Anime Weeklies: Week Three Summer 2017

Week four coming up either this weekend or Monday.

Well, at least you've got to give it to Dragon Ball for finally having a mystery to speak of.  Is this our Goku Black, or could, this is almost definitely Goku Black.
Dragon Ball Super: Dragon Ball’s two most pointless characters spend an episode together. Considering this was the last we saw of Super before it went on break for a week, it’s frustrating that the episode accomplished literally nothing. It begins with Bulma and team Pilaf working to restore the time machine, only for Trunks to be told to meet the now adult Gohan. There are a few cute scenes involving Trunks and the baby Pan, but mostly it’s just a bunch of filler in an arc that’s really just time-wasting until we can get to the next tournament.

The only plot-important thing we see with this episode is Beerus and Whis taking Goku to Universe 10, the place where they’ve felt the ki of Goku Black once before--and where we meet Zamasu, mysterious Kaioshin that’s wearing earrings not unlike Goku Black’s. Too bad the episode ends before anything “fun” happens, but 53 comes out this Sunday so no biggie...right?

Random thought: I sincerely hope the other universes are properly thought out.  Universe 6 and 7 are twins so it makes sense to have some duplicate people involved in it, but the others should look entirely different--there's no need for each universe to contain Saiyans or Namekians.

You always think its weird talking to someone you don't know exists, but then..
Tales of Zestiria The X: This “second” episode of Tales of Zesitira see Sorey and Mikleo escort Alisha back to their village, where we learn something new: humans typically can’t see the Seraphim/Tenzoku, as Alisha immediately gets there and begs them for their help “if they exist”, while they’re all staring directly at her. Sorey finds himself in trouble with the rest of the village for bringing her there, claiming that she would bring great misfortune, but eventually decide to allow her to stay until she feels comfortable leaving on her own.   It's fascinating to see an inversion of a character talking to someone no one else can see.  Certainly as they enter the human world, Sorey will look more ridiculous talking to Mikleo, but right now it's amusing to have Alisha talk at the Tenzoku like they're some sort of ethereal beings no one can see.

In any case, we’re finally getting closer to the start of the “true” adventure, and it finally feels like the plot is actually moving--as they explain the legend of the Shepherd, a human wielding a powerful blade that’s also capable of working with the Seraphim and saving the world from a great darkness. Even knowing little about the video game, this episode makes it obvious that Sorey is the Shepherd in question, as he’s the only human that can even see the Seraphim/Tenzoku, much less work with them--something that comes in handy later as Sorey and Mikleo have to fight off a Hellion that has infiltrated their home in one of the best animated and choreographed fight scenes I’ve seen since this season started.

Though slow moving, Zestiria is still easily one of my favorite anime series this season--its characters are all likable, it’s world is still fascinating and full of secrets, the actual animation is some of the best this season, and at this point my only issue is how slow the plot’s moving, but even that seems like it'll rectify itself sooner rather than later.  Especially since it has to, as there's only 10 episodes left.

This guy is going to end up being the most popular character on the show, somehow.  Also, he's currently summing up my feelings on this series.
91 Days: One of the most crucial things a writer/director can learn is the importance of pacing. Generally, the second installment in a series is weaker than the first due to the inherent “easy” qualities of the first installment where you spend most of your time introducing your core and side characters and setting up the primary conflict for the story going forward, while the second pretty much has no roadmap and the story can go “anywhere”.

91 Days avoids that misstep by setting major events in play with this episode and keeping the intensity up from start to finish. It opens up with Vanno Clemente riding through some backroads trying to avoid both the cops and the Orco family on a liquor run, only to see his young friend get murdered when they’re nearly spotted by the police. The rest of the episode sets up the relationship between the Vanettis, the opposing Orco family, and the family over them both, the Galassias.  It's obvious the Galassias are in control of everything, while the Orcos are muscling in on Vanetti turf, potentially with the intent to start a war.  In any case, eventually the need for revenge becomes too overwhelming for Vanno and Nero, and they end up sending “Bruno” to kill one of the head men in the Orco family.

Bruno fails to capture his prey, but they instead find Serpente, the one responsible for murdering Vanno’s friend. Vanno invites Bruno to the graveyard where they “end” Serpente...only for Bruno to murder (!) Vanno seconds later while explaining Vanno is one of the men responsible for the death of his family. Of course, Bruno has to explain Vanno’s death to the Vanetti family later, and finds himself in a sea of trouble when he takes them to the site of their deaths, only to find that Serpente’s body is no longer there. The visual of a gun to the back of Bruno’s head and a gun being cocked is the last thing we see as the episode fades to black…

I have to say, I didn’t expect things to get moving so fast so quickly. With shows like this, there’s often an attempt to cause the one seeking revenge to “soften up” by getting to know the people they’re planning to kill. From there the primary conflict shifts from man vs. man to man vs. self as the protagonist questions whether they can kill someone they’ve actually gotten close to emotionally. 91 Days skips past that altogether by having Bruno immediately kill one of the three men responsible for his family’s death. At the same time, the show humanizes the Vanetti family separate from Bruno so that even though you’re aware that they’re vicious murderers you still feel shocked rather than gratified when Vanno is killed.

We see the series’ OP for the first time this episode, and it’s incredibly violent and filled with about as many murders as a Godfather flick. I was wondering if that would be just for show, but judging by this first episode it’s almost definitely not. And this show is still one of the best of the season so far.

