Friday, April 27, 2007

Lovely Idol 2

Like all good pop music, this is one little nugget that gets stuck in your head. You doubt this? The last episode ended with the purple-haired girl singing some song, and that song made its way into my mental playlist. Yes, mixed with the Beethoven and Britney Spears, suddenly appeared some little ditty composed by a faraway anime recording artist. No one is more shocked than me. I may just have to kill myself now.

The episode opens with our humble manager, Tomohiro, sitting with his sister, Ruri. They're looking at a laptop computer and flipping through internet pictures of the purple-haired girl. Her name: Mizuki. Her misson: To sing terribly sad songs on the street. Tomohiro is obsessed with her, staring at her pictures, daydreaming about her, following her after every performance, only to be rebuffed again and again. Mizuki sees right through him. All he wants is to use her to make money. At least he's not trying to assault her. She has high expectations of her men.

Meanwhile, the four girls who didn't get their debut in the previous episode continue to practice, dancing and singing. Eventually, they start to notice that Tomohiro, their manager, is spacing out a lot more than usual, and they follow him. They see him listening to Mizuki, being quite rudely turned back, and the girls retreat to the safey of a shower. Unfortunately, it's not a big group shower. They're each in their little stalls, but this doesn't impede their conversations. They decide to try to recruit Mizuki themselves! With gusto like this, I don't see how this batch won't make it to the big stage. Do you think this will happen in episode four or five?

The next evening Tomohiro is shocked to find that his girls aren't in the studio practicing. So what does he do? He goes on a date, with one of the group's older members, Toko. We learn that she and Tomohiro dated for a while previously, and we're kind of jealous, as she looks pretty fetching in her sunglasses and white cap (her incognito outfit). They stroll into the crowd, she notes how they almost look like a couple, and I mutter something about how this almost feels like a plot.

The younger girls are naturally harassing Mizuki, to try to convince her to join them. They attempt various hare-brained schemes, all of which involve talking to her, but Mizuki is less responsive than a brick wall. Now, I've had some dates go pretty badly, but at least each time the girl would sort of talk to me (or stab me with a broken drinking glass), but this Mizuki seems to be pathologically silent. Must have something to do with how much she hates to sing.

The last of the four girls is about to try talking to Mizuki when Tomohiro finds them. He shames the girls a bit and they say that they're just trying to help, but they ask (and quite reasonably I think) why he wants the add Mizuki. What does it say about them as they are? Tomohiro simply says that someday they'll understand, and I hope that day comes soon because I'm with the girls here. And I also hate when people say "someday you'll understand," because it just as likely means that they don't have an answer themselves yet. They're just trying to sound smart.

The girls notice Toko. She tells them not to give up hope, and then they sit down to listen to Mizuki sing. In the background, Tomohiro asks Toko what she thinks of Mizuki. Toko gets upset and asks Tomohiro if this is the only reason he asked her out. He says of course, which means that he's a tremendous fool, because every guy knows that the right answer is, "No, this is entirely a coincidence. I wanted to be with you."

Toko eventually says that, yes, Mizuki is filled with pain, and she may hate singing, but she's nonetheless singing. She has a purpose of some sort in perpetuating her agony. "But what about ours?" I'm asking myself, but right then Toko's present manager shows up, and she kicks Tomohiro's ass. Toko seems to be strictly off-limits to him.

Everyone leaves and Tomohiro goes to talk to Mizuki one more time. He sneaks up behind her and basically tells her what Toko told him. He doesn't care why she's singing, or on whom she wants revenge, but he'll help her achieve whatever goal she wants. This finally prompts a reaction from the brick wall that is Mizuki. She calls Tomohiro "interesting," which in Japan is a great honor, I think. He leaves her alone then, but not after giving her a bag of food. So I guess she's poor or homeless.

The show's still not over, unfortunately. Tomohiro and the girls are back at the studio when he suddenly gets a call. There's a new member coming. Who could it be? The door opens. We see Ruri, his sister! Maybe she'll bring some life to this show, and maybe I won't hum the theme song as I walk to work.

Death Note 3

Again with the recap, and this time it's counterproductive in a way. If this is your first time watching Death Note, or you missed the second episode for any reason, you would be led to an erroneous conclusion. Namely, that fake L is the real L. But that's what you get with quick recaps. Besides, it's one more reason to go watch those first two eps, as if you needed it.

Some recurring themes first rear their head this episode. L begins jumping to borderline psychic conclusions about Kira's identity and motivations, straining believability somewhat. Precocious young police officer Matsuda Tota's good intentions lead to embarrassing himself; he grows into one of the series better characters, but this is the most minor of his missteps. We also see the groundwork for L and the Japanese police butting heads. Yes, there was some of that last episode, but in general from the whole world's police. Here we have L giving cops busy work and a distrustful glare or two directed at the laptop monitor that represents their so-called equal partner, the great L who can't be bothered showing up in person. L seems to have done all the research he asks the cops to do in advance, and merely has them duplicate it so they'll be more easily convinced of his conclusions. It's a clearly delineated teacher-student role, with L testing his students as a means of teaching them what he already knows. That's all well and good, except they aren't students and are reluctant to see an outsider as their superior. Which is perfectly reasonable since they have a well-respected superior already, their chief of police. L comes in, treats them like kids, and assumes they'll respect him above all others.

This episode's big reveal, which I kind of gave away last review, is that the chief of police is Light's father, Yagami Soichiro. Through his father, who as good a cop as he is doesn't suspect his son in the least, Light has access to all the files on the Kira investigation, or anyways all the ones L has deigned to share with the police. With L having twigged to the fact that Kira could be a student - the latter being too busy to kill people during school hours or sleepytime - Light decides to lead him in another direction by playing with times of death, among other things. It's simple, really. Like a ventriloquist drinking water, Light uses preconceptions to lead his audience toward a conclusion they want to make, but that logic would otherwise preclude. L immediately sees through it, and Light naturally claims it was all part of his plan. He wants L to learn of his police connection, which he does, in order that he might cross the line from murderous vigilante to plain old killer... by offing L. Light grows eviler all the time.

Now instead of cops vs. killer we have L vs. Kira and the police vs. L. Oh, and the police vs. getting killed. Some cops are quitting because, "boo hoo! Kira can kill me from a distance with only my name and face! I'm ascared!" Pfft. Meanwhile, L goes in a slightly different direction than Light wanted. He's not just investigating the police, he's investigating anyone close to the police, and is certain one of them is Kira. So Light goes from being one of thousands, maybe millions in his region, and perhaps a student, to one of hundreds and definitely someone with a police connection. It's amazing that he isn't caught within six episodes, and it's only through an interesting, if convoluted, series of twists and turns that this series has any chance of holding up over 37 episodes.

"Extra life?!" Ah, the endless Japanese obsession with videogames. In this case, though, it's not an extra life, it's an extended lifespan. And, as Ryuk helpfully points out, it's what Death Gods, and only Death Gods, get for writing names in a Note. Humans get squat. Why is Ryuk being helpful? According to him, it's only because of the next thing he points out, that Death Gods don't need news reports to see someone's name, and that the eyes of a Death God can be yours for the low, low price of... half your remaining lifespan. That Ryuk makes this proposition brings up several questions. How long does Light have? Ryuk knows, and could be making the deal to get a big chunk of life added onto his. But he could just kill Light whenever, or kill other humans, using his spare Death Note (remember he had two before dropping Light's). So is he trying to help Light in a roundabout way, get Light's permission before screwing him, or simply see how Light reacts? The last would gel with his stated motivation for dropping the Note in the first place - for fun - but I still suspect he's more on Light's side than he lets on.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Elfen Lied: Episode 5

Mr. Glasses is found ruminating on the roof of Diclonius Central. Assistant comes up to inform him that she's reported to the superiors about "Number 7's" repairs. Now, that could mean to Nana or the room where they held her. She asks, "Do you have any regrets?" Without missing a beat, Glasses-san goes, "Regrets and so forth... are for those who look back and judge right or wrong which is unforgivable." Nge. That's the sound my brain makes when it hits itself on the skull.

