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GitS SAC underscore 2045 is not bad because of how it looks, more importantly it's bad because of how it sucks at telling stories

So this is my episode-by-episode breakdown of how I feel about this...thing. One thing I love about Ghost in the Shell overall is its storytelling, and rather than the "Oh it looks bad" stuff I want to focus on that aspect.
Long post is long. Spoiler-filled, obviously. TLDR version: No mercy for the weak. Learn to read.
EPISODE 1
Based on the first episode, video games are a really good touchstone for this series so far, but not only because of how it looks. I keep thinking about the Zero Wing cutscene meme ("Someone set up us the bomb!" "All your base are belong to us" and so on) because that's really comparable in terms of storytelling, writing and general quality of presentation. Zero Wing exists as a meme because of its terrible translation, but it is not actually impossible to understand, just full of laughable errors. But the reason it's easy to understand is because of the simplicity of the narrative; some rudimentary scene setting and setup of characters precedes a basic action scene to launch the meat of the game.
This is important; in any narrative where the story world isn't a well-known part of our current world (fantasy and sci-fi in particular), it's critical to set up the world where the story occurs. Context is everything. Context, established well, draws you into the story by making you care about the world and characters. Maybe you like them. Maybe you find your curiosity piqued. Maybe there's an element of fear or excitement in there too. But by how the initial state of the world is presented, you should also be forming an emotional connection with the show that draws you in in order to form an intellectual connection that cements your connection to the story. With Zero Wing, since the reason you're there, seeing the cutscene, is to play the game, and the story is basically only set dressing, only the most simple establishment of context is needed. A bad guy has popped up; fight him!
Exactly the same thing seems to be going on here, except there's no game. A bunch of bad guys pop up; fight them! Context, you say? Well, here's the official English title crawl:
AD 2042 - The Great 4 (American Empire, China, Russia, and EU) sought economic sustainability for its members. Using AI Code 1A84 the American Empire initiated war as an industry. The world dubbed it "sustainable war". However, each nation put its economic interests first, and the world soon found itself in a dire straits.
AD 2044 - The Global Simultaneous Default caused financial firms to halt all transactions. Paper currency became worthless, and all virtual currency and e-money vanished from the net. This triggered a rapid escalation in war as an industry. Even advanced nations suffered riots, terrorism, separatist movements, and civil war. Sustainable war slowly but surely began to spread, threatening the human race with extinction.
AD 2045...
None of this is 'why', it's all 'what'; it's like looking at a diagram of for example a human heart and having it clearly labelled with "anterior ventricle" and "chordae tendiniae" and so on - I now know what those things are called but I still know nothing about what they do and why they are like they are. In the same way, I know that 'sustainable war' is a significant thing in the story, but I don't have a clue what it is, how it works, why it exists, why it's bad/good for given people; I know that the global money system is messed up, and the name of the problem hints at what's going on, but not why or how... With this intro they're trying to set a wider scene, but they do it in the worst way possible, giving us an 'explanation' that's full of stuff they then need to explain further, but don't.
Consider this utter failure of a sentence:
Using AI Code 1A84 the American Empire initiated war as an industry.
I have three problems here.
  1. Initiated? Anyone with a brain knows war has been at least somewhat of an industry for about the last 5000 years. Anyone with any knowledge of modern history knows about Eisenhower's Military-Industrial Complex, the Vietnam war, the War On Drugs, the War On Terror... Surely the entire idea of this is to be an allegory for modern geopolitics - so perhaps implying that the modern world isn't like this is unwise, if you actually want your allegory to land. Or do they mean they're coming out and openly saying "Today we're going to invade [throws dart at map] ...Angola, not because they're doing anything wrong, just because we want to financially rape them"? How does that work?
  2. War on whom? Wars happen to defend or to acquire. War as an industry relies on an economically favourable objective to the war, i.e. a war to acquire something. You support your domestic economy by making weapons, sure, but there has to be a goal to using the weapons. Shooting stuff doesn't make money by itself. Whether it's about claiming resources or about destroying a state infrastructure in order to sell it a new one, war in and of itself isn't an industry entire.
  3. What is AI Code 1A84? This is made to seem meaningful without any further explanation, and it just excludes the audience. You could remove this part of the sentence entirely and it doesn't change anything. That is what we call 'bad writing'. If it turns out that this is important information later, it should be introduced in a way that establishes a mystery around it. Or it's a literary allusion - permanent wars supporting superstates is a feature of 1984, but that's about establishing ideology, not economics; the economics take care of themselves, in that the war drives the ideology that makes the citizens into unprotesting mindless slaves who drive the economy. That doesn't quite seem like what they're going for here.
