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    There was a list of people Chris was expecting to be approached by, with such obvious standouts like guards insisting that he had committed some crime that he totally hadn’t and even if he had, they had no proof; or, you know, the girl he was looking for; but the point was, he hadn’t been expecting being approached by the actual priest of the place, and he especially hadn’t been expecting to be asked about his troubles. He almost went right to his instinctive approach, of sardonically laying out exactly why he wasn’t going to talk to them, just like he had with Julian, but he stopped himself. He was worried about something, “I’m looking for someone,” he said. “I don’t know, this place seemed like a good enough landmark for what I was going for, but now I’m worried she didn’t show up.” “Hmm,” the priest said, stroking his moustache as he did so. “Did you tell this person when you'd be here? I can say no one who showed up so far has been waiting for anyone.” “I just said, ‘this afternoon,’ I think,” said Chris, stretching and rubbing his shoulder as if to mimic the priest’s own contemplative action in some way. “It was kind of a longshot, to be honest, but I don’t know, I still had to stop by and make sure, right?” “They could have stopped by earlier, perhaps you could describe them, maybe they had to leave and couldn’t give a message for some reason.” Chris took a breath, an almost-sigh at one last attempt. “Okay,” he said. “Uh, dark hair, dark clothes… I think it was like a skirt? It might have just been a really big shirt. Either way, I guess the most defining feature is that she might have been tracking water everywhere, so if you did see her, uh, sorry about the mop job.” The priest raised an eyebrow at Chris’ sorry mess of a description but kept his mouth shut. “It seems I cannot help you. Perhaps she didn’t enter the church itself? She may have decided to visit the graves or the river beyond. My apologies that I cannot do more for you.” Chris was already on his feet. “There’s an idea, sorry for bothering you, Father, I’ll go take a look then.” A realization came to him. “Actually, if she does show up later with a message for me, you can pass that on to Lana, she knows how to reach me.” Another realization came to him as he was walking out the door. It was a bigger one, like one of his worries had barged to the forefront of his mind and demanded to be taken seriously. “Oh, Father,” Chris said, turning back around, “Sorry, this is an unrelated question: Do you think there are any unforgivable sins?” It was a tough question, and Chris knew it was bad to just spring it on someone, even a member of the clergy, so he wasn’t surprised at the drawn-out silence that followed, that only eventually ended with the priest saying, “That is something that may take more time for a proper answer, but, as you have places to be, I will simply say that there are three main ingredients for mercy: recognition of guilt, seeking forgiveness, and desire to improve.” Chris nodded. “Thank you, Father,” he said, and went off to look for the graveyard and/or river to see what he could find there.
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    ←←Previous Topic (Planetes) -- Next Post→ Episode 01 -- Enter Lil’ Slugger Or: Batterrrrrrr Up! Between the surreality and symbolism of Revolutionary Girl Utena and the fixation on the real of Planetes is a small middle-ground where reality is frequently rendered symbolically, but not to the point of incongruity. That’s the realm that something like Paranoia Agent falls under. Put more simply, Paranoia Agent, a 2004 anime directed by (and premise by) Satoshi Kon, written by Seishi Minakami, and animated by the studio Madhouse, is weird -- weird enough that, at the end of each of the first four episodes in my initial viewing, I thought, “Well, there’s no way the show gets any weirder than this,” only to be proven wrong each time -- but it’s still easy to follow and has very coherent themes. And by “very coherent,” I mean characters will say what the theme is out loud. Certain aspects might get missed at times, but not the primary one. Also helping here is the anthology format. The premise of a police drama investigating a strange string of crimes gets dropped about a third of the way in, and even before then, it wasn’t the focus. Satoshi Kon created the series to use all the little ideas he wouldn’t have been able to turn into a full movie, which is probably why the theming takes such a strong focus -- because it’s more of a throughline than the actual story. In a way, Paranoia Agent is more of a societal cosmic horror story than a crime drama, but we’ll get to that when we get to that. Perhaps the most underrated aspect, though, is the show’s character design. As you can probably tell by the OP (which, like every other time, will get a bigger section to itself, don’t worry), each character is wholly unique, averting the usual anime trope to have only a few stock faces to draw from. This is important, because, for example, a character might disappear for five episodes and come back dressed entirely differently and he needs to be recognizable right away, or foreshadowing and bait-and-switches revolving around characters who do look similar. It’s a small detail, something that would have probably gotten passed by in favor of, you know, having a manageable budget, but it absolutely helps. All that being said, it’s certainly not for everyone. Ignoring the main plot, which is a whole bunch of a kid on roller skates going around bopping people with a golden baseball bat and ignoring the blending of reality and fiction common in Kon’s works, an entire episode is dedicated to a trio trying to commit suicide, including a child, and a character records an underage girl undressing without her knowledge. And this is just off the top of my head -- I’m sure there’s more. I’ll include such warnings as I find them in the rewatch, of course. Until then, I’ll see everyone below the break for episode one. If you didn’t notice, there are links to the episodes again, though, given the mature content, you do have to have a Funimation account set up (though no premium required if you don’t