Back at Runaway House, Mayu has left a letter saying how she's not good enough to stay there and eat and stuff. So, she re-ran away. Kouta, Yuka, and Nyuu go off into town to find the little gal.

The shopkeeper from earlier episodes mention that she hasn't been in today, but she has a gift for her. The group takes the box, but before the scene can progress, the next scene backs into this one. Now, if the whole 'Nana getting dismembered then later being put down' stuff was too much for you, take the Prozac now. We're about to find why a 13 year old girl is wondering Japan pantless and sad. I almost preemptively committed suicide out of sheer grief for this poor kid.

See, 'some time ago,' Mayu's mother brought home Mayu's "new Papa."

Nge. The very next scene, is Mayu in her pajamas, and new Papa sitting on a bed. Her hair is down over her eyes to show her embarrassment and shame. He tells her to 'do it like always...' and I vomit a little. The studio audience isn't quite sure what to do; most avert their eyes. She turns around, then gets on all fours. Later, Li'l Mayu tells her mom about what new Papa does, and Bad Motha' slaps Mayu down. "The one we don't need here is you! As long as you're here... as long as you're here, that person..." Mommy's jealous of the attention her daughter is getting from her new husband. And that's reason enough not to call the cops on the abuse, apparently. They should call Dr. Phil.

Next time, Mayu's skirt comes down, but when bad Daddy wants more, she screams, "NO!" and starts running. Hence, her pantlessness up until now in the series. She runs until she falls down, and cries. Excuse me, I'm gonna go kill myself for a while.

I'm back. Mayu keeps walking and walking, until eventually she reaches the ocean. With a smile, she takes off her shoes, and walks in. Where's she going? Down. Before she gets too far, a puppy barks. She goes back to investigate, and finds Wanta the dog. They're both alone, but more importantly, abandoned. Nobody wants either of them, except each other. And JUST as Mayu is coming out of her flashback, standing at the beach during a setting sun, you hear someone off screen call for, "James." It's the supposed real owner of Mayu's dog. She bitchily walks away with her dog, and when Mayu asks if she could maybe see him again, Bitch insists that a girl with clothes that dirty could never come to her house and see her puppy. Aw. I'm gonna kill myself again.

In her shanty town box, Mayu is crying and being a little crazy. As she shakes from the cold, two officers find her and ask her to get out. When she runs, the cops chase after her, 'cause Mayu really don't want to go back to Bad Dad and Bitch Mom. Luckily, Kouta and friends are waiting up the hill. Kouta identifies Mayu as a member of the family, and it's actually kinda touching.

Inside Runaway, the gift the shopkeeper had given Yuka and Kouta turns out to be a stale birthday cake. *sniff* Nyuu comes in with a big-ass bowl of rice, since Mayu was so happy with the food earlier, I guess. Mayu's happy and crying and confused and... WANTA's outside! Oh, all is well in the world again. And it will be forever! Right? ... please?

Some time later... Mayu leaves Runaway HQ in a school uniform, apparently off to school. Or a photo shoot. I'm not sure how much time has past. Yuka and Kouta have a little conversation about how odd it is that they're suddenly Mayu's adopted parents. Which it is, only because they asked. The mom doesn't want any of that backstory truth to get out. Plus, she's probably on the crack, now. Dr. Phil could've saved her so good.

Kouta and Yuka are starting school today, and have to bring Nyuu along. Her new, and only word she's learned is, "Yes!" There's some talk about how 'this teacher' is a little weird, and they comic-relief each other to pass the time. The teacher comes in, and incidentally, he is none other than Doctor Kakuzawa, the Chief's son! It's like that one plot and this one have somehow joined together! I hear blood makes a great solvent. He of course notices Lucy, and asks that she and the other two join him later.

We go downstairs to Doctor Kakuzawa's... room? Lab? Area of Plot Advanceman (APA). He informs Yuka and Kouta that 'this young woman' is his brother's daughter, and they've been all so worried about poor wittle Lucy. When Kouta starts to ask questions, Doc Kak implies that our two young heroes could be arrested for kidnapping and such. Kouta hangs his head, and tells Yuka that they should go. Without a word, Kouta starts to leave. Kak holds Nyuu by the shoulders, and she reaches out for him, and even manages to say his name. *sniff* As she screams for him to be with her, he walks away. He doesn't look back, but has on a Batman shirt. I felt it needed said.

Back on the stairway in town, Kouta and Yuka try to happily defend what they've done, but instead, burst into tears.

In a lower lab of the school, Lab 103b Exposition and Foreshadowing, Doc Kak has Nyuu naked and tied up. Kak talks about a gland in the brain that allows Diclonius to use their vectors, and I think he sort of implies that there's a way to fix her broken vectors. But none of that seems to be of any importance. Really, he wants to bone Lucy so she can carry their Lurv Child of the Apocalypse, and take out the rest of us lowly humans. He gives her a shot to put her to sleep.

At dinner, Mayu is the one who goes, "Hey... that was kinda a big coincidence. Bah, I'm sure it's fine. Mm... tea. *slurp*" The other two pick their noses and watch King of the Hill, throwing beer cans at Mayu. No, not really. But they might as well. They're very slow.

Back in the creepy dungeon of X-Rays, Doc Kak is talking off his tie, and Lucy/Nyuu is on the floor, unconscious.

Mayu goes to bed, and Kouta and Yuka have another weird "Well, 'love' can mean many different things," conversations. Yuka wants to know whether or not Kouta would cry like he did for Nyuu a few scenes ago, if Yuka had gone missing. Kouta says, "It's not like I'd want to or not want to cry." He doesn't go out much. They both shrug off the conversation, leave, then start crying for being self-absorbed and stupid.

Dungeon. Kak talks to himself, then turns around to notice Nyuu/Lucy is gone. And on the other side of the room... Lucy wakes up. Sort of. "I am asleep... my other self that is." Kak tells us that he's the one who opened the doors that allowed Lucy to escape in episode one, and that Lucy needs to 'be faithful to [her] DNA's orders,' by killing everyone and having lots o' babies. She breaks some glass to be scary and show her vectors are working. Then, Kak pulls off a wig to show that he, too, has horns on his head. Why not? He says all he has is the horns, meaning he doesn't have the cool killing arms. Then he goes on, again, to say, "You're wrong... the long anticipated..." then his neck blows up.

But Lucy don't need no half-breed, prick like Kak. That's not how Lucy rolls.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bleach 122

Now, one of my favorite aspects of Bleach is the sheer number of characters they've thrown at us. First, we have all the humans. With protagonists, supporting cast, friends, and family, there are over a dozen of them, and each is wackier than the last.

Next, we have the shinigami. Sure, they're dead, but they have awesome spiritual powers, which makes them the life of any party they go to. There are thirteen squads (paramilitary squads, that is, charged with purifying lost souls and Hollows), and each squad has a captain and lieutenant, and most squads by now have introduced even more supporting members. We've also met other residents of Soul Society. As I mentioned last time, that's where humans go where they die, but it definitely isn't paradise. There are slums, and fighting, and you can still die. I imagine that you're reincarnated to someplace even better, like Earth.

If you die and you're bad, you go to Hell. We haven't seen Hell, only it's door, where some hand just jabs out a big sword and grabs the evil spirits to drag them to eternal damnation. Does Hell have a shinigami equivalent? Does it?

The third spiritual realm where the deceased can end up is Hueco Mundo, a dark and shadowy realm which for some reason is filled with Spanish guitar music. This is the home of the renegade shinigami captain Sosuke Aizen. He's been busy creating arrancar, Hollows with shinigami powers. So far we've seen a few, but we've been told that there are ten captains, and who knows how many supporting soldiers. If I were a slower person I might need to write this all down on a piece of paper, or at least refer to the extensive wikipedia articles devoted to the series.

