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The Complete Monster: Ajo

SYSTEM is the first of the two movie-length episodes [1] of Key the Metal Idol. SYSTEM works at the length but is primarily an extended infodump.  In some respects it is the most egregious example I have seen since David Weber’s On Basilisk Station [2].

As a result I’m not attempting a sequential synopsis. I’ll group events by theme or focus until the infodump ends, and what little terrifying action there is begins [3]

Context:

It mostly takes place after the concert in VIRUS II, and starts with Tataki and Sakura talking about what happened at the concert.  Tataki lies to Sakura about what happened to reassure her, and to get her to go home.  In essence he describes the events as part of Tsurugi’s choreography.  Once they get home to find Tomoyo waiting with a sleeping Key, Tomoyo leaves and Tataki follows. 

Tomoyo and Tataki:

This sets up the core exposition, primarily focussed on the photo Tataki found in the Mamio Valley. The key to the photo mentioned earlier is that anything, or anyone, in motion is blurred.  The proof of Key’s powers is that the tower, and the wood falling on Key, is in perfect focus. This leads into the family history as priestesses to a shrine to Ame no Uzume no Mikoto [4].

An early digression comparing idol singers to priestesses, in that they are born rather than made, feeds into this.  The digression effectively identifies idol singers as modern incarnations of shrine priestesses, and I’m really not sure what to make of this.

This leads into the main infodump of the mad scientist antics of Dr Mima that effectively drained the geist of Tomiko [5] and Toyoko [6].  Dr Mima’s actions are partially justified by the fact that Ajo was threatening him, and performing the experiments was the only way to keep his daughter out of Ajo’s hands. Much of the info dump covers Tataki’s research into Mima’s research and into Ajo’s history in World War II.  To his credit though I think that Dr Mima’s repentance once he realised the truth was genuine, and he then did his best to protect his daughter and granddaughter from Ajo.

This was in vain though, with Toyoko using her powers to protect Key from Sergei in a burning shrine even as Key was being born.  Toyoko survived long enough to hold Key, but only just.

The key though is that the women of the Mima [7] line are capacitors for geist [8], particularly when worshipped by the people of the Mamio Valley.  To protect Key from Ajo, Dr Mima and Tomoyo were forced to seal the geist of generations into Key [9], and this sealed her humanity as a side effect.  The 30,000 friends needed to make Key human is based on an estimate of how much power is sealing off Key’s humanity.

Maestro:

The conversation between Tomoyo and Tataki is paralleled by a monologue from another employee of Ajo, an old man referred to as Maestro. Maestro is the one who prepares the skins for the Beniko and Miho bots.  Maestro is not a happy old man and has an unhappy history with the Mima family. 

Maestro is something of an artist, an old friend of Dr Mima, but one with a history of betrayal.  Maestro has realised that the draining of gel is the draining of life and character. This is in many ways the oldest story: jealousy of Dr Mima’s talents as a scientist, jealousy of his marrying Tomiko.  Out of this jealousy he betrayed the Mima’s to Ajo, and this is something he is repenting now [10].  Given that these sequences involve preparing skins for Beniko & Miho bots, the fairly extensive fanservice and jiggle physics doesn’t surprise me [11].

Tsurugi:

Early on there is a side story of Tsurugi in chains conversing, or ranting at, a Miho-bot.  It ends with Tsurugi finding out about the robots before he has 10 packs of gel extracted.  This bot is being jointly operated by Miho and Beniko, and a mistake at the end leads to Ajo beating Beniko fairly savagely: as far as Ajo is concerned Beniko isn’t the idol singer, the Beniko-Bot is.

One interesting image is that the long haired girl sitting in the rain in some of Key’s previous dreams may have been a younger Miho meeting Tsurugi.  This shows a deeper connection between Key and Miho, and is probably the main point of the sequence.

Certainly there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Ajo to have set the scene up, or any actual information that Tsurugi gave about Key. Ajo isn’t sane by any stretch of the imagination, but this bit really didn’t make any sense at all.

Sakura and Key:

One side effect is that the conversation also leaves Sakura alone with a Key that Sakura is suddenly frightened of. Terrified is a better word, especially when Key awakens and walks towards Sakura, but it begins to change when Key says “Mother” and collapses into Sakura’s arms.  Eventually Sakura embraces Key, and the fear of Key transforms into a protective fear for Key.

This is enhanced by Sakura thinking that Key was calling Sakura “Mother”, although I suspect that this is more Key connecting to her mother’s geist.

