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Annotated Anime Early Edition: Winter 2011 Week 4

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Greetings, and welcome to another week's worth of Annotated Anime, the Early Edition that was up too late beating around the bush, leading to the fact that this Early Edition is pretty damn late!

We bring to you today a boatload of hot, heavy recapping action, including ones for Fractale, Level E, Beelzebub, GOSICK, Dragon Crisis! (with bonus Mike LeChevallier facepalm pic), Wandering Son, Kimi ni Todoke, and Brad's final decision to disown I Don't Love My Big Brother At All!

Tell us what you thought of this week's batch of Japan-cartoons! And don't forget to check back (really soon) for the Late Edition of Annotated Anime, and on Friday to get your weekly serving of Fighting Friday, our battle-show-and-manga-recap!

Jeff Chuang

Fractale Episode 3

What happens when a village full of people bought their first 3D HDTV?

Clain and Nessa, cooperating as captives, land in Granitz Village, the home of a group of Lost Millenniums--rebels against the Fractale system. Also, Enri is totally in tsundere mode. This is kind of important because it turns out that because only people who don't hate Nessa can touch this special dopple. And of course, Enri could touch her. Isn't it cute? In fact Nessa kind of goes into pestering-little-sister mode on Enri, haunting her computer screens even when Enri took off her VR glasses, to Enri's dismay.

Virtual Reality? We find out this week that only those people who have the Fractale nanomachines implemented in them can see her, or else they will have to use a pair of glasses ala Dennou Coil. Nanomachines? Yes, episode 3 of Fractale is huge on exploration of setting. It turns out that for the past thousand years, humanity have been living within the Fractale system. It is a network of nanomachines that provides full medical care and it even gets rid of negative feelings and desire to harm yourself, which clearly is something these rebels are against. 

I can go on, but revelations after revelations chained this week's installment together. At the end of the episode we witness something very uncharacteristic--as the rebels go after some of the Fractale priestesses, bullets and lasers started to fly. Rebels, priestesses and innocent people turned into bloody bodies, until we saw yet another big reveal--Phyrne reappears and stops the violence, while showing us that she is Nessa's sister. Not Nessa the dopple, but the flesh-and-blood version of Nessa, who was holding the nanomachine-update-slash-star-festival ceremony.

So far the story and setting in Fractale are both very interesting, but it feels like the different, unusual and almost clashing combination of elements thrown in there still have not settled. I'm enjoying myself, but I don't know if it is nearly as dramatic as it should have been, given the sudden pathos at the end of the episode. On the bright side, we've already learned a lot about the mysterious world that we can now focus more so on plot.
 
[Watch Fractale on FUNimation's video page or via Hulu. The stream is free and legal, so use it!]
 
Kristina Pino
 
Level E Episode 4
 


After the huge dupe from the beginning of the series, this episode starts with a mystery that turns into another dupe. A couple of high school kids disappear, and a trio of a victim's buddies are investigating. They saw the first murder, so they know it's something nutso (the victim was eaten, insides first). They're sent by this hippie dude to a mental clinic to ask for "course E". The scientist reveals some information about aliens and talks about the sort of alien they witnessed as being a kind of parasite that lives among humans (but not in a good way).

Another disappears, two boys left. They run back to the clinic and offer a fortune in jewelry for an investigation, and are taken into hiding. When they go into isolation, they are met with the other two who had disappeared (all but the victim that got eaten). It is revealed that that particular alien race eats women in order to reproduce, and the parasite (along with only 2 others) came to Earth after its own planet exploded. This is where the episode got very sad, because both boys of that family had girls they liked, but couldn't handle being around them because they'd want to eat them.

When it's all over though, we find it out it was a movie made by Prince Baka. I was wondering why the art style was so different than the usual - it's cause it was a chapter within a chapter. It would appear his aim was to show humans what the true form of some aliens are. Man, Baka is good at story telling. In any case, it would appear he's started up an alien defense force of sorts, and wants to raise human awareness of extra-terrestrials living on Earth in a way that won't spread panic or start an intergalactic war.