So as episode 121 ended, we left Grimmjaw facing Aizen and Tousen. Tousen is in a blind rage over Grimmjaw's reckless actions, which have resulted in the loss of five arrancar, but Aizen doesn't seem too worried. Tousen spouts something about how slaughter in the name of a higher cause is justice, and then he cuts off Grimmjaw's arm and burns it up with a spell. Tousen honestly makes no sense. His sense of justice seems to be whatever pleases him most. He claims, for instance, to follow the path of least bloodshed, but, in this case, wouldn't that be to not cut off Grimmjaw's arm? Grimmjaw, looking oddly asymetrical, leaves in a huff, and Aizen also leaves...for Exposition Staircase. Ichimaru Gin, the last of the shinigami captains who left Soul Society with him, asks Aizen if he's worried about the loss of the arrancar. Aizen says that they were among the weakest. He looks out over the dark landscape as the soft refrains of guitar music sweep into our ears...

Back in the "real world" Uryuu Ishida, a former Quincy (I'll explain this later, too), is training with his cold, bastard father to regain his powers. Daddy tells him not to worry about the shinigami battle that just took place outside, and to instead concentrate on not dying. Dad then teleports right next to Ishida and looks menacing, which is exactly what my own father would have done, and, in fact, did many a time when I was a young child. So this scene really hits me pretty hard.

Some other things happen, but the main point is that Ichigo is suddenly missing, and no one knows where he is. We know, of course, because we're following him in our perverse, omniscent way. He's gone to see the Vizard, shinigami who have gained Hollow powers. They're pretty much the opposite of the arrancar, and Ichigo obviously hopes that they can help him control his inner Hollow, and isn't that exactly what we're all trying to do?

After some discussion, some veiled threats, Ichigo and Shinji, one of the Vizard, start to fight a bit. The other Vizard gather to watch, and seven line up, so, counting Shinji, there must be at least eight of them. More characters! What are their names? What are their histories? Which will be my favorite? So far, I'm rooting for the girl with glasses. There's something about her I like. I'm sure others will disagree. mrLang, for instance, probably likes the big guy with pink hair. Or the girl in the white with the goggles.

The Vizard watch and note that Ichigo is afraid, so Hiyori (the l'il'est Vizard) steps forward. She throws Shinji out of the building and tells Ichigo that the decision to train him lies with them, not with his own desires. She commands Ichigo to fight at his full power, or else she's going to kill him. She puts on her Hollow mask and suddenly appears right in front of him, apparently ready and able to fulfill her threat.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Death Note 2 or Kira: Big on the Internet

Did I say episode one gave us the series' premise? Well, that was only half true. Light wanted attention, and he got it, but not just from criminals. Police all over the world have taken notice, as well as one special person, the famed detective known only as L, who will act as Light's foil throughout the series. Or I should say, Kira's foil, as that's what they're calling him now. Yes, you guessed it, Kira is the cuter, Japanese way of saying "Killer." I swear, it never gets old.

This episode starts with a quick recap of the previous ep's events. It's only useful if you suffer from short term memory loss or watch way too many anime to keep them all straight, but it's formatted like a highlight reel and therefore isn't bothersome. At any rate, it's over before you can be bothered getting upset.

Light's obsession deepens and his plans grow more complex. Though I doubt other people ever concerned him overmuch, he's now making a point to avoid all social interaction to concentrate on his studies, sleep, and of course, killing. He interacts with other people as much as is necessary to keep up appearances and no more, which works against him a bit since people generally prefer it if you go out of your way to interact with them. When you don't, their first impulse is to suspect there's something wrong with you. After all, if nothing is, then there might be something wrong with them, or you might have something more important to do than spend time with them. Heaven forbid!

When the police decide to take action, they call a meeting attended by representatives from numerous countries... all of whom speak fluent Japanese. It's the Eastern equivalent of English-speaking aliens. Sure, Americans speaking English, Germans German, and so on would be more accurate, but then you'd need subtitles for any significant demographic. Not to mention the increased difficulty, and likely cost, of hiring voice actors from overseas. It's only logical to have everyone speak the same language, that being the language your target audience is most likely to know. The drawback is, everyone kind of blends together, and it's hard to tell when someone isn't Japanese. The character designs don't help here, but then they'd have to be nigh photo-realistic or comically exaggerated, neither of which are warranted for such a quibble.

In addition to L, who, as the second male lead, completes the main cast, we find our supporting cast bolstered with additions of varying significance. Last episode we met Light's mother, whose role begins and ends with the words "Light's mother." Now we meet his sister, who is more interesting but no more important to the story. We also meet Light's father, Yagami Soichiro, who we'll be seeing much more of. Naturally, Light is in Japan, and L is smart enough to have figured that much out already. One clever and just barely believable ruse later, L has narrowed down Kira's location to the Kantou region and we get our first glimpses of the Japanese police force, who will be aiding L in the hunt. We also find that Kira has a growing fandom, and you know what that means. Kira shrines, Kira fanmail, Kira fan fiction with self-insert love interests... doubtless there's even Kira fanon, where Kira has been retroactively turned into a daring crusader for justice, a righter of wrongs, an avenger for modern times. Anything but a bored teenager with absolutely corrupt power.

Whether you like the series or not, this episode is worth watching to see Light's plan for keeping the Death Note from prying eyes. It's a real treat. Along those lines, if after two episodes you still aren't hooked, it's probably safe to say this series isn't for you. Some shows start more poorly than they end up, while others take their time putting pieces in place before getting underway with the story proper. Death Note holds plenty back for later, but at this point you know what you're in for. Except you don't. You know what the feel of the show is going to be, but there are many twists and turns to come. It's an animated chess game, and if you're a chess fan you know how exciting it is to see two great minds meet on the proverbial battlefield. If you aren't, it's like two martial arts masters, only they fight with their minds instead of their bodies.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Murder Princess (OVA) - 01

A solid past-time for any anime fan is to randomly grab an episode of something you've never even heard of before. Sometimes you get winners, others... not so much.

The title of this anime - Murder Princess - definitely piqued my interest when I was rummaging around grabbing recent episode updates for my current list of anime entertainment.

Now, the (OVA) beside the title of this particular show is misleading, as it is not a single-episode situation. It appears to be a short series, kicking off with episode 1...

The show begins with what appears to be a strange group of mercenaries, talking about bounty hunting and slaying everything they can, the usual mercenary stuff. A huge brute looking guy and a small guy who has a skull for a face are taking orders from a normal looking girl, who after a series of flashy sword fighting is at a cliff sensing something coming her way...

Cut to the next shot you see a pile of dead bodies and a pair of guards looking around like they are pretty much ready to wet their pants. And for good reason - the castle they are in appears to be infested with demons and all assortments of baddies.

This is where the story actually begins, with the lovely and innocent Princess Alita rushing to the throne room to get to safety, while her father sits dying in his throne. At this point I couldnt help but wonder why no one was trying to heal him, or why he wasn't bandaged or anything. He tells the princess to escape the traditional way - by not telling her where to go. "Go through the forest!" and thats about it.

And so the princess and two bodyguards head out the secret passage, and we see the villians bust into the throne room. Who would be leading an army of powerful demons and monsters? Why a pair of loli twins, of course! No show is complete without loli twins (see Coyote Ragtime Show)

After the loli twins kill everyone in the throne room, its time to get back to our lovely and innocent Princess Alita, who is running away from a baddie who ate her bodyguards about... 5 entire seconds after leaving the castle.

At this point you realize where the other characters' story cut off is about to meet up with the princess's story, and she proceeds to almost get diced in half by our friendly neighborhood mercenary.

The baddie that was chasing the princess emerges, and being the helpless innocent princess she is, she proceeds to scream and fall backward into the mercenary, and off the cliff.

Now this is where things start to make even less sense. As the two fair maidens are falling to their doom, a golden light surrounds them. Do I know what the light is? Nope. Does it make sense? Nope.

So they fall down, and the mercenary friends happen to be at the bottom. The princess gets caught by the big guy, and the mercenary hits her head on the skull faced guy's head, and passes out.

