May 19, 2012

Mysterious Girlfriend X Ep. 06

Oka is a horrible little Meddler, you know? But that's probably a good thing if it gives Tsubaki and Urabe's glacially-paced relationship a little shove.

We open with Tsubaki innocently reading magazines outside a bookstore when Oka ambushes him. Okay, ambush may be a strong word for "taps him on the shoulder", but if you remember from episode 4, she's got some kind of obsession with his relationship with Urabe, and he doesn't know she knows. Because of this, he is very surprised when, after he tells her he was buying clothes, she asks "For a date?" But she blasts right through his surprise and suggests that since it's the end of summer, and meeting up is so rare, they should go get some ice cream. Unsure of what he should do, he eventually lets her drag him along.

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"It's not stalking unless we used to date."
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"Come with me, I have to mess with your head."

At the parlor, she hands him his cone in a way that is very reminiscent of his daily ritual with Urabe. He gives voice to his uncertainty about being there, having ice cream alone with his best friend's girlfriend. She reassures him. "He trusts you. Kouhei-kun has nothing but good things to say about you when we're together. 'He may be average at sports and academics, but he's a nice guy.'." Tsubaki isn't entirely mollified by this, "Does that really count as a compliment?"  But then he does a double-take, "Kouhei-kun?" and the hook is set! "That's Ueno-kun's first name, didn't you know that?" Of course he does, but he's surprised that she calls him by his first name, and he asks if he calls her by her first name too. She reels him in by saying that not only does he, but he calls her "Ayu" (Short for Ayuko). Nicknames! It blows his mind! And now that's she's got him right where she wants him, it's time for the coup de grace. He suddenly imagines Urabe calling him "Akira-kun" but it just doesn't seem right to him. While he's lost in thought, Oka sneaks up to his ear and says, "Akira-kun!" and practically makes him jump out of his seat. He does get some of his ice cream on his nose, and while he's asking her why she did that, she teasingly wipes the ice cream from his nose with her finger, and licks it off, saying "Sweet" which is damned close to what he and Urabe do, but he doesn't catch it. But then she asks if he was fantasizing about "his crush" calling him by his first name. Of course he vehemently denies it, She just hums. Victory is hers.

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When the Planets align.  A larger version can be made available on demand....
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"It's not like I'm proposing a threesome.  At least not yet, and not with Ueno...."
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"Fish on!"
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Faceplant in 3...2...1....
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"I'm like that Tachi girl in Nana to Kaoru, just messing with the dynamic without really understanding it."

When I'm writing this, I tend to run both translations next to each other in an effort to sort out what the real meaning is between them. Usually they're close, but when they diverge, it can really be incredible. At the Parlor, Tsubaki is regarding Oka, and according to HorribleSubs, he thinks, "Man, she's as short as a grade school kid, but her boobs are huge!" SubDesu gets "Jeez, she has the face of a ten-year-old, ONLY her boobs belong to a woman!" Oka is talking at the time, so it's hard to sort out the words, but there, SubDesu gets credit for translating her line as well.  Still, this episode is a lot more divergent than most.

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"G-cups. Why do you ask?"

At school, Ueno is grousing about coming back to school. Tsubaki asks if he and Oka spoke yesterday, but after Ueno says no, Tsubaki dismisses his question about why. Ueno pokes at Tsubaki's sleeve, and notices a tan line, and asks if he went to the beach with some girl. He vehemently denies this, and then comes up with the story that he went with his sister. This is a bit of a continuity fail, since he wore a bathing suit the whole time they were at the beach last episode, his tan line wouldn't be at his shirt sleeve. Urabe is at her desk right next to them while he's denying he went to the beach with her, but if this bothers her, there's no indication.  I really don't get the whole "Secret Girlfriend" business.  After all, these kids are Seventeen, what is there to be embarrassed about? (I read that in a manga excerpt. There are at least 66 chapters existing of this.)  Oka also slipped by them without a word or any acknowledgement.  It's just weird.

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"Until he stops being an idiot, I'm fine with the denial."

Outside on the bench, Oka now tries to set her hook on Urabe.  She talks about running into Tsubaki yesterday, and their discussion over ice cream.  She tells her that it was about First names, and how she and Ueno-kun sometimes call each other by their first names, how Akira got all quiet, and she sneaked up on him and said "Akira-kun!" and he got ice cream on his face.  The amusing bit out of the way, she tries to set her hook, saying she believes Tsubaki was fantasizing about her calling him by his first name, and how fascinating he is.  Urabe isn't biting.  Spying an opportunity, Oka pokes her finger in Urabe's mouth and tries to pick up her feelings.  She suddenly finds herself blushing. "This must mean you were fantasizing about Tsubaki calling you by your first name."  She really pushes it, but Urabe will have none of it, and gets up telling her it's none of her business.  This fish got away.

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"Let me tell you a funny story about your Boyfriend."
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"heh, heh, heh."
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"I'm just poking my fingers into your relationship a little more literally this time."
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"Hmmm, so love tastes like Cola?"
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"You want to show me what you keep up your skirt? How exciting!"

