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Ongoing Investigations: Case #189

November 9, 2012

It was time to return to the Code Geass universe with the first Akito the Exiled OVA. It is a side story set during the original series that takes place on the mostly neglected European front. While the European Union was mentioned several times in the series there were no significant scenes that ever really take place there. So it is a good setting as a good deal can go on in that area and not have it contradict the original series.

The only real consequence is that the cast is limited in what it can accomplish. The overall defeat of the EU is an inevitability. So the cast cannot become super heroes who single handily turn the tide of the war or kill the Emperor. But at the same time the can accomplish smaller goals so it is not like there is nothing they do in this time period.

The first thing most people will notice is that no matter where Japanese people go in the Code Geass universe it is a hard knock life. The Japanese hoping to escape a terrible life in Area 11 find that being refugees in other countries is little better. The crazy European commander of a Japanese unit starts sending his subordinates suits their self destruct codes as he sees them as subhuman mongrels whose only value is to die completing their missions. So the not so subtle themes of prejudice are echoed here as well.

The single survivor of the unit, named Akito, is helped by another commander named Leila Malkal. It seems Akito has some sort of Geass power but other than using in ambiguously in combat a few times it seems the writers are keeping what exactly his ability is under their hats. I also get the feeling they imply Leila has a Geass power but they only tease its existence more than show it.

Other than that most of the episode is just showing the setting as the European Union that was barely fleshed out in the original series. We mostly learn that they are a different sort of corrupt government as opposed to a noble force that fights against the wicked Britannian empire. The leadership of the AU is mainly made up of haughty nobles who live in luxury while a good deal of the citizenry lives in poverty. Leila seems to be a rare expectation although she seems less concerned about reforming the system and more about just being a decent human being to the people she meets.

I was a little surprised that for a Code Geass series there was almost no fan service. The original series all but left you voice mails every episode reminding you about how stacked Kallen and C.C. were. So other than a pair of bunny girl waitresses (who barely appear on-screen) there is almost nothing else close to fan service in the series. I wonder if that makes this an easier sell to certain people.

The next episode preview seems to indicate that some major players from the original series are going to stop by next episode. It seems that C.C. has some tie to Leila which backs up my theory that she has a Geass power.

This is an easy recommendation to anyone who enjoyed the original series. It is fairly short but fills in the universe without trying to carve out too ambitious of a niche in the greater story. Hopefully they will keep the scope ambitious but not to the level in which they forget how small their canvas is.

I was looking forward to the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled OVA and the first episode didn’t disappoint me. Though admittedly a lot of the surprises were in the next episode preview, I thought this episode set up things well and got me invested in the characters.

I really warmed to our lead Leila right away. She seems like a soldier and able to take care of herself. She has her head on right without being conventional, her unit is ending up being a unique team. The hints at her past got more interesting as the episode went on.

Akito is not a cold fish which was a pleasant surprise. I liked that they didn’t reveal what exactly his Geass does yet. He uses it in battle at the start but he doesn’t use it in a later battle so it remains a mystery. The movement of his robot at the beginning is crazy! Very animal like in its agility, it was actually a little unnerving.

I enjoyed everyone meeting in this installment and happily there was no romantic agenda being pushed. They do introduce a lot of characters and a lot of characters with Geass powers but hopefully they’ll be able to balance all of them.

It doesn’t seem like a story that is going to end in happiness though I’m guessing it won’t be all bad. Still I expect Akito to die by the end.

The only real problem for me was the characters’ hair and clothing designs, bleh. Also some of the characters had tiny heads! Oh wait, and there was also super creeper fiance brother. So some minor missteps.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

My roommate decided to watch some more Magi – The Labyrinth of Magic as we all felt that it was a series that had a good deal of potential but always fell sort of capitalizing on what it had. Sadly five episodes into the series it still ha a good deal of possibility in its bag but does not seem to know how to take that promise and execute it properly. The show is never bad. It just always feels like with a little more effort it could be so much better but that little push never comes.

