Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 24 (Fin)

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After his out-of-Shinichi’s-body experience within Gotou, Migi has decided to go to sleep and think about things more deeply, which he says might lead to him never waking up. It’s a strange and somewhat sudden goodbye that Shinichi isn’t okay with, but it’s clearly for the best. They had some fun times, but Shinichi can’t be talking to his right hand forever.

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As anyone who’s read my past reviews of this series knows, I’m a fan of Satomi, despite the fact she’s gotten so little to do, and a part of me is glad the show closes on a relatively pleasant note with the two continuing their relationship past high school. They’ve always had a nice chemsitry, when Shinichi isn’t acting like a weirdo.

What I can’t really forgive, however, is that they dusted off Uragami, a relic of my least favorite episode of the show, and brought him back to terrorize the happy couple one last time. As such, this felt more like an extra episode; a spin-off of the show we’ve seen to this point, and at no point did I think he’d succeed in killing Satomi.

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The show tries to create stakes and make some kind of a point that Uragami is the real parasite, feeding off human life while contributing nothing but fear and misery, but I just don’t care about this guy or his goofy sandals or his deluded ideas about humanity and honesty. He also blows Shinichi’s cover, but fortunately for Shinichi, Satomi couldn’t care less what Shinichi is or isn’t, beyond the guy she loves.

So even though she’s forced to witness two rooftop murders and has a knife to her throat for most of the episode, Satomi eventually comes to a point when she can’t listen to any more of Uragami’s drivel and starts laying into how pathetic he is. Go Satomi!

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Shinichi also realizes he’s probably quick enough to stop Uragami from killing him, but when he makes his move, Uragami an Satomi happen to be right near the ledge, so of course Satomi falls. But Migi wakes up long enough to stretch Shinichi’s arm out to catch her, remarking how humans “have the time” to think about and connect with others rather than just consume them, or something. I’m just glad Satomi’s okay.

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When people arrive on the roof to see what’s transpired, Shinichi and Satomi, sprawled out on the roof, can only laugh at the fact those people think they’re dead. But they’re also laughs of relief that no harm came to either of them, aside from Shinichi’s arm getting stabbed, which I assume is fine.

This episode tried to act as a kind of reflection on the show, but came off a little high-and mighty, and thought is was far weightier than it was. So, a bit underwhelming, like much of show ever since Kana died. But again, the nice character beats of the lovebirds made sure it wasn’t a total loss.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 11

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“Dang it Mom, I’m working on my science project!”

Kami-Haji is really in the zone in its home stretch, such that it can abruptly change gears from the Tengu arc to Kirihito without breaking a sweat. Mind you, I was a little skeptical of the choice of gear—there’s only two eps left; get back to Nanami and Tomoe!—I decided to be patient and see where the show was going with this. It was a good decision, and my patience was rewarded handsomely.

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Having built a new portal to the Netherworld…in his house (probably not the best idea), Kirihito—or I should say Akura-oh—prepares to dive back in to look for his body. What’s interesting is the means with which he does so: by using the bracelet he made from Nanami’s hair (quite a bit of it…yikes!) to keep his human body intact while down there. That’s right, Mr. Big Bad can’t do a thing without Nanami’s (indirect) help, and he knows it.

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The Netherworld is just as dark and dreary and unpleasant as it was last time, but it doesn’t take long for Akura to find his body. Just a slight niggle: it’s on top of a volcano, in an eternal cycle of being simultaneously burnt and regenerating.

Yatori tagged along as is ridiculous 90% of the time, but we see why he came when he gets serious and stops Kirihito from doing something reckless. His hair bracelet will be of little use; what he needs is the ability to quell the volcano’s fire…and the best thing for that is fox fire; specifically Tomoe’s.

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So, okay, Kirihito will be paying Tomoe (and by extension Nanami) soon. Is there really time for that? Never mind; Kirihito’s side of this episode comes to a beautiful end: once Yatori gets him back to the mundane world, the portal starts leaking poison from the Netherworld. At first Kirihito/Akura is unconcerned, even after one of his shikigami turns to dust; he slaved over that portal and he’ll be damned if he’s going to seal it.