Taking this back to Zero Wing: the first lines are "In AD 2101, war was beginning." and then stuff starts to explode. It's an intro that tries to set a scene but doesn't have any idea how to do it, so it just throws half-baked information about the general state of the story world at the audience without thinking about how it lands, and then jumps into some action which also defines a main character. See my point?
Now look at the first two series of SAC - they have phenomenal storytelling of an incredibly complex story because they are detective shows and the whole thing is about building up understanding of a case in order to solve it. It's why detective shows are so absorbing - because we're learning stuff organically. Both the Laughing Man incident and the Individual Eleven conspiracies were both uncovered by evolving events and having the protagonists track them and investigate their causes while we follow their investigation and piece the story together as the characters do. This was about the only way to tell such a complicated story. Much better to make the story set the scene, no?
Again, underscore 2045 follows exactly the same format as Zero Wing. Brief, overly simplified infodump followed by action that establishes main characters. It would be forgivable to do things this way if the action scene was a) good, b) achieved something or c) established characters well, but it fails all those. The action choreography is awful, makes no sense and serves no purpose plot-wise and actively undermines existing fans expectations of characters. Consider:
  • The bad guys are just shooting randomly at nothing, for no reason; clearly ammo is free in this war-torn desert.
  • The squad just hang out in the line of fire like a clear invitation to shoot.
  • They just let the bad guys shoot grenades at them for fully a minute before Saito takes the GL out of action with a single shot, which he could have done as soon as the truck appeared. Worse, it appears the only reason he did it was to embarrass Stan.
  • Tachikoma jumps up on wind turbines, shoots at rear of technical, technical loses front wheel. Makes perfect sense.
  • Before, everyone involved could shoot accurately to an insane degree. Now the only one who can seems to be Saito.
  • They talk about trying to make sure they have as few casualties as possible, then proceed to crash the vehicles, shoot fully automatic weapons at them and generally not try to do that in any meaningful way, and the fact that some of them survive is sheer luck. Possibly they're talking about their actual targets at the end of the road, but that's not clear.
  • The guy who gets the drop on Batou; what the fuck was that? The man's a veteran of the Rangers and Section 9. He fought in WWIV, he's been in hundreds of gunfights - and he's still here. Suddenly he's been handed the idiot ball. I fully expected him to do something cool, but no. #JusticeForBatou. Also, the guy who gets the drop on him is then ambushed by Kusanagi, who was standing behind and a little off to the side. How did he not see her?
This is balls; absolutely shit action choreo. Compare SAC series 1 Ep 21 (Kusanagi vs. Drug Squad armoured suit), which is a true masterpiece of an action scene where every move and every shot makes sense, plays into character and is really, really satisfying to watch.
The dialogue writing is really poor as well; cookie cutter dialogue, characters have no gravitas and sound like parodies of themselves, and their inside man is so transparently playing them. This is kids show or pantomime level characterisation; or also-ran video game level, since Zero Wing is still in the chat. The target audience of this show is clearly skewing waaaay lower than before.
About visuals; it's the room elephant, but what can I say that hasn't already been said? The suspension of disbelief required for this is enormous, and I fully agree with those who compare it visually to video games, because I can't remember ever seeing a commercially made thing that looked more like a game without actually being one. It really looks like a machinima. The way characters are designed looks like pre-Appleseed CG Anime (which was directed by Shinji Aramaki...what the hell is he doing?), but cheaper and more indie; it's just piss poor. The shininess of the character skin looks very much like plastic. The objects in the world around look weightless and unreal. The way characters move is very NPC-like, for example the food seller that Batou talks to on the way into the town, does the same 'waving away flies' animation - an idle anim - three times in the course of the short scene where she appears.* This is truly TV for the gaming generation.
Also, character design. Compare the character's outfits with their outfits in 2nd Gig Episode 14. Those were soldiers. These are action figures. They're mercenaries in a warzone, but they have tiny little plate carriers, no helmets, no camo, no other protection at all. I remember once asking a guy who had a prosthetic leg why he wore a shoe on it and his answer was that there was no reason to wear the leg itself out when there were things that could protect it right there. The same is true on a larger scale here - if you're in a warzone it makes no sense not to wear armour if you can, even if your body is prosthetic and made of titanium alloys you might as well protect it.
The OP music is pure shit. In-episode music is unexceptional and forgettable. ED theme is pretty ass too. In all this is about as disappointing as I feared.

