Cyborg 009 Full Review Project: 1966 Movie

Plot: Nine individuals are kidnapped by the evil war-mongering organization known as Black Ghost. While in their clutches, they’re forcibly turned into cyborgs, meant to act as weapons of war. The cyborgs manage to escape Black Ghost, but they soon return to destroy the organization and stop their evil deeds once and for all.

Breakdown: In my last manga volume review, I mentioned that 007 suddenly changing into a child, whom I dubbed Lil’ 007, was a forced change to help advertise the Cyborg 009 movie that was being released around the same time. Well, this is that movie, baby.

That’s right, we’ve finally reached the first animated venture into the franchise, the 1966 Cyborg 009 movie directed and written by Yugo Serikawa and co-written by Takashi Iijima.

The movie is a reimagining of the origin story of the 00 Cyborgs, condensed to fit a full storyline in a little over an hour. There are many changes to the origin story made throughout this movie. Some changes I really liked, others not so much. Some changes were made for understandable reasons, like animation limitations and time constraints, and others I can’t find a single goddamn reason for.

Let’s enjoy a gentle stroll down Cyborg 009’s first movie.

The movie starts out with Joe Shimamura in the middle of a race. I haven’t posted it yet, but in my review for volume eight I mention that Joe becomes a famous racecar driver after a four year time skip in a time of peace. I kinda wondered why he became a famous racecar driver because he had never expressed an interest in racing before. But I guess it kinda made sense because his trademark power was super speed.

Him choosing a profession where he easily became famous, especially considering he technically had an edge in his cybernetics giving him vast knowledge and skills in piloting vehicles of all types, was more confusing, though. You’d think he’d want to keep a low profile.

However, this is not a movie based on volume eight. Quite the contrary. That part of the manga was actually based on this part of the movie.

Joe was the most drastically altered character in the entire movie. They removed his delinquent backstory, seemingly made him full Japanese instead of mixed race (marked by him having black hair instead of his trademark brown hair…..barring that one time he went blond.) and just made him a….really good racecar driver?

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They boring’d the hell out of Joe, and I really have no clue why. Is it just because they didn’t want their main hero being a delinquent?

The fact that they seemingly made him full Japanese instead of mixed race is the most disappointing, though. A big part of his backstory was that he was constantly ostracized for his appearance. He never felt like he belonged because he was a mixed race boy living in 1960’s Japan. That was also one of the factors in him becoming a delinquent. The fact that the 00 Cyborgs accepted him fully without caring about his heritage was very important to Joe.

Now he’s just a normal Japanese guy who became a successful racecar driver? Couple that with the fact that they retained the whole spiel about 009 being the best cyborg on the team because he was the latest model with all the best powers and that he becomes a combat specialist and leader of the team immediately just cuz (acting like he’s a seasoned war vet even though there’s no way he has any battle experience) put in a dash of saying he’s also the bravest of them for no real reason, and you just made yourself a Gary Stu, good sir.

Black Ghost operatives cause Joe’s car to crash. He’s unconscious, basically dead, and they kidnap him right under everyone’s noses, which confuses me.

In the manga, all of the people that Black Ghost kidnapped for this project were specifically targeted because they were down-on-their-luck individuals who wouldn’t be missed by many people, if any at all.

You have Ivan, who was just a baby, being willingly offered to Black Ghost by his father after his mother was killed, Jet who was running from the law after accidentally killing a rival gang leader in a street fight, Francoise who was just an average French girl who lived alone with her only family being her brother, Albert who was trying to escape Germany during WWII with his wife, who perished in the escape, G. Junior who was out of work and living on the streets due to discrimination against Native Americans, Chang who was an impoverished pig farmer whose situation was so bad that he was about to commit suicide when Black Ghost found him, GB who was a drunken washed up theater actor, Pyunma who was a resistance fighter who had just escaped being sold into slavery, and Joe who was a delinquent orphan.

It’s too risky to take people who are high-profile. Many people will miss that person and there will likely be an endless investigation into what happened to that person reaching out into current day where there will 34,000 podcasts and Youtube videos with titles like “Hurricane Joe: Gone with the Wind” “Joe Shimamura: Vanished in the Blink of an Eye” “Crashed Out of Existence: The Joe Shimamura Story” and “joe shimamorra was turned INTO A CYBORG?! #TRUTH”

Not to mention you’d be parading around a famous person as your cyborg? Keep in mind, the cyborgs have so much of their bodies replaced with cybernetics that they don’t age. People would start asking questions after a decade or two.

They also kidnapped Francoise who, in the movie, was a successful/famous ballerina, which is what she becomes in the manga in volume eight as well. So now they have two famous people on their team. They also have a baby and a young child, whom, for all we know in this timeline, are being furiously sought after by their parents.

Joe is turned into a cyborg by Black Ghost, and he later wakes up in some dark warehouse with a spiffy new version of his uniform. Instead of the uniform colors he had at this point in the manga, which was green with a yellow scarf, or even his most well-known colors, red with a yellow scarf, he is sporting a white uniform with a red scarf.

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The rest of the 00 Cyborgs are wearing lavender uniforms with no scarves because they’re not the leader.

Oh, wait, back up, did I say the rest of them? I meant all except one.

Because, of course, they had to put the lone girl in the group in a goddamn pink uniform.

Can you not find enough femininity in friggin’ lavender?

When Joe awakens, he’s suddenly met with a voice telling him that the test will be starting soon. Unlike in every other iteration, this voice isn’t 001 communicating with him telepathically. Instead it’s….who I think is Gilmore? It’s hard to tell with the voice. I don’t know exactly how he transmitted the message though since Gilmore doesn’t have any powers. Maybe it was a PA system or something built into his head?

Joe, now known as Cyborg 009, is quickly attacked. He’s buried under tons of rocks, but survives and escapes easily, he’s chased and shot by a fighter plane, but he can run away really fast and survive getting shot in the back repeatedly.

Oh yeah, one other thing they changed with 009…..they took away his accelerator switch.

Yes, his main claim to fame, the thing that made him mostly unique among the crew, is absent in this movie. Supposedly, this was because of either animation limitations back in the 60s or budgetary constraints, but I can’t buy that. Joe’s acceleration powers should be really easy to animate. You just animate running and freeze everything else. Hell, sometimes you don’t even have to show everything frozen. There are plenty of moments where they show 009 using his accelerator and choose to put him over a black background. Heck, you don’t even have to do that. Just make off like he looks like he’s teleporting.

But 009 is still heralded as the best cyborg of the line because he supposedly has all of the powers of the previous cyborgs in the line, even though we know that’s not true. In fact, he actually might have fewer powers in common with the other cyborgs as he does in the manga because it’s possible 002 kept his, admittedly weaker, accelerator.

009 passes the test with flying colors after downing the plane by ripping it apart with his bare hands and causing it to crash. He’s met with the other 00 Cyborgs as well as a slew of other Black Ghost operatives, including Dr. Gilmore.

001 looks okay. I think he looks a bit too large, but overall, he’s designed pretty accurately, barring his hair color which is brown here. His hair color’s not technically inaccurate since it fluctuated throughout the series, but he’s usually known for his silver hair. Sadly, 001 also got a major power downgrade in the movie as his only power is telepathy. He kept his heightened intellect as well, but his telekinesis seems to be entirely gone.

His telepathy is largely useless here as well because they also gave him the ability to TALK. Why they did that when it gave them an excuse to not animate his speech is beyond me.

They took the ultimate deus ex machina from Cyborg 009 and basically turned him into a pretty useless cyborg baby. I wonder if this nerf at least allows him to avoid that pesky weakness of needing to sleep for 15 days straight.

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002 looks way too angry. They elongated his face upwards and slanted it forwards to give him this almost comically angry face. They also gave him brown hair instead of his usual red hair, and they, for some reason, added a hook to his nose.

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003 looks quite a bit different. Her hair is much longer, and she’s now brunette instead of a blonde. She also has INSANELY HUGE and VERY CREEPY blue eyes. Even for anime and even for Ishinomori’s typical style they’re way too big. I think they did this to highlight that her senses were her main powers, but no one else has any physical attributes changed to reflect their powers, so I’m left to believe that 003 is either an alien or a My Little Pony.

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004 has a horrid haircut. It’s not even like an actual haircut. It’s like someone took the clay pot they made in art class and plopped it on his head. His original hair color is meant to be gray/silver. 004 actually has powers added to him. They gave him missiles in his elbows in addition to the ones he usually has in his knees, and both hands house machine gun fingers instead of just one. I like this change because it makes him a little more badass.

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005 looks pretty decent. Some shots make him look stretched out, though. Also, his face markings were changed a little.

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006 was basically drawn to be even more stereotypical than he already was. They darkened his skin just slightly, kinda deflated his face and gave him a Fu Manchu mustache instead of the thin handlebar-esque one he typically sports.

