Eureka Seven AO – 10

When Phoenix falls victim to a scub burst and resulting secret annihilates all military attacks against it, Pied Piper is on stand-by on the Mexican border. Rebecka and Gazelle attempt to get the governor to request Gen Bleu’s assistance. The governor himself was once a member of Gen Bleu, and considers himself Rebecka’s mentor. Ivica and Ao cross the border to aid people and soldiers who didn’t evacuate; Truth turns out to be manipulating the soldiers to hold the civilians in a store, which Truth transports to the Grand Canyon for an “experiment”. They learn that the secret considers anything with a human form an enemy and eliminates it. Ao leads everyone to safety by hiding in tents, and Fleur and Elena show up to destroy the secret.

This was a weird episode. At some points, it almost seems as if the governor of Arizona was stalling Pied Piper in order to observe the secret’s behavior, at the cost of lost of life and property. Phoenix is leveled and abandoned, save a group stranded at a big-box store. Ivica, a veteran of the Balkan War, decides it’s a good idea for Ao to get some time on the ground in a combat zone. This turns out to be a bad idea. We can’t say we wouldn’t freak out either if people are vaporizing into nothing right before our eyes. The secret’s “options” are cruelly quick efficient in their slaughter; like the Angels in Eva.

Ao snaps out of it long enough to realize said options are actually pretty dumb; they’ll leave you alone as long as you don’t look like a human. So Ao becomes the Pied Piper and leads everyone out using tents. When Ivica nearly sacrifices himself to open the secret’s mouth and allow the IFOs to deliver a missile buffet, as well as when he enters the warzone in the first place, it’s clear he’s a man who’s hoping to avoid needless bloodshed in the name of further understanding the secrets. Both he and Rebecka have seen enough.

Rating: 6 (Good)

Sankarea – 11

Dan’ichiro takes Furuya to his fencing hall and challenges him to a duel. If Furuya can hit him, he wins. Rea has arrived at her house, but her father’s maids capture her and dress her up for fun until she breaks her binds and races to the hall. She arrives right after her father has run Furuya through, but he isn’t dead, after being “infected” by some of Rea’s “poison” before, he is temporarily half-zombie. He headbutts Dan’ichiro and convinces him to let Rea make her own choice. He entrusts Rea to his care and heads abroad to search for a cure for her zombification.

We have to admire Furuya’s poise throughout this Dan’ichiro ordeal. Not only does he maintain his cool despite the fact he’s up against someone who has the power to literally erase his existence without consequence, he even uses what Danny Boy’s wife Aria told him to call him out on his bullshit. He doesn’t want to save Rea. He wants to save the reincarnation of his wife. Well, Rea’s more than that. She has her own dreams and desires, and their nothing special; she just wants to be a normal girl. A normal undead girl. Surprisingly, Dan’ichiro relents.

We’re also surprised how quickly the peril is deflated not only by Furuya’s nonchalance, taunting, and eventual realization that a rapier through his gut is no biggie, but by the silly cosplay that goes on between the maids and Rea. That said, we like how Rea blocks her father’s killing blow, probably using a little of her zombie strength but also the fencing skills he taught her. What we didn’t like so much was Furuya’s wake-up scene. Here’s a guy who, again, had just been impailed, and everyone treats him like they’re trying to finish what Dan’ichiro started. Leave the guy alone and let his wound heal. And oh yeah, Rea now knows she has competition in Ranko. Whoop-dee-doo…

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 11

The day of the idol audition arrives, and the girls travel to Tokyo. Rather than sightsee, they practice dancing in a park and recieve applause from bystanders. At the audition site, the sight of the unfriendly competition gives Yuka cold feet, but everyone encourages her until her confidence is back. After a lengthy interview and script-reading, they dance in front of the judging panel. Yuka slips and falls in the middle of the routine. They then sightsee around Tokyo. When at a shrine, they all wish at the same time that summer never ends, and when they wake up the next morning, they’re back to yesterday.

This episode is about the four girls taking the next step in what could be dramatically different lives as idols, while reflecting on their friendship and all the adventures they had over the miracle-laden summer. There was hardly ever a dull moment, and quite a few moments of genunine awe, wonder, and happiness. When they arrive at the audition and Yuka – who orchestrated all of this – starts to waver, all the others need to tell her is to think back to everything that’s happened. She’s good enough, and special enough, to succeed. She just has to be herself; the Yuka who brings everyone together.

Their interview was going so well, there were times when we thought “gosh, they might just make it!” Alas, a crucial error by Yuka eliminated them from serious contention. But it turns out the audition was Yuka’s effort to keep everyone toghether, including Saki; not merely to fulfill her dream to become an idol. She wavers at the question “what if only one of you is selected” because she always assumed they’d be idols together. Of course, with the episode resetting (thanks to the big rock’s Tokyo counterpart), something huge has happened: they have another shot at idoldom, and there’s a possibility that summer may never end…because why should it?

Rating: 8 (Great)

Sakamichi no Apollon – 11

Sensing something is up, Kaoru returns to Sentaro’s house to stop him from running away. After waking up both Sentaro and Ritsuko’s families, he doesn’t really have a choice. The next day Sentaro’s father arrives, and gives Sentaro a fountain pen as a gift. Sentaro and Kaoru begin practicing for the festival, recruiting both Ritsuko’s father to play the bass and Ritsuko herself to sing. The night before their performance, Sentaro heads out on his motorbike with Sachiko aboard, and they’re hit by a truck. Both survive, but Sachiko is touch-and-go for a time. Blaming himself, Sentaro disappears.

We thought we had been too hasty when we declared Sentaro gone for good in the last episode, and this one builds up a lot of hope and happiness and gives the trio of Kaoru, Ritsuko and Sentaro a few more days together before events take a turn for the worst once more. In the midst of one of Kaoru’s “favorite things” – being among his good friends – we thought there might be a return to the dizzying highs of Sentaro and Kaoru’s triumphnt jam session before the school, only with a bass and Ritsuko, whose English singing was so cute and endearing. But their concert never happened.

The incident that precludes it demonstrates why playing the blame game is most often unproductive and unfulfilling. Sentaro blames himself for letting Sachiko ride with him. Sachiko blames herself for insisting she ride (she’s old enough to know when she’s being willful). But if we look back at why Sentaro was on that motorbike, Kaoru could potentially blame himself for leaving his sheet music at the shop. The point is, something unfortunate happened, but it’s the last straw for Sentaro, who is convinced he’ll only bring further hurt to those close to him if he sticks around. It’s a deeply-engrained self-loathing that finally comes to the fore.

Rating: 8 (Great)