* this will come up later, I know. This is what I thought after the first episode.
EPISODE 2
So I enjoyed this a bit more because it was a lot more like Section 9 doing Section 9 things, namely being small+high tech+cunning vs. big+high tech+stupid, thematically, and resembles the 'rogue Jigabachi' episode from early in SAC 2nd Gig. It undermines itself crucially, but I begin to suspect that's not going to be uncommon.
The action again made generally not nearly enough sense, and wasn't very satisfying in that once again it is undermining the characters we know:
  • Saito is all like "oh I can't snipe it because it's in my blind spot and it's hacking my satellite feed"... So just unplug and shoot the fucking thing. Human snipers now can do that. Saito could do that in SAC 2nd Gig Episode 14. A 25-year veteran battlefield sniper with a state of the art rifle can do that.
  • Batou takes out a tank with an AA missile, somehow; they need some help with their missiles, clearly.
  • Ishikawa, an ace hacker...drives a truck (it's like a Top Gear intro).
  • "Stan" hung around, did nothing all over again.
  • And Kusanagi...age has not mellowed her. Age has turned her into a giant fucking showoff (watch her vault the rail on the stairs, and sigh) and lost her a great deal of sense.
If the Tachikomas can do acrobatics like that, why not have all three of them target it with their cable guns? Why did it let go of the drone and leave Kusanagi to fly around on the thing? The brown tachikoma has a minigun; they're used in reality to defend ships against supersonic missiles, it would make absolute Swiss cheese of the drone in seconds Why didn't they check the drone's functionality as soon as they shot it down, or immediately blow up or disconnect the missile launcher, or at the very least check if there were any more missiles? Why did she leave the Tachikoma with the drone, if not to go "ohs noes it wasn't really dead and it fired a missile, zoinks!"? S9 are careful professionals. These guys are lax yahoos.
Also of note: why do they have state of the art hand weapons but guided missiles from basically now or earlier? Stingers are 1980s tech for god's sake. I mean they could probably have some old stuff, in much the same way some people are fighting right now with AK47s and older guns, but if they have Seburos... I can't believe there's not something that would let one of them pilot the missile to its target and ignore the flares, given that we can basically do that now and that Saito is basically doing that with bullets; something you can steer would be absolutely a natural fit with cyberbrain tech.
Visually it looked better, for one reason only: it took place at night.
I can see myself being really pissed off with Togusa's arc. Something is signalling that it's going to be really unsatisfying and Togusa in particular is going to be messed around and end up behaving horrifically out of character. I'm already pissed off that they managed to have him divorce off-screen, when he seemed to have a genuinely close relationship with his family before. Last episode they mentioned that he had some sort of grudge against Kusanagi and the others but it doesn't scan with who he is. The point of him at the beginning (S9 noob) vs. him at the end of the first series (part of the team) vs. how he was in SSS (doing Kusanagi's job) was that he was really inherent to what S9 was and I don't believe that situation would arise from that sort of relationship. "No lol they left him behind and replaced him with fucking Stan" does not scan.
And let's talk about Stan for a moment. Generally when you have an established team and a noob, the noob is there to be explained to - an audience surrogate, basically, so we can learn what the experienced characters already know. Or, as a variation, he's there to be mystified because they won't tell him what's going on, and become pro-active in finding information for himself, performing the same function in a different way. Alternatively, a new character brings a new skillset to the mix. But Stan is apparently just there to be insulted for no obvious reason beyond a cruel sense of humour. He serves no purpose, has no clear skills, discovers basically nothing and has virtually nothing explained to him, and we find things out much more from pre-op briefings and veteran characters talking to each other than from him. He is, so far, a textbook token character.
The geopolitics of the thing are also annoyingly absent in terms of showing rather than telling. The conversation between Batou and the leader of the terrorist footballers (I kind of get what they're going for with this, and I suppose it's just a novelty, but still, ????) was a really good example of what not to do to set your world up. They're sports stars calling out professional soldiers for being '1%er lackeys'...didn't anyone notice how little sense that makes? Pro sportsmen are, at least in the modern world, almost the definition of the 1%. We have no indication of why these spoiled kids, entirely against type, would be concerned with politics at all, let alone radicalised enough to kill.
We know there's some sort of Behind Man person supporting the terrorist footballers, and we know they know something about what's going to happen. These are yet to be developed so I can get behind this, but the fact a missile hit something after trying all episode to prevent it and I still don't know what it hit because nobody in the story apparently cares enough to find out is simply a failure of storytelling. I don't care just because they do, you know; you need to invest me in the story beyond "Huh? What does that mean? What is this about? Why did that happen?". I want to understand this more so that I care about it.
Got to end on a grudgingly positive note, though. I do want to see more; I want to see if this apparently crappy storytelling actually goes anywhere or if it's just going to be 12 episodes of dangling bait in front of my nose.

