August 2, 2015

Cybersix, episode 12 "Daylight Devil"

Cybersix and Data-7 are being chased through the city at night by Griselda, a new creation of Von Richter, who not only has equal fighting abilities, but a gauntlet which fires a spear on a line, and the ability to turn invisible. She has Cybersix completely on the ropes until a gaggle of Fixed Ideas with a rocket launcher bungle things up. Everyone retreats from the fight, bruised and bitter.

Cybersix especially has a lingering injury to her arm that she tries to brush off as nothing when both Lucas and Data-7 show concern the next day. Data-7 doesn't accept this quietly, though, and follows Adrian on a school field trip he's supervising with Lucas. As the kids all bus out to the lush countryside for an afternoon of poetry reading and biology studies, Data-7 doesn't realize that his pursuit has also been followed by Griselda.

When Adrian spots movement in the woods, he investigates only to find Data-7 and lovingly chides the panther. That's when Griselda pounces, her invisibility continuing to give her the advantage even in daylight. Adrian is again on the losing end, and is even knocked into a river, but Griselda retreats back into hiding when Adrian is discovered by Lucas and the students. He tries brushing off their concern of his injuries, but gradually relents when they insist he go to a hospital.

They pile in the bus, Griselda following in a stolen car. At the hospital, Adrian is trying to duck questions, but it's not long before Griselda again attacks, brazenly following Adrian past confused attendants. Adrian briefly gets the upper hand by stunning Griselda with some defibrillator paddles, but it doesn't last long before the chase continues. Adrian flees the hospital, reuniting with Data-7, but they're still on the run as Griselda plows after them with an ambulance. Adrian tries leaping to the rooftops, but is snagged on Griselda's line and drug behind as the ambulance continues racing along, only getting slightly easier when Adrian manages to snag a skateboard from a passing kid.

Due to Data-7 making it to the ambulance and taking swipes at Griselda and some oncoming traffic, she's forced off the road right as they reach a bridge, her line the only thing keeping her from plunging into the waterfalls below alongside the ambulance. Adrian looks down at her hanging there, conflicted. Ultimately, when the line gives, Adrian grabs it and starts reeling her in. Griselda doesn't understand, but Adrian just tells her to not give up. She sees the strain on his injured arm, though, as well as an oncoming train about to reach him on the bridge... so she lets go.

She falls, disappearing into the waves. Adrian is stunned, but all he can do is pick himself up, pat his sibling panther, and quietly walk back to the hospital where his friend and students are waiting.


Heading into our penultimate episode of Cybersix, I assumed the series was long past its ability to surprise me. It turns out that I was wrong.

"Daylight Devil" is, in so many ways, different than previous episodes. It looks different. It moves different. It feels different. And all of this is apparent right from the start. It's very tough to describe, but if you've been watching along, I'm sure you'll agree that this episode stands apart from the rest in a number of ways.

For starters, the animation is much more dynamic and immersive than before. If nothing else, Cybersix has always been pretty to look at, but here the animation moves beyond mere attractive aesthetics and into something that looks and feels more cinematic. Speaking of which, the action also feels and is staged in a way that's closer to something you'd see in a live action movie than a 30 minute cartoon show.

But it's not just the look that's different here. The tone of this episode is more grounded and serious. Some of that may be due to the lack of José and his often unwelcome antics, but aside from a little bumbling by Von Reichter's Frankengoons at the beginning, there's no humor here at all. Coupled with the episode's comparatively spartan dialog, it really makes for a jarring (and welcomed) tonal shift.

Perhaps the single most important difference here is our villain. Griselda, who frustratingly doesn't get an introduction or backstory, is played absolutely straight. She's a terrifyingly cold character that we never once doubt has the ability or the capacity to kill. In a show filled with increasingly ridiculous threats, seeing the relentless Griselda stalking our hero actually made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

And death! Implied, but rather explicitly so. Maybe this isn't a big deal to those of you of a certain age, but for a guy who grew up watching heroes and villains alike run into a hail of flak and gunfire and never even get their uniform singed, this is a major thing. That it came in the form of self sacrifice on the part of the villain (the second such time this has happened in the series. See also: "Terra") only serves to add a very adult heaping of pathos into the mix.

There's a few other notable things about "Daylight Devil". I like seeing Data-7's protective side kick in. He is, after all, Cybersix's brother, and this really marks the first time since the second episode that their relationship is explored at all. And we finally get Lucas out of that G.D. trench coat. Who else imagines that it smells like mothballs and coffee?

I really wish that we'd gotten a better setup and some backstory for Griselda, but otherwise, this was a beautifully made, harrowing, and ultimately heartbreaking episode that easily ranks as the best of the series for me with only one left to challenge.

(additional stills)


This entire run, I've sung the praises of the animation on this show, as some of the most exquisite stuff the industry was putting out at the time. Hell, for all his grumping, even Tony's admitted the animation is pretty spectacular. Yet even within the context of all that, this week's episode blew me away. Those are my socks on the ground with little puffs of smoke rising from them, that speck fading into the distance is me, blown right the hell away.