The "movie" was interesting, and this episode overall was a good addition. Baka revealed that aliens like the ones he depicted do actually exist, so it would seem that the show is taking the time to acquaint the audience with the extent of what creativity we can expect when it comes to other life forms (not your usual "take me to your leader or I'll kill you all" mentality). This show has proven itself to always be thinking ahead and laying everything down very elaborately. That being said, see you all next week with some more Level E!

[watch Level E on Crunchyroll]
 
Beelzebub Episode 4
 

This week's crisis was Beel's infinite piss of doom that would flood and drown a city. Oga woke up to a flood, but Hilda temporarily staved it off with some alternate-dimension pants that would entertain the flood for 2-3 hours. In that time, Oga went looking for miracle diapies, and he's met with a hold up at the grocery store. Amusingly enough, the group of bank robbers that holds up the grocer is called orz3. Of course, Oga makes another futile attempt to dump the baby on someone else.

Actually, he could have gotten away with it this time, but he took Beel back from the robbers when the situation arose. What was more interesting about this episode was it actually featured a bit of character development in the part of Furuichi and Hilda. We find out that they appear to be attracted to each other, despite their differences. We also find out that although Hilda is a being that exists only for Beel, she desires to be a mother figure to him. In the end, instead of trying to figure out which city to flood, Hilda offered to just fly Oga and Beel over the ocean so he can piss into that.

This episode seemed like it was much more about Hilda than anything else. The crisis took over most of the action and all, but most of the depth (excuse the pun) really had to do with her. They pan over to her often while things are going on in the grocery store, and we see a few of her flash backs with the Demon Lord (who we've heard several times already, but never have seen his face). It's a nice change of page and good indicator for future episodes that they can give us more than just mindless entertainment.

[Watch Beelzebub on Crunchyroll]
 
Brad Rice
 
Wandering Son Episode 3
 

The cultural fair is coming up! What do the kids in Shu and Takatsuki's class want to do? Haunted House. Maid Cafe. You know, all the usual stuff. Then, someone suggests a gender-bent play! Now, that's something I can get behind. Takatsuki pushes Shu to write the script, who, after being paired up with Saori, ultimately comes up with the concept of a Romeo and Juliet who want to switch genders.

The issue here? Saori sees the script as something that furthers along the Takatsuki and Shu pairing -- which is totally correct -- and sees herself getting shafted in the long run, so she's more than a little bitter over it.

Meanwhile, Takatsuki has to deal with growing into womanhood and has an episode-long struggle of wearing a bra. By the end, she does, and it left me with just a tinge of sadness. I find myself rooting for Takatsuki the most, and to see her break down and strap on a bra made my heart sink.

Now that we're into the third episode, I'm getting a little worried for this show. There's a lot going on, and there's not enough explanation of the backstory going on. Oftentimes, I catch myself wondering what's going on before I remember what happened in the manga -- certainly a bad sign. What's even worse, though, is that some of the relationships, which have so much tension within them already, are simply glossed over. Maho, Shu's older sister, has a boyfriend. He's a little disturbed when he walks in on Maho stripping Shu down -- it looks like nothing more than a watered-down harem moment. What the show completely ignores, is the tension in that relationship, because Maho's boyfriend was originally crushing on Shu when he was dressed as a girl -- something Maho can't let go of.

The show is going somewhere, as I've mentioned previously. I'm just not sure where, and if it'll get there quickly enough.

[Wandering Son is available on Crunchyroll]

Kimi ni Todoke Episode 3


 
As a friend pointed out to me, this show is going really slow. It's May already. Two episodes ago, we were in Februrary. So that means, over the course of three months (into the fourth now!), barely any dialogue has happened between Kazehaya and Sawako? Great.

Midterms are almost upon the students, and once again Sawako is helping everyone study for the test -- this time around, Kent volunteered Sawako to help everyone. Of course, by the end of the session, we see Sawako's bright smile. And Kazehaya has another talk with Sawako, one where I want her to just say it, say that she loves him. Kazehaya even has a moment with Ryu where he resolves himself to just say his feelings already. A moment, that's all. Afterwards, he pusses out.