The princess gets up and immediately you notice her voice is that of the mercenary girl's. She proceeds to dust herself off and complain about the annoyance of falling, when she realizes she's not in her own body. (picture caption: looking at her reflection in a blade)

She proceeds to freak out, as would anyone who sees their own body passed out on the ground, and the small guy who will hence forth be known as Skull Face says that when two people face imminent death, their bodies will swap. *Blink*

Doesn't really make sense. Then again not much in the show has yet.

The mercenary girl wakes up, and also freaks out like the princess did, not understanding the body swap thing either.

Seeing the mercenaries gives her the bright idea of asking them to slay an entire castle full of demons by themselves, with the leader's body as collateral.

They proceed to head out on some sort of motorcycle thing that Skull Face is driving, and I shit you not, they jump the bike about 10 miles in a single bound, and crash through the window of the castle. I'm not joking. When they jump they can see the castle IN THE DISTANCE, and they land inside it.

Anyway, they walk into the throne room and proceed to call out the loli twins and their minions, saying she's gonna take her throne back. Now, the loli twins have no idea the body swap happened, so naturally they think she's lying.

The princess and her mercenaries proceed to beat the shit out of everything in the room with extreme ease, and then break the loli twins' robotic bodies. Yes, the loli twins are even robots.

Taking over "her" throne, she is henceforth known as the Murder Princess for being so strong in battle and what not.

Thus ends episode 1 of a very strange anime. Oddly enough its very entertaining, and moves along at a fantastic pace. It makes about as much sense as punching yourself in the face, but it's obviously not intended to be a serious anime in the first place.

Overall its not bad at all. Entertaining to be sure, and a great cast of characters. I will definatly check out the next episodes as they are released and hope they keep the momentum going strong.

Elfen Lied: Episode 4

Someone with ADD edited the first half of this episode.

Nana informs Lucy that she's already radioed to Diclonius Central Lucy's whereabouts, and asks if Lucy is going to kill her, too. Lucy responds that, 'up to now, I have yet to kill a human.' Lucy hasn't seen episode one, apparently. Lucy starts to walk away, but Nana insists that she has to take her back. Lucy's four vectors shoot out into Nana, but don't do any damage. She warns Nana that if she were to move a vein in her brain 'one millimeter,' it'll kill Nana. So, Nana doesn't move, and Lucy pulls her vectors back. Nana protests some more, so Lucy tosses her against a wall. Fight's on. Lucy jumps back, but not far enough away. Nana throws Lucy into a cemetery, against a gravestone, and in a puff of smoke, reveals today's title:

Lucy's pissed. She hates plays. Nana chokes Lucy with a vector and pins her against another grave. When Lucy tries to fight back, she learns that her vectors aren't as long as Nana's. Oops.

Back home, Kouta is still pretty confused. Yuka is all jealous of Nyuu. She's waited for years to see Kouta again and give him little cutouts of birds, but all he does is worry about Nyuu and take her clothes off. Yuka slugs Kouta in the face and runs off crying.

In a tunnel somewhere, Yuka either has a flashback or is remembering a dream of the funeral for Kouta's father and sister. Li'l Yuka and a vision of li'l Kouta are the only two drawn as actual people. Everyone else is a stationary mannequin. It's either a dream about how she doesn't really care about any of the other people, or a metaphor about how she doesn't remember the funeral all that well. All I know, is that it's creepy and I want it to go away. We learn in the fuzzy scene that Kouta was in a hospital for some reason during the funeral, and Yuka cried.

Kouta sits in the dining room nursing his face. He's completely oblivious to everything that's happened so far in this show. It's like he doesn't even know he's in an anime.

Back at the fight, Nana smack talks Lucy, and Lucy throws graves.

At a marketplace, Mayu is getting a bag of bread crusts from a shop keeper. The shop keeper mentions that her dog must really be a glutton to eat that much everyday. The still dirty and pantless Mayu stutters a little. When the shopkeeper asks how old Mayu is, we learn that she'll be fourteen tomorrow. Outside, Mayu runs into Yuka, who sees the bag. And, like everyone in the show, Yuka promptly up and leaves.

Lucy throws some more shit at Nana.

Mayu eats some crust.

An editor takes his Ritalin.

Nana mocks Lucy for using her only trick, Throwin' Stuff, and throws herself into the air. Lucy is able to knock her back down, though. Nana gets a vector-hold on Lucy's right leg, and says she's going to make it so she can't walk. But before she can, Mayu runs in from behind Lucy and Nana pulls back. Bad move on her part. Lucy takes the opportunity to cut off Nana's left leg above the knee, then slices off all the fingers on Nana's right hand. When Mayu screams, Lucy just tosses her into a tree. Nana cries and asks for Papa, but Lucy don't care. Nan's right arm is ripped off - not cut off, not blown off, but ripped off - and Nana tries to crawl away the best she can with two limbs. Just like that, her remaining arm and leg get ripped off in a second.

A bullet whizzes by Lucy, as another sniper misses. The entire entertainment industry needs to take a few months off and go to a gun range. Mr. Glasses moves in and as soon as Nana sees, she launches a vector into Lucy's head. She doesn't kill her, but makes it so Lucy's vectors won't come out. A lab guy asks if Nana is finished, and Mr. Glasses walks calmly past Lucy, and leans down to hold Nana. He asks why she didn't wait for them to get Lucy, and she admits that she thought if she could get Lucy by herself, Papa would be proud. A member of the studio audience, overcome with grief and with a possible drinking problem, runs out of the studio crying. Lucy hears Nana call Mr. Glasses 'Papa,' and asks, "Isn't your daughter dead?" The reply, "Yes... I killed her!" Followed by a stern backhand that sends Lucy to the ground. Lucy jumps away with ninja-like agility, and a handful of guards give chase. Mr. Glasses leans back down to hold Nana, and Nana sort of rambles on for a while, asking if she's useless, and Mr. Glasses... just holds her.

Yuka flashes back to a quick scene that must have happened during the fight. She asks the same shopkeeper from earlier about Mayu. She tells Yuka about the crust bags and mentions that the other shopkeepers all think she's homeless. The other shopkeepers? All smarter than everyone else in this show. In the present, Yuka says to no one that Kouta should probably know that Mayu is homeless. Why? Um... I guess Kouta likes sad stories.

Above, Mr. Glasses sits over a completely bandaged Nana. He gets a call from his assistant that Chief Kakuzawa wants to see him as soon as he lands. Mr. Glasses isn't happy to hear that. His eye does that shaky thing that anime characters' eyes do when they're really sad or angry.

Yuka... somewhere, runs into Nyuu, all stupid and cute again, who's really confused and sad. Yuka looks at the little sometimes-murderess, who is currently as innocent as anything ever was, and says that there must be something wrong with her to be jealous of Nyuu. Nyuu is still kinda stupid though, so she doesn't understand.

Kouta gets a call to come to the hospital, and finds Mayu sitting on a bench with a bandage around her head. He decides to help her out and pay for the bill, which Mayu says she'll "definitely" pay back. Kouta asks why Mayu had them call his place, because the hotdog vendor at market square is smarter than he is, and Mayu stutters until her stomach growls. He invites her home for dinner.

Back home, Yuka's bi-polarness has swung back around to happy. Nyuu runs out to hug Kouta, and Mayu remembers the fight scene, and Nana's leg flying off. But one look at Nyuu's big, innocent, anime eyes calms her back down. She blurts out, "That's right... legs don't just fly off on their own..." and no one finds that odd, at all.

After dinner, Yuka suggests that Mayu take a bath, then puts Nyuu in the bath with her. Alone, Yuka and Kouta talk about homeless girls and soldiers hitting Kouta. I'd care, but I already know all this. It's decided that they can't go to the police about Mayu because they can't trust the police. Yuka invites Mayu to stay the night, and even though she says she shouldn't impose, she agrees. The house is now some kind of shelter for abused girls, being run by two college freshmen. FOX should be around to pick up the sitcom rights any minute.