EPISODE 3
Not only is the animation and design worse than anything GitS has ever done, the title card looks worse too. The way they depicted cyberspace in original SAC was beautiful - stylishly well crafted but busy enough that it looked plausibly megatechnological. This is just worse. Hexagons. Hexagons are played the fuck out, my friends. That's some deviantart level design.
Love the way the squad just stand there like idiots while the Delta guys just form up around them. Nobody has any fucking sense here.
Togusa has a picture of his wife and kids which is super precious to him; I already feel like I'm being deceived. And then he has a bitchin' Camaro. With stripes. In a warzone. With no traffic. This all makes perfect sense.
But at least the woman repeating the 'waving away flies' anim is explained. Very clever, but the problem is that you need to hang around this long to get that it's not egregious laziness on the part of the production but has an actual purpose in the plot; people with a low tolerance for bullshit won't last that long and will go and rant about how the series looks like a PS2 game.
But so far the whole thing is just so fucking basic. The series really seems to be assuming the audience are idiots. Nothing is left to the imagination, and what little is there to tie into wider theme is telegraphed really clearly.
GOD I hate how this series looks. I hate it. It's depersonalisation. They are actively making everyone less human-like. You are making your characters worse by making them look like this.

EPISODE 4
The main problem here is that this is juuuuuust good enough to keep watching, but not remotely good enough to be actually good. Disappointment is not new in this field, but it's actively making me angry. It is developing a little more dimensionality with the NSA asshole forcing them into working for them, but then again the entire situation they are in is down to them not acting like S9 would and suspecting the shit out of slimy NSA guys who have come to give them a job. They seem so shocked and disappointed that the US government is selling them out and forcing them into doing something they don't want; because that's totally unlike how the US government has behaved on this show in the past, right? They've always been so trustworthy and above board, except for every single time they've interacted with these characters prior to now. But yeah, I'm sure they'd be much more likely to be straight with an entirely disposable 5-person mercenary company than they would with the Japanese government.

EPISODE 5
I hope this will come to be known as The Great Naked Smooth-crotch Kuvshinov Backflips Fiasco. I mean, I was actually into this episode for a minute, up to then, but the idea is preposterous. Muscles can't do that. Physics can't do that. Here's a non-aug human, cyberbrain aside, doing bullet-dodging at Seburo rates of fire, and since his attackers are in autistic mode he can't read their movements from their own internal data, so it's all about what he can personally sense. All the 'processing powaah' in the world cannot enable you to see behind yourself. You cannot predict the trajectory of fully automatic fire after the first couple of rounds, particularly not if the shooter is moving, and even if you can, you can't get out of its way. And three veteran cyborgs who can move faster than he can, can't manage to shoot him, hit him or catch him. BULL. SHIT.
All you need to do is a) make him jump, get him on the way down - no amount of muscles or 'processing powaah' can change a human's trajectory in mid-air; or b) get Ishikawa to unload his KSG at shin level. You can't dodge the fully random shot dispersion of a shotgun.
Meanwhile, dog-squad vs. Saito. He doesn't climb a tree? Badass points for firing a 20mm from the hip, sure, but no, this is not how you remain combat effective.
And then, they spent two episodes talking about making some sort of break for it, and when it comes to it, they stand around like lemons and let the Delta squad surround them, with lots of warning, all over again. This is not what S9 does.
Also, "Patrick Huge". Perhaps this is supposed to have been 'Hughes', but still...this really makes people take you seriously, chaps.

EPISODE 6
The series is still resolutely annoying. I will grudgingly give 'nice idea' points for having him program a virus into the system in the way he does; however the shape of this so far is clear - a series designed to create the largest number of setpieces with the least possible story. And it STILL looks like ass. The fight with the robots was laughable. And the start and end music still suck hugely; I hate the ending theme more every time I hear it. I am disappoint.
I can't quite put my finger on what the robots remind me of. Sure I've seen robots similar to this before. A game maybe?

EPISODE 7
OK, I will admit, with the exception of the crap that is Purin, this was an actually good episode, the style and feel of SAC at last. I want to see more bumbling oyaji criminals in the cybernetic future, and I think they did a good thing making a story like this.
But however much I try to look past it, the CG is really awful. Note how Batou's vest pockets deform when he puts his hands up. Someone noticed this and decided to not fix it. And I fucking see you, Kuvshinov, self-inserting again. Not professional.
At least Pazu and Borma are back.

EPISODE 8
So we're now two thirds through this and it took this long to form S9 again. The whole thing is badly crafted. E8 should have been a thoughtful spy drama and instead it hurriedly shoehorned that into the b-story. Togusa's 'investigation' is laughable - walks into the place in thermoptic camo with a hornet drone that goes 'there, on the prime minister's desk - the only thing on it - clearly visible - a tiny bastard'. I mean I could have done that without the drone or the thermoptics. The old men from the last episode could.
Thus my main impetus for continuing is not really curiosity but confusion, rather than "how will they solve this problem?" or "what is the answer to this mystery?" the driving force here is "are they going to explain what the fuck is going on?" and "when will this start to make sense?".
Calling this now, too - Togusa isn't divorced at all and it's all a ruse to protect his family. I mean they've been hinting since E2 but the way they keep harping on it seems like a cheap ploy to make Togusa seem more crafty.