But, to switch metaphors, the seeds have been planted.  On the way home, when Tsubaki and Urabe stop in the park, she falls asleep on the bench while he goes to get drinks (I swear, she's a Narcoleptic in addition to everything else). He tries to wake her, calling her (last) name, tapping the bench, even daring to shove her shoulders, but she is completely conked out - worse than in school. I suppose this emboldens him, because he leans close, and just to try it out, he whispers her first name into her ear.  She wakes, and he hopes she didn't actually hear him, because it feels like it's too soon, but considering her blush and that we can see both her eyes, I think she did. In fact, she's just about to ask him about it, but changes her mind. This lets him off Oka's hook. He almost blows it, interpreting her smile as permission, but then he catches himself, and is left very awkwardly trying to recover. I wish they'd cut it just before that, since it kinda ruins the moment.

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"Out cold.  What can I do that won't get me scissored?"
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"Oh Baby, say my name...."
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"Will you... say it again?"
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"Someday he'll grow a pair.  That's what I'm waiting for."

That night, Akira goes to bed thinking about the incident, and admits it feels too soon to call her Mikoto, but her smile was so cute, he dreams about taking her picture, and this leads to the second half of the story.  A lot of these episodes seem to run two stories together.  I'm not sure how short the manga chapters are, but each one seems to cover a specific topic in their growing relationship.  In this case, it's a story about a picture.

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You know, maybe he's NOT such a normal High School kid...

When he awakens, he knows what he must do, and digs out his "Bad Cat" Polaroid camera from the closet (Bad Cat being the fictional brand name that's on everything in this show from the soda cans to Urabe's beach skirt.).  That day, on the way home from school, he convinces her to let him take her picture.  But she refuses to smile for him, because doing so would be fake.  She leaves him standing there (in the road!) without a picture.

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The next day, waiting on the bridge where he usually meets up with Urabe, Tsubaki is surprised to be greeted by his old middle-school crush.  Now this is something I wish I'd covered better in the first episode write-up (I DO plan to go back and add pictures to it).  At the end of the first episode, Urabe was looking for some serious demonstration of commitment from Tsubaki to be her boyfriend, and not anything ordinary like the kiss he attempted to lay on her.  Suddenly he hits on it, and digs out his wallet.  In it he has a picture of this girl he had a crush on from Middle School.  He says that since he met her, he hadn't even thought about his old flame, and demonstrates his new commitment by tearing up the old photo.  And I tell you, that's one hell of a commitment!  Have you ever tried to tear up a Polaroid?  She has a disgustingly happy reaction.

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A great many unfortunate meetings occur on bridges.  One should avoid them.
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If only he'd have had the nerve, this could have been his.
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"It's not stalking until after you've broken up."

So Tsubaki is in a bad spot, waiting for his current secret girlfriend while his old flame shows up and is very friendly.  In fact, she wants to meet him for coffee.  She is very beautiful, and clearly from her uniform goes to an elite school, but our hero blows her off.  And good for him, because it turns out that Urabe was sitting against the end of the bridge so as to not interrupt his potentially disastrous decision.  As rare as any kind of expression is from her, it becomes clear that she was upset at what she saw, but Tsubaki reassures her that SHE is his girlfriend, and that's why he turned her down.  And then, in a scene I thought was incredibly poignant, he asks, "If I had gone to the cafe with Hayakawa, would you have been mad?" and she turns, with both her eyes showing, and he backpedals hard that it's just a hypothetical.  Eventually she breaks her silence by giving him his daily dose, and suddenly he starts crying. Urabe explains that she wouldn't have been angry, but very sad, and that those are the tears she would be shedding if he had gone off with her.  Tsubaki is deeply touched by this, and swears that even in the face of a girl he used to like, and who is, admittedly rather pretty, SHE is the one he loves.  She smiles.

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"I would have been very sad.  Six months later I would have had to kill you in your sleep."
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"Those are the tears I would have shed if you had gone with her."
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"I think I need to re-think this whole 'Pheromone Receptivity as the criteria for future mating' thing."

Then he blows it by asking her to freeze so he can take a picture of that smile.  She narrows her eyes at him but agrees.  He goes through the elaborate Japanese picture taking ritual, and at the last second, instead of smiling, she pulls down her eye and sticks out her tongue.  She offers that if he doesn't want the picture, she will gladly cut it up with her scissors.  But today is Tsubaki's day for great recoveries.  He says no, he'll keep it and treasure it always, and puts it in his wallet where he used to keep Hayakawa's picture.  Urabe has been feeling pretty hurt by this whole incident, and when this whole picture thing reared its head again, she was determined to be snarky and uncooperative, but Tsubaki's sincere affection, even when she's being a bit petty and cranky totally overcomes her.  Urabe has her unfortunate reaction that occurs whenever something makes her very very happy, off-screen, fortunately, and they continue on home.

