Julian walks his friend Ikiko, a young Japanese girl, home, delighting her with card tricks. Inside the apartment/office she shares with her older brother, Yashimoto, José is propositioning the man with a case. José is literally sobbing out a story about precious heirlooms stolen by a thief, Cybersix, and he wants the detective to track down her identity so she can be brought to justice. Something doesn't feel right to Yashimoto, so he turns down the case, even as José turns angry, first offering to pay any price, then turning it into a threat. As José storms out of the office with a Fixed Idea, he sees Ikiko and hatches a plan. They snatch the girl, and when they pass Julian who tries to stop them, they take him as well. Yashimoto has three days to deliver Cybersix to José, or he'll never see his little sister again.
Yashimoto fails to match a photo of Cybersix to any known database, so he hits the streets, asking reporters and cops for info, only to get heads shaken in return. He finds a clothing shop where parts of Cybersix's costume are separately displayed in the window, but the teller doesn't recognize her. Changing track, he sets up a networks of surveillance cameras on rooftops all over Meridiana, and waits.
That night, Adrian realizes he hasn't seen Julian in a while, so Cybersix prowls the night in search of him. As she leaps between rooftops, she triggers the surveillance cameras, and Yashimoto races after her on his bicycle, armed with a grappling canon with retractable, bladed hooks. Cybersix stops by Lucas' apartment, venting her fear and frustration, unaware that their conversation is being bugged and recorded by Yashimoto across the street. As Cybersix thanks Lucas and takes off into the night, Yashimoto does his best to pursue with some incredible biking skills, but traffic ultimately cuts him off.
Julian and Ikiko are taken down to the docks, where they're held in a cargo ship José has made up as his current HQ. Despite José's attempts to intimidate them, they just laugh him off as a joke. They attempt to escape through vent ducts, but end up in the middle of José's playroom, which just doubles their guard and bumps up Yashimoto's deadline.
The next morning, Lucas heads to school, unaware as Yashimoto breaks into his apartment. Yashimoto goes through Lucas' desk, address book, turns on the answering machine. Something about the voice in a message from Adrian catches Yashimoto's ear, so he swipes the tape, finds Adrian's full name, and leaves. Back at the computers, Yashimoto runs scans on both Adrian and Cybersix's voices, linking them to the same person. There's no address listings for an Adrian Seidelman, so Yashimoto instead cracks into utility records, finding one of Adrian's paid bills. Breaking into Adrian's apartment, Yashimoto finds the Cybersix costume hanging in the closet.
Adrian wraps up another diner with Lucas and heads home, finding Yashimoto lying in wait, bladed grappling gun armed and raised. Yashimoto knows Adrian and Cybersix are the same, and he's sorry, but he needs them to come with for the sake of his sister and Julian. Adrian tells him to wait.
José is delighted to get the call that Cybersix has been captured, and gloats as he watches his Fixed Ideas feed some tentacled monstrosity beneath his boat. They drag Julian and Ikiko up to the docks, waiting as Yashimoto arrives on a motorcycle, a figure in the costume of Cybersix bound in the sidecar. Even before any exchanges can be made, Julian distracts a Fixed Idea with a card trick and takes off with Ikiko. Furthermore, José discovers the figure in the sidecar is just one of the mannequins from the clothing store window, so he whistles into the water, summoning a monstrously massive nautilus, which he orders after the children.
Cybersix appears, taking on the nautilus while both Data-7 and Yashimoto head for the children. They're at the middle of a drawbridge, which José kicks into opening to cut everyone off. The kids fall, but Data-7 swoops in and swims them to safety. Yashimoto fends off Fixed Ideas and trades demonstrations of katas with José, before finally using his grappling gun to swing away.
Cybersix leads the nautilus onto the end of the drawbridge, and with Yashimoto distracting it with a smoke bomb so she can slip away, she hits the controls, raising the end of the bridge with the nautilus on it as high as it'll go, then slamming it back down into the other end. Not only is the nautilus smashed, but the bridge collapses, raining down on José and his Fixed Ideas.
Cybersix swings Yashimoto to safety, where he promises to keep her identity a secret as they reunite with Data-7 and the kids. As they go off into the sunrise, Cybersix hears a shift in rubble and sees José and his Fixed Ideas digging themselves free. He shouts threats of revenge, but Cybersix ignores him, welcoming the day.
I feel compelled to address the buck-toothed elephant in the room right off the top so I can get it over with and move on.
I'm not exactly what you'd call "politically correct", but even I found myself doing a full body cringe when the Asian (Japanese, I assume) characters Ikiko and Yashimoto are introduced. With their squinty eyes and large front teeth exaggeratedly protruding from their mouths, they look like they've wandered in from some WWII-era propaganda cartoon. Instantly, everything becomes subservient to this rather grotesque characterization and I'll admit it definitely affected my enjoyment - or lack there of - of this episode. I tried to rationalize the designs by comparing them to the other human characters, all of whom are exaggerated in one way or another, but it simply doesn't stick. These designs are flat-out offensive, even if they aren't meant to be (and for the record, I don't think they were). The most surprising thing is that Cybersix was animated in Japan. Noel is certainly more of an expert on these matters than I am, so maybe he can speak to whether or not this sort of thing is common in other anime.
I do think it's worth noting that, as for the characters themselves, they don't share the personal characteristics which are common to this sort of stereotyping (speech, behavior, etc.). In every other way, they're portrayed respectfully.