Mr. Glasses meets with the Chief, who wants Nana to be put down. "A useless Diclonius is just another threat... After killing so many carriers, I won't let you say no." Mr. Glasses bows and walks away. As he does, the Chief gets a call from his son, Doctor Kakuzawa. The son is doing research into a vaccine that should repress vectors. He's calling for more money, which his dad isn't happy about. His son is working with another doctor, a woman who's looking at a computer screen with various double helixes, as if that's something a doctor or scientist would watch on an endless loop. It's the medical equivalent to that Matrixy random, green letters being pissed down a screen. Just there to look like anything. The son cuts a picture of Lucy in half and foreshadows, "You are mine."

A syringe is filled. Mr. Glasses and assistant are in a surgical room. Assistant says that the syringe will put her to sleep, then they'll dispose of her. Mr. Glasses says that he wants to do it, and the assistant leaves. Mr. Glasses walks closer to Nana, who looks so very, very small. He places a hand on her cheek, and she wakes up and pushes her face into it. Syringe in hand, he tells her that 'this is a test,' and she goes with it. She says that she's feeling sleepy, and then, just before her eyes close and her head falls to the pillow, she says, "Goodbye."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Death Note 1

Death Note - Desu Noto in Japan - is, like many anime, adapted from the manga of the same name. It's a cute name. "Desu Noto." Pronounced like death, but with a soft s in place of the t, and a cooing u at the end. There's a parody on YouTube called Debu Note, a pun on the untranslated title; debu means fat or fat person in Japanese. Good times.

In the first episode of the less-cute-than-it-sounds Desu Noto, we find our premise and our protagonist. High school student Yagami Light is the protagonist, or more accurately the point of view character. We see things as he does more often than not, but it's hard to root for him given the premise. In merely five days, Light goes from straight-A model student to straight-A model student and mass murderer. See, Light accidentally on purpose happens across a "Death Note," the notebook a Death God uses to kill humans, and quickly decides it's his duty to use this book of death to improve the world by wiping out the criminal element. He'll kill them all, he decides, or enough so the rest are too afraid to commit crimes. And while he's at it, he'll install himself as supreme ruler of the world. A logical train of thought if ever I saw one.

Light at first believes the Note to be a prank, likely perpetrated by some other student with a sick sense of humor. He's not far wrong. After verifying that the book does what it claims to - there are detailed instructions inside - Light is confronted by its owner, one Ryuk, a bored Death God with a weakness for apples. Ryuk and Light trade rationalizations, apparently trying to see who can come off as creepier, and Ryuk drops a hint about Light's final fate, the first of many times Ryuk will happily obfuscate the truth. Ryuk is the show's wild card, potentially far more manipulative than he lets on. He repeatedly claims to be little more than an observer, yet he interferes when the mood strikes him, and there are numerous hints that supposed coincidences are anything but. Or it could be sloppy writing. I prefer to assume the former until proven otherwise.

The anime differs from the manga in a few ways, some minor, some significant. Light's journey from skeptical to fearful to embracing his power doesn't take long however you show it, but we get more of it in linear fashion in the anime, whereas the manga tells the bulk of the first chapter in flashback. The other notable difference is the dramatization of mundane events, such as opening a drawer or biting into a potato chip. Quick cuts and well-placed effects turn a chore into an action sequence. When Light writes someone's name in the Note, condemning them to death, we often see his pen flash as it leaves the paper. It adds a sort of macabre humor to the show and gives the impression the writer doesn't take himself too seriously, which is always good.

Romeo X Juliet 1

Yes, Romeo and Juliet, the anime. But, stick with me...

Episode one starts out in a kingdom sitting on a floating continent. The Montagues are almost done slaying the Capulet family, and taking over Neo Verona. A crying princess, Li'l Juliet, is led down a hallway to her mother, who we just saw dead on a floor. And she arrives just in time to see the sword pulled from her father. King Montague orders that the rest of the Capulet family be slain, and a real go-getter of a soldier runs out to kill the little girl. She's saved at the last second by Conrad, soon to be ex-captain of the Capulet guards. Fleeing the castle, they jump from a bridge crawling with soldiers onto a Pegasus, or Ryouma, as they're called here. The opening sequence starts.

14 years later... The Montagues are still looking for Juliet, and they go about it much the same way we used to find witches: "Um... that chick!" Then they kill her. Worked then, works now. Except not. A non-Juliet is about to be killed for maybe being the Capulet's rightful heir when the Crimson Whirlwind shows up to free her. While the guards and everyone in the crowd refer to Crimson as a 'he,' dude sure sounds like a 'she.' I wonder what shall happen. With anime-like reflexes, Crimson cuts non-Juliet's ropes, disarms three guards, and scampers off. A little friend in the crowd throws smoke bombs down to hinder the following guards, and they do that little dance that scared cartoon characters do when something's exploding at their feet. Crimson and friend run through a market square, and the whole thing is reminding me of Aladdin all of a sudden. Crimson runs into Cordelia on the street and pulls her into the chase, for no apparent reason. No one's after Cordelia. The two run up a flight of stairs, catching the eye of our Romeo, sitting at a cafe with Benvolio. Romeo must help, because he's our good guy, and the two jump on their Ryouma and fly off. Romeo arrives just in time to save a falling Juliet.. I mean Crimson, and his buddy grabs Cordelia.

Safely... elsewhere, Romeo and Crimson have a little fight about manners which serves no purpose other than getting these two together in a more proper way. Once the two boys have flown off, we learn that Crimson/Juliet also goes by the name, Odin. Cordelia scolds... whoever for being reckless and not hiding like they're supposed to be. Odin has, like, a conscious about people dying in his/her name, though.

Cordelia, Antonio (the little friend), and Cordelia arrive at a theater they call home. Inside, a performance of 'Otello' is going on, and 'Willy' sits in his booth seat, watching. And, yeah, it's called 'Otello.' Other languages are hard. William complains that nobody understands his plays, then goes on tell Odin that he/she is quite handsome but Antonio has a ways to go, and they should audition for one of his plays. Shakespeare is a little fruity. They leave Willy and go behind a secret door.

Once in her room, Odin complains about having flashes of memories and being confused. Cordelia assures him/her that once he/she is sixteen, everything will be clear. And her birthday is tomorrow. She goes on to let Juliet's hair down and confirm that Odin is in fact Juliet just before we cut to a title card And somewhere, someone who wasn't paying attention gasps. Mostly because they were choking on a Dorito.

We come back to some Ryouma race in a coliseum. The Archduke sits, drinking wine as Mercutio emerges to be belittled. He leaves right away as Romeo enters. Like with Juliet, Romeo is scolded for entering the city. During an awkward silence where Romeo should be defending himself, Hermione arrives to be Romeo's appointed date for the evening. The Archduke takes it upon himself to ask her to go to the Rose Ball with his son, Romeo. He goes on to talk up Romeo's feelings for Hermione, and Romeo clearly feels uneasy. He leads her away, thinking of Odin, and how he was probably a girl. Or maybe other, more confusing feelings.

Romeo asks Benvolio, and Juliet asks Willy what 'love' is. Almost as awkwardly as aliens do when first hearing of this strange, Earth emotion we call, "Love." They both basically say, 'someone you'd die for,' only more convolutedly. Is it still foreshadowing if everyone already knows what's going to happen?

One of Willy's actresses, Emilia, is wondering which dress she should wear to the Rose Ball a 'destined partner' asked her to, when 'Odin' comes to the door. Emilia insists that Odin should come, too, because that'll surely advance the plot. She tells Odin that she needs to change into a dress, because her partner won't approach Emilia if she's with a man. I'm thinking this partner probably would anyway, what with him giving Emilia the invite and all. Once Odin is in a dress, I find it hard to believe that no one's questioned 'his' gender for fourteen years. It's as if I were to walk into a room with a t-shirt and jeans on and a full beard then just announce I was a woman, and everyone went, "Why, yes you are." Emilia goes off to get a hat, and Juliet decides to embrace her femininity. Which involves nothing but putting on a ring and some lipstick, then a lot of twirling around. She could have at least read a bit of The Vagina Monologues. Her twirling is interrupted by Emilia's partner, who takes the now-masked Juliet as his date, and runs out with her. Juliet doesn't correct him for whatever reason. Plot-convenience is my guess.

