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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Week 13 (Final!)

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I'm fighting off a bit of a migraine at the moment, so I'll keep things brief. I'll post a wrap-up sometime this coming weekend. Remember, Sora no Woto begins after the new year, on January 6th! Maybe it'll be a little bit more accessible than this series; I feel like The Skull Man has some really good points, but there are a lot of things that make it inappropriate for casual viewing (like the gigantic cast and the multiple plot threads).

Watch Episode 13 HERE.

Episode 13: Black Fable

01Hayato, as the Skull Man, reaches the room in which Maya is imprisoned, and discovers that Masaki has been transformed inside of her cocoon. Masaki reveals that the Gago project, spoken of mostly in passing, was a plan to create a new version of the human race for its own good. The leader of Brain Gear makes his move, and appears to suffer for it, until he reappears much more powerful. Hayato defeats Masaki, but discovers that it's too late for Maya to make it out alive. Shinjou and Kiriko make it out of town with the children from the orphanage. After that, Hayato's fate and/or whereabouts become a mystery, with Tachigi speculating on what may have transpired.

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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Week 12

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I wait for the bus every morning, and lately it’s been pretty dark out. That, coupled with the general quiet and stillness of the morning can make for an uneasy wait if I’m in the wrong mood. It doesn’t help that the bulk of the action in this anime series takes place in the gloom of the night, when the streets are empty and the surroundings quiet; now I associate the silence and darkness with foreboding rather than the normal early-morning environment.

Well, we’ve arrived at the penultimate episode of the series. I warned earlier on that things start to get really dense at this point in the story, and I wasn’t joking; every faction is converging on Otomo City, and there are definitely a few surprises laying in wait to further muck things up. Now’s the time to pay close attention and see how everyone’s story closes off.

Watch episode 12 HERE.

Episode 12: Bloody Eve

05Hayato takes up Yoshio’s mantle and dons the Skull Mask, after Yoshio meets his end. The military rolls into Otomo City and begins to take out to police force bit-by-bit. Hayato gains more insight into Yoshio’s history via the Mask, learning of his first meeting with Maya Kuroshio. Things begin to go badly in town; as Detective Shinjou attempts to drive a bus load of the church’s orphans (along with Kiriko) out of town, members of the White Bell Society begin to reveal their true colors and fight back against the military. Tachigi (who reveals himself as Samonji, a military veteran who was branded a traitor and sent to die on the front lines) confronts police Captain Haniwa, who is trying to skip town. Shinjo finds himself in serious trouble until he finds a defender in an unlikely individual. Hayato makes his way up the tower to where Maya is being held.

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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Week 11

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We've now entered the time of year during which much of my free time is taken up with holiday-related activities (shopping, cooking, parties, miscellaneous stuff with friends...). Each week passes by more quickly than the last, and suddenly I'm here again, with another episode of our Book Club selection. Apologies for the skipped week in there, I've been going through a lot and have been really stressed out and non-productive as a result.

Just as a reminder, we'll be on a bit of a hiatus after the last episode of The Skull Man. Our next selection, Sora no Woto, begins on Sunday, January 6th.

Watch Episode 11 of The Skull Man HERE.

Episode 11: Darkness, Take my Hand

04Hayato is joined by Kiriko and Detective Shinjou in the wake of the battle between the Skull Man's forces and the super soldiers. While they make their way to Yoshio's church, Tachigi pays a visit to Mr. Kuroshio's home. Kuroshio explains the origins of the skull mask, and how the man who uncovered it could barely resist its charms. Hayato confronts Yoshio, and learns a bit more about why Yoshio took up the mask (and is loathe to give it up). The church falls under attack and things become hectic. The Skull Man makes his appearance, but who's the one behind the glowing red eyes? The military comes into town and begins taking over by force. Kuroshio Maya becomes a tool of the White Bell Society, serving as a "cocoon."

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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Week 10

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I got screwed up on what day it actually was due to the Veterans' Day holiday on Monday (well, Sunday, but I got Monday off from work). Yes, it was silly of me to do so. But! There's no use worrying about it now.

Something tells me we're going to learn something really juicy this week about the Skull Man. Of course, I have the benefit of having seen the show prior to this, so really all I'm doing is dangling the information over everyone's head like a jerk. Anyhow, on to the episode.

