Jormungand – 20

Koko and Dr. Miami open the new “Marchen Ltd. Facility” where robotic toys will be made. Miami later meets with Curry and Koko with Trohovsky as Kasper announces the Hekmatyar Global Grid Distribution Package, which aims to revolutionize global military logistics and promises to slash the costs of operations through optimization.

The Hekmatyar siblings finally reveal their big evil scheme, and it’s a gigantic global system that will, among other things, make supply lines a thing of the past. This is a network set up by launching 125 satellites into orbit, and military leaders all over the place are liking their lips at the possibilities it offers. Meanwhile, HCLI’s competitors exhibit a mix of anticipatory excitement, panic, and unease. And with good reason: HCLI means to have a monopoly on affordable war.

Those not in on it could see their clients disappearing and their businesses turning to dust. Whether the Global Grid is the full project or merely the opening salvo, Koko and Dr. Miami definitely have a lot of people on their toes, including Bookman. Their grand plan even has a suitable name, Jormungand – a self-devouring creature as the symbol of a business that exploits a self-devouring humanity. For now, Bookman is just keeping an eye on her; who knows how he or her other enemies will respond to this.


Rating: 6 (Good)

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K – 09

In a 1945 flashback to Dresden, Germany, Adolf Weismann demonstrates the power of an ancient “slate” by presenting a lab rat with godlike powers that commands the other rats. When the allies bomb the city, his sister is killed, and he eventually retreats to the airship Himmelrieich, where he remained unaging until it was destroyed in the incident with Scepter 4. Usagi gets to the wreckage first, and the Golden King has him in state. Meanwhile, someone claiming to be Tatara’s killer contacts Suoh and provokes him into breaking out of Scepter 4’s headquarters. Awashima and Fushimi cannot stop him, and Homra is waiting for him. Suoh knows the killer is at the school on the island.

So, no Shiro, no Neko, and no Kuroh this week. Instead we focus on the other Kings, specifically the top four. The first, Adolf Weismann, only wanted everyone to be happy. He started this whole technobabbly process of creating humans with superhero powers. His most apparent power seems to be immortality, though he’s unconscious in the aftermath of the Himmelreich‘s destruction, after decades of hanging up there, tending the broken heart he suffered when his sis died, and cultivating a legend about himself. One thing’s for sure; dude’s a weirdo.

As for the second King, it’s apparently in his interests to make sure Weismann isn’t snatched up by Scepter 4. We’re not sure what Munakata can do about it, being the fourth and therefore presumably less-powerful King. Meanwhile Kukuri, Mishina, and the other classmates keep bringing up someone none of them quite remember, but who is at the tip of their tongue. Were their memories of Shiro just an artifice? Finally, Tatara’s mysterious, fox-masked killer calls Suoh (on a toy phone, no less) to gloat. After simply sitting around for eight episodes, Suoh, King #3, decides enough is enough, and springs into action out of concern for the members of Homra.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 09

Samon successfully convinces Mahiro that Hakaze is only bones now, and is speaking to him from the past through the magic doll. Mahiro doesn’t care though, and will use the talisman anyway unless Samon grants the wish Hakaze couldn’t – to find Aika’s killer and bring him to him. Samon considers it a reasonable requests, and orders Tetsuma to investigate. Yashiro tells Hakaze what has happened, and when she mentions not having a line from Hamlet to say, Yoshino remembers when Aika told him why she quotes Hamlet. He tells her it’s too tragic, so she tells him about The Tempest, which had a happy ending. Yoshino attacks Mahiro, and begs him to rejoin his side to try to bring Hakaze back. If he does, he’ll tell him who Aika’s boyfriend was. This sways Mahiro, who agrees to hear him out, but only until Samon can get him Aika’s killer.

