Psycho-Pass 6, K 7 and maybe the last, and Polar Bear 33

Psycho-Pass 6 gets down to business with the main story arc. It’s true that we’ve seen the ultimate culprit already; he’s been smirking on the sidelines in just about every episode, awaiting his turn to take the field … er, manipulate another person from the sidelines.

It only struck me now that the cops this episode aren’t working on a new case. Oh, one’s developing, but it’s only at the end when the workmen discover a charming piece of modern art in a fountain that it becomes an active case again. Up to that point in the episode it’s been Akane digging into Shinya’s background for no good reason I can think of. “I can’t figure that guy out” is a rotten answer. I can’t figure most people out but I don’t go digging through old police files and public records looking for clues. The fact that we have a couple of scenes of Shinya obsessing about the murder of his former partner. Like the culprit, Makishima, we’ve seen it before, but now the show begins to put these things together.

I’d have to agree, but coming from you … etc etc.

It’s well-done and straightforward, told steadily and patiently. And rather chilling as we see the bad guy has infiltrated a cloistered girls school, supposedly free from the whole psycho-pass thing. If Makishima can get in here then no place is safe. Yoshika is befriended by a dreamy upperclassman who talks to her about the strict limitations the government has placed on peoples’ lives. Even though she’s in cahoots with the bad guy(s) I have to agree with her. In fact, how many of us would wish to rebel against that world? But it does bother me that this show never gives us anyone who actively rebels against the rules who isn’t a murderous bastard or with cloudy credentials. What about normal people? Or is the very act of disapproving of the system enough to cloud you over, so to speak?

Some fine art and classical literature between murders.

It’s especially troubling because Makishima, says Shinya, is essentially giving people with the intent to kill the means to do it. The intent to kill bit can be easily looked up, apparently. But the means, that’s something the cops won’t be able to predict. And it doesn’t quite match with the current evil project with soulless Ouyou and her drawings. She’s not the one going all resin on innocent victims. Is she simply luring victims in? Surely Makishima is too sophisticated to need that sort of help. Maybe she’s a kindred soul? Another Shakespeare fan? How did she get involved in this in the first case? A lot of questions. This arc is off to a good start.

I’ll decide how I feel next week, but I haven a feeling I’m going to drop K. This after an episode 7 that looked all right and had possibly interesting things in it, but it was presented so blandly that lapsed into the lassitude I felt while watching it other weeks. There’s a fight between Kuroh and Munakata which, while animated well enough, had no life to it at all. It might have had to do with the choice of soundtrack there, music for playing after the party’s over and you’re coming down. And it was for naught because Shiro returns anyway. Then Shiro puts on an act with the aid of Neko and they escape, and we then learn that Neko can conveniently change memories as well. In this way we learn that the entire high school life was a lie, so right there they cut out the most interesting side of the anime. Homra are a bunch of dull, chiched thugs, Scepter 4 are priggish, upright nazis, and that’s all we got left, well, apart from the guy in the airship, and I have no interest whatever in meeting him. It’s a shame. This show can look really good, there’s a lot of talent behind it, and they’re pissing it away.

Polar Bear’s Cafe 33 brings us one story with an interlude where we learn just how important hand-picked beans are to a great cup of coffee. In the main story the Penguins’ action show is a big hit and Panda feels his corner is in a slump. Of course, Full-Time Panda has his part-time job to keep him occupied. Rin Rin offers as solution which isn’t quiet enough, but it’s strange to see him and Panda working together. The episode isn’t terribly good until we get the solution and a descent into classic Polar Bear Cafe lunacy, a panda family drama in which the prodigal son returns, but reveals … well, I won’t spoil it, but make sure you have your tissues on hand!

Psycho-Pass 5, Polar Bear 32, K 6

Unconventional police work.

Psycho-Pass‘s attitude toward new technology and the people who use them seem to be as old-fashioned as any other show. Many of the characters seemed unaware of the social networks’ size and significance, while others wonder why people would bother. Only Akane, the youngest, seems to understand the what’s going on. Masaoka seems to have it both ways as he paints flowers while others are plugged in, yet can quote Rousseau and discuss how humans are basically social animals and suggest the online world is another reflection of this (in an other wise confusing speech I’m still trying to find a purpose for, though I like the bottle of booze he plunked down if only for its later, practical use). And we see it later when the team try to raid a couple of places only to find that the enemies had set up little tricks that might seem obvious to us (well, maybe not the interior hologram distortion) but befuddle and nearly kill the police. Though it’s Masaoka who finds a way out of the hologram trap using two practical, physical items, the booze and a lighter.

