Btooom is a classic dilemma – I really want to dislike it, but I’m fairly engrossed every time I watch it (when I’m not just grossed, anyway). It’s a well-made action thriller, excellent pacing and a good premise. I just wish they’d either left Himiko out of the cast or written her character arc differently. Perhaps there’s an attempt here to be sensitive about abused women, but for me it just comes off as nasty and exploitative, and every time the camera focuses on her it feels like a dirty old man is behind it. The obsessive focus on her short skirt and what’s under it is creepy, and the whole thing manages to be demeaning to both men and women, because she’s also played as every stereotype about the hysterical man-hating woman. Here’s the basic formula – ToLoveRu is how you do fanservice. Btooom is how you don’t do fanservice.
Setting that aside, this was another involving episode. I knew as soon as Taira was bitten by the Komodo Dragon what was going to happen, because those beasties are legendary for their poisonous bites. In fact, in reality I suspect Taira’s predicament would have been a lot worse even than how it was made out to be – I think we’d be looking at a battlefield amputation (and I don’t know if Sakamoto would have the stomach for that) or death; a few shots of vodka poured over the wounds wouldn’t cut it.
New revelations: Taira’s BIMs, which are homing types – very useful strategically, though not too powerful. Clues that this isn’t the first time the island has been used for this type of experiment. And the fact that you can’t use someone else’s bombs unless you kill them, which rather makes sense in the context of the game. We also get a peek at the sickos who set the whole thing up, and there’s a hint of something extra weird going on there – mind control, maybe? If Karma is to be the central theme of the series, one would think that the good folks at Tyrannos Japan have a healthy dose headed their way before this is all said and done.
Zetsuen no Tempest – 06
It’s sort of fun to blog this show side-by-side with Btooom!, because they could hardly be more different – the trashy and probably demeaning pulp flick and the operatic and classy mood piece. But if I’m to be honest, Zetsuen probably deserves to have its own dedicated post because as I stay with it, I’m really starting to realize just how good this show is. Having a director like Ando Masahiro in the big chair has a lot to do with that.
It’s hard to describe just what ZnT is, but it’s definitely quite unlike anything else that’s aired for a while. It reminds me a lot of the glory days of the early 2000s, when BONES was doing indecipherable but fascinating epics and Gonzo was adapting all kinds of interesting source material in even more interesting ways. In a sense this is a sort of hybrid of Rahxephon-era BONES and shows like Gankutsuou – not as good as either of those shows, but closer to that than anything airing now. Of course it fits many other molds better than anime at all – there’s the obvious Shakespeare connection and the dramatic style is, for lack of a more elegant phrasing, almost like a spoken-word opera. But more than anything I’m put in mind of a Greek tragedy with the intricate family complications and sense of impending betrayal – and of course Shakespeare based many of his plays on Greek tragedies.
While the mood of the piece has held my interest all along, it’s only now that I’m really starting to develop a real interest in the plot and feel something for the central cast. I very like Junichiro’s addition to the mix – he’s a cool customer, a nice random element that’s obviously very powerful and dangerous and whose motives are cloudy (plus, he has a “Beautifulls – Hellow, Goodbye” poster on his wall). I still don’t know what to make of his assertion that Hakaze was dead, and that he could tell from her bones – either he’s playing at something or Samon is, or both. But I don’t get the feeling that Junichiro’s feelings for Hakaze – and vice-versa – are a ruse. Perhaps even more interesting is his reveal that it’s actually Hakaze and the Tree of Genesis that are more likely to bring the destruction of mankind than the Tree of Exodus, and Samon’s assertion that whatever casualties there have been so far are trivial against the alternative.
Perhaps of even more import is that I’m finally starting to get drawn into the vibe between Yashiro and Mahiro. The sense of tragedy and betrayal between them was strong even before Yoshino’s double-cross was revealed this week, but it’s starting to become clear that there’s something of real significance that will be lost when their relationship is torn apart. It’s not a shock that Aika and Mahiro aren’t blood-related given the flashback episode (and we look to have another next week) but it makes Mahiro’s feelings even more logical, and the consequences of Yoshino’s first betrayal (which really wasn’t a betrayal at all) even more catastrophic.
As we usually do with BONES we have what amounts to an impossibly complex plot (and they didn’t even write this one) that’s managing to engage despite that fact. This has been something of a comeback year for BONES with the excellent UN-GO and the criminally underrated Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean, but this one seals the impression that the studio is well and truly back – with Gainax on life support and Production I.G. the same chameleon they’ve always been, BONES pretty much stands alone among the old stalwarts as a studio with a signature style, and Zetsuen no Tempest exemplifies that style perfectly.