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There's a name for this pose.  Really.
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"From Schmuck to Anti-Schmuck in less than a minute.  I actually feel kinda guilty now."

One thing I noticed while capping this section is they did a LOT of nice backgrounds, and a lot was done with the color of the light as the sun set.  There were at least half a dozen different backgrounds just on the Bridge conversation.  There may not be a lot of action sequences or space battles, but they did spend some money creating this.

Posted by: Mauser at 11:00 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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May 14, 2012

Mysterious Girlfriend X Ep. 05

Oh boy! A Beach episode! You all know how this goes. For some reason the whole gang gets together and goes to the beach, Hijinks Ensue, they do traditional things like smash a watermelon, and relax in Yukata while fireworks go off in the distance, having sorted out various relationship things before they get back to fighting in giant robots or whatever they were doing before, at least until the Onsen episode.

Not this time.

This series continues to be unconventional without making a big deal about it.

In the teaser, we see Urabe going for a swim on a deserted beach. It's not a big touristy public beach, and we find out later that this is actually out of sequence. But I have to say, The girl does have a commitment to going armed - something I like in a woman. She goes swimming with her scissors tucked into her bikini bottom.

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Hover over this and other large images to see if you can "Click to Embiggen"

One OP later, and it's not summer vacation yet. The segregated gym classes continue, with the boys practicing Soccer, and the girls doing Swimming. But even though the soccer field and the swimming pool are adjoining, they are blocked off by tall shrubs. The boys have come up with an inventive way of defeating this obstruction to their view by deliberately flubbing their kicks at the goal, sending the ball off into the trees, so that they have to go retrieve it. Getting a brief look at the girls and coming back, they report back to their fellows what they've seen, compiling a list of the girls' chest sizes.

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Seriously, he looks like Megane from Urusei Yatsura. "This one's for you, Chibi, Pamu!"

Ueno lucks out and catches a glimpse of Oka in her school swimsuit, and he's in heaven, reporting back "Very Big". Urabe is the only one not on the list (since she was swimming a lap at the time and clearly creaming every other girl).  When it's Tsubaki's turn, he catches a glimpse of her toweling off and flubs his kick. A shame, because he really really wanted to see her in a swimsuit. (Oka got a good look at her though. Depending on the translation, she either looks cute in a swimsuit, or she has cute armpits. My vocabulary and tiny Japanese dictionary fail me.)

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On the way home, eating popsicles (Let's NOT discuss the visual metaphor this time) and discussing the heat and swim classes, they stop briefly in the park. Tsubaki notices the drop of sweat on the nape of Urabe's neck, and then notices her smell. Very interested in that, he begins sniffing and gets a little TOO close, prompting a scissor attack that gets called due to rain.

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"What do you think you're doing?
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Waiting for the next Neko-Bus.

Taking shelter under a tree, when her spot is under a drip, Urabe leans close to Tsubaki, and he starts sniffing again (or else he's looking at her cleavage...). Now one big problem this couple seems to have is communication. In spite of the Pheromone thing, Urabe is a closed book most of the time, and Tsubaki is terribly terribly inhibited about expressing his feelings. I think though that her obstinateness is slowly training him to tell the truth slightly more often, but he's not very good it it. It's a Japanese thing I guess. He finally asks her if she's wearing perfume. She says she's never used the stuff and asks why he's asking. He says it's because she smells very nice today, and she sniffs herself and says, "It's just the smell of sweat. I'm sweaty right now."

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But then it really goes off script when she licks her forearm and remarks on how it's salty. Then she adds, it wipes out the other flavor, the flavor of the sea. But it does give Tsubaki a conversational In, and he asks her if she likes the sea. Finally we get a little background. She loves the sea, and goes to the ocean every summer, since she was little, and she loves swimming (which explains why she's such a fast swimmer). When she turns the question around on him, he gives a weak "I guess I like it" kind of response. So she offers him her arm to lick, so it might remind him of the ocean. He licks, and blam, white-out, followed by a vision of her in a white swimsuit.

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"Duuude, it's better than Mushrooms!"
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He's astonished that her sweat, as well as her saliva will show him the images in her head, but he also wonders if instead it was just his own fantasy. But for once he is infused with enough courage to stammer out a proposal that they go to the beach together during their summer break. And amazingly, after a long moment's consideration, she agrees.

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Yay!

But, when summer break comes around, it's like she's forgotten. She meets him daily for his dose, but doesn't stick around long enough for him to even say a word, until finally he's had enough and makes the bold move to grab her bike before she rides away, which shocks her incredibly. Shocked at himself, he manages to stammer out about their proposed date. But when he suggests tomorrow, she declines, saying that she's going away to visit her father's family. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel, she suggests next week, and on the spot he makes plans (way to think ahead, buster.) and so, next week they'll meet at the station and go to a nearby beach.

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Seriously, she freaked. Kudos to Ayako Yoshitani for getting it across.

