CSBS – Rugrats S01 Ep4: Baby Commercial/Little Dude Review

CSBS - Rugrats Ep4 Screen2

Plot: 4A – Baby Commercial: Phil and Lil recall their experiences filming a diaper commercial.

4B – Little Dude: Tommy is brought to be a learning aid at Didi’s high school Home Ec. class.

Breakdown: 4A – Baby Commercial: CSBS - Rugrats Ep4 screen1This is the first episode to mostly center on Phil and Lil, and it’s largely poking fun at the entertainment industry while also having a lot of random slapstick that Rugrats really loved in the early days.

One thing I really remembered about this episode was the director guy, Jonathan’s, obsession with his diaper box pyramid. That detail is mostly unimportant, but the whole time I was rewatching the episode, I was waiting for when we got to the point where he’d yell “MY PYRAMID!” Like the Cabbage Merchant from Avatar the Last Airbender.

Other than that, we have adults either not understanding babies or not giving a single dime store fuck about them. Ya know, the hallmark of all Rugrats episodes.

Here, we have the director guy acting like a one and half year old would know how to take stage directions on his own, Betty handing off Lil to a random slob she doesn’t know, and the random slob instantly placing her on the floor and completely neglecting to watch her because he wants to continue stuffing his face with donuts and being incoherent.

He’s wearing a t-shirt that says ‘Best Boy’ and I never got that joke, nor do I get it now. Is there some joke in the industry that best boys are useless sacks of crap? If you don’t know what a best boy is, they’re basically, what Wiki describes as, the ‘foremans’ of their respective crews, either electric or grips. They’re not the heads of their crews, that would be the gaffer (for electric) and key grip, but they are responsible for a lot of scheduling, hiring and general management. Sounds like they have a pretty important job. Why is the parody of it being portrayed like this? Am I not getting something?

For all of you playing at home, Lil ends up in the goddamn rafters and nearly dies because of course she does.

Then the unsupervised Phil climbs on a camera and drives it around the set, nearly crashing the diaper pyramid down. However, another staple of Rugrats episodes is that all of this chaos usually results in a happy if not unrealistic ending. The advertising execs love the footage of the babies wreaking havoc, and they launch the commercial. Jonathan, having fired the kids and Betty before the execs gave their seal of approval, comes to their house to beg and plead for them to shoot more commercials for them. Betty vehemently refuses because she didn’t like how they were treated, which is probably our first parenting win in this series.

This episode was kinda drab, but it was fun enough to hold my attention.

4B – Little Dude:

CSBS - Rugrats Ep4 Screen4

This is one my absolute favorite early season episodes. It’s extremely cute and funny with many memorable moments, but the highlight is Ramone/Rocko.

Before we get started, does anyone remember that Didi was a high school Home Ec. teacher? It’s really, really easy to forget because they hardly ever talk about it or show her at school. I was a die-hard Rugrats fan for well over a decade and even I barely remembered that she was a teacher.

Anyhoo, Didi brings Tommy to school as a learning aid as she teaches her class how to change a diaper, which I can’t decide if that’s a parenting fail or not. Don’t they usually use baby dolls for this? Isn’t it kinda weird to use an actual baby with an actual poopy diaper? Isn’t it just flatout better to use a baby doll anyway because it’s not like everyone in the class can change Tommy. Not everyone would get a chance to do it themselves.

Like typical teenagers, they can’t bring themselves to change him because ew, but then the coolest guy ever walks in – Ramone also known as Rocko. Ramone looks like a typical ‘cool’ guy. He’s got the leather jacket, the slicked back hair, the sunglasses, the chains etc. But unlike your cliché leather-toting ‘cool’ guy, Ramone actually is incredibly cool. He walks in like a boss, has everyone step aside and changes Tommy flawlessly. Tommy then adorably steals and wears his sunglasses, which Ramone thinks is very cool. I agree, Tommy looks really cool with those glasses on.

Ramone explains that he has a baby brother at home so he’s used to changing diapers. Using his comb, he dubs him ‘Little Dude’ and Tommy instantly takes a shine to him.

Once class is dismissed, some girls convince Didi to let them hang out with Tommy while she’s on her lunch break and she agrees. The girls really like Tommy, but while they’re dealing with some jerk football player they accidentally leave him on the tailgate of a truck that pulls away without them noticing.

I am going to give the girls a break for ignoring Tommy for a bit, but I’m going to ding them for leaving him on the tailgate. He could’ve easily fallen off and gotten severely injured or killed either by wandering off the edge or by the force of the truck pulling away. To their credit, they do quickly realize he’s missing and run all over the place trying to find him, but still.

While wandering, Tommy finds Ramone and picks up the comb he dropped accidentally. He then tries to find Ramone to return it to him. Tommy’s forlorn face when Ramone leaves the room without realizing he’s there is so heartbreaking.

Then we have the epic cafeteria scene where the jerk football player from before and Ramone end up facing off and wiping food on each other after Tommy accidentally gets pudding on the football guy’s jersey. When a full-on food fight breaks out, because cafeteria scene in the 90s, the football jerk angrily picks up Tommy. Ramone instantly stops all of the chaos with a single sentence when he demands the jerk give Tommy to him. He puts Tommy in his leather jacket, leaves the room and instantly allows the food fight to resume as he leaves the doorway.

This guy is too amazing for words.

Tommy is eventually returned to the girls, one of whom instantly falls in mutual love with Ramone at first sight. Aw that’s sweet…Girl, seriously, nab him up. He’ll be an awesome dad. If he treats you anywhere near as well as he treated Tommy here, or even Didi, he was very nice to her too, he’ll be a perfect guy for you.

The girls return Tommy to Didi, who is none the wiser of what happened but is happy to hear the girls learned a lot from their experience with Tommy. Returning Ramone’s comb to him, Ramone lets Tommy keep his sunglasses, which are still super cool, and Ramone bids farewell to the Little Dude.

I left some stuff out for the sake of brevity and because I’d just be ruining jokes for you, but this is a really great episode with some adorable and hilarious moments and a really cool and likable character. I would’ve loved to see Ramone/Rocko return, but alas, he was a one-off.

Parenting Fails

4A – I won’t ding Betty too much for handing off Lil to the Best Boy because she needed to be somewhere to help Phil and she probably just assumed he would be competent enough to hold a baby for five minutes, but I will ding the Best Boy because he didn’t even try to hold her for longer than five seconds. He instantly plopped her on the filthy floor and ignored her. That’s bad enough, but then she ends up climbing into the rafters and nearly falling to her death all because he’s a lazy gluttonous slob. X5

Once Lil has everyone’s attention, literally no one watches Phil, which leaves him open for causing havoc on the ground. He gets ahold of one of the cameras and nearly crashes into the diaper pyramid. X3

4B – Not much here. I’ll ding the tailgate thing (x3), as I said, but considering Didi was trying to teach her students about child care, there were three girls watching him and she was only allowing it for a lunch break, even telling them to find her if he gets fussy, I won’t get on her case.

Tally: 11


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My Poke-Pinions #41, 42 and 169 | The ‘bat Line

Zubat

Name: Zubat’s name is obviously derived from the word ‘bat’ but it’s also taken as a pun since it originates from the onomatopoeia for the sound of an edged tool forcefully piercing something, ‘zubatto’ since it’s a vampire bat. As you can guess, it has the same name in English as Japanese.

I like Zubat’s name just fine. It’s fitting, memorable and snappy.

Fun Fact: In France, it’s called Nosferapti, based off of Nosferatu and ‘pi’ for petit. That is one of the coolest names I’ve ever heard. Remind me if I ever have kids, I’m totally naming one Nosferapti.

Design: Zubat is a bat……*lip smack* Yup.

Okay, maybe I’m not giving Zubat enough credit. I do think Zubat is really cute. I actually am a fan of bats, and this one is pretty adorable. It has a nice blue and purple color scheme, cute little ears, and enough creepiness in the fact that it has no eyes and a perpetually open fanged mouth to at least be a little intimidating.

What I never liked about it, though, are its weird ‘tails.’ Never understood what the purpose was for those tails either practically or as a design choice. I honestly didn’t even know they were tails until I read the Wiki for this analysis. I honestly always thought they were really skinny legs with no feet.

Sprite-wise, I literally have nothing to say about any Gen’s sprites. They’re all decent enough. The animations are sometimes a little spastic, but none I really feel like pointing out.

The only one that might be worth noting is Gen II, which, for some reason, made Zubat’s sprites all insanely dark. I know they’re mostly found in caves, but they’re WAY too dark. It’s hard to make out details on them.

Shiny:

Most people hate shiny Zubat because of the ick green, and I agree, but in other Gens the sprite is more of a lime green, which I’m more receptive to.

I’m not receptive of the yellow/beige they chose for the insides of the ears and wings, though. Gen II had those areas be more of a pink-ish color, which I’m not that happy about either, but it looks better than yellow/beige.

Dex Entries and Backstory: It’s a bat.

Sorry, I won’t do it again.

Really, there’s nothing in the Dex entries that don’t apply to your average bat except that sunlight burns them/causes them to become unhealthy, because vampire lore. I was actually pretty surprised to learn this because, in all my years playing the games and watching the anime, I’ve never heard of this being a thing. Apparently, captured and trained Zubats are somehow more resilient to sunlight and don’t get burned or sick. *shrug*

Zubat’s design was based off of—do I honestly need to keep typing that sentence? Its Poison typing is either based off of the anticoagulant found in bat saliva, which I find hard to believe because anticoagulants are not poison, or its based off of the fact that bats coming carry diseases such as rabies, which is a bit more believable. The whole poison/venom thing has become more common in vampire media. In fact, a manga I’m currently reading, Higanjima, has vampires with venom that instantly completely paralyzes their victims upon a single bite. It also lulls the victim into a state of pure ecstasy.

Well that was a short entry. Only one page….Hmmm….I need something to fill time.

Here, let me grab a Zubat meme real quick.

There we go.

Golbat

Name: Golbat is supposedly derived from the word “gollop” which is another word for ‘gulp’ which is supposed to be in reference to gulping blood because vampire bat. It could also be short for golden-capped fruit bat, which looks nothing like Golbat and is a fruit bat anyway, not a vampire bat.

Honestly, I don’t believe either of these theories. I have never heard the world ‘gollop’ in my life. If the gulping thing was the main inspiration, why not just name it Gulbat? They sound almost identical.

I like Golbat just fine as a name, but I prefer Zubat.

Fun Fact: In France, it’s called Nosferalto, which is also incredibly awesome. The alto part means ‘high’ which I think is in reference to Golbat’s flying abilities.

Design: I think Golbat’s design is the perfect combination of ‘typical bat’ and ‘creepy. I mean, look at this thing. It’s just a bat with a HUGE mouth, but that’s all it really needs to come off as creepy. It’s gaping, never closing, black abyss of a mouth.

I don’t much care for its feet is all I can say in the negatives. They seem like they’re an afterthought, but they don’t bother me nearly as much as Zubat’s tail feet.

Sprite-Wise, YES! I finally get to talk about one of my favorite sets of weird-ass Gen I sprites!

Look at it!

Look at it!

And, of course, the cous de gras, the weirdo Gen I king,

Bask in the glory that is funhouse mirror Golbat with a frickin’ TONGUE. Just when you think the black abyss mouth was the creepiest they could pull off with Golbat’s mouth they give you this nightmare. It makes total sense that he has a tongue, and I’m…..a little certain it probably does have one even though we can’t see it, but GOD. It’s like it swallowed a Lickitung. It’s so messed up and cool, I love it.

Other than that, I have the same notes about Golbat’s sprites as I did with Zubat’s. They’re all fine, Gen II is still way too dark, though, and sometimes the animations are a bit too erratic, but they’re all fine.

Shiny:

Golbat’s shiny has the same problem as Zubat’s shiny only a lot worse because they don’t improve the color with time. It has this weird olive-green and bubblegum/peach color scheme that is putrid. I know I said I liked Zubat’s shiny a tiny bit better with the pink over that weird beige, but this shade just looks awful.

Dex Entries and Backstory: Golbat’s Dex entries are only a little bit more interesting than Zubat’s, this time focusing more on the vampire angle. Golbat targets humans and Pokemon, and it never stops draining blood from its victims, even if it gets too heavy to fly. Moon’s Dex entry goes even further with this and points out that Golbat will quickly become food for other Pokemon if it allows itself to get this heavy (Jeez, these entries are dark.) It also sometimes shares the blood that it’s already gathered, which, what the fuck and HOW?! Does it throw it up? Is there some Golbat bucket hidden in its mouth? Its sharp fangs can puncture any type of skin, except those of Steel-type Pokemon. Attempting to bite Steel-types has caused Golbat to lose their fangs occasionally.

