2013
10.31

So last week Valvrave suddenly and rather abruptly stopped being utter shit. Naturally of course it should turn back into shi-SURPRISE! It doesn’t.

Hey its School Days!

So yeah remember Marie Iobi? She was that annoying character that hung around background just to deliver punchlines to stupid jokes. Well it turns out SHE’S THE MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTER ON THE SHOW ™. She was apparently the test case for VVVI, however instead of needing a constant supply of blood and sex, she just loses her memories every time she’s subjected to Pino the VVV-tan and thus brings about the main conflict of this episode. Save your friends or lose what you have left of your old ones.

And knowing is half the battle!

All of this is brought about by L-Elf’s cave-in plan. Marie, VVVI, and L-Elf are stuck behind the rubble and Haruto is stuck outside to mope about and do nothing. Meanwhile Kyuuma and Thunder are getting their asses kicked (again) by Dorssia’s new Valvrave knock-offs, A-Drei has a potential gaydar moment with some shota (ruined by the fact that its actually Saki), Akira is helplessly left watching the carnage while waiting for the go-ahead to hack the superkiller ship, and… frankly none of this matters. Outside of a brief scene between A-Drei and Saki in which its revealed that the current space nazis overthrew a previous Dorssian monarchy, all of this weeks episode is being carried entirely on Marie and Marie’s shoulders.

I'm sorry... who are you again?

Ultimately the payoff is a great sequence in which VVVI explodes from the cave and goes on a rampage, destroying one of the Dorssian planes before hitting overheat level 666 (OH COME ON!) and blowing up nearly the entire Dorssian garrison. In the end Marie completely passes out from the strain of her memory loss and overusage of the VVV. Whether or not she’s dead is something we’ll have to find out next week.

Hail Satan!

This was actually a hard episode to write about because quite a bit is happening this week even if its mostly just icing. Its all done at a breakneck pace and you actually do feel a lot of tension because of that manic attitude. Sunrise has really stepped it up in the last two weeks. But its not like Valvrave didn’t have the potential to be a good show, its just that the fact that its doing it NOW instead of the total disaster that was last season makes for a somewhat awkward watch. I expect Valvrave to be utter shit, now suddenly it is not and I’m not sure what exactly to say. That being said, this uptick may or may not last so who knows what next week will bring.

8/10

2013
10.29

Issue #4 or “The Red Hot Revenge of the Red Hood!”

 

Welcome to another week of our Batman bonanza! In this special issue we will see a truly momentous moment when our hero Batman travels to a whole new world that is very similar to what he knows but is still different in a few crucial ways. This is also an important episode because it is the show’s first two-part episode and that it introduces a very important character that will play a key role in later episodes.

The parallel world concept is not exactly anything new, but what makes this episode work is in the wrinkles it adds to characters we have already met in the show and how it bodes for them in the future.

So grab a bag of pork rinds and throw them out because yuck, and enjoy the superhero sock hop just ahead of us!

 

#4 – Deep Cover for Batman!

Written by: Joseph Kuhr

Directed by: Michael Chang

Principle Cast:

Diedrich Bader as Batman / Owlman

Jeff Bennett as Red Hood

Corey Burton as Silver Cyclone

James Arnold Taylor as Blue Bowman

Will Friedle as Scarlet Scarab

James Sie as Dyna-Mite

 

We start our tremendous tale with a cold-open that does not appear to feature Batman. In fact, it is the first opening where he does not appear.

In a warehouse in the middle of town a mysterious figure readies a device for the reason of finding a way into a parallel earth to help save his captured friends. He throws something that looks like the equivalent of the Batarang for a test and all seems ready to go. After readying the portal to work, he meets the very people he was running from.

They engage in a free-for-all that shows his pursuers remind us of familiar heroes we all know. As the cold open ends, he flees for his life but drops the phase oscillator to which the villains and their leader (who bears a striking resemblance to our Dark Knight) celebrate in triumph. These are clearly not the heroes we know all too well. Thanks to their victim they now have a portal to spread their reign of terror even further!

Who can possibly save the world now?

It looks like it’s time for an invasion.

Batman is wrapping up another night of crime-fighting and finds Red Hood’s message from earlier lying in the Batcave. Oh, hey, this is actually the first time we’ve seen the Batman’s hideout in the show! It’s much the same one would imagine a cave hidden in the forest and down abandoned roads would be located, just with more modern tech than one would expect of the era this occurs in.

However, it doesn’t take long before he is alerted to an unexpected visitor hiding in his cave in wait. It is some strange villain named Owlman who wants to do him in for being the one Red Hood was seeking.

“So Red Hood was going for a “Batman” for help.”

“Red Hood? Doesn’t ring a bell. But maybe this will ring yours.”

He has much the same skills as Batman, only with owl-style enhancements over bat-like ones. However, despite their matching skills Batman has one thing over Owlman, and that’s the fact he isn’t an egocentric villain who underestimates others. After he takes him down, he imprisons him in his own bat-cell which no one can escape under Batman’s watch.

It quickly dawns on our hero that his owl-flavored doppelganger is not from his world, but an invader from another and quickly cobbles together a plan to prevent the others from coming over to join his contained clone.

He questions Owlman but quickly realizes that he is much the same as he is and will not crack under any sort of interrogation and he certainly isn’t the type to go over the line that his foe will, so he is at a disadvantage. There’s only one way to discover his plans, and that’s to see the world Owlman hails from.

After fixing the phase oscillator, our hero travels through the gateway disguised as the vile villain and fools his cohorts into thinking he is in fact the foiled felon. Batman quickly learns that the world is overrun by villains and all the heroes have been defeated and oppressed for years. But that is not all. Because Batman tells his “allies” that the world he comes from has too many heroes to take over, they move to Silver Cyclone’s “plan B”- that being to use a bomb he’s devised to wipe the planet of all life.

That is the only real difference in this parallel world other than names and colors. Moral decisions are flipped like some warped funhouse version of the Batman villain Two-Face. Those that had the same motives in Batman’s world carry them here, except they use them for the wrong ends leading to Batman’s worst nightmare. That is, a world where the heroes of the world are crushed by the villains and on the brink of destroying it.

Batman resolves that he must do something to help the people of this world and save his own world from the villains’ horrid plot at the same time.

And to do that there is only one option- undercover!

The villains terrorize a nuclear laboratory in order to find the last part needed to ready Silver Cyclone’s weapon (the world’s only sample of Promethium 90) to destroy Batman’s world, but there’s a problem.

The Red Hood, the last remaining hero, arrives to stop their plot and does a good job until he and Owlman take a spill into the depths of the factory. Batman quickly reveals his disguise and notes that he was the one who answered the vigilante’s message and that he can help the heroes save the day from their powerful oppressors. But first he has to play the part of villain and knocks Red Hood out, though not before slipping him a communicator.

While all the other heroes and villains in this episode are based on known heroes and villains in Batman’s world, the Red Hood is very clearly not. There is no villain like the Red Hood from where Batman comes from and he refuses to give a hint at who he might be similar to. Even though the audience has not seen his face, Batman has when he gave him the communicator but says nothing to response. This episode will give us no other hint of his identity other than one off lines and we are given no obvious hint until the follow-up episode of who he might actually be in Batman’s world.

The Silver Cyclone (Red Tornado’s doppelganger) places Red Hood in a torture chair back at base while Batman tries desperately to foil the villains’ plans from behind the scenes. Blue Bowman begins to suspect his partner in crime of being a bit off and has someone we can’t see follow him while he explores the base.

Silver Cyclone begins his interrogation of Red Hood who laughs (!) at his torture methods and we are given a brief history of Red Hood.

The villains eventually found Red Hood’s hideout in the Ace Chemical Plant and fought back with all he could, but was overwhelmed by his enemies. After his defeat, Owlman intentionally picked his limp body up and threw it into the chemicals, disfiguring him horribly. Despite his resounding defeat and mental anguish, he refused to break to the villains’ terror tactics and emerged stronger than ever even with his near broken psyche pulling him down. Truly, the Red Hood is the world’s most remarkable hero.