EPISODE 9
It's just occurred to me that the structure of this series seems to be backwards. The setup and execution for this one seems very much like episodes of SAC gone by, ass visuals and excessively rapid pace notwithstanding. Previously things went from smaller incidents with odd technological dimensions to bigger plots and governmental intrigue and thence to multi-episode sequences with attack helicopters and tanks, but here we're going the opposite way.
Also, since the posthumans seem to be acting on diverse individual motivations all centred around righting a problem with global society , this very much reminds me of another Production IG gig written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, Eden of the East, wherein a bunch of people are given phones loaded with immense sums of money and told they must 'save Japan', and each person responds to this in different ways. Turn that up to 11 and you get this, basically. The issue is the captured post-human with half his head missing. I can't really fit him into this idea. Then again military types do honestly believe in 'sic vis pacet para bellum' and 'peace through superior firepower' and so on, perhaps he thought the best idea really was to just destroy the world.
What's confusing me about this is the politics. In fiction you can't simply say 'black is white' or any other reversal of reality and expect people to just go with it, there must be a plausible grounds for believing it in the context.
I don't see how and why Japan is being painted as essentially a puppet state of the US in this series. Presumably the fact that Japan isn't one of the Great 4 is the root of this, but so far as I can see Japan in Underscore 2045 is doing what it normally does in reality, just doing its own thing while creating technology for export, and particularly given the radiation-scrubbing tech Japan is established to possess in 2nd Gig, there appears to be no sanction hanging over it forcing it to do what the Americans want, yet they still make out Japan is somehow beholden to the American Empire.
In reality, Japan has every ability to tell the Americans to fuck off - look for example at Okinawa. The Americans want to move their marine base but the locals are not into it, and are even less into the existing marine base. The marines in Okinawa play everything there extremely carefully because they know that they can't just get what they want and have to constantly work to establish goodwill. Obviously that doesn't necessarily fit with the fiction here, but we need to know why they're acting like this for it to be credible.
However the NSA asshole floats around like he owns the place and seems entirely able to give orders to the Japanese PM. Meanwhile the fact the Japanese PM is an American is completely beyond me; I suspect it will play into what's going on later. But make no mistake, this is still not a well-crafted story; it's achieving its objective through volume of fire rather than accuracy. They've burned a great deal of time and presumably money on building lacklustre set-pieces when they didn't have to, instead of making a story with the care they used to, and I want to know why.

EPISODE 10
Purin is cancer. Pure fucking cancer. I miss the meaningless badly choreographed desert fighting at this point. Purin belongs in GitS exactly as much as Kusanagi belongs in Love Hina or something. Whatever light fluffy high school romance anime is currently cool, I don't know about that stuff. Possibly this is the worst episode yet, thanks to the combination of her, a plot that goes nowhere and is based on idiocy and failure to apply any sort of macro logic to the situation (how is a witch hunt possibly better than law in anyone's mind? Even vigilantes do what they do because the law is failing, i.e. they believe in the concept of law enough that they want it to work), the embarrasingly bad fighting at the end (Togusa as Bruce Lee...fucking stop it) and some more of Purin being cancer. If Batou does in some way get with her, I will be so incredibly disappointed; even him brushing her off is not as amusing as it should be because of the way she reacts to it.
If I want pink-haired cartoon schoolgirls who think they are cute, designed for people too immature to appreciate realistic mature characters like S9 used to be, I'm spoiled for choice, but stop dragging that bilge into Ghost in the Shell, or more accurately dragging GitS down into the bilge.
It's even undermining GitS's feminist kudos. Up to now, whatever else they do with this series, Kusanagi is out there being gender equality incarnate, defining herself as a strong character against strong antagonists over and over again... but here comes Purin, performing femininity for no in-universe reason whatsoever to those who don't appreciate it at all (Batou/the tachikomas) and assuming that she's got to be subservient until someone tells her otherwise. Then she goes out in the field and the first thing she does is make some slob undress for no reason and he still outwits her. But now Production IG can finally sell cute GitS merch, so yaaaaaay!
This episode supports my 'Super-Eden of the East' theory, too.

EPISODE 11
I stand by my assessment of this as working backwards. This resembles the sort of inciting event that makes the rest of a story like Laughing Man hang together. But I also smell the high probability of a second series of this; largely because, based on the vestigial ability to create an interconnected plot on view here, the likelihood of things wrapping up fully in the final episode is tiny.
It's also making me fucking angry. The ethics of the school scenes are so fucking rank all around; the teacher mixing good life advice with sickening suggestive behaviour, and later rape; the girl who's so focused on 'being good' she's not willing to allow anyone to deviate from the 'correct' thing to do, and then being put on a pedestal for it by the boy; the apathetic avoidance and toxic escapism of Shimamura himself; the way the whole thing is presented ambiguously, providing the opportunity for it to all not be real, which is such a cop out.
Possibly that's what they were going for, but either way, as someone who works with Japanese teenagers and sees less amped-up elements of all of this stuff all the time, I am fucking repulsed by the bottomless fatalism of it all, the readiness to just accept without challenge. "One person cannot make a difference" feels like a personal attack. That's ALL HISTORY IS, one person making a difference, over and over again. It's why I am who I am and why I do what I do. And it all feels like emotional manipulation rather than good fiction because it's so inept at storytelling.
That game the kid is playing, too. Ugh. Is this what anime creators think 14-year-old kids play? Is this what 14-year-old kids play? If it actually is, really, dear 14 year olds, get your shit together. I was playing much better games than that in 1995, when I was 14.