We know a little more about The Tempest thanks to Wishbone (who might’ve done Hamlet too, we just didn’t catch that episode), but not much more than the fact it involves a mage on an island, and, well, a tempest. But darn it all if our preoccupation with Hamlet and its connection to this story totally distracted us from the obvious: this story isn’t one or the other: it could go either way. Yoshino doesn’t want to end up in a duel with Mahiro over Aika, and she doesn’t believe a second girl – Hakaze – should be so easily abandoned to fulfill Mahiro’s selfish, immediate thirst for revenge. Of course, Mahiro has the gun, so Yoshino uses those flash bombs he hoarded to shake things up.

With one word – “boyfriend”, Yoshino is able to turn the tables a second time in as many episodes. And with Samon cursing the Tree of Genesis for everything that doesn’t go his way, it really makes you wonder, is logic and nature really still on Hakaze’s side, even though she’s dry bones in the present? Why not? Sure, things are complicated, and it will take a lot to nullify those bones, but as long as there’s magic in the world, and someone willing to stand and put his own life on the line to save her, Hakaze, the mage on the island, has a chance to return home and exact revenge upon those who wronged her. And Mahiro can get his sister’s killer and the name of her boyfriend…though who knows how he’ll take the latter revelation.

This episode may just be three guys yelling at each other while holding weapons while a half-naked girl lies on a distant beach (and another guy fights tanks with a spear) but good God was it powerful. It not only sports a ton of mythic resonance, but elegantly, effortlessly transfers the power to choose the fate of the world from the hotheaded trigger-happy vengeance junkie into more calm, collected hands, precisely because said junkie is so hotheaded, his knowing who his sister dated carries the same weight as the opportunity to face her murderer. Here’s hoping for that happy ending where he learns both, Hakaze is saved, and the world isn’t destroyed. It even takes a hearty jab at its own characters‘ (over?)use of Shakespeare.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! – 09

Shinka unilaterally decides the club will perform a flashmob battle. The fall semester is nearly halfway gone, and Rikka has been avoiding Yuuta ever since she spent the night. Rikka believes the “overseers” planted a “dark anomaly” in Yuuta, making her heart race at the sight or thought of him. She and Sanae call him out one night to “defeat” him with, but fail. Shinka picks up on Rikka’s behavior, takes her aside, and tells her she’s in love, then crafts opportunities for Rikka to get Yuuta to respond. The third attempt, when Rikka nearly falls off the roof of the school, succeeds when Yuuta rescues her resulting in a passionate embrace.

Akasaki Chinatsu voices Shinka. She also voiced Oribe Yasuna in Kill Me Baby!, which wasn’t the best anime in the world, but her strong, flexible, energetic voice was the main reason we watched it. The running gag was that no matter how many crazy methods she used, she’d never quite achieve her goal, much like Wile E. Coyote. This week, Shinka channels Oribe once she realizes the blatantly obvious: Rikka has well and truly fallen for Yuuta…like a ton of bricks. Shinka’s schemes come straight from shoujo romance manga, but this time, she finally succeeds. And all it takes is Rikka almost falling off a roof!

Yuuta, for his part, is your typical passive male lead who lets half a semester of awkwardness pass before his harrowing rescue of Rikka. Rikka mistakes her feelings for some form of sorcery, and we’re not even sure how sincere she is in that skewed interpretation, considering her Chuunibyou is a coping device, not just something she does for the hell of it (like, say Sanae, until she gets a tragic backstory…). Deep down, of course, Rikka knows the true reason why Yuuta makes her face red and her heart race; she just afraid and needs a little catalyst, which Shinka helpfully provides. She and Yuuta aren’t out of the woods yet (nor are any of the couples this Fall :P), but it’s a hug in the right direction.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Winter 2013 Season Preview

It’s getting colder, which means turning up the thermostat, donning extra layers outside, having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, and most importantly, a fresh batch of anime. Looking towards January, we see From The New World most definitely continuing for thirteen more episodes, and Zetsuen no Tempest is still a question mark (it may end, or pick back up in another season).