But then he remembers he’s in Kirihito’s house, and his mother is at his door with a late night snack. And he seals that portal right up. It’s an incredible feat for someone so nasty and self-concerned, but Akura-oh clearly inherited more than just Kirihito’s body.

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Embedded in Kirihito’s side of the story is a cutaway to Tomoe, the guy who betrayed him by falling for a human woman and thinking he could be a human himself, who is in that moment making hamburger steak for his human/god master, because it’s her favorite.

First of all, BAAAAAAAAW. Secondly, Kirihito may poo-poo Tomoe’s love and devotion for a human (first Yukiji, now Nanami), but he kinda loses his philosophical ground when he puts the safety of his host body’s mother before his own.

Like Kirihito sealing the portal later, Tomoe suddenly feels guilty removes the shiitake mushrooms he meant to sneak into the mix after Nanami expresses excitement about him making her favorite dish. DOUBLE BAAAAAAW.

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The second half begins with Nanami watching a wedding on TV, and brings up the fact she’s agreed to host Himemiko’s wedding when it happens. Mizuki and Tomoe briefly misunderstood her phrasing to mean she was getting married, to which she responds “I’m not getting married. Ever.” And she says it with a creepy face that suffers no debate.

Her stance is harsh, but understandable, considering she comes from a broken home, and the marriage she’s most familiar with—that of her parents—obviously didn’t end well.

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How apropos then, that when Nanami tags alone with Tomoe and Mizuki to visit the Year God, she ends up revisiting those rough years, even transforming into her twelve-year-younger self.

One wonders why in the world Nanami would ever think looking back on her past twelve years would “sound fun”, but call it curiousity and awe at her surroundings, combined with her special brand of hard-headed recklessness Tomoe both loves and hates about her.

And while I maintain Tengu Nanami remains The Best, Lil’ Nanami is no slouch in the adorableness department!

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Tomoe and Mizuki fail to catch Lil’ Nanami (who lands a fantastic jump-kick on the latter, believing him a kidnapper), but they’re able to bear witness to her experiences at this age, from being given a chocolate bar by her deadbeat dad just before he runs off for good, to her mother being hounded by debtors.

It’s a lot for a little kid to take in, but even at her young age, she becomes overcome by shame at enjoying a luxurious chocolate bar as her mother struggles to scrape by. (Mind you, it’s her Dad’s fault, not hers).

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Even in the face of such hardships, the moment Nanami’s mom notices her daughter, her face brightens and she embraces her treasure, as if to assure her that everything will be all right. I had no idea Nanami’s mother was so kind, decent, and loving. Fortunately for us, Nanami took after her mother in that regard.

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So the question is, what happened to make Nanami family-less and homeless? Tomoe learns this after getting a good look (and possibly feeling the aura of) Nanami’s mother: she’s very ill, and doesn’t have long to live. Her mom didn’t run off like her dad…she died.

Being a little kid, Nanami has no knowledge of her mother’s impending death. And as we know, once she’s gone there’s no one else to take her in, until she comes upon the earth god shrine. But Tomoe tells Mizuki not to interfere; he wants to see a bit more. After all, he’s witnessing a side of the woman he loves he’s never seen before. Maybe seeing that side will finally give him the courage to tell her of his love. Here’s hoping.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 11

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With only one episode after it (that I know of), not a lot of big mysteries or unturned stones remain, but we never really got any details from Ginko about what happened in between Kureha finding her on the battlefield, and Reia sending her back to the bear world.

This episode corrects that, and while we don’t gain a ton of new insight on Ginko’s motivations, the details help paint Ginko in a more sympathetic light, and we also learn that she regrets giving into desire.

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Kureha may have found Ginko on that battlefield, but it ends up being Ginko dragging an exhausted Kureha back to the human world (not known: what Kureha was doing there in the first place, and whether Reia knew). Kureha’s words saved Ginko, Ginko’s actions saved Kureha, and a fast friendship was formed.