Once at the ball, it doesn't take long for Juliet to get flashes of living in the palace. She quickly spots the Archduke, and runs out as fast as she can. She falls to her knees by a fountain and, of course, Romeo appears from the Ether to ask if she's okay. The two stare at each other in silence...

So far, no woe. But the ending sequence has a kinda cool song.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lovely Idol 1

Sometimes I just don't understand what people are thinking when they write or draw or animate something. I mean, someone has to sit down and think, "This is a great idea!" And then, someone has to draw it all, thinking, "This is fucking fantastic!" I'm sure there are plenty of other steps, too, like voice recording and stuff, but all along the way people are saying to themselves, "Wow!" and giving each other high-fives and pats on the back and the like.

Lovely Idol inspires that kind of confusion. What is this about? This is a story? It starts off with a bunch of girls singing, and then another bunch of girls singing and dancing and moving around the stage and making hearts with their fingers. I couldn't follow all of their names; I didn't even try. After about ten minutes of that, we finally introduce some plot, as a we look stage left and see a handsome guy standing in the wings. One of the girl singers takes the microphone and gushes about how great life is and how she hopes this isn't all a dream and that she has a big announcement.

The guy gets his cue and rushes backstage to a dressing room, where we find four more girls. He names them, or possibly mutters, and tells them that it's almost time. I'm starting to think that this is some kind of Morning Musume thing. Morning Musume, in case you aren't as conversant in Japanese pop culture as I am, is a group of female singers that keeps introducing different "generations" of singers, so that as some get older younger members replace them. It's like a neverending pop band.

Anyway, they're all leaving for the stage, for their dramatic debut, when the girl on the stage (who they can see on a TV monitor) suddenly says that the introduction of the new members is being delayed! What?! The new girls are naturally flummoxed. The guy promises to get to the bottom of this.

He runs off to a garage to confront the President, a Cruella type about to get in a huge car. She says that the new members aren't ready yet. The guy, Tomohiro is his name, asks why. The President looks at him like he's a moron and states that the new girls won't have their debut until he "gets it." Nice one, President. Now he's the reason for their failure. He'll wallow in guilt and work his ass off, because he feels like a loser. Not that he isn't a loser, mind you. She must have learned that technique in a book on management.

I still don't understand why I'm watching this, but before I can blink it's morning and Tomohiro is eating breakfast. His sister comes in and bothers him, also explaining that the problem with the new girls is simply that there aren't enough of them. See, the previous two "generations" had six girls each, but this one only has four. Who wants to see four girls? You'd have to be crazy to want that.

Tomohiro goes to the office where the new girls are standing in a line. They tell him that they're not going to give up. No way. You have to admire their spunk. Then they start practicing smiling, waving their arms, and breathing, and I can start to see what the President was talking about.

That night, Tomohiro is walking around the city. He's going through a tunnel (which is a sexual metaphor if I've ever seen one, and I've seen plenty) just as a purple-haired girl is going the opposite direction. They pass, and he can hear her singing. Lured by her siren call, he has to follow, and watches her sit on a street corner to croon for pedestrians. She doesn't move her mouth while this is happening, which I'm thinking is either artistic license or she's just really damn good.

After she packs up and heads for home, Tomohiro follows her. It's obvious that he wants to recruit her, but he's feeling a little bit guilty, because doing so would pretty much admit that the four new girls by themselves just aren't good enough. The President's evil plan is working. He does finally talk to the purple-haired girl and says that she should come in for her debut, but she turns her back to him. Why would anyone do that? "But you must sing!" Tomohiro shouts. "I hate to sing," the girl replies, which staggers Tomohiro, much as a World War II era cruiser would stagger under the weight of an enemy bomb. She sings, she hisses, for revenge.

Not a bad way to end a terrible show. Who thought this was a good idea?

Elfen Lied: Episode 3

We start off with Kouta pulling off Nyuu's shorts and Yuka staring on. Yuka puts the key on a table and tries to walk away, clearly misunderstanding the situation, and not being happy about it one damned bit. When Kouta tries to stop her from leaving, Yuka asks if he remembers going to a festival when they were little. He tells her that it doesn't really matter, and she slaps him. They say each others name a few times too many times (TETSUO!! KANEDA!!), then she storms out. As soon as she slams the door, Kouta shivers.

Mr. Glasses stands over Nana, still chained and bloody, as she tries to reach out for a hug. He unchains her then asks for a favor. Title card:

At her own home, Yuka opens a box of little cut-outs of animals and things. She flashbacks to the festival mentioned earlier, as a li'l Yuka attempts to cut a little chick out of a sheet of foam or construction paper. Li'l Kouta makes fun of her, then shows her up by cutting a perfect cat out of another sheet. They make a promise that the next time they meet, she'll have mastered cutting shit out of other shit, and when she does, Kouta will do what ever she says. Back in present time, Yuka scoops up a bunch of cut-outs, then starts to cry, scrunching them up. Aw... Or, oh, she's insane.

Nana says she'll do anything Mr. Glasses says, without even asking if he can cut animals out of paper. Incidentally, Mr. Glasses real name is, Director Kurama. But that's not important. His assistant, back in a lab setting and behind glass, shares a moment with unnamed lab guy about how Nana has basically been tortured in the name of science and stuff, and to keep sane she's used Mr. Glasses as a support structure. He's her daddy-figure. We also learn that the inviso-hands Lucy and Nana use are called, "Vectors." AND that the be-horned ones are called, "Diclonius." It's Exposition City. Mr. Glasses asks Nana to kill for him, to which Nana replies, "Nana... can't kill a human." But that's just fine and dandy, because Papa wants you to kill another Diclonius. Since Diclonius can sense each other, only Nana can stop her. Nana wants to do right by Mr. Glasses so much, it kind of hurts to watch. All the blood doesn't help.

Meanwhile, Kouta has a cold from running around in the rain and getting the shit kicked out of him and all. Nyuu watches on in horror. When Kouta asks for water, she brings him slippers. Then a bunch of other assorted crap. The studio audience moans a somber 'awwww...' Outside, Yuka drops off a bag of her clothes for Nyuu to wear, but walks away without knocking. Divining her presence somehow, Nyuu runs out to stop her and drags her inside to the ailing Kouta. Kouta brings up the festival and mentions that his father and sister both died shortly after and doesn't really remember the events leading up to it. He also blurts out something about his father dying in a car accident, which Yuka again questions, but not loud enough for anyone to hear. Yuka sort of feels better now, knowing that Kouta's trauma led to his not remembering the great festival where they cut up paper.

Back at Diclonius Central, a bandaged Bando yells at Mr. Glasses. Apparently, Bando has been offered a surgery to replace his missing arm and eyes, at the expense of his testicles, without any explanation. I probably wouldn't take that well, either. Mr. Glasses retorts that if Bando doesn't have his balls removed, humanity is doomed. I tend to agree, plot aside. Bando, understandably, has questions. Mr. Glasses starts to talk up, and again, we're transported to Exposition City. As he starts to inform Bando, someone turns on a light switch, illuminating several X-rays of a Diclonius... for the man with no eyes. I'd say they were for the audience's benefit, but all they show is that there are horns on the top of its head, and we knew that already. So... what the fuck? We learn that these vectors are controlled by thought and can be used for just about anything the situation requires. More importantly, we learn that they weren't initially weapons, but a way for Diclonius to spread their genes for reproduction. And Lucy is especially dangerous, because while most Diclonius will die shortly after birth, Lucy has the 'ability to reproduce without any problems ... and the possibility exists that she can breed with a normal human.' So, they have to take his balls. It's still a little unclear why exactly. If they steal genes and impregnate themselves, Bando and his whole team should've had their balls removed before their last mission. So, is there a threat that Lucy impregnated Bando? That seems unlikely. And why can't they make him sterile? Make him stand in front of a microwave for a few hours. No surgery required.