It’s a shame there is no Red Hood in Batman’s world. A hero that has endured horrendous hardship against impossible odds and still comes out to be the hero he’s needed to be. This sounds like quite the valuable ally. However, he rallied as many heroes as he could against the syndicate, but it was of no use. They were overpowered, and only Red Hood escaped their defeat. Now that he’s captured there is no hope left. Seemingly.

It doesn’t take long for Dyna-Mite to reveal himself after one of Batman’s transmissions to Red Hood and tries to expose him before he is taken out with the control console. Unfortunately, now Batman has no idea what to do now.

He sends a distress to Red Hood who is being tortured and asks him for directions to come find him. Through torture and insults, Silver Cyclone attempts to extract plans from Red Hood who answers him in strangely perplexing ways. As it turns out, he’s actually sending Batman coded instructions on how to find him which is something that confounds his captor who tries to understand his speech.

However, Cyclone figures out his odd wording by noticing the improbable coincidences of the way Red Hood is speaking. He blows harsh wind through all the air ducts and knocks Batman from his path where he is quickly come upon by three of the very villains he was avoiding in the weapons room.

Silver Cyclone deserves special mention here. In Batman’s world, Red Tornado is a robot who desperately wants to do the right thing and will do anything to live peacefully with humans. However, in this world he might actually be the most evil character. Why that is will be revealed later, but for now it is mainly in his purposely vindictive treatment of any hero he comes across almost like he has a particular bias against them. The other villains think he’s just a bad guy, but there’s something more to this one.

The villains that come upon “Owlman” try to take him by surprise, but only find Owlman’s costume left behind while they wonder where their target disappeared to. Within seconds they see the shadow of their true adversary who drops down to meet them with typical Batman greetings.

“Who is this guy?”

“I’m Batman.”

After easily dispatching his foes, Batman rushes to Red Hood’s holding cell and frees him who wonders how they will defeat their enemies from the heart of their own stronghold. It’s a good question, but it doesn’t take long before their enemies find them once more.

Silver Cyclone arrives with plenty more back up to overwhelm our heroes, but fails to account for the other imprisoned heroes.

Batman frees the other heroes leading to a free-for-all battle where Batman’s villains in his world are Owlman’s enemies in this world which makes them his allies. Confused? Well, it is the Silver Age, after all. This time will be different with Batman leading the charge.

During the scuffle, Red Hood saves the phase oscillator from certain destruction and Batman has trouble remembering friend from foe. Red Hood tosses Batman the oscillator which he promptly uses to break Blue Bowman’s bow and knocks him out. The rest of the villains begin to fall like dominoes and become imprisoned in the very cells that were used on the heroes earlier. The fight is over with all the villains, save Silver Cyclone, captured.

It is here that the robot makes his true declaration. The bomb rises from the floor and begins its final countdown.

“Open the wormhole, Cyclone! Destroy Batman’s world!”

“Unfortunately, the phase oscillator is no longer in my possession.”

“Well then, deactivate it before it blows us all to bits!”

“Revelation: your concern for all of us is misplaced. The bomb only irradiates organic tissue.”

So it’s easy to tell what Silver Cyclone’s plan has been all along. It was never to rule either his own world or the other worlds; it was purely to eradicate all the living beings he could find. His plan has always been to use the villains to his own end and now that it is too late to stop the bomb, he no longer has to hide it.

This is a rather stark contrast with Red Tornado, being that the only difference between the worlds (other than colors schemes) appears to be moral understandings. Red Tornado might not understand everything about living beings but he accepts that he is not like them and wishes to live in peace with them doing anything he can to stop injustice. Silver Cyclone on the other hand cannot understand anything of living beings and finds it much easier to annihilate those he doesn’t understand and leave the universe from for robots and their simple ways to run free and in charge of whatever remains. The difference is a bit more than moral alignment in their cases; it’s more that Cyclone wants to take the easy way out of Red Tornado’s problems and in the process became one of the worst villains Batman has come across either in his world or any of the others he has come across.

But it doesn’t take long for Red Hood to step in unnoticed and take out Silver Cyclone, blowing him to bits. However, it doesn’t stop the bomb from counting down towards its end without much in the way of stopping it. With less than two minutes left, Red Hood uses the phase oscillator and opens a gate that Batman uses to send the bomb through and close it shut behind. The world is safe.

The heroes celebrate their victory by re-claiming the Injustice Syndicate’s base for their own once more and Red Hood bids Batman goodbye before leaving through the portal. Batman leaves with the last words.

“You started something today: A brave, bold new era in crime-fighting.”

“Whoever he is, I hope my counter-part in your world will have a chance to repay you.”

“Somehow, that seems unlikely.”

What could Batman mean?

He arrives back home through the portal ready send Owlman back through the portal but… something is wrong when he gets there. Batman is somehow now a wanted criminal and is actively being pursued by the law!

What could have happened while our hero was away saving the world? Unfortunately we will not learn exactly what happened as the police closes in on Batman and tell him to give himself in as the episode comes to a close. What has Owlman done?!? What can Batman do to stop him now?!?

The fight against crime might be ongoing, but surely it wasn’t meant to go like this! Can Batman save his world from his deranged doppelganger and make good on Red Hood’s promise for his counterpart to help from this world? Well, unfortunately, that’s all for now!

To be continued!

Until next time, Bat-fans! Same brave blog, same bold place!

2013
10.25

All that awesome fighting and hot-blooded shounenjo rage is great, but the fourth outing takes Kill la Kill in a different direction, and it’s wonderful. In my eyes, this episode embodies everything cartoons should be.

This picture speaks for itself.

The budget really shows. Trigger has no money. But what they do with that lack of money is glorious. This isn’t some halfhearted Studio Deen production. Despite all the stills, the motion tweens, the background-less moments, and some Inferno Cop-style picture sliding at one point, they keep up the momentum. Even when it doesn’t look good, it looks good. The direction is masterful, the music fantastic, the art style charming, and the voice acting full of energy. Even though very little of this episode moves like you’d expect it to after the first and third installments, it’s an absolute pleasure to watch. Trigger does so much with so little, and this may in fact be the most fun I’ve had watching anime since Redline.

I laughed ’til I cried, and not just once. This episode takes me back to when I was in elementary school, catching classic WB/MGM shorts and Cartoon Cartoons on TV whenever I could. Ryuuko and Mako must get to school on time under penalty of expulsion, and on the way they have to navigate the kind of obstacle course you’d see on Sasuke, avoiding deadly traps like pies to the face and lifelike painted landscapes made to resemble their destination. At one point, every senior citizen in the condo district whips out Thompsons in an attempt to shoot down our heroes, but Mako fires back with the convenient mounted gun turret attached to their armored school bus. This is the kind of stuff you’d see in older cartoons that’s sort of fallen by the wayside recently in exchange for more “bizarre” comedy, but you’ve never seen this type of humor done in such a ridiculous and over the top fashion. Trigger has successfully combined the absolute best elements of both eastern and western animated comedy, and I am beyond infatuated.

The episode begins with Senketsu being washed, which is apparently like torture for clothing – the bastard finally gets what was coming to it after episode 1! There are some utterly hilarious shots of it being scrubbed against a washboard and ironed as Ryuuko is rushed out of the house in her pajamas for No-Late Day. After reaching the obstacle course’s first checkpoint (of 1,000), she and Mako meet Maiko, who is totally not a bad guy. Mako’s dad and brother attempt to bring the freshly-washed Senketsu to Ryuuko, but some distracting panty shot hijinks cause them to crash their car – and later, bicycle – while trying to deliver it. Turns out, Maiko is actually a bad guy(!) and has been actively sabotaging our brave heroes this entire time, purposefully pulling down Ryuuko’s pants(?) to cause some of those omnipresent anime nosebleeds you keep hearing about. Now, in my opinion, this is how you do comedic fanservice properly. It’s not particularly gratuitous or lecherous… it’s just there, and somehow manages to be plot-relevant. Brilliant.

Eventually, Guts (Mako’s dog) successfully brings Senketsu to Ryuuko, but Maiko steals it for her own use. She plans to utilize the amazing strepower (not a typo) it grants the wearer to overthrow Satsuki, but Senketsu is in a monowardrobe relationship with Ryuuko, so she just kind of flops around before getting her ass kicked. Unfortunately, Maiko activates her final trap, and they get sent back to the start of the obstacle course… it’s okay, though, because Ryuuko and Mako manage to hijack a sky gondola and smash their way into the classroom at the last possible second. The episode then ends on the most perfect comedy beat possible, forgoing any sort of insight into the aftermath to give the audience one final laugh.

