Sukitte Ii na yo – 06

Mei is attempting to bake cookies for Yamato. A new student, Kitagawa Megumi, transfers to their class. She’s a magazine idol and immediately asks Yamato to be her boyfriend. He rejects her, but she comes back and hopes she can be friends with both him and Mei. As Megumi starts inserting herself into Yamato’s life, convincing him to model with her, Mei starts to feel worried, inferior and lonely. The feelings only get worse when she attends a photo shoot where Yamato and “Megu-tan” have to pretend to be lovers.

Another week, another fresh rival whom Mei feels she has no chance against. Mei’s never going to win any charisma contests, so Megumi has no trouble squeezing herself between her and Yamato, who shares her dazzling “aura” and instantly wins the hearts and minds of the school. Both her classmates and her photo shoot team agree that Yamato and Megumi make a perfect couple, and all Mei can do is stand there, and would smile and pretend it’s okay if someone noticed her. And no one does – not with those two lighting up the room.

This is just the latest instance of Yamato failing to comprehend the depth of his unlikely girlfriend’s sensitivity. She can’t even imagine a time when she’d feel comfortable calling him by his given name, so why would he think she’s okay watching him get close and personal with another, far more glamorous girl – and in photos that will surely be distributed around school? He says he couldn’t refuse to model, but that’s ridiculous. Of course he could. And he could certainly have told Megumi he’d think about it so he could discuss it with Mei in private. Mei is being totally outmaneuvered by Megumi. She’s in a world of trouble.

Rating: 8 (Great)

Sword Art Online – 19

Kirito and Leafa enter a cave network that leads through the subterranean town of Lugru, but Yui alerts them to a dozen players headed in their direction. They turn out to be a squad of Salamander mages, who block the entrance to Lugru and force Kirito into a fight. Leafa hangs back and heals him, and he uses an illusion spell to transform into a giant monster that kills eleven of the twelve. Back to normal, he bribes the survivor for information. Once in town, Leafa logs out to learn Recon’s been trying to reach her. He knows Sigurn is working with the Salamanders, and is planning an surprise attack on a meeting between the Sylphs and Cait Sith.

As the main battle in this episode showed, battles in Alfeim are a bit more complicated than swords and shields. Sure, there’s both of those, but augmented by a galaxy of magic that hurts, heals, supports and sabotages. Sigurn has ordered a hit on Kirito and Leafa, and the squad he sends definitely has their shit together. Kirito complains earlier about having to learn English to memorize the spells, but it doesn’t sound like any English we know. He’s a a meleer no surprise the spell he ultimately casts on himself turns him into an even more powerful meleer. Apparently he can also run really fast now, which startles Leafa when he grabs her along for the ride.

Kirito’s goal is to get to that Tree of Life, climb it, and rescue Asuna. Leafa’s faction is now faced with going to all-out-war against the one group who may have the best chance to get where Kirito needs to go. That means Leafa has to deliver the obligatory, selfless “If you want to kill me and join them, go ahead.” speech. Obviously, Kirito declines. In SAO if you died, you were dead in the real world, and if you murdered another players in SAO, that made you a murderer. He’s going to keep playing with a conscience and not give in to the impulses the game offers to sate. To him, they’re all in it together. And there is a life at stake in Alfeim: Asuna.

Rating: 6 (Good)

P.S. Lugru is yet another awesome-looking town. It’s too bad they spend like no time there.

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 07

Satoru uses his Cantus to burn the Ground Spider army’s nest in the forest behind them and redirects their catapulted rocks to buy him and Saki time to run. Just as Squealer suspects they’re no longer gods, they hear the horns of the Giant Hornets, the largest queerat colony, and most loyal to humans. Their leader Kiroumaru welcomes the humans, and Satoru saves him from a last-ditch blowdog attack by the enemy.

Still, Satoru still feels he and Saki are in danger, suspecting the adults will use Kiroumaru to execute them for their crimes.  They escape in the night, followed by Squealer. They reunite with Shun, Maria, and Mamoru and start rowing home, and they’re intercepted by Kiromaru’s fleet, but he simply tows them the rest of the way, out of gratitude. They bid farewell to the queerats and return to Kamisu’s 66th District, where they get a less-than-warm welcome.

If indeed all living humans get death feedback, it would preclude them killing other humans. So Satoru figures out that the “Ethics Committee” the False Minoshiro spoke of lets other parties do their dirty work. Enter the queerats: sentient, violent beasts led by slightly more civilized generals like Kiroumaru. Satoru suspects he was ordered to “take care” of the meddling kids he finds, and considering humans gods, he’s naturally inclined to obey without question.

But Kiroumaru’s sense of debt and balance overrules his obedience: just as Squealer’s colony owes the Hornets a debt, Kiromaru owes Satoru a debt for saving his life. We sweat for a moment there when his fleet appears (Game Over?!) and this series excels at building crepy tension and impending doom, but Kiroumaru turns out to not be their final executioner. The narrator, whom we suspect is an adult Saki, states ominously that while the queerat ordeal is over, her trials are only beginning.

Rating: 9 (Superior)