mind a few ads). I hope you enjoy! Perhaps the title gives it away somewhat, but this episode is almost structured as almost like an origin story. While the police investigation and rival investigation by magazine reporter Akio Kawazu are the main plot, a great deal of focus is given towards how the antagonist of the series, Shonen Bat/Lil’ Slugger depending on the translation (and yes, it is weird that Funimation uses the old translation for the title but a newer translation everywhere else -- I distinctly remember “Lil’ Slugger everywhere the first time I watched this, though I will try to be consistent with the current subtitles at time of writing), is brought into the public consciousness. In fact, a not-insignificant amount of time is simply dedicated to people talking. “Do you know? Do you know? Have you heard the news?” Some of this is because of who Shonen Bat’s first victim is, Tsukiko Sagi, the designer behind Maromi, basically Paranoia Agent’s version of Kitty White of Hello Kitty fame, which is what I imagine gets it on the news in the first place. If Shonen Bat had, say, first attacked Akio Kawazu, I don’t think it would have hooked Japan in quite the same way, though I suppose the idea of “elementary school brat beating people up” is worth talking about. In any case, by the end of the episode, Shonen Bat is still a minor curiosity, a thing to mention off-hand, and part of the show from this point on is to see where he goes from here. There’s also a key point I should touch on with regards to Shonen Bat’s modus operandi while he’s still being introduced: Both of his attacks were at people who perceived themselves at their lowest point. Tsukiko is obvious, she’s under immense pressure at work to replicate her success in designing Maromi while she’s also collapsing under the weight of a losing workplace politics game, and Akio is in immense debt after hitting an old man in a reckless driving incident to the point that he starts stalking and Tsukiko after her attack and seemingly forcing her to either relive her trauma or recant it. The sequence of Akio calling after Tsukiko on a barely-lit street makes this distinction even clearer: despite being a sleazebag, this is still something Akio is doing out of desperation. Meanwhile, I suppose I should talk about the other two principal characters introduced in this episode, the two police officers Keiichi Ikari and Mitsuhiro Maniwa. On the surface, they have a pretty stock dynamic; the older, gruffer, Keiichi tends to rely on his strong intuition built up by years of being on the force, while the younger Mitsuhiro is more empathetic, and insists on approaching the Shonen Bat case scientifically. This characterization is strong enough that it becomes immediately apparent in their introduction as they interview Tsukiko, which means like the character experiencing his origin story, the rest of their time on the show is going to be spent taking apart the how and why of these two characters. Really, that’s what makes Paranoia Agent a compelling mystery. Each person throughout the series has their own secrets that necessitate revealing to understand the Shonen Bat attacks. Whether it’s the madman who turns out to be a fourth-wall-breaking oracle or Tsukiko’s complicated relationship with her creation/hallucinatory imaginary friend Maromi, these are the things to keep in mind. -r Next time: Suspect Number One is introduced, and he’s not happy about his new title. ←←Previous Topic (Planetes) -- Link to Episode -- Next Post→
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    "The winner of the first match between Team Genesis and Team Free... Is Charlie Robin, Captain of Team Free! Let's hear a round of applause for them!" These words made Daichi sigh heavily, looking at the screen and seeing the fact that Sai lost. "From on top of the world, straight back down to earth..." he sighed again, shaking his head. "...still, he gave them a show. And for our 'heel', guess this'll give the audience the chance to see him fail and crave that more if he keeps up the heel aspect of his performance.'" Still, while the young man was ruminating over Sai's Duel, Eve's Duel came to a close with her victory. So perhaps this wasn't a total loss today. Even so...Daichi noticed Vega standing up...oh she wasn't looking too good. "Ugh... Hey guys, I might need to dip out for a bit. So, uh... meet up and have your discussion here when it's done, yeah? And then the meeting will be on Tuesday... Sorry..." "Alright coach...try and get better." he called after Vega, before shaking his head. "And this is why you don't drink the night before a big match..." Later "And with that, this match comes to a close, with a draw! Neither Team Genesis nor Team Free walk away with a win this week, due to a single misplay sparing Team Genesis! Despite their strong start last week, are they already out of steam!?" This was...a predicament. And without Vega here to start these proceedings off, it was up to them...so joy... Daichi glanced at the three that came from the match and greeted them with his trademark smile. "First things first, I guess. Coach had to dip for a bit...probably due to the drinking the night before...but still, she wanted us to do the meet and discuss thing." he explained the best he could before chuckling lightly. "Me personally...I think you three did great out there. And really, if you want to look at it...we technically didn't lose this match up. I mean, it's not a win but it's also not a loss...so I'd call that an accomplishment too!" He was trying not to specifically stare at Sai the entire time, only because he didn't want to make the guy feel even worse than he already did...if he felt bad that was. Same time, he also didn't want to specifically call him out on his constant playing defensive which was extremely uncharacteristic...even for him. Daichi was an avid believer of everyone having their own style of Dueling and that style eventually evolving into something even better...but this...? This was something else completely and he couldn't put his finger on it. "Anyway, I've said my peace...so who's next?" Daichi smiled, putting his hands behind his head.
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