Conventional police work.

As far as the episode goes, it’s a basic police procedural with a “acquaintance of hero gets killed” twist, meaning we get two scenes where Akane stares off at nothing allowing the more experienced cops to drop some condolence and advice on her. Their method for pinpointing the person now doing the avatars felt smart and was a combination of statistical data analysis and human insight. And it’s not over. The people really responsble for all this are still smiling smugly in the background. I figure they’re going to the official series villains. In all it was an interesting story, even if the ideas of avatars being the pure creation of users’ expectations fell flat, and if that one cop didn’t notice that electric eye trigger.

Polar Bear’s backyard has a lot of fun things.

On Polar Bear’s Cafe 32 we learn all about Polar Bear’s yard. We already know there’s a terrace there and a cherry tree, but did you know that the cafe grows its own vegetables, and the garden is tended by kangaroos? You remember that they roast their own coffee with the help of red squirrels, but did you know that Polar Bear also employs Lemurs to make their mozarella from water buffalo milk? They also grow herbs, but no one seems to be in charge of that. And there’s a driving range, basketball court, and two mysterious paths that I wish they had gone up, but also wish that they don’t. Like Snoopy’s doghouse, some things must remain a mystery. The second half isn’t bad but we’ve already seen the penguins try to unload their surplus cards, and a penguin hero action show doesn’t sound very interesting to me. Question: why doesn’t our Penguin-san participate in these meetings? Or why isn’t he invited?

Oh, for the love of god, don’t sing! Don’t … No wonder he got murdered.

K 6 is better than last week’s but that’s not saying much. We spend much of the time with Shiro and Kuroh (Neko runs away at some point) and watch as Shiro’s perceived world begins to break down. He calls Kukuri, who does not know who he is. His parents’ phone isn’t reachable and even his house is gone. He treats this all with a tragic bewilderment while I, for about the first time all series, really want to know what’s going on. It’s the only reason I’m going to watch next week. The other half gives us Totsuka’s story, starting as a kid following Mikoto around, finally getting in with the gang in spite of his non-violence. He says an important line to Mikito about his powers being only used for good, etc, but otherwise he’s a complete bore. He even sings folk songs (and worse, we have to hear one)! So when he gets shot by the colorless king or Shiro, it’s supposed to be a great tragedy, but I can only breathe a sigh of relief.

K 5, ROBOTICS 4, Polar Bear 31

I’m still looking for K to get its act together and do something, but episode 5 is no better than what we’ve seen before. In fact, it’s worse. Shiro, mulling over the bloody clothes he found which throws serious doubt on his innocence, leaves the school with Kuroh and Neko to get more fireworks. At roughly the same time, members of the Red and Blue team show up to apprehend or kill him. The Blues get in their “legally,” by strong-arming school admin, a nice way to demonstrate their clout in society, I suppose. Included in the team is Saruhiko, who used to be red but is now blue (actually, a little of both, as it turns out). He does nothing to improve the characters’ overall annoyance level, taunting Misaki (skateboard kid) so much that NO ONE wants to hear that name again, let alone Misaki.

The least exciting well-animated battle of the season.

So the two of them fight, and it is a total bore. Misaki leaps and grunts, Saruhiko just parries and giggles. Then the other Blues show up and tell them to knock it off. This is a high school, you know! … Could have fooled me. The students are supposedly prepping for the annual festival but the only ones we see are groups of two or three who run off when they see a Red. The courtyard where the fight happens is completely deserted. I honestly don’t know who’s running this thing. A big budget and cast and none of the creators want to DO anything with them. Everyone’s just mailing it in.

K 5 felt like a wasted episode where nothing really happened. ROBOTICS;NOTES 4’s dithering has more purpose.

Kaito should have joined the K creative team for the week.