Two other interesting notes are 1) I changes its blood type to that of the victim when drinking blood…which, cool, but why? And 2) even though I noted its little weird legs, it’s apparently very good at walking. So good, in fact, that it can stalk prey silently on land as well as in the air.

Design-wise, it has the exact same information listed as Zubat.

Crobat

Name: Out of all of the ‘bat line, I like Crobat’s name the best. It’s either a merging of ‘bat’ with the word ‘cross’, referencing the way its four wings cross over each other, or it’s derived from the word ‘acrobat’ which is alluding to its skills flying through the air. Both explanations of this name are much better than the explanations we get for Zubat and Golbat. Also, it reminds me of crows, which adds to the creepy factor.

Fun Fact: In France, it’s called Nostenfer, which I like the least out of all of the French ‘bat line names. It just doesn’t flow nearly as well. You almost have to stutter through it. The ‘enfer’ part means ‘Hell’ which is fitting but also not because Crobat’s not nearly intimidating enough to earn that dark name.

Design: Just gonna get this out of the way, because I know how much people tend to love Crobat, but I’ll be honest…..I like Golbat better. Golbat kinda gives off a creepier vibe while still being cute, but Crobat is just like an angry bat. Don’t get me wrong, I love Crobat too. I really, really love the fact that it has four wings that intersect each other when flapping, and the differences in my preference levels isn’t that much, but I still find myself preferring Golbat.

Sprite-wise, not much to note. The flying animations are, again, a bit sporadic sometimes, but it’s nothing that bad. Only one that is noteworthy is Crystal, whose flying animation looks awful. It looks so much more like it’s trying to wave ‘hi’ with both wings than it is trying to fly.

Shiny:

So, everyone has a beef with baby poop-colored Zubat and Golbat, eh? May I ask why I haven’t seen more people complain about this flesh-colored abomination?

Granted this specific shade of pink was only around for Gen III, every other Gen is like a bubblegum pink, but WHY? Why did this happen? And why is it paired up with the classic baby-poop green for the wings?

At least the bubblegum pink does work kinda better, but if I were a shiny Crobat I’d be embarrassed as shit.

Crobat….the final evo of the vampiric ‘bat line. Stalking its prey swiftly and silently…..drinking the blood of any poor creature that crosses its path……IS NOW AVAILABLE IN COTTON CANDY, ROSE, AND BALLET SLIPPER PINK!

Dex Entries and Backstory: Crobat’s Dex entries skew away from the vampire motif for the most part and tend to focus more on its impressive speed and stealth. Its hind legs actually evolved into the second set of wings, making it faster and more agile, but greatly hindered its ability to travel on land.

It can fly super fast and extremely quietly, so much so that most people don’t even notice them going by. Supposedly, you won’t even realize you’ve been fed on until it’s too late. If it has been flying for long periods, it will switch which pair of wings it uses to fly around so it can rest the other pair.

Kinda disappointing pool of info, to be honest.

May I ask I one thing, though? Why does a Pokemon based on bats and vampires evolve through, of all things, friendship?

Design-wise, it’s mostly the same as Zubat and Golbat with two additions. The first is suggesting that the second pair of wings is based on the fact that a bat’s wings are connected by their patagium, which connects all of their limbs into their wings. The increased speed is theorized to be based on the Mexican free-tailed bat, which is noted as being able to reach the fastest horizontal flight speed of any animal.

I don’t really have anything to discuss there. It’s pretty straight-forward.

Next time, it’s the….Uh….I don’t really know what to call this line. They don’t really have a naming scheme. Maybe the Weed/Flower line because two are the Weed Pokemon and two are the Flower Pokemon?…..Oddish, Gloom, Vileplume and Bellossom are up next.

The Ridiculous Mess that is BALDR FORCE EXE Resolution (Episodes 3 and 4 of 4)

Episode 3:

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Toru realizes that Ayane is Yuya’s killer. I’m not even going to bother sarcastically explaining the logical stuff that should be happening right now. Toru just up and charges at her, knocking Akira out of her grasp and beating the everloving crap out of her, yelling how she’ll pay for killing Yuya.

…Okay, I’m not going to argue about some cosmic balancing sheet and what does and doesn’t constitute as proper punishment for what she’s done, if she even deserves one,….but dude….she just got raped and violated in a multitude of horrific ways by a psychopath minutes ago and is having an emotional breakdown. You really think now of all times is the perfect opportunity to exact revenge and nearly bludgeon her to death? Just….really? You’re an awful protagonist. Probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I don’t even want to call you a protagonist. You’re an awful person period.

Toru’s stopped before he can kill Ayane by Ren who randomly appears in front of him. Before she can really talk with him, VSS soldiers appear and start placing all of Flak under house arrest. Ayane is placed under actual arrest because apparently she had been leaking information to ‘the enemy’….Which I guess means hackers, but why would she do that? She hates hackers with a passion. I’d imagine it was some information exchange to help her in her revenge plot, but she never displayed signs of having inside information. Even if she did, this is still never explained.

Toru goes out to some random tree and thinks about the pendant that Yuya used to wear that he now wears as a memento…..Was Toru in love with Yuya? There’s nothing really indicating their sexuality, but the way it’s set up, it really seems like Toru had a thing for Yuya. Doesn’t impact the plot much, if at all, but it’s something to ponder.

Tsukina shows up wanting to take Toru somewhere. On the ride, she cuddles up close to him and tells him that she has always loved him and she just wanted to tell him that. Not like Toru looked like he reciprocated her feelings anyway. Despite the fact that you can predict something like this would happen since, of course, she’s his old friend and token girl of his original group, thus, by storytelling law, she must be a romantic interest for the lead, there’s really no indication that either of them had romantic feelings for the other. They hardly shared any screentime. This is never brought up again and goes nowhere so….I dunno. They just wanted to check off that trope?

He finds out that she’s taking him to VSS to speak with her superiors. When he arrives, Tachibana states that she knows he’s been hanging around a mysterious girl in The Wired that they call ‘Envy’ who apparently is connected to the big blackness that instantly makes people’s heads explode with one glance that they call ‘Leviathan’…..Boy, you guys are really pulling all the stops for original names, aren’t you? The Wired, Envy, Steppen Wolf, simulacrums, and now Leviathan?

Anyhoo, they’re surprised that Envy/Ren appeared to Toru and even more surprised that nothing happened to him because of it. So they decide he’d be the perfect bait to lure out Ren. However, he refuses and is soon knocked out by Tsukina.

They decide, if he won’t cooperate, that they’ll make him cooperate by implanting a mind control chip in his brain just like Tsukina.

At this point I should mention that Toru’s been having on-again off-again flashbacks to him as a child playing in a room with a younger Ren as well as other flashbacks of running from some government facility and witnessing weird experiments. He has more of them here, but they don’t build on much.

He wakes up from his flashback/dream to see that Akira and Fei Dao have decided to rescue him from VSS. Tachibana is surveying the damage when she notices the serial number on Toru’s brain chip – 0813.

Back at Fei Dao headquarters, they actually seem like they want to portray Fei Dao as a bunch of resistance hackers or something since it’s like a small underground community complete with little kids. However, considering that they seem to enjoy hacking into Flak for no reason and have no problem killing people to reach their goals (they just killed at least two people in VSS to rescue Toru), and have a sadistic murderer/rapist on their team, yeah no….but nice-ish try I think maybenotreally. Also, what resistance would it be anyway? Flak’s not an oppressive dictatorship – they combat hackers in The Wired.

Toru is introduced to Quon, the leader of Fei Dao, and he’s properly introduced to Lian, a girl who is basically the leader of the Fei Dao in terms of hacking. Quon wonders if Toru remembers him because he lived with him at the VSS testing facility for years.

Here’s where we get the explanation behind Toru’s flashbacks.

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Toru was an orphan, I guess, along with his sister, Ren. This turn of events is why her name is odd to me. Toru’s last name is Souma while Ren’s is Mizusaka. Did she just make up that last name for some reason or is there a reason why these siblings have different last names?

Toru and Ren got lost in the forest or something and stumbled upon the VSS building. Apparently the people at the facility kidnapped them and used them, along with many other children, as experiments for a new enhancing brain chip (also, they really can’t come up with any other word for this besides ‘brain chip’?) Many experiments ended up in failure, and many children died as a result. In order to cover their tracks even further, they killed the children who had failed in the experiments but hadn’t died.

Quon, despite being the head researcher behind this entire thing, decided he couldn’t take this anymore and tried to save some of the remaining children from VSS including Toru, Lian, Genha and some others. Toru doesn’t remember any of this because, ironically, he was chosen for an experiment that would bolster his memory if successful, but it failed and left him with amnesia and a damaged brain chip.

Soon after, he starts having clearer flashbacks of Ren…flashbacks that are really cheesy and annoying. Basically the cliché shtick of young loli-girl who can’t do anything on her own and is super shy being protected by her big brother who vows that they’ll always be together when that’s obviously not true. He also remembers that Ren had a big music box thing that she always carried around with her that was a gift from their parents. I know this because they outright say it was a gift from their parents. Why Toru didn’t get one is beyond me.

Toru asks if Quon knows where Ren’s physical body is. He passes on the sad news that he wasn’t able to rescue her from VSS. She was killed due to her experiment failing shortly before Quon decided to rescue the kids from the facility.

Toru doesn’t believe his claims because he’s seen her in The Wired and vows to find Ren’s physical body and bring her back to the real world.

Cut to him going to The Wired and reuniting with Ren and….You know, I just can’t emotionally connect with this. Ren is really annoying, Toru’s just an awful person, and we were quite literally given our only reason for having an emotional connection to this character a minute and a half ago. In fact, and I know Toru had amnesia all this time, but it’s like the anime suddenly said “Yeah, this Yuya thing’s not working for me. Scrap the whole thing and now make him super determined to save his sister instead.”

And that really is what happened. The obsessed Yuya revenge thing is all but completely thrown away and now Toru’s shifted his obsession with bringing his sister back even though Quon said he saw her die.

Toru calls Bachelor, who has been watching this whole time…..creepy, and asks if he’ll help them find Ren’s real body. Bachelor says he won’t do it for free, and Toru offers to work for him if Bachelor helps. Bachelor agrees and they head to the VSS information mainframe to find Ren’s file. After getting through some automatic security detail, they eventually find her file (it’s the only file that has a picture on it, so that was convenient.) but there’s no information on where her real body is.

Bachelor shows up at Fei Dao headquarters after they log out and says they have to go to the old VSS research facility to get anymore information.

As they’re exploring the facility we learn that Bachelor was a research subject too….Wait, as what? A baby? These experiments seem to have occurred like eight-ish years ago and Bachelor is only like 10 at most. I guess his experiment was on his intelligence? I don’t know. I still don’t know what Lian’s experiment was, or Genha’s for that matter. In fact, Genha being one of the experiments really seems like a tacked on way to explain why he’s crazy. Not like it matters since you don’t empathize with him in the slightest.

Toru looks inside one of the sleeping pod things and they discover (dun dun dunnnn) Ren’s body. What a twis–….No, that’s not really a twist either. Quon said he saw her die, and it was a huge long shot that she was alive. Yes, it’s sad that we got visual confirmation that her physical body was dead, but there was little to no hope that she was alive anyway.

He takes the music box, but Bachelor is suddenly shot through the shoulder by VSS soldiers lead by Tachibana. Youmeanshewasabadguywhaaaaa?

Apparently, she is just now finding out that Toru was an experiment, even though, considering how interested she was in Ren’s case, it seems unlikely that she never picked up on the fact that Ren had a brother named Toru – especially considering that his brain chip’s serial number is just one number higher than Ren’s.

Tachibana explains that she didn’t kill Ren. Ren’s experiment was to test the effects of spending extended periods of time in The Wired. Eventually, Ren’s consciousness was broken from her physical body and she became trapped in The Wired. I guess her physical body just died on its own soon after. That doesn’t really make any sense. That’s like saying a coma and death are the same thing. An entity soon developed from Ren’s consciousness – the Leviathan. How? Why? What is it really?

Also, how has Ren been aging if she’s been in The Wired for years? Has she been programming aging into her virtual body?

Tachibana takes Ren’s existence in The Wired as proof that humans can shed their physical forms and become immortal beings in The Wire—*sigh* A villain who wants immortality now too? Could you guys spare some creativity for five seconds, please?

Soon after, they hear Ren’s voice as she’s been listening this whole time through the computers in the facility. She starts freaking out because she just learned that she was dead in the real world and has no way of returning nor can she stay with her brother. She starts blowing up the place…because the facility had…bombs everywhere? I don’t know. Movie logic. Anything with wires can blow up.

Toru’s frozen in shock and sadness and we fade out on Ren’s music box.

Episode 4:

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Our finale starts off with Toru sitting in shock and grief at the events that have unfolded around him, but Bachelor knows that they have to get out of there as soon as possible because either the explosions or VSS will kill them both. He tries to move Toru on his own…..oh and his bullet wound and blood stain magically disappear and never reappears. That’s some grade-A consistency.

