Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 02

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Nanana’s first episode did a fine job quickly laying out the world and introducing the two central characters and establishing their relationship. This week, a lot more people are introduced, including the other two girls who appear in the promo art—or the other girl and guy, to be precise, as Hoshino Daruku (Hanazawa Kana) seems to be a boy who’s always in drag.

The show makes this apparent to Juugo quite suddenly but without getting too hammy about it. Daruku (is he called that just because he’s…dark?) is constantly following behind Ikkyuu Tensai (Asumi Kana), self-proclaimed Master Detective, who made a very positive impression on me. She may appear to be your classic pint-sized bratty know-it-all, she shows to be much more.

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For one thing, while “Master” may be pushing it, she’s definitely a keen observer; or maybe she’s just good at surrounding herself with worse observers (Daruku; Juugo). But seriously, I know she’s good when she arrives at Juugo’s door with Daruku in a maid’s outfit; the first and only door she knocks on.

She calmly, carefully discovered who ended up with the eye jewel thingy, and learned as much as she could about him before meeting him. Just so Juugo knows she’s not just messing around, Tensai produces compelling evidence that Juugo stole …ahem… conveeenience from the convenience store via maid magazine, which rather hilariously gets him in the doghouse with Nanana.

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The episode also introduces meet Yuiga Isshin, president of the school Adventure Club, and the Veep, Ibara Yuu, who seems to worship the ground beneath Yuiga. He has her don a sexy maid costume of her own to get Juugo’s attention. Yuiga also knows Nanana personally, and wants Juugo to join the club, inviting him to take the entrance test.

That’s when the imagery takes a turn for the computer-generated, as the test room is a very trippy, surreal place that spits you out if you take a wrong step. Juugo shows that his worth is in his stamina, toughness, and refusal to give up, but after ten-plus failures, Tensai steps in and takes a look. Both the test and the manner in which she solves it are pretty nifty, and if this is a taste of the kind of adventure the club will be getting into en route to discovering Nanana’s treasures, then I’m sold so far.

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 02

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In addition to serving up a delectable buffet of thief/ninja/saboteur action, acerbic brother-sister banter, and giant steampunk tanks during the severed hand heist and the escape that followed, this episode provided us with more context about Chaika and the world, as well as trigger the commencement of the grand journey that lies ahead, to which I for one am very much looking forward.

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Contrasting viewpoints were as numerous as backflips herein: Abarth may be a hero to many, but the Acura siblings see him for what he is: selfish, arrogant, vindictive, and a would-be murderer of children. The un-murdered child in question, Chaika, is seen as a threat to peace in Verbist, for the simple reason that she’s the daughter of the “Taboo” Emperor Gaz.

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Gillette’s team of valiant badasses (who nonetheless get schooled by the saboteurs) seek to apprehend Chaika and the hand to preserve the peace they’ve won, but we learn the only reason Chaika is after her father’s remains is so she can give him a proper burial. But as simple as that task may seem, the nature of the man she seeks to make whole, and the sheer scale of outside opposition to her actions, means it won’t be an easy task to complete.

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In fact, it probably would have been impossible for Chaika alone. I like the equitability in the Acuras siding with her: she’s getting much-needed support in her quest, while they’re escaping the boredom of their postwar existence. They are what they are—sleek, intelligent, efficient weapons. Tooru is tired of hanging on the wall getting dull and rusty.

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With the arrival of Chaika in his and Akari’s lives, they’re suddenly useful again. These are all motivations I can get behind, and I’m on board with the burial goal, but as they collect(read: steal) more parts of Gaz, we’ll see if Abarth and Gilette turn out to be right. Even if Chaika has the best if intentions, it’s possible Gaz conditioned her to unwittingly aid his eventual resurrection.

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No Game No Life – 02

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Rock-Paper-Scissors is a very simple game, and a lot of psychology goes into its play. Stephanie Dora loses because she gets lost in analysis of her own strategy, and doesn’t consider the fact that Sora has a pretty good idea what it is. She fails to figure out that he had it all figured out, and loses. But the win isn’t particularly impressive (and Steph’s inner strategizing goes on a bit too long for my taste), because as Sora says: there was no way she was going to win; she’s just too emotional and easily riled.

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She was also coming off a fresh and devastating loss to Kurami and wearing nothing but a sheet over her panties, which couldn’t have helped her confidence. Sora may not have gotten a challenge, but he didn’t want one: he merely used a bet with Steph to test the power of the ten pledges. When he commands her to fall in love with him, she falls under his spell, but only intermittently. I liked the idea of the pledges being that ironclad, but it stumbled a bit in execution, Steph’s constant smashing of her head against things in an effort to shake off the spell got a little old after a while.

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That being said, I appreciated the manic energy both Hisaka Yoko and Matsuoka Yoshitsugu brough to Steph and Sora, respectively. Lest we forget, Sora’s not a normal human being, nor is Shiro; a point beautifully reinforced when they grow too far apart from one another. That intense co-dependence may make a future romantic pairing between Sora and Steph a bit tricky, but on the flipside, their absolute trust in one another makes them such a powerful gaming duo, Steph starts to believe they could be the key to saving the kingdom of humanity. More to the point, Sora’s thinking big, aiming squarely at the throne.

