Plot: A virtual world called The Wired (…..Someone watched Serial Experiments Lain.) is so big that it’s basically taken over the physical world as well. A small hacker group in The Wired called Steppen Wolf consisting of their leader Yuya, our main character Toru, the screw-off Akira and the token girl Tsukina, is about to break up. As one final hurrah, they decide to do a harmless hack into one of The Wired’s top military units, Flak. However, Flak takes it as a cyber-terrorist attempt and launches a huge assault on the group.
Since people are so strongly connected to their physical bodies in their virtual ones, Yuya ends up dying at the hands of one of the Flak soldiers while Toru, Tsukina and Akira are arrested. Toru is given the option to use his hacking skills as a Flak soldier to avoid jail time. He takes the offer purely to find out which Flak soldier killed Yuya and exact revenge. However, there’s a much larger, confusing and poorly paced story behind it all…..Most of which not even involving this plot.
Breakdown: I….don’t know what happened to this show. This series is like watching a car drive down hill when you can clearly see a big oil slick about halfway down. The driver’s not paying attention, you don’t notice it until it’s too late and then you can’t help but watch the car spin out of control, crash into a light pole and burst into flames.
This is one of those shows that needs the ol’ episode by episode breakdown treatment, and since it’s only four episodes I feel I can do without eating up too much of your time. Nice and easy down the hill, let’s talk about episode one.
While in The Wired a bunch of soldiers from VSS track something while in their virtual mechas called simulacrums. A massive blackness soon appears and starts attacking the soldiers. Almost instantly,their heads start exploding. People in The Wired are so strongly connected to their physical bodies that pretty much anything they experience in their virtual bodies, including death, carries over to their physical ones.
After that, we cut to our main character Toru Sohma…..I would say that’s a Fruits Basket sorta-reference but that’s a reach if I ever saw one. He’s pretty darn forgettable. Especially for the main protagonist. He’s actually kinda grating. We know he’s a nice guy, but he’s really rude and abrasive.
Toru flashes back to Yuya proclaiming that he’s splitting up their hacker group, Steppen Wolf, for some reason, I forget, and that they’re going to have one last hurrah by hacking Flak, the military’s security detail of The Wired. However, they get caught and are assumed to be cyber-terrorists. In response to the perceived threat, Flak starts attacking. One of them kills Yuya by killing his virtual body in the simulacrum.
Toru is obsessed with catching Yuya’s killer, even though he doesn’t know the killer’s identity. All he knows is what their simulacrum looks like. Flak likes Toru’s hacking talents so they offer him a deal – he can avoid prison time for his work as a hacker if he can put his skills to good use as a Flak soldier. Toru agrees, but not really because he wants to avoid jail time – he wants to track down Yuya’s killer from the inside and exact vengeance. The catch is that he doesn’t know what the killer looks like. They were in their simulacrum at the time, so he only knows them by their simulacrum’s appearance.
It’s understandable that he’d be angry about his good friend’s death and would want revenge, it’s only human nature, but given that we know the situation….it creates a very gray area.
Was it right for the Flak soldier to kill Yuya? Well, it’s hard to say. They could’ve restrained him, or found another way, but considering how real The Wired is and how much of an impact it can have on the real world and knowing what I now know about the killer, I can see why they’d do it.
Yuya and the others were trying to hack into a huge military security mainframe – just for kicks, mind you. I can’t say they didn’t know the risks. The soldiers could’ve handled it better, but they were probably just following orders against what was perceived as cyber-terrorists, which given the conditions of this world, are basically the same as real-life terrorists. It’s like a bunch of punks trying to break into the Pentagon to steal classified documents while carrying automatic rifles and wearing full body armor and one of them gets killed because duh. Doesn’t mean it’s not tragic, but what did they honestly expect would happen?
Toru joins up, and of course he’s not following any orders from the second he walks in the door and their leader is perfectly fine with this because Toru’s just following his own path or whatever. He meets his teammates Glasses Girl, Pervy Dude and Whore. Say hi and bye because they never impact the plot so I’ll probably never really mention them again.
He also meets the stoic Ayane who kinda matters.
A hacker group called Fei Dao soon strikes, and Toru finds this to be the perfect opportunity to see which Flak soldier has Yuya’s killer’s simulacrum. They enter The Wired to fight off the threat, and Toru quickly becomes upset because he can’t find the right simulacrum. But no time for that, battle is commencing. While the others fight around him, Toru is shocked that people are actually dying around hi—Wait, he really didn’t know that you could die in The Wired and that Flak has sent out death threats to people who threaten national security through The Wired before Yuya was killed? I call BS. No way a hacker of all things never knew that. I refuse to believe that never made the news, wasn’t common hacker knowledge, or was never an Internet rumor or something.