Watch Episode 10 HERE.

Episode 10: The Circus Laughs at Midnight

03Hayato goes into hiding after becoming the prime suspect in Nami's murder. In the meantime, a mysterious group of soldiers comes into town on the monorail, with one of them having some connection to Father Yoshio. Hayato returns to town in hopes of getting aid from Mr. Kuroshio, but Kuroshio is dealing with his own problems and sends Hayato on his way. The identity of the Skull Man is revealed as he and his two Lost Numbers companions go out for what they expect to be their final mission. They battle it out with the soldiers, who are war veterans turned cyborg survivors, and lives are lost. Meanwhile, Masaki comes for Maya, naming her his bride.

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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Week 9

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I've been experiencing a couple of weeks lately where I just want nothing to do with anime or anime fandom. I tend to get seasonal depression around this time of year, which manages to make me lost confidence in my ability to write thoughtfully for others, and there are certain series airing during this current season which have really made me gun-shy about trying to watch them, for fear of making the depression worse. So I've slowly been losing myself in other fandoms, more as a defense mechanism than anything else. It's always temporary, though; I can already feel myself pulling towards the end of the tunnel and I was able to focus enough to write about this week's episode.

That's enough about me, though. I hope everyone has been enjoying this series; we're reaching some pretty crucial moments in the story and I think there are a few things which ought to surprise anyone who hasn't seen it before.

Episode 9 is HERE.

Episode 9: Blessed are the Impure

03Hayato attempts to connect more completely with Nami, and learns more about her life after he left Otomo City ten years ago. Now she's harboring a deeper secret, one which threatens to, quite literally, turn her into someone else. Mr. Kurushio continues to play both the concerned, thoughtful father while also conducting secret meetings about government projects with a new foreign investor. Detective Shinjou, smitten with Nami, attempts to make his move, but learns that he never really had a chance. Hayato witnesses Nami's transformation and subsequent death at the hands of the "Servants of the Skull," and is framed for her murder by the local police contingent.

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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Week 8

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Well, it's been an... interesting week for sure. I found myself incredibly busy and unfathomably distracted from my normal activities, to the point where I don't think I watched more than an episode or two of anime at all (even from series that I'm sort of invested in at this point). I also threw a Halloween party, which as usual turned into an incredibly over-the-top spectacle with tons of food and a ton of guests. I was awake until the next morning, 5am, and managed to destroy my sleep schedule for the next few days (because apparently I'm still 19 years old in my mind). Then, an unexpected marriage proposal on my favorite television series sent me into an internet fandom spiral which I'm still attempting to crawl out of as we speak (don't look at Tumblr... no more Tumblr...). Irresponsible? Yes, yes it is. But sometimes I just need a break from the constant adolescent drama of anime fandom.

That said, here I am ready to continue with this series, which I'm noticing is much more enthralling upon a second viewing (which I'm sure I've mentioned before). I'm sort of a sucker for slow-burn series that save their climactic moments for the second half. Shiki is a good example of one; Dennou Coil is another. They're the kind of shows that frustrate a lot of viewers because by nature their stories discourage the impatient viewing so inherent in anime fandom today. But that's a discussion for another time.

Episode 8 is available on Youtube HERE.

Episode 8: The Maiden Whispers in the Moonlight

01Kiriko develops the film left in Jin's camera, and she and Hayato gain some more insight into the situation. Kiriko spends some time at Yoshio's church, and becomes friends with Maya Kuroshio, while Hayato reconnects with Nami, a friend from his childhood. Maya reveals the friendship to her family, and her mother scolds her for hanging out at a "heretical" church. There is talk of Tatsuo Kagura, and whether or not he still lives as the phantom killer in Otomo City. Hayato and Kiriko go to retrace Jin's steps and discover a familiar face has beat them to it, from whom they learn some juicy details about an abandoned dig at the bottom of a dam-formed lake. Mr. Kuroshio encounters the real Skull Man and his minions, who offer a warning. Nami undergoes a ceremony at the White Bell compound, to be "purified" of her sins.

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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Weeks 6 and 7

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Apologies for the absence last week, I encountered a perfect storm of issues that kept me away from the website for more time than I would have liked.