He eventually does get Toru out and back to the car, but the car is self-driving and is quickly taken over by Ren. She causes the car to crash, but Bachelor and Toru are unharmed.

We then see that Ren’s Leviathan is completely taking over everything in The Wired, which is causing chaos and destruction in the real world.

The Fei Dao group is watching Leviathan consume everything and everyone in The Wired, and Genha, being so ridiculously evil, purposely kicks Akira into the blackness while laughing evilly. He actually seems really happy that Leviathan is consuming The Wired. We get it. He’s evil. Either give him a mustache to twirl or shut up about it.

Thus we are introduced to another big inconsistency/plot hole. Earlier, and several times, they have stated that merely looking at the Leviathan or coming into contact with it causes instant death via head explosion – hence the head explosions in the very first scene of the series. Yet, despite the fact that the Leviathan is consuming everything in The Wired, including people, no one’s dying. Their physical bodies are merely going into comas while whispering Ren’s words. The VSS soldiers manning the firewalls are dying, but no one else. How and why did this change? Why is it only targeting specific people? Did they not want to commit to such a huge body count? Did they think it would make Ren look bad despite the fact that she can’t control Leviathan? That seems like a pretty big issue to overlook, especially considering that Leviathan is a lot stronger than it was in the first scene.

I get that she’d definitely, even just subconsciously, want the VSS soldiers dead for obvious reasons, but why does it seem like the Leviathan is more reasonable and merciful now that it’s entirely out of control? How did this series actually manage to LOWER the stakes?

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Lian picks up Bachelor and Toru on her motorcycle as we see more chaos and destruction in the real world around them. Bachelor says they should go to Flak headquarters as they’re likely one of the few places still with access to The Wired in safe areas. He believes that he can take down Leviathan, but has no clue what will happen to Ren’s consciousness if they go through with it.

They get to Flak headquarters and Bachelor uses the data he gathered from VSS to formulate a plan. The experiments had self-destruct viruses implanted in their matrices to control them if they ever got out of hand. He plans to trigger the self-destruct sequence in Leviathan by creating a virus and using Lian’s matrix pattern or whatever, which is similar to Ren’s, to trick Ren’s matrix into accepting the virus. Even the final solution is just finding a way to implant a virus into the big technobaddie. They‘re really determined to bring nothing new to the table.

While this is seen as a brilliant plan, Toru still wonders what will happen to Ren. Before Bachelor can answer, if he even has an answer, the higher ups in Flak burst in and break up the party. The leader of Flak, the slimy idiot one I’ve yet to mention, not the one who usually monitors the group, is outraged that they’re using their reserve resources in such an emergency without permission. The good leader guy says they’re working to defeat Leviathan but the slimy guy says he’s received a request from VSS to capture Leviathan alive and he’s shutting down any effort to kill it. There’s no real reason why he’s going along with this, he’s just a stupid idiot who has the hots for Tachibana. But don’t worry, good guy leader dude punches him out and the plan’s back on! That sure was a nice waste of time.

Before they head off, good leader dude gives Toru the key to Ayane’s cell and tells him to let her out in order to have her help them fight. He doesn’t want to, but does anyway. Ayane just sits in silence and he angrily throws the key towards her as he leaves. Gee, I wonder if she’ll show up in the last second to save Toru from some threat to ‘redeem’ her character.

Toru and the others head into The Wired to start their mission. Bachelor puts the virus program into Toru’s pendant, and upon activation it will become a knife.

They start their mission to get through to Leviathan’s core, but they run into VSS soldiers who are protecting it. So, of course, the throwaway characters have to ‘hold them off’ until Toru can infect Leviathan. I should also mention that Toru kills several of the VSS soldiers before heading off. Hy.Po.Crite.

Toru makes his way through to Leviathan’s core, but is stopped by Genha who has merged with the Leviathan to make some weird mutated Genha monster thing. No idea why or how, but there he is.

BALDREP4SCREEN3
How is it possible that he somehow looks LESS evil now?

He also calls Toru ‘Big Brother’ so….I have no idea what’s going on with these people. Does he mean literally, is he mocking Ren, or do they just take their group of experiments as siblings? Bachelor never refers to him as ‘brother.’

Genha does his evil psycho bit and fights with Toru. He grabs him and tries to fuse the Leviathan with Toru, but—what’s that? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a predictable hero moment! Ayane charges in to save Toru and since we’re nearing the end, we’ll see what purpose the rape scene had.

Spoiler alert: there was none.

…..Yeah, nothing was affected whatsoever in the character or story because of the rape scene. One could say it made Ayane more determined to take Genha down, but that’s really flimsy. The scene where she charges after Genha here and the one where she does the same in episode two are essentially identical barring the environments. She was already insanely driven to kill Genha because he killed her brother. There was no way to make her noticeably more determined to take down Genha than she already was. What would be the point anyway? Is the murder of a loved one not enough justification? Was this just a really sleazy way of making the audience more invested in this revenge plot? Because wow.

You could also say that it was to illustrate how evil Genha is, but we had a pretty damn good idea. That is literally his entire character – evil dude. It’s not like his mannerisms alone aren’t as subtle as a flaming brick to the groin. Dude kicked Akira into the abyss earlier just for funsies. He’s hardly Mr. Rogers. You could’ve flashed back to Yuusuke being killed and showed how viciously he was murdered or how much joy Genha got from it. Hell, we never actually see Yuusuke’s death. That would’ve been a fitting scene to show. And if you needed some spare runtime, I know of a drawn out rape scene that could’ve been removed.

In conclusion, the rape scene was gratuitous, pointless and awful for sake of awful. You fail on so many levels it’s actually impressive, BALDR FORCE EXE Resolution.

Also, there’s no resolution to the thing with Yuya either, at least in terms of him and Ayane. She never even once talks about it. Toru doesn’t make any effort to talk to her about it besides yelling how she’s a murderer who will pay for what she’s done while beating her in the head.

So.

There’s no resolution.

To the initial conflict.

Of BALDR FORCE EXE Resolution.

Toru doesn’t want to take help from her, but he has no choice so he runs off to infect Leviathan while Ayane fights Genha.

Toru’s really close to the core, but Tsukina starts holding him back. He tries to wiggle free, but the blackness attacks him.

Meanwhile, back with Ayane and Genha, Genha has a ridiculous upper hand and even slices a couple of Ayane’s simulacrum’s limbs off. Genha tries to get her to merge with the Leviathan, but she manages to get the strength to lift her gun and shoot Genha a bunch of times. You’d think getting rid of the gun would be a priority for him. Hell, when he first fought her he took away her simulacrum entirely.

As Genha dies and she falls away, she cries as she says “I’m sorry.” I…cannot make heads or tails of why she said this. Is she apologizing to Genha? Why? That’s the one guy she’s wanted to kill more than anything else. He killed her brother, tortured and raped her. Is she apologizing to Yuusuke? Why? She just avenged him.

Toru’s stuck in a hallucination caused by the Leviathan where he’s back with Steppen Wolf and even Ren’s still alive. The first hallucination takes place in their old hacker hang out but quickly cuts to the beach where we see a panning shot of Ren in a bikini. Wow, you’re one sick puppy, Toru. Ren points out his pendant and asks if she can wear it, but being reminded of the pendant makes Toru remember that it was a memento of Yuya when he died.

This causes the hallucination to shift to some room filled with gears. Visions of his old friends appear, and they, especially Yuya, prompt him to fight off the hallucination. Yuya tells him that he needs to move on and do what he needs to do. He’s dead, Ren’s dead and there’s no way for them to return, but Toru is still alive and he has a chance to live his life and have a future yadda yadda.

The pendant turns into a knife, and Halu-Yuya walks behind them, holds Toru’s knife hand and stabs it into him, causing him to wake up. He finds himself in front of the core—wait where did Tsukina go? She was holding him before the Leviathan attacked.

He approaches the core and it’s just a big ball thing with a giant red “this is the weak spot” bubble on the front. Inside the red bubble is Ren who soon mutates the front of the core to look like a giant Ren. As it approaches Toru, he hallucinates again. This time he’s alone with Ren in some weird dark warehouse. He walks towards Ren and it’s like they edited out the rest of the shot of him walking because it fades from him taking a few steps to him being right in front of her. This was probably intentional, but it looked really strange.

As they’re having their sweet little moment, Ren bites off Toru’s fingers…..well, owwwww. Her face mutates further as some kind of monster and bites off Toru’s leg and bites into his shoulder.

BALDREP4SCREEN4

In The Wired…wait, how does hallucinating while in The Wired work?….Hm. Continuing, in The Wired, his simulacrum keeps getting attacked in the various places that his hallucination keeps getting bit, but it’s really just a bunch of tentacles wrapping around his limbs.

He manages to grab his pendant, which turns into the knife, and stabs Ren through the chest/stabs Leviathan through the weak spot.

As the virus takes effect, we cut back to the same flower field where he first reunited with Ren. She’s telling Toru not to worry because she’s no longer lonely. She’s happy now and can finally move on. She disappears and the end credits run, but that’s not quite the end. We have an under-credits epilogue.

Tachibana is rummaging through her stuff in disbelief that Leviathan was destroyed, but she claims she can make another with the information on some disk….which raises just a whole ton of questions, but I think I’ll spare you and my brain that particularly session of mental gymnastics. Quon corners her in her office with a gun. Tachibana reaches for her own gun, but Quon shoots her before she can grab it and crushes the disk.

The rest of the epilogue’s kinda blah. We see that the city is still shrouded in smoke, but the news crews are still broadcasting. Apparently there was no massive loss of life, just a massive loss of data….oh and all that horrific damage to the city that apparently isn’t worth reporting. However, the cause is being reported as an experiment gone awry by VSS and Tachibana, which, yeah. I sincerely doubt the government wouldn’t try to cover that up, though. When’s the last time the government fucked up so breathtakingly royally and they were all ‘Yeah, that was totally our bad, guys. We accept full responsibility. Here’s exactly what went wrong and who did it.”?

We see more flowers on Yuusuke’s grave and Ayane in a wheelchair leaving the cemetery. I guess when she got her simulacrum’s limbs ripped off, it caused a similar effect to her physical body? I will never understand the exact connection between a person’s physical body and their virtual presence in The Wired. How did so many of those people survive the Leviathan’s attack with little to no side-effects but Ayane ended up paralyzed?

Really great ending to her story, by the way. Her brother is viciously murdered, she’s horrendously raped by the murderer, nearly beaten to death by Toru, and then she heroically saves him and winds up disabled because of it. But she totally deserved all of it because she killed a perceived terrorist while he was trying to steal highly confidential military information after they warned people that doing so may result in lethal force being used, which is a given anyway if you ask me. Top notch writing right there. How has this not won awards?

Tsukina is working at “WeDonald’s” (Personally I’ve always been fond of Inuyasha’s WacDonald’s), Akira’s apparently a computer repairman now, Bachelor…eats ice cream, comic relief lech guy gets promoted….for some reason….He did nothing notable, I really don’t know why that happened. Toru fondly remembers Ren in the flower field and we end.

Art: The art is just okay and some instances are fairly bad. The animation is the same way, although there are some moments where the animation is really janky (like ‘I can see which parts of this character will move because others are seemingly part of the background’ bad spots) The simulacrums and some other aspects in The Wired are CGI and it’s fairly unimpressive CGI. I’d say it’s bad, but not horrible. It just clashes quite a bit with everything else.

Music: The OP is great and the ED is pretty good. The BG music is fairly forgettable.

Voice Acting: Mm, not some of your best work Funimation. The voice acting is in no way bad. Ren got on my nerves a lot, but everyone else was good. As much as I hate to admit this, Genha probably had the best voice acting. He really went all in. The dialogue was a bit hokey sometimes, but I’m not sure how much I can fault Funimation for that.

Bottomline: The initial plot is basically dropped entirely halfway through in lieu of a completely different plot. Toru does say he’ll deal with Ayane later when she fights Genha, but we never see what he does. Kinda hard to root for him if he does end up doing anything to her. Like, whoo yeah, Toru, you go get that……paralyzed rape survivor…You can do it, champ.

Genha is one of the most ridiculous villains I’ve ever seen. There’s a horrific borderline hentai-level rape scene included for no reason. Much of the story is either riddled in plot holes or just makes no sense. What does make sense in this story is usually quite unoriginal and cliché without any style or substance to make up for it. The characters are uninteresting with many of them feeling like token archetypes. Toru is not a strong enough main character to carry this show. In fact, he’s just an awful person/character entirely. At his absolute best, he’s bland. At his absolute worst, he’s unlikable and someone you can’t root for or sympathize with much at all.