There are a lot of fun character moments in this episode too. Ryuuko and Mako continue to be the year’s most lovable protagonists, and even Senketsu manages to be funny as hell. Also, Gamagoori sleeps in the nude. I don’t know why that’s funny; it just is. The whole thing is beyond crazy, packed to the brim with madcap energy and gleeful insanity. It’s a real laugh-a-minute affair, with nary a moment passing that isn’t somehow hilarious. In spite of its obvious monetary woes, I’d honestly put this episode up there with the very best slapstick cartoon comedy shorts. It owes so much to Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and the rest of the greats, and I think it does their legacy justice. I’d wholeheartedly recommend episode 4 to any animation fan, whether they like anime or Kill la Kill or neither. I never want to meet anyone who can’t be entertained by this.

Special mention must be given to the BGM this time around. The soundtrack has shown a lot of promise in previous installments (I get a hard on every time that track from the establishing shot in episode 1 plays), but here it really shines. Hiroyuki Sawano’s compositions cover an eclectic range of genres and are all pleasing to the ears; every piece of music is excellent in context and benefits the episode greatly. Oh, and The Blue Danube even plays at one point. That’s how you know this is some serious Looney Tunes shit.

It should be illegal for a TV show to be this enjoyable… the wait for next Thursday is going to kill me. I had a real shitty day, but this put such a big smile on my face that I briefly forgot what was bothering me. In episode 4 more than ever, Kill la Kill makes me feel like a little kid again. Can I truly ask for anything else from an anime?

2013
10.24

I, in my position as a snooty stuck-up asshole critic, have a firm conviction that (with a few exceptions, I’m looking at you Master of Martial Hearts) every awful anime has at least one certifiably good episode, because eventually the writers have to cut the crap and just make a show. So far Valvrave had not yet demonstrated such a characteristic… until this week…. wow.

Oh hey he's immortal now...

We begin episode 15 with another time skip to the mysterious future year of GC 211 where Mystery Kid (aka Mayberu-Erufu) and his mother (aka oh hey its Saki) are having a chat on a golf course about the Holy Ones and the infamous curse of the Valvrave. Also present is, surprise!, Satomi Renbokoji, who as far as we know hasn’t grown fangs in the present day. We also learn that Akira is apparently little Eru-Erufu’s godmother, awwww isn’t that sweet? *gag*.

There's a man with a plan

Meanwhile, back in… how many years earlier I kinda forgot, our fearless band of dimwits have been tracked by the Dorssian military and are hiding in a series of caves. Happily L-Elf knows exactly where they are from his days in the Dorssian Military and has already hatched another brilliant foolproof plan which (this being Valvrave) will go horribly wrong again. In it, two Valvravers will sneak in undercover and infiltrate Dorssia’s military garrison sabotaging their weapons. For this important task, he has selected…. wait for it… Saki and Akira.

….

Ok, I can understand why you’d use Akira since nobody knows what she looks like, but seriously Saki is all over ads for an energy drink. What are you thinking L-elf?!? It doesn’t matter though since the two are space vampires and will use their hijack ability anyway. This is actually a brand new and incredibly disorienting experience for Akira who probably hasn’t noticed her canines had grown a couple inches in the past few months and makes for one of the best moment of the episode.

Recoil schmecoil

Also around are a pair of genetically modified CyberNewtype kids from the Flanaga-er… Karlstein Agency. If that name sounds familiar, its because that’s where L-Elf, R-Drei, Q-Vier and the rest where trained to be super soldiers for the Dorssian cause. Two nameless twelve year olds get knocked out by L-Elf (but not before one puts a bullet through Saki’s shoulder) and the operation continues as planned but not before R-Drei puts the squeeze on the hijacked pair.

And thus Eren Jaeger was born...

MEANWHILE… we have the growing issue of Marie. I haven’t written about Marie that much because there really wasn’t much to say. All she did last season, and indeed the start of this one, was magically appear to deliver punchlines to jokes. Last week though the writers finally decided to do something with her character by suddenly and without warning saying she has no memory of things that happened up until two years ago. Then they gave her suspicion about Haruto, after witnessing his miraculous recovery from a head wound suffered in the reentry battle. This week the mystery continues to deepen as it turns out that Pino the VVV-Tan not only recognizes her from at least five years prior, but is also incredibly chatty with her.

Me fail english? That's umpossible!

Naturally Marie wants answers as to what the hell is going on and grills Haruto over it. However it comes at a rather inopportune time as L-Elf has begun his strike of the Dorssia Garrison and Thunder and Kyuma are the only ones around to fight due to the delay. How do you solve a problem like Marie-ah?

Why shooting her point blank in the forehead of course! Ah… L-Elf, you continue to be my waifu this season. Naturally, Haruto is angry and whiny over the whole thing but quickly shuts up when, to noone’s surprise, Marie gets right back up even with a giant hole in the middle of her skull. Uh oh….

This week’s Valvrave was all about exploring the growing mystery that is the power of the Cursed Ones/Holy Spirits. In the first plot you have Akira who having spent all her time in her other closet is forced to learn about the Valvrave curse the hard way (to say the least, her reaction is the exact opposite of Saki’s in episode 6). In the other one, its the revelation that Marie not only has a deep connection to the VVV project, she is also possibly a holy spirit as well. On top of this you have some decent action featuring the frequently underused Kyuma and Thunder, who have their own familiars now, and the biggie…

Head's up!

This is possibly the first episode of Valvrave since… I can’t even remember anymore… where nobody acted like an utter idiot at any time during the course of events. Even Shoko’s little cameo in the first act has her doing some productive in building a fake Valvrave to fool Dorssia. I won’t hold my breath and say this is a positive trend considering how many times this show has kicked me in the balls since day one but its nice to have it happen just ONCE.

7/10 (Valvrave Slope Overloaded)

2013
10.22

Issue #3 or “The One Where Larger Than Life Heroes Come In Small Packages!”

 

This time we’re going to take a look at the episode that put the batty in Batman. In this episode, we see both Aquaman and the Atom team up to save Batman from a deadly disease by shrinking and traveling into his body to destroy the virus before it’s too late. Yes, the general concept of story is not all too original, but where this counts is in the execution. The Atom is the more serious of the two and always looking for the most peaceful and more thoughtful way through a situation while Aquaman (being the adventurous king with the heart of a Beluga whale) is the one always looking for action and the simplest way through.

At the same time, Batman searches for the villain who infected him with the deadly disease before it’s too late for him. Not to mention there’s an entire country put at risk! The clock is counting down, fellow adventurers! Can our tremendous trio of tactical terrifics save the day from this particular peril?

Stay tuned, the barn is about to be burned.

 

#3 – Journey to the Center of the Bat!

Written by: Matt Wayne

Directed by: Michael Chang

Principle Cast:

Diedrich Bader as Batman

John DiMaggio as Aquaman

James Sie as The Atom (Dr. Ryan Choi)

Dee Bradley Baker as The Brain / Chemo

 

The episode begins in the depths of a laboratory. Dr. Ryan Choi is a scientist working on a very important experiment that could change the world forever. That is, until he is interrupted by an emergency phone call and is forced to cut it short. The inappropriately timed call is from Aquaman who wants to make some small talk before remembering why it was he was calling the first place.

It seems Aquaman and Batman was fighting the villain known as “Chemo” who appropriately is composed of harmful chemicals. The pair was taken aback when Chemo… well… vomited on Batman. And now the caped crusader is not looking too well. Which is not surprising since Chemo isn’t exactly an eco-friendly bad guy. But of course Aquaman isn’t worried one bit unlike his fellow heroes.

Aquaman never seems to be frazzled for long, even when it is a life or death situation he never fails to assume the best. While Atom quickly becomes annoyed at Aquaman’s boisterous personality, Dr. Choi is still willing to help without much question. He is, after all, a superhero which is why he was called in the first place.

Dr. Choi then transforms into The Atom and jumps through the phone lines by shrinking to the size of a sub-atomic particle. He then rode along the electrons through the phone wires impressing Aquaman with his skills. Aquaman doesn’t really understand what he did, but is still just as excited to see his friend.

