January 23, 2010

Ga-Rei Zero, Episode 04

In the last episode, we jumped back in time three years to see how Kagura, the Schoolgirl in White, first met Yomi, the Schoolgirl in Black.  We discovered that Yomi wasn't always a bad guy bent on driving the animation company into bankruptcy by forcing them to hire new voice actors for each episode because she killed off the entire cast.  So what does Episode 04 bring us?

We start off exactly where the last episode left off, with Kagura getting into The Agency's HMMWV and the group running off to deal with a new threat.

It's not the entire team, though.  Mr Laser Weasel, Nabuu and Nabuu seem to already be on site, leaving Iwahata and Kazuki to pick up the girls.  Considering that Yomi appears to be The Agency's heavy-hitter, and they seem to expect great things from Kagura,  I'd've thought more of an honor guard (perhaps with bosun's whistles) would have been appropriate.  Maybe they don't stand on ceremony much.

An episode of Ga-Rei Zero wouldn't be complete without Pocky.  But, oh-oh, there's only one stick left!  Yomi snags it with a whimsical "first come, first served."  Coming between Kagura and her Pocky, however, can be a dangerous proposition:

Yomi, though, will not be denied her delicious chocolate-covered biscuit stick.



A nasty nibbling contest begins, neither girl willing to relinquish the tasty snack to the other... and really, who can blame them? 

Then Kagura realizes just what all of this naughty gnashing is doing... they're getting awfully close!

Awww, she's blushing!  And Yomi?

Tranquility Base here... the Eagle has landed.
Kazuki, wondering what the squeals and giggles from the back seat are all about looks behind him and...

Zounds!

To his credit, he doesn't develop an instant nosebleed.

Now he has.

"Don't look back here, pervert."  Now while I can understand her desire for privacy, just what, exactly, does Yomi expect?  I mean, c'mon, two cute girls making out just a few inches away, of course he's gonna watch.  Things just get worse for Kazuki when it turns out that the girls aren't upset that Iwahata can see them.  "Since he plays for the other side."  Really?  Who knew?

"Hey, Kazuki... you've got a nice ass."  No, I'm not joking.  You watch the entire scene here, it's worth it for the sound alone.  And, for the record, that clip was the sole reason I decided to watch Ga-Rei Zero in the first place.  I went into the show not having a clue what it was about, except that in one scene two girls were making out because of a stick of Pocky.  Hey, it's as good a reason to watch a show as any! 

Pocky: bringing yuri couples together for 44 years!
Where were we?

Laser Weasels!  It appears that Noriyuki (Mr Laser Weasel) can see through their eyes, much like some people think the CIA can watch people via their TV sets.  He's currently tracking the latest paranormal beastie through them, and it's not good.

Will a Mr HG Wells please pick up the white courtesy phone?
It's a Category B creature, which is bad, but it's out in the middle of a heavily forested area in the middle of the night so there shouldn't be any civilians around, which is good.  The group gets ready to take it on: Yomi in the lead, everybody else providing backup.  In a show of some small amount of spine, Kagura admits that she's a little tired of being in a supporting role since, y'know, she's one of the two main characters of the show and all.  The Schoolgirl in Black replies by saying, in effect, "You want it?  Take it from me" and sprints off.  Meanwhile, on a nearby sightseeing bridge...

Well, of course there's a civilian.  You expected this to be easy or something?  After a long stern chase, Yomi finally catches up to the Cat B and with a mighty stroke of her sword...

...cleaves the beastie in twain.  It turns out, however, that the aforementioned sightseeing bridge is fairly close by... as in right the hell there!

To make matters worse, the civvy somehow has seen the whole incident and can't help but notice that a substantial portion of the exorcised critter hasn't dissolved into sparks as normal and is, in fact, plummeting directly at her at a rapidly increasing velocity.