I really feel like this is one of those ‘Good ideas, terrible execution’ deals (Hahaha, execution. EXE. Ahaha computer joke.) There are a couple interesting ideas when you weed away the negativity, and I love the largely exaggerated views of hacker gangs, those are always fun, but this show just didn’t pull it off in any way. It’s sloppy, there’s no fun or heart in it, and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. There are much better similar shows out there that you could be watching.

Additional Information and Notes: BALDR FORCE EXE Resolution was based on the 2D action shooter/eroge (what a surprise) game, Baldr Force. The name of the OVA was changed to simply Baldr Force EXE (I never learned what that title even means, by the way. The Wiki is no help in that department either.) when Funimation dubbed it. It was directed by Takashi Yamazaki, produced by Satelight and it is currently licensed in North America by Funimation.

Also, apparently, this OVA series was listed in book “500 Essential Anime Movies” written by Helen McCarthy citing it as “The story is simple, but has plenty of well crafted CGI action.” Going to have to agree to disagree there, Ms. McCarthy. Also, what exactly constitutes as ‘essential’ here? Because that description doesn’t make it sound very essential.

Year: 2006-2007

Episodes: 4

Recommended Audience: Definitely not for kids. There’s no swearing is about the least I can say. People’s heads explode, many people get killed though many deaths occur in The Wired, there’s a graphic rape scene, other scenes of gore, nudity in the credits. 17+


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The Ridiculous Mess that is BALDR FORCE EXE Resolution (Episodes 1 and 2 of 4)

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.

Episode 1:

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.

Well….

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.

Episode 2:

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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AniManga Clash! Yu-Gi-Oh! Season Zero Episode 9: Explosion! Yo-Yo Ultimate Technique/Manga Chapters 48-49 (Notes on 11-12)

Plot: Jonouchi is showing off his awesome yoyo skills, but he’s halted when a boy named Nezumi rains on his parade. He hates yoyos because a group of thugs with yoyos attacked him the previous day. Jonouchi and Yugi declare that they’ll help him get revenge on the yoyo-ing thugs, but quickly find out that it’s a trap laid by Jonouchi’s old comrade turned enemy, Hirutani.

He wants Jonouchi back on his side, and he’s willing to do anything to achieve his goals, including trying to kill Yugi.

Breakdown: In typical fashion, anything involving Miho is 100% anime exclusive. This week, she expresses interest in the yoyo, but Honda tells her not to do it because he’s afraid she’ll…get hurt and die?

However, Honda is actually in the first scene where Jonouchi is messing around with his yoyo. Like always, manga-wise, though, he’s just kinda there. In the anime, he catches Jonouchi’s yoyo to make him stop. In the manga, Nezumi made him stop by yelling at him and explaining his story.

Nezumi doesn’t seem to exist in Season Zero, unless he’s that guy who gets attacked in the cold open, but he doesn’t look a thing like he does in the manga if it is meant to be him.

Let me get this out of the way, yes, the concept of this story is super goofy even for Yu-Gi-Oh. The concept of a yoyo gang is about as silly as the bicycle gang in Pokemon, but at least they were plausible, especially since they were on a stretch of road that was meant only for bikes. A gang that mainly uses yoyos as a weapon? I mean, yeah they’d hurt if they hit you, but they’re certainly not the most efficient weapons in existence – most notably because, once they hit their target they usually stop spinning, meaning you have to manually yank them back and manually wind the string back up to throw it again.

Can someone please explain to me why they live in a world where elementary school students are whipping out switchblades and uzis but one of the most feared near adult age gangs in town wields a bunch of yoyos?

Since Nezumi doesn’t exist in this version, the reason Jonouchi wants to go out to challenge the yoyo gang is because they’ve just been harassing people in general and he wants to put a stop to it. I kinda don’t mind this change because Nezumi gets away at the end of this arc in the manga and ultimately vanishes entirely. It’s clear that he was a willing participant in this, not threatened or blackmailed into luring them down there, so it’s a little disappointing that he never got comeuppance.

A very short scene of Yugi at home worrying about Jonouchi is not present in the manga.

From this point until the commercial break, pretty much everything is adapted from chapters 11-12, which I covered in the review of that arc. If you haven’t already, please go read that review. Not a ton is changed between versions, but it’s still a good idea to read that and check back here afterward.

This is still technically in regards to chapters 11-12, but Honda interrogates one of the Rintama gang members outside of the bar before going in. That’s not present in the anime. Additionally, when Yugi and the gang entered the bar, they found the gang member that hit Yugi on the ground, but Jonouchi is nowhere to be found. Fearing the worst, they all split up, but Yugi finds Jonouchi by asking the Puzzle to help him.

In the anime, they ask the bartender what’s up. He tells them that, if the gang is not at the bar, they’re likely either in a fight on the streets or in the warehouses, since that seems to be their base. The bartender notices that they’re Domino High students and tells them to avoid the Rintama gang because they recently coerced a Domino High student into joining them.

Yugi proclaims, out loud, that the bartender must be talking about Jonouchi and that he really was forced into joining back up with the gang.

Then possibly one of the stupidest things they ever could have done happens. Honda lies to the girls…again…and says Jonouchi is probably just hanging out with old friends. Miho happily agrees and says he’ll probably be back in school tomorrow. Anzu also agrees and says he’ll be back to swing around his silly yoyo like he was before. Then they leave.

……Are Anzu and Miho braindead? Are they deaf? They’ve been right next to Honda and Yugi during this whole conversation. They just heard the bartender say that the gang coerced a Domino High student to join them and Yugi proclaiming Jonouchi was forced into being a gang member….but Honda brushes it off like he’s just hanging around with old buddies and Miho and Anzu are like ‘Oh phew, that’s a relief. Let’s go home!’

Even if they, for reason, ate up this excuse without question, are they also forgetting that they saw Jonouchi being entirely complacent with the gang beating up some poor guy, the fact that Jonouchi said he didn’t know Yugi and the others and that he both said and did nothing when one of the gang punched Yugi in the face? You’re either ignoring or forgetting ALL of that and are just expecting him to be at school tomorrow like nothing happened? What the hell is wrong with you two?

The only reason I can see for them doing this is that they wanted the girls out of the picture so they could head to the warehouses and get Jonouchi back, but it was entirely unnecessary. What was wrong with the manga version where they split up to find Jonouchi and Yugi manages to find them with the Puzzle? If you need Honda to be there in the anime, just have them split up in teams of two and tell them to not engage with Hirutani and the gang without getting the others first, as they did in the manga.

This scene just serves to make Anzu and Miho look like oblivious idiots and all for the purpose of ‘gurlz kant b envolvd n sumthing soooo danguriss!!’ Even though they have been involved in a multitude of dangerous things, so this just seems pointless even in canon.

When Honda and Yugi arrive at the warehouse, they try to convince Jonouchi to come with them, explaining that they know he was forced to join the gang, but Jonouchi stands firm against their claim and says he’s with them by choice and is sick of his life adhering to rules and pretending to be their friend.

Honda presents the band to Jonouchi, pleading with him to remember their friendship. Jonouchi drops the band on the floor, steps on it and punches Honda in the stomach.

The next day, Honda and Yugi head to Rintama High. Honda challenges Hirutani to a fight – if he wins, Jonouchi goes free. Hirutani agrees and whips out his yoyo….his yoyo with retractable spikes…. Ya know, between this episode’s gimmick and the last episode with the fully realistic adult woman marionette being controlled by a dude behind a curtain with two pieces of wood, I’m really just finding my footing in the marvelous insanity of this series. I’m not kidding, it’s a hilariously fun ride when it’s not being miserable.

By the way, Hirutani doesn’t even have his own yoyo in the manga.

Honda gets felled rather quickly, and when Hirutani throws his yoyo for a final blow, Yugi steps in the way. His Puzzle deflects the yoyo back at Hirutani, cutting his face.

Hirutani is not happy about this, so he ties up Yugi in the warehouse and has his goons relentlessly wail on Yugi. In the manga, both Jonouchi and Yugi (With Nezumi) had entered the warehouse and when Yugi got jumped they literally hung him by his Puzzle. Jonouchi had to concede to Hirutani or else Yugi would die.

Jonouchi enters the warehouse and tells Yugi once more that he shouldn’t keep pursuing him. With a flick of his yoyo (….That sounded dirty) he seemingly tries to attack Yugi, but ends up hitting one of the guys who was beating him up instead. Jonouchi challenges Hirutani for going back on their deal. He said if Jonouchi joined their gang, he’d leave his friends alone, but now that he’s broken that promise, Jonouchi wants to take Hirutani down.

The other gang members surround Jonouchi with their yoyos, which is also what happens in the manga. I assume all of their yoyos are metal and not plastic, so they’d definitely hurt being hit by them, but in each version Hirutani’s acting like it’d be absolute torture to walk through the hail of yoyos. Yeah, it’d hurt, but again, once they’d hit their target, they’d fall. And, really, how insulting would that be to their friendship? “Yeah, I love ya, Yug, but I ain’t getting smacked with a few yoyos to save yer life. Deuces!”

Admittedly, it is extremely sweet when, in both versions, Jonouchi braves the yoyo storm and tries to protect Yugi, but you really have to focus on the fact that he’s being nearly beaten to death and ignoring the fact that the weapon of choice is a bunch of yoyos. The manga is more dramatic and sweet, in my opinion, though.

In the manga, Jonouchi saves Yugi by giving him a boost and allowing the Puzzle’s rope to gain enough slack to be removed from the hook. Jonouchi then asks to borrow the Puzzle and spins it in front of the yoyos, getting the strings tangled up with the Puzzle and stopping their assault. He then takes their yoyo strings and hooks them up to the hanging hook, lifting them up in the air by their fingers, which is insanely dangerous, but also quite easy to get out of.

In the anime, Hirutani tries to shoot his spiked yoyo at Jonouchi, which gives Jonouchi the opening he needs to throw his own yoyo, deflecting Hirutani’s yoyo and….somehow…Jonouchi’s yoyo slices the rope and frees Yugi.

Sooo….is Jonouchi’s yoyo super sharp or is this just stupid?

Once Yugi is freed, Jonouchi is knocked down by a swift strike to the back of his head via one of the bigger gang members. This finally prompts Yugi to transform into Yami. Jesus, Yami, what took you so long? It took him the same amount of time to transform in the manga, but still, why did it take so long?

In both the anime and the manga, the other gang members chase after Yami, who has escaped to the roof. Yami reveals that he also, for some reason, has a yoyo, and he has some rad skillz with it.

Shadow Game (Kinda)

Yami challenges the thugs to a game. Whoever is the last one on the roof wins. Yami runs from the gang, simply grazing the roof with his yoyo as he runs around and dodging the strikes of the gang, who are also frequently hitting the roof when they miss Yami. They corner Yami on the roof and proclaim that they’ve won. However, Yami turns the table on them and directs their attention to the roof below their feet. It’s rusted and old metal, easily punctured with a yoyo, but it will soon crumble beneath their weight. Yami is supported on the corner beam of the warehouse, but the thugs aren’t so lucky and fall through the roof.

This game is exactly the same as it is in the manga….and yes, it’s just as silly. I mean, if the roof were THAT weak, they never should have been able to stand on it in the first place, let alone run around like it’s a basketball court.

Meanwhile, Jonouchi challenges Hirutani to a fist fight. Jonouchi is getting the better of Hirutani, but he plays dirty and throws BROKEN GLASS INTO JONOUCHI’S EYES. Geez. You’d think that would leave Jonouchi with lasting vision problems and maybe even blindness, but nope. He’s temporarily blinded but perfectly fine by the end of the chapter/episode…

In the manga, after Jonouchi struck Hirutani, causing him to hang from the ledge, Jonouchi was just fine. However, in the anime, he also falls for some reason. Honda saves him by throwing him the band, which he used to hang from the hook and return to the ledge. That sure was necessary.

In both versions, Jonouchi uses ‘Walk the dog’ (Or Jonouchi’s version “Let the Dog Out.”) on Hirutani’s fingers, causing him to fall. By the way, in Season Zero, you can clearly see that Jonouchi’s yoyo has ‘Made in USE’ written on it. Quality products always come from the United States of ‘Erica. (In the manga, it says ‘Made in the USA’)

In the manga, Jonouchi reunites with Yugi and proclaims that he’ll kick Nezumi’s ass if he ever sees him again and that’s the end of the chapter. In the anime, he thanks Honda for saving his life and Yugi happily returns affirming that Jonouchi would never change like that.

Meanwhile, back in school, Jonouchi tries his variant on ‘Around the World’ again, but this time he does it so fast that the wind causes Anzu and Miho’s skirts to fly up. They get pissed and Jonouchi runs off. The end.

—————————————-

Well, that was a bit complicated to compare, but as a whole….The manga does both stories better than the anime’s combination of the two. It’s to be expected. They’re not only merging four chapters but two stories into one episode, but it’s not just that. The little changes that they made that didn’t need to happen just made the story worse off, if you ask me.