“You don’t know what kind of doctor I am, do you?”

“A hero doctor! Through and through!”

The Atom tells the two that the chemicals will slowly overtake Batman’s body before slowly disabling him and then eventually taking his life. There isn’t much time, so Atom takes Aquaman with him (reluctantly) into Batman’s body by using his shrinking powers to fight off the disease. Batman is ordered to stay still or the organisms will spread faster. He should wait for the two to succeed in their mission before moving again or things will get worse faster for him.

So when Batman ignores his friend’s advice, he finds moving much harder. Chemo is headed toward the city and he needs to stop the overgrown vomit bag before it’s too late. He hops into the Bat-boat and speeds off toward him. The navy fires everything they have, but Chemo simply refuses to slow down. Batman joins in their assault and just as Atom said, he soon loses all motor control as he begins speeding toward the towering terror.

Things are not looking too good for our caped crusader already, but he should be having better luck than our puny protagonists.

Aquaman and Atom land in Batman’s body and begin looking for the source of the problem from Batman’s lung. They are both rather impressed at their location, though for different reasons, but quickly decide that they must hurry. After ribbing at each other’s expense, they swim off to find… a little insect injecting bile inside of Batman’s body and spreading the disease further.

Ick.

Apparently this is the bug they need to destroy, but both are torn between how to approach their foe before Aquaman makes the decision for them and tears through it himself with his sword made of water.

The good king of the sea slices the pest in two with his conjured sword, but it isn’t enough. The bug splits itself into two once more and continues on with its violent vomiting. Atom chastises Aquaman for not thinking and takes it upon himself to electrocute them with his ray instead, which promptly stops the multiplying insects cold.

Momentarily, anyway.

It doesn’t completely stop them from replicating and they begin charging through Batman to attack the pair of pint-sized pair with a newfound rage. The bugs are spreading fast, and they seem to be getting more powerful by the minute.

Atom questions why they’re spreading so fast and if it’s because Batman didn’t listen to his orders. Aquaman already knew he wouldn’t listen to doctor’s orders because he’s Batman and laughs at the idea that he would have stayed still. The Caped Crusader has fought crime in traction, for crying out loud. Aquaman pulls Atom to safety toward the rushing blood vessels for an escape.

“Worry not, poindexter! I shall lead us to safer ground!”

“Wait! At our size, blood vessels are raging rivers of death!”

“Not if I summon a sturdy steed!”

Using his powers to summon water dwelling creatures… inside Batman’s blood stream… despite Atom’s protests that there are no animals living inside Batman, Aquaman’s powers summon:

A… lymphocyte. The neighs like a horse.

They ride the… uh… horse… through the blood stream with the bile-filled bugs in pursuit as Atom uses his gun to fight off the quickly approaching hoards from behind though despite being overwhelmed by the swarm of puking parasites, it doesn’t seem to affect Aquaman’s demeanour much at all.

He in fact just thinks of it as an even bigger adventure.

“Hahaha, I’m king of the sea!” He shouts as he rides a lymphocyte like a stallion through Batman’s bloodstream and slices through the pesky parasites like a hot knife through butter.

It’s important to mention that in “The Brave & The Bold”, (since his first appearance was not covered in any of our issues) Aquaman is in fact the king of the sea. He has an undying thirst for action and adventure and never fails to smile at a challenge. This leaves little wonder for why the cautious Dr. Choi is more than a little perplexed at his brash behavior and wonders why he doesn’t ever stop to consider an alternative. He’s simply too amped up to listen to anyone, least of all the good doctor who always wants him to do what he doesn’t want to.

Meanwhile, Batman uses his voice commands to keep Chemo busy by dodging his puke shots in the Bat-boat. He transforms it into the Batwing and takes off into the sky. Though it fires concussive grenades at the monstrous monster, it still fails to stop its pursuit. Chemo easily knocks it back into the ocean once again and leaves our hero wondering if his friends are having better luck than he is.

Atom and Aquaman make it to safety and the lymphocyte (which the sea king calls “Platelet”- yes, that’s what he names it) attempts to give Aquaman a big hug which Atom interprets as the “stallion” trying to absorb and break him down in order to destroy him since he’s a foreign body. They look up from their position to find hundreds upon thousands of the little bugs waiting for them up ahead and try to concoct a plan.

“Neptune’s beard, they’re everywhere!”

“And we’re not going to be able to beat them head on.”

“Not the way you fight, no.”

Atom ignores the barb and tells his compatriot that they must find the seed cell in order to destroy all the others at once. There’s only one thing to do; jump on Platelet and ride the lymphocyte into Batman’s brain to stop the bugs!

That’s a sentence.

Chemo continues his charge toward the city, now batting navy ships out of his way while Batman continues on his desperate pursuit. The grotesque giant steals a nuke from a launch base (!) which lets Batman think that he must be operating under someone’s direction. Soon enough he gets a transmission that tells him exactly what he has guessed.

The Brain is the brain behind the attack! How ironic!

Chemo eats the nuke (!) and stomps off toward the city. Now Batman has even less options as he chases after the vomiting villain. The Brain gives the people an ultimatum to submit to his rule or he will send Chemo over to the city and detonate the nuke inside the beast that will wipe out the country. The only one still standing in his way is good old Batman who is lying helpless in the damaged Batwing floating uselessly on the open ocean.

The Brain orders Chemo to crush Batman in the vehicle, but Batman ejects at the right height as he’s lifted up and soars through the sea sky without being able to move and lands… in Chemo’s mouth.

As Batman plummets to his warm liquid death, Atom and Aquaman (and Platelet) make their way to Batman’s big brain in time to see a giant insect hugging it which is the very creature stopping Batman’s movements. They distract it to which the creature summons more puke-filled bugs embedded in Batman’s brain to attack the heroes and keep them from reaching their goal.

While the three heroes are swarmed, Chemo enters the city ready to detonate the nuke while Batman (now free to move thanks to the distraction currently unfolding inside his head) swims toward the nuke and disables it while it floats suspended in the bile.

With his little remaining strength he blows a hole in Chemo’s stomach which leaves the monster to puke out the vomit from the blown hole into the street. Eventually he drains of his precious puke and the giant booger-like being dissolves. Batman is washed away back to the dock where he scans the sea for a nearby submarine amongst the wreckage of ships which must house the one he’s looking for.

Aquaman shoves Atom off of Platelet and the pair charges off toward the swarm of death ahead. He tells him that he will distract them so that Atom is free to hit the big bug and destroy it, but the hasty plan doesn’t go as he hoped for. There are just too many of them.

While Aquaman charges into glory, Batman detonates a hole in the roof of the Brain’s sub and finally meets him face to mechanical brain-thing face. Batman is looking ragged and wobbling in his walk, yet still tells The Brain he’s going to take him in.

Batman stumbles over himself to the ground and knocks the Brain over which leads to an epic battle between the two juggernauts.

But inside his head, all is not going well. Platelet is shredded into pieces as Aquaman is tossed to the ground in his charge. Atom loses his cool after the trusty steed’s death finally deciding that Aquaman might have the right idea in this case. Enough is enough!

Let’s get outrageous.

“What about the plan?”

“Blah, blah, blah… Let’s punch ‘em!”

Atom makes a final gambit during the brawl and sticks the device directly into the creature’s brain and blows it sky-high. The beasts instantly cry with pain and are dissolved into nothing once again. Our two heroes stand alone and triumphant.

Batman’s life has been saved.

As a result, back on the submarine the Dark Knight regains his strength. It takes him seconds to take the Brain down swiftly in order to save the world from his sickening schemes!

Aquaman pats his clever friend on the back and admires his guts and smarts, and Atom says (basically) the same to his fish-like friend. Though Platelet died, it was not in vain. Even though the lymphocyte didn’t last long, they don’t usually, it’s best to remember the good times they had. Good times like beating buggy beasts belching bile into a sick man’s organs while he in turn saves the world from a vomit monster. Truly a battle they will never forget.

The episode ends as our remaining heroes make a swim for the only way out- Batman’s tear ducts. They might be looking for that for a while.

“Come then, let us honor Platelet and live as heroes!”