He sucks at what he’s doing because he’s not trained in combat and he’s too preoccupied trying to find Yuya’s killer, so the others have to save him. When he finally decides to pay attention he….kills a hacker…..Wow….you’re a hypocrite. There’s no getting around that. Who the hell can sympathize with him now?
Ayane’s also looking for someone during battle (two revenge plots, really?) but has no luck as Fei Dao retreats.
Later, we see that Flak and another group of military security in The Wired, the aforementioned VSS, are preparing to merge their forces because….Flak is incompetent? But they won the last battle. Oh whatever. They’re lead by Tachibana, who totally won’t turn out to be evil. Promise.
They meet their new VSS teammates, and Toru is shocked to see Tsukina has, I guess, also joined in a deal to avoid prison by joining VSS.
You may be wondering what the difference is between Flak and the VSS.
Their reunion is short lived, however, because she’s actually super excited and stuff about being in VSS and working with Toru again, but Toru can’t believe she’d make light of the situation, even if that is the healthiest way to approach it, really. I mean, yeah, she should be sad that Yuya died, but I don’t see why she’d bring that up right there. Also, why not make light of it besides that? Not like revenge will bring back Yuya. Not like stating such a thing in front of the group of people that contains said killer would be smart. Why not enjoy the fact that you avoided prison and got a fairly good deal doing something that you basically enjoy? She has even more reason to be happy considering her team isn’t the one with the Yuya murderer on it. He leaves the room to go into The Wired because he likes The Wired a lot more than the real world.
In The Wired, he meets a strange loli-character (complete with giant pink ribbon!) in a field who calls him ‘brother’. Dun Dun dunnnnnnnnnnnnn.
Nothing much is built on the ending scene of episode one. We are eventually introduced to some faceless hacker kid named Bachelor (Weird name. Especially for a kid. Even if that’s just a username.) who is hacking Flak to communicate with Toru in the cafeteria. We learn really nothing about him except he’s an old acquaintance of Toru’s and Steppen Wolf and that he’s apparently a super awesome hacker way above their skill level. He doesn’t appreciate that Toru’s working for Flak now.
Later, a training session shows how well the VSS and Flak teams work together on a mission. Toru runs off before his cue because it’s established that he just doesn’t follow rules, and this is allowed by his superiors because it’s been established that they’re stupid.
Toru gets in a snag because he left too early and then wonders where his backup is because he’s an idiot. However, the VSS team, including Tsukina, soon start attacking the Flak soldiers during the simulation and I guess this is just brushed off as unclear orders……What? Unclear orders? How stupid do you have to be to think that a teamwork exercise means ‘shoot the unholy crap out of the people you’re trying to team up with’? Especially considering that, even if it’s just a training simulation, they’re still in The Wired and they can all still DIE. Not even the Flak leader is upset at this, he just brushes it off because it’s a training exercise.
It’s made fairly clear at this point that VSS is controlling Tsukina, and probably the other VSS soldiers, through mind control.
Later, Toru is having fond memories back in The Wired in this flower field that he seems to frequent when he sees the loli-girl from before again. She brings him to a virtual amusement park where they have a great time enjoying a typical romantic comedy date thing. The day ends as they enjoy some drinks, but an alarm pops up stating that they’ve spent too much time in The Wired and they need to log out to avoid overtaxing their physical bodies. The girl, named Ren Mizusaka, her name is something I’ll need to ponder later, doesn’t want him to go, but he says he’ll visit whenever he has time.
Cut to a mausoleum where Ayane is bringing her deceased brother, Yuusuke, some flowers.
Fei Dao attacks again, but Toru can’t go off to battle due to the fact that he’s already spent most of the day in The Wired. This time they’re attacking with stronger force, which means I now have the brain-bleeding ‘honor’ of introducing you to the most ridiculous over-the-top bad guy ever; Genha.
Look at him.
Look at his stupid face.
He’s actually going “Ooowaggghhh” during this shot. I’m not kidding.