That scene with Anzu and Miho is still irking me, and, overall, I feel like Honda’s presence was poorly written in this entire episode. It’s like they’re having Honda and Yugi struggle for the spot of Jonouchi’s best friend but no one will point out that Yugi’s obviously winning. It’s like they adapted the manga chapter pretty well and then the anime writers wrote on the script ‘Oh yeah, and Honda’s there too.’

The backstory they made for Jonouchi and Honda was just stupid. He passed off a band to Jonouchi in a track meet, which he was meant to do, Jonouchi won and they’ve been buddies ever since?….But they also don’t seem to be all that close? In the anime, Honda may fight people if need be, but he’s not a fellow ex-bully like Jonouchi. He’s a rule-abiding, strict goodie-two-shoes. The only thing we really know about Honda’s past is that he aimed to be class president but didn’t get the role.Those two would never hang out pre-Jonouchi’s attitude change, but yeah, I totally believe that pink track band is a huge emotional symbol of their friendship.

In the manga, it makes more sense because Honda is an ex-thug like Jonouchi and hung around with him because he liked picking fights. He’s still a superfluous character, if you ask me, but his story makes more sense. In neither story does Honda play a big role outside of explaining Jonouchi’s family situation, for the most part, and Jonouchi’s past with Hirutani, and that’s all he really needs to do.

Instead, he’s jammed in here like broken glass in Jonouchi’s non-blind eyes. Reading the manga alongside watching the anime really makes that moment when Honda saves Jonouchi stick out like a sore thumb as something that felt like it was tacked on. Did he even need that band? Wouldn’t it have been easier and more realistic to just grab the hook itself? How did he have time to both catch it and loop it on the hook without having time to just grab the hook? Would it even support his weight? How did Honda even throw it up that high? It’s a frickin’ band of fabric.

In addition, the more emotional moments were better in the manga, and I liked that it was moreso a great moment for Jonouchi and Yugi’s friendship instead of having Honda butt his nose into it. Like I said before, Honda can exist and Jonouchi can have more than Yugi as a friend, but Honda doesn’t have any purpose being as prominent as a character as he is in the anime.

I know this tirade seems contradictory given my statement in the review of chapters 11-12 where I praise them for giving Manga!Honda more story to work with, but that’s mostly because his presence so far in the manga has been to be set dressing. It’s nice to see him get a bit of an actual role in their dynamic, but as I’ve pointed out here, he doesn’t need to be anymore prominent than that. If Hanasaki, an objectively much better character, has to be dumped almost entirely, Honda can be mostly in the background too. Either that or give him more independence and agency as a character. Stop making him entirely reliant on those around him.

The yoyos make this whole story rather goofy, of course. I do think yo-yos are a fun weapon idea, and I’ve seen before in Yu Yu Hakusho and HunterxHunter, but there they were enhanced/created with supernatural abilities, not bought at Target in a three-pack for $9.99. They really easily could have just adapted the first story and been all the better off for it. It’s a much more dramatic story, and it’s pretty much the one they adapted outside of all the yoyo stuff and the psuedo-shadow game.

Or, here’s a thought, maybe try keeping both stories. Hirutani’s return, barring the silly yoyos, was well done. We needed a reprise for this storyline where Jonouchi actually comes out on top over his former comrade. The first story provided the backbone and the last story provided the payoff. It’s not like they don’t have filler episodes they can lose to squeeze it in there.

Another thing I didn’t care for was the way Jonouchi acted. In the manga, he has to struggle to restrain himself when Yugi is punched. He doesn’t even make it more than 10-15 minutes before he punches the guy who did it. That punch was more than enough to break their deal, and Jonouchi knew that.

In the anime, Yugi gets punched by the same gang member and he deals with it, even though that should have broken their deal. He socks Honda in the stomach, sending him to the ground and thinks nothing of it, which makes no sense. I get that he’s trying to convince them that he’s bad and to leave him alone, but he’s trying to save his friends from getting hurt and here he is punching one of them.

Next time….

Final Notes: Hirutani never once makes an appearance in the 2000 anime, nor is he referenced, but he does make an appearance in one of the video games. And when I found this out, I was kinda floored.

Hirutani is in the Dungeon Dice Monsters video game for the Game Boy Advance, only his name in that version, in the American release, is Diesel Kane. I love the Dungeon Dice Monsters video game, and I actually remembered that dude. It’s really cool that he’s not just some generic thug made for the game, but I wish they had explored this dynamic more in the actual game. All I remember and all the Wiki says is that the guy has a vendetta against Jonouchi, but you never find out what it is.

All of his gang members, both from the taser story and the yoyo story, are also in the game but they’re never given names.

Coincidentally, Nezumi also exists in the DDM game……..And his name is changed to…..Nibbles. Look, I get that both names are a reference to West Side Story, but that name is just as silly as a gang using yoyos as weapons.

Apparently, a ton of manga-exclusive characters are in DDM with funny names. For example, the escaped convict from the Burger World story is Jackpot, the old bald guy who owned the store Mokuba stole a Capsule Monsters machine from is Egger Baldwin, Kokurano (fortune-telling character we’ll meet later) is named Fortuno,Kujirada is named Beluga (Get it?! Because whale! He’s fat!….Again!) Sozoji is named Fender Shrill, and Hanasaki is named Lint Greendale…….LINT. His name is LINT! Hasn’t this kid been through enough without naming him Lint?

….Also, Yugi’s mother’s in DDM, which I didn’t remember at all. She doesn’t get a goofy name, but she is merely called ‘Yugi’s Mother.’ Like, guys, I assume she has a real name. At the very least, she’s Mrs. Muto…..


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) The Owl House

Plot: Luz is a self-proclaimed weirdo, and she usually has no problem showing it. However, those around her have problems with it, including her mother. While Luz’s interests and behaviors are generally harmless, though a bit chaotic, Luz’s mother urges her to just be normal. She even signs her up for a summer camp that emphasizes being normal as much as humanly possible and tells her to trash her weird stuff, including one of her favorite books on a fictional witch. Luz is not happy about this, but for the sake of her mom she decides to go along with it.

As she’s about to get picked up for summer camp, she’s lead away to a mysterious door that brings her to the Boiling Isles, a world where human things are a mysterious novelty and myths and monsters reign. She meets the Owl Lady, the great witch, Eda, who promises to bring her back home to her world if she helps her with a special task.

Breakdown: Cards on the table, I’m kinda cheating here. I’ve seen several episodes of The Owl House and have enjoyed every one I’ve caught. However, I’ve never seen the first episode, and Disney+ just got the series, so I’m not cheating too much here.

The Owl House does seem to work on a somewhat tired premise – kid who thinks they don’t belong finding a place they belong in a mysterious new world – but they do it with such a cool flair and a lot of clever writing that I won’t even ding it for that. I won’t lie, when Luz mentioned that one of the reasons that she’s weird is because she makes AMVs and writes fanfiction, I literally almost gasped at how eerily relatable that was to me when I was her age.

I will ding it a tiny bit for being too on-the-nose with their message – it’s okay to be weird and it’s wrong to punish people for their quirks. For most of the episode, it’s fine, but the start of the episode is just too much. Like, I get how they want us to like her mom, and it’s clear that she loves her, but she’s basically telling her daughter to her face that she’d love her much more if she just changed her entire personality and conformed in the most boring way possible. She also encouraged her to get rid of something as innocuous as a fantasy book about witches.

Everything else was really great, though. The writing is snappy, funny, clever and exciting, the characters are a bunch of fun, especially Eda, the art and environments are really cool, the animation is fluid and well done, Luz is easily identifiable and lovable, same for King, who has one of the coolest designs I’ve seen in a long time.

As an introduction episode, it does its job extremely well. You’re introduced to the premise, their universe and the characters in a natural manner that is paced very well. It doesn’t introduce some huge conflict or evil that will need to be addressed like many shows of this type tend to do. And, honestly, I prefer it that way. Not every show needs to make big promises it probably can’t keep anyway, and sometimes a more laid-back approach is better. This episode definitely leaves you wanting more either way. I look forward to finally watching every episode, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for The Owl House.

Continue Yes

Recommended Audience: It’s Disney so it’s nothing too bad, but they do show limbs and heads being cut off as non-graphically as you can, and they mention death a few times. 7+

Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 20: The Hell Professor vs. Hell Girl Review

HGTVEP20SCREEN1

Plot: Tsugumi, now an adult, finds herself the target of a Hell Girl client. Who is targeting her and why? Will she avoid the fate that comes with that dreaded string pull, or will her life be spared from the depths of hell?

Breakdown: There’s a lot to unpack with this one.

First of all, let us officially welcome back our girl, Tsugumi.

Second of all, let’s mourn the fact that Hajime seems to be basically officially gone now. Tsugumi talks about him like he’s dead, the professor dude never seeks to contact Hajime himself, and Tsugumi goes on about how she’s tired of being alone. Still don’t know what happened to him or, more to the point, why the writers chose to dust him and completely gloss over it. He was a major character all throughout season one. You can’t just do him dirty like that.

Third of all, hip hip hooray, it’s the first time in quite a while that Yuzuki has had so much screentime.

Fourth of all, pbbbtttt, she’s still not doing anything. You’d think she’d have more impact in what is, by far, the most interesting and plot-centric episode of the season so far…..but nope.

Yuzuki is basically a living bad reaction channel on Youtube. Most of the time she says nothing and the rest of the time she’s giving meaningless responses that are neither entertaining nor insightful. She’s also being kinda annoying in that same way Hajime used to be annoying, but worse. She acts like the Hell Team are terrible people who don’t think about the consequences of their actions in sending people to hell.

Tsugumi is much more interesting than Yuzuki in this episode. She can still see and sense things related to Hell Girl, which is how she knew she was a Hell Girl target without anyone telling her. She alludes to a vague past ‘sin’ that she is guilty of. She’s, for some reason, completely resigned to her fate as a victim of Hell Correspondence. In fact, she’s pretty much welcoming it, seeing it as a fitting fate for her. You can also interpret it as her longing to see Hajime again, if the theories of him being in hell are accurate.

Despite the fact that she avoided her previous ‘fate’ she is very firm in the idea that no one can avoid their fates, thus Yuzuki is destined to be the new Hell Girl no matter what. But, this just in,

Finally, we have some interesting theories involving Hell Correspondence brought to you by the client of the week, Shogo Mizorogi.

Mizorogi is a famous and incredibly skilled mathematician who has been researching Hell Girl for years. When he was a child, his mother sent his abusive father to hell. A couple years later, his mother also vanished, seemingly being another Hell Girl target.

He became fascinated by the concept of hell when his formula, the Mizorogi Constant, revealed that other worlds, including hell, do indeed exist absolutely. The book that Hajime wrote on Hell Girl greatly helped his research on the subject. In order to get more information, he wanted to lure in Tsugumi and the Hell Team, so he created some sort of weird generator that creates a force field which repels the powers of the Hell Team (though Ai is instantly able to destroy it.) and input Tsugumi’s name into the service.

Wanyuudo brings up the obvious issue of, if Mizorogi has no grudge against Tsugumi, how was he able to even access the Hell Correspondence website, let alone get a request through?

Somehow, Mizorogi created false hatred through hypnotherapy. This may seem silly, but he’s actually highlighting an issue that has plagued the series in various ways. Sometimes, Hell Correspondence seems easily manipulated. Usually, no one manipulates it on purpose, but many times people have ridiculous reasons for their grudges, are mistaken about their grudge, target the wrong person or there’s a general misunderstanding. In other words, Hell Correspondence requires hatred, but the hatred doesn’t have to be objectively ‘valid.’

Out of this revelation Mizorogi came to a striking conclusion – hell is actually a fabricated system created by weak humans who resort to ‘curses’ to solve their problems. The ‘ultimate irrationality’ created to be separate from the morals and ethics of mortal society.

In order to prove this, he strapped Tsugumi to what I can only describe as a crucification device and hung her over his fancy machine with intents on sending her to hell and analyzing the data from her being transported. He has a specific trigger phrase which will end his hypnotic hatred after the string is pulled.

Suddenly, before he can pull the string, Ai says his trigger phrase, which is her signature ‘Would you like to die this once?’ At first, you kinda think Ai saved Tsugumi on purpose. Nope.

Out of nowhere, Mizorogi’s assistant, Kikyou, reveals himself with a Yamawaro doll. He pulled the string, targeting Mizorogi, which is what prompted Ai to say her catchphrase.

You may be wondering why he did that. Well, along with revealing Kikyou in the shadows, we’re also shown a large group of children alongside him. Kikyou reveals that Mizorogi was suffering from his research. His Constant was originally intended to help produce unmanned military weaponry, which was appealing to governments because it greatly reduced loss of life. Still, he was helping create weapons that would kill plenty of innocent people.