It’s important to mention one thing about this episode. It is pretty off the wall. Obviously. But there was another thing to take notice, that being that it was enjoyable while being so. While some episodes in the series are more action-based, some are more serious, and some are a combination of the two, there are still other episodes such as this that mainly exist to be strange and out of the blue in order to have you enjoying the adventure.

Most episodes with Aquaman are like this, but as great as the show is with comedy, this might be one of the funniest in the entire show’s run. He would also team up with the Atom again after this, mainly due to how successful this episode was.

The Silver Age can sometimes be like this, however, and so can Batman. Just because certain stories can go a specific way or only be told one way, it doesn’t mean there can’t be other stories that constantly surprise you with sharp turns while you’re heading that way. Some stories can only be done like this. Of course Batman saves the day, but how many times does he blow a hole through a vicious vomit monster’s stomach after disabling a nuke and riding the ejecting fluids to safety?

Not very often, I’d wager.

Until next time, Bat-fans! Same brave blog, same bold place!

2013
10.19

Back then, Air Nomads worshipped the holy Handlebar Mustache.

In honor of Alaska Day, Nick’s given us a double-offering of Korra. And to make sure it’s not a hollow gift, these episodes were actually good. A bit derivative, yes, but I liked them. It was nice to get a little origin story that stood apart from the Water Tribe’s monotony. This reminded me of how good Avatar could be, and what the show has to offer to stand apart from other stuff on basic cable. Yeah, it’s not much. But this is a nice gem to look back on whenever people eventually re-evaluate the second season.

Korra is trying to be that show where all the episodes are chapters to one bigger story, like the second season of Young Justice. But like Young Justice, the chapters only offer more questions than answers and lead to a bigger disappointment than a standalone episode would normally offer. The flaw with arc-driven shows is that if there’s one really bad episode, all of the others will be affected by the plot elements from that one. You can’t even pretend that episode doesn’t exist, because you’ll have to watch that in order to understand what happens next. That stain is stuck with you until the season ends. A season arc is something that entices writers and fans alike due to the promise of a fluid story, but it also leads to a bigger gamble if the staff doesn’t devise the plan with care. That’s what Korra felt like before this episode, a string of chapters where flaws that would normally affect one week were stretched across the whole season.

So I guess this is where Korra finds its stride, by using short stories throughout to unfold the mythology at large rather than trying to tell one epic tale at once. And you know this won’t be the last time we’ll hear of Vaatu and the harmonic convergence. If Unalaq doesn’t at least reveal how his plans are to use Vaatu as a trump card against the Southern Water Tribe or something, I’ll be rendered speechless. But using this as a jumping point works, because the two-parter told its own story while offering a single thread to tie it together with the season. This gives the writers more freedom to tell the main story while not getting tired over it. I know the episodic idea is unpopular, but a series of varied stories feel preferable to a drawn-out one with no real goal in mind.

But that’s enough about ranting on Korra’s story structure, so I’ll talk about Wan. I like him. He starts as kind of a roguish figure who has a heart but doesn’t have the head to use it properly. While he starts off as bull-headed like Korra, he openly shows good intentions throughout the two-parter like when he saves the cat-deer. These small moments—including resisting attacking Chou—make him down-to-earth while foreshadowing his future as a sacred figure. It’s those subtle additions that make a good character. While Aang and Korra had the Order of the White Lotus to guide them along the right path, Wan didn’t have any of that. He had to find his own. I know, the show unfortunately utilizes quite a bit of exposition and montages in order to fit Wan’s story into forty minutes, but brevity is the soul of wit and all that.

If anything, this adds a “less is more” approach to the story by letting the characters’ short time give them distinction. Wan’s life with the spirits would probably be less whimsical if they spent an entire episode on that scene, so the brevity leaves more to the imagination. It makes the viewer wonder about what the spiritual age was like instead of spelling it out too much. After hearing Unalaq go on about being in touch with a divine nature, it’s nice to finally see what he’s talking about for once. Some of the scenes in these episodes were really interesting, with the animation being a bit breathtaking on occasion. Yes, most of it is ripped off wholesale from Spirited Away. They even have Jason Marsden play one of the spirits, for God’s sakes. But when you get down to it, anyone who prefers Mako over repackaged Miyazaki is crazy. Avatar’s always been heavily influenced by Ghibli, and this is only the latest of many examples.

But maybe I’ve grown too taxed by the previous episodes to wholly appreciate this week’s offering, since I kept wondering about certain things. Like, why would Wan be dumb enough to help Vaatu before hearing Raava’s case? I know being the first Avatar doesn’t equate to being the smartest, but that was an off-putting way to set up the plot. I could be nitpicking, but that one moment just got to me in the wrong way. Still, that scene can be forgiven by Wan having to pay with his friends’ lives for making that wrong decision.

So yeah, the show’s possibly back on track and I hope the rest of the season gets this good. And it didn’t even need Varrick.

2013
10.18

This episode is basically Studio Trigger’s manifesto. It spits in the face of everyone who complained about trivial things from the previous installments and re-enforces the fact that they don’t give a shit what people think of them. If you didn’t like the other episodes, you certainly won’t like this one… and you’ll realize that Kill la Kill doesn’t exactly think highly of you, either.

*Cue the Bad Boys 2 sound clip.*

Episode 3 features the first real showdown between Ryuuko and Satsuki. It’s properly ridiculous, and while I was a bit disappointed to see it end in a stalemate after how hyped up this battle had been by Japanese fans, it definitely works as what Trigger calls “Kill la Kill‘s first climax.” Joke’s on them, I already climaxed during episode 1. But, if I’m being honest, my favorite part of this episode was actually the buildup in the first half. The early scenes prove that Satsuki is an amazing antagonist. She doesn’t take shit from anyone and basically makes Junketsu (another Kamui) her bitch immediately after it’s introduced. Some very well-delivered exposition – that shows rather than tells, unlike most anime – gives us insight into how powerful Kamuis really are, and we get more hilarious moments of Mako using her seemingly elastic body to bounce around everywhere. It also features one of the best animation cuts yet from this series: Mako’s dad and little brother run a crazy circle around their bedroom, undressing, bathing, and getting into bed all in the span of 15 madcap seconds. It’s animated with the kind of comic intensity you rarely see in today’s cartoons, and is pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Oh, and there’s a Dead Leaves reference in there too. Imaishi remembers!

One of my favorite things about this episode is how it specifically brings up a lot of the things certain people disliked about the last two, then just flippantly excuses them and tells the audience to stop getting so worked up. It does this pretty constantly in the first half, including a scene where Mikisugi (the teacher) makes an innuendo, Ryuuko calls him on it, and he responds that she’s interpreting him incorrectly and that it’s naive to get angry over something so meaningless. If there’s one lesson to be learned from 2010’s Panty & Stocking, it’s that this crew loves screwing with potential fans who can’t handle the (im)mature content on display. They don’t want to accommodate you if you aren’t part of the target audience, and I love them for that. I’m glad they’re calling folks out, as it gets annoying when even diehard Monogatari fanboys suddenly feel the need to jump on the bandwagon in labeling the sexual humor “creepy,” which is so hilariously hypocritical that I don’t even know where to begin.

Of course, the real meat of this episode lies in its action-packed second half, and it’s killer. While not quite as crazy as I’d been led to believe, it features a few truly awesome civilian-flinging moments and (outside of a couple very jarring seconds) some fantastic CGI. That corridor fight is legendary… I only wish it was longer. The budget does kind of show throughout like it did in episode 2, but Trigger has done an admirable job maintaining the breakneck pace and high energy of the series premiere in spite of potential money woes. Ryuuko reaches full power this time, and Satsuki probably kills at least half the student body trying to take her down. It ends with neither woman victorious, our hero prepared to slice her way through every single club to discover the truth behind her father’s murder. Villain-of-the-week pacing is a go~

Remember my first blog entry on this show where I so boldly claimed that fanservice does not necessarily undermine someone’s character? Episode 3 pretty much makes my point for me. To reach her full potential, Ryuuko has to embrace her inner awesomeness and stop being ashamed of her body. Satsuki doesn’t even flinch at the prospect of strutting her stuff because she’s already sexually liberated, and Ryuuko realizes she has to follow suit if she wants any hope of winning. So she does her full transformation – sadly copy-pasted from the OP, which kind of ruins the moment – and manages to hold her own in a seemingly hopeless fight. I mean, yeah, this is all definitely just an excuse for the fanservice to exist in-universe, but it also proves that Trigger understands how sexualization does not automatically equal objectification, and to me it actually comes across as empowering, since these characters are first and foremost supposed to be considered cool by the audience. They’re comfortable with their bodies and don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of them – something everyone should strive for. That said, they would totally kick your ass if you talked shit about how they looked. You know it’s true.