Sakura has also seen the photo of the festival.  The photographer was Sakura’s father, and may have been Key’s unknown father. Sakura’s father isn’t clearly seen, and I think that there’s a chance he is Maestro.

Her speculation about being Key’s sister leads into the last five to ten minutes which, as an added bonus, have actual plot in them.

The actual plot:

The next morning Key answers the phone and her end of the conversation concerns Tsurugi. Sakura awakens to find Key gone and panics.  Sakura rushes out to find her.

Key is arriving at a hospital.

Tataki and Tomoyo are meeting at the ruins of Prince Snake-Eye’s temple.

An increasingly panicked Sakura is calling home, begging for Key to answer, and the answering machine message ends with a scream and a crash.

There is a scene of a wrecked phone booth with a dangling phone.

Tataki is also reaching Sakura’s answering machine, but Tomoyo doesn’t seem to be worried. I’ll be ranting about this later.

A terrified Sakura is hiding in a junk yard calling for someone, anyone, to help her. Sakura doesn’t want to die, and apologises to Key. As a PPOR appears she screams Key’s name.

Key is with a drooling Tsurugi

The PPOR is lifting an unconscious, bleeding, Sakura from a hole in the ground.

Tsurugi remembers more than he should, and can even speak.  He challenges to Key to toughen up and face the inhuman opponents.  Key says “Yes” as the credits roll.

Comment and Ranting:

The cliff-hanger that this episode ends on is terrifying: Sakura is in a bad way with little hope of a good outcome. That this cliff-hanger happens at all is more than a little annoying: it relies on Tomoyo and Tataki effectively abandoning Key and Sakura for their conversation. 

Given that Tomoyo has been an effective bodyguard up until now, the blatancy of this instance of the Idiot Ball is just annoying.  Particularly when it comes at the end of a discussion about how scared Ajo is, and how much of a threat he is. You’d think that under the circumstances Tomoyo would keep a better eye on Key and Sakura.

Coming on top of an hour of prolonged infodump, albeit interesting and relevant infodump, this highlights the poor writing that is my lasting impression of this episode.  SYSTEM held my attention, just, but mainly because the infodump was at least interesting.  Implementing part of it as a monologue, and part as an As You Know Bob conversation was disappointing given the generally high level of the writing in Key the Metal Idol.

SYSTEM is enjoyable enough in its own way, but primarily because the interest and sympathy generated in previous episodes carried me past the clumsiness of the set up.

I’ll look at the last episode next weekend, and I’ll warn people now that according to my memories Key the Metal Idol has some nasty aspects to the ending.

Day 1 – START UP
Day 2 – CURSOR I
Day 3 – CURSOR II
Day 4 – Sub vs Dub?
Day 5 – ACCESS
Day 6 – SCROLL I
Day 7 – SCROLL II
Day 8 – The extra bits
Day 9 – RUN
Day 10 – GOTO
Day 11 – RETURN
Day 12 – Gender and Key the Metal Idol
Day 13 – BUG
Day 14 – SAVE
Day 15 – VIRUS I
Day 16 – Staging Key the Metal Idol
Day 17 – VIRUS II
Day 18 – SYSTEM
Day 19 – EXIT
Day 20 – Looking Back at Key the Metal Idol



[1] The length, combined with Real Life™, is the reason for the delay.  I had a great time at SwanCon (no surprises there) but the trip and some other stuff (that I don’t want to talk about) have messed me around a bit.

[2] Which interrupts a death ride to go on an extended discussion of hyperspace travel in the Honorverse.

[3] Any “But it didn’t happen in that order” comments are likely to be laughed at.

[4] Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto is the goddess who danced before a cave to lure the hiding sun god Amaterasu Omikami out into the open. As Tataki notes, Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto is effectively the goddess of show business.

[5] Tomiko was Key’s grandmother.

[6] Toyoko was Key’s mother.

[7] They really should have their own name, Dr Mima marrying in is only relatively recent.

[8] Geist in a manifested form is what Ajo is calling gel.  The term geist being the combination of mind/spirit in the sense of Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit is only used in the dub, but is a wise choice.  I think the Japanese word is “omoi” which hints more towards memory or character, but carries similar connotations otherwise. ObDisclaimer: I am not a philosopher, and have not read Hegel.

[9] Specifically the geist extracted from Toyoko to persuade the inherited geist to stay quiet.

[10] That said Maestro still isn’t resisting Ajo so the extent of his repentance is questionable.

[11] It does disappoint me somewhat however.

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