Other than that, there’s a sequel we’ll be watching, Chihayafuru 2, and we’ve taken the most cursory of glances at eight other new series for a total of ten for the Winter months. We have no idea which ones we’ll like and therefore stick with for their entire duration, but it’s a diverse group, with lots of different genres and studios represented. Also, lots of really really long titles.

Definitely Watching

From The New World
(episodes 14-25)

Zetsuen no Tempest
(episodes 13-24)

Probably Watching

AMNESIA
Brain’s Base (Romance, Shoujo) – 7 Jan

Arve Rezzle: Kikaijikake no Yoseitachi (OVA)
Zexcs (Action, Adventure, Mystery, Drama, Sci-fi, Thriller) – 2 Mar

Chihayafuru 2
Madhouse (Drama, Game, Sports, Josei) – 12 Jan

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
Arms (Adventure, Fantasy, Romance) – 5 Jan

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai

SHAFT (Comedy, Romance) – 11 Jan

Maybe Pile

Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru sou desu yo?
(Don’t Problem Children Come From an Alternate World?)
Diomedea (Fantasy, Supernatural) – 12 Jan

Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru
(My Girlfriend and Childhood Friend Fight Too Much! AKA OreShura)
A-1 (Comedy, Romance, School) – 6 Jan

Vividred Operation
A-1 (Action, Sci-fi) – 11 Jan

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke
Manglobe (Supernatural) – 7 Jan

End-of-Month Rundown – November 2012

It’s a day early, but what the hay…we’re in the ninth week of the Fall season with four weeks remaining. It’s been a very good season: about a half-point better than Summer. Four series have consistently scored 8 (Great) or higher. It’s hard to gauge whether it’s the best season of the year, since we used the old rating system in the Winter, but we know it’s very close.

We’re also no longer sticking with shows that can’t consistently score a 6 (Good) or better – something that will continue in the Winter. In that respect, Girls und Panzer just barely passes muster.

While cumulative ratings have dropped for most series, consider that normalization due to larger sample sizes, not a regression of quality. Of the eleven series we’re watching, it’s likely From the New World and Zetsuen no Tempest are the only ones carrying over into the Winter, so there will be a lot of finales to sort through, and it’s still too early to predict how well they’ll handle them.

We’ll also say at this point that there’s no series we’re watching that we’d have dropped in hindsight; everything is fully meeting our entertainment needs…though Muv-Luv was certainly floundering there for a while.

12. Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 21/24 (5.714 ▲), (.72 RTI) – After a three-episode slump, Muv-Luv roared back with a vengeance, with a bloody assault on the UN base…by other humans

11. Girls und Panzer – 7/12 (6.000), (.40 RTI) – The series has balanced awesome tank battles with pretty good character sketches and slice-of-life. Miho is torn between her family’s strict stance of victory at all costs and simply enjoying what she does and the company of friends who have her back

10. Btooom! – 8/12 (6.750 ▼), (.44 RTI) – Himiko is ever-so-slightly warming up to Sakamoto, now that she knows he was her wife in the virtual game. Sakamoto’s plan to leave the island seems doomed to fail, what with all the surveillance

9. Jormungand: Perfect Order – 19/24 (6.857 ▼), (.28 RTI)This season seems to be about giving all of Koko’s members a backstory, and they’ve been decent thus far, though R’s remains the most compelling

8.  Sword Art Online – 21/25 (7.250 ▼), (.64 RTI) – Suguha and Kazuto are still unaware they’re playmates in ALfeim (so she’s unwittingly fallen for “Kirito” in both worlds). Asuna briefly breaks out, but she’s still a damsel, and the villain is still boring in his Pure Evilness®

7. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! – 8/12 (7.625 ▼), (.56 RTI) – This series’ core is the strong and appealing bond gradually developing between the two leads. Achieving romantic status will be tricky due to the Rikka’s emotional immaturity and penchant for talking in obscure code…and Yuuta’s reluctance to date a weirdo