Life was so fun and happy living with Kureha and Reia, Ginko wrongly assumed the human world had accepted her, when in reality only two humans had. The others are quick to pounce on Kureha and exclude her based on mere rumors she’s friends with a bear. There’s no grey area to these vicious young girls, and that makes their fanatical, tribal exclusion of Kureha that much more chilling.

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Realizing she won’t be able to live with Kureha as long as she’s a bear, Ginko goes to Severance Court to ask to become a human girl, and we know the rest from Lulu: they grant her wish in return for the utmost secrecy and the loss of Kureha’s love for her.

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As a result, we see that once Kureha wakes up, she has indeed forgotten she and Ginko are friends, and without the memory of them saving each other, reverts to the same instincts as the girls who beat her: with fear and revulsion.

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It surely wasn’t easy for Ginko, but she effectively blew up her beautiful life with Kureha and Reia to protect Reia from the other girls, and by extension, from the wrath of the world she lived in which, contrary to Reia’s storybook, wasn’t ready for bears.

Of course, whatever selfless effects her actions had, they were still in service of herself: so that one day, after waiting for years on the other side of the wall, she could come back, in human form, and re-spark what she’d had with Kureha; totally irrespective of Kureha’s life in the interim, which included falling for Sumika.

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Back then, Ginko was also so focused on Kureha that she failed to see that someone who loved her there and then was right there in front of her in Lulu. She merely accepted Lulu’s offer of support and treated her like a sidekick. Lulu never complained, because Lulu was and is awesome; giving Ginko all her love without asking for anything in return or even ever bringing up the inequity of their relationship.

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In the present, though she’s more overcome by desire than ever before, Ginko still admits in her narration thatshe took Lulu for granted. At the same time we know that Lulu wanted Ginko and Kureha to exchange promise kisses. To fail in that would make all of Lulu’s support and devotion be for nothing.

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Ginko’s desire fuels a rampage that claims several Yuri hunters, and Ginko seems poised to fulfill her desire’s wish to monopolize and devour Kureha. It’s the same destination that led Yuriika to her doom, just a slightly different route.

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On the roof of the school (where all the big stuff seems to happen on this show!) Chouko Oki tears Reia’s book to shreds. Oki considers the book, which reflects Reia’s philosophy of coexistence, is what got her killed…a la Grizzly Man

She also insists that There Is No God (like the Lady Kumaria the bears worship), only the “invisible atmosphere” that rules them. (For what it’s worth, Life Sexy does say Lady Kumaria was “lost” when she broke up in orbit in the form of a meteor.)

In this regard, the Yuri civilization is ironically painted in the cold, unforgiving light of untamed nature, driven only by the natural processes and instincts its participants possess, rather than any higher power.

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As Ginko nurses her anti-bear beam wound, she puts up a fight against her primal desire to possess and eat Kureha, because that isn’t true love. True love was demonstrated to her by the selfless Lulu, who gave up on love so she could make it happen for Ginko.

Kureha did something similar when she found Ginko, only to collapse from exhaustion and the cold. Both Lulu and Kureha put their lives on the line for Ginko’s sake. Ginko decides she’ll do the same thing, and break through her mirror, because that mirror only shows her herself, and her desire. Kureha’s on the other side.

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As she did with Lulu, Kureha uses harsh words to try to keep Ginko away, but like with Lulu, she’s lying when she says they’re not friends, because she doesn’t want to lose them. If she truly hated Ginko and won’t forgive her, she’d let Chouko take her shot without a fuss.

But just when Ginko has finally decided she must follow Lulu’s example of putting everything she has on the line for the sake of another, not oneself, Lulu performs one last selfless act by literally taking a bullet for Ginko—A LOVE BULLET.

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As Lulu dies a happy bear in Ginko’s arms, her final words are of gratitude for being able to help her, and her belief that Kureha has forgiven Ginko, and they can now be friends, not merely a quarry being sought by a hunter. It’s sad to see the purest soul in the show go, especially when we thought she’d be safe back in the bear world last week. But that’s how the cookie crumbles.