007 is Lil’ 007, only his head is kinda caved in for some reason. His powers are left alone, which only muddies the limited animation/budgetary constraints excuse for 009’s lack of accelerator even more. How is it easier/cheaper to animate a character who constantly transforms into other things than it is to animate a character with super speed? Or did they allocate all of their budget towards animating his transformations that they didn’t have enough left over to properly animated 009’s acceleration powers?

I really think that Lil’ 007 was leaned into a bit hard with this movie. He gets basically as much screentime as 009 and he gets a big dramatic hero moment in the end, complete with speech. He’s also the only one, besides Joe and Francoise, who gets his fate explained in the epilogue. They really wanted to push this movie towards kids. The tone is noticeably lighter with more comedic moments and the fact that the new war that develops later in the movie is between two fictional countries – The Caesar Republic and the country of Divine – instead of two real ones.

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008…….*sigh* Poor 008 can’t catch a frickin’ break.

He already had a problematic design by default, but look at this.

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His lips take up half his face, and his nose was enlarged by about 700%. What the hell were they thinking when they did this to him?

They convince 009 to come with them, Dr. Gilmore acting as a hostage (he’s in on it and helped orchestrate their escape out of guilt.) and a massive battle ensues between the rebelling cyborgs and Black Ghost. They’re confronted with the usual suspects in this franchise; faceless thugs with laser guns, tanks and fighter planes.

They steal one of Black Ghost’s fighter jets and take off. 009 is able to pilot the plane flawlessly. 001 explains that he was already a masterful racecar driver, and his cybernetic brain enhanced his driving/piloting skills, allowing him to be an expert with any vehicle instantly. That actually does make a lot of sense, and I’ll take that as being his unique power over the others.

It’s weird how some of them have powers that correlate their own personal stories, but some of them don’t. Like 006 has fire powers, which greatly help him in his later career as a chef. 007 can transform into anything, which is something very reflective of an actor. 004 and his wife were shot up and blown to hell, so he’s loaded up with guns, missiles and explosives. But no one else really has powers that correlate to their personalities or stories. That would’ve been pretty neat.

Anyhoo, it’s during this aerial battle that we get to see all of the 00 Cyborgs’ powers on display. It’s a really cool moment and battle. They’re forced to take an emergency landing on a nearby island.

It seems like they’re in the clear, but 003 quickly points out that there are spy dolphins nearby, transmitting their location to the enemy. 009 kills the spy dolphin, but a whole slew of enemy robot underwater dinosaurs with missiles in their throats attack. Ya know, typical Tuesday.

009, 002 and 004 take them out in a really exciting battle, but they’re still not done.

003, for some reason, sounds really happy to share the news that they’re being approached by a whole fleet of fighter jets and ships. She’s smiling and everything. The voice acting combined with the smiling leads me to believe some wires were definitely crossed with the intended tone of this scene.

The amount of firepower that Black Ghost is sending their way is, honestly, way overboard. Look at this insanity.

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And this isn’t even showing the numerous submarines chasing them.

All of this just to retrieve or destroy the cyborgs. The money that they spent just launching all of those planes and ships would probably cover the expenses on making nine new cyborgs and just letting these ones go. I get that they might not want this technology to get out to the general public, but still.

009 knows they can’t fight all of that firepower, so he concocts a plan to steal one of their subs.

Somehow 008 looks even worse in this shot.

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009, 007 and 008 head underwater to defeat the other spy dolphins and steal themselves a sub. Cue extended scene of Lil’ 007 shenanigans, including turning into a birthday cake that says “Happy Birthday Day”….???

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Happy Birthday Dan? I dunno.

Anyway, screw that little punchline. 008, you’re up!

To his credit, even though this is his lone time to shine in this movie, shine he does. He zooms around the sub so fast that it starts disrupting their equipment, and when he reaches the nose, he simply stops the sub dead in its tracks with his bare hands.

That was so badass, even the doors of the sub are going “Dang!”

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009 attaches a transmitter to their sub that tricks them into surfacing. 008 is such a baller that he’s just standing on top of the sub smoking a pipe when they come up.

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009 and 008 force the Black Ghost operatives out of the sub and take it for themselves. When the whole team is aboard, 009 has 003 send out a Morse code message to Black Ghost claiming that sub number 557 has been commandeered by the cyborgs when they’re really on sub 556.

557 gets the shit bombed out of them from above and below, killing everyone on board.

Good job, guys. We immediately went from peacefully acquiring a Black Ghost sub to turning a dozen people into chum in one scene. Simply amazing.

009: “That went well.” It sure did, you loony.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that they did that to distract Black Ghost and make them think that they were dead, but the 00 Cyborgs are supposed to be largely against killing. They typically only kill as a last resort. That’s why so many of their enemies are robots. And that’s why 001 made a point in the beginning that the planes that were following them were merely drones, even if they implied they were being piloted by people considering a bunch of Black Ghost soldiers were ordered to head to the planes to pursue the cyborgs. They wanted the green light to cause a bunch of destruction without the implications that they were slaughtering people. 006 was fully MELTING PLANES IN MIDAIR. No one wants to imagine the people in there melting like candles on the surface of Mercury.

For anyone thinking the sub may have also been a drone, they show the people inside as it’s being attacked.

Since Black Ghost is off their tails, they decide to head to Green Reef – a secret island hideout/laboratory belonging to Gilmore where not even Black Ghost can find them.

After a small time skip, we see Francoise and Joe relaxing on a cliffside as the sun sets. Joe says it’s only a matter of time before Black Ghost finds them. They should take the initiative and strike at them first, hopefully taking them down once and for all.

Francoise, however, vehemently refuses. She is tired of war, she’s tired of fighting, and she’s definitely tired of death. She shares her backstory with Joe, explaining that she was a successful ballerina until WWII arrived in France. After a very dramatic montage of the attacks, we learn that Francoise’s parents were both killed in the war, which is why she hates it so much.

I actually love this change. It adds so much more to her character, explains where her parents are and gives her a very good reason to already hate war and fighting long before the others do. The fact that she still also has the reason of her heightened senses forcing her to see and hear every atrocity of war that happens within 50 kilometers of her makes her situation all the more horrific and tragic.

After hearing Francoise’s story, Joe responds in the best way possible……by giving her a big ol’ smile.

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I really think there was a disconnect between the artists and writers somewhere.

Joe convinces her to rejoin the fight by telling her that, if they don’t stop Black Ghost, then more people will suffer like she did. It’s rather open and shut, but the entire thing makes for a big romantic moment for the two of them.

When we next see Black Ghost, they’re preparing for their next scheme. In order to draw the 00 Cyborgs out of hiding, they’re going to send two fictional nations into war – the Caesar Republic, which I think is meant to reference the Roman Republic, and Divine….which…I don’t know what that’s referencing, if anything at all. There’s no information on this stuff on the Fandom page or the Wiki or any other source.

The best I could find was Carthage, which was the real Roman Republic’s biggest enemy, but I can’t find the connection of the names. Carthage means “New town” which doesn’t sound very ‘divine’ to me, so…..*shrug* Maybe they just bullshitted some names, or maybe I’m a geographical dummy, I dunno.

The troops for Black Ghost are being lead by some new character who looks like a huge naked goblin.

His name is Beagle.

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And no, you can’t take him seriously because of both of those facts.

To make it even less plausible to be scared of this guy, his has a cat that he strokes menacingly. Bonus: This cat is meant to be an evil version of Tom from Tom and Jerry. And if you don’t get that the first times you see the cat, don’t worry, near the end of the movie 007 will turn into a carbon copy of Jerry so they can have a nice comedic chase.

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The Fandom page explains that Tom and Jerry was just reaching Japanese shores at this time, so it was probably just meant to be further grasping at that young child audience.

The 00 Cyborgs learn the news of this burgeoning war, so they decide to head to the battlefield to put a stop to Black Ghost’s evil manipulative ways.

009 calls upon 003, 6 and 7 for the mission. Leaving 001, 2, 4, 5 and 8 on shore doing nothing for some reason.

Why does 009 only take three people with him, you may ask? Because it’s hard and expensive to animate nine people in battle conditions, silly. And they’ve already done it twice, so we gotta cut some expenses.

However, I really have to wonder why he chose this lineup specifically. 003 I get because she can get recon easily and from a distance. Lil’ 007 I guess I get because he’s also good in covert situations and spying. But why 006? And why not any of the others, especially 008 considering they’re heading off on a submarine? Actually, put that last question in your back pocket. We’re going to bring that back up in a few minutes.

When they reach the shore of the Caesar Republic, 003 overhears a Black Ghost operative making a deal for weapons with one of their military leaders. As they continue to spy on them, 003 is suddenly just grabbed by a pair of metallic black arms and kidnapped right from under the noses of the other three.