Mizorogi instantly labels himself a hypocrite because here he is criticizing Hell Correspondence for being an irrational system born of the weak willed and kills innocent people when he’s actively contributing to war, which in itself is irrational and kills millions of innocent people all the time.

To help offset his guilt and suffering, he adopted a whole slue of battlefield orphans. They all held grudges against Mizorogi for helping to create weapons that likely killed their parents, and Kikyou, feeling sympathetic to the children, contacted Hell Correspondence and targeted Mizorogi in their stead. All of the children grouped up to support Kikyou when he pulled the string.

Mizorogi disappears, Tsugumi is safe and sound, Kikyou will raise the children and everyone goes home.

Oh yeah, if you were wondering why and how Yuzuki was there for any of it when she wasn’t ‘invited’ so to speak, she sensed Tsugumi was the target, somehow knew to go to Mizorogi’s mansion, and then, like I said, she just kinda watched and complained the whole time.

This episode was indeed very interesting and definitely one of the best of the season so far. The ending kinda came out of nowhere and really requires a few rewatches of that final scene to understand what is even going on, but it’s still good.

I like that Tsugumi is back in the fray, even though she’s become very depressed and despondent. #JusticeForHajime though.

I also liked that all of the Hell Team, even Ai, seem to have retained a soft spot for Tsugumi. They’d still do their jobs if Mizorogi pulled the string, of course, but they all show a great deal of concern for her and desperately don’t want to ferry her to hell. I thought that was pretty sweet.

I’m pretty sure nothing will come of the theories presented in this episode, but they’re definitely points to ponder.


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Aardman’s Clay: Shaun the Sheep Movie Review

Plot: Tired of the monotony of life on the farm, Shaun and his fellow sheep concoct a plan to have a nice day off with their farmer being none the wiser. When their little stunt ends up sending their farmer to the big city with a case of amnesia, Shaun, Bitzer the dog, and the other sheep head off to bring him back while doing everything they can to avoid the malicious animal control officer.

Breakdown: I’m extremely unfamiliar with Shaun the Sheep. I’ve never seen the TV series or the shorts and I’m only barely familiar with Wallace and Gromit, the show from which Shaun is based. I didn’t really know what to expect from it, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

First thing you’ll note about this movie is that it is entirely dialogue-free. The animals don’t talk and the human characters ‘speak’ in intelligible murmurs. From my understanding, this is the same way in the TV series, but that decision was made for practical purposes. They didn’t have to keep it silent in the movie because they had the budget for it, but they decided to keep it silent for the sake of not disappointing people who were used to the TV show’s format. I greatly applaud this decision, even though I don’t know of the show myself. I think this movie works perfectly well silently. Dialogue would have tainted its charm quite a bit, if you ask me.

The models and animation are all very well done. Some really high-quality stop-motion work by Aardman yet again. I really like that all of the sheep have actual wool (cotton, I guess) on them instead of molding the clay to look like wool. The hair and clothes also look real and move well within their environments. The expressions and movements are well animated without being too over the top, which is key in a movie that relies solely on visual gags and slapstick.

The soundtrack was also very nice. There were many really catchy and fitting tracks that I greatly enjoyed.

The story is probably the only semi-weak part of the movie. The general beats are very predictable, and I was predicting the smaller beats very easily too. However, that’s not really a problem with this type of movie. You don’t really need some overly complex, groundbreaking or hard-hitting narrative to make an enjoyable movie. The story is simple, but the characters, gags and even the emotional moments make up for it in spades.

I loved the relationships between all of the characters, especially between Bitzer/Shaun, Shaun/Timmy (the baby lamb) and the farmer and the animals. Even though Bitzer and Shaun are kinda at odds with each other, they do hold a mutual respect for one another and work well together. Shaun in his big brother role with Timmy was adorable. And the farmer being a father figure to all of the animals was really sweet. The first thing he did when he regained his memory was give Bitzer and Shaun kisses on the foreheads, and that just warmed my heart.

I will say the animal control officer, Trumper, is the one aspect that kinda fell flat with me. He started out as just a normal animal control officer who took pride in his job, and I was pretty cool with that. A lot of family movies with animal main characters tended to make the animal control officer this ridiculously evil guy who despised animals and had some huge vendetta against the main cast, so just seeing a normal guy doing his job was refreshing.

That didn’t last long.

He went from fairly normal to the typical crazed chase scene starter quite quickly. The first red flag was him kicking down a sign for the pound’s adopt-a-pet day, which is quite confusing. He hates these animals, but he doesn’t want them to get adopted? That would mean he hates them so much that he wants to see them all rot in this place and never find happy homes, which is quite disturbing.

Next, he just decides to walk down the corridor of the animal cages purely to mock them. He walks by Shaun and starts mockingly ‘baa’-ing at him. Then he visits the stray dog, Slip, who is just minding his business eating his food. Trumper starts mocking the way he eats and even starts sloppily munching on chips in front of him to mock him further. Like, dude, get a life.

After that, he continues to go off the rails until he’s a full-on lunatic bordering on supervillain. He’s gearing up in special animal-catching gadgets and doing everything he can to catch these sheep. You’d think he’d stop chasing them once they reach the farm, but no. He’s so intent on getting these sheep that, even back on the farm and holed up in a shed, the guy still won’t stop and even intends on KILLING THEM. He picks up the shed with a tractor and drives it to a quarry to dump it in and kill them all. He does get his comeuppance in the end, of course, but wow.

Overall, this was a very fun movie that had me smiling consistently and even laughing out loud on more than one occasion. There are plenty of funny visuals gags and physical comedy to give anyone a giggle. It also got to me a little with the emotional bits. When Shaun finds the farmer, but he shoos him away because he doesn’t remember him, I felt so bad for Shaun, Bitzer and the others. Especially considering that, for a while, they didn’t understand that he had amnesia. They just thought he straight-up hated them.

I’m really looking forward to checking out the sequel, Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon, later on, and maybe I’ll even see if I can check out the TV series.


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Space-Time Detective Genshi-Kun/Flint the Time Detective: Episode 13 (39 for the Dub) Omochan’s Christmas | Sub/Dub Comparison

Plot: It’s Christmastime! Genshi, Tokio and Sora head to 17th century France (on Christmas Eve) to find Omochan, a space-time monster who, fittingly for the season, looks like Santa and has the power to turn anything into a toy or ride. Omochan is trying to help young Maria find her mother after being separated from her four years ago. Can Genshi and the others help Maria and create a Christmas miracle?

————————————————

Hey, hey, hey, Saban’s getting into the episode swap game!

This is, obviously, a Christmas special. At the time, it was merely late April when this was set to air in America, so Saban simply plucked it from the lineup, aired it on December 17th and moved on to episode 14. The airing of this episode came rather conveniently because Flint the Time Detective would end its American run on November 5th, meaning there wasn’t too horrible of a gap between the series finale and this Christmas special.

Still, that means that, once again, our numbering system is off. Hooray.

Title Change: Omochan’s Christmas is changed to Caveman’s Christmas.

Holy crap. The angles on the kids when the shots only focus on them makes the tree look like it’s massive.

Uh….Sora tells Genshi that Santa is a messenger from God who gives gifts to all the children once a year…..I mean, yeah, Saint Nick….but…uh…I’ve never heard straight up Santa Claus be defined like that. The dub doesn’t mirror this.

Genshi asks what presents are and if they’re tasty. Fed up with Genshi asking if every single thing is tasty, everyone else answers annoyed that, yes, presents are tasty. In the dub. Flint asks if he’ll get a present too since he’s been a good boy. Then everyone, for some reason, responds annoyingly that he will. Flint still stays on the original track by hoping the present will be pizza.

The original doesn’t mention anything about mistletoe or eggnog, nor does it claim that Rei is allergic to mistletoe and finds eggnog too rich.

Why is Dr. Goodman reacting before the alarm goes off in the dub? In the original, the alarm is going off before he reacts.

The screen getting all staticy before showing Elfin is removed, I assume to make it easier to show the shot without the name plate.

Speaking of which, name plate removal.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

What a coinkydink that a space-time monster that basically acts as Santa Claus makes its appearance right at Christmastime.

They insert a shot of Flint taking the card before the kids run off.

They also insert a shot of the kids jumping on the time cycle after the shot of the kids running, which makes the scene look weird because suddenly the Christmas tree is gone.

When the time cycle activates, they insert a couple of shots of Flint, Goodman, Tony and Sarah talking for some reason.

Gotta say, out of all of the space-time monsters so far, Omochan seems like he’d be the one I’d most want as a pet. Turning literally everything into either a ride or a toy? Sign me up!

They insert a shot of Pterry talking before cutting back to the girl.

Okay….I get that they’re trying to make Elfin sound like the real Santa Claus by giving him that deep voice, but HOLY HELL STOP IT. That voice couldn’t not match that body any more. His voice in the original isn’t that great either, but it’s much more fitting than what Saban gave him.

When the girl says the same thing Sora said before about Santa being a messenger of God, they change it this time to asking if Elfin is an angel, which is basically the same thing so I’ll concede and say they left it alone.

Wow the animation on Genshi’s head is so craggy and weird when they’re shaking the empty bag.

For some reason, they add a flip screen transition between Sarah and Flint realizing the bag is empty and Flint chasing Sarah.

Name Change: Maria is changed to Monique……..*massive shrug*

Holy crap. Not only are they keeping all the religious imagery and discussions, but they also kept in the fact that Maria/Monique’s mother went missing during a war four years ago. However, unlike the original, they specify that the war was the ‘last French civil war.’ Considering this episode takes place in 1651, that would mean she went missing in 1648. As best as my research could lead me, I’m assuming they mean she was lost in The Fronde, which was a series of French civil wars that broke out as a result of the Franco-Spanish war in 1648.

Name…Given?: Maria’s mother is never named in the original. In the dub, she’s named Simone.

Maria’s mother went off to check for a safe escape route when she went missing. In the dub, she went off to find food.

Yes, Saban, add a slide whistle noise to Monique turning her head as we’re discussing her praying diligently for her probably dead mom to return to her. That’s not jarring and stupid or anything.

They insert a shot of Flint and Elfin crying after Sarah hatches the plan to go back in time to retrieve Monique’s mom.

They cut to a closeup shot of Pterry as he talks about the dangers of changing the timeline (Uh, dude….dude, really? I know you guys erase the memories of everyone when you leave, but you definitely don’t leave things untouched.)

Once Flint and the others leave, they repeat and reverse the shot of Monique and Elfin hugging and talking to extend the scene.

They extend the time travel shot to show them exiting the portal.

Flint: *at the scenes of war* “How could people do that to each other?” ………….You’re a caveman…………

See, the whole thing with pointless line changes like, say, turning ‘I’m going to look for safety’ to ‘I’m going to look for food’ is that it makes scenes where, say, Maria’s mother is trying to find a safe way to escape from a burning town, into weird moments where, for some reason, Monique and her mother are watching their town burn down around their ears and, instead of seeking safety, they’re like ‘I’m hungry.’ ‘Oh, well, sweetie, lemme go find food in this BURNING HELLSCAPE OF AN ACTIVE WARZONE OTHERWISE KNOWN AS OUR VILLAGE.’

Again, Saban, for god’s sake. The touching moment where Monique’s mother leaves her, heading to her supposed death, is not the place for a ‘haha slide whistle’ moment when her mother is simply standing up!

I love how they specifically came here to save Maria’s mom but they just watch the building fall on her and suggest saving her afterwards.

Flint: “This is horrible! Why can’t they get along!?” Cave. Man.

Rocky: “Dr. Goodman says ‘resorting to violence shows a lack of imagination.’”…….That’s uh…that’s your big anti-war sentiment, Saban? “War is caused by lack of imagination?” *lip smack* Yeah, I’m not sure I’m going to hear an acoustic guitar song with those lyrics anytime soon. Isn’t that backwards, too? Because a lot of strategies, armor, weapons, technologies etc. are insanely imaginative and were only spawned because of war. It’s sad, but true.

*Monique’s mom gets crushed by a falling building*

Flint, Tony and Sarah: “Ahhhhhhhhh..That was one of the funniest moments in this series. Their absolute lack of appropriate reaction to this person getting crushed is hilarious.

Also, they added that in because the shot where they make that noise was inserted before where Sora made the appropriate (but delayed) response of demanding they help her.

Putera/Pterry: *in response to Sora/Sarah proclaiming they need to help Maria/Monique’s mom* “No! We can’t alter history! We just have to watch the events play out.” Then why the hell did you even agree to come back in time? Chances were ridiculously high that her mother was just flatout dead. So you either came back to save her or you came back to watch her die and go

But nope. Instead, she’s relatively okay except for the fact that she has total amnesia. That’s why she never returned for Maria/Monique.

Amnesia: Being a convenient plot device since the written word was invented.

They extend the time travel shot again.