Genha is a crazy psychopath with a pointed tongue and fangs, because subtly is for losers, who loves nothing more than viciously killing and torturing people while laughing maniacally. I wish I could say there’s more to his character, but nope. They just basically decided that they’d make the most annoying almost comically ridiculous psychopathic villain ever. He has no story, no nothing. He is specifically designed to be as despicable as the realms of human understanding will allow.
So of course he’s killing Flak soldiers left and right, and wouldn’t ya know it? Genha is the guy who Ayane was looking for. Genha killed her brother who was another Flak soldier and she’s out for revenge. Well, surely this stoic, cold blooded, silent warrior type would calmly approach the situation and reasonably find some way to take him dow—Or she can charge at him head first with no backup while screaming wildly. That works too.
Genha and Fei Dao jam their communications so their supervising units can’t see them and they can’t see what’s around them. Well, surely this calls for calmly contemplating a new plan to see or detect the enem—Or you can shoot wildly in every direction while screaming and possibly hurting or killing your allies in the process. That works too.
Surprisingly, this doesn’t work and Genha drags Ayane without her simulacrum into a private server of his own creation..…
………Where he viciously and graphically rapes her.
………Okay, look, makers of any storytelling medium ever, it is possible to do rape scenes ‘correctly’ as long as it actually impacts the plot or character in a way that isn’t completely stupid or pointless. Even scenes like this that are as graphic as you can get without getting into hentai territory can be utilized in a manner that is not gratuitous. Tread lightly, however, for failure to do so may make it look like you just threw it in there to be disgusting, perverted horrible assholes who use rape for shock value.
Guess which route this series took.
I should mention how downright disturbing this rape scene is – and before anyone chimes in, yes this is actual rape despite taking place in The Wired. They’re so connected to their virtual bodies in The Wired that they feel everything that goes on while logged in, and they can and do die in there in there all the time. Before this went down, we saw about three Flak soldiers getting viciously murdered both in The Wired and out through their heads exploding, stabs in the neck and gunfire. However, that’s not what makes this rape scene particularly horrifying.
While raping her, Genha is physically merging his virtual form with hers (literally) in various ways which is obviously causing her intense pain in the real world and looks downright grotesque and vile. Without getting too graphic myself, an example would be when he first starts molesting her he’s wrapping his hands around her stomach and chest under her skin. And later when he’s groping her breasts, he forces his hands to fuse with them and into her chest.
Toru realizes that she’s going through something really horrific, but they can’t find her on any server. While they look for her, Toru decides to go save her himself.
They eventually find where she is, and Toru rushes to help her. Meanwhile, one of Genha’s associates comes to protect Genha. Why? I don’t know. Later we’re meant to sympathize with these guys, but I don’t see how anyone could like anyone who knows what kind of guy Genha is and just let him do whatever he pleases. Vicious murder, torture, rape. It’s all good, isn’t it, you pricks? I would’ve just let him get caught by Flak and die.
Toru arrives to save Ayane but is shocked to find that the guy protecting Genha and working with Fei Dao is his other old Steppen Wolf buddy, Akira. Why? Because, hell, I don’t know. I guess we just needed one Steppen Wolf member in literally every group in this damn show. They’re only there to give him emotional connection to each group as they really don’t do much plot-wise. Even in terms of them being old friends with him, there’s seriously not much there. Also, does that mean Akira’s a fugitive? Fei Dao’s certainly no military group that could’ve offered him immunity.
Ayane is having an emotional breakdown and calls her simulacrum back up even though Genha stated she shouldn’t have been able to do that on his private server, which is how she was trapped in the first place, but okay. She goes insane with rage and start strangling Akira’s simulacrum. And, wouldn’t ya know it, hers is the same simulacrum that killed Yuya!
What a twist! If I cared, this might impact me in some way!
….And hey that also makes no sense! Toru and Ayane have fought side by side at least a couple of times by now. Unless her simulacrum randomly changed between then and now, this makes no sense.
This isn’t even a good twist when you think about it. It had already been established that the killer was a Flak soldier. Despite being introduced to four Flak members, only three of them actually enter The Wired, so Glasses Girl is already out because she’s a supervisor person. And boy, I wonder which one of the soldiers left could be the killer? The comic relief lech, the comic relief floozy or the stoic, cold lady bent on fighting and nothing else? Hmmmmm.
Not like Ayane and Toru had become good friends or anything, either. She was mostly ambivalent to his existence, same with him.
Well, that was the first half of this mess. Considering what we’ve already been through, the second half can only be better, right?
Part 2 (Episodes 3 and 4) Coming soon!
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