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Which is bullshit.

For god’s sake 003, your only use is to see and hear things that the others can’t. You’re unofficially known as the radar of the 00 Cyborg team. You’re telling me a cyborg or robot or what have you sneaked up behind you – in the goddamn woods – and was able to grab you without you making a sound? Come on.

The other three are able to tail her in the submarine by tracking a beacon in her headband, but Beagle shows up to stop them with his mind-controlled giant octopus.

How much would you believe me if I said this is actually mirroring a plot point from the manga? Actually, only partially because the one in the manga was just super aggressive because of radiation from the war polluting the ocean.

Worried their sub will be crushed by the creature, they head out to fight it.

006, while underwater, shoots flames at the octopus numerous times.

See why I’m confused about bringing 006 along but not 008?

Apparently, fire can exist underwater in the right circumstances. All you need to do is force oxygen, fuel and heat together, but 1) I don’t know if 006 has the means to do that. As far as I’ve ever known, 006’s fire breath works on the same principle that a flamethrower does. The fuel is thrown/expelled and then ignited. With people who ‘breathe fire’ it’s the same thing. They keep fuel in their mouths, hold up a flaming stick and spit the fuel out on the fire to create the stream. But 006 has no method of delivering the oxygen as far as I know, so I can’t see this working.

And 2) even if he could create fire underwater, I doubt he could make it into an accurately shot stream like that.

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Anyway, this poor octopus is blown apart, sliced up and even has one of his tentacles ground up with a grater, which is nightmarish to think about. The idea of grinding up the limbs of any creature is gross enough, but the grater in question was Lil’ 007. I can’t imagine the feeling of limbs being ground up in what is basically my torso……

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Once the octopus is defeated….

Lil’ 007: “Something else is coming!”

006: “Sharks!”

009: “Not just sharks….sharks with guided missiles!”

We’ve already seen these sharks in the manga before, but there’s something about these lines that really makes me want to re-embrace what a beautiful amalgamation of genius and goofy nonsense this franchise can be sometimes.

So they start blowing up the missile sharks, which is a cool sentence to say, but poor sharks. These animals aren’t doing anything wrong, they’re just being controlled or manipulated by Black Ghost and yet they all have to suffer such horrible fates.

Meanwhile, someone else is suffering a horrible fate – 003 is going under the knife again to alter her brain so she’ll be fully controlled by Black Ghost…..which just brings up a huge issue with this entire franchise that I’ve already discussed a little before – why don’t they just mind-control them entirely? They must have the technology. Weren’t they even working with Ivan’s father, Gamo, who worked exclusively with technology involving the brain? Instead they just hope that these people they just kidnapped and mutilated and had their lives ruined forever will just hop up and say “Well, golly gee, Mr. Black Ghost, I sure will be your tool of perpetual war!”

In the manga, it takes them until 0013 before they finally realize that they should put some failsafes in these cyborgs, but even then it kinda backfires on them.

By the way, they actually do perform the surgery and she’s not only fully mind-controlled later, but she basically turns into a weird monster for some reason? More on that later.

The trio reach the shores of Phantom Island. Some robot snakes show up and attack the three.

*the robot snake breathes fire towards 009*

009: “Are these things robots?”

No, no, 009. These are rare Firebending Snakes. You must have missed Phantom Island and accidentally landed on Shuhon Island.

Sadly, none of the 00 Cyborgs beyond 001-009 are shown in this movie, but we do get a brief encounter with a robot that looks and acts an awful lot like 0011. However, it’s not even clear if this robot spider is actually a cyborg. He has about two lines and then dies.

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Something else weird about 006 – The robot shoots fire at them, and even though 006 is meant to withstand insanely high temperatures, he still reacts to the fire like it’s too hot even for him, which I sincerely doubt.

Once the snakes are destroyed, Lil’ 007 splits off from the group to infiltrate the base by himself. 009 and 006 go another way and find 003 unconscious and tied to a chair. When they wake her up, they’re shocked to find her face all monster-fied and that this whole thing was a trap.

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I was really shocked to see that they actually did go through with the surgery on 003. The last shot of the surgery scene did suggest that they were seconds away from cutting into her, but a surgery to make her a mindless slave is something you’d think would get interrupted by the heroes.

Also, I guess they altered her height real quick too because she’s towering over these Black Ghost soldiers. Either that or Black Ghost set up a recruitment drive in a middle school.

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Beagle and his goons corner 009 and 006. One of the soldiers conveys to Beagle that they caught 007 as well. They’re about to have the same procedure performed on them when the soldier from before attacks Beagle. Surprise! It’s Lil’ 007 in disguise!

Cue the overly long heroic speech they let Lil’ 007 have for some reason.

After completely demolishing Black Ghost’s forces so easily it’s almost sad (and bear in mind that it’s only three of the nine 00 Cyborgs fighting them) 009, 6 and 7 corner Beagle. They think they’ve won, believing Beagle to be the big boss of the entire organization, but Beagle reveals that he’s not actually the final boss. He’s one of those annoying decoy final bosses who eats up all of your resources right before they throw you into the REAL final boss fight that comes out of nowhere.

At this point, I was getting really excited because I thought they’d reveal Skull here….but no. He’s not in this movie at all.

Instead, the real final boss is not given a name. He’s just Black Ghost Leader….Also, he’s not even given an original design. They took the design of the central hub of 0012 and made that the design of the Black Ghost Leader.

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To say I was disappointed would be a massive understatement. You traded Skull, one of the most iconic villains in classic anime/manga, and traded him for a brain in an upside-down salad bowl.

….Okie dokie.

BGL immediately kills Beagle for failing him, and then he explains to the cyborgs that he’s been around much longer than they think he has. He was responsible for the first two World Wars. He very easily triggers these wars with just a little manipulation. He feeds off of greed and the pain and suffering of war. He even states that he’s not human, which is something reinforced by the fact that he uses the term ‘human’ as a derogatory term. He also says that he didn’t create himself, or I guess more to the point that he didn’t start out like a normal being and then eventually became corrupted into the being he is now. He came into existence as an embodiment of the greed of humankind, which I guess is why his organization is so set on war profiteering instead of being a ‘take over the world’ type deal.

But that just begs the question as to where the brain came from and why he rides a giant crockpot if he’s just the embodiment of greed. Seems a little inconvenient, is all.

You can argue back and forth about who Skull really was – in no iteration do we ever learn of his backstory – but he was a cyborg who was constantly getting upgrades that left him as the most advanced cyborg, which is why the final battle with him is such a big deal. His character design is very imposing, even with his manga version’s sadface look, and, as his name also suggests, his presence just screams ‘death.’

I just can’t understand why they used 0012’s central hub as the design of BGL here. 0012’s actual hook was that she was a sentient immobile murder house. If you take that away, her design is in no way intimidating.

BGL decides to use 003 to finish off the cyborgs using a special laser gun that can take them out with one shot. He traps them within a super strong metal box and sends 003 in. However, 009 strongarms her, accidentally causing her to shoot the glass surrounding the brain of BGL, which for some reason causes the rest of his robot body to start blowing up. Flawless design there.

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That’s another silly aspect of this design. His brain is obviously his weak spot, so why does he keep it in a glass case on top of the robot instead of secured in the middle of this hulking behemoth so it’s as safe as possible? Again, it made a little sense in the manga because 0012’s house was protecting her central hub and her brain.

003’s back to normal again somehow, which is very confusing. You guys operated on her brain, yet you made her mind-control completely reliant on the integrity of a brain in a jar? Also, why do the changes to her face instantly go away when she’s freed?

Anyway, BGL is not going to die quietly. He has an H-bomb hidden on the island that will explode in five minutes. That’s right. He’s going to kill himself, all of his surviving subordinates and destroy all of his equipment in an H-bomb explosion just to kill four of the nine 00 Cyborgs. That’s some crazy nonsensical dedication. Oh well, at least he’s giving them a five minute head start.

They’ll need that head start too because they need to break out of the metal box. Using 006’s flames and the lasers of their super guns, they slowly manage to weaken the metal enough to break it by throwing a giant…..electronic box thing, I dunno what that is.

When they get to shore, they find that their sub is being commandeered by Black Ghost operatives. They won’t allow them to board the sub, but the rest of the cyborgs arrive to blast them away and save the others.

002: “We came because we figured something like this might happen.”

Then…why didn’t you just go with them in the first place?

They escape, utilizing the sub’s ability to turn into a plane, and watch as the island is disintegrated. Black Ghost is seemingly gone now. And the narrator explains that peace came to the world once more….So…Divine and the Caesar Republic stopped warring because Black Ghost disappeared?