They add a reaction shot from the priest after Monique and Elfin get kidnapped. It’s pointless, but I’m fine with it because I was kinda expecting the original to have one but they didn’t for some reason. Only gripe I have with it is, because this shot takes place outside, it looks like they suddenly moved outside. Also, this shot was completely removed from its original spot. It was originally placed right before the commercial break after the priest ran outside to chase after Dyna and Mite.

In order to extend Petra telling Elfin that she’ll be keeping Monique around since she’s important to Elfin, they replay and reverse part of the shot.

They replace the scene of TP Lady, Dyna and Mite dancing around to explain what the TP stamp does to a more menacing version. I don’t like scene changes, but I kinda get this one because 1) The original’s just too goofy and 2) Dyna and Mite let go of Omochan and Maria to accompany TP Lady in this dance….so….why are they not running away?

Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, why keep Maria hostage anyway? The TP stamp is already mind control, and they’re grappling Omochan.

They extend the whipping scene for some reason.

Name Change: Waruchan is changed to Elfincon.

Name plate removed.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

This is, by far, the most disturbing bad transformation of any space-time monster. Look at that thing. It’s insane. I love it.

As TP Lady is riding away, she sings ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells, follow me all the way!’ In the dub, she just laughs.

The art in this episode is even worse than usual. The eyes especially are really boxy and distracting.

SABAN. ENOUGH. SLIDE WHISTLES.

Life would be a living hell if there was a slide whistle sound effect whenever someone did the slightest movement. I get it. You feel like you have to inject humor to keep everything from getting too heavy. But maybe….don’t? There’s a difference between comic relief and ruining any semblance of emotion a show like this can garner.

Omochan is a Santa Claus space-time monster whose power is to make toys and rides out of anything, right? So what is his bad transformation power? To make nightmare death theme park rides from hell out of anything. That is so kick-ass.

They insert the stock shot of Ototan using Fighting Spirit before he hits Dyna and Mite.

They reverse and replay the zoom-out shot of Petra looking at Monique and the others to extend the scene again.

Also, originally, TP Lady was upset because they were ignoring her. In the dub, she basically just rolls her eyes at the reunion and attacks them.

How the heck did Putera send that video message to Yamato? Ridon was nowhere near them.

Sarah: “IF YOU GIVE UP ON ME NOW, I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU!” Jesus, Sarah. Tone down the bitchiness. What is your problem? In the original, she yells that Nekketsu can do it.

I really thought they’d just remove this entire segment, especially considering Tokio’s in a skirt here, but the cheerleading shot is mostly left alone barring the fact that they removed ‘Nekketsu’ from the flags since Nekketsu’s named Batterball in the dub. They still left the Ns on the shirts alone, though, so you’re left wondering what that stands for.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

Name Plate removed.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

Name Change: Super Nekketsu is changed to Batterball Master.

So Super Nekketsu’s ability is to hit…..giant flaming balls….I promised I wouldn’t go for the low hanging fruit……….

The original didn’t cut to Sora talking after Tokio cheered on Super Nekketsu when the horses were surrounded like the dub does.

They insert a repeat shot of Flint running from the Ferris wheel after Petra’s reaction shot.

Really, Saban? You added a bowling pins falling down sound effect when the horses got knocked down by the Ferris wheel?

Did Maria’s mom get her memories back because Maria was in mortal danger or because she got more head trauma?

Saban, I swear to god, I will shove a slide whistle up your ass and, yes, pull the plunger while doing it so it makes a hilarious sound if you put in one more unnecessary slide whistle.

So, wait, they don’t remember Omochan/Elfin anymore….but they do remember that Maria/Monique’s mom was missing for four years…..so….how do they think they were reunited?

The real (fictional) Santa Claus is here now. I was going to call shenanigans, but it’s a Christmas special. I’ll let it slide.

Like usual, they change the establishing shots of the Land of Time to different shots because ehhhIdunno….

Uh, Toki-G, did your little balloon pig thing drink too much caffeine today? Why are you floating up and down so fast?

Also, it just occurs to me that it’s very weird Toki-G’s dub name is Old Timer. Like….was he never young?

In the original, Rei conveys what her chief told her about Genshi’s punishment regarding them changing history. She mimics her chief, temporarily taking on a happy-go-lucky tone, to say that, since it’s Christmas, Genshi won’t be punished. In the dub, this is basically kept the same, but they don’t have Jillian mimic her chief. Instead, she legitimately conveys this message as herself, which makes it seem like she was kinda out of character for a moment.

Because of this slight change, the end of the scene had to be removed. Originally, Rei shifted back to her stern self after she was done conveying the message and said ‘That is all.’ The group then fell over comically. Since this wouldn’t make sense in the dub, they just cut it.

They could very well be sparkling cider, but I’m surprised they left those bottles on the table alone.

Old Timer: “And so Flint learned the true meaning of Christmas.” Did he? Because at the end he still demanded a present, from Santa of all people, and the present in question was Santa’s hat….so he kinda….mugged him a tiny bit. Flint did a nice thing, of course, but I don’t think his understanding of Christmas is any deeper than ‘people get presents and presents are good.’ Does every Christmas special imaginable have to end with someone learning the true meaning of Christmas?

———————————————–

That was a fine episode. It really didn’t connect with me on a Christmas-y level, though. I don’t know why. There was plenty of mentions of Christmas in it, and I’m always itching to get into the holiday spirit, even when we’re fresh into summer, but it just didn’t click in that way.

I did enjoy Omochan a lot. I love that it’s basically a mini-Santa who can make toys and theme park rides out of anything. Out of all of the space-time monsters we’ve seen so far, he’s my favorite. I also adore Waruchan. That form is probably the most creative thing to come out of this show. It’s like a demonic reindeer. I love that it retains its power of making toys and rides out of objects, but the toys and rides are evil and attack people. In addition, Nekketsu’s Super form was pretty cool.

The story is fine. It touched on some real history just the tiniest bit, it was fairly emotional and it was sweet that they reunited Maria with her mom…..I just can’t help but feel the tiniest bit….cheesed. And by that I mean, the fact that she had amnesia, no one recognized her and, apparently, she never left that church and that’s the reason why she left her daughter for four years and then she conveniently remembers later on is cheesy.

I really don’t understand the logic behind why she was gone for four years. Yeah, she had total amnesia, but, in addition to that being pretty hard to swallow, you also have the insane coincidence that no one knew her somehow. They lived in that village. She couldn’t have been gone from Maria for more than a few moments, yet not only did no one in the church know who she was but I guess she just never left and went back to the main part of town to see if anyone could help her learn who she was.

Keep in mind, the church where Maria’s mom was staying was so close that Sora and Tokio could go there and back in a handful of minutes.

The dub seems like it recognizes this plot hole and tries to cover it up. When Sarah and Tony are watching Simone, Sarah says ‘And nobody knows her in this other village.’ I guess insinuating that they brought her to a different village to get treatment after the incident. I appreciate the effort, but the plot hole remains because why would they not just take her to the village she was transported from to determine her identity? Again, it can’t possibly be that far away.

I can’t help but think what would have happened if Maria’s mom really was dead. They had absolutely no reason to believe she was alive. When that building fell on her, I really thought she was dead. Legitimately. I audibly gasped. I know this is a kid’s show, but a brick building collapsed on her face. How the hell did she get away from that with just a bump on the head?

In a realistic scenario, they’d be like;

“We’re gonna go back in time to find your mom, Maria!”

*time travel*

*a few moments later*

“Oh you’re back! Where’s mama?”

“Errr, well….She kinda had a run-in with a building….or, more to the point, a building had a run-in with her! Haha….ha.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s just say, if your mother got a Valentine from a building that was three feet in front of her, it would say “I’m falling for you. Hope you have a crush on me.””

“….What?”

“If we had a slide whistle the last time we saw your mother, we’d play it downward.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Ya know what? We’re just going to grab Omochan and erase your memories immediately. This is getting awkward.”

Who can blame me for thinking this either? They gave the reason for their separation being WAR. And they explained in both versions that her father died in the war. They showed cannons shooting at their location. When they first went back in time, the town was BURNING TO THE GROUND.

Speaking of the war, there’s surprisingly little of a ripple effect in ‘present day’ (1651). The Fronde was still going on in 1651, but the town seems like it’s been rebuilt and everything and everyone is relatively fine.

Still, it was an entertaining episode with not too much going on in the alteration department outside of Saban being VERY shot-insertion happy. Usually, dubs will cut some stuff for time because they have more commercials than Japan typically does, but Saban must’ve added at least 30 seconds for no reason I can ascertain.

Next time, TP Lady is trying to take the space-time monsters from Genshi by making a case against him to the Time Bureau?….I have a sneaking suspicion this will be very recap/clipshow heavy…..


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Cyborg 009 Full Review Project: Manga (1964) Volume 2

Picking right back up where we left off, (The first chapter in the volume is even considered the second half of chapter eight) the 00 cyborgs have successfully infiltrated the Black Ghost base, intent on destroying it once and for all. Some of them are ridden with guilt because destroying the base means they have to kill the soldiers that are inside. They simply have no choice in the matter, however.

Once inside, they aim to blow up Black Ghost’s nuclear arsenal. 009 bumps into their commander, Skull. And I really just can’t help but laugh as Skull’s design here. The art goes through a lot of changes throughout time, but this version of Skull is hilarious, especially given the circumstances. His eyes just look so sad like he’s going ‘*sniff sniff* W-why are you destroying my base? I thought we were friends….*sniff*’ And look at his jaw. It looks like the bottom half of a medieval helmet.

They succeed in triggering the bombs, but they’re very concerned that 009 couldn’t get out in time before the place blew sky high. Just when all seems lost, he pops up and reveals that he was able to escape in the nick of time. He shares the shocking news that, at some point, Skull seems to have turned himself into a cyborg as well, and he has an accelerator just as powerful as 009’s.

They assume he probably died in the explosion anyway, but it’s soon revealed that Skull is alive and well and Black Ghost won’t be defeated as easily as they believe.

Still piloting one of Black Ghost’s old subs, the cyborgs head to Japan to seek refuge with Dr. Gilmore’s old buddy, Dr. Kozumi.

That’s the official end of Part I of the manga, so now we’re onto Part II The Black Ghost, starting with the insanely long chapter nine.

After a brief recap, we cut to the group in Japan where they’ve already taken up shelter at Dr. Kozumi’s house after a month of laying low. (Side note: Dr. Kozumi is a pretty chill dude. He doesn’t do a whole lot, but he’s a very nice guy.) Joe is troubled because he worries that Black Ghost is not entirely gone, but Francoise tries to get him to accept that Black Ghost has been defeated and that they can enjoy some peace and quiet for a change, even if the sudden shift is quite jarring and unsettling even to her.

In the middle of their conversation, Francoise suddenly hears a strange voice saying something about medicines at Dr. Kozumi’s place so they rush back, fearing intruders have invaded their hideout. Kozumi explains that the men must be talking about a potion he’s concocting to restore youth and possibly even grant immortality. However, it’s very far from complete and is fairly dangerous to use right now. That doesn’t stop people from believing he has finished it and is simply holding out on potential buyers in the pharmaceutical world.

Kozumi doesn’t have a care in the world over this because Joe and the others are on the case and he has total trust in them, which was a very sweet thing to say.

Joe gathers the other cyborgs and they head out to find the would-be thieves. They find a group of masked men and start confronting them only to have their targets blasted by a new enemy – the lightning powered 0010! If you’re wondering what I was wondering when I first saw 0010 “Why is he not 010?” then all I have to say is….I dunno. I mean, the project is called the 00 Cyborg project, but it still makes the numbering seem out of whack.

In the month that they’ve been gone, Black Ghost has gone further with the cyborg project and made 0010 – who has intense lightning powers that he can command via his hands and body, incredibly powerful eye beams, and he also has an accelerator that matches Joe’s. 003 is the first to be taken out by him because of course she is, but 004 and 007 fall soon after. Joe faces the new cyborg alone, but can’t find a way to outmaneuver him or overpower him.

What’s worse is that he’s not the only 0010. He has a twin brother with the exact same powers. They’re named 0010 Plus and Minus, and together they can make electric attacks so powerful that no one should be able to withstand them.

Joe struggles a lot with the cyborg duo and is felled by them, but he’s suddenly saved in the nick of time by 001 who has discovered that he has the power of teleportation. As long as the subject is willing to be teleported or is unconscious, 001 can teleport whatever he wants. He managed to teleport 009 before he was fried, but that doesn’t change the fact that Plus and Minus are still right around the corner and need to be stopped.

001 deduces that Plus and Minus each emit the opposite electrical charge of the other, meaning if they hit each other they’ll short out and die. Giving them both the super-speed runaround, Joe manages to force them both into colliding into each other, creating a massive surge of electricity and causing them both to die. As they lay on the ground, they’re seen with their hands touching each other. Joe laments that they were brothers, but Black Ghost made it so they could never touch or hold each other again, which is another testament to their evil.