Much of the episode involves Akiho’s trying to raise money for the robot fund while Kaito and Suburu sit around not caring. About the only things that happen (that matter) are that Suburu gets Kaito to be his pilot at the upcoming world games, and Furugoori, the show’s new crazy chick, moves in next door to the robot hanger. Kaito losing to Suburu after 21 wins suggests that he actually doesn’t mind piloting that robot, or maybe he just gave in. I suspect it’s the latter because Suburu’s robot can’t be as much fun to pilot. But that plot point seems to be a distraction, really, unless it means Kaito’s going to have another Elephant-Mouse Syndrome attack. … That’s right: the show has two plot points and an infodump at the end, though not a dull one since we get flashbacks and not just a talking head explaining it, with a mysterious event to top it all off.

A wicked grin. That’s more like it.

The other point, Furugoori’s moving in, is where the story is really heading–certainly not in Akiho’s desperate and amusing attempts to wheedle money out of anyone she suspects has it, scenes which padded out the episode. A girl who can move into a old building and get it refurbished to do mysterious stuff already makes her interesting. Her twisted grin is also interesting. Her messed-up way of speaking is not (though I love her voice), but she drops a few hints of things she knows or suspects, which at least makes what she says interesting. More interesting this episode than Ahiko, supposedly a main character, running into indifference and shouting at it all episode. And let’s not forget that gray-haired girl who’s been in the ED all along but finally makes a sort-of appearance in the actual show. Very interesting indeed. Good, now that they’ve laid all these interesting plot and character possibilities on the board it’s time to move some of them. Unlike K, I have some confidence they know where they’re going.

Polar Bear’s Cafe 31 is one of the best yet. The two sections exhibited the show’s odd strengths.

Penguin tries bullshitting his way out of it.

First, it’s crisis time (again) for Penguin, as all seven of his would-be girlfriends confront him at the cafe. Which does he like the best? Can he even tell them apart. Polar Bear and the others try from time to time to intervene. Llama shows that he is quite the ladies man, or would be if he could get anyone to notice him, by being the only one of any species who can tell them apart. Penguin tries a comeback, then Panda joins them and ruins everything in his own unique way. Every character interacts using their strengths.

(fangirl squeal) It’s YAMA ARASHI!!

The second half works on the show’s knack for putting animals in human roles, allowing us a splendid WTF moments, in this case, porcupines as an idol group named Yama Arashi. Mrs. Panda and King Penguin adore them and have a super time at their concert in the dome! I sort of wanted a more direct parody of one of the idol shows we’ve had recently, but, face it, porcupines aren’t known for their dance moves, nor the capybaras backing them up. Besides, this show doesn’t have the budget. But there’s something irresistible about the lights coming up on four porcupines to the screams of thousands of girls, a panda and a penguin.

Panzer, K, Pet 4, Tonari 5, and this Lychee thing 1-2

Girls und Panzer 4 brings us one of the sillier armored combat battles you’ll ever see. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Either Miho has a killing instinct or everyone else in the battle is an idiot.

The friendly between our gals and the St. Gloriana (or whatever) Academy brings us back to the original episode, but, happily, very little repeated footage. We see Miho’s tank draw off the more experienced enemy, who claim they know it’s a trap, but proceed anyway, Just as well; Oorai’s cunning plan nearly leaves them surrounded and soon two tanks are deserted or damaged and they retreat–right into town, while the townspeople either cheer or look on with curiosity (apparently they’re heavily insured and are quite used to tan battles). They take advantage of the local obstacles and get done in by others. Loved the parking garage bit. Through it all I was wondering if Miho was an inspired commander or the other team was a loaded with incompetents, especially near the end where Miho takes out two tanks in about ten seconds due to a turn. Never mind. It was a harmless battle with that cheerful martial music they play. It’s hard to resist.

Back to reality. In the time left we get a personal crisis, this one involving Hana, who’s mother is shocked to learn she’s on the panzer squad and not arranging flowers. It’s not much of a crisis right now even though she gets kicked out of her home. She was living in the dorms anyway and is sure she can get her mother to come around eventually. The whole thing is settled (for now) so quickly there’s still time to start the national championships drawing. Naturally, Oorai gets to fight one of the tournament favorites in the first round. So we had a battle, personal crisis and the new story arc this episode, and each was done as superficially as the others. Just as well. If this show gets too deep it’s doomed.