The middle eastern setting definitely sets it apart from most anime. It is not the first anime that borrows from the Arabian Nights but the anime that use the setting are also so few and far between that you remember anytime a show decides to use the area as inspiration for a series. They do a good job of integrating  djinn, magic carpets, and rukh. It does help cover up the standard shonen formula that is the foundation of the series and make the series seem a bit fresher.

I must mention one thing that is really annoying. They really need to tweak the pacing of the series. It seems like they come super close to freeing Morgiana in the first three episodes and then just back away from it for no good reason. There is something about the way they do it that makes it seem like she is a slave for twenty six episodes and not three. It is not like anything has dragged on forever so far. It is just the way they frame things occasionally makes it seem that way.

I want to like this series better. There are some cool elements and fun characters like Hakuei Ren. But there is something that just keeps this series from breaking out as something to recommend. We will probably continue watching the series but the longer it goes on the more I get the sense it will never break past the glass ceiling it set for itself.

 Since I somewhat enjoyed the Heroman anime, I decided to check out the first volume of the manga. Sadly, it felt like it worked even less than the anime.

The story is basically the same as Joey repairs the broken robot toy which then becomes Heroman and allows him to protect the town from an alien threat. Joey has his best friend Cy, his maybe-girlfriend Lena, and their odd professor on his side, too.

It definitely maintains that American cartoon feel but the plotting and dialogue felt very stilted. Plodding along from plot point to plot point instead of giving me a real sense of the world or characters.

It seems like as we go down the list of shows for this Ongoing Investigation I become less and less enthusiastic. Keeping with that trend I will also mention Sword Art Online. Sword Art Online started off super goofy but it was enjoyable in that goofiness. It was never HIGH LITERATURE but we enjoyed watching it ever week. But Narutaki totally dropped out of watching the series with this new arc and I am very close to joining her.

The end of the first arc was a bit unexpected. The “last boss” appears rather suddenly but after complaining about Magi it would be silly for me to complain that SAO decides to wrap up its first major plot while the getting is good. It just seems that certain things that Kirito deduces were somewhat hinted at but a majority of his deductions shoot Knox’s Rules in the back of the head and bury them in a shallow grave. But this is an action adventure for the most part and not a mystery series.

But then it would seem that the series would be over despite the fact that it has almost half a season left. As it turns out there is a new game to play and new villains to defeat. That theoretically could be cool. But the execution leaves much to be desired.

The first off is the new villain is just a super creepy dude that wears his mega evil on his sleeve. The fact that he is constantly threatening Asuna with rape just pushes him over the line into comically villainous. It takes the so dumb it is fun feeling of part one and sort of taints it with a less enjoyable camp.

All of that could be over looked if it were not for incest sister. Kirito’s sister apparently has a major brother complex and seems she now seems to be the leading lady of this arc. Something about her is just creepy but they present her in a way in which you are supposed to find her super adorable. So not only have they gimped Asuna but they replaced her with an annoying placeholder.

I wanted to keep enjoying you Sword Arts Online. My can’t you let me?

I checked out the first episode of the J-Drama My Little Nightmare because I was informed that Gackt has a starring role!

It is about Kotou an elementary school girl who sees the future in her dreams. Her grandfather is a dream researcher and is able to record them in video form. One of her dreams tells her her new teacher Ayami will help her prevent bad things from happening so she seeks her out. A reluctant partnership forms.

The clues in the dreams don’t correspond directly so they have to interpret them. I’m sure they’ll get better as this as they go. The bad things that they are trying to prevent are with various people around town, but because of the nature of Professor Kotou’s research there could be a larger story introduced later.

Ayami is a big fake, always smiling and being nice but in her heart she is cold. She is pretty amusing in this first episode as her inner monologues about the idiots around her are great. She likes fantasy better than reality so has an active dream life with Dream Prince Gackt!

But lo and behold Gackt is also the research assistant of Professor Kotou! I couldn’t tell by the end whether he is going to be evil or not. Smartly after Ayami meets him she thinks reality might not be so bad.

You know I’m gonna watch more, right?

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