EPISODE 12
Yep. Cliffhanger ending. Unresolved. Unsatisfying. In a way it was 12 episodes of dangling bait in front of my nose. Called that Togusa arc, too.
I feel like my emotions are being manipulated by a particularly clumsy brain surgeon. Perhaps this is what it's like to have your cyberbrain hacked. Or then again, maybe this is what it's like to dislike fiction. If this were my first dive into GitS I might be actively into it, but as it stands, this is distressingly similar to Rebuild of Eva 3 (albeit not nearly as bad, since that unrivalled shitheap is designed explicitly to sabotage itself, whereas this is simply not very good) in that both critically disappoint by having the original creators taking a thing that we know and love, and then mightily shitting on it by making it not be like it should be.
Like a lot of people watching this, I have a pre-existing connection to it because I know and, despite everything, still love the characters here, and I'm along for this ride basically for them and the promise of more of their adventures - but at the same time, this as-yet half-baked plot and cruddy storytelling is really fucking around with me.
Also in common with Rebuild of Eva, we now have to wait for a resolution to the story that still has the potential to fix the problems with the story, but also the potential to seal its fate as a massive disappointment, and right now the scales of probability tip rather more to the 'massive disappointment' end of things. The term 'character assassination' refers to deliberate attempts to smear someone and that's not what's going on here, but based on how badly the series has used its characters, I do sympathise with those using this terminology.
The inclusion of Takeshi Shimamura as a 14-year-old blank slate sympathetic antagonist is pretty revealing regarding the intended audience of the thing. Add to that a randomly dead child and you have a perfectly good recipe for shitting on Ghost in the Shell. Compare this with the way that the runaway Tachikoma SAC episode was handled. That had a child character, but was sensitively made and demanded emotional intelligence. This was literally killing off a child by accident to motivate a villain. It's so cheap; it's the kind of thing beginner writers are warned not to do since audiences don't buy it, because it's such a cliche. Cheap sentimentality!
The non-chronological nature of Shimamura's story fucks it up too. So first he goes to stay in an idyllic country village, encounters a mysterious paratrooper, steals the book, tries to give it back and is told to keep it because it predicts the future, tries to read it and doesn't understand. Then he goes wandering in the forest and some apparently blind corrupt cops murder someone right in front of him; the girl shows up, the paratrooper shows up out of nowhere for no reason and shoots the cops, while they accidentally shoot the little girl who dies in Takeshi's arms. There's a police report about it, but apparently his mother doesn't know anything about it? Then because of this incident he turns into the hollow, useless, hallucinating wreck that we've seen in the previous episode. He read 1984, claimed to understand it. Something happened at his school, but thanks to unreliable narration (and shit storytelling) we can't be sure what; in response he made ThinkPol but only used it once.
...What in the shit is he doing? Where is he now? Did anything actually happen at that school? The rape by the teacher? The suicide? Do S9 know about it or not? When we see it, whose POV are we following? Is he actually in the village with Togusa and Batou or not?
So much left unanswered. We need some things unanswered to make the second half work, but this episode answers literally nothing. I see nearly zero return on my investment in this series up to this point. Planting and payoff has to be a continual thing to work. It's not one or the other. You're planting seeds but you're also letting them grow and sprout and blossom. Underscore 2045 is flinging seeds in every bloody direction and dashing off to do it some more without waiting for more than a couple to sprout.
Particularly since 1984 is such an important book, it's a great idea in principle to have that form a foundation for the story as Catcher in the Rye did with SAC 1, but are they really having this kid be Winston Smith straight down the line? He tries to rebel against the system and gets Room 101'ed into submission? Who is going to be O'Brian in this allegory? The NSA? S9?
As I said, if this were my first dive into GitS and I were young and had no sense, which is to say this was the first such thing I'd ever seen and I didn't know about how much better it could be, I might be into it. But by this point I'm 39 years old, I've seen, read and played almost every incarnation of Ghost in the Shell, and I grew up with the 1995 movie when it was new and I was 14. And 14-year-old me loved that film. It's still my favourite film. So far, while it's grown on me a bit and it's not appalling, this is the most disappointing and flawed incarnation of it, and making it this basic for the sake of younger audiences is frankly an insult to younger audiences.