We spend most of K 4 watching Shiro go about trying to prove his innocence. The incident was over an hour away from the high school, so if he can prove he was at the school, he’s okay. This proves to be more difficult than he thought. No one can remember him being around that night. He didn’t have his PDA so he can’t prove he was or wasn’t there, etc. Meanwhile Kuroh gets more and more irritated, until Kukuro remembers seeing him. Then he goes home and finds bloody clothes. So he’s all confused, as you can expect. That’s basicially the story for the episode.

There’s really no point to this moment.

The thing is, the show is trying very very hard to be clever and stylish, not to mention blue-tinted (I swear, I wanted to check my screen settings). We’re treated to numerous flashbacks of an incident (Mishino elaborately confessing to Kukuro and getting shot down) from various times and angles, eccentric stuff, and meant to put an absurd edge on this serious matter of establishing an alibi, and while it’s amusing enough I didn’t really care about it. I knew that something would happen somewhere to contradict Shiro’s story; it was just a question of where and when. Also, Shiro gets on my nerves so I don’t care if he lives or not. Finally, its clear that the show has taken such great efforts to shove weird characters in our faces, two gangs and a high school, not to mention a cat girl and a ninja-cook, but none of them really matter, and they keep getting lost or ignored. At one point Kukuro has just innocently destroyed Shiro’s alibi, Kuroh has drawn his sword to kill him, Neko has jumped in his way and … what happened to Kukuro? Isn’t she surprised by this? It’s like there’s an offstage that she retired to until her next line comes up. The show feels like a collection of lunatic scenes placed in order, not a story.

Everyone’s glad he’s staying, but why is he?

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo 4 wraps up the first story arc, but I’m not really sure what causes Sorata’s change of heart about leaving the dorms. Like last episode much time is spent stewing over the fact that so many of the others around him are focused geniuses while he isn’t sure what he wants. And we also get time with Jin talking about how hard it is to survive when near extraordinary talent. Wait, I thought Jin was really good at something too, apart from the women. This isn’t the normal type of problem in high school romance anime, so I was interested. So what makes Sorata change his mind? Ryuusuke hinted that he hasn’t actually tried to achieve anything on his own, yet. But that doesn’t mean he has to stay in that dorm; in fact, he’d probably get more work done elsewhere. It couldn’t be because he wants Mashiro to have a better ending for her manga, because she changed it anyway. After he tells Mashiro he’s going to follow these suddenly-recalled dreams she calls it his “debut.” So why is he staying? Has he decided he’ll risk being burned by the bright lights around him? It’s a shame I can’t follow the logic here, becausse the first story arc was surprisingly good, though I don’t know what they’ll do next.

Which is fine because no one wants him to.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun 5 is some sort of filler episode and about the only thing we get out of it is some more background on Haru and a possible rival at the end. They hint at a crisis where Haru’s brother Yuzan shows up and talks about their father wishing for Haru to return now that he’s cleaned up his act a little, oh and sweets. But it’s no crisis at all because Yuzan doesn’t want him to return. Haru “hates” his family and wouldn’t return anyway. Shizuku certainly doesn’t want Haru going away, either. All three are in agreement, but they decide to have a confrontation, anyway. The other thing, about glasses-girl Chizuru, might be more interesting if only what it does to Shizuku. She admits by the end of the episode that she would miss Haru if he left, and what’s more, she would miss hanging out with the people she’s met. So this possible rival could put her in a blue funk. But only her. I don’t see Haru straying from her, and Chizuru doesn’t seem the type to up and try to steal Haru away, even if she could. In other words, it’s going to be an examination of Shizuku under jealousy. Maybe.

I had heard that Lychee Light Club was a cruel and disgusting work of manga, and maybe it is. But the two five-minute episodes that have popped up on the web aren’t all that depraved. Maybe the club members get worse. Anyway, the first two mini-episodes have the various club members come up with ideas for a problem (punishing an intruder and converting the robot who kidnapped the girl), which are either implemented and get laughs or get shot down by the club’s leader. Some of the suggestions remind me of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, but everyone’s a guy here. Well apart from the girl, who doesn’t seem to mind being kidnapped and has made friends with the robot who abducted her. The animation is crude but I like the character designs, half grotesque, half cute, and the rest of the art. Not bad.

SAO 15, and a few episode twos

Sword Art Online 15 brings us what feels to be new season and apparently a new world to fight in, but first we get a depressing episode in the real world where we don’t see the sun shine once.