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The movie wraps up with an epilogue that explains that the cyborgs “returned to their original forms” which, huh? That’s impossible. I’m pretty sure they’re still cyborgs. And they returned to their homes and old lives. Joe returned to being a racecar driver, Francoise returned to her life as a ballerina, Lil’ 007 returned to his life as a ‘mischievous brat’ in London, and no one else matters enough to mention.

Just know that they all returned to their normal, happy lives, but they still knew that one day they might need to return to action again should Black Ghost resurface. They can only pray that will never happen.

The end.

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And that was Cyborg 009’s first movie, and I really enjoyed it a lot. It was exciting, it was fun, it was a little funny, and as far as retelling the events of the origin story while also wrapping up the entire Black Ghost conflict in one barely over one hour long movie goes, it did a pretty good job. It obviously felt kinda rushed, and I’m really, really disappointed that basically every cyborg barring 009, 003 and Lil’ 007 had to be completely amputated, in terms of character exploration anyway. They did get some really cool moments in battle, and at least they went through the unique powers of each, but I’m really disappointed that we don’t at least get some nice non-battle moments with them or even learn their real names. Hell, we don’t even learn Lil’ 007’s real name despite them shoving him into the spotlight quite a bit.

They also didn’t do that good of a job giving them distinct personalities. Everyone, again, barring the main three, act about the same. Joe takes the role as leader, Francoise is the emotional one and Lil’ 007 is the clown. Everyone else is just a nice, brave and responsible person. 006 is kinda goofy, but that’s about it.

They crammed a lot of cool enemies and battles into this movie, which I appreciate greatly, but I actually kinda wish they’d toned it down a tiny bit or made the movie longer because it was almost too much stuff going on too quickly.

The animation was decent for the time. It’s an anime from the 60s, you’re not going to get anything too impressive, but some shots looked pretty damn good……and some looked really laughable.

There’s a shot near the end where 009 and 003 are fighting each other, and Lil’ 007 and 006 are just bobbing their heads as a reaction, and it reminded me of a badly animated ‘What is Love?’ meme gif.

The music’s pretty good. Very fitting and impacting. Nothing horribly memorable, but still good.

All in all, I had a lot of fun with this movie, and I’d gladly watch it again. I’d also suggest it as a fun watch for any fellow Cyborg 009 fan or anyone who doesn’t mind some classic anime cheese. It’ll be a little while before we cover the sequel to this movie, Cyborg 009: Monster Wars, but I look forward to covering that and seeing what else these movies have to offer.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 22 – Flower and Moon Review

Plot: Yuika is an up and coming star in the world of modeling, known for her brash and pushy attitude. Her twin sister, Sumika, is a more timid and studious type. Sumika typically stays to the background being Yuika’s ‘shadow.’ She pretends to be Yuika in order to do her college work, take her exams and even stand in for her at work sometimes. Sumika is far from an innocent flower, though. They’re two sides of the same coin in the worst way.

Breakdown: I really, really thought this episode was finally going to get Yuzuki’s main plot rolling since a good chunk of the first half is dedicated to her struggling with her destiny of becoming Hell Girl. The end of high school is approaching, and her school counselor is questioning her about her plans for the future, but she doesn’t really have any.

Dreams and the future are two concepts that give Yuzuki pause lately.

And that’s it. She just can’t think of anything when she thinks about the future or anything she dreams of being. She’s such a boring character.

The most interesting thing we got from her was the slightest implication that something very bad happened when she was a kid involving her mother, but that’s about it.

I’m also starting to believe that maybe Yuzuki is….crazy? She suddenly seemed to lose contact with her mother, even though she stated that she used to call and talk to her parents every day, and I’m now realizing that we’ve still never seen either of her parents on screen – not even in pictures. I actually kinda hope it’s something like that, because at least that has the potential to be interesting.

After that, it’s a typical Hell Girl story. Although, the way they inject the story of the week is quite odd. Yuzuki is just walking down the sidewalk and she’s suddenly approached by Sumika, who apologizes profusely for the ashes from her flame-less fire seemingly getting on Yuzuki, but it’s clear that the smoke is only barely even slightly near her, so I doubt any ashes got on her. Also, if you didn’t want to bother nearby people with smoke and ashes, maybe not start a non-fire smoke signal in your two-foot wide yard right by the sidewalk?

She then invites Yuzuki to enjoy the warmth from this non-fire….When it’s not even noticeably cold out.

One of the pieces of paper making up the “fire” blows onto Yuzuki’s foot. It’s a picture of Sumika and her twin sister, Yuika, as teenagers. She clearly doesn’t want Yuzuki to see this picture…..so again…I ask…why are you doing literally any of this? Why the “fire”? Why not just tear up the pictures? Why not set the fire in a place that won’t immediately draw attention from passersby? Why invite Yuzuki over to enjoy the private picture fire? You make no sense, lady.

Anyway, absolutely nothing involving Yuzuki has any bearing on the Hell Girl story today. What a surprise.

The real story is fine, but I feel like it’s basically treading water we’ve already treaded. Most notably, I was really reminded of the season one episode, A Night Among Traveling Entertainers.

You have a pair of twins, one of which is the bitchy star, Yuika, and the other is the timid doormat, Sumika. Yuika treats her sister like garbage and acts incredibly self-centered. She’s always telling Sumika to do her college work for her and even pretend to be her so she can take her exams for her.

Sumika comes off as a nicer person, but the twist is that she really isn’t deep down, which is pretty clearly foreshadowed by her burning the pictures earlier. While Sumika isn’t as mean as Yuika, she is self-centered and conniving.

When Yuika gets herself injured because she was a drunk moron, she demands Sumika take her place in a photo shoot so she won’t ruin her career. Sumika does great at the shoot and even earns a lot of positive attention because she’s being so much kinder and gentler than Yuika.

Not only that, but Sumika clearly covets Yuika’s boyfriend, Masato. While Masato does love Yuika, he gets along great with Sumika, and Yuika is, well, not a pleasant person, so you do kinda root for him to be with Sumika…..for a minute.

This whole conflict with the boyfriend comes to a head when Sumika pretends to be Yuika and tricks Masato into having sex with her….ya know…raping him.

He realizes only after the fact that she was actually Sumika, but his actual feelings are quite iffy. He seems like he feels bad about cheating on Yuika accidentally, but he’s not getting angry with Sumika, and we cut away before we can get any further information on what went down.

Yuika has been following her and becomes enraged when she realizes what happened.

After this, Yuika’s wound heals and she and Sumika basically fight for Yuika’s life.

They’re both dressed identically, so there’s no way to tell them apart.

One of them calls Hell Girl and pulls the string, sending the other twin to hell. It’s meant to be ambiguous, and the viewer is supposed to decide which twin was the client and which was the target, but there are several hints as to the identities of each, and I think it’s pretty clear that Sumika was the target.

They do obscure the name on the candle at the end. You can only see the ‘ka’ part of their first names. The rest is covered by a wax drip. However, what you can see of the kanji that is covered doesn’t match the way Yuika writes her name.

Masato breaks up with the woman who has the doll. He had never entered into an actual relationship with Sumika, he only slept with her once, so it seems weird that he would ‘break up’ with her.

The woman in the boat acts more like Sumika than Yuika. She asks “Am I not supposed to chase my dreams? Even though I wanted to be myself….” Yuika was always herself. She was a selfish bitch in front of people, and she was a selfish bitch in private. Sumika, on the other hand, had to hide behind Yuika’s persona in order to get attention while still being herself. Sumika was a kind person, but, as I said, she had a more nefarious side to her that was more scheming and selfish.

Finally, and the most obvious piece of evidence. It was established early in the episode that the only concrete way to tell Yuika and Sumika apart was a flower-shaped birthmark on Sumika’s lower back. That’s how Masato proved it was Sumika when they slept together. They specifically zoom in on Yuika’s bare back at the end of the episode and show that it has no markings on it. I even watched it frame by frame to make sure not even partial marks were shown – they weren’t.

The only thing that doesn’t mesh with this is that Yuika is notably more pleasant in the press conference at the end. Maybe she was humbled by the experience. Or maybe Sumika was actually the client and she just covered up her birthmark with makeup for whatever reason.

I’m 98% certain it was Yuika who lived and Sumika who got sent to hell. If true….eh, I don’t really care either way. Yuika was a bigger bitch than Sumika, no doubt, but Sumika was also a slimy bitch who basically raped Masato – no matter if he chose her in the end or not.

All in all, this episode was pretty okay. I liked that they were at least trying to create a fairly wide gray area here, and I appreciate the attempts at masking who the client and target were, even if, in my opinion, it was a bit easy to figure out. I am getting very annoyed at Yuzuki, though. They better throw her story into high gear in the next episode, because it really feels like it’s a road to nowhere.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 21: Right in Front Behind You Review

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Plot: Yuzuki meets a young boy named Kaito who is clearly being abused by his step-mother. She senses that he’s about to use Hell Correspondence and desperately tries to stop him. But there’s hell within everyone, and the challenge of freeing some people from their personal hell is easier said than done.