I can't tell if we Zone of Enders now or Battlizer, but for biased reasons I'm going Battlizer.
Active Raid S2: The Sentai is strong in this episode, as it opens with Unit 8 being given a flight unit that’s totally just their version of a Battlizer. The episode itself focuses on a surprisingly science fiction-y concept, as Unit 8 tracks down a criminal who’s capable of imprinting the memories of one person onto another, effectively mindwiping them. The idea is so “out there” that it almost doesn’t make sense for this universe, and it made me wonder what the series could be if it pushed on its cyberpunk roots just a bit more. Granted, fusing Sentai with Ghost in the Shell might be crazy, but judging from this episode it also might be “just crazy enough to work” and would doubtlessly make this series a lot more famous than it is right now.

The team just barely manages to save Unit 8’s Takeru (their Red Ranger/”Oscar-2”) from being brainwashed himself by the scientist who invented the technology...maybe. The end of the episode leaves it up in the air, which adds an additional subplot on to the typical Willwear stuff that usually permeates the show. Speaking of Takeru, there’s a brief bit of character development here as he shares with new member Emilia Edelman his academic shortcomings as a way of helping her overcome her fear of piloting Willwears.

This is the kind of development that’s usually absent in Super Sentai series, especially the ones of late where the Red is usually a screaming bonehead who rushes headlong into every situation. Generally how they start the series is how they finish, with only small changes happening from beginning to end--but in Takeru’s case even going from last season to this season you can tell he’s less of a hothead on a case, and in his day to day life he went from barely being able to do subtraction in his teens to attending grad school. It’s this kind of development that makes me wish this series could get another cour rather than ending after this season.  

This guy is almost certainly going to get everyone killed.  Again.
Arslan Senki S2 3: It’s amazing how a concentrated effort at a back story can change how one views a character. Take Hermes for example (I know they “corrected” it, but its too late and “Hilmes” is a lolJapan situation to begin with): we knew from last season that he was so pissed off because King Andragoras had viciously murdered his father, scarred his face and nearly killed him--but just hearing him say it was one thing, actually seeing the events is another.

The first half of this week’s episode of Arslan sees “Silver Mask” in search of the legendary kingmaker sword, when he runs into Irina, a blind princess from Maryam, the nation that took him in after he fled Pars. What follows is a bittersweet flashback explaining how they first met, and how she was nearly able to help quell the rage in his heart, before he found himself betrayed once more by the king of Maryam, this time to the Lusitanians. The whole story goes a long way towards painting him in a completely different light, and it’s easily possible to see him as a protagonist for a different story--or even this one, were it not for Arslan.

Surprisingly though, Hermes’ sub-plot only takes up half the episode, leading the other half to deal with our true hero’s banishment from his own kingdom and subsequent assignment to gather 50,000 troops. If one ever believed Andragoras disliked Arslan before, it becomes far more evident here--it’s not enough for Arslan to gather the army, but he’s forced to do so alone, as Andragoras commands everyone he’s gathered under his banner thus far to remain with him. Given the Parsian king had spent most of last season in chains it was easy to feel bad for him before, but this episode does a great job of dousing whatever pity you had for him with fuel and setting it ablaze.

This episode returns viewers to the core question behind Arslan’s story: what makes a “king”, or a leader, worth following? Both Andragoras and Hermes have the only legitimate claim on the throne--Hermes as the son of the previous king and Andragoras as his brother. We’ve long known Arslan has no blood relation to anyone and may very well be of common blood, but that has done little to keep men and women from his own country and abroad from following him--not out of duty, but because they want to.

With Arslan and company setting out to find 50,000 soldiers to recruit, it does leave one wondering what happens going forward. Andragoras has proven himself a garbage king and an even worse leader, and one can imagine his inevitable attempt to reclaim the kingdom will only end in tragedy.

This might be the prettiest night sky I've ever seen, anime or otherwise.
Alderamin of the Sky 2: I’m starting to regret making this show my fifth pick. As much as I like the lazy genius trope, the way they’re developing it is maddening. To begin with, this episode starts out a little uncomfortable, as main character Ikuta “murders” a group of soldiers that he could just as easily have captured. That’s not the worst thing ever--I like Bruno Avilo and he’s clearly a “villain” waiting to happen. But the difference is his actions aren’t portrayed by 91 Days as heroic. Here, the supporting cast treat Ikuta like he’s done nothing wrong and that just rubs me the wrong way.

In any case, there are still a lot of questions about the world left to be answered with this second episode, which features Ikuta using some decently impressive BS skills to get him, the princess, and his friends across enemy lines and back into their own territory. During the ep, the princess mentions something about corrupted blood, and the minor look at politics we’ve seen so far suggests that the side these characters are fighting for might not necessarily be the “good guys”, if there are any to be had in this series. This is a good thing--if moral ambiguity is added into a show like this, it can only help.

The other thing that’s bugging the hell out of me is the lead female, Yatori. Her existence combined with Ikuta’s general powerlessness in this world is causing something I like to call “Kamille Syndrome”. Named after legendary Gundam pilot Kamille Bidan of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, it’s when the main character is clearly the most useful person on the show, but everyone treats him like trash. Multiple times in the episode the so-called “elite” of the world do things that are deserving of reprimand, but before Ikuta can properly express how stupid they are, Yatori inflicts some form of physical violence upon him. Which, by the way, is another thing that bugs me: characters who inflict violence rather than use their words in a previously non-violent discussion.

As annoyed as I am though, I did like the end.  Yatori's spent the last two episodes working to become an Knight in their nation's army, and as a result of their saving the princess the lot of them are "promoted" to being knights.  It sets up a perfect contrast between her and Ikuta, who's dislike for the ways of royals and the army is experiencing the worst day of his life.  Detached from everything else, this scene is beautifully animated and directed, and it makes Ikuta instantly relatable as a character whose own intelligence and success has ruined the life he had planned for himself.

There’s a lot to the main character’s history and there’s clearly a deeper story to be told here than the expected harem this series could’ve easily become, but if this show is just going to leave me steaming by the end credits every episode, I can’t promise I’ll stick around to learn what it all is.


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