6. K – 8/13 (7.625 ▼), (.60 RTI) – Shiro may be finally, finally starting to remember what went on, thanks to Neko (grudgingly) releasing his memory block. We’re introduced to the eccentric Gold King,, but many issues remain unresolved we’re not sure if the story has adequate time to transcend all the gorgeous eye candy

5. Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 9/13 (7.778 ▼), (.44 RTI) – Things between Shizuku and Hari are stalling a bit, but this series still has great energy and an interesting lead in Shizuku, who struggles with an ingrained personality and outlook shaped by her family dynamic (powerful, unyielding mom, warm but weak dad). Not sure we needed Yamaken to fall for her, but it’s being handled well so far

4. Kamisama Hajimemashita – 9/13 (8.111 ▲), (.48 RTI) – Nanami has not only full-on fallen for her familiar Tomoe, but unwittingly gained another in Mizuki. This series is surging right now, with four straight superior episodes and a veritable smorgasbord of neat supernatural concepts and story twists

3. From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 9/25 (8.333 ▲), (.48 RTI) – Rising to the elite shows of the year, New World earned a ten in its masterful ninth episode. As the characters age, the danger intensifies, and the tension over their fate continues to build

2. Sukitte Ii na yo. – 8/13 (8.750 ▼), (.40 RTI) – Mei and Yamato both prove inexperienced with romantic relationships (though in different ways), but at least they’re trying to overcome their stumbling. Their resolve may be tested by an incoming transfer student

1. Zetsuen no Tempest – 8/- (8.750 ▼), (.60 RTI) – The guys finally meet Samon, who drives a wedge between both them and Hakaze, calling into question who’s really threatening the world. After a satisfying conclusion to Eureka Seven AO, Bones remains on a roll with this

Girls und Panzer – 07

With Mako’s grandmother on the mend, the girls head back to the ship and prepare for their next opponent, Anzio. When Miho is hit by a barrage of requests for advice and help, the other members of Team Anglerfish divvy up the work. Despite the group making progress, Miho is doubtful their current compliment of tanks is good enough to withstand future matches. Isuzu discovers records of other tanks aboard ship, so the president orders the teams to search for them. They find a Renault B1 bis in a creek, and another tank in the bowels of the ship. Despite neither being ready in time, Team Oorai quickly defeats Team Anzio in the next round.

Miho comes from a very stern, serious family that values victory above all else and at any cost. The Nishizumi motto is “Forward Ever, Backward Never” (it probably sounds cooler in Japanese). So when she placed the welfare of her teammates over victory in a battle that, if victorious, would have earned her school its tenth consecutive title, and lost, she didn’t stick around an endure the storm of hate. She moved forward, away from her family, and to a new school. She thought she was moving on, but fortune put her right back into a tank, and she kept moving forward. Miho learns Mako’s parents are dead (of course they are), and that things didn’t end well between Mako and her mother (they fought the last time they saw each other). Miho doesn’t want thinks to end like that with her mom, when she inevitably meets an early end because she’s the parent of an anime character.

Joking aside, for an episode that had no tank battles, it was still very lively and entertaining. We liked how Hana, Mako, Yukari and Saori all took pressure off Miho by handling the many requests of their teammates. This was a nice time to expand our familiarity with some of the other teammates, as well as explore the ship and its bowels. Saori’s explanation for why they’re on a ship – “To cultivate the next generation of world leaders, and to strengthen independence and self reliance in youths” – is priceless. But the team also has a sheen of confidence about them after their first victory, and the episode quite abruptly closes with their second consecutive victory over Anzio. This episode focused on preparation, world-building, and characters rather than battle. And it did a good job with it.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 09

 

Nanami travels to the past with Mizuki, but finds that Tomoe took the Dragon King’s eye so he could give it to his lover Yukiji, who is deathly ill. Rather than snatch it as Mizuki suggests, Nanami helps her swallow it, and then returns to the present. They track down Isohime, who agrees to draw out the Dragon Eye within Nanami at the cost of 30 years of her life. But once it’s out, she also tries to take her earth deity mark, leading Mizuki to contract (kiss) with Nanami to protect her. They travel by tortoise taxi to the Dragon King’s palace, accompanied by someone who turns out to be the Turtle Queen. Nanami “rescues” Tomoe and embraces him, telling him her feelings for him won’t change no matter what.