Breakdown: Wow. Rarely do episodes of this show leave me speechless, but…..wow.

First of all, this episode breaks your heart from start to finish. This poor kid is being abused so badly and so often that the first time Yuzuki meets Kaito he’s passing out from his injuries in the rain. He desperately wants to make his parents happy, but no matter what he does it’s never good enough. It’s not just direct abuse either. Kaito’s step-mother is pregnant, and she loves to passive-aggressively take shots at Kaito by telling her unborn child, named Mao, to not be like her troublesome liar of a big brother when she’s born.

What’s even worse is that his father is absolutely no help. But that’s the least of the problems with the father, which I’ll get to later.

The entire story is such a raw and realistic depiction of child abuse. New mom loves her biological child more than her step-child, perhaps even seeing him as a stain on their otherwise happy ‘natural’ family, so she mocks him, puts him down and hits him – always on areas that are covered by his clothing. The child doesn’t want to make waves because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. The father’s defensive of the mother and is overly sympathetic because she’s pregnant, and/or doesn’t care enough about his son to step in.

I felt so terrible the entire runtime, and that feeling only got worse and worse the further we got into the story.

Second of all, this is a case with a child client, so obviously the tensions are higher than usual. Kaito is a very likable kid whom you feel extremely bad for as you watch him just try his best and keep a smile on his face all the while he’s being treated like garbage.

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Third, Yuzuki is being more active here, which is appreciated, but, again, her presence doesn’t affect anything and she doesn’t stop Kaito from pulling the string. Ai interfered this time, showing Yuzuki where Kaito was and allowing her to watch him right as he pulled the string without actually letting her be seen or heard, but still.

Fourth, we really have to talk about Kaito’s dad. As the Hell Team watched Kaito, they asked themselves why he hasn’t yet told his father about what’s happening. I figured it would be the same as most similar situations in Hell Girl, the anime or manga, or just, sadly, real world situations – the dad wouldn’t believe him and would accuse him of being a liar or being jealous of the new baby.

Yuzuki even tries to tell the father about the abuse, but he refuses to listen and storms off.

Thing is, he does know about the abuse, and he’s known for a while…..he just doesn’t stop it because he wants to make his wife happy. She was such a catch that he doesn’t want to sacrifice what they have for the sake of saving his son, which is just as bad as if he was doing the abusing himself.

But his terrible nature doesn’t stop there.

He tries to fucking murder Kaito because he believes that’s the best resolution to the situation.

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What. The. Unholy. Fuck.

You may be wondering at this point where the string pull comes into the equation. When does that abusive bitch get her whatfor, eh?

Right as Kaito’s dad is about to drown him in a lake, he pulls the string.

And his step-mother…..

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…..Has a miscarriage.

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You read that right. Kaito’s target was Mao – an unborn child.

I remember when I first started these reviews and I wondered if there was an age restriction on who can be targets or who can be clients because surely it’s really messed up to send a teenager to hell or to expect them to have the emotional or mental capacity to understand the consequences of their actions in such a huge decision.

How times have changed.

Now we have a child client no older than eight, which actually isn’t too uncommon in this series…..and an unborn baby target.

My jaw dropped.

I never even considered that being possible. At worst, I thought the baby would die if the step-mother was sent to hell. I never figured the baby itself would be able to be targeted.

People were discussing in the comments about how this could even work. The step-mother was very close to her due date, so the baby was fully formed. And I assume that the baby had to have a soul because the deal Hell Girl offers is to get two souls – the client and the target. By all logic, we’re to assume that a baby’s soul is being tortured in hell right now, and that is one of the most depressing things I’ve ever heard.

Kaito opted not to kill his step-mother because he just wanted their lives to go back to normal. She used to be a loving parent who never abused him, but the instant she got pregnant her attitude started changing and their good times together stopped.

He always loved his step-mother. This much is proven when it’s shown that he greatly treasures an Eggman (not the Sonic one) hat as that was the first gift she ever gave him. Even when she cruelly tried to throw it away because it was ‘shabby’ which it wasn’t, he dug through the garbage to get it back because it was so precious to him. Kaito’s biologic mother is nowhere to be found, so it’s understandable that he would be so attached to his step-mother.

Since she changed when she got pregnant, he loved her and so did his father, his logic lead him to targeting Mao instead of his step-mother.

When Kaito pulls the string, his father instantly collapses in guilt over what he was about to do, for some reason (Incredibly convenient conscience timing or the power of Hell Girl?) but Kaito forgives him. Kaito goes to the hospital to see his step-mother to comfort her over her miscarriage, but also to remind her that she still has him and his father and things will go back to the way they were before when they were happy.

And that’s the way the story ends. The three do indeed return to the happy family they once were, only now, as the Hell Team point out, they’re all just biding time hiding from their own sins until they inevitably have to face them. Kaito has to deal with the fact that he killed a baby, his little half-sister no less, and damned her to hell while also coping with the fact that he’s now damned to hell. His father has to deal with the fact that he was complacent with his son’s abuse and that he tried to murder him. And his step-mother has to deal with the horrible acts of abuse she committed against Kaito.

For now, though, they laugh and have fun and manage to enjoy their lives even though they’ve all seen hell now.

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Yuzuki, for some reason, smiles at this sight even though it’s an insanely bleak image. Yeah, Kaito’s happy now, and yeah they’re all back to ‘normal’ but they all just went through a lot of fucked up shit and things are never going to be okay – especially if the step-mother winds up getting pregnant again.

There are no winners here. There rarely ever is an actual ‘winner’ in a Hell Girl story, but this is devastating at every angle.

This is definitely one of the best Hell Girl episodes I’ve ever watched, but it’s also one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to sit through.


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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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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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Hell Girl: Three Vessels Episode 19 – Snow, Moon and Flowers Review

Plot: Kaori Nakiri is the sole heir to her prestigious family’s flower arranging school, even though she doesn’t have a desire for it. A woman named Yukina appears shortly after Kaori’s father’s funeral to reveal that she is the result of an affair Kaori’s father had and that she’s entitled to half of the estate. However, she wants more than that – she wants to be the heir to the flower arranging school. Considering Kaori’s complicated extended family and how stern they are with tradition, it’s not Kaori’s place to give the role to her, but Yukina will get what she wants no matter if it’s given to her willingly or not.

Breakdown: I’ll be honest, I went into this expecting to sleepwalk through it after watching the preview and, yeah, I sleptwalked through most of it…..Until the final third where things just got so ridiculously insane that it was like an alarm clock made of confusion went off by my ear.

The first two thirds is what you’d expect. Yukina’s a manipulative snake, I don’t care about flower arranging or the school, Yuzuki’s here, we’ll get to her later, Kaori has a thing with her childhood friend/devoted employee/love interest, Tsukio, and blah blah blah. Get to the helling already.

Well, we do.

And….uhh….huh.

Things get messy when Tsukio overhears Yukina plotting to poison and kill Kaori in order to inherit the land, the house and the whole spiel and sell it off to make bank. She never really cared about the school, dunno why she even brought it up.

When her cohort tries to poison Kaori’s drink, Tsukio takes it from her, chugs it, and tells the guy to tell Yukina that her plan has failed.

…..So, uhm….dude….what the hell? The drink didn’t need to be consumed. Just take the drink and tell her it’s poisoned. Have it tested, if need be. Why drink it?

Tsukio has three days, max, to live, and no one’s trying to bring him to a hospital or trying to get an antidote from Yukina or arresting Yukina or anything. Just, welp, nice knowin’ ya Tsu-boy!

As Tsukio lays dying, one of her family members or whoever that was reveals that Tsukio was actually her brother. Her father used to say something like Snow, Moon and Flowers, which indicated all of his children – Yukina for snow, Kaori for flowers and Tsukio for moon. Tsukio wanted nothing more than to be a vessel for the flowers, which, yes, does sound like innuendo given the circumstances, but the meaning behind these words is actually much creepier.

The guy reveals that the Nakiri school is merely the public flower arranging school that the family runs. There is actually a secret school meant purely for the main branch of the family called the Hyakki school (which I believe is a different pronunciation of the kanji in Nakiri, but I could be wrong. That’s what the opening implied.)

The man leads Kaori to the underground school…..and…..What the flippin’ flapjack is all of the this? Kaori is presented with a wall of skulls. The skulls belong to each of the former heads (haha) of the family. They believed that true beauty in flower arranging can only be achieved by arranging flowers in these skulls. According to them, flowers and death go together hand-in-hand. Her father claimed that you can tell the truth about someone who has died by seeing what flowers grow in the ground over their dead bodies.

…..Kay.