Last time there was a bit of discussion about the police officer and his claim that, while the administration he was working underneath was corrupt, his fellow officers (namely, those who work the beat with him) are not. It’s an interesting claim to make, because one would think that corrupt overseers would prefer to hire those individuals who would maintain the status quo rather than work contrary to the desires of the upper echelon. I’m more of the opinion that most of the organizations in Otomo City are riddled with corruption throughout, and that this simpleton cop is perhaps one of the few exceptions. From his point-of-view, perhaps it seems as if he has allies among his men, but I’d be willing to bet that he’s just a poor judge of character.

Anyway, these two episodes dial up the intensity a bit, and manage to answer a few of our questions (while probably introducing several more!).

Episode 6 is up on Youtube HERE.

Episode 7 is HERE.

Episode 6: Banquet of the Grim Reaper

03Kiriko wakes up early to stake out the White Bell Society, in hopes of seeing the familiar face she glanced briefly. Hayato remains at the apartment to listen to the cassette tape he received, but can’t decipher anything of value on it. Meanwhile, The Mayor, Mr. Kuroshio and other higher-ups from the town meet and discuss the events of ten years ago in which they appear to have been involved. It begins to rain, and Hayato picks up Kiriko. They happen to see the Skull man race by, and follow him, witnessing a confrontation between the Mayor and the Skull Man in which Hayato soon becomes involved. Hayato is shot by the Skull Man, who leaves the scene after murdering the Mayor. After being interrogated once again by Officer Shinjou, Hayato and Kiriko decide to infiltrate the White Bell Society in order to get some real answers. They’re soon discovered, and Kiriko comes face-to-face with someone from her past.

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Episode 7: Master of the Beasts

03Hayato and Kiriko are dumped somewhere far away from the White Bell compound. Kiriko goes off alone, and is met by a man named Jin, the man in her photograph and the one who she saw at the compound site. Mr. Kuroshio continues to play the good guy while dabbling in questionable military practices in secret – the sound referred to as the “voice of God” appears to be of more use than many expected. The placement of a facial scar casts suspicion on a possible candidate for the Skull Man’s identity. Kiriko makes plans to meet with Jin, but her plan is thwarted when Jin, dressed as the Skull Man, encounters a second Skull Man during a fight in the train yard. Jin ends up on the wrong end of gun barrel, and the identity of the true Skull Man remains a mystery.

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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Week 5

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I had a discussion with a friend of mine the other day about this series (he's been one of the more frequent commenters on the discussion threads for the past several weeks). I'd mentioned in a prior discussion post that I thought some viewers may be jarred by the appearance of the mutated beasts in episode 3. His response was interesting - he didn't find this unexpected because of his familiarity with tokusatsu ("special effects") series and their related tropes. It's true that, having seen things like Masked Rider or Ultraman does tend to put a series like this in perspective, but I got me thinking about the very limited crossover there is between anime and tokusatsu, two very Japanese forms of entertainment. Granted, the two exist as different responses to the problems of bringing fantasy elements to life on the screen - anime uses drawings to depict worlds and physical acts which may be difficult to film in live-action, whereas tokusatsu relies on explosions, tricks of perspective, and flashy costumes to involve the audience in the battle between good and evil creatures. As it is, there may be very little need for their storytelling techniques to bleed into one-another, and that's probably why this series seems to be such an oddity to me and why I was startled and a little bit put-off the first time I saw these somewhat over-the-top, goofy creatures involved in very serious combat.

There are a couple of other anime series that I can think of which combine these two philosophies and aesthetics; Astro Fighter Sunred is a comedic parody of the "super sentai" genre specifically, and Sadamitsu The Destroyer takes a more serious approach (yet still has a lot of the same over-the-top elements one would expect).

With that explained, let's move on to the episode. You can find it on Youtube HERE.