Oh, as long as we're mentioning family, I should point out that Tsubaki lives alone in a house with his older sister. There hasn't been much reason to show her picture before, because so far she's had zero impact on the story. No mention has been made of their parents, she just acts like a surrogate mom, and doesn't even seem to have a job. But when Tsubaki comes home that day, she points out that he's grinning like an idiot. And he is.

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That night he starts dreaming about going to the beach with Urabe. In his dream they are running along the beach, and then she leaps into the air, becoming a mermaid (a topless one at that!).

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If someone can look up where Kazamidai Station is, we could locate where this series takes place. There's probably a nod to Railfans in here too. Anyway, on the appointed day, he rushes there to meet her. Much to his shock, she's already thoroughly tanned. Now personally, I like the look, but I understand that in Japan, the whitest possible skin is the sign of beauty, so Tsubaki is a bit thrown off by this. He asks "Y-your skin..." and she mentions that there's a beach near her dad's house and she went swimming and tanned yesterday. This probably refers to the opening scene. On the train he gives her a looking over and thinks to himself how new and unfamiliar it is to him to see her like this. She notices him staring and gives him the hairy eyeball, and he nervously laughs it off saying "Oh, nothing." Obviously training him in honest communication is going to take a while. I mean, seriously, she's told him about what a strong bond they have, but he is always afraid of how she might react to what he thinks.

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"It's this amazing new thing called a Tan."
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Upon arrival at the beach, he spends a brief time gawking at all the skimpy swimsuits, until Urabe arrives in hers, as seen in the preview last time. She looks really good so let me just spam you with screenshots for a bit. Tsubaki comes to the realization that it's not just "New" but "Naughty" to see her like that. Not entirely sure what he means by that....(HorribleSubs translates it as "Different" and "Hot". But the word is Ecchi, so who's to say.)

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I'd go with "Hot".
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Just... DAYMN!

Now the funny thing is, she suggests that they get something to eat before they swim. She says one needs energy to swim. So unlike the rule we have about waiting an hour before swimming after eating. So they trot over to the Yakisoba stand, where he overhears one girl demand her boyfriend buy her food, but his attempt to be chivalrous is cut off by Urabe's paying before he thinks to act. She is a little strange in her food choices, asking for hers with no meat or cabbage, but extra ginger. When he remarks on how strangely she ordered it, she's never heard this before. But to compound the strangeness, she says that normally she'd like it with some Mayo on it too. She feeds him a little (hey, wasn't that Ueno's dream?) and she ask if it's bad, and of course he says no. Wimp.

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"Snap!"
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Finally they go swimming. Not playing in the water, but full-bore freestyle through the water. Tsubaki begs her to stop because he can't keep up. She promises to slow down. Lucky boy, this gives him a chance to dive and take a look at her, although he wishes she'd ditch the skirt. However, gawking too long, he gets caught in a compromising position. "I thought your skirt has a really interesting pattern!" Nice save! She takes it honestly, and says she doesn't normally wear a skirt while swimming, but she accidentally got some unfortunate tan lines, and shows him. Cue the nosebleed.

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(Sorry for the color correction fail on this one)
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"Busted."
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"Where I'm from, the Camels are the size of Pekingese."
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This looks really bad...

On the train ride home, she tells him she had a lot of fun. She asks if he had fun too, and while he stammers, she sneaks in a finger to get a taste of him. (Clearly her boundary issues are one-way.) Cue the nosebleed again. She stares at him asking "Why is my nose bleeding?" And he has to admit that he got a nosebleed when he saw her scissor tan lines.

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Clearly he's not quite as good as her at transmitting images, since she has to ask why.

What comes next is pure evil "Tsubaki-kun, would you like to see my tan lines again?" He stammers out a yes grunt. "Next summer, when we go to the beach again, I'll show you."

Sorry this one is running behind. I have a lot of Pans to de-pan (and it looks like my color profiles don't match between machines). Episode 6 is already out, and it answers one of my big questions.

I have one other observation. I remember one blogger critiquing the old style of the show, but I think it's actually deliberate. I may be proven wrong in the future, but I think the throwback to old, almost Rumiko Takahashi/Urusei Yatsura character designs - minus the modern techniques like the textures and gradients - sets the show in the 80's, or maybe the '90's. The biggest clue to me? Nobody has a cell phone. That and in the next episode he's running around with a polaroid-type camera. (In the opposite direction, one of the action figures in his room is R. Dorothy Wayneright from Big O, but that could just be some kind of shout-out.) The "Expo '70" poster in his room isn't exactly proof. 1970 seems early. But Showa dating stops at 64.