WHERE DOES IT GO FROM HERE?
Best Case Scenario: Posthumans are working for the betterment of humanity, Kusanagi starts acting like the extremely resourceful and intelligent person she is and ends up joining them, there's some sort of link established between them and the antagonist from SSS, Togusa is undercover in the posthuman gang rather than brainwashed, Purin gets shot dead in Episode 13 and Batou decides to avenge her in spectacular fashion, Stan comes back and his existence is actually justified in some way and he gets to be useful, Boma and Paz get some lines, some backstory and something useful to do, the PM turns out to be a bad guy. Also the visuals get less atrocious and Yoko Kanno comes back. Bonus points for Appleseed continuity links.
Worst Case Scenario: Posthumans are evil because they just are, Kusanagi continues to carry the idiot ball, Togusa is actually taken over by the posthumans and becomes an enemy only to be stopped at the last moment by his ex-wife, Purin gets a bigger role/is actually a tachikoma, Paz and Borma continue to be set dressing only, Stan comes back for like one episode for no very good reason.
submitted by SecretCatPolicy to Ghost_in_the_Shell

The Wayward Rose - Day 1

Everyone makes their way out of their rooms, bearing witness to the various spectacles of the mansion grounds with their own eyes. One moment, the group of you are walking around to get your bearing when reality starts to fold on itself. It begins with the ground itself, then the horizon, then the stars and even galaxies are converging on one point; you.
When it reaches you, it all lights up in an explosion of countless colors. Dazed and confused, the lot of you look around, and you find yourself to be in the central room of Thavma's mansion. The woman herself is standing in the middle of the room, with eleven people standing behind her. The woman breaks out into a smile at the sight of you all.
"Come, my guests! I do hope you find yourselves well-rested. We have much to discuss." In a flash of golden sparkles, thirteen seats appear in front of Thavma. "Have a seat."
Once the group is seated, Thavma takes a step towards the people behind her. "I do believe some introductions are in order. First, you have my assistants in this game: Sonya, Amis, Caina and Lune!" As she says this, she gestures at each of them. The room itself changes for a moment as she does so:
When she gestures to Sonya, you see a brief vision of a safari covered with a myriad of blooming flowers and the odd house on the side. When she gestures to Amis, you see the houses grow into a bustling village, filled with various creatures and other forms of life. This then turns into a decrepit and burning husk when she gestures to Caina, as if the village had experienced some great calamity. Finally, when Thavma gestures towards Lune, naught is left but a empty sleeping field.
"They've gone to the effort of selecting worlds for all of you to enjoy, come the night. Make sure to give them your thanks. Next up, we have your Patrons, the ones who have decided you all worthy to be here." Thavma turns to gesture to the people behind her once more.
"Anya, Elos, Luriel, Mendas, Rakshasa, Sam-Sam, and Thanatine. These people, along with the Quartet, have decided you're all a good pick for my game. I'll let each of them introduce themselves and their domains later. But first..."
The woman steps forward. "Tell me, have any of you ever experienced love?" The area around you glows a light pink color, with hearts floating in the air around you. Thavma starts circling around the group of you, looking over you critically. "That feeling... is me. What about happiness? The type that leaves you giddy and content?" The landscape around you changes once more, to that of an open field. Laughter abounds with no visible source. "That feeling is also me. How about rage? The type that leaves you seeing red?" The landscape around you changes to that of a sea of fire. "That is me. So is sadness and grief, and any other emotions you have ever felt... anything you've ever felt from your heart. That is me."
After her display of theatrics, Thavma's expression becomes rather smug. "My name is Thavma, and I am the High Goddess of Emotions! It was at my behest that you were all brought here, Beings of Creation. Brought here to help me with... an experiment."" Thavma's expression sours for a moment, but she is quick to correct it. "You have been selected from an uncountably huge pool of souls for this. I hope you all realize what an honor this is, and how lucky you all are to be here."
"Do well and you will be rewarded, as you should know from discussing with your patrons. But on top of that reward, this game will also have an overall winner based on a set of criteria we have come up with together. That winner will be granted a wish from us. While we can't make sweeping changes to creation, the range of things we can grant is vast! Far more powerful than what you may already be after, and all you have to do is put on a good show."
Thavma gestures to Patrons gathered behind her. "You will all be here for five days and five nights. During the day, all of you will be here, in my mansion and the surrounding grounds. You all speak the Divine Tongue here - the language of the gods, put simply. It allows us to talk on even terms, and allows you to actually communicate."
"Another thing. While it may be impossible for you to damage each other here, that doesn't necessarily mean we're going to stop you from trying. That being said, it will be possible to attack another person's soul directly, but all in due time. Each of you will be able to interact, make friendships, find enemies." Thavma's expression turns amused. "Maybe even find love?"
The area around you suddenly darkens as if the sun had gone out, before various lanterns start lighting the area. Thavma is carrying one, illuminating her face. "And as I alluded to eariler, during the night... you all will be sent to various places - Rooms, you could call them - to scavenge for items, fight each other, and interact with the situation around you. Nothing found in those rooms will work when taken back here, and nothing found in the mansion grounds can be taken into a room."
"Finally, I should add that we'll be hosting events here. The sorts where you can interact with us and each other." Thavma brings out something that looks like a card. "This is a Flower Token. Entertain us to a satisfactory degree during one of these events, and you will be granted one. Trade them in later and you will receive something."
The people behind Thavma start moving around. "I do believe that about does it. We will all be watching what unfolds, though feel free to come see us at any time, for any reason.
Then not a second later, everyone re-appear just outside of the mansion.
"Everything is in place. Let the experiment begin."
And so too, does day 1.