My friend tried to give me a pep talk like this one time. I cut off his hands so he could never touch my cock again.

To be honest, I have no idea why some people are so bothered by how overtly sexual Kill la Kill is. I really hate delving into this topic, but in spite of the awesome fight scenes and great humor, I’ve seen far more criticism about boobs and butts than legitimate discussion as of late. Yeah, Ryuuko and Satsuki are hot, whatever. Their characters are well-written and enticing in a way based almost entirely around their personalities rather than their looks, and that’s why the ridiculous T&A shots aren’t annoying. All that inventive fanservice is thrown in your face constantly because Kill la Kill is fun and audacious, not because Trigger wants you to pop a boner. Shit, why else would the teacher always strip off his clothes while spouting exposition? Why else would every scene involve some kind of impossible slapstick? Why else would the overall art design resemble Looney Tunes more than actual human anatomy? You’re not supposed to be taking KLK seriously. Just look at their silly costumes and laugh.

This series uses constant sexuality and violence for comedy because it loves reveling in depravity to the point where it no longer has any basis in reality. Under other circumstances this kind of stuff probably should make you feel uncomfortable, but Kill la Kill is goofy and non-exploitative. I would by no means call KLK a feminist show, but it’s not like this is fucking Yuushibu where the female characters have no personality and the camera purposefully zooms in on their panties; this is a crazy action-comedy made for insane people of all shapes and sizes. Male, female, whatever – it doesn’t matter. You’re here for the zany spectacle, and there’s no limit to the creators’ imaginations. If the roller coaster is making you sick, it’s probably best not to get on for another ride.

For the rest of us, next Thursday can’t come soon enough. We’re in for the long haul, you and I. We’ll always have Honnouji Academy.

2013
10.17

If its Thursday its must be… KILL LA KILL DAY!!! YAAAAAAAAAAYunfortunatelyitsalsoValvravedayBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Oh Valvrave...

After breaking through the Dorssia blockade (pfft that was easy), our fearless band of JIOR nerdowells are about to fly through a series of special rings ala The Man of Steel 64 to make their landfall onto Earth. That means… its going to be another “off-week” episode. Those who stuck around with this show probably remember when Valvrave had a lull in the plot last season they’d fill it up with some of the dumbest moments in the show. The most notable example of which being the infamous Episode 5, which happens to not only be the worst episode of Valvrave by far but also one of, it not the, worst episodes of any anime this year if not ever. This week… doesn’t quite get that inane (it gets close though), mostly because of its middle act and also because we have to develop a pair of characters we didn’t spend much time with last season. Yes my friends… its the Renbokouji siblings episode! …oh god.

Madoka Bitch SlapX2

Yes Akira and Satomi! Remember them? Of course not! But I’ll remind you anyway. Satomi is the older brother and preppy twerp with Boobs McTitts as his girlfriend. He’s mostly notable for giving a solid plan about building a decent economy for JIOR during the PM Campaign only to be utterly embarrassed by Shoko’s promises of unicorns and rainbows. To be fair I’ve always pitied the guy even if he is kind of a dick in the show. Akira, on the other hand, spent the nearly the entire series literally hiding in the closet and only communicating through text messages. Turns out she still is! …even though said closet has since been blown up. So yeah all that development in Episode 12 was just thrown out the window. Way to go Valvrave!

Now you gotta strip...

So yeah its going to take another life or death bs incident to draw these two finally together and explain why they had drifted apart in the first place, and whose fault is it? Why Satomi’s of course! Although L-Elf’s plan to sneak onto Earth as a mail truck is patently fullproof thanks to Kyuuma and Thunder using their Space Vampire powers to hijack the customs officers, Satomi bungles it by… taking a phone call. Yes, just answering the phone will clue Dorssia into the fact that its the JIOR kids trying to sneak in giving us the latest incarnation of that time honored Sunrise mecha show cliché… the atmosphere battle episode.

He's gonna give you the finger(s)...

Ever since Amuro Ray used his RX-78 Gundam’s shield to try to survive reentry in 1979, pretty much every Sunrise mecha show originating in space has done an episode where the good guys are forced to battle their enemies while under the threat of breaking up in the Van Allen Belt. This time it seems like a rather unfair fight though as its all five Valvraves against one Dorssia mech. However said Dorssia mech has been modded to survive in the atmosphere and the Valvraves haven’t so the tables are quickly turned. After hearing her brother go on a guilt ridden crying fit on the com, Akira steps in and does some decent damage to the Dorssia mech, but now she’s caught in the atmosphere. Happily its Haruto to the rescue with his brand new deus ex machin-er… toyuuuuhhh… weapon, the rather unfortunately named “familiar” (hey they’re vampires, why not?!?)

Zapped! 3

After some more false tension, and a steaming pile of deus ex machina abuse, our heroes are saved and crash land on the earth. Unfortunately, this being a Sunrise atmosphere battle, they’re way off course and behind enemy lines. Way to go geniuses!

Episode 13 is not a bad episode by any real stretch, except for a small one early on involving Akira pulling a Solid Snake-style cardboard box trick. The atmosphere battle is fairly tense for the most part and rivals the classic one featuring the near entire destruction of the eighth EA fleet in the original Gundam SEED. Its only towards the end where it just falls apart no thanks to Akira and Satomi’s idiocy but also blatant deus ex machina solution abuse. Oh and guess who makes a cameo at the end?

It’s L-Elf’s lost pseudo-love who we haven’t seen outside of the opening titles in a million years! …yeah I still don’t give a shit about you because the show sure didn’t last spring.

5/10 (8/10 on a Valvrave Scale)

 

2013
10.16

I’m not sure this is a “review” so much as an opinion piece – however, I think it counts. Be warned that it contains major spoilers and probably should not be read until you’ve watched the series to completion. Or if you don’t care. That works too.

When the first episode initially aired, I immediately assumed this would be one of the most celebrated anime titles of the year. It sported a fantastic, unique look coordinated by Takeshi Koike of Redline fame, excellent jazz music produced by Shinichiro Watanabe (you know, the Cowboy Bebop guy), and, well… it’s freakin’ Lupin III! A legendary, classic franchise upheld as one of the best by young and old alike! How could it possibly go under the radar? Who knows. But it did. Apparently this series was overlooked by just about everyone, and – from what I hear – only got an official English release because Sonny Strait begged for it. Thanks, man!

The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is a prequel/possible reboot to the beloved Lupin III franchise. It ostensibly focuses on the back story of – you guessed it – Fujiko Mine, the sexy femme fatale who often seems to outmaneuver everyone’s favorite master thief (that’s Lupin III, for those keeping score), though it also delves into her earliest encounters with Lupin, Jigen, Goemon, and Zenigata. While Goemon’s characterization on the whole is pretty weak, as are the two installments featuring him as a central character, the episodic adventures in the first half of the series are as hilarious and fun-filled as Lupin fans have come to expect – albeit a lot more R-rated than in previous anime. This is the first animated Lupin offering to truly capture the tone of Monkey Punch’s original manga, which is notoriously more “hardcore” than the previous anime series and movies. However, the latter part of Fujiko Mine takes a turn for the darker and more plot-oriented, and that’s where it truly gets brilliant.