Bonus Image, Click to Embiggen.
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Posted by: Mauser at 12:59 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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May 07, 2012

Deadman Wonderland Ep. 02

We open on Captain Makina's office, where she is studying the fuzzy footage of Ganta's superpowered save from being crushed by the chunk of building (in the shape of a giant ball and chain) the director's bombs tried to drop on him.  She's wondering if Ganta somehow responsible for the flash of light that blew the ball to bits.  She flashes back on the discussion she had with the Director about the plan to "Kill him in an accident" without really knowing why, or why the Director specifies that there won't be any followup attempts.  This strikes me as odd that there is some complicity here between the Director and the Captain, but she is definitely left out of the loop, which makes her curious as to why it was necessary to sacrifice three "Ordinary" inmates for one on death row.

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"Worm's-eye View security cams in a construction zone.  What will they think of next?"

Ganta, in his cell contemplates his situation while sorting through the contents of the supply bag he was given at orientation.  Flipping from his previous desire to die and get his sentence over with, NOW he's determined not to die in this place.

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"G-cups.  Why do you ask?"

Which apparently sends him to the Nurse's office where he gets his cut cheek plastered up, while the Nurse mentions to him that he should eat his "Candy" since he's on Death Row, and that his first dose should have been in his bag.  It wasn't.  At the end of the last episode, we saw the guy whom Makina slashed open in the infirmary toying with a piece of candy, which was obviously originally Ganta's.  Makina slashed him after he rammed Ganta "Accidentally" with a cart and "Helped" him recover the contents of his bag.  Apparently she knew he had palmed something, and yet, after that harsh punishment, apparently she never did recover that bit of stolen property.  JUST before the nurse is about to tell him what happens if he doesn't eat the candy, that fellow interrupts from his infirmary bed and says that maybe the candy "Fell out" when he bumped him.  The nurse never bothers to finish her sentence, and Ganta is left talking to the guy he thought he'd seen killed by the Captain, still under the impression that the Candy is just candy.  Paying attention doesn't seem to be one of Ganta's strong suits.

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"What am I in for?  I'm a pickpocket."

Seeing as that bitter tasting Candy is the price of another three day's life for a Death Row Inmate, it could be considered very valuable.  But as we see later on, the price is terribly inflated.

While chatting, Shiro suddenly pops in... from a vent in the ceiling (FINE security you've got there, Deadman Wonderland!)  Ever the happy-go-lucky prisoner, she suggests that Ganta enter the race, because it's got all these big giant toys and it should be fun.  Did I mention she's crazy?

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Crazy, but kinda cute.

The fellow, who's name has yet to be mentioned, explains that the "Dog Race Show" is one of the events put on for the crowds, and draws money for the prison.  The top prize is "100,000 Casts" - a Cast being the currency of the prison.  Ganta doesn't know any of this because he didn't bother to read the rule book in his bag.  This speaks poorly to his survival prospects, because prisoners must buy their own food, but on the positive side, those who earn a lot can significantly upgrade their provisions and accommodations (Including alcohol and tobacco), or even reduce their sentences!  Ah, now THERE'S a reform system designed to produce productive members of society!

The fact that Ganta hasn't eaten yet, and the prospect of "Sweet Bean Bread" being given to all entrants cements his determination to enter, not knowing what's ahead.  Shiro just wants to snack, so she cheers for the Sweet Bean Bread.  I'm sure I mentioned she's crazy.

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"All this for a cookie.  IMAGINE what I'd do for a Klondike Bar!"

As Ganta and Shiro head off to enter the race, we finally find out a lot more about the fellow with the cut chest.  His name is Takami Yoh.  Clearly he's got a lot of cast points, because his room is full of stuff, including a phone, which he is using to call the director (Who is named Tamaki, if I missed mentioning it before) to tell him that Ganta's entering the "Dog Race".  I guess being a stoolie pays well.

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"Oh, I get it, 'Jail Bird'!"

In the locker room, Takami surprises Ganta by being there when he looks up from reading the copiously illustrated rule book.  He finally tells Ganta his name, and tells him to "Call me Yoh."  It seems he's about to give Ganta something (maybe his Candy back?) when one of the prison toughs enters the locker room with a gang of thugs to intimidate the other racers into letting him win.  After the thugs beat up Yoh and Ganta, Shiro wanders into the middle of the locker room excitedly bearing the cookies and wanting to share with Ganta, blissfully unaware of what's going on, and stepping on the Tough's foot, who totally loses it and prepares to beat Shiro to death (for some reason, she reminds him of the actress he beat senseless which landed him in here in the first place.  Now, he was a super MMA champion before he lost it, but he should know better than to mix it up with the nutgirl, especially when she's got cookies!


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"Do you know what all these Carbs will do to my Ripped Body™?"  "Are Cookies Carbs?"

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"I hurt your foot?  Are you calling me fat?"

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"My, What big fists you have grandma!"

Fortunately Makina steps in and stops the fight before it happens (And slices the tough's shirt open.).  This allows her to talk tough too.  "You can come for my throat at any time, just be prepared to die."

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"Don't ask how I managed to secretly appear here between you all with a solid wall of lockers on either side of your little tableau.  It's Ninjitsu, or Continuity Fail.  I forget."

Yoh is conveniently evacuated on a stretcher, and you'll see why that's convenient for the stoolie shortly.

