Klaxosaur Princess and saying to himself “that’s it, I’m switching teams.”

Hiro and Zero Two aren’t having much luck accessing Star Entity, then the Princess starts approaching and Zero Two freaks out. She’s been able to sense Klaxosaurs coming all along, so I imagine feeling the Princess approach must be the equivalent of hearing Godzilla walking towards you. Then we get absolute confirmation that the Princess does not think of Zero Two as her child, but rather as a “fake,” a lesser copy.

I don’t know if this is intentional or not, but there’s interesting subtext here. We just got through this whole arc with Kokoro about how children are the mark you leave on the future, and the Princess, being inhuman, rejects it. She’s not interested in Zero Two as an autonomous replacement for her; she only wants the thing created as a weapon, that she can directly control. Zero Two is more her true child than Star Entity could possibly be, but she can’t see that, because she doesn’t have a mortal human lifespan; why does she need to leave a mark on the future, when she still expects to exist in the future?

The Princess wants to use Hiro as a partner, so she kisses him, and when I say “kisses” I really mean heinously sexually assaults— it looks really violent, like she’s actually pumping some kind of fluid into him via her mouth. Everyone viewing this show through a warped lens of sexual politics just had an aneurysm, but we’ll move on. The APE guys start freaking out that the Princess is getting Star Entity, but they don’t seem to all be on the same page. I thought on first viewings that all of the APE guys turned out to be aliens, but now it seems like only maybe two of them were, and the rest were humans? It’s hard to be sure.

The Princess uses her Klaxo-telepathy to lambast the humans for stealing magma energy, and here’s where things get super-crazy. Dr. Franxx reveals that male Klaxo sapiens evolved into magma, while the females evolved into the monsters that the mechs have been fighting. So, all those times the Klaxosaurs attacked human installations, their motivation was “stop using my friends as a battery, you assholes.” We also learn that the Franxx are just souped-up Klaxosaurs, which isn’t surprising at this point. Oh, and sometimes the magma-males congeal into a fetus-like form and serve as pilots for the female Klaxosaurs, which is what resides in the core.

Okay, the “Our weapons are really just something we copied from our greatest enemy” thing is right out of Evangelion (and probably 20 other mech shows at this point), but I’m still kind of stuck on the whole “dudes evolved into magma” thing. I think we’re supposed to believe that this evolution was deliberate (since the Klaxo sapiens are said by Dr. Franxx to have “built” the Klaxosaurs as they now exist), but like…who would plan something like this? Who, in response to an existential threat, would say “You know what I think we should do? Turn all the men into a superheated fluid, bury it underground, and turn all the women into giant rampaging rhinoceroses, that’ll show those aliens who’s boss!” It’s just so bizarre I can’t quite wrap my brain around it.

The Princess activates Star Entity right in time for a bunch of purple aliens, VIRM, to show up right near Earth. So APE was infiltrated by these aliens, and APE made sure that the humans would continue killing the Klaxosaurs, since the Klaxosaurs were the biggest obstacle to taking over the planet the first time they tried it. So the Klaxosaurs have never been the real enemy and have in fact been trying to save the planet this whole time. Humans have just been dupes.

Star Entity begins kicking righteous amounts of ass, blowing up the invaders’ ships left and right, only for yet another TWIST! Star Entity has been contaminated by VIRM, who programmed it to self destruct if the Klaxosaur Princess got in the cockpit and started kicking ass. They wanted to use Star Entity, but rather than let the Princess use it, they’d sooner destroy it. And the Earth with it.

The really baffling thing right now is that I have no idea what these VIRM aliens want. Supposedly they want the Earth, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal to them to blow it up to get rid of the threat of Star Entity. Via APE, they’ve said things about liberating the creatures of the planet (and considering they don’t appear to have physical bodies, they probably mean liberation from corporeal form), but if they can do that by blowing the planet up, why didn’t they just do that in the first place?

You could say they’ve been after Star Entity the whole time, but Star Entity was created in response to their attempt to invade Earth the first time. Are they so good at 4D chess that they knew an unsuccessful attempt at invading primeval Earth would lead the Klaxosaurs and the humans to team up to develop Star Entity, which they could then take over and use for their own purposes? But at the time VIRM invaded originally, humans couldn’t even have existed yet in this timeline– *head explodes again*

*Collects pieces of brain and resumes blogging*

So, do I have something completely wrong here, or does this not make sense? Hopefully it’ll be explained further in the remaining episodes, because I don’t get it.