A friendly new character in the real world.

Kirito (can we still use that name?) is rehabilitating but not yet up to normal strength. He’s attended for the moment by his devoted younger cousin Sugu. We see them spar at Kendo and just hang out while we ascertain what Kirito’s physical and mental situation is. Physical: getting there. Mental: some troubles–nightmares, mind wandering, but you’d expect that. I wonder how much the gamers are allowed to tell their family and friends about the game. Every time Kirito mutters some reference to it around other Sugu he adds a nevermind. Or is he just not talking about it? It must drive poor Sugu crazy at times.

An unfriendly new character in the real world.

Naturally we’re wondering about Asuna. Turns out she hasn’t woken up yet, and Kirito can only visit her in the hospital and hope. While we wonder what’s going on, of course. Now we get some real-life story in the person of Sugou, who’s somehow going to marry Asuna while she’s still comatose. It gets a little ridiculous here. The moment Asuna’s sympathetic father leaves the room Sugou becomes the personification of evil, licking his lips, sniffing Asuna’s hair, basically rubbing it in that he’s going to marry Asuna and Kirito isn’t, not to mention that Asuna hates him in the real world. You know, you can be evil and still be subtle! I know we’re now supposed to officially hate Sugou, but the way he delivered that speech makes it hard to take him seriously.

Meanwhile, in virtual reality …

But we should because Sugou works for the company (Recto) that runs the servers, i.e., they’re keeping Asuna alive. And by the unspoken implication, they’re keeping her comatose as well, for whatever reason. Or is he? After a long night of despair for Kirito (softened by Sugu, unable to face reality and knowing it, climbing into bed with him) Kirito gets a gif in an email that shows Asuna in a game. How did she get there? Did they just pass her along to another online world? It’s blurry, but you can tell she looks unhappy. This sets up an interesting situation next episode, as the farce of a marriage happens in a week. Is she going to get pulled out by then, or will Kirito join her so they can be a couple online, though not in the real world?

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure 2 is as entertainingly overwrought as the first episode, but I wonder how long the novelty’s going to last.

Dun Dun Dun!

We start with a surprise. Jojo and Dio on the same rugby team, cooperating, teaming up to get a needed score and acting like they’re the best of buds. But it can’t possibly be true, and sure enough the show lets us into their minds to show that they still despise each other. And later, when Jojo finds a letter that suggests that Dio is secretly poisoning their ailing father, the seething inner hate comes out in full force again. Woah, does it! Anything these characters do is done with big effects and equally dramatic poses. Can’t they just stand there for once?

Okay, if goons are about to attack you, feel free to pose dramatically.

Jojo goes off to London, specifically, Ogre Street, the worst spot in it, to find a devious oriental mind capable of making the drug poisoning his father. Because we haven’t had a big fight yet he’s quickly pounced on by three, then a whole gang of nasties, until his gentlemanly fighting impresses one of them and tells the others to stop. Meanwhile, Dio, knowing that the mask has some power, comes to London too (not sure why), and discovers just how powerful the mask is. Yeah, plenty of plot this episode. This series doesn’t want to stand still for a minute, and I hope it doesn’t.

Dio’s battle doesn’t go as well as Jojo’s.

There’s hardly a moment where there isn’t sudden lighting change to show the internal mood of a character, along with those dramatic poses, not to mention the written sound effects throughout, the psychedelic color scheme (seriously, this show is like reading a dime novel while tripping), not to mention the churning musical score. It goes all-out the entire time. But can they make it last? I imagine that by episode 5 I’ll be thoroughly bored by all the above. Right now it’s telling (or churning) an interesting story, they better keep it up.

K 2, not the mountain, is so determined to confuse and amuse us that it almost loses any sense of coherency. We start with Shiro about to be skewered by Black Dog, or whatever his name is. We expect some intervention by the Homra guys (the Shizuo wannabe, the skateboard kid, the goth loli. YOU know) but to our surprise Shiro shows he can be pretty devious when someone is about to kill him. Oh, Black Dog is a sucker for sob story. Still, it’s a ridiculous scene and makes you wonder just how effective BD is at his job. So the chase continues and now skateboard kid gets involved (Homra also wants Shiro, it seems), and Shiro messes with both their minds by calling from a rooftop, showing more survival skills than the kid ought to have if he’s a totally innocent fool like he makes out to be.

