June 28, 2015

Cybersix, episode 7 "Brainwashed"

In the basement lab of his mansion, José gloats about the completion of a cybernetic helmet. He summons the Chief of Police (dramatic sting!) who nods as José requests the six best detectives on the force.

In the marketplace, Julian is panhandling with an impressive display of Cat's Cradle. When a group of thugs start shoving through people and toppling stands, Julian trips them up and makes a fool of them. Just as they're about the pound the kid, studly, moustachioed Detective Henrique shows up, sending them to clean up their mess and jokingly inspiring Julian to give their leader his wallet back. Henrique gets a call from his Chief.

June 14, 2015

Cybersix, episode 6 "Blue Birds of Horror"

Adrian is awoken one morning by a strange, blue bird tapping at his window. Walking out that morning, he sees a growing number of these birds setting about the town, merging into and taking over the flocks of regular birds. They're starting to become a nuisance, but most people find them amusing. Arriving at the diner, Adrian finds Lucas complaining about a series of distortions which have begun regularly appearing over television broadcasts and bemoans the possibility of missing an upcoming football game.

June 7, 2015

Cybersix, episode 5 "Lori is Missing"

In his underground lair along abandoned subway tracks, Data-7 is awoken by deep booms and rumbles. He goes off to investigate.

In a lush garden, Lori (the teenage student from episode 1) swoons as Adrian reads her a poem. As he leans in for a kiss, Lori suddenly comes to in the classroom, an angry Adrian pulling out her earbuds and admonishing her for disrupting class. He sends her to the office, where she manages to sneak a peak at his file, noting his address. Later, Adrian vents about Lori's crush to Lucas, who laughs it off.

In his mansion HQ, José delights in a computer simulation for his plan to drill up into the vault of the national bank, but he's interrupted by his father calling in and chewing him out for failing to capture Cybersix. He hangs up on the boy before José can brag about this side mission, but José decides to press forward with it, ejecting the disc with the mission programming and believing his father will understand later.

That night, Lori strides up to Adrian's apartment, a gift in hand, but when she hears a woman's voice behind the door, she peeks in the keyhole and sees a costumed Cybersix, telling someone out of view to relax. Lori stomps off, trashing the gift and figuring Adrian is dating a dominatrix. In reality, Cybersix is talking to a keyed up Data-7, who leads her deep underground to a cavern beneath the sewers, where a horde of Fixed Ideas are prepping a tank with a giant drillbit on the end. Cybersix tells Data-7 to keep watching until they know more about José's latest plan.

The next day, Lucas calls Lori aside, asks her to back off Adrian. She instead vents about the woman she saw, with a description Lucas recognizes, and he confronts Adrian later, wanting to know what his connection is with Cybersix and why he's kept quiet about it all this time despite Lucas constantly talking about her. Adrian refuses to tell, desperately saying he can't, but Lucas feels burned and storms off.

That night, Lori is running from cops down an alley, when she runs smack into José, who's eagerly rushing to launch his plan. Her bag full of CDs spills all over the place, and after she scoops them up and barbs are exchanged, they go their separate ways. Until José realizes his program disc is missing, so she's quickly scooped up by Fixed Ideas and dragged off to a warehouse control center where further barbs stick in José's craw until he finds the disc and starts up his drill. None of them notice Data-7 has been watching.

Adrian finds Lucas in their cafe, and breaks through his anger by saying Lori is missing, even points to the TV where the news is reporting "Lori is missing". They both head out to search for her, albeit separately. Adrian hits his apartment to change, where Data-7 is waiting to lead Cybersix to the scene. They find Lori being gagged after her bullying has resulted in Fixed Ideas laughing at their own boss, but she's still kicking José's ass. With the plan in motion, he and the Fixed Ideas swarm down a tunnel to the underground cavern.

Cybersix takes out the lone guard, freeing Lori, who begrudgingly thanks the woman, then gleefully sets about replacing the program disc with one of her own, and typing in new commands for the drill. Cybersix and Data-7 take out the swarm of returning Fixed Ideas, while José takes manual control over the drill tanks, abandoning his plan for the moment as he burrows up into the warehouse and straight after Cybersix.