Yuka says it'd look odd for Nyuu and Kouta, a young man and woman, to live together and not be married. The neighbors would go ape-shit. So, Yuka is going to move in, thus fixing the problem somehow. Kouta goes, "Whaaaa?!" and again, the studio audience goes crazy.

At Diclonius Central, Nana gets ready to take her helicopter ride to go find Lucy. She's pretty happy about it. She repeats how much she wants to make Mr. Glasses proud, then asks for a favor. Quick cut to the helicopter taking off. Mr. Glasses and assistant talk about how it's all well and good that Nana is out looking for Lucy, but if she tries to take her down herself, Nana will probably get herself killed. Mr. Glasses doesn't seem all that concerned. It kind of looks like he's thinking about what to have for lunch.

Back home, Nyuu motions to Yuka that she'd like to help Kouta wash the floors. As Yuka goes off to get another cloth, Nyuu tries to take advantage of Kouta. She places his hand on her breast and gets him to squeeze it a bit. Yuka enters, slaps Kouta, then goes to the store. I assume the whole scene had something to do with Diclonius wanting to breed and stuff, but who knows. As Yuka walks away from the house, homeless girl and her puppy walk towards it, holding the umbrella she found in the last episode. She explains to Kouta that she's returning it after finding it on the beach. This causes Kouta to go a little crazy again, asking her if she saw any of that crazy shit that happened. So, he invites her in.

As Kouta confirms that there was indeed a soldier hitting him over the head last night, Nyuu finds a music box that Yuka left out, and promptly slips on the floor, hitting her head. The music box plays the show's theme song, as Lucy stands up and almost kills Kouta with her vectors. She's stopped by a vision of li'l Kouta screaming for her to stop. She pulls her vectors away, then wanders off. People just up and leave scenes a lot in this show. "It was fun almost killing you-BYE!" Yuka asks Kouta if he remembers the music box, and he sort of does, but not really. Outside, Lucy almost kills the puppy, who's tied up to a drainage pipe. All she really does is break its leash. As homeless girl, Mayu, is leaving, Kouta asks if he could get her number incase he has more questions. He hasn't picked up that the girl, who must smell, isn't wearing pants, and I'm sure is fairly dirty, is homeless. She stutters a bit, then runs out to find her dog missing. It's a little sad for a second, but Wanta, the puppy, comes barking up the walkway almost right away. It's almost suspense. Prespense?

Kouta talks about how Nyuu is really late, as if they set a time to meet up after leaving for no reason. Yuka rambles on about how she has trouble finishing sentences. As Kouta gets up to leave, Yuka asks if Kouta wants to try touching her breasts. There are some weird, complicated feelings going on in this show. Kouta seems to agree. He just stands there until we cut to the next scene.

Semi-flashback to Nana standing outside the helicopter with Mr. Glasses. The favor she asked for was Mr. Glasses 'ribbon,' or 'tie' to the rest of us. In present time, she ties it around her head to cover her horns. The horns might have looked less weird. She walks down some steps to where Lucy is sitting, waiting. Nana stands just two steps away and announces that she's there, 'to take [Lucy] home.' Dun, dun dunnnn....

Elfen Lied: Episode 2

Near the beach, in a storage/shanty town, a homeless girl tells her puppy that she's hungry. Above, SAT team leader informs his troops that, "the target is assumed to have an unidentified weapon with a range covering a two-meter radius." Which we all know doesn't mean much. Team leader prattles on, but Bando is already bored. While still in flight, he opens the back door, and demands to be let off right away.

At the shore line, Nyuu digs and digs, looking for that shell. All she finds, though, is this episode's title card:

Back home, Kouta remembers what we learned last time, but he learned, maybe, five seconds ago; Nyuu is looking for another shell. Before he can run after Nyuu and/or his cousin, two police officers come to the door. They're looking for a 'missing girl' and are brandishing a photo of Lucy. Instead of turning her in, Kouta waits for the cops to leave, then heads out in the rain with a girly umbrella. I know she's cute, and he found her, which apparently makes her his, but when the cops come with a scary picture of your new girlfriend, you might want to ask a few questions. I suggest preparing a list in advance. I keep mine in my pocket at all times.

Bando and Satou, his teammate, patrol the beach in full riot gear. Satou talks a lot, which Bando doesn't like. So, he turns his gun on his little friend and threatens. 'Bad guy.' Before Bando can pull the trigger, Satou points out Lucy, who is still Nyuu, a little ways down the beach. Just before they can reach her, Nyuu finds something in the sand and holds it to her chest, very proud of herself. Aww. Luckily, Kouta gets to Nyuu first and tries to help her to her feet. 'Cause women in the rain have trouble with that, I guess. For his trouble, Kouta gets a rifle butt to the head, and falls over. Bando wants to shoot Kouta for being witness to all the fun ('bad guy'), but Satou stutters that they 'didn't get that order.' So, after an attempt to flee with Nyuu, it's another hit to the gut for Kouta. That's why, no matter how tempting, I never bring home random, naked women with horns, no memories, and a one word vocabulary. Always trouble.

Yuka arrives to the beach to find only Kouta, laying in the sand, barely conscious. He's taken away in an ambulance, and Nyuu is carried away by Bando. Satou wants to call headquarters and be all official, but Bando doesn't like that. So, when he tries his radio, Bando hits him in the head with his gun. Bad... meh, you get it. After smacking her to the ground and threatening her some more, Bando finally gives her a good hard smack, slamming her head into a wooden plank. And if the Flintstones have taught us anything, it's that if a hit to the head can cause brain-damage, it sure as hell can cure it. So, when Satou closes in to finish the job Bando is suddenly too bored to do, Lucy returns and puts a foot wide hole in his torso. Somewhere, a puppy whimpers.

Bando opens fire on Lucy, who deflects the bullets with her unseen force, which turns out to be four invisible hands. Ducking behind some barrels, Bando waits as Lucy tosses random debris at him. She quickly gets bored of that, and picks up a boat. Bitch is strong. Bando thinks he's figured out Lucy's throwing shit maneuver, and jumps up, gun poised. However, he forgets that she can also use regular weapons. When his eyes reach Lucy, she's holding Satou's rifle, and fires off a few rounds.

Lucy is suddenly standing over the injured Bando, taunting him in a calm, collected voice. She rips off one arm. She breaks another. Bando makes the all-too-common mistake of telling his evil enemy that he'll 'never forget that face.' Prompt one inviso-hand with two inviso-fingers in Bando's eyes. She goes in for the kill, deciding to strangle him instead of ripping him apart or putting holes in him. Before she can get the job done, she realizes she's holding something; the shell. Seeing it causes her to have a migraine, then revert to Nyuu, who freaks out and runs away.

Homeless girl comes across the umbrella Kouta was carrying, which leads her to the wounded Bando. She ties off his wounds, since all homeless nine-year-olds have taken first aid classes, and runs off to call for help, puppy in tow.

At the hospital, Kouta is recovering from the night's beating with Yuka at his side. The cops from earlier enter and ask her to leave so they can ask Kouta some questions. He tells them of a soldier with a machine gun, which they basically shrug off. He mentions Nyuu, and they suspect that she's the girl they're both looking for. Kouta, thinking fast... ish, tells them that Nyuu is a girl with short hair and a bit overweight. The cops promptly leave. Like, immediately. Good work, fella's.

When Kouta returns home, Nyuu is waiting for him. She presents him with the shell she found, looking just like the one she broke. All is well, again. I'd 'aww' again, but really I just want more naked-violence. In a taxi, Yuka flashbacks about the last time she saw Kouta before he arrived today. She snaps back to the present and then remembers she has a key to the house and has to go back. Inside the house, Kouta gives a quick speech about how he'll never give Nyuu to 'them,' meaning the police or the military. Then he gets her out of her clothes, 'cause they're wet and she'll catch cold, of course. Eyes closed, he successfully gets her shirt off, and sort of gets a dry one on her. As he's taking off her shorts, Yuka walks in. The studio audience laughs until it wets itself.