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"So, can I eat your cookie too?"

So, it's time to start the exciting race!

No!  It's time to flash back!

Ganta flashes back while at the starting gate to moments earlier, where he FINALLY reads about the slow acting poison they've been dosing him with through his collar (Slow acting until it acts very, very fast with down-to-the-second precision...), and the need to take the candy to live.  And the manual also says that one piece of candy costs 100,000 cast points.  So basically, he would have to win this "Dog Race Show" twice a week or die.  Continued existence costs 233,333 cast points a week, or 12,133,333 a year.  There doesn't seem to be a way to earn that much.  And that's forgetting meals and such.  Clearly, he's dead meat.

And yet we know there are a lot of folks on death row, yet none of them are in the race.  Hmmm.

And then, just before the race starts, we see Director Tamaki.  He sees Ganta on the camera and says to some online voice that Yoh was right about him being there.  Then, ominously, that he's going to set the obstacles to maximum danger, and that there should be a "Clean up crew" ready.  And even worse. "We'll put on a little show for our guests and those human rights groups."  Shiro might be crazy, but Tamaki is a psychopath - one with power, the worst kind.

So here's the course.  It looks benign enough, much like all of those Japanese obstacle course shows.  But there's a twist:

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"Now that Tokyo's been destroyed (but we don't talk about that) Blood Sport is the National Pastime!"

First of all, there's NO prize for second place.  Second, there's a hot girl starting the race.  Okay, I just threw that in there because there was no image for that first.

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"It's okay, I'm already deaf in my right ear anyway."

Third, the obstacles are deadly.  Swinging blades.

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And as Ganta sees several guys get splutched to bits, the others head for the sidelines, only to find they can't quit.  There are snipers in mascot suits dishing out headshots to anyone abandoning the race.  How they can aim in those things is anyone's guess.

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"Get a career in Corrections she said.  It's good money, she said...."

The crowd is eating it up, assuming it's only special effects, but even if it's not, they're convicted Felons, so who cares?  That's the kind of culture they've got going in this world.

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Next, the "Bungee Lottery" where if you pick the wrong rope, Splat!  So of course, Shiro can't wait to go!  Strangely, she got the long rope but landed safely anyway.  Hmmm, something ODD about that girl.

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"And a 9.6 from the East German judge...."

Next, a runway full of archers - in mascot suits.  I really have to wonder about all the guards working this affair.  And if you fall off the edge or into any of the holes in the bridge, it looks like electrocution!  The floor is a giant bug-zapper - For PEOPLE!

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No, Seriously.  This is real.  I'm not making it up.

Ganta is about to be strafed with arrows, but Shiro knocks him out of the way with a flying butt slam.  She's just being silly, completely unaware of the death all around them.  Even if I have mentioned it before, let me reiterate.  The girl is crazy.

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"Some people pay good money for this kind of treatment."

The thug makes it through the arrows by grabbing two of his gang and using them as human shields.  They are completely pincushioned.

Next, leaping from balloon to balloon.  But don't fall, because it's a pit full of low-hanging poison gas/acid mist.  Shiro again saves Ganta's butt by knocking him in the right direction with a flying leap.

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"Help me!  I'm Melting!  What a World!  What a World!"

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"In ANY other Context, this might be enjoyable. or illegal. I'm not sure which...."

Next, a Montage of death traps that Ganta barely escapes, but which Shiro dances through with nary a care.

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She's STILL cheering about the cookies, I kid you not.

Then, the final stage, inspired by "Don't break the ice" a grid of platforms that fall away one by one to reveal a pit of spikes.  Ganta, Shiro, and the thug are the only ones to make it this far, and the rules say, there can be only one.  Just before it starts, Ganta looks out at the packed stadium and wonders if this is what he would be watching if they'd come here on his class trip.  Briefly he imagines himself and Mimi there, but then the thug has to break his reverie.  Then the other rule, there's a ball you have to hold onto throughout the event.  You have to be holding it at the end to win.  Now, this doesn't quite make sense.  If there's only one person left, why bother with the ball?

/images/dmwscreenshots/DMW2Ball.jpg

The panels drop at a furious pace.  That is until the thug gets close to Ganta and they have a conversation.  Don't ask me why.  Ganta suddenly gives up his fear and actually decks the guy with the ball (Which Shiro catches) and starts talking tough.  Although he's back to the whole "Kill me already" thing.  But hey, it's part of his character development.  First he was "I have to play by the rules if I want to survive" and now he's "If you're not going to kill me now, I'm playing by my own rules, dammit!"  How he comes to this revelation or what it actually means is utterly unclear.

Then, disaster, the panels under Shiro start to fall (Even though she's holding the ball).  Ganta is stuck in a precarious position on an isolated platform.  The thug makes a daring slide for a spot suddenly marked "Final" (What happened to all the other rules?) and splutches himself on the spikes.  Gravity apparently is funny, because he can make this move and land on the spikes before Shiro even reaches them.  But Ah, in spite of the previous image showing her falling into space, she actually manages to fall UP enough to hang by her knees from a platform!  How's that?