Thought Nanami’s adventure into the past would occupy the bulk of the episode, and that her love and resolve would be tested against a different kind of Tomoe? We did. Yet the time travelling lasted less than five minutes. That setting had a lot of potential, but the episode had other plans and moved on quickly. We continue to be impressed with the wealth of ideas this series is constantly spooning out, and the confidence and precision with which it shuffles them around. It turns out, Tomoe wasn’t stealing the eye because he was a selfish trickster, but to save the life of the woman he loves. Nanami can’t exactly snatch the eye and leave her to die, so a new plan is needed.

This involves making another deal with another deity (Isohime), though it quickly goes sour, and a sudden but not altogether unexpected thing happens: Mizuki contracts with Nanami. Now she has two bishies at her beck and call. But the theme of remuneration continues when by chance Nanami shares a cab with the Turtle Queen. She loses her haori out the window, but she doesn’t get upset; making it was enjoyable and its own reward. Mizuki ultimately retrieves it, and it’s returned to her as ‘payment’ for Tomoe. The queens attitude makes omething clicks in Nanami – she’s sitting around waiting for Tomoe to return her feelings, something she can’t control. So she’s going to stop waitin’ and worryin’ and start doin’.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 09

A month after the cultural festival, Haru and Shizuku still aren’t getting anywhere, frustrating Asako. Shizuku’s dad’s store goes under, reinforcing her drive to become a successful businesswoman like her mom. When she tells Haru about the goldfish, he promises to catch her a crayfish. She bumps into Yamaken at the library and asks him to help her analyze her state of mind and options; meanwhile Yamaken has fallen for her, which he tells Haru when asked.

Shizuku’s mom is the breadwinner and obviously a strong-willed, domineering woman (or her dad’s just a weeny), but she’s kind of a bitch, too. Some people just aren’t cut out for business. It doesn’t make them failures, and it’s hardly fair to abuse one’s spouse when he’s virtually raising their kids single-handedly. On one hand, she’s made sacrifices – giving up romance and family in order to provide for said family (conceivably bourne out of romance), and that’s a noble thing to do. On the other hand, she’s spent so many years berating the father of her children, Shizuku has essentially been warped into the emotionless, clueless yuki-onna currently struggling with the same dilemma her mother faced, only by choice, not necessity. The cycle continues.

The thing is, in life, one can truly have it all. In a way, it’s easy to dedicate oneself to study while in the Springtime of life, rather than face uncertainty by trying to balance Haru with her bright future. Shizuku’s mom has always been a beacon of certainty, and we wouldn’t be surprised if she’s projecting her loving but insolvent father onto Haru. But she’s not alone in the stalling of their relationship; Haru is being too hands-off and oblivious. Meanwhile, in the midst of offering free advice to her, Yamaken now has the hots for Shizuku (she is cute), forming the second love triangle of the series. This is the last thing Yamaken wants right now, but if Haru remains dilatory, will he make a move?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 21

Lt. Cui comes to Argos with the offer to practice with them in preparation for their fight with the Infinities, but only if Yuuya goes on a date with him; Tarisa tags along as a chaperone. Pilots at the UN patrol standby hangar are ambushed and killed by members of the Refugee Liberation Front posing as civilians and Coeurl Express deliverypeople, who have infiltrated the entire base. They set to work killing all UN, US, and Soviet officers. Yui narrowly escapes and bumps into Cryska, Lt. Dahl and Lt. Sendak split up to find answers, and the base command is penetrated by the RLF vanguard. Yuuya, Tarisa and Cui’s Humvee is stopped by an RLF group led by Natalie, who loudly proclaims their plans before being shot dead by her compatriot.