This week's episode is directed by Hiroyuki Aoyama, who wasn't just an animator for that TMS group on all those 90s American shows, but one of their top talents. He was the head director on Superman: The Animated Series, which also led him to take over as head director on Batman: The Animated Series for its 1997-1998 season when it was called The New Batman Adventures. In anime, he's also a hugely prominent key animator, working on Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Little Nemo, Redline, Skycrawlers, Akira, Steamboy, half the Studio Ghibli catalog, and most recently, episodes of Space Dandy. This guy is a major, A-list industry talent, and one hell of a get for an episode of this series. And this isn't his only involvement with the show as he's previously been animation director and key animator on "The Mysterious Shadow", "Yashimoto, Private Eye", and "Brainwashed".

This episode is so cinematic, and is so well executed on a technical level that I easily hold it alongside the level of quality of that entire list of amazing titles I just mentioned above. Not only due to the fluidity of movement, but the pacing, the dramatic punches, the timing of the editing, drawing out of suspense before explosions of action, character moments, looks and postures, hell even the sound work is exceptional. And it helps that Judy Valyi (who previously wrote "Yashimoto, Private Eye" with fellow series story editor Barry Whittaker) has given him a script which takes this series so far outside of its formulaic comfort zone it almost felt like we were watching a different series after the first few minutes. I don't just mean the lack of José (though dear lord was it wonderful to get another break from José), but as the title suggests, this episode is set during the day, and outside of Meridiana as a school field trip allows us to go out into lush forests and fields, vibrantly lit against the sun. It's such a refresher after all the grim, urban action during the night, and creates a wonderful tonal contrast as threatening terrors loom amidst a bright and welcoming setting.

The other major shakeup is in Cybersix themself. We get our typical Cybersix vigilante action in the opening sequence establishing the threat, then a lovely bedtime sequence where she's not quite Cybersix, not quite Adrian, just someone tired in PJs tucking in for the night, and then it's all Adrian for the rest of the episode. They're gone, out of town, away from the apartment, and he has no outfit to change into as he needs to face the threat. As with previous episodes where we've gotten snippets, it's a wonderful contrast to see fierce action and displays of superpowers come from our lead while in the form of a bookish literature professor. I love that this doesn't slow down Adrian one bit, that surviving to take on the threat trumps all else, and he just kind of shrugs off being stuck in civilian I.D. while ducking around it as best he can.

And to top it off, we finally get a fantastic threat in the form of Griselda, yet another creation of Von Reichter. I'm not huge on Griselda's design, as she looks like she wandered in from some space opera anime, but the presentation and threat of the character is wonderful. She is every bit Cybersix's equal in physical ability and battle, but she has the added bonuses of A) a cool spear gauntlet, B) she can turn invisible. The spear is beautifully animated, but the invisibility is used to create some wonderful sequences of her slowly and assuredly stalking after Adrian, while he constantly flees from a force nobody else can see. Cars being driven by no one, hospital staff being knocked aside, her just laughing it off when Cybersix says to fight fair. She is terrifying, and a genuine force for our hero to reckon with, especially when constantly clutching at an arm that's already been injured. I love that even with Data-7 having snuck along to support his sibling, that doesn't turn the tide much at all as he gets in the way more than helps and they don't go the typical route of his heightened senses being able to get around the invisibility.

If I have one quibble, it's that the ending is a little awkwardly staged. I don't buy that Griselda would have such a sudden change of conscience, nor that we needed that train to suddenly be coming. This series has run into a bit of an issue of killing off interesting villains when they really should stick around for future stories, and this is no exception. Really, Adrian should have saved her, then Griselda should have been conflicted and just decided to call it a draw or something. For now, at least. You know how that goes. That said, it's still gorgeously executed, with the distant shot of Griselda falling into the churning water being almost as haunting as the shot of Adrian sitting there on the bridge, stunned, processing that he just failed to save the life of someone who just tried to kill him.

I'll give a second quibble which is the music. I haven't been a fan of it for most of the series, and it's especially lackluster against such an otherwise great episode. And this really is a great episode. I also love how Lucas is used, more as a foil for Adrian on their trip than his typical role of love interest. I love Lori continuing her growth as a person genuinely concerned for others. I love the whole threat of Adrian being reluctant to visit a hospital until he has no choice but to do so in order to ward off more questions from Lucas. I love the further evidence that Fixed Ideas should not be given rocket launchers. And okay, I will give the music one prop. Actually love how they bring in an instrumental of the closing theme over the final moments of the show, it's choral elements a perfect contrast again to Adrian's sense of loss.

This is a stunning half hour of television, which gripped me, entertained me, and just flat out stunned me from beginning to end. If this is the quality we're going to get right before the final outing, you can bet that I'm really damned curious how this is all going to end.

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


Tony Williams said...

I don't buy that Griselda would have such a sudden change of conscience, nor that we needed that train to suddenly be coming

Agreed. If you're going to go that route (which I didn't mind) it needs a better, clearer, setup. It's a hard right turn on Griselda's part, and a bit tough to swallow.

Brianne K said...

Wonderful review, guys. This was such a gorgeous episode -- one of my favorite episodes of any cartoon ever, in fact. It stuns me that the pacing of an action-packed 24 minute episode could be so pitch perfect.

Tony Williams said...

Thank you for reading, Brianne!

I definitely had mixed feelings re: Cybersix when all was said and done, but I definitely remember this as perhaps its strongest episode, and one I genuinely enjoyed.