Saturday, July 20, 2013

Suisei no Gargantia

Suisei no Gargantia starts out as a space opera, in the middle of a massive battle between humans and their arch-enemies, the Hideauze.   Ledo is a young lieutenant in the human space force.  He has been battling the Hideauze his entire life, and war and fighting is all he knows.

As the series begins, Ledo in his mecha, Chamber, is thrown out of a battle and across space.  He and Chamber end up on a water world where humans are living on cobbled together fleets of ships.  They live by fishing and trapping rain water for drinking, and they salvage old tech from the ocean floor to trade with other fleets.  Chamber, with Ledo inside, is “salvaged” from the ocean, and Ledo finds himself living with humans who are primitive by his standards on a massive fleet, appropriately called Gargantia.

The initial interactions between Ledo and the members of the fleet are not smooth.  A young girl named Amy takes Ledo under her wing, and begins to try to teach him to be more human.  Ledo has only two modes that he knows how to operate in, battle and stand-by.  He doesn’t understand work and play.  He believes that only people capable of fighting deserve to survive, so struggles with the existence of Amy’s crippled brother.  When the fleet is approached by pirates, the fleet asks for Ledo’s help.  He kills all the pirates since that’s what he knows, while they expected him to only help them drive the pirates off.  

Just as Amy is succeeding and Ledo is beginning to figure out how humans live on this world, he discovers that primitive Hideauze live in the world’s oceans, and he goes into extermination mode.  Unfortunately, the primitive Hideauze are held in almost religious esteem by most of the fleet members and the interactions between them and Ledo become even worse.

Along the way, the head of the Gargantia fleet dies and his young daughter takes over as fleet commander.  At that time, the fleets splits up and a salvage expert named Pinion convinces Ledo to go with them .  This splinter group goes to wipe out a major Hideauze nest in order to salvage the tech under them.  This suits Ledo fine since he would like to wipe out all Hideauze on the world.  As Ledo exterminates the Hideauze in the nest, including eggs and young, he comes across some shattering evidence.  The Hideauze are evolved from humans.  The water world they are on is the original human world.  It’s sun went nova and before that happened two factions of humans existed, one who believed humans needed to evolve into beings that could exist in space or in water, and the other faction who believed that humans should stay humans.  Even before humans left earth, and before they finished evolving, the two factions began battling each other, and the massive, never-ending space battles are a continuation of the battles between evolving humans and non-evolving  humans.

Ledo is devastated to know that all his life he’s been killing beings evolved from humans and he stops killing them.  At this juncture, Ledo's former commander from space shows up.  He has set himself and his mecha up as God, ruling the people in his fleet with an iron hand and getting rid of those who aren’t useful.  Ledo originally joins his former commander, but when the commander sets his sights on conquering Gargantia and making her people slaves, Ledo goes to battle for Amy and the people of fleet Gargantia.  
This series is fairly predictable at times, although I didn’t expect to find that the Hideauze started as humans.   The characters are interesting, with Ledo’s mecha Chamber actually seeming occasionally more human than Ledo does early on in the series.  The settings and characters  are colorful and bright.  And the mecha aspect is kept to a reasonable level instead of being the focus, like in so many mecha series.   Overall it’s a good series to watch. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hataraku Maou-sama

I just finished watching this series, so I thought I do a short post about it.  Except for Shingeki no Kyojin, all the series I picked up in April ended up being short, 12-13 episode series, so I’ll probably be talking about several of them in the next several weeks – and hoping some new series come out.

There’s no real point to Hataraku Maou-sama, unless it’s that not all “bad guys” are bad, and not all “good guys” are good.  But the series is really funny.  It has clumsy heroes, protagonists that stop in the middle of battles and argue about mundane things, bad guy demons who save humans, antagonists who help each other out, and of course, the ultimate funny – the Demon Lord, Satan, who works at McRonald’s.  I thoroughly enjoyed this series all the way through.

The premise is this:  In a feudal world, the humans, led by the Hero Emilia, have defeated the Demon Lord Satan and he and his chief strategist general, Alsiel, flee through a world gate – directly into modern day Tokyo Japan, where they take human form and have no demonic powers whatsoever.  This opening gambit is pretty hysterical.  They are penniless and powerless.  They take a six-tatami room, Maou takes a job at McRonald’s under the name of Maou Sadao, and Alsiel, going by Ashiya Shirou, keeps house for him.
The Hero Emilia follows them into modern Japan with the intent of killing them, and since she also has power problems and needs to locate them, she takes a job at a call center under the name Yusha Emi.  She locates Maou and Ashiya, but is confused by their apparently normal human actions, as Maou works hard at McRonald’s.  He becomes a shift leader and supervisor at McRonald’s and also becomes the object of a crush by his co-worker, Sakaki Chiho.