The second half of this series has been in a bit of a tailspin of late, with four unremarkable, momentum-killing episodes leading into by far the worst episode of the Fall, followed by a pointless recap. You could say the same of the entire UN/XFJ/Prominence program: teams of spoiled, elite test pilots draining excessive resources sparring with each other after the most potent weapon against the Beta was destroyed. As the rest of the world starved and suffered, the eishis in Alaska have drunk, caroused, and ended up in ridiculous love polygons. Like the series itself, they all needed a splash of cold water; a wake-up call; a reckoning. They got one, in the form of a brutal bloodbath. All hell breaks loose this week, to which we say: finally. However shortsighted or hypocritical the RLF may initially seem, they got our full attention in this, easily the most compelling episode of the series’ second half.

They put a desperate, vengeful face on the human fallout of all this warring, and helpfully reveal secret Beta research. They also highlight how everyone at the base has simply gotten way too comfortable. Even Yui’s instincts are nearly too late, as she just narrowly saves herself through the use of a cloud of paperwork obscuring her baseball slide (a nice touch), and some crack driving skills after her driver’s head is blown off. She, Yuuya, and all the main players survive the initial RLF assault, but they’re all scattered, isolated, and highly vulnerable – everything they haven’t been since Kamchatka. The series succeeds only when its cast is put through the physical and psychological wringers, and this episode heralds a good start to the home stretch, and proves yet again that humanity’s worst enemy is itself, not the damn Beta.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. The new OP and ED are a nice compliment to this much-improved episode. Both are fresh, have decent themes and well thought-out, well-paced visuals.

Sword Art Online – 21

Kirito and Leafa reach ALfeim’s capital, Arun, and log out at an inn. In the real world, Sugu comes with Kazuto to visit Asuna in the hospital, and she gets conflicted feelings from meeting her. Meanwhile, in the game, Asuna snoops around the World Tree complex, finding huge labs where human cerebral experimentation is going on. She finds a console and is about to log out when she’s apprehended by scientists with slug-like avatars, who put her back in her birdcage and change the passcode. When Kirito and Leafa reach the base of the World Tree’s trunk, Yui suddenly senses “Momma” above them, and Kirito shoots up into the sky.

First of all, kudos must again go to the background and establishing shot artists; we know the word “awesome” is overused in modern society, but it’s the most fitting word to describe it. It’s like Minas Tirith on steroids…and shrooms. Despite all it’s flaws, SAO has always exceled at creating a really cool-looking world you’re really envious of not being able to visit. We especially liked how creepy and Mod the laboratory facilities Asuna gingerly explores. We’re not so enamored with the way in which she was ultimately captured and re-deposited back where she started.

First of all – Tentacle Grape Monsters Casually Threatenin’ Grape + Scantily-Clad, Defenseless Asuna = Obvious Fanservice. This isn’t shokushu goukan, so entangling Asuna in tentacles is both capricious and arbitrary. Also, while we get that they gave these guys inhuman form to add to the general creepiness and wrong-ness of this whole experimentation venture, their words and actions are enough to dehumanize them; they could have just been guys in lab coats. And while we knew Sugou’s evil plans would inevitably attract other unsavory people who worked for him, both his and their evil – the sheer horrifying scale of it – remains a little hard to swallow. Those seeking more ambiguous, “grayer” antagonists will have to look elsewhere.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. Oh yeah, Suguha continues to stuggle with her feelings for her brother, and decides she must bury them deep within her so she may someday forget them. So no change there. As you were.

Sukitte Ii na yo – 08

Mei kisses Yamato, but has nothing to follow it up with, and in a moment of shyness she pushes him away with her words, and he goes home. Rumors persist, and in a new magazine interview, Megumi all but declares her love for Yamato, though not by name. After pushing away Asami and Aiko, Megumi goes home alone. Aiko tells Yamato about the rumor, and he chases after Mei to clear things up. While at work, Mei meets Takemura Kai, who is transferring to her school. Right after accidentally breaking her bracelet, Yamato appears and apologizes.