Nah, don’t listen to him.

That was weird enough but it managed to hold together. The next part doesn’t. Shiro goes to his dorm wondering what it was all about (thus proving that, at least on the conscious level, he’s innocent) and the little white kitten he had befriended turns into a full-blown naked girl. We had seen this last week, so we’re not surprised, but Shiro is, and we’re surprised that he’s surprised. Didn’t he know about “Neko,” as she (of course) calls herself? Then BD shows up, we get another chase, and everything begins to lose its shape. We’re led to believe that the chase goes on all through the night, Neko casting illusions when they get cornered, and they all wind up in the dorm at dawn, hungry for breakfast. That they could run all night was ridiculous, and BD deciding breakfast before duty even more so … the topper being that his sinister briefcase turns out to be something out of Good Eats. I love a sense of fun in my shows, but it’s got to balance out and make sense, not tip the scale over onto the floor.

Let the battle begin!

I don’t have an excuses for Busou Shinki. You could remove the living doll element and add small children, or funny animals and you’d barely have to change a thing past that. The Shinki decide to make a congratulations feast for their master, make a mess of the place, and clean it up before the master gets home. The fact that they’re dolls, sometimes framed all fanservicey, just gives it an eww! feel. But I enjoyed episode 2 in spite of myself. I know it’s using a novelty to hide a mundane story line, but I liked how Hina/Strarf (depending on who’s talking to her) fights off those intruder dolls … and what the hell WERE those girls, anyway? If they’re robotic vermin, like mice, why are they saying nyan and meow all the time? There is absolutely no point to their existence and I loved it. I also felt sorry for Hina, designed for combat but placed in a household where they don’t (normally) fight. What is the point of her existence? I actually felt sorry for her. The shinki cooking disasters section was pretty good as well. I have no excuse.

New! Kamisama… , BTOOM!, Tempest, K

Our heroine.

Kamisama Hajimemashita was late in getting subbed so I tried watching it raw. The introductory notes on various websites was really all I needed to get the gist. I understood just about everything up until the little assistants dumped that big pile of notebooks at Namami’s feet, which is where I stopped. Also, I was getting a little bored. Homeless high school girl Namami helps a stranger who kisses her on the forehead and makes her the new earth deity at a run-down temple. There’s a fox servant-deity named Tomoe who’s been running the place, but he won’t have anything to do with Namami. The rest of the episode has her trying to get him back, though he’s aloof, smug, and annoying, because she doesn’t have much in the way of real power except her forehead glows from time to time.

Namami’s supposed to fall in love with THAT?

Namami is fun to watch. She’s got a temper and stands up to Tomoe’s arrogant remarks, even to the point where she’ll get eaten if she doesn’t beg forgiveness. The problem is Tomoe. Though he’s supposed to be the male romantic interest I see little that’s appealing about him. You can understand some of his disdain; he’s been running the temple on his own for twenty years and then this powerless girl shows up and takes claim of it. But that’s it. It’s clear that his devotion was because of Mikage, the previous deity, nothing more. Also, he’s supposed to look “like a model,” but I’m not seeing that at all. Well, they’re not in love yet. Then we have the two other, smaller servants, Onikiri and Koutetsu, there apparently to feed exposition and further annoy us. Otherwise, the art and animation look primitive but work well enough within its constraints. The humor was well-done, mostly. It’s not going to be a great series, but it might be Worth a half hour a week.

Youta is apparently good at not getting hurt by bombs at close range.

BTOOM! is another show where a guy finds himself in the world of his favorite game. But this one is grittier than Accel World or SAO, and the world our “hero” Youta finds himself in is the real world, just off on a tropical island. It’s also more unpleasant. In his normal world he’s a NEET who wants to work for the company who makes the game (who doesn’t want him, or DO they?) and nowhere else, so he turns down all the jobs his mother tries to line up for him, to the point of throwing a console at her (and partly through the wall). You almost want him to get blown up (no guns, only bombs in this game). The first episode is largely Youta trying to figure out what’s going on while some other guy tries to kill him, and it works pretty well. We’re sucked in with him, trying to figure out his options, though his opponent is prone to overconfidence and giving evil speeches before he acts; you wonder how he survived so long. You wonder how many players there are. You wonder how they get shunted back and forth and what happens when the bombs run out. You wonder a lot of things, but it’s episode one. I’m not sure this show is to my taste, but it’s only fair to give it a trial.

