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.

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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.

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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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