In the proverbial nick of time, the Schoolgirl in White shows that she's got skillz (and a great sense of the theatrical) by popping up and dicing the falling fragment into tiny tidbits, saving the day.  But all is not well.  It seems that the civilian is at least somewhat supernaturally sensitive, since she could see the thing in the first place, so The Agency needs to pay her off to keep quiet.  Yomi also discerns that there was really only one reason for the civvy to be there, and that was to off herself... and the bottle of sleeping pills in her purse seems to confirm that.  The Schoolgirl in Black convinces her to continue living, disposing of the pills in the process.

The next day at school, Kagura has made friends!  This picture is just here to acknowledge their existence, for they're just having a peaceful lunch together and serve no other purpose in this episode.  Rest assured, however, that we'll be seeing more of them in the future (cue ominous music).

After school, Kagura is home tending to her sword, Michael XII.  One must oil and polish a blade to keep it fresh, after all.  All seems peaceful, or at least as peaceful as a scene with a schoolgirl polishing a spiritually powerful katana can be, when...

AIIIGHHHHHH!!!  MY EYES!!!!
Yes, it's a large, nearly nude man with an afro and a chest merkin, and he's admiring the sword.  The implications of this are hideous if you think about it, but really you shouldn't do that.  Not if you want to keep whatever sanity you may have.

Kagura is a little freaked out about this, as one might expect, and does what any right-thinking human being confronted by a large, nearly nude man with an afro and a chest merkin would do.  After she sprays him a few dozen more times, Yomi walks in and greets the man warmly.  It seems his name is Michael, he's a master weaponsmith... and the forger of Michael XII, Kagura's sword.  He's also the chief armorer for The Agency and he's dropped by to see if any of the team's weaponry needs to be given preventative maintainance.  He determines that Kagura's blade, being so new, is fine, but Yomi's blade needs some work.

As if the production company realized that staring at a large, nearly nude man with an afro and a chest merkin for a few minutes would be disturbing for a large percentage of their audience, they decide to reward us with some fanservice.

That night, the two girls just talk about nothing important, but evidently, Kagura's father has returned from where-ever he was, performing that ritual.

Also, Kagura makes a good point that, without her sword, Yomi won't be able to summon her sacred beast, Ranguren, which will limit her combat ability rather a lot.  When the Schoolgirl (not) in White sighs and wishes that she could summon a beast of her own, the Schoolgirl (not) in Black suddenly looks sad for a moment.  Uh-oh, foreshadowing of some kind?

Meanwhile, the civilian the team saved back in the forest inconveniences a great many people by stepping in front of an onrushing subway train.  So much for taking the sleeping pills from her.

Thankfully, this doesn't deter Master Michael from leaving the show on foot, carrying many of The Agency's weapons with him (including a Exorcising Baseball Bat... if only we could use that on McGwire).  Back inside, Yomi needs something to replace her sword, just in case something comes up.  Iwahata brings out the implements of destruction left behind for her perusal.

"Exorcist Chainsaw Pare XI."

"Exorcist Jackhammer Jackson #33."

"This one would be good for a girl.  Exorcist Knuckle Douglas #28." 

No caption I can ever come up with would be as eloquent as these looks.

"Exorcist Boiler J. Fox Fifty-five."
"Who could ever use something this heavy?" 
Eventually, Yomi chooses the steam iron.  Too bad, that chainsaw would have been epic!  Anyway, the girls go off to get Yomi some practice with the Exorcist's Knuckle, but they're interrupted by an alarm: there's some nasties about, and they're the closest to the location.

Of course, the baddies are in an disused subway line.  Of course: it's dark, spooky, and dramatic; where else would they be?  And what are they facing this time?  Huge striders?  Flaming rolling dragons from hell?  Frighteningly efficient brain-sucking headcrabs?

Flying radishes.  Evil flying radishes.  From hell.  *sigh*  Sorry, I have no way of making them sound dramatic.  Look at them, does that look like something dangerous?  Really?

Kagura quickly disposes of her opponent, chopping it into a nice garnish for a salad with one slash.

Yomi proves to be pretty good, even without her sword and with an unfamiliar weapon.  The Exorcist's Knuckle seems to be a decent tool, with one serious drawback.  The holy water-based steam is quite effective, but if you've ever used a steam iron, you know they don't have much in the way of capacity.