Zetsuen no Tempest 1 aims for the sweeping and dramatic. Great crashing grey waves on a cliff where a long grave marker stands, along with people quoting Shakespeare and pointing guns while a full orchestral score plays. Oh, and lots of butterflies fluttering about the snowflakes …

Our heroes stare at a round thing.

We jump from character to character. We got Hakaze, marooned on a desert island. She’s a powerful sorceress but is powerless there. After we watch her getting out of her barrel and making pissed-off speeches we briefly meet Samon, who put her there. But most of the time is spent with Yoshino, high school male, who’s best friend, Fuwa, has gone missing, not that he cares too much. And Aika, Fuwa’s beloved sister who apparently had a crush on Fuwa (but who behaved exactly the opposite) was killed a while back. Yoshino’s visiting her grave (the one on the cliffs) when things get weird.

Our heroes stare at another round thing.

Fraulein Yamamoto points a gun and starts asking questions about Fuwa, then long-lost Fuwa, glowing, shows up and knocks her unconscious. Butterflies appear. Fuwa’s got a wooden doll that’s a direct line to Hakaze on that island. We get exposition as everyone in town starts to turn to iron and a big glowing ball in chains rises out of the ocean. Oh, and there’s the question of Yoshino’s unnamed girlfriend in the next town over, who Fuwa possibly rescued in a previous hushed-up “black iron syndrome” attack, and who looks exactly like Aika did. What are we to make of all this? Well, it’s a complicated story but the first episode tells it coherently. Fuwa is unpleasant and selfish but driven to do good things because it’s useful to him. Yoshino is along for the ride right now. He doesn’t seem very surprised by any of this in spite of all his lines about the world going mad. It all feels very grand with that orchestra playing nearly throughout and characters quoting Hamlet (not, as you would guess, The Tempest), but is it in fact hiding a mundane story? We’ll see.

K might be hiding a mundane story, too, but like Tempest episode 1 is so full of style that it doesn’t matter much.

After the show has shown off some amazing visuals we look at some people walking together. Then we see them breaking into someone’s hi-rise office and threatening him with guns and telekinesis stuff until a goth-loli appears, looks at the victim through a marble and announces he doesn’t know anything. Then another group, Sceptor 4, in nice uniforms, shows up and there’s a big fight with pink flames and stuff. Then the credits, where we see both sides of this fight, so I guess we’re stuck with them. At the moment I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be rooting for either side, but the thuggish ones have a goth loli, so I’m going with them.

Shiro, before the plot kicks in.

We cut to the richest high school I’ve ever seen where some innocent-looking effeminate boy named Yashiro is asked to pick up some fireworks for the school festival. He’s asked this by a girl who earlier spent valuable show time looking for him in vain, where we also saw a naked girl, who I think is the kitten who accompanies Yashiro on his subsequent misadventures. But by then we’ve gotten used to such things. The show is obviously trying to dazzle and confuse us and it does a pretty good job with striking moments like the low-angle shot of the skateboard kid (right out of Paranoia Agent, meanwhile there’s a bartender gang member who looks like Shizuro), or the detailed crowd at the intersection. We’re admiring the visuals and waiting for something to happen. So far it’s been a lot of scenes that have little to do with anything or end before they should.

Shiro, after the plot kicks in.

But when it does come together it does so quickly. The first gang spot Shiro on the street and start to chase him around. We don’t know why, but it’s some sustained, comprehensible action for the first time. Plus, Shiro is just as confused as we are and that makes us more interested. Then a completely new guy, Kurou, or Black Dog, rescues him, but now maybe HE’s going to kill him. Apparently hapless Shiro looks exactly like (or maybe is) some killer King of something. And before the credits we see the first gang’s leader in a Sceptor 4 jail cell. Apparently the show has a lot of things to tell us, and if the first episode is any indication it’s going to do so in it’s own time and style. Well, it’s great to look at, even better than Tempest. I’m not sure I’m going to warm up to the story or not, but they threw so much money at episode one it would be unfair to stop watching so soon.