Along the way in the series the lines between good and evil are badly blurred.  A leader of the church from their homeworld comes to Japan and in a pact with Lucifer (one of Maou’s generals) tries to kill both Emilia and Maou, and in the process injures many innocent human bystanders.  Maou discovers he can regain his powers by sucking the negative energy from the bystanders fear and pain, etc.  He gathers power and uses it to work with Emilia to defeat the church leader and Lucifer and to repair all the damage done to people and property.   After his defeat, Lucifer joins Maou and Ashiya in their six-tatami room, as an 18-year old NEET (no education, employment, training) with a penchant for computers and games. 

Later more “good guys”, arrive in the form of the Church’s chief Inquisitor, Kamazaki Suzuno, and the demented and perverted angel, Sariel, who both try to kill Maou.  Sariel also tries to takes Emilia’s Holy Sword from her as well as killing Maou.  Maou again defeats the “good guys” and rescues Emilia and Chiho from Sariel.  In this battle, both Lucifer and Suzuno end up taking Maou’s side.   See?  Badly blurred lines of good and evil.

In the end, everyone goes on about their mundane daily human lives, with Maou and Emilia not quite friends, but not quite enemies either.

All the way through, this series is funny, even when serious things are happening.  For example, Maou, getting ready to fight Sariel and save Emilia and Chiho, takes off his McRonald’s uniform so it won’t get dirty or damaged and fights in his underwear.   Watch this series for the laughs if for no other reason.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Devil Survivor 2

Devil Survivor 2, The Animation, is about three teenagers who load a new phone app onto their phones and pay the price.  The teenagers are Kuze Hibiki, Nitta Io and Shijima Daichi.  The phone app is Nicaea Dead Faces and it allows them to see the faces of friends who die – immediately before those friends die.   The app is very accurate.  However, people who have this app, when they die, get one chance to live again, as a Summoner.  They can use the app and their cell phone to summon demons to fight bad demons who are killing humans and destroying the world.

That’s where the story starts.  The three die, become Summoners and summon demons to try to protect the people around them.  In doing so they come to the attention of JPS, an organization composed of Summoners who are ostensibly working for the same purpose as Hibiki-tachi, to protect people and the world.   The head of JPS, a megalomaniac named Hotsuin Yamato, realizes that Hibiki and his summoned demons are extraordinarily powerful, and he ropes the three kids in to use for his purposes.  Along the way, an extraneous, weird character named Alcor, sticks his nose into everyone’s business.

The background, which comes out throughout the story is this:  An all-powerful being named Polaris has decided that humans are worthless and has decided to destroy all of them along with their world.  He sets up a 7-day “test” to see if any humans are worthy of surviving.  The humans must battle the demonic Septentrion that attack them for 7 days, and if any survive, they can then create their own world the way they want it.  Yamato comes from a family that’s known about this coming battle for centuries, and Yamato himself is an extremely powerful Summoner.  He plans to be the lone survivor who will rebuild his own world – without foolish, weak, unnecessary humans.  In the process of the 7-day battles, he orders many people into battle with no concern whatsoever for their deaths.  In the meantime, Hibiki discovers that Alcor is a Septentrion, and learns about the history and Yamato’s plans. 

Alcor turns out to be an interesting and pivotal character.  He is a Septentrion who has come to care about humans.  He watched Yamato grow up and harden into his plans to reset the world and then Alcor switched allegiance to Hibiki and Hibiki’s plans to save the world, even though as a Septentrion, Alcor should have no feelings or allegiances.

The story plot line comes to a head after Hibiki makes his discoveries and Yamato sacrifices Nitta to defeat the sixth-day Septentrion.  Hibiki gains even more power and saves Nitta, pushing Yamato aside to do it.

In the end the battle comes down to Yamato and his beliefs versus Hibiki and his beliefs.   Whoever is stronger will be the one to reset the world in his image of the ideal. 

The ending of this series is actually very satisfying.  I didn’t expect that after watching everyone but Hibiki and Yamato get killed by the Septentrion.  So I ended up liking the series quite a bit and being glad I watched it.  It was pretty well done, even if it was developed from a game.