After dealing with the first radishes, the Wonder Twins hear scrabbling in the darkness.  Unsure of what's coming next, they go defensive and wait.

It's a carnivore's nightmare!  No jokes about the radishes trying to look up Kagura's skirt, please.  Yes, I know that's what it looks like, and yes, I did immediately think that too, but restrain yourselves.  Anyway, Michael XII has an area-effect ability, and the Schoolgirl in White quickly disposes of her raphanus-based opponents.  Yomi, on the other hand, runs out of steam (literally), leaving her vunerable.

Oh no.  Tentacles.  Why did it have to be tentacles?  Tentacles and joshikousei are never a good combination... or they're a great combination, depending on your point of view.

A round of applause is due, I think, for the animation company.  They've given us a yuri scene, random nudity, and now tentacle monsters, all in one episode.  One entirely glorious episode!

Kagura comes to Yomi's rescue and frees her from the naughty tentacle radishes... but there's yet more noises from down the tunnel.

Zombies!  Lots of 'em!  And the civvy they saved back at the beginning of the show, the one who jumped in front of a train, is in the lead.  I TOLD you the chainsaw would have been a better choice.

Still, Yomi is a dervish, striking down the zombies left and right.  However, her compatriot freezes.  She's fine with taking down the supernatural when they look supernatural, but these?  These are people, and she can't bring herself to do anything to people.  Without her sword and Ranguren, even the Schoolgirl in Black can't fight them all successfully.

Even when one of the undead is about to eat her brains, Kagura can't do anything but cower in terror.  Our heroines are surely about to be buried under the press of the zombies... when, from the darkness of the rail tunnel, a huge spike flies unerringly into the back of the beastie about to eat Kagura's scalp!  Wha?  Who?

It's Kagura's father, back from the ritual he was undergoing.  It turns out that the thing we saw him with is Byakuei, the most powerful Spirit Beast known... and it's under his control now.

...or, at least, under as much control as he manage.  You may notice a chain running from Byakuei's neck to Dad's back... the two of them are now completely linked; damage to Byakuei is mirrored on him.  It seems that Byakuei is the family treasure... and curse.  Mom had it, and when she died, it fell to Dad to carry the Beast.

Byakuei makes short work of the horde, with much rending and tearing of zombies... including the civvy, above.  Kagura watches openmouthed, while Yomi again looks sad.

Afterward.  Dad and daughter are reunited for the first time in... three years?  It's time for a quiz: What do YOU think his first words to her are?
A) Hello, Kagura... I love you.
B) You've grown.
C) Extend your hands.
If you guessed either A or B, go back and re-read the last episode recap, particularly the part where I said that he was a hardass.

She knows what's coming.  He hits her twice, hard, on the backs of her hands with a scabbard, all the while lecturing her on her pathetic, miserable, terrible, lousy performance.

...and then, despite not having seen his daughter in three years, he turns and walks away, leaving only a "Grow stronger."

He rides walks off into the sunset.  Nice guy.  Fade to black, roll credits.

Character development FTW!  We've seen that The Agency knows it relies upon the Yomi/Ranguren combination way too much, so Kagura finally gets a shot.  She does have some unexpected weaknesses, though.  The production company and scriptwriters deserve congratulations for their ability to make blatant pandering fit into the show without being completely out of place, and without being filler.  Darn fine job, and probably my favorite ep of the whole series.

See you next time for Episode 05!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:39 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Even though the 2nd episode takes place after most of the rest of the series, it does a good job of foreshadowing those episodes.  For example, it's obvious from Kagura's expression as she nibbles her Pocky stick that they have some sort of emotional significance to her, but the viewer doesn't learn why until much later.  (and the Pocky scene in the HMMWV was great)

All in all, a very enjoyable series that I hope is released in Region 1.

Posted by: Siergen at January 24, 2010 06:38 PM (hu1Gq)

2 Me too, Siergen, me too.  Glad you like it.

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 24, 2010 11:32 PM (Cpxcy)

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