Many of the middle episodes are interspersed with psychedelic scenes of owl men raping and torturing a young girl. They’re extremely disturbing and often hard to watch, even more so with the accompanying experimental soundtrack comprised almost entirely of weird noises. Eventually, the audience discovers that these are actually repressed memories of Fujiko’s. Apparently, her childhood was fraught with human experimentation, physical and sexual abuse, and owl men. Lots of owl men. But wait, you say! Doesn’t this completely ruin her character? Isn’t she supposed to be a strong woman who does whatever she wants, whenever she wants? Why can’t she just be a cool, sultry thief because she wants to be? Well, I’m glad you asked, because…

It’s all a ruse. The memories don’t belong to her. Back during the war (WW2?), Count Luis Yu Almeida (leader of the owl men cult), had many horrifying hypnosis experiments performed on a bunch of young girls in hopes of creating the perfect sex slave for himself. His favorite of them, Aisha, endured the worst of it, consistently, for years upon years until Almeida finally died. Twisted by the unending torture, she now gets her jollies by kidnapping women and using the same hypnosis experiments to imprint her memories of suffering upon them, afterward releasing them back into the wild to watch how they react. One of these people was Fujiko; however, being the capable badass that she is, the memories were immediately repressed and she was able to continue life as normal. Her exploits amused Aisha for a time (via video cameras placed literally everywhere… somehow), but then she got annoyed seeing Fujiko rob people and use sex to her advantage without reprieve, so she decided to forcefully trigger horrific flashbacks in an attempt to make Fujiko break down and give up. Indeed, Aisha likes the women she watches on TV to be independent… but not too independent.

You see, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine isn’t really a story about Fujiko’s past at all; it’s actually a commentary on the portrayal of women in anime (and other forms of entertainment). Aisha’s reasoning mimics that of men who want to see strong women in their anime… but not too strong! Oh yeah, they can kick ass and sleep around all they want, but only if they have some sort of tragic – and probably rape-filled – history to back it up. I’ve seen this argument many times before: women are only allowed to be independent and sexually liberated if they’re “broken,” their feminine demureness whittled away by years of abuse. It’s utter bullshit, and this series very elaborately calls that out. The entire major story arc of Fujiko Mine is basically a big “fuck you” to the poor and disrespectful way in which so many female characters are written, and I absolutely love it. Now, certainly not every anime or TV show follows this line of reasoning, but a hell of a lot of them do. Calling out this horrible trend of writing has been a long time coming, and I’m glad someone finally did it.

Furthermore, episode 9 is all about the objectification of women in the media. In it, a deranged artist has kept a young woman as his slave since birth, and used her body as a canvas for his art. She is incapable of speech and exists only to be gawked at, then is actually auctioned off to leering men for money. It’s not subtle, but it hits home, and makes for a damn fine satirical piece when mixed with the expected Lupin III hijinks.

Outside of the aforementioned Goemon episodes, I have little to no issues with anything in this anime. While many have complained about the character of Oscar, I honestly had no problems with his inclusion, and found his storyline in episode 11 to be fairly well-done. Some have referred to the ending as anti-climactic, but that makes me think they missed the point it was trying to make, and probably aren’t even Lupin fans. The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is an underrated gem; it’s uniquely attractive, alternately fun and disturbing, and utterly brilliant at its core. It’s worth a look even if you aren’t familiar with the Lupin III franchise, and doubly so if you are. I hope we get a red jacket series with the same kind of art style and music soon.

2013
10.15

Issue #2 or “Bad Beetle Breakdown!”

 

Our next episode deals with the reoccurring side character known as the Blue Beetle. Jaime Reyes (the current Blue Beetle) was first introduced in the series premiere and even got the first title “Rise of the Blue Beetle!” suffice to say he is an important character in the series. He uses the power of the Blue Scarab to manifest powers that allow him to do everything from firing laser blasts to transforming his hand into a massive hammer or saw. Being that he is new to crime fighting, Batman thought it imperative to instruct him on how to be a hero.

However, that story was more straightforward and was less defined which since it was a pilot is expected. However, this episode despite its title is not a sequel to the premiere nor is it referring to Jaime Reyes. It is instead referring to the disappearance of the previous Blue Beetle named Ted Kord and the rocky history the Blue Beetle scarab (the source of Blue Beetle’s powers) has had since it was found on earth.

Grab your party blowers and boxing gloves kids; this is going to be a good old fashioned slobber knocker.

 

#2 – Fall of the Blue Beetle!

Written by: Jim Krieg

Directed by: Brandon Vietti

 

Principle Cast:

Diedrich Bader as Batman

Will Friedle as Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes)

Wil Wheaton as Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)

Tim Matheson as Jarvis Kord

Lex Lang as Dr. Polaris

Jason Marsden as Paco

 

This episode starts with the cold open showing Batman and mysterious hero called ‘Blue Beetle’ that is different from the one we have already met in the show. Batman and Blue Beetle are breaking into some kind of a hidden lab and seem to be getting along just great as if they’ve known each other a long time. But why does Batman know two Blue Beetles and why have we never seen him before now?

Normally the cold open features a climax to another Batman adventure we don’t see, so when the show has a cold open that has to do with the current episode it’s usually worth sitting up for and paying attention. Fall of the Blue Beetle is one of those times.

This Blue Beetle does not appear to have the same powers as the one we know, but is more similar to Batman in his usage of gadgets. Blue Beetle and Batman make their way through the death traps that litter the lab (making small talk on gadgets and their general effectiveness) before falling through the floor into the employee lounge and discuss the effectiveness of brawn in a superhero’s career. It is here where we get thrown into our traditional title sequence.

“People just don’t appreciate the time and expense that goes into this high tech gear-

They’d rather see fisticuffs.”

“True-

Uppercuts and body slams are no substitutes for having the proper tools when it comes to crime fighting…

But they are a whole lot more fun!”

We are shown a shooting star in space that pans down to reveal two teenagers telling stories to each other by the campfire. Jaime Reyes and his friend Paco are both debating the origin of the Green Lantern and what it means to be a hero. Paco argues that some ordinary guy lucked into finding the ring which is what makes the Green Lantern a hero and Jaime disagrees saying that the ring chose the right person to be the hero. “Heroes are chosen because they’re worthy to become heroes,” he argues.

Paco quickly backs off when he sees how passionate Jaime is on the subject since he doesn’t appear to know that his friend is actually a superhero. He enjoys ribbing his smaller friend on most occasions, but isn’t willing to attack something he believes in so passionately. However, he also doesn’t know why Jaime feels that way.

The Blue Beetle is a hero that has not been around too long, in fact his first proper mission might have not been too long before the series premiere, but one thing Jaime believes is that heroes are exceptional people who rise above the problems that come their way and are more than willing to give a helping hand to others. But whether he earned those powers or not is something that eats a bit at him.

Jaime found a scarab that attached to his back and gave him the power of the Blue Beetle. With the scarab’s help it gave him superpowers that allowed him to adventure with his heroes like Batman. Otherwise, he would be just another kid sitting around talking about how much cooler hero X is than hero Y and not the superhero he feels he was chosen to become. Or so he thinks, anyway.

This conversation bothers him a good deal and he spends some time thinking about his discussion. It in fact bothers it so much he decides to take it to a friend.

Sometime later, Batman is deep in battle with Dr. Polaris who is stealing quite a bit of gold when our young hero appears in the midst of battle. Asking Batman embarrassing questions while the two are on a mission is sort of standard issue for the young Blue Beetle, but this time he appears more serious than usual though the Caped Crusader doesn’t notice. It doesn’t help that Dr. Polaris can attract and repel metal which really requires his undivided attention so he not get smashed in the face with a nice hunk of unexpected flying steel to the jaw.

“Fools! Your bullets are useless against my awesome power to repel!”

“You might try a new deodorant.

Once the devious doctor is taken down, Batman coldly refuses to tell his friend anything about the previous Blue Beetle, telling him to drop it and the young hero goes off on his own. The scarab informs Jaime (yes, at some point it started talking to him in a voice only he can hear) that he can find old reports of the Blue Beetle and find out where he originally operated from. It doesn’t take long before the scarab’s info brings him to Hub City.

With the scarab leading the way, Jaime comes to Kord Enterprises and is led to a secret lair the holds plenty of old school superhero technology including a giant spaceship.

The previous Blue Beetle apparently knew something about the scarab Jaime didn’t know as the creature enters into the computer and a location appears on the screen. Naturally, he assumes this means that the previous Blue Beetle must have gone to this place. He also must have never returned as he was never seen again and the hideout is covered in thick dust.

As the second Blue Beetle, Ted Kord must have had many enemies. Is it possible one had finished him off?

There’s only one thing to do, Jaime decides. He must go and rescue the previous Blue Beetle and hopefully find out exactly what the scarab is in the process.