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The question that remains is, can they really be friends, or more? We close in the same place we did last week: with Kureha in Severance Court, about to have her crimes read. Do all of Lulu’s efforts end up going to waste? Can Kureha truly never forgive bears? Why is she alone in court; where’s Ginko? 

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Meanwhile, on Ronja…

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25 episodes of Sanzoku no Musume Ronja have rolled by and the show’s great arc has finally come to a close: Ronja and Birk are together as adopted siblings and, after a massive bear-fight style show down, so are their Fathers Mattis and Borka. The robber tribes are now one.

So… how was it?

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Ronja’s full CG style grew on me and, while I don’t particularly like the way it looks, the style was very effective at portraying a wide range of emotions and actions. Wider than most animes, actually. More importantly, the models allowed the shows lengthy mid season to stay fresh and avoid the ‘budget’ trap faced by most shows that save up for a big finale.

Speaking of the finale, Mattis and Borka’s show down was remarkably entertaining. It had all of the believable, down to earth trappings that have excited me so much with this season’s Junketsu no Maria — but it also had a great comedic range. Each landing blow brought about a wonderfully silly facial expression, yet stayed believably weighty.

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Over all, Ronja delivers an emotional tale that pushes the limits of children friendly programming. Sure, there are life lessons and I support exposing kids to a more realistic, nuanced reality, but Ronja’s multiple near deaths and seriously messed up family situation definitely gave my child nightmares.

If I didn’t have to wake up at 3 in the morning, maybe I’d call that a win win?

In any event, if you ever want a comfortable, youthful and optimistic show — with occasionally nightmare inducing moments where very young children must contemplate their own mortality — give Ronja a look.

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Koufuku Graffiti – 11

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As exams draw nearer, quick and easy meals are the order of the day. While Ryou would probably prefer to spend all day cooking and eating, she and Kirin need to study.

It’s fortuitous then, that Ryou’s mysterious parents send her her second care package, which is full of packaged ramen in various flavors. There’s nothing like opening a big box full of food!

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The package has Kirin, whom we know has had a tenuous relationship with adults anyway, thinking about Ryou’s parents. What kind of people are they? What do they do? Kirin’s mom doesn’t have straight answers, but Kirin’s imagination runs wild when she hears they wanted to get Ryou a bodyguard. Satou Rina only gets a couple of lines as these alternate, bitchier Ryous, but she makes the most of them.

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Ryou has been a little lonely lately because her mom isn’t around to make late night study snacks for her, so the timing of the package is perfect. Also, Kirin knows how to make tasty ramen, so Ryou has a snack made for her after all, and it’s predictably that much more delicious because it was made with love.

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At the bottom of the ramen box is a secret letter specifically addressed to Kirin from Ryou’s mom; Kirin’s stealth crawl to a private place to read it is pretty dang cute, and the “top secret” label on the envelope, along with Ryou’s mom’s standing offer to provide both girls with bodyguards, helps fuel Kirin’s intense curiosity.

Ryou doesn’t help by calling her parents “two of the most important people in the world.” Still, the fact their true occupations remain secrets is a fun little running gag. At the end of the day, whatever they do, they made a good daughter.

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In part two the exams are even closer, and Ryou and Kiri visit a shrine to pray for good luck and success. Then Shiina drops a bomb: she already got accepted into the same high school they’re trying to get into. On the one hand, both I and they are relieved they’ll remain together. But Kirin in particular feels miffed that Shiina was so secretive about it.

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More to the point, the fact Shiina has already achieved what Ryou and Kirin have yet to gives her an almost godlike status in their eyes, but when she says an exam is a solitary battle, and one has to rely on oneself and not others or gods, the blinding light of her wisdom is powerful to behold…but Kirin isn’t so sure Shiina’s 100% right about that.