Having contacted Hell Girl on Yukina earlier, Kaori now knows what she must do – she must kill Yukina and crazily arrange a bunch of flowers and creepy plants in her father’s skull. Struck with, let’s call it, ‘inspiration’ she also realizes that Tsukio was dying for this express purpose. He knew about the Hyakki school and wanted her to use his skull to create a beautiful flower arrangement. As he lay dying in bed, she agrees to his final request.

So, yeah, uhm, what?

Where did all that even come from? I don’t know what else to say. I am flabbergasted. I guess I’m happy that it didn’t end up being fully boring, but sudden weird creepiness doesn’t automatically equal quality. Held my attention more, but it was more like it was being held hostage.

Since we’re getting closer to the end of the series, Yuzuki is finally playing a bigger role, if only slightly. Yuzuki befriends Kaori quite randomly, but she’s not really a part of her story. Instead, she gets more of a very minor B plot.

Yuzuki recognizes Ren, Hone Onna and Wanyuudou as workers at the funeral, which is shocking to them because they have the power of misconceptions. Basically, they can be out and about disguised at whoever or whatever, and, if someone sees them as two different personas, they won’t recognize them. They’ll just believe they’re entirely different people. Dunno why they can’t just change their appearances, but that does answer some questions I’ve had lately.

Since Yuzuki is no longer feeling the effects of these powers, it’s taken as an indication that she’s ‘awakening’ and Ai will need to tell her about her fate soon. Sure enough, at the end of the episode, Ai reveals to Yuzuki that she has an inescapable fate of taking over her job. One day, Yuzuki will be the next Hell Girl.

And that’s about it. I already knew that, and it was hardly a secret. I thought they already pretty much established that to us a long time ago, so it’s really only news for Yuzuki. At least things are moving along with her plot, but talk about a snail’s pace.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels Episode 18: Special Radio Review

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Plot: Chiriko is a big fan of a popular local radio show called The Midnight Silence. She sends in letters to the show frequently, which are sometimes read on air by the dreamy host Jotarou. She’s become one of the most featured fans under the nickname Chi-Chan, and she’s even become popular at school for her status on the show. However, the “truth” behind the show may not be to everyone’s liking.

Breakdown:

Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t Say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t Say it.

This episode was stuuuuu—-

Stop! No!  ~Positive vibes~

This episode….rrrgh….was…….SO DUM–

Come on, you can do this. Deep breath.

This episode has a severe problem with being good.

In that it’s not.

Well…..baby steps, I guess.

I know I’ve brought this up before, but you know how, in the first season, it was difficult to sympathize with Hajime’s crusade to stop the use of Hell Correspondence because he kept finding cases where it either seemed incredibly justified or the person in question pulled the string at a moment where it saved their lives?

This case should have been in season one because it’s just the type of pointless abuse of the system that Hajime was looking for.

Okay, ‘abuse’ is a strong word, but to say the client today had a ridiculous reason for contacting Hell Girl is an understatement.

Before we cover that, though, I have a question – are radio shows still that popular? At least with teenagers. I feel like I’m watching an old school early 90s anime. Every person in Chiriko’s class (especially the girls) either currently are or quickly become huge fans of this radio show where it’s literally just some guy who sounds attractive saying really cheesy stuff to make the girls all swoon. He reads fanmail on the air, and Chiriko becomes very popular suddenly because she’s one of the most frequently read writers to the show under the pseudonym ‘Chi-Chan.’

Not only do all these girls own a boombox, but they’re all entranced every night listening to this dude and doing nothing else but staring at the stereo.

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This series was made in 2008-9, so it’s not that recent, but still. Maybe radio’s popularity has stayed stronger in Japan or maybe I’m out of the loop with anything popular. I dunno. Just seemed strange to me.

Anyhoo, as I said, Chiriko, or Chi-Chan, is a big fan of this radio show, hosted by the swoony Jotarou. Every time he reads a letter on air, he sends the writer a bell as a gift. Chiriko has collected several of these bells and lovingly wears them on a bracelet.

After she’s ousted and made popular as Chi-Chan, she meets another fan of the show, Kaname. She’s had more fan letters read by Jotarou than Chi-Chan has, going under the moniker of ‘Frog Princess.’ They become fast friends, and Kaname suggests that they both head down to the radio station to thank Jotarou for everything he’s done for them.

When they arrive, they manage to bump into Jotarou’s co-host, Yume. Turns out, Kaname is also a big fan of Yume because she’s such a great scriptwriter. (Yeah….One of the segments of the show had Yume asking what behaviors Jotarou likes in a girl. He was scripted to respond with “I like a girl who dries her hair after a shower and one that uses shampoo.” I get that, like boy band songs, when the intention is to woo a bunch of teenage girls you have to be vague and act like whomever is being addressed could possibly be any girl who is listening, but this is so bad I legit can’t tell if it’s a joke. High quality writing, Yume.) Kaname is an aspiring scenario writer, and she dreams of working on a radio show some day. Both Kaname and Yume enjoy a pleasant exchange, but Chiriko is in a state of shock……because she never realized the show was scripted.

That, my dear friends, is the motivation for the client this week.

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No, I’m not kidding. Chiriko contacts Hell Girl that very night and pulls the string the next day as she’s walking into school with Kaname. She sends Kaname to hell purely because she revealed that Jotarou’s show was scripted.

I am currently in the process of trying to be less harsh on the stuff I’m reviewing – try to be more positive – but COME. ON. What IS this?

Let me be clear – Kaname is completely innocent in this. She didn’t reveal that the show was scripted just to be an ass to Chiriko. She legitimately loved the writing on the show and thought Chiriko knew it was scripted. She never once appeared like she had malicious intent in her actions. Not even Yume was being condescending or cruel with her words. In fact, she gave a copy of the newest script to Kaname and encouraged her in regards to her dream of becoming a scenario writer. She was perfectly pleasant when she could’ve easily been a typical famous snob.

After Kaname is sent to hell, Chiriko enters a complete delusion that the show’s not scripted and essentially goes bananas. Her bracelet is now absolutely loaded with bells, and she loving hugs her radio when she’s listening to the program.

There was never, not once, ever any indication that this girl was this obsessed with Jotarou or this show. Not to the point of sending someone to hell over it, and not to the point of going coo-coo for Coco Puffs once she finds out it’s scripted. She was a big fan, sure, but nothing ever indicated that she was anything more than that. I wouldn’t even call her a super fan or anything of the like. She also definitely had a crush on Jotarou (whose face is never shown, by the way) as well, but, again, nothing ever indicated that she was obsessed with him or even in love with the guy.

Everything in this episode was so normal that most of the runtime didn’t even feel like a Hell Girl episode. In fact, if Ai and the others didn’t pop up a few times over the course of this episode, I’d probably forget it even was a Hell Girl episode until the very end.

Speaking of Ai and the others, they were acting strangely in this episode. Ai seemed like she was actually interested in the show and Kikuri was making Yamawaro write in a bunch of letters to the show so she could get featured.*shrug*

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Back to the topic at hand, I was thinking maybe Jotarou would turn out to be a jerk, or Chiriko would be superficial and Jotarou would turn out to be unattractive, or Kaname would send Chiriko to hell for impeding on her status as the most-read fan letter writer of the show, but no. Granted, those motivations are silly too, but they’re both better than this.

Chiriko’s a teenager. She has to be aware that most things in media are scripted and fake. How many shows go completely off the cuff? Even if she didn’t know, why does the show being fake have to impact her views on Jotarou? Maybe he actually is a really charming, handsome and romantic guy in real life. Just because he’s fed lines to say doesn’t mean he’s not still someone she can admire.

Why target Kaname, for that matter? Shouldn’t she be more upset with Yume for helping create this illusion or Jotarou himself for seemingly being a liar? Why target Kaname just for accidentally revealing the truth to her? She also pulled the string immediately after making sure Kaname didn’t tell any of the other girls about the fact that the show was scripted, like she’s protecting them or something. Chiriko, I doubt all of the girls in school are as naive as you. Heck, Kaname didn’t just know the show was scripted – she knew Yume was the writer. It’s not like they’re keeping it a secret.

Now Kaname’s in hell and Chiriko’s bound for hell all for what? Nothing. There have been some really silly and ridiculous reasons to send people to hell in this show, but this one might just top them all.

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Oh and Yuzuki? She’s here. She’s just watching from the background until the very end where she’s seen running up to Chiriko seconds after she had already pulled the string and then we later see her flopping over onto her desk in exasperation as she listens to a staticy radio with Ai looming behind her.

I kinda wanted to yell when she did this. She’s acting like she’s exhausted from all this Hell Girl business when she literally did nothing – again. She had a vision and jogged for a few seconds.

Sorry I kinda failed in my quest to be a little more positive today, but sometimes you can’t avoid biting into a bad apple.