In any case, Zero Two has taken a beating from the Princess, but she’s not down for the count yet. There’s a famous scene in X-Men comics where Wolverine gets thrown down to the basement of the Hellfire Club while everyone’s fighting, and everyone thinks he’s been taken out, only for him to climb his way back up while mutilating about 20 enemies in the process. I get a similar feeling from Zero Two pulling her bloodstained self together at the bottom of Gran Crevasse; she’s about to go on a rampage, and I think her Mom is about to learn that her daughter is A LOT more like her than she thought.

I’m baffled, but excited; I don’t know if the show can make all of this work in the few episodes it has left. But damn if that wasn’t a compelling episode of anime.

Amanchu!~Advance~, Episode 10

Last time, I was so upset about the state of affairs in Amanchu! that I didn’t even bother to share my favorite Pikari Troll Face. My only recourse now is to share a Pikari Troll Face that’s so great, it can cover several weeks:

I love how in this sort of in-between frame she’s not sure whether she should be excited or not. Like she’s about ready to yell out “Whoop!” but Mato-chan Sensei recently told her “learn to read the room!” and now she’s questioning herself. Whoop?

Anyway, after dabbling with a well-meaning but ultimately dull storyarc, this episode was more of the Amanchu! we’ve come to know and love. In addition to having some scuba diving scenes (actual diving! Not even kidding!), it also had a really warm and cozy vibe, like you were right there hanging out with the characters and drinking pork soup with them. Considering that all the characters are basically camping out for the night at the Amanchu storefront, it was practically an episode of Yuru Camp; since everyone and their Dad loved Yuru Camp, why not? It works.

This is so snuggly, I love it. Teko and Kokoro fighting over who gets to be Pikari’s pillow is pretty cute, although the results are predictable: Kokoro is 100 years too early to challenge Teko on the subject of being all up in Pikari’s business.

I don’t know what it is about this show that makes me feel like it’s riffing on other shows so much; another show could do a camp-out New Year’s Party like this, and I probably wouldn’t immediately think “Yuru Camp vibes.” I think Amanchu! is kind of a skilled chameleon, where different episodes bring different sort of feelings up to the surface very effectively, so it tends to remind you of other good shows. Except, err, for the last three episodes.

Speaking of which, I have to wonder what Mato-chan Sensei was doing at this party; doesn’t she have a boyfriend now? If we had to sit through that insufferable Peter Pan arc, at least Mato-chan should get some action out of it, you know? I wonder if that other teacher is just sitting, drinking cheap beer at home, wondering why the love of his life ditched him on New Years Eve for a bunch of teenagers.

THIS. THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN MISSING. More underwater scenery porn, please; I don’t mind if it’s flashbacks with Grandma, or Grandpa, or whatever, it’s all good.

The focus on Pikari’s grandmother was unexpected, but really pleasant. I definitely was not sitting around thinking that I needed to know more about Grandma’s past, but the whole idea that she was a pearl diver who fell in love with scuba diving back when it was new and little-known is a good hook. I would be totally up for an OVA all about Grandma Pikari back in the ’50s and ’60s; I’m pretty sure we won’t get one, but it would be amazing.

One of the lesser-known rules of anime: the more old and plain a Grandma looks now, the more insanely smoking hot she was back in the day. Seriously, she is like the hottest Amanchu girl, which is saying something.

Now that we’ve only got a few episodes left, I’m assuming (knock wood) that they will be about Pikari and Teko going diving together again. I’d love for them to have one more little adventure all by themselves, falling in love amidst the wonders of the sea. Thematically, to come full circle this season probably should involve the two girls being separated, or at least anticipating separation, but I kind of hope we don’t go there; I just want them to be happy together for a while longer.

DARLING in the FRANXX, Episodes 16-19

This batch of episodes was dominated by the “how we got here” flashback episode, which was very reminiscent of Evangelion’s 21st episode. You might think this similarity would be a bad thing, but that episode happens to be one of my favorite episodes of anything, period, so if you’re going to copy something, that’s an excellent choice.