Lori is knocked out, but she's protected by Lucas, then both of them are protected by Cybersix, who pleads with him to trust her and Adrian. He doesn't say anything, but gets the girl out as Cybersix dives back into battle. She ruptures the fuel tank during one pass, then while she's standing off against the José and the roaring drill, she casually drops a power line on the pooling fuel, sending the whole thing up just after José scurries away in defeat.

Outside, Lori comes to and appears to be crushing after a new teacher, as she and Lucas smile to a retreating Cybersix and Data-7 as firetrucks arrive. Down below, José scowl says it all as his Fixed Ideas dig him and themselves free of the collapsed rubble.


I still argue Lori's introduction in the first episode was clumsily delivered, but it's great to have an episode to flesh her out a bit more. I still don't get why her gang is so adamantly behind her forcing her crush on a teacher, but I like that they largely take a back seat here, squarely focusing our attention on her personal fixation. The opening daydream is very nicely done, and I also like that there's no attempt here to "fix" Lori or teach her to be a better person. No, she's fallen into a bad place, but holds her own and stays her irascible self as she works with Cyber, and the scenes of her throwing taunts right back in José's face are amusing.

Speaking of, I'm pretty convinced now that this is, if even just partially, a fully scripted show by the American/Canadian writers who have been credited. This one is written by Jono Howard, and while Jono does share some of the dub scripting credits which have made up the entirety of everyone else's other work (primarily Transformers: Armada) he's also our first writer to have gone on to a very fruitful career on shows like ReBoot, Yakkity Yak, Atomic Betty, The Very Good Adventures of Yam Roll in Happy Kingdom, Pet Squad, Mia and Me, and Numbchucks, and was also the primary writer for animator Danny Antonucci on The Brothers Grunt and Ed, Edd, 'n' Eddy. That style of screwball humor is all over this episode, with nearly every sequences involving José going into squash and stretch style cartoon slapstick. Even the big end fight involving the drill is played for laughs, with José donning an Enemy Ace bomber helmet and goggles, the drill tank roaring as it pounds in and out of rooms like a Gurren unit, and the comically large maw of Data-7 snapping at him through the little window.

Which isn't to say they lose any of the action of the show, as all of this continues to be exquisitely animated. Even setting aside the comedy, there's some beautiful stretches, like opening on Data-7 waking up and quietly slinking around, or any time Lori is on screen. Someone absolutely loved animating Lori. They've softened her features a bit since episode one, giving her a face and expressiveness more in line with Harley Quinn, who we know some of these animators had worked on. There so much personality in her delivery - when she's scared, when she's playful, when she's pissed as hell - and it's a performance that's a delight to watch and meshes beautifully with the actress portraying her. I wish I knew who that was, but the credits aren't clear. Possibly Janyse Jaud? Regardless, well done.

And that brings me back to the writing as this is a more dialogue-heavy ep than some, and when Lori and José are going at it, they're so expressively animated that their mouths are perfectly lined up with their words, well beyond what we'd get had this actually been a foreign production later dubbed in English, so I'm pretty sure these are the scripts they went in with. Which is interesting as, given this is still primarily a staff of dub writers, this could very well have been their attempts to break into full scripting just as this group of TMS animators were hoping to break into producing shows on their own. It'll be interesting to see if any other writers beyond Jono Howard managed to do so.

So onto other things in the episode, I do like how the Adrian/Lucas/Cybersix tension is building. The protection of the secret identity doesn't have the same artificiality to it that I've been running into recently while reading a heap of Silver Age comics. Cybersix isn't trying to protect Lucas in a way that takes choices away from him. She's scared. She's anxious. She's still uncertain about herself and how she'll be accepted. There's no attempt to justify her action as noble, but it makes perfect sense on a personal level. And the whole wrench in terms of Lucas finding out Cybersix was in Adrian's apartment plays out nicely, with his air of being hurt and feeling like he's not being trusted coming off genuine and not overly played. It's a believable step of conflict in their relationship and I look forward to how it continues to play out.

