Real Drive Episode 4 - Atoll of Desire
Summary: At their new office, Aoi and Haru are visited by a man from the Advisory Committee acquainted to an individual named Bob Zhouen who has "brain-downed" and become comatose during the island's recent power outage. This man asks that Haru help retrieve this man's consciousness, a task which has already endangered one of the other divers.
While Haru is diving, he's nearly overcome by Bob Zhouen's thoughts - in the form of a female avatar who causes him to lose his connection to Kushima at the EISF. With only Aoi's pleading voice to lead him in the right direction, Haru is able to disengage from Zhouen's consciousness and resurface.
Thoughts: I couldn't help but be reminded of the ditty "The Internet is for Porn" while watching this episode. Really, though, what better way to connect the show to modern day than to assume that the human desire for internet porn would carry on, in ever more engrossing fashion, into the future. Not only that, but to suggest that an individual could enhance his sexual experience by custom-creating an avatar to experience a more potent orgasm, well, it might start giving people ideas. I fully expect this to be a reality at some point in the future.
I like how we're starting to see the seedy underbelly of society in this episode. Up until now, the island, where the majority of the action has taken place, seemed like some happy little environmentally-friendly modern place to live, but there are apparently some dingier parts of town populated by hookers, hackers, and other criminals. Good times. I'm definitely hoping this will be revisited in the near future, since this is a theme RD shares with stuff like Ghost in the Shell - the future is awesome but still comes with its share of problems. New technology is followed close behind by people dreaming up new ways to exploit it.
Even though it's early in the series, the last couple of episodes have been kind of, well, episodic. Haru learns of some situation that needs fixing in the Metal, and when he dives, he's almost lost, requiring Aoi to use whatever unnamed special power she possesses to guide him back. Let's have some variety here, plzkthx. Not that the quality of the storytelling has been lackluster or anything, but I'm ready for a story arc or three to arrive.
Real Drive Episode 3 - Re-Dive
Summary: After their experience restoring the power to the island, Haru and Minamo Aoi are taken away to remain under observation by Dr. Kushima of the EISF. While in the underwater headquarters, Haru, who entered the Metal under unauthorized circumstances, is given tests to see if it could become an official diver. He fails trial after trial, and Dr. Kushima (who we find out is actually 82 years old in spite of his appearance) tells him to rest. They'll test him one more time after the noise clears from his cyber brain.
Minamo tries to do some research on diving to help him out, but it dawns on her after seeing an advertisement that what Haru really needs is to remain relaxed and feel safe while he's diving. Before Haru can be tested again, there's an emergency - another diver has fallen unconscious and lost his connection, and is being drawn deeper and deeper into the metal. Haru is the only one available to help, so with Aoi's advice in mind he dives in to rescue the other man. As he goes deeper, the link between him and the lab is lost, until Aoi rushes into the room with Haru's body and seems to strengthen him somehow. He retrieves the man, and, though the two of them believe they're being taken to jail for doing something that's obviously illegal (unofficial access to the Metal is serious business), Haru is given an office and asked, with the help of Aoi, to be an investigator for the EISF.
Thoughts: You know, I really love this show. It's not just the animation and the compelling story, both of which are great reasons by themselves. It's the fact that Aoi and Haru have such a great relationship. It's like a non-creepy friendship and partnership between someone who one might think ineffectual because of his advanced age and someone who might be dismissed because of her youth, working together and doing things that no one could have expected. While I was never uncertain about liking Haru as a character, I'm surprised at how non-annoying Aoi has been so far. The whole schoolgirl thing usually annoys the heck out of me, but she's proven to be smart and quick-thinking so far, even while still displaying that teenage "charm" she has. It's a tough balance to maintain but it's been successful thus far.
I'm still wondering if Kushima and his apparent agelessness will be explained soon. This being a Shirow production, it could be something like an artificial body (we already know that there are very humanlike androids around) or possibly something to do with cloning himself. Since there are people with cyber brains it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for the show to pull a Kaiba and have those sorts of things be transferable between bodies. Of course that begs the question, why not give Haru a new body to exist in so that he can walk on his own? I'm hoping there's a good reason for both situations because otherwise it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
I'm also kind of beginning to wonder whether the ocean as a representation of the Metal has some deeper meaning, or whether it was just a convenient metaphor considering Haru's experience as a diver. Either situation would be fine with me, since I don't think it's necessary to have a deep and intricate reason for every choice made in the construction of a television show, but it would be pretty cool if there was something more to it. There was actually a bit of dialogue about the ocean itself this episode, where Kushima (I believe) talked about humanity continuing to expand even to previously inaccessible domains, eventually building beneath the sea, so in that sense there might be a connection.
Real Drive Episode 2 - Little Girl
Summary: The first half of the episode provides a bit of background on Aoi. As a young girl she was also fascinated by the sea because of her Grandmother's history as an aquatic researcher (who was coincidentally stationed on the same ship as Haru in her youth) and since the sea is something that connects her to her mother, working in Japan, to herself staying with her Grandmother in Australia. We also get to see the circumstances behind Aoi meeting Haru, from her perspective as a student assigned to help an elderly person.
The second half of the episode picks up where events in the first episode left off, with electromagnetic abnormalities having taken out the island's power and some of the elderly people in the hospital in danger due to lack of life support. Haru is trying to do his part by "diving" into the Metal, the network connecting all people. However, the problem can't be solved until power is restored out in the real world, and as Aoi races to the island's power station she discovers that the transformers have all melted in the main part of the station. Luckily there's one line that still works that's connected to some off-line windmills that were formerly used to collect wind energy. Aoi races along the surface and reactivates each of the windmills with Haru, within the Metal, helping to guide her. The power is restored and Haru, again an old man in the real world, and Aoi go to watch the sea at night. Their quiet observations are interrupted by an airplane landing and a voice familiar to Haru.
Thoughts: I'm having a hard time voicing exactly the specifics of why I enjoy this show. Sure, it's got great animation as usual - I'd expect nothing less from Production I.G. - but there's just something so far about the story that's really drawn me in.
As far as this episode is concerned, I liked how they spent the time to go into Aoi's past a bit. Sure, there was some content overlap with the first episode, but I really think that helped to flesh out the story quite a bit. And I just like Aoi, I think. Sure, she's your average high school student who has issues with eating her veggies and caring about certain subjects in school, but she's athletic and smart when it counts. Whereas the others in her group weren't able to do anything useful beyond comfort their senior-citizen charges, Aoi got the job done.
Which really makes her a perfect match for Haru. While he seems like a kindly, handicapped old man, when it counts it's him who used his previous experience as a diver to help repair the problem from within the Metal.
Now that I think about it, it might be the odd-couple dynamic between the two characters that I really enjoy. It's all too easy to write a futuristic story driven by a bunch of brash young heroes, but how about a heroic duo of an old guy and an average young girl? It's definitely something I'll enjoy seeing more of assuming the relationship keeps being developed along this vein.
One thing that I'm not too sure about are all the pantsu that I saw this time around. While the show itself isn't fanservicey at all, in my opinion, there sure are a lot of situations that can't avoid showing panties. When Aoi is skating around the power station, she uses great form, which of course means bending forward with her skirt flying all over the place. Actually, this isn't really a complaint I have with the show, but a complaint with the general design of female school uniforms in anime. They're so impractical! How about some shorts instead?
All joking aside, I'm intrigued and want to see what happens to Haru after this episode, since it seems he'll have to face some stuff from his past as a result of his involvement in helping to solve this crisis.