I always thought Plus and Minus were a really great pair of characters, and I’m sad they never got a proper backstory. Sure, they were loyal to Black Ghost and took delight in taking down the other cyborgs, but they truly loved each other. For the record, we do see a hint at their contact weakness when they nearly short out by simply standing too close to each other and they have to jump away quickly. Afterward, they stare at each other with forlorn looks in the rain. And just for the sake of symbolism, rain is brought up in the next part as being a character’s tears, so it’s not hard to infer that their situation is deeply hurting them right now.

It’s a shame these two were taken out so quickly. They could have been upgradable repeated enemies or good allies. Their weakness was a bit on the ridiculous side, though. Yes, there’s a lot of poetic tragedy in their situation, but…..really Black Ghost? They explode and die if they touch? These two cyborgs who work best when they work together and also move at supersonic speeds making accidental collisions or contact nearly unavoidable at some point? How could you not make some sort of failsafe for that before sending them out in the field?

Once 0010 Plus and Minus are felled, 009 returns to Kozumi’s house where 003, 004, and 007 are resting. 003 is in particularly bad shape because of course she is. However, there’s no time for rest because, believe it or not, the next cyborg in the line, 0011 is knocking on their door.

And by ‘knocking’ I mean he’s destroying the house.

And by ‘0011’ I mean a

GIANT

ROBOT

SPIDER

Yup, skewing pretty far away from the human-given-cybernetic-implants angle is 0011, who is just a brain in a giant robot spider. I don’t actually know what the point is of just putting a brain in a giant robot spider, but believe it or not, in the outlandish design department, 0011 has absolutely nothing on 0012, whom we’ll get to in the next chapter.

0011’s abilities include missiles that contain some weird sticky substance that hardens into a stone-like material used to encase his enemies, an accelerator because everyone needs to have that thing now, flight and a projectile that is filled with poison that can even kill cyborgs.

Unlike 0010, who was brash and itching to fight, 0011 is oddly calm and understanding. He doesn’t want to fight the cyborgs, but Black Ghost promised him they’d put his brain back into his body if he did, so he has sworn allegiance to them. This is obviously a lie, but all 0011 has to live for right now is that promise. He starts his assault, and 005, 008 and 002 rush out first, since 009 is still weak from his battle with Plus and Minus, but he soon follows after anyway. 005 and 008 are quickly encased in that weird substance I mentioned earlier, so they’re taken out of the battle disappointingly quickly, leaving 002 and 009 to battle him.

It’s not quite that simple, however, because 0011 not only has both of their main powers and more, but he’s also incredibly well-armored. None of their shots can even hope to break through his defenses. They only have one option – the sliding doors that cover the openings for his guns. They wait until he opens them back up again and shoot inside, causing him to fall apart.

As he lay dying, 0011 shoots a projectile into the sky and it starts raining. 0011 dies peacefully having gained his freedom from this metal shell he was forced into. He equates the rain falling down his ‘eyes’ being the closest thing he’ll get to crying. But in his one last act to try and achieve his goal he reveals that the projectile is actually causing the ‘rain’ falling around them. It’s poisoned, and 002 and 009 have to act quickly in order to survive. He bids them farewell and explodes.

001 teleports all of them back to the house. First things first, they have to extract 008 and 005 from the stone. They have life-support systems, but they’re running low on power and oxygen. 006 is the only one who can remove them with his flames, but he has to be incredibly careful or else he’ll severely injure them. He’s able to remove them from the stones, though a little on the crispy side, so it’s time to address 002 and 009. In his infinite wisdom, 001 has not only been able to pinpoint what poison is affecting them, but even tells Dr. Kozumi…the…ya know…doctor…what to put in the antidote to save them.

All of the group recovers to full health, concerned about what else Black Ghost might have up their sleeves….and uh….it’s a doozy.

Chapter 10 introduces us to the weirdest cyborg of the 00 line – 0012. I say this because 0012 isn’t so much a cyborg or a robot even….she’s a sentient immobile murder house.

Bear in mind that the 00 cyborgs were created with the intention of mass producing and distributing them to various governments in order to perpetuate war – especially in outer space.

A sentient immobile murder house is one of those cyborgs.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s a really well-designed, powerful and AWESOME sentient immobile murder house, but she’s still an immobile murder house, who, by the way, doesn’t have any external weapons, which means as long as you don’t have a reason to go on the property, you’re golden.

Granted, she does have ‘servants’ which act as her ‘limbs.’ Each servant is their own character, and each is given disabilities that are compensated for with cybernetics. For example, the first servant, Camel (Known as Rakuda in the translation) has a hunchback. Yeah, not the most sensitive of names. I can understand why TokyoPop changed it to the literal Japanese version, if they did that intentionally.

His hunch was made cybernetic, allowing him to open and close it like it a venus fly trap or bear trap. This sounds cool, but unless someone’s trying to tackle him, it’s really inefficient. He can also spit?…I dunno. In his battle with 009, he’s spitting something at him over and over but I honestly don’t know if it’s a projectile or just spit. But get it?….Spit…..Camel….Ha….Ha? I really want to say he just has spit as a ‘power’ because ew no one likes getting spit on.

The second servant is Scarecrow, a man with a prosthetic leg who walks using a cane. His prosthetic is spring-loaded, allowing him to jump very high, and his cane doubles as a club and machine gun.

The third servant is named Roentgan (Lentgen in the TokyoPop version) who is blind. He’s able to see thanks to binocular-esque cybernetic eyes that also grant him the ability to see long distances and through objects. When those eyes are broken, he can track people through a heightened sense of sound, so he’s essentially their 003. Other than that, he has a sword hidden in his cane, which is a bit of a rip-off considering Scarecrow’s cane could be a club or a machine gun.

The fourth servant, The One-Armed Man (He’s not given a name, though in the 2001 anime he’s called Machine Gun) is, well, a one-armed man. His arm was replaced with a machine gun, kinda like 004 but it’s just a literal machine gun instead of a machine gun shaped like a working hand, which seems counter-intuitive. (In the earlier parts of this arc, his hand is a hook hand, but Ishinomori changed his mind on his design and powers.) Reminder – these guys are a package deal with 0012, meaning their designs all came after 004. There’s really no reason why 004 would get a regular hand that doubles as a machine gun but The One-Armed Man would just get a machine gun duct-taped to his stump, basically.

The final servant is one we’ll address a little later because he requires a bit more attention to detail.

We get a pretty nice scene of Francoise and Joe enjoying the fall leaves together.

Aaaannndddd that sweet moment is immediately ruined by 0012 drowning a dog in quicksand right outside the house. Thanks for that….

0012 sends out her servants to lure the cyborgs to her hou–…to…her, I guess, by kidnapping Dr. Kozumi, which they do quite easily by gassing him as he’s leaving his house. They leave Rakuda behind to do the rest.

Meanwhile, we get to see the other cyborgs enjoying some downtime. It’s always nice to just see them hanging out with each other. Albert is showing off the ability to shoot darts from his fingers, which I don’t think ever comes up again, but that’s cool, and Geronimo and Pyunma are making a bassinet for Ivan. They don’t give it wheels, but, being telekinetic, Ivan can just make the bassinet float around. Not sure why he doesn’t just float himself around, but it’s better than needing to carried by Francoise 24/7.

Rakuda goads Joe into battle by popping up wearing Dr. Kozumi’s hat and running off. He’s a bit slippery for Joe, but inevitably gets caught.

They interrogate him, and he reveals that he doesn’t know about their plans, he’s just following orders. He draws them a map to 0012’s location, and 001 reveals that, while Black Ghost is currently an issue right now, there’s another enemy lurking in the shadows – the same ones who tried to steal Kozumi’s medicine most likely (He doesn’t say that last bit, but I assume. They look like the same guys.)

They tie Rakuda back up and throw him into a room, but he’s not planning on giving them any more info or helping them. He bites down on a cyanide capsule he had in his tooth and dies.

009 decides to go out and investigate the location Rakuda was talking about. It’s a big fancy house out in the middle of nowhere. He spots the same goons in black from before – the not-Black Ghost-dudes – and they try to hop the wall into the yard, but one of them is shocked by an electric barrier and the others are lost to the quicksand yard, though 009 doesn’t realize this.

He thinks they entered the house, so he goes in after them only to accidentally get caught up in the quicksand. 004 and 007 arrive to help him out, however, having been guilted into it by 003…..Come on, guys, really? 003 needed to push your buttons to help 009? Actually, now that I think about it, why isn’t 003 here if she’s so concerned?

Joe: “Well, I’m glad someone cares about me.” It’s certainly not 003.

0012’s next trick comes in the trees in the yard, the ones 004, 9 and 7 are taking refuge in, having controllable vines that continuously wrap them up and try to strangle them. However, with 004’s knife hand and a few shots from a super gun, they’re down for the count…literally, they’re falling down. The trio then has to hop to the roof for something safe to stand on, but of course not even the roof is safe.

A door opens beneath them, and they nearly fall into a pit of spikes. 007 displays an ability I didn’t know he had, which is the ability to suction-cup to walls. I guess it makes sense if he can turn into anything, though. 009 is holding 004 while hanging from 007. 004 blasts a hole in a nearby wall and they hop through it. As they enter a new corridor, 0012 reveals herself as being the house that they’re currently in. Oh yeah, hey, we got our second woman in the 00 Cyborg series!

AND

She tries to blow them up with a chandelier, and they rush around to find Dr. Kozumi, finding traps around every corner, including a dummy Dr. Kozumi that was actually a bomb.

The next trap is her basically trapping them in her ‘stomach’ and trying to melt them alive with gastric juices IE acid. She damn near succeeds too, but the three are able to blast their way through the walls and escape.

As they’re continuing their search, they stumble upon the goons in black from before….I hope that means the dog’s alive too. I’m just gonna believe that’s what it means.

They’re the ones who sent a fake telegram to Kozumi to lure him out of the house with intentions on kidnapping him for his eternal youth potion, but 0012’s assistants got him first so they tracked him down to get him themselves.

The trio don’t really have reason to hurt them, so they just break their weapons and knock them out.

009, 7 and 4 decide to go straight to the epicenter of 0012 to end this once and for all – they’re going to destroy 0012’s brain. The instant they get close, however, she emits a powerful ultrasonic wave that drives the three to their knees. 009 is just barely able to get a shot off at the wires surrounding the brain, and that shuts off the noise.

0012 switches from being maniacally sadistic to begging for her life, so 009 says they’ll help her if she tells them where Kozumi is. Her servants took him out of the house and are transporting him to Tokyo. Her last word is ‘0013’ before her console explodes and her brain is destroyed.

It’s not over yet, however, because the house starts rumbling and falling apart. The trio barely escapes before the entire house collapses in on itself and sinks beneath the quicksand. 007 believes she was trying one last time to kill them, but 009 believes she was trying to give herself a proper burial. I disagree with both of those theories, however. Considering there seems to be a running theme of ensuring there’s nothing left behind of the cyborgs when they get defeated, or at least assuring they die once they’re caught (The bodies of Plus and Minus were taken in by 0011 and got blown up when he blew up, 0011…well, blew up, Rakuda committed suicide and now 0012 destroyed and buried herself.) I think she was just following whatever orders she had in the case of defeat.

009 rushes off to find Kozumi while 007 and 4 go tell the others about what’s happening.

The final chapter, which is going to explore 0013, is only part of the chapter and only shows Joe chasing after Dr. Kozumi while he runs alongside a train.

———————————–

And that was volume two! Admittedly, I am a tiny bit disappointed at how quickly we’re introduced to 0010 Plus and Minus and 0011 only to have them be knocked off rather quickly, but they were memorable in their own right. 0012 was really cool, even though the design makes no sense if you think about it for longer than a few seconds. Now all I can think about is a murder house floating around in space.

Think about how much money they had to have put in 0012. And now think about a show on HGTV that could’ve been made on her construction.

“Now, this is going to be the room that fills up with acid, so we’re gonna knock down these walls here and bring in some super strong steel walls. These are vulnerable to blasts from super guns, but we had to follow budget. A great aesthetic choice the homeowner made here was this exploding chandelier. But it’s also a bit of a money sink for obvious reasons. Really ties the room together, though. We’ve already lost a few workers in the pit of spikes, but they all signed waivers before working, so it’s all good. And as we were putting the final touches on the brain room, we got an offer on the house from someone named John Kramer, who is quirky fella who signed his name with a drawing of a jigsaw puzzle piece. Weird.”

We also got a bit of a power upgrade with 001, a soon to be mostly forgotten power in 004, and it all culminates in the buildup to 0013, who is my favorite side character in the series.

Overall, though, a lot of fun, some really cool action and quite a few funny moments with GB (007). Here’s looking forward to discussing volume three!


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