The Characters

You can find the character public bios here.
reddit Character Name Status Player Cards
TWR_Apeiro Ápeiro Effyïa Alive Card
TWR_Dallas Dallas Turkovski Alive Card
TWR_Fredericka Fredericka Taywood Alive Card
TWR_Glizzy Glizzy Alive Card
TWR_Husk Husk of Stolen Souls Alive Card
TWR_Jane Jane Marshal Alive Card
TWR_Joan Joan Donadeiu Alive Card
TWR_Lily Lily Saffron Alive Card
TWR_Maxx Maxx Starr Alive Card
TWR_Mizuha Mizuha Fushiyoujiki Alive Card
TWR_Sakima Sakima Alive Card
TWR_Wilhelm Wilhelm von Richthofen Alive Card
TWR_UNKNOWN UNKNOWN Alive Card
TWR_Thavma Thavma NPC Card
TWR_Sia Sia NPC Card
TWR_Quartet Sonya, Amis, Caina, Lune NPC Card
TWR_Anya Anya NPC Card
TWR_Elos Elos NPC Card
TWR_Luriel Luriel NPC Card
TWR_Mendas Mendas NPC Card
TWR_Rakshasa Rakshasa NPC Card
TWR_Sam-Sam Sam-sam NPC Card
TWR_Thanatine Thanatine NPC Card

Common Room Layout & Descriptions

Rooms

ROOM #1 - The Tree of Life
ROOM #2 - Industrial Mine Shaft
ROOM #3 - Colonial Outpost

Room Conflict

Scenario: Thavma waves her hand theatrically as she proclaims:
"In this universe that the Quartet has found, Humanity united itself under an Imperial Empire after centuries of strife and war! Feeling more unified than ever, they entered a new age, where the stars themselves were no longer the limit! One particular penal colony was tasked with searching the galaxy for rare, precious metals that served as room-temperature superconductors. They found the perfect planet! But, to their horror, it's filled with native, sentient plant-like creatures that lack high-level intelligence but live peacefully on the surface. Mining the planet would result in their destruction... but the Empire has given orders to seize those precious metals at any cost, and failure will spell their own execution!"
Aid Options:
SIDE #1 - The Wildlife
SIDE #2 - The Empire
Mechanical Explanation:
  • In all three rooms, there two sides to aid: The Wildlife or The Empire.
  • You may aid only one side to any of the three extents (Minimal, Moderate, Considerable) to fulfil a nightly Room Aid Objective (Supportive, Dedicated, Devoted).
  • You can specify/detail how your character would attempt aiding a side (or not at all) in the Night RP Instructions.
  • Your choice of who to aid should not be taken lightly. Everyone in your chosen room will know who you aided.
  • Aiding is not mandatory, but your choice not to aid will still be known to everyone in the room.
  • You may ask the Quartet for more details regarding the conflicts to help better your decision.

Morning Actions Submission Template

You can submit Morning Instructions here. Your Morning Actions are due before the midday of the common room starts, but can generally be done on the fly. You can see when that is under the Schedule section of the OP.
Explanation:
  • Item - List any items that you want to use.
  • Item RP - Explain how you'd like to use them, what kind of effects you'd like them to take, etc. Note: your instructions may be discarded or only partially used if I am stressed for time or your instructions do not work.
  • Trait - List any traits that you want to use.
  • Trait RP - If you want your to include special instructions about your trait usage you can list it here. Note: your instructions may be discarded or only partially used if I am stressed for time or your instructions do not work.
  • Gift - List any items you want to give to other players. For trades, please contact Chip on discord.
  • Gift RP - Explain why you're giving them a gift, your character's thoughts on it etc. This is often defined by

Nighttime Actions

Your nighttime actions are divided into two separate forms:
  1. Mechanical Instructions. Please get these in as soon as possible after Daytime has concluded.
  2. Roleplay Instructions. Please get these in within 12-24 hours of Daytime concluding. The longer you take the less likely your RP instructions can be factored in.
Ideally, you get me the instructions as soon as you can once the common room ends. If you are confused or have any questions please ask Chip.

Schedule

Day 1 Date PST EST UTC AWST NZT
Common Room Starts August 21st 5AM 8AM 12PM 8PM (22nd) 12AM
Afternoon starts at August 22nd 6PM 9PM (23rd) 1AM (23rd) 9AM (23rd) 1PM
Evening starts at August 23rd 3PM 6PM 10PM (24th) 6AM (24th) 10AM
Evening ends at August 23rd 5PM 8PM (24th) 12AM (24th) 8AM (24th) 12PM
Mechanics Night Instructions Due --- ASAP ASAP ASAP ASAP ASAP
RP Night Instructions Due August 24th 5PM 8PM (25th) 12AM (25th) 8AM (25th) 12PM
submitted by TWR_Thavma to KowzHOF