Oh well, maybe next episode will be a bit better.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 17: Inside the Straw Review

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Plot: Yamawaro’s backstory unfolds and….I dunno. Fitting that he’s a mushroom spirit, because I feel like I just took a bunch.

Breakdown:

I don’t even know where to begin with this. When I saw the preview for this episode, I was uninterested because I don’t much care about Yamawaro’s origins, but now that I do know Yamawaro’s origins, I feel a strange cocktail of emotions beginning with an ounce of confused and topping off with ten gallons of “What is actually happening right now? I feel like my brain is trying to escape my skull.”

I’ll try to summarize best I can.

Yamawaro was a mountain spirit or a mushroom spirit who spent his time alone in the mountains. Sometimes, he would, for some reason, take the form of a naked boy. Other times, he would take the form of a bunch of mushrooms. And still other times he would take the form of a naked boy…..covered in mushrooms….Don’t ask. I don’t know.

Ai stumbled upon him and invited him to join her group, but he initially declined because he believed being alone was just how you were supposed to live.

Later, he found a happy family living in a house near the mountain – two loving parents, Fujiko and Risaburo Ashiya, and their young son who looked incredibly similar to Yamawaro’s human form. The son, Hikaru, tragically died shortly thereafter in an accident in the swamp. His parents were devastated.

Cut to several decades later, the mother, now an old woman, is bedridden and reaching the end of her life. She wishes to reunite with Hikaru and knows she will soon see him in the afterlife.

Yamawaro, for reasons beyond even his understanding, decides to appear to her (naked again) claiming he’s Hikaru so she can give the woman’s life some happiness before she passes. The father is wary of him and later we’ll find out that he knows Yamawaro’s not human, but he doesn’t want to break the illusion and hurt his wife.

The father also happens to be a…doctor…scientist….botanist…medicine man? Some combination of the three? He’s been trying to grow something called caterpillar fungus, which, he surmises, can somehow be used to make a medicine that will bolster a person’s health and grant them longevity. He wants, more than anything, to give his ailing wife more time on this earth. He requests Yamawaro to assist him in his research. Caterpillar fungus needs to grow on a living being, but every animal he’s tried to grow it on hasn’t produced adequate results. He knows Yamawaro is a supernatural being, so he hopes that the fungus will react better with his body. What a coinky dink that Yamawaro happens to be living mushrooms…..I think….right? Why is this Yamawaro’s backstory episode and I’m still confused as to what he actually is?

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This better not be some sort of weird-ass Mario crossover.

Next comes a….very, very uncomfortable scene where the father applies a special medicine to a fully naked (barring a towel) Yamawaro’s back while chanting something that supposedly makes the medicine work? This is bad enough, but Yamawaro starts moaning and develops a blush on his face…then he starts….panting and sweating….

Look, I get that he’s moaning in pain and the blush, panting and sweating are probably a result of a high fever, but this is still extremely disconcerting to watch.

Spores and mushrooms start growing very quickly all over Yamawaro’s body to the point where he’s basically entombed in them. Slicing off some pieces from the growth, Risaburo makes his concoction, that he calls Ambrosia, and gives it to his wife.

The potion actually works. A little too well, actually. Fujiko reverts back to her thirties somehow. The experiment was a massive success, but Fujiko couldn’t stand what her husband was doing to Yamawaro. The poor boy was wrapped up from head to toe in bandages, because he took so many of the spores I presume, even though the first sample seemed like enough, and she was concerned that Risaburo would continue to experiment on him. She secretly brought him back to the mountains and told him to run away, which he did. Eventually, he must have made his way to Ai to join her team.

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In present day, things only continue to get more confusing, if you can believe that.

Ai has a request from Fujiko, and Yamawaro insists that he be the one given the job. Ai agrees. He doesn’t plan on stopping the ferrying if she chooses to pull the string, but he hopes that he can convince her to not pull the string at all. Technically, they’re not supposed to interfere with cases, but they seem to have thrown that rule out the window at this point.

Kikuri later finds the straw-dolled Yamawaro lying in a bed in the Ashiya household while Fujiko falls back under the delusion that Yamawaro is Hikaru…..even though….ya know….he’s a straw doll now. Yamawaro also shows his doll’s insides to Kikuri, which, as shown before, is a bunch of fungus. The dialogue points at this being a result of the experiments, but wasn’t he a mushroom spirit before? Did he just turn into a bunch of mushrooms for funsies?

Fujiko has called Hell Girl to send her husband to hell for making Yamawaro suffer for his experiments. Fair enough, I suppose, but why did it take her so long to call her? And if she was considering doing that anyway, why not call her, pull the string and not send Yamawaro off into the woods? Then she could live the rest of her days happily with ‘Hikaru.’

Now…here’s another weird thing. Fujiko contacted Hell Correspondence…..via a newspaper. This isn’t a new thing – Ai used to get her clients from blank newspaper ads back before the Internet, but the scene where they show her doing this is in black and white and she’s young again. She’s still young in present time because of the potion, but the use of the newspaper and the scene being black and white makes me think this was way back when Hikaru died. I guess this is meant to be recently, because they never say she got a doll back then, but they made this shot look way too similar to a distant flashback for me to be certain about it.

Fujiko is suddenly old again now….??? She was in her thirties literally ten seconds ago. She aged fifty years between shots……Whatever. She finally confronts her husband with the doll, accusing him of also having something to do with Hikaru’s death, but he denies this and says it was just a sad accident.

The dialogue is really unclear for the rest of the scene. The best I can make of it is that Risaburo was actually more intent on just finding the secret to eternal life more than he was in helping his wife, I guess. He just said that to trick Yamawaro into helping him….I think. He knew he needed a non-human specimen for his research…somehow…and pure luck lead Yamawaro to them so he took advantage of that. But then he muses that it actually worked and that it saved him trouble? Why is he so confused about why it worked?

Fujiko pulls the string and Risaburo is sent to hell.

However, the weirdness doesn’t even end there. After the string is pulled and everything’s all said and done, Yamawaro rushes to the Ashiya mansion to witness it….sinking into the lake….for some reason. Also, Fujiko’s in there….young again….holding Hikaru…..Is she already dead? Why is the house sinking? There was never any indication that the house was at risk of sinking. Truth be told, I didn’t even fully realize it was situated on water. I knew they were near a swamp, but that’s about it.

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So, class, can one of you please enlighten me on what the hell I just watched?

I kinda feel like the Hell Girl stuff was unnecessary. Was the guy a terrible person? Yeah. Did he deserve to go hell? Probably. But the timing was really weird, and I honestly didn’t feel like I hated the guy enough to want him to be sent to hell. I don’t much care that he did, but I wasn’t rooting for it.

This is another one of those times where I feel worse for the client because now she really won’t ever be back together with Hikaru again, no matter what was shown in the window. Unless Hikaru’s in hell too for whatever reason.

She should have taken this into consideration when she called Hell Girl. She’s been so intent on reuniting with Hikaru one day. It’s been her one driving focus in her days after Hikaru died. Why would she sacrifice reuniting with her son in peace in Heaven just to send Risaburo to hell for kinda hurting someone who’s not even human? She could’ve just left him or stopped consuming the potion. She would eventually die a natural death, and Risaburo, without Yamawaro around, would die some years down the line and be sent to hell anyway. It’s rather pointless.

The story, boiled down, is fine. Yamawaro connected with some grieving parents in the twilight of their lives because he took pity on them after they lost their son and decided to fill the void for them. He eventually needed to leave, and, realizing the benefits of relationships to other people, he decided to join the Hell Team. But when everything else is added to the mix, it just becomes too confusing and weird to be worth any real value.

The only two things I gained from this episode are learning a little more about Yamawaro, kinda, I still don’t even have a good grip on what he actually is, and seeing Kikuri be *gasp* nice and tolerable for a change. She’s actually having a good discussion with Yamawaro and is defending him. It’s like she’s a completely different person in this episode (and she didn’t need to be wound once for some reason.)

…….Am I forgetting something?……….

……………………OH YEAH, Yuzuki! She exists! Right. She was here for literally one minute of screentime. She went to the Ashiya mansion to talk to Fujiko about Hell Girl. She thought the person would be in her eighties, but the only people living there were in their thirties, so she just….frickin’ left and never came back.

Protagonist of the year.

Didn’t investigate further. Didn’t ask for their names. Didn’t ask if she had contacted Hell Girl or anything. Just ‘Oh I must have the wrong house. Guess I’ll leave the episode now.’


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Battle Arena Toshinden (OVA) Review

Plot: Uhhh, there’s some tournament called the Toshin tournament, but that doesn’t matter because we never see the tournament over the course of the show. This anime is also based off of a video game of the same name that I’ve never played, but I hope to God at least the fans of the game find some meaning behind this show.