Seriously, at this point I think the similarities to Eva are such that it’s not that the show is “copying” Eva, but it’s very consciously using Eva as a template, and we’re supposed to notice. The scene where Karina says that she doesn’t want immortality because she’s thinking of having a baby is very reminiscent of Fuyutsuki and Yui Ikari’s first meeting, when he asks her about her future and she says she’s “thinking about getting married and having children.” The more I think about it, that scene– where Yui gives that unexpected response and Fuyutsuki looks at her with a mix of shock and wonder– is Darling in a nutshell. Like the creators took that one tiny, blink-and-you’ll miss it moment in Evangelion and created a whole show around it. I’m pretty sure that’s not what literally happened, but I love the idea of it.

Anyway, onto our beloved parasites. My girl Kokoro is not one to let the grass grow under her feet; no sooner did I say last time that the future for their world was probably about having kids instead of fighting Klaxosaurs, and she’s all in Mitsuru’s face about making a baby. The romance between Mitsuru and Kokoro happened very fast, but I find it believable; it’s hormonal teenagers, stuck in a hurry-up-and-wait situation, who have just discovered that sex exists. The implication is that this is what Papa wanted to happen too, but I don’t think he really cared about the kids specifically; I think he just wants to observe humanity in it’s “natural” state, outside of the stagnant and ossified society that he unwittingly helped create. When Mitsuru and Kokoro get their memories erased, I get the impression that he was pissed off more because his experiment was curtailed than because he gives a toss about either of them. That said, Papa seems to be the only one who’s doing good things for the kids, even if his motives are entirely self-serving.

About “Papa,” I wonder: do they call him Papa because he used his DNA to create them, and they’re literally all his children? That would make logical sense (especially because at the time parasites were being created, a lot of people were already sterilized, so he may have been one of the few people who could serve as a father), but I don’t think that’s it; my gut is telling me that 02 is Papa’s only true child. My guess is that they harvested DNA for parasite creation before everyone was sterilized, and Werner Franxx is called “Papa” simply because he was the head of parasite creation. Maybe I just don’t want to believe that all the parasites are siblings, because I think that would be a bad direction for the show to go.

Meanwhile, with 02 finding grey hair on Miku’s head and the various problems the kids have been having, it’s clear something bad is going on with their health. Maybe parasites aren’t designed to live past their teenaged years, but I think it’s more likely that the very act of piloting is sucking the life out of them. I thought that the ending was likely to involve the other kids living on after Hiro and 02 die, but now I’m not so sure about that.

This part of the show also gives us confirmation on something hinted at all along; Ikuno is a lesbian. To me, her frustration about having to pilot a FRANXX with a male partner mirrors the frustration gays and lesbians feel when they want to have a child, or otherwise having to fit within the general male/female paradigm; this gels well with what I’ve thought all along, which is that piloting is a metaphor for not just sex, but conception. If it was only about having sex, Ikuno and Ichigo could pilot a FRANXX all day long (well, assuming Ichigo was up for it), but that’s not what it’s about. They can’t create new life together, and it’s frustrating and unfair, but it’s a fact.

Apparently, if my internet sources are correct, some people have taken this scene to mean that the creators of FRANXX are saying that lesbians shouldn’t exist or something, and that’s just…that’s just…sigh….

Look, I’ve been trying really hard not to talk about the criticism I’ve heard of this show too much, but this is a good time to mention that I can’t believe just how off-base several professional anime critics have been in regard to this show so far. Yes we’re all entitled to our opinions and so on and so forth, but the criticism I’ve seen of FRANXX has been on the level of reading Lolita and then deciding that Nabokov must be advocating for everyone to go out and have sex with 10-year-olds. It’s…functionally illiterate. This is the old maxim “when you have a big enough hammer, everything looks like a nail” in action; in the anime criticism sphere, some folks have giant titanium mallets with GENDER POLITICS written on the side, and they will hammer all day long until any substance below is reduced to mush.

I should note that the moment in the second OP where 02 and Hiro embrace, and she phases through him and disappears, only for him to disappear a moment later, gives me a minor case of the chills, every time. I don’t know what it is exactly; it could be that I’m afraid the characters are going to die soon, but I think that’s very likely to happen, so I’m not really afraid of it. I guess it’s just that you can’t have a whole show be about the creation of new life, and not deal with the flipside of that; that we’re all only here for an instant.