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Case in point, when Shiina opens up a huge case of beautiful-looking pork cutlet sandwiches—resembling a suitcase full of money, only tastier—and everyone digs in to the deliciousness, they react in the usual way, but with a cut to Tsuyuko infusing the sandwiches with plenty good luck aura, proving Kirin was correct: Shiina did have help during exams, because every time she took a bite into the sandwiches, she remembered the person who made them, and felt less lonely in her task.

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Shiina decides to pay it forward by learning how to make the good luck sandwiches and providing them to Ryou and Kirin for lunch as they head to their exams, showing that while she can be cold and stoic under certain circumstances, there’s still a sweet, caring person within who asserts herself in the clutch. I’ll admit I missed Uchiki Yuki this week, but in return we got lots of awesome Shiina, so I can’t complain.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 24

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As you can see, a lot happened in the second-to-last episode of Cross Ange, but not a whole lot was resolved; most glaringly the Embryo problem: dude just won’t die. Perhaps they’re leaving that for the last episode; though as Ange remarks in the preview, they could also hold that off until a special or movie…which would make me as cross as Ange usually is (if it’s to be believed the show’s title is a pun).

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While the fate of Ange, Tusk, Salia, and Embryo remains up in the air for the finale, this episode focused on secondary characters, as many as it could, and tied up some loose ends we were hoping wouldn’t end in tragedy.

The Aurora takes a beating, but Jasmine, Vivi, Riza, Momoka, and Ersha (taking to the cockpit again) manage to keep it together long enough for DRAGON reinforcements to arrive (sent by their empress to back up the Norma).

Embryo also shows his Diamond Rose Knights exactly how little he really thinks of them by using them to bait the Dragons so he can go grab his “wife” Ange. Two of Chris and Salia’s comrades, whom I could never remember the names of, are killed off in quick succession.

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In the episode’s best act, this latest betrayal basically breaks Chris, who just fires wildly at everyone wishing they’d all die. A nifty combo of Hilda’s tough love (“Give it a break, you emo bitch!” is particularly cutting, but apt) and a desperate stunt by Roselie, who plucks Chris right out of her cockpit and won’t let go until she’s heard.

Hilda manages to catch them both, by which time Roselie has reiterated her love for Chris, and the fact she can’t live without her, and wants to be her friend again more than anything. Chris, back to her senses and thinking like the Chris of old, uses this opportunity to make Roselie agree to several conditions, which will have the effect of balancing their relationship.

If nothing else, I’m glad these girls made up and no one had to be killed (well, except Marika).

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While all this feel-good making up is going on, Salako and Ange succeed in releasing Aura from his cage. Jill also smells defeat on Embryo and tries to get him to take her with him…wherever he escapes to. It’s a trick, but one that doesn’t work out for Jill, as she wrongly assumed she was dealing with Emby’s original body. She’s injured, but not dead, so we’ll see what becomes of her.

There’s not a lot of her here, perhaps because she’ll factor so huge in the finale (Embryo plucks her away in the end, sans clothes), but the fact large swaths of time pass where we’re not sure what she’s up to was troublesome. Furthermore, Salia has seen her comrades be betrayed by Embryo, but she doesn’t quite wake up like Ersha and Chris.

Emby doesn’t seem to care about either world anymore, and as they’re 97% converged when the credits roll, he may not have to care about them much longer. Ange remains his top priority, and he seems genuinely pissed when Tusk boasts deflowered her. Which when you look at that flashback and see Embryo with Tusk’s mom, adds a somewhat icky sheen to this whole affair.

Then again, it wouldn’t be Cross Ange if it wasn’t a little icky.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 23

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With the Moonbase Chase and Princess Shuffle completed successfully, Asseylum is now in the hands of Count Cruhteo the Younger, and it’s confirmed that those are far better hands to be in than Slaine’s.

And hey, Cruhteo doesn’t seem to have an ulterior motive here: he’s simply loyal to the Emperor of Vers, who ordered him to retrieve his granddaughter. He even helps Asseylum hold firm in refusing to return even after Slaine tries to trick her with an offer to negotiate. Slaine isn’t negotiating anymore. If he says he is, you run.