Now, as for the episode itself? Meh. I kinda like it on the margins, but the execution is a bit flat. I rather enjoy the gumshoe aspect Yashimoto brings, and I wouldn't have minded if they had pushed that 50s noir thing a bit further. Kinda make him more overtly Phillip Marlowe-like. Maybe give him a sexy, voluptuous blonde Gal Friday, blowing bubbles and snapping off sassy one-liners in a tight black dress that hugs her cur... but I digress. By episode's end, he's become an ally, or at the very least, an affiliate, and I do hope they bring him back in some capacity in a future episode.
As for Ikiko and Julian, they make a pretty fun pair, but their constant tomfoolery in the face of José's threats only serve to de-fang him and remove any and all tension one might feel regarding their fate. I mean, I wasn't expecting Saw or anything, but by the end, I was more worried for José than I was for Ikiko and Julian.
Last week, I mentioned the "monster of the week" trap, and lo and behold, we got another one this week. This time, it's a more traditional foe than the pathos-riddled Terra, but things are starting to develop a Voltron pattern, which is a tad bit concerning. I don't know, maybe I'm making too much of it, but it feels like a crutch.
Overall, this is probably the weakest episode thus far. I like Ikiko and Yashimoto, and the potential promise they hold for the future, but if they show up again, I hope they're put to better use.
I still haven't figured out what the actual writing process of this show is like, but it's worth noting two interesting aspects about this episode. 1) It's our first episode which doesn't have a "story by" credit from producer Koji Takeuchi. 2) It's the first script credited to the team of Barry Whittaker and Judy Valyi, who are also listed as the story editors of the series. This still doesn't answer my questions about whether they actually wrote episodes or just did English adaptations, because the only other credits Whittaker & Valyi have on the entirety of the interwebs is a 1996 French cartoon Billy the Cat, which also lists English writers despite being a French/Belgian cartoon produced for European audiences. I wonder if we'll ever figure out the actual process on this series.
I will say, stripping away the animation, it is a very well written episode. Yashimoto hunting down clues, finding the clothing shop where Cyber may have assembled her costume, making the connection to Adrian. Julian and Ikiko making various attempts to escape, most of which blow up in José's face, even as they still end up recaptured. My favorite is them bursting out of the grate right onto José's couch where he's playing video games. My first hard laugh of the series! The confrontation in Cyber/Adrian's apartment. The big climax. The story intercuts well, the characters are nicely explored as things unfold, the staging of the big battle at the end progresses nicely from stage to stage before slamming to its finish. Even the dialogue is sharper and cleaner than what we're used to.
If there's any quibbles script-wise, it's that the scenes Lucas shares with both Adrian and Cybersix are a bit clunky and unnecessary, as though they just had to work Lucas in somehow. Between José, Yashimoto, Ikiko, a nice return of Julian, and even Data-7 showing up at the climax, the story doesn't really need Lucas for this installment. And the giant squid is a bit out-of-left-field and unnecessary to the story.
That said, the squid is gorgeously animated, even as it's ultimately pretty ineffective as Cyber is bouncing kicks on its head and it can't even reach that high. The show continues to be a beautiful thing to watch as character animation oozes personality and performance, José and his Fixed Ideas are still a comedic hoot, the action is striking and kicking and cool. Gah, I love how this show looks.
About Yashimoto and Ikiko... they are great characters, with Yashimoto being portrayed as a skilled and brilliant expert in his field, and Ikiko holding her own alongside Julian instead of just being dragged along and protected by him, all with an excited smile of adventure on her face. That said, I do think the designs go way too far down certain stereotypical roads, especially with both having the massive, buck-toothed overbites of old WWII anti-Japanese propaganda, with Yashimoto's being so severe that even his gum line is protruding from his mouth. Ikiko is otherwise a lovely design in her kimono, but Yashimoto having squinted, slanted eyes behind massive glasses on top of those teeth, it's unfortunate, especially when the score hits an "oriental" flare as he and José are trading martial arts poses off one another. The voice acting is great, without any lisps or broken English, Yashimoto is a badass but calm and thoughtful dude, and Ikiko is a delight, but for a show largely produced, designed, and animated in Japan, I'm confused that this is the route they went. I wonder if that's just a detail from the comic they rolled their eyes about and decided to run with regardless.
But that's my only major issue, and my usual criticisms about ugly hair (Yashimoto, yeesh, though Ikiko has a lovely bob) and a bland, awkward score are still present but minor. This is a really damned fun episode, smartly put together, exciting, and hits Cybersix with a surprise crash on their homelife, which might also lead to a potential new recurring ally down the road.
A few thoughts:
- We see a Fixed Idea without Ultimate Warrior makeup in the first scene. I wonder if that's makeup which has been removed, or if he's wearing makeup toned to his flesh over the typical display of skronk.
- Why does Yashimoto have a random smoke bomb inside his helmet? I think the idea was supposed to be that he shorted out some electronics and this is smoke, but it's green and has a spray that feels more like an aimed weapon. Weird.
- I like that no big deal is made over the genderfluid aspect of Yashimoto realizing Adrian and Cybersix are the same person. The pieces of his investigation have fallen together, and there's no questioning the conclusions he's found, nor shock, discomfort, or mocking at what he's specifically discovered here.
- While I do still wish we'd step away from José for an episode or two, I have to admit he's become wildly entertaining. Completely lacking in actual threat, certainly, but you can tell these are animators honed on Tiny Toons and Animaniacs as gags involving him are perfectly timed and hysterical.
If you'd like to watch along with us, the entirety of Cybersix is available on DVD, thanks to Discotek Media.