Episode 5: The False Blind Spot

03Hayato meets with Usami, who refuses to say too much in public, but directs him towards a movie theater where he's willing to meet. Kiriko wonders whether he might be a possible candidate for the identity of the Skull Man. Hayato and Kiriko grab a bath at Yoshio's church, and Yoshio loans Hayato another Nietzsche book (while Hayato tosses-around vocabulary willy-nilly). Hayato finally gains the confidence to ask Kiriko about the photograph of a man she carries with her, but she isn't willing to give any answers. Detective Shinjou goes to the hospital to question Tachigi, who ends up doing most of the questioning himself. Usami remains cryptic during his meeting with Hayato, relating the divisiveness of Otomo City to the division between North and South Japan, but states outright that Tatsuo Kagura is alive. Kiriko discovers a familiar face among the White Bell Society's members. Usami's lab is forcibly closed, but he maintains that he's truly the one in control of something dubbed "The Voice of God." Later that night, Usami is confronted by the Skull Man himself and doesn't make it out alive. Hayato uses the key given to him by Usami earlier that day to retrieve a mysterious cassette tape.

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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Week 4

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I'll post this separately also, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I've chosen the next book club selection. Starting Sunday, January 6th, we'll begin watching and discussing Sora no Woto. I'm hoping that the series will stay available on Crunchyroll during the time we're watching it. If not, I may try to come up with an alternate choice. I'm leaning towards doing Ghost Hound as a follow-up to that, but I'm still thinking about it. I'm trying to strike a balance between genres and moods while still choosing things that are available for people who prefer legal and inexpensive means of watching the shows, but the fact is that a lot of the shows I really want to talk about aren't available around these parts and probably never will be, unfortunately. Alas. I may start a "book club after dark" column at some point for that type of material for people who are willing/able to acquire it (many are out on Australian DVD, so there's always that option).

Back to the matter at hand, I believe we may have reached the point where some people have been put-off this series in one way or another, at least judging by the discussion participation, haha. Well, I'm certainly not going to stop blogging the series, because I'm finding it more interesting and easy-to-understand the second time through, but I'll endeavor to keep up with all the plot points so that those who are just reading along rather than watching can get a good impression of what's happening, in case they'd like to jump back in at a later time.

I'm not quite sure if I linked the episode last week, but you can watch episode 4 at The Anime Network's Youtube channel HERE.

Episode 4: The Ghost that Goes for a Stroll

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Hayato and Kiriko are trying to get more information following the apparent double-murder of actress Yui Onizuka and her assistant Sayoko Karasuma. Hayato hits up his friend, priest Yoshio Kanzaki, for information, while Kiriko learns from the children there about an urban legend that revolves around a mysterious, ghostly monorail that appears at midnight. Almost as if on cue, a man is murdered during the night and his body hung from the monorail tracks. He was an employee of the local pharmaceutical company, and the police inspector has his own suspicions that another scientist, Akira Usami, may be to blame. Hayato doesn't have much luck questioning Usami, but Kiriko gets some interesting photographs of some high-profile members of the White Bell Society in the meantime. That night, Hayato tails Usami and ends up boarding the phantom monorail, where he's nearly killed by the Skull Man.

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Anime Book Club: The Skull Man Week 3

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Apologies for being a day late with this one, I was recruited to help a good friend move during the time I'd normally be writing on Sunday.

The Inside Anime Expo website has a short feature on Shotaro Ishinomori, the creator behind the Skull Man manga and other familiar properties. It's worth checking out, if mostly for the sampling of his hand-drawn artwork presented along with the article.

Without further ado, let's dive into the third episode of The Skull Man!

Episode 3: Crimson Rain Falls in the Afternoon

03Actress Yui Onizuka, the understudy to the late Hitomi Tachibana, receives a death threat in the form of a photograph with a skull-shaped marker on it. She becomes overwhelmed with fear, doubly-so when she's then threatened with blackmail after having been caught two-timing her police-chief lover with a younger man. After following a ransom note to a dilapidated old theater (with Kiriko secretly following), Yui is confronted by the female motorcyclist, who seems hell-bent on getting Yui's assistant Sayoko to crack. Sayoko turns out to have a dark secret of her own in that she's a mutant being and transforms into her mutated form to rescue Yui from death. In the meantime, Hayato meets with the old man, who turns out to be a private detective. They share information, but the old man still seems to be holding back. Hayato meets Kiriko at the abandoned theater after the elusive Skull Man has come and gone. Later they discover that Yui, who they'd left to be recovered by the police, was actually killed at the scene.

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