So, another failed confession comes towards the end of the episode, and what happens? Our meddling Mr. Kent heads up to where Kazehaya and Sawako are. Is he going to steal Sawako away? Nope, he confronts Kazehaya! Could this turn into a bromance between Kazehaya and Kent? Will the man help out his supposed rival? Or will things get all sexy between the two? I can only hope for the latter.
 
I Don't Like My Big Brother At All! Episodes 2 and 3
 


I made a valiant effort with this show, but five minutes into episode three of Oniichan I just couldn't stomach the terribleness of it. Let's get into it.

Maybe there's a plot to Oniichan. I don't know -- I was too busy jamming Q-Tips into my eardrums, hoping to kill the sound for just a little while. The persistent screeching just got to me before long. What I thought might have been an amusing show quickly turned into a cheap pile of fanservice. I mean, Ladies vs. Butlers! was filled with fanservice, but at least there was a nominal plot of each episode to move things along. Here, though, I honestly couldn't tell you what happened other than wincest-y things happened, then wincest-y things didn't happen, and then the twin-tailed girl revealed herself to be the craziest bitch I've ever seen.

Seriously.

Who, from the age of five, makes a commitment they're going to fuck the brains out of someone, and then holds onto that for dear life for the next ten years? That, in my mind, is the sign of a true crazy lady. And yet, our protagonist continues to wonder if he should or shouldn't call the cops on her.

Just… just… painful. That's all I can really say. Dropping this show like it's rotten.
 
Mike LeChevallier
 
GOSICK episode 4
 


If possession is nine-tenths of the law, then essentially all of the "mysteries" present within this episode could have been avoided if careless individuals, namely Kujou, would pay closer attention to their actions. That all signs point to series newcomer Avril Bradley as being at the center of the chaos could very well be a red herring (something BONES does in nearly all of their shows, this genre or otherwise) but that's not even the bulk of what makes this outing a step back from episode 3. For random reasons only hinted at during the Queen Berry arc's final reveal, Victorique, who was beginning to open up to Kujou (which was a delight to watch) is now withdrawing from him. Her reverting to myth-like Golden Fairy of the Library status is not only due to Kujou's inability to foresee the actions of acquaintances (he should have known Gervil would arrest him just for being at a crime scene alone), but the fact that the pressure her half-brother unloads upon her is constantly growing. Victorique is still ostensibly the nerd taking care of the bully's homework, but serious changes are occurring in her life whether she realizes it or not.

Kujou sank to previously unseen lows of idiocy here, taking into account how he handled witnessing the biker's death (decapitation seems to be in this season). Having been exposed to how Gervil operated, he should have either taken the visual evidence straight to Victorique or to a different authority figure altogether. The result of Kujou's lack of planning led to him being placed in handcuffs and, again, looking like a fool in front of Victorique (who rapidly solved the case). The Headless Motorcyclist (whoops--unintentional Celty shout-out), like the murder of Roxanne in episode 1, is not an attempt by the writing staff to demonstrate their keen narrative skill but a method in which to blend two seemingly indirect incidents, from two different time periods (this time the gap is 8 years rather than a decade), into one another.

That Avril Bradley is instantly deemed popular by other students at the academy yet is drawn to the shunned Kujou can say one of two things about her character. On one hand, it could say that she, like Kujou himself, has a knack for not thinking things through. By aligning herself with The Reaper Who Comes in Spring, she alienates herself from the rest of her classmates (a move that could be her undoing, or an adversarial masterstroke). Conversely, Avril's choice to familiarize herself with Kujou could be a premeditated decision to gain his trust and friendship because she is well aware that he may figure out she is involved in some sketchy business somewhere down the line. The culprit in the biker case was identified to have blonde hair and possibly a damaged hand. Avril possesses both. Kujou avoids a confrontation. The best scene in this episode takes place on the academy grounds, where Avril works her charm on Kujou whilst the colorful landscape and swirling clouds forshadow the darkness of the following sequence. Splendid animation all around.