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Black Bullet – 02

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Would so many of Tokyo’s elite promoter-initiator pairs really stand around like idiots and wait for the obviously telekinetic bag guy to fire their bullets right back at them? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely a big power move that establishes to everyone that the half-man, half-machine Hiruko Kagetane and his adorable daughter/initiator Kohina are not to be trifled with. Kagetane challenges all the other pairs to find the case before he does, or forfeit their lives, and while he may have caught them with their pants down, there’s still no reason to think he won’t follow through on that threat.

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The case he seeks contains something that the wrong hands could use to bring down the barriers that protect Tokyo from the Gastrea. But as casually murderous and destructive as Kagetane is, he’s not the only evil dwelling here. In its second episode Black Bullet establishes that “cursed children” are pariahs of society, forced to the rough outskirts of the city, and even rounded up and shot in dark corners when they dare to venture in. For every citizen who actively hates, harms, and subjugates them, there seem to be three more who will do nothing to stop it.

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Even Satomi falls into the pit of inaction when faced with an injustice, though he avoids a bad situation out of fear of exposing or involving Enju through escalation. The show plays a neat trick before the incident where Satomi “proves” the bracelets Enju bought for them don’t work by declaring he loves her. At the same time, he bristles when the other promoter refers to his initiator as a mere tool or asset to exploit to optimum effect. Enju is far more than that to him, and we learn he’s gone beyond what many other promotors would have to raise and protect her. The flashback really nicely drove that point home.

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Whatever part of Kagetane is still human is much like Satomi, protecting his daughter just as fiercely—moreso, since he’s far more powerful than Satomi. But while Satomi has striven to give Enju a normal, happy human life, Kohina and her dad are the opposite. They won’t fit into the current system has provided for them. They’re a common product of sustained prejudice and injustice; they are the pot boiling over. Enju flees to her old home, perhaps afraid of being a burden or even danger to Satomi, her self-worth likely having been thoroughly eroded by the barbs of her classmates (its implied Kagetane started the rumor at her school).

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But what she must have come to realize (while hiding in the sewer while he spoke up for her) is that Satomi needs her. He’s the man he is today because of her, and no other initiator will do. I really hope she lets Satomi find her soon. The two of them must keep their footing in the narrow middle ground between the corruption and in society and the rage of the man in the mask. Tokyo may not deserve to be utterly destroyed, but nor can things remain the way they are with regard to the cursed children. But nothing can happen if Satomi and Enju are apart.

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Nagi no Asukara – 14

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It’s been three and a half months since I temporarily closed the book on Nagi no Asukara to focus on a very full Winter season, but after watching this first installment of the second half, re-opening that book, my first reaction was “Wow…Was it always this damn good?” The Big Board indicates the answer is: “Yes, at times,” and this episode excelled in the same way the best episodes of the first half excelled: by simply touching my heart, and sometimes grabbing it at giving it a good tug.

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We never see Shioshishio in this episode; it’s inaccessible and covered in ice. Furthermore, five whole years have passed since the harrowing, life-changing events of the last episode, and a lot has gone on since then. Stranded on the surface, Chisaki, now a nursing student, moved in with Tsumugu and his granddad. Pops took ill and is hospitalized, so Chisaki and Tsumugu live alone together. Meanwhile, Miuna has a new brother, the baby she convinced her new mother Akari to keep, and along with Sayu, attends the same high school as Chisaki and Tsumugu.

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Both Chisaki and Miuna have moved on in some respects, but a part of them remains in the past, unable to love anyone other than Hikari. In the here and now, Tsumugu and Chisaki would make a great couple, if only she wasn’t still in love with someone she may never see again. Similarly, Miuna rejects the confession of a classmate. Both of them are always wistfully looking out to the frozen sea, hoping against hope that they’ll see Hikari again. Yet even if he is back, one or both of them could very well have their hearts broken, especially if Manaka returns with him.

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It can be argued whether Hikari is deserving of all this worship, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. While he could fly off the handle, he was a decent, caring lad. When the atmospheric phenomenon known as the Tomoebi occurs, what do you know, Hikari returns, Terminator-style. Tsumugu and Miuna are there for his arrival, and Miuna wastes no time expressing her feelings by administering mouth-to-mouth. The twist is, Hikari hasn’t physically aged in the five years he’s been gone.

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I loved the structure of this episode, how it dropped us five years into the future, slowly, gracefully filling in the blanks as it progressed. Yet even showing how much life had gone one, the enduring pain of Chisaki and Miuna was palpable throughout. While I’m sure they’ll be elated he’s back, and the non-aging works in Miuna’s favor, the complication of the two of them loving the same guy, who isn’t in love with either of them, remains. I’m guessing he’ll pine for Manaka just as they pined for him, putting them in the position of Tsumugu and that classmate: being present and eligible, yet undesired.

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