As I write this, episode 20 has just come out; now that I’m caught up, I’m going to start doing single-episode posts. I’m apprehensive about what comes next, just because this show has so far exceeded my expectations so much that I’m afraid of how I’ll feel if it falls apart in the last stretch. I don’t think it will, but we’ll see.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episodes 7 and 8

I decided to do a double post again, since not that much happened in episode 7. LLENN’s new partner Fuka is a lot of fun to watch, especially because she’s a different kind of crazy from Pito, but still pretty darn crazy. It’s like level-headed LLENN is just a magnet for crazy people, and this is something she’s just going to have to deal with for the rest of her life. Anyway, despite the fact that the show insists on calling them Team LF (boring), to me they are Team Death By Loli, and I feel good about it.

Earlier in the series I mentioned that I really don’t care about Pito, and that’s still true; I mean, I think her obsession with in-game death is somewhat interesting, but she could drop out of the story tomorrow and I wouldn’t really care. Now I’m trying to figure out if the fact that I don’t care about her is really hurting the story at this point. Technically LLENN is trying to save Pito, so being invested in Pito’s fate would make for a better story, right? But Pito is functioning as an antagonist in the competition, so it’s not like the show is asking me to root for her.

Pito is not a very nice lady, and probably a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Now if only I found her as interesting as the players of GGO seem to.

I want LLENN to succeed in defeating Pito and M in the Squad Jam for Karen’s sake, but considering the fact that Pito and M could jump off a cliff together and I wouldn’t care, it’s hard to feel like a lot is riding on the outcome of this competition. I imagine we’re going to learn something about Pito’s tragic backstory soon that will make us care about her, but I’m not sure I want that to happen; it would be refreshing if she were just a psychopath, straight-up, and that’s all there is to her. Like the show fades into a flashback, and we’re waiting to find out that her father neglected her as a child or something, and then it turns out her past was totally normal and she just really wants to die in a video game for some reason.

See, I complain that I don’t care about Pito, then I complain that I don’t want to care about her…so what do I want? What do women want? What do anime bloggers want? I don’t know. I think this setup, with LLENN being all “Don’t you dare die before I KILL YOU, Pito!” is clever and makes good use of the premise, but emotionally, it’s lacking.

Why do things look insanely cool the more physically implausible they would be in real life? I’m a sucker for the whole landing-on-the –sword/gun move, and it’s really stupid. I can’t help it though, it looks badass.

I do appreciate the fact that we jumped into SJ2 pretty fast with very little messing around beforehand, but as a result, it seems like Fuka had barely any time to get used to playing GGO. She says that she practiced lobbing grenades for hours, but is that really enough time to develop the mastery of the weapon that she has? After all, the people playing in SJ2 are supposed to be the cream of the crop, people who’ve been mastering this game for months, if not years; it seems a little convenient that Fuka got that good that fast. I guess we just have to assume that Miyu is a very talented gamer, no matter what she’s playing.

Was it really necessary to go for the crotch-kill, LLENN? I think she’s just showing off for her fangirls at this point.

So now we’re waiting for Pito to slaughter a bunch of foolish opponents; I hope the way she does it is suitably clever, because we’ve been hearing for a while what a good player Pito is supposed to be, but we’ve never really seen it. If it involves using one or more members of her team as a suicide bomber, I’m buying myself ice cream for being smart and seeing it coming.

My level of interest in this show is dropping a little, but it’s still enjoyable enough; it’s just not giving me a whole lot to talk about at the moment. I do hope that sometime before the end of the season, we see the girls’ rhythmic gymnastics team at a tournament or something, and they’re all busy on their laptops playing GGO and totally ignoring whatever they’re supposed to be doing.

“Ladies, what are you doing? it’s time for the synchronized baton-twirling prelims! Get your leotards ready!”

“Shut up Coach, we got sassy bitches to shoot!”

“But girls, we’ve practiced for months for this competition and–”

“Oh FUCK it’s that blonde chick with the twin grenade launchers, everybody hide under the truck!” *Cue Massive Explosion* “Damn You, Death By Loli!”