This episode is called “New to Love”, and quite appropriately so. By the end, Mei learns that she’s not the only one new to love; Yamato is to. As such, they’re both going to make mistakes, and they’re both going to worry and not say what they should say or say what they shouldn’t say, and misinterpret each other’s words and actions, and see deeper meaning in trifling events. The difference is, Yamato is new to love despite being fawned over by the masses and having been involved previously (with Aiko). Mei is new new, as in she’s barely ever spoken to a boy before Yamato. Her newness is such that when the golden opportunity comes for her to tell Yamato what she feels about his modelling and Megumi, she just chokes.

She’s in her head too much, and that’s causing her pain, which is all she says she’s experienced since falling for Yamato, which makes part of her want to just quit by the end. But of course, pain isn’t all she’s experienced. She’s also experienced RABUJOI love and joy in her dealings with Yamato – and it’s mutual, despite her suspicions. Thankfully, the episode doesn’t end in an ultra-ambiguous mess of emotions – both Mei and Yamato finally gets to say what they should have said days ago, and with a well-timed kick in the pants by Aiko, Yamato spills the beans and assures her nothing’s going on with Megumi. But as last week’s kiss proved, one moment of clarity won’t be enough to maintain their relationship. There’s got to be an open dialogue.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Oh yeah, about Kai, the mohawk dude. He just kinda showed up. Grabbed Mei inapproprately, asked if he could have her key, and left. Is he going  to be competition for Yamato? We’ll see.

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 09

With Shun gone for four days, Satoru gathers the others and suggests they go looking for him. He and Saki travel to his house in Pinewood, but it is totally cordoned off in all directions, and they find that a huge gash has been made in the forest, with a burnt-out tree trunk in the bottom of a pit that reminds Saki of the one in Shun’s house. Meanwhile Maria and Mamoru ask around school, but everyone from Pinewood is absent. Curiosity leads them to check out the inner yard, and they see three adults release two tainted cats from their kennels, and mention Shun. Maria comes to Saki in the middle of the night to tell her this, and she sets out alone to find Shun, but its confronted by one of the cats in the forest.

Whatever year it actually is in Saki’s world, it might as well be 1984 (while that monolithic tree they see brought 2001 to mind). People who do not obey and conform to the “society of love” live in constant fear of death, or worse – by the hands of the “Ethics Committee”, which may as well be called the Ministry of Love. People are supposed to stick to their particular vocation, and not pry in anything else, even if it concerns family or friends. In Saki’s case, her older sister vanished long ago, and she forgot about it like a good girl. But now she’s remembered. Now someone she cares about deeply – Shun – is in some very serious trouble. She cares about him so much she’s willing to risk everything – her freedom, her life, her parents’ peace-of-mind – to find him. Which is badass.

We don’t hand out tens willy-nilly; only three first-run episodes have received our highest rating so far, along with a handful of Retro Reviews. But we consider this episode the best and most complete of the series so far; a masterpiece of tone, mood, and tension. It’s not particularly flashy, but never before have the stakes seemed so high, or have Saki and her friends seemed to be in more danger. We’re not even sure what the real deal with Shun is yet – only that he may be turning into a full karma demon (that doesn’t sound good). This episode is the best kind of building-up episode: one that creates so much anticipation for the future, but more than holds up by itself as a comprehensive study in layering trepidation on top of disquiet on top of dread.

The moment Saki hears from Maria, she goes into Full Rescue Mode – suiting up with the talisman Shun gave her (and which she may believe was also a wordless message to come after him, not just a memento mori), and using her Cantus to good effect, bringing a loud wind that will mask her movements, flying through the air, and racing down the river. If she’s discovered, she’ll most certainly die, and the episode projects that perfectly. While a ten need not be totally perfect, we could not list a single flaw in the episode anyway. From the precise pacing to the stirring primeval score to the consistently excellent costume design, this was a winner on all fronts.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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P.S. The tainted cats have pumps for feet…very strange.