While he flies through the skies he is sent a communication from Batman who is back at it beating a new gang of criminals up. Batman apologies for being rude to his young friend earlier, but that he wasn’t sure that he was ready to hear about what happened to the last Blue Beetle as it is not something he talks about often to anyone. Jaime ignores Batman’s warnings and heads to an island that the computer guides him to leaving his friend hanging on the other end.

“Teenagers.”

Blue Beetle arrives on the island and quickly comes across a small cadre of blue robots shaped like some kind of insect. He promptly blows them to pieces when an older man arrives and chews him out for his behavior. Jaime apologizes and tells him that he is actually Jaime Reyes, the new Blue Beetle and the old man returns his greeting. He says his name is Ted Kord and he was the previous Blue Beetle.

Whatever had happened to him that lead him to be there on the island and disappearing from crime-fighting is still a mystery.

Batman becomes nervous for his young friend and takes off to Science Island (yes, that’s what it’s called) in order to find him and reminisces once more about the mission we saw in the cold open at the show’s start.

Ted Kord had apparently loaned the scarab to the owner of the lab they were infiltrating (why he loaned it to this individual we don’t learn until later) and it ended up stolen by the stranger in the lab before them.

He lent the scarab to try and see if the stranger could get it to work for him since Ted Kord has never been able to make the scarab work. Though he instead was relying on gadgets like Batman to fight crime, a little extra firepower is always welcome. The Dark Knight and the Blue Beetle make their entrance and are assaulted by all sorts of strange robots and machines disguised like lab equipment as the villain tries to make an escape through the chaos.

“Looks like he had a contingency plan.”

“Good thing we have our own.”

“Hit robots, make fall down?”

“That’s the one.”

Back in the present, the man called Ted Kord talks about his current research to make the scarab technology to make the world a better place. While he could only help one person at a time as the Blue Beetle, he can now help countless with his new army of drones. The robots will apparently do the farming to feed the poor, the building for the homeless, and other such activities like fight-crime. They only need to be powered by the scarab to help them activate and the good deeds can begin.

Yes, Jaime is more than a little naïve, believing that if the scarab went to Ted Kord then he must be someone to be trusted. He instead ignored the warning signs and blindly charged in to give the hidden man exactly what he wanted. Without even a pause he gives them the charge they need to start.

Kord even takes credit for the scarab “finding” Jaime saying that he sent it out to seek the person best required to help him save the world. How one actually programs something to do that is a mystery.

Hey, he worked with Batman. Surely he’s on the level? No, apparently Kord has something against old Bats, as after Jaime informs the old man about him he waits for the hero to turn his back and sends a security protocol to stop Batman from arriving.

What is Kord’s deal?

Batman arrives on Science Island being pursued by the scarab bots that Kord sent out after him just moments before. He just manages to escape the Batwing exploding when at the same time Jaime starts to think that something isn’t right with Kord’s plan. It appears the little robots don’t have much hope of feeding the poor with bullets. Not to mention them being loaded on missiles can’t do much to build homes.

Kord turns on Jaime and loads himself into a large scarab powered suit and begins to beat him down saying that Batman won’t be coming to help because he’s taken care of him.

Unfortunately for the mad doctor, he’s wrong as Batman levels the bot with a well-placed electric tazer shock (and a great punch line) and rescues Jaime from his grip when the doctor calls for his back up.

“Battle drones! Initiate attack sequence!

No missiles in the lab, PLEASE.”

The robots obey Kord’s orders and attack our heroes without projectiles at our overwhelmed heroes. The doctor quickly regains control of the situation and restrains his aggressors as he gloats about how he is now going to rule the world. He wanders away claiming he will eliminate any evil from the world when Batman tells Jaime that the old megalomaniac is in fact not Ted Kord.

The deranged doctor is actually Jarvis Kord, Ted’s uncle who was given the scarab to help him learn its secrets. He turned on Ted and instead tried to use it to amass his own armory of aggressive technology when Ted found out and decided to take the scarab back and stop his mad plans. Batman tagged along to help and that was how they ended up in that old lab so long ago.

Ted Kord received the Blue Beetle scarab from his mentor Dan Garrett who died in a violent battle and told him to carry on the mantle. Ted tried to study the scarab for years but could not figure out how to tap into its powers successfully. So instead he used his guts and technological ingenuity to fight crime his own way without the scarab. He might not have been anything like his predecessor but he was a great hero in his own right who made a name for himself as a formidable crime fighter.

The Blue Beetle’s history is not typical, but it has one thing in common. That being that every holder of the mantle has been a great hero. Ted Kord is an interesting mirror between Batman and Jaime to show that not only was the previous hero nothing like Jaime- he was in fact very much like Batman.

When they stormed Jarvis’ lab, Blue Beetle and Bats soon found themselves in a sticky situation as the doctor initiated the launch of a rocket that would level Hub City. The doctor escaped after setting off a timer for his grand scheme, but neither hero refused to stop. Batman attempted to override the launch but couldn’t manage it and as the clock ticked down to the thirty second mark Ted had an idea. While the rampaging robots caught up with them, Batman held them off as best he could as Blue Beetle ran to the rocket and hooked himself to it in a desperate gamble.

Ted climbed to the top of the rocket and placed the scarab into the tip while he smashed the guidance system and foiled its launch. His plan succeeded as the rocket exploded in the air saving Hub City and sending the scarab far away to make sure Jarvis would never find it again. Unfortunately, in the process he lost his life and the victory was permanently tainted for Batman. Ted Kord died saving the world, but it was a true loss as such a noble hero’s life ended much too soon.

The reason Batman didn’t want to tell Jaime about it was that being a hero is not an easy job or filled with pats on the back. Sometimes they are called to make the ultimate sacrifice and sometimes a hero’s career doesn’t have a happy ending. Now it’s up to Jaime to make his own choice just like Ted did when he gave his life up.

“Fall of the Blue Beetle” is a bit of a cheat of a title. Ted Kord didn’t turn evil as Jaime had thought, though he did fall in battle. The story is really about choices and how they can lead either to our ‘rise’ or our ‘fall’ which is how it links to the series premiere. It’s an interesting mirror, anyway.

Jaime’s suit regenerates and breaks their chains. The robot army is momentarily taken by surprise and the pair storm their way to Kord’s control room before it is too late. Jarvis attempts a monologue to waste time, but Jaime knocks him out before he gets very far. The pair rushes to the console to stop his attack before it’s too late. Jaime overrides the system and sets the detonator for the reactors leaving them little time to escape.

The robots assault our heroes as they flee (carrying Jarvis with them) while the island explodes around them. Batman splits off to allow Jaime, who is carrying the doctor, in order to attract the attention of the robots and allow his friend to reach his ship. Before he is overwhelmed, Jaime returns and blows the robots to pieces as the Caped Crusader attempts to keep his cool by saying he told him to go without him. While the group escapes Science Island’s explosion and the death of the deadly army the day is finally saved.

Blue Beetle apologizes to Batman for getting hung up on the scarab and wondering if he was chosen after all since it almost led to his death and mass disaster, but Batman doesn’t agree. He tells him that the scarab did choose since it let him use its powers and not Ted but it’s not enough being chosen as Batman sums up the episode.

“But being chosen doesn’t make you a hero. What you choose does.”

“I just wanna do the right thing. Like Ted would have done.”

“Spoken like a true hero,” Batman thinks.

The episode is obviously about choices as mentioned earlier. Ted made his choice to be a hero even though he didn’t have the powers. Jarvis made a choice to use the scarab to spread evil. Jaime made the choice to be a hero even though with his powers he could do whatever he wanted. Sometimes choices don’t lead where we want and sometimes they do. Sometimes our choices lead us somewhere we never expected them to lead us, and sometimes that can be a great thing.

In “The Brave & The Bold”, it’s always a great moment when a hero chooses to do the right thing and saves the world. As it should be.

So ends another installment of our journey through the adventures of the brave and the bold. Next time we’ll be diving into something a bit more lighthearted, so hopefully the pace will continue to shock and amaze. There are still many more stories to tell, so keep your eyes peeled for our next exciting issue! It promises to be totally outrageous!

Until next time, Bat-fans! Same brave blog, same bold place!