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As I’d hoped, Mazuurek comes into play as Asseylum’s other ally. Between him and Cruhteo Jr., I can happily report the quality of Martian Counts has improved greatly in the home stretch. Here’s hoping there are other Orbital Knights who will take after them and do the right thing: abandon that little tyrant Troyard for the rightful princess.

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Slaine, obviously thinking he’s come too far to turn back or show weakness, is keen to launch an all-out assault on Earth, a repeat of the Shock-and-Awe campaign the O.K.’s started with, which, you may remember, ultimately didn’t work. Not that that matters to someone who seems to have developed a personal vendetta against Earth.

As he fiddles with Asseylum’s necklace in the chamber where Asseylum had once been in a coma, Lemrina pays him a visit to express how sorry she feels for both of them. I think she’s pretty much done with this palace intrigue bullshit, especially if she senses she may not be on the losing side.

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Somehow, Inko is able to retrieve Inaho, something that happens off camera that I wish we could have witnessed. While sitting with the Captain and Doctor, Inko learns Inaho has given over part of his brain to the AI in his eye, taxing his cranial nerves, which must lead her to wonder if she’s slowly losing the guy she likes.

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Asseylum is surprised but happy to learn that Mazuurek has come to her side, in part, to pay a debt he owes Inaho. Like Cruhteo, his true colors are proven pure: paying his debts are more important to him than grabbing power. While resting aboard his landing castle, Asseylum wonders what became of the gentle, peace-loving Slaine she once knew. Eddelrittuo tearfully corrects her, saying Slaine hasn’t changed at all, insofar as he’s always cared for her, even at the risk of his position or love.

Perhaps Eddelrittuo is right, or perhaps it’s only wishful thinking. My take is that a part of Slaine may still care for Asseylum, but she woke up too late, and as long as she doesn’t feel the same way about her, he will never be at peace.

In an echo of one of the more beautiful scenes of this cour, Inaho wakes up to the sound of his relieved big sister, sitting by his side. When Inaho resolves to get right back to work immediately, Yuki knows she can’t stop him, and not just because he outranks her. Instead, they wish each other good luck and agree to have dinner when he gets back, though Inaho remarks that to promise such a thing could be construed as a death flag.

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Inko tries to stop him too, showing her concern without going so far as to confess or anything, but as Calm knows, no one is going to stop Inaho from going out there and fighting. This leads to an oddly meta exchange:

Inko: Do you think you’re some hotshot ace? That you’re special?
Inaho: I’ve never thought that about myself.

Inaho is joking here, right? He’s just super deadpan about it.

When Asseylum is finally able to contact her grandfather, she sees that he’s too far gone mentally to be fit to rule, knows what her next step must be, and takes it.

Her gramps is also upset that his son died in Heaven’s Fall, but revenge is no reason to subjugate another planet, even if he was of sound mind.

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As the UEF musters for a Final Showdown, Slaine prepares to address his fellow Orbital Knights with a motivational speech. Unfortunately for him, Cruhteo II has more clever techs, because Asseylum is able to override that speech and broadcast on all channels.

She’s got some big news for everyone: First of all, she declares her succession to Empress of the Vers Empire. Then she confirms her betrothal to Baby Cruhteo. Finally, she expresses her, and by extension, the royal family’s, desire for peace with Earth.

Inaho helped get her here, but she had to take the stand, and she did, even if it dooms Slaine. Now we’ll see who among the Orbital Knights will recognize her authority.

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Though I consider myself a strong Seylum+Inaho shipper, I’m not perturbed by the fact that Asseylum—the real Asseylum, not her sister in disguise—must ultimately sacrifice any possible romantic future with Inaho for the good of the empire.

It just makes sense: she’s going to have a hard enough time garnering the support of the Orbital Knights with a real, non-adopted Count by her side; asking them to accept a Terran would be too much, so that’s that. But hey, if Inaho survives, maybe he’ll get smart and pursue Inko. She’s an ace too, you know!

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