/images/dmwscreenshots/DMW2Shiro11.jpg /images/dmwscreenshots/DMW2Shiro12.jpg
Continuity anyone?

/images/dmwscreenshots/DMW2Platform.jpg /images/dmwscreenshots/DMWSplutch2.jpg
Not that any of it did before, but at this point, the game REALLY makes no sense.

But now she has another shot at doom.  While Ganta finally notices she's bloodied from the events, and that she had actually been saving his ass all the way, the platform she's hanging from falls away and she tosses him the ball.  If he catches it and lets her die, he wins another three days of life.  Every other convict has died, by the way.  Will he do it?

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"I can see your house from here!"

Nope, gravity again fails to work properly, and he's able to reach down and grab her, losing the ball, losing the game, losing the 100,000 cast points, and well, he's got what, one day left now?

I went a bit overboard with the screencaps.  I could have loaded it up with even more cute shots of Shiro. But seriously, the whole thing is so frigging absurd, I had to convey it somehow.  Also, maybe it's the anime, or the Codec, but there must be an alpha channel lightening the top of the image, because getting a good De-Pan is tough.  But I'll leave you with a nice big one of Captain Makina.  As it is, both translations of the next Mysterious Girlfriend X are in, and I have to say, if I had one of those Top Rotation thingies, I'd be capping the hell out of that episode.

/images/dmwscreenshots/DMW2Makina.jpg
"Captain Makina, Deus Ex to my friends."

Posted by: Mauser at 02:17 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 2345 words, total size 18 kb.

May 02, 2012

Mysterious Girlfriend X Ep. 04

Ever notice how it is with Superheroes that often it is the person without the powers who comes up with new and better ways for the hero to use them?  Well we get that with Oka this episode.

(I'm going to switch back to last names, since nobody seems to use them in the show, and it might be confusing if you're following along.)

Oka was virtually a non-entity last time out, but she is totally the center of events this time.  Remember that she is Tsubaki's best buddy Ueno's secret girlfriend.  In spite of being a little slip of a thing, behind that big Fuku bow, she's got quite the figure.  And the episode opens with Ueno and Tsubaki eating lunch, and Ueno's face twisted into a bizarre grin at the thought of the girls switching to their summer gym uniforms.  (This might be an error, because I seem to recall in the first episode, when Tsubaki passed out, the girls were in shorts and t-shirts, but then, it has been several months, but on the other hand, winter has not been depicted.  On the gripping hand, Ueno says that her development is a recent, er, development, hidden by her tracksuit.).

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Notice the texture.  Aside from the gradient highlights, this show also uses some fixed textures clipped by the outlines.  While this technique was abused to the point of unwatchability in The Count of Monte Cristo, here it's generally very subtle, and adds to the texture.

Enter Oka, bearing her bento, wrapped in a furoshiki (the most overused word in my first few Japanese classes all those years ago).  She commits the unpardonable sin of waking Urabe from her lunchtime face-down slumber, asking to eat lunch with her.  The response is pure Urabe, no polite words, just "I don't eat lunch" and "Don't wake me up when I'm napping."  It's just like when she blew off the welcoming committee in the first episode, but Oka will not be deterred for some reason, asking if she can still eat next to her if she promises not to wake her up.  "Do whatever you want," is the response from Urabe as she puts her face back down.  It's a trap, and the entire class stares at the bizarre tableau.

Oka, it turns out, is an excellent cook, and the smell of the food entices Urabe to allow Oka to give her a taste.  In fact, Oka ends up giving her a taste of everything, and Ueno is flaming with jealousy.  He wants his girlfriend to feed him like that.  The rest of the class is simply shocked.

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Continuity Win: At the first bite, Tsubaki and Ueno both dropped their food, and it's there on the desktop.

On the way home, Tsubaki asks if she and Oka are becoming friends, and Urabe fiercely denies this, although Tsubaki thinks it would be good for her to develop some female friends.  She, however, does not care.  "I don't need any friends.  After all, I have you for my boyfriend."  He has to admit to himself, he does like the sound of that.

A funny thing happens though with that day's daily dose, Tsubaki can taste a bit of lunch.  As they part, the camera pulls back far enough to reveal that they're being watched.

That night, Tsubaki's dreams are filled with Urabe feeding him bits of Tamago, including mouth to mouth.... In fact, he can still kind of taste it in the morning.

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This goes along with his regret that her serious nature will never have her smiling and telling him to "Say Ah" for her finger.

But now it's time for Gym, and much to Ueno's disappointment, the girls go outside to do Track, while the boys stay indoors to practice Judo.

Okay, Okay, I skipped the part where the girls are getting changed for gym (in one of the classrooms, must be a poor school), Urabe is shown disarming - so there's a panty shot there... and the other girls comment to Oka about how much she's filled out.