José continues to be completely unthreatening as a villain, but he's still a hell of a lot of fun. I love how ridiculously simple yet ridiculously complicated his plot is, to dig through the basement of a bank vault, all hinging on a completely off scale 8-bit program. There's really no reason he couldn't just manually do the dig given how much control he had over the vehicle in the climactic battle, but that he's put so much reliance on his pre-programming, it speaks to how stubborn and immature he is. The scene with Von Reichter is great, showing the boy really just does want his father's attention and approval, as well as the great classic comedy bit of Lori and he first running into one another and shuffling up their discs.

I think I'm starting to get used to the hair. It's still not an aesthetic I find pleasing, but it's a consistent part of this world and I'm getting used to it. Even the music isn't too bad in this one as it cuts loose and runs with the comedy. This is a really fun, exciting, hilarious episode, that still has some good character stuff at its heart, and continues the thread of this animation studio blowing me away with the consistency of their stunning animation.

A few extra thoughts:
  • We never found out what was in the gift box from Lori. Given the episode theme, mix-CDs?
  • I actually like that they don't set up Lori's skills with a computer beyond her having a bag full of CDs, and a compact computer that's somehow keyed in show whenever Cybersix is near. That's a skilled bit of offscreen programming.
  • I wonder if there's a story behind the abandoned and rundown control room on the subway line which Data-7 has apparently made into his lair.
  • The standoff with Cybersix holding the power cord is pretty badass.
  • The shot of the drill tank roaring out of the ground before the boombox dude. Laughed so hard at that.


You know, I had a queasy feeling that we weren't finished with the Lori/Adrian crush thing teased in the first episode. I say queasy because, at the very least, it really is a bad sitcom trope. And true to their worst instincts and my worst fears, they go straight to the Bosom Buddies playbook, mining exactly zero laughs in the process. Thankfully they don't push it too hard, or worse, too far. The latter was my primary concern, as there is the potential to be unintentionally insensitive in situations like these. I'm thus happy to report that the most offensive thing about this episode remains the character's hair.

Like previous episodes, we once again get a heavy dose of José. If there's any doubt that José is Darth Vader and Von Reichter is the Emperor, it's put to rest here. Von Reichter seems relegated to the shadows, a disembodied head with a host of nebulous, evil plans, while José is the diminutive physical manifestation of the organization's leadership. That's fine by me, as I prefer his angry antics to Von Reichter's spooky oobie-doobery any day. It's nice to finally see some more interaction between the two of them here, even if it's only via a monitor, and I hope they continue to play up and expand upon their relationship in future episodes.

What I don't quite get here is how José's plan involves capturing Cybersix. When we first see José, he's planning a bank heist. The why I never understood, as it's never voiced and it certainly doesn't appear as if they need the money (unless those large henchman receive a daily food stipend or something). But when Von Reichter voices his displeasure with José's efforts to capture Cybersix thus far, José pledges that he will indeed get her and then proceeds with his bank heist plan that has absolutely nothing to do with that pledge. Maybe he was trying to lure her out into the open? If that's the case, for clarity's sake, they should've voiced it. What follows is a rather uninspired rehash of the kid in trouble plot from last week, with the somewhat annoying Lori being a rather poor substitute for the feisty and likeable dynamic duo of Julian and Ikiko. At least there aren't any large monsters this time around, unless you count the burly Lucas.

One of the things that seems to have fallen by the wayside is the exploration of Cybersix's background. Lacking a traditional origin story, the series seems to instead be taking a slow reveal approach. I liked this, as the mystery works to the advantage of the character and the series as a whole. But this is the third episode in a row that ignores that angle, and I'm starting to wonder if they're abandoning it all together. That would be hugely disappointing.

As you've probably guessed by now, this is a pretty weak episode. Not bad, really. Certainly not Pole Position bad. Just flat, uninspired, and ultimately inconsequential.

If you'd like to watch along with us, the entirety of Cybersix is available on DVD, thanks to Discotek Media.