A man named Eiji was apparently the last tournament’s winnerm and his brother, Sho, has turned bad, apparently, and has betrayed his family so Eiji’s on a mission to find him…..apparently.

But there’s also some lady named Uranus who dresses like Lady Gaga’s lobotomized twin. She’s evil and runs some evil organization called….The Organization. Eiji along with a bunch of other characters who are never adequately explored fight The Organization.

Breakdown: THEM anime reviews has, at least at one point, labeled this the worst anime they’ve ever seen. Ouch. Now, I’ve disagreed with THEM before and at this point I’ve seen my fair share of crap. Do I share the same sentiment?

……Uhh, I wouldn’t say ‘worst’ but it’s pretty damn low on the list. It’s bottom 10 at least. This anime is confusing as hell to me. I really, truly hate when shows, anime or otherwise, expect that you should know the full backstory behind something, especially when the backstory is explained in an entirely different medium. I’ve never played Battle Arena Toshinden, yet this anime not only acts like you should know full well the backstory to this whole mess of an OVA, but it also assumes you know every character and what their story is too.

When they actually do bless you with some information, it’s just thrown at you like a rock of exposition. Characters are constantly showing up, especially at the ending where the big clusterfuck of cameos happens. I had no idea who 98% of those people were when they showed up and the ones I did recognize I still knew nothing about. Oh yeah, the old man with Wolverine claws, dominatrix love-interest chick. ♪ And the rest….are here on Gilligan’s Isssllllleeee!

Not like they even did anything either. They were simply meant to fight the lacky no-name no-face enemy characters to give the main guys a chance to go after the characters who actually somewhat matter. Eiji, one of the main characters, actually said “We don’t have time to deal with those pawns!” Yeah, great, thanks for telling me there’s no reason give a crap about what they’re doing.

I didn’t even really get to know the main character that well. He’s a master martial artist and a nice guy…..that’s…about…it.

Another character who literally shows up just to create a plot point is Ellis. She’s a cutesy knife thrower in the circus who was also a participant in the tournament that I’m told happened. She appears in the final minutes of episode one and is in a coma dying from poison five minutes into episode two.

I don’t care about this person. If anything, she annoys me. I don’t care about her dad (It was also an exposition rock that a fighter named Gaia was her dad) And oh she’s voiced by Lisa Ortiz….

Let’s address Uranus, hm? Well, first of all we don’t see her do anything. She’s one of those behind-the-scenes villains who talks big then runs off when she’s confronted face to face. Oh and…she grew wings out of nowhere.

By the way, can someone please explain to me what the hell this is?

It looks she fell in the shower, got wrapped up in the shower curtain, curtain rod and all, walked to the mirror and said, “….Hm…that’s fine. Time to go to work.”

And look at the front!

Her dress has no top! What was that listed as in the item description? “Side-Boob-Displaying Uncomfortable Dress from Hell”? That has got to be one of the dumbest clothing designs I’ve ever seen in anything.

Oh well, she has to look better when she’s prepared for battle, right?

Wow….more practical but still ugly as all hell. That does not look liked she’d be able to move, though, considering the way the shoulder guards are designed. Also, all that armor, looking clunky as a robot made of washing machines, and the two areas they don’t cover are the head and the boobs. Oh well, at least she has boob socks – the strongest of all female armor.

I am thoroughly unimpressed with everything. Thank you.

Our only two actual villains in this movie who do things are Sho and a man-machine (because ‘android’ or ‘cyborg’ are just too complicated) named Chaos. Sho’s obviously the big brother who joined the bad ranks for whatever reason but still wants to fight his brother in an honorable match. Chaos is just a crazy guy wielding a sickle. He has a grudge against Gaia for beating him a while back and that’s about it.

From what story I could piece together, there is nothing here. It’s filled with so many cliches and suffers from such a lack of originality that it’s just sad. Being cliché doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. You just have to be creative with the cliches…and they’re not. I could not care about anything in this OVA. Not the story. Not the characters. Nothing.

This isn’t even really good for action. The action scenes, while not being particularly boring, weren’t particularly interesting either. Their moves are so uninspired that I honestly would never be able to tell them apart if they were done one after another.

They all have regular weapons from your traditional sword, to a buster-sword-thing, to whips (of course the dominatrix character gets a whip….a PINK whip.) to big billy clubs (wielded by a female character who seems to be roller-derby-ish…..and they’re, of course, pink….They also look like giant Nerf toys.) to the aforementioned Wolverine claws. They also have the never-explained ability to use energy-powers, but none of these moves are memorable either.

Oh and did I mention that the ending basically resolves nothing? They manage to get the antidote for Ellis by defeating Chaos. The reason they couldn’t defeat him before was because he was turned into a man-machine. Every time he fought one of the main guys, he’d get data on their fighting styles and predict their moves. How was he beaten? Eiji shrugged him off and said to just fight using each other’s moves so Chaos couldn’t predict it.

Eiji: “You’re a fool for thinking we’d just do the same moves over and over.” You know what? That is a great point and a gigantic flaw in this multi-billion dollar experiment to make man-machine fighters. Way to go, Uranus, you dumb stupidly dressed sack of idiot.

Uranus gets away, the real Sho shows up (don’t ask) yet disappears as soon as he came to just say “Yeah I blew up all the stuff you had. Just wanted to end this BS. Bye!” Uranus escapes due to her unexplained sudden growth of wings (even though I don’t see how she really did escape unless there was a series of holes leading straight up out of the building), the good guys survive the explosion complete with walking out of the flames without even attempting to walk at a brisk pace because bad-ass.

Oh and at the very end, some guy, I guess, according to the Youtube comments, his name is Vermillion, comes out, Eiji smiles, unsheathes his sword, slashes once and reveals the title screen before the end credits start.

Bite. Me.

Look, if you want to release an OVA that is purely meant as an advertisement for a game or a manga or whatever – be my guest. There are plenty of times when that can work, but you have to do it well. You can’t expect that your audience knows all of this crap that may or may not be explained in the video games, and it’s really bad practice to do that because chances are the video game will become dated and phased out due to people ditching their old consoles for new ones, but the OVA will stick around for future viewings and people will be like insanely confused.

I guess the Youtube commenters must’ve been fans of the game because I just kept seeing “this is a good anime” and the like. However, seeing as how many people were also bringing up how this OVA is such a blast from the past, I’m going to either believe they have nostalgia goggles glued on or this OVA really is a lot better when you know of the game. However, I believe even if I knew of all of that stuff that this would still be awful.

Art and Animation: The art is terrible. It’s exaggerated fighting anime style, but it’s still really bad. I don’t know if I’d say it’s some of the worst I’ve seen, but it’s still awful. I will commend them for actually animating the action instead of just resorting to still screens, but the animation as a whole is pretty damn bad.

Voice acting: English Dub. Ranges from ‘okay’ to ‘Wow, they really hired this guy?’ Most of the characters lean on the side of okay, but characters like the Duke were just laughably bad.

Music: The music wasn’t that bad but like everything else it wasn’t memorable.

Bottomline: Unless you’ve played the old Battle Arena Toshinden games and can find some value in this OVA, there’s no point whatsoever in watching this. It’s confusing, poorly paced, extremely poorly written in terms of both story and dialogue, gives you no reason to care about anything and there’s not even good mindless fight scenes to enjoy. And I do have to reiterate – there’s no ‘battle arena’ in Battle Arena Toshinden. There WAS one. You just missed it.

Additional Information and Notes: Battle Arena Toshinden is based on a series of video games for the Playstation (1-3 and Vita) Game Boy and Sega Saturn. There hasn’t been an incarnation of the series since 2009, and even then it was released under an entirely different name with no connection to the previous storyline.

The OVA was produced by Animate Film and JC Staff. It was directed by Masami Obari, who also directed pretty much every Fatal Fury anime, Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer and uh…*cough*….some hentai titles.

It was co-written by Masaharu Amiya (episode one) who also did minor work on Ai Yori Aoshi, Beyblade, Karin, Inuyasha and….Yosuga no Sora.

Episode two was written by Haruo Takayama, and either the dude is too ashamed of this work to display it anywhere he’s listed or the Wiki doesn’t have accurate information. The only Haruo Takayama I can find did the screenplay for both of the Turn A Gundam movies and wrote the script for Jungle do Ikou’s OAV. Nothing anywhere about Battle Arena Toshinden.

The OVA was originally licensed under the now defunct Central Park Media, then known as US Manga Corps. Their licenses were distributed to many other media companies, but it’s unclear who owns the license to Battle Arena Toshinden now, if anyone owns it at all.

Episodes: 2

Year: 1996

Recommended Audience: Plenty of violence, but nothing gets incredibly gory. One nude shot, of course of a woman, of course the dominatrix lady, some sexual-ish content, no swearing. 12+


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