/images/mgx/MGXHolster.jpg /images/mgx/MGXOkaOkii.jpg

Running relays, it's briefly obvious that Urabe is very fast, but she gets tripped accidentally by one of the other girls (who feels just terrible about it), however, it turns out that Oka is the class Health Representative, and she volunteers to take Urabe to the nurse's office.  When they get there, the Nurse is not in.

/images/mgx/MGXRelay1.jpg /images/mgx/MGXRelay2.jpg

Ah, alone at last, the forbidden love between two girls can bloom!  Ah... no.

Oka treats Urabe's knee (There are some interesting exchanges about the potential for a scar, in parallel with something happening between the boys.) then goes to the fridge where she gets a drink.  Urabe asks her if it's okay for her to do that, and Oka explains that since she's there so much, she keeps soda in the fridge.  She offers some to Urabe, who takes a swig, and then Oka takes it back.

You can guess what happens next, but you'd be wrong.

The first thing that happens is that Oka sits next to her and explains that she is very interested in becoming Urabe's friend.  Urabe rebuffs her, but Oka persists, saying that she'll always want to be her friend.  As she leaves the nurse's office though, THEN the big surprise happens.

Oka's knee is suddenly sporting the exact same wound as Urabe's.  (And for those of you keeping score of the visual metaphors, Urabe is suddenly showing an eye.  Oh, and did you notice the dripping water in the sink?).  Even Urabe is shocked.

I'd like to point out that in several spots it seems that Urabe is experimenting with her powers.  She even referred to Ogata as "an independent variable".  I speculate that this power of hers is at the root of why she self-isolates so much, but even more interesting is the idea that it might even be the reason for her school transfer.  In any case, sympathetic injury is something she has never encountered before, so what's a mildly sociopathic girl to do?  Confirm the hypothesis.  She cuts her palm, and induces Oka to taste her saliva, and again, the same wound appears on her.

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With that confirmation, she begins to explain what's happening to Oka, what she knows happens with her saliva, and how it works with people connected to her in some way.  Oka seizes on this connection to try to get Urabe to agree to her friendship, but Urabe says no, she's already got someone she shares that bond with.  Oka says "You mean Tsubaki?"  It was Oka on the bridge, and she explains how she saw them and became curious, and has been watching them for a while.  She's kind of interested in the both of them, but decided to approach Urabe because she's a girl, as going after her boyfriend would be problematic since she's seeing Ueno.  She asks if the same kind of thing happens with Tsubaki, and Urabe explains that things that happen with her body, and her feelings are communicated this way, and that she can get across her feelings without needing words.  But as she leaves the office, she says, "...I'm fulfilled by having just one person like that in my life.  You can be as interested in me as you like, but I don't need your friendship." (I get this by averaging the two translations.)  Then for an extra twist of the knife, she throws Oka's own words about women needing to avoid scarring at her with regard to her knee.

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"You made me bleed, are we friends now?"

That evening, on the way home, She gives Tsubaki his taste, and she suddenly realizes... "Are you hurt?" and Tsubaki is suddenly spontaneously injured on his hand and knee.  She apologizes for forgetting.  (Am I a bad person for wondering what effect she has on him during her period?)

The next day, Oka is shown preparing another delicious bento.  Ueno meets Tsubaki on the way to school and swears that he will get Oka to meet him outside for lunch so she can feed him.  Tsubaki reminds him that he's keeping their relationship secret, so he swears he will do it with telepathy.  Of course, this fails, but to add to his heartbreak, Oka follows Urabe out of the classroom.  Urabe has suddenly had lunchtime hunger pangs and left for the vending machines.

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"Why are you making that face at me?  Don't you know Telepathy is a myth?"

Oka confronts Urabe at the drinks machine.  She concentrates for a minute, and then SHE offers Urabe a wet finger, saying that this will tell her something about her relationship with Tsubaki. (Metaphor warning: watch the drops of condensation on Urabe's drink).  Urabe is shocked by what she gets from the pheromones, it's sweeter than anything she's ever tasted.  Oka explains that she concentrated on the memory of her first kiss, and so she knows that Urabe and Tsubaki haven't gotten that far yet.  (Quite the little detective, isn't she?)

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"Turnabout is fair play!"

THEN she offers to share lunch.  Urabe admits that eating her lunch the day before seems to have altered her body's rhythms, and Oka offers that even if they can't be friends, at least they can have a lunch-sharing relationship.

The boys go to get drinks, with Ueno bemoaning the failure of his "Connection" to Oka, and wondering where she went, when as they go through the breezeway, they spot Oka and Urabe sharing lunch on one of the benches.

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Looks like next week is an infamous "Beach" episode, but Urabe looks pretty good with a tan and a bikini.  Bonus De-panned shots below the cut (Click to embiggen). But to be evil, I'm going to throw in the rather disturbing interstitial pic from this episode too.  Muahaha!
more...

Posted by: Mauser at 01:43 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 1638 words, total size 11 kb.

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