Back at the detention center, Mr. Glasses walks his assistant to room 7, where they house Number 7, Nana. A young girl, with short pink hair and horns. Oh, she's also chained to a wall with a number of dents in it, covered in blood, and naked. She's how they plan to get Lucy back. We zoom in as Nana looks up to where Mr. Glasses just walked in, and whispers, "Papa..." *sniff*

Monday, April 16, 2007

Elfen Lied: Episode 1

Bachelorette #1: We meet Lucy, doing what she does best, ripping limbs off people. The very first image after the opening sequence is a severed arm, bleeding on the floor. After taking out two guards, a naked Lucy, save an iron mask, hums the theme song and slowly walks away. The next seven minutes of episode one is dedicated to her killing fifty mall cops as she calmly escapes from a sleek, high-tech detention center. We get not-so-important exposition from one guard saying, "As long as you stay over two meters away, there's no danger! It said so in the manual!" Lucy quickly launches a pen she levitates off a corpse, and kills the guard. It figures we'd finally find a woman with a manual and she turns out to be a super-powered, mutant murderess. Just before she can finally escape the walls of the center, Lucy has to face 20 men with automatic rifles. Using not only her ability to block bullets with an unseen force, but the headless body of a secretary, Lucy guards herself from each bullet. The mall cops empty their clips then one pronounces that they don't have anymore bullets. It seems to me like they weren't adequately prepared for this to happen. Maybe you probably shouldn't hire mall security to guard your super-powered, mutant murderesses.

Leaving only the unarmed, be-suited man in charge - who I shall call, 'Mr. Glasses' - Lucy, very slowly, walks away towards an open door. Mr. Glasses orders her to be sealed in, but a mystery man at a console hits a button, and a door to the outside is opened. Mr. Glasses is left with one option: a sniper with an anti-tank rifle holding a 50 caliber bullet. The sniper, of course, messes up the shot, and only manages to wound poor, murderous Lucy, and knock off her iron mask. Lucy falls off a cliff, lands in the ocean, and triggers a title card to appear:

Bachelorette #2: Yuka, cousin to our soon-to-be protagonist, Kouta, walks around town looking for her cousin. Kouta has just, this moment, arrived in town, where both he and his cousin will be attending college. She finds him walking up a set of steps where he 'always used to go' to look at the ocean. Once they arrive at the beach, the two reminisce about Kouta's dead little sister, Kanae, who used to search for seashells there. After the flashback to prove to us young Kanae did in fact search for seashells, the cousins find before them a naked young woman, bleeding from the head. A head, by the way, we can now see is housed with two, short horns. And while she may look like Lucy, she is in fact:

Bachelorette #3: Lucy's brain-damaged alter-ego, Nyuu. After dressing Nyuu in Kouta's shirt, Yuka decides for Kouta that they should bring Nyuu home with them. I guess that's what you do with naked amnesiacs in Japan. Upon reaching Kouta's new house, it's explained that the house used to be a restaurant and has several rooms. This may become important later, seeing as how the two kidnap confused indigents. Shortly after entering the house, in what I hope is an attempt to illustrate her brain-damaged innocence, Nyuu falls to the floor and pisses herself. Which is immediately followed up by a two second bath scene with Yuka and Nyuu. Draw your own conclusions.

Back at the detention center, Mr. Glasses looks over the bloodied floor in Lucy's former room. The giant, metal restraint system that used to hold her, crumpled up, useless, and covered in blood. Trés chic. Mr. Glasses decided that Lucy must be destroyed, and they'll employ the SAT team to do it. Why does Lucy need destroying? Mr. Glasses: "If Lucy's memory is freed, mankind will perish." Ooh...

Cut-to: SAT team member Bando trains in a virtual reality game of Hostage Takers. After taking out the hostage takers on level one, Bando shoots the hostage. He still makes it to level two for some reason, where he switches his gun to automatic, and just shoots everyone. Because, how else would we know he's the bad guy? Bando yells at the control room that he wants to kill real people. 'Cause, 'bad guy.' After some small talk, a secretary walks up behind Bando and politely asks for his attention. He replies, by twisting around and breaking her face. Again, 'bad guy.' He should just wear a nametag. I'd have to cringe less.

Back at home, Kouta talks about a particular shell that his little sister found at the beach. The flashback tells us that she was pretty damned proud of it. "Soon after that," Kouta says, "she died from some illness." Yuka quietly questions this whole 'illness' story, but doesn't really speak up. The whole time, Nyuu watches Kouta tell his story, getting sadder and sadder, staring at the shell. So, she inches forward, grabs the shell, and breaks it in half with a smile. Kouta flips the fuck out and Nyuu runs out crying. Yuka informs Kouta that she broke the shell because Nyuu is kind of stupid, and thought the shell was making him sad. Aww. Yuka starts off to go look for her, because she's somehow their responsibility now. I guess.

On a helicopter, presumably nearby, Bando and team are geared up for battle.

On the beach, Nyuu is crying in the rain.

To be continued...

Bleach 121

What's happened before...

In episode 1, a shinigami named Kuchiki Rukia granted Kurosaki Ichigo her Death Gods powers. After various adventures, wherein Ichigo learned about his new abilities, Rukia was found and dragged back to her otherworldly realm, the Soul Society. There, she was sentenced to a grisly death for various crimes. Ichigo and several of her new human friends ventured to Soul Society to free Rukia, only to discover at the end that her entire execution was being orchestrated by the evil Sosuke Aizen. Aizen recovered a powerful artifact that had been hidden inside Rukia's soul and escaped to Hueco Mundo, the home of the Hollows.

After that, nothing really happened for fifty episodes. Really, those episodes don't exist.

Aizen, after long planning, has now released his arrancar, Hollows who have gained shinigami powers. Each is more than a match for the most powerful of shinigami.

In this episode...
First things first, the episode starts off with a new opening sequence. While nothing will compare to the first, now legendary sequence, featuring "Asterisk" by Orange Range, this one isn't too bad. The music ("Alones" by Aqua Timez) is moody and effective, and points to future episodes well. The final notes die down, and Hitsugaya Toshiro, Rangiku Matsumoto, and Abarai Renji are being thoroughly trashed by the arrancar. Things look dire, until the expansive Soul Society bureaucracy finally allows them to break their limits. For Matsumoto, this naturally involves touching her left breast, and I have to admit that I paused the video to stare at this for a few minutes.

Every shinigami, as we learned long ago, and are reminded now, limits their maximum potential when entering the real world. By breaking their limits, the shinigami automatically become five times more powerful. Or five times more ass-kickin', if you prefer. The shinigami proceed to burn or freeze their arrancar opponents. Matsumoto does something with her breasts, and maybe a cloud of dust, and her opponent bites it too.

Meanwhile, Ichigo is being smacked around by a particularly nasty arrancar named Grimmjaw. Ichigo has released his most powerful form, his bankai, but this dude can just catch Ichigo's sword in his bare hands, which isn't something you want the guy you're trying to stab to be able to do. The fight features some pretty good animation, especially about halfway through, where Grimmjaw does this little floating stutter-step in midair. Seeing as how the previous episode (and too many others, for that matter) featured people raising their eyebrows and grunting, it was a nice touch, and also shows plenty of character. Grimmjaw must be the Muhammed Ali of the arrancar! Ichigo gets bruised and bloody, and his most super-duper powerful attack, getsuga tensho, only gives the guy a nice tan, but Grimmjaw doesn't get a chance to fight back in his own particular idiom as Kaname Tousen (one of the shinigami captains who left for Hueco Mundo with Aizen) appears and drags Grimmjaw back to their infernal realm.

Ichigo and the rest feel pretty defeated and depressed because, after all, they're kind of moody. Grimmjaw and Tousen meet Aizen, who doesn't really have an expression. Hueco Mundo must do that to you. Aizen does have a nice jacket, though. I wonder if they get handed out when you enter. I have to admit that I miss Aizen's glasses, but we all know that no one evil ever wore glasses.