The Mummy Knight segment starts off on the wrong foot and truly doesn't give itself enough time to recover before the episode has to conclude on somewhat of a downer. As soon as the knight's corpse falls out of the tomb, notice how everyone else present has a genuine horrified reaction yet Avril, straight-faced, dashes down into the crypt and picks up a book left on the floor. Kujou sees this plain as day, but doesn't chomp at the bit to question her. My statement that Kujou appears borderline asexual goes out the window here as the dude is clearly thinking with his dick.

Victorique solves the case (did anyone else get weirded out by that mind-snowflakes montage?) and Gervil, who always gets into that elevator a few beats too early, recalls painful memories when he addresses Victorique as "The Grey Wolf". At least we get to see some deeper emotions exude from our female lead. As things wrap up, Kujou has his hands full: he's in the middle of a confusing family feud, and he's developing affections for a troubled prodigy and a femme fatale. Some guys have all the luck.

[GOSICK is simulcasting on Crunchyroll.]

Dragon Crisis! episode 4
 


I so badly wanted to use that image of me facepalming like I promised last week, but this episode, surprisingly, doesn't warrant a full-on drop of the series. The cold open almost had me clicking the stop button and announcing my retirement from DC! reviewing (Rose screaming "No!" ad nauseum is enough to make even the most level-headed of men break down). The beach interlude, which I had anticipated as being an atrocity, was uncommonly relatively well done. The show brought back Ryuji's classmates and each of them, while unarguably bare-bones stereotypes, are pretty comical in their own right for embracing established cliches. This episode also introduces us to two characters draped in dragon-lore: Maruga, the moody ice dragon princess, and George Evans (a reference to the Saint George legend), a priestly gentlemen who happens to have made it his life's goal to slay every dragon on earth. Though, the immediate question is, has he ever actually seen a true dragon? Ryuji asks him, bluntly, and his answer is a brazen no. This complicates things for all parties involved.

George is also a Level 10 Breaker, which means that he'll likely throwdown (or team up) with Ryuji later on. It's interesting that the show automatically thrusts us in with central characters who are already at high levels of power (all the dragons so far, Ryuji and now George); seriously, what happened to progression through stages of energy development? I know Ryuji claims to have difficulty controlling his abilities, but he's made out just fine in all his battles up until now. Dragon Crisis! has enough faults of exposition as it stands, one would think it would be able to nail the more action-oriented elements of its framework. This is J.C. Staff, so I guess I'm having to grasp at straws.

From the way George is outlined prior to Ryuji's first encounter with him, I thought he might take on the role of a scene-stealing villain, but instead, being that he can't identify the dragons he so vigorously seeks to destroy, he befriends our main group unaware that his "enemies" are right beside him. Similar to the way Rose and Ryuji had a love-at-first-sight experience, George sprouts a heartfelt boner as soon as he lays eyes upon the testy Maruga. I appreciate how Ryuji stays true to his character and attempts to treat Maruga in the same manner in which he deals with Rose, leaning on the fun atmosphere of a festival to cheer up his new dragon friend. Maruga is clearly the opposite of Rose in terms of personality--the business of the public gathering sets her off easily while Rose can't get enough of fluffy marshmallow cotton candy and carnival games.

George's Breaker tool, a massive sword dubbed Ice Rage, is a Lost Precious just like Eriko's earring and Ryuji's Slash Breath. I was glad we were able to get a glimpse of its strength straightaway, as there is next to no liveliness to speak of here sans Ryuji getting knocked on his ass by the mere exposure to its substantial aura. The preview depicts what could be a welcomed lengthy fight sequence, and anyone who has been following this anime, which for the most part equates to blandness, knows it requires a real kick in the ass post-haste to retain decent viewership. I, for one, am down for another week but I'm about as close to the edge as I can possibly be without plummeting head first into self-loathing brought on by the relentlessly stabbing voice of a particular red dragon.

[Dragon Crisis! is simulcasting on Crunchyroll.]


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Josh Tolentino
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Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures


 



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