Jormungand – 22

Koko’s team successfully kidnaps Rabbitfoot, but they get bogged down in a firefight with Plame’s Night Nine SEAL team. Koko deploys one of her UAVs to destroy the Americans’ recon drone, then uses Jormungand to feed false GPS data misdirecting the SEALs to the perimeter of a Cuban military base. Plame has no choice but to abort. Back in South Africa, Koko finally lets Jonah, Rabbitfoot, and the rest of the team in on the master plan she and Miami have been working on: using Jormungand to end all air travel and control all global logistics, in order to force world peace. When she tells Jonah it will come at the cost of nearly 700,000 lives, he pulls a gun on her.

Koko is an uncommonly disciplined young woman, but in the end, also incredibly idealistic. She has been working her entire career as an arms dealer, amassing the know-how, the clout, the connections, and the capital to bring the best scientific minds (all attractive women too, mind you) together to create Jormungand, the means by which she aims to put an end to war itself and make her own kind extinct. We can’t remember the last anime we saw in which we’ve been following someone for so long, sympathizing with her, seeing her weaknesses and watching her succeed, fail, and succeed again…only for her to turn out to be the most diabolical of supervillains. She has a flair for theatricality, obviously. But she also calmly discusses the instant deaths of all 683,822 souls in the air like it’s nothing.

She even shrugs off accusations of wanting to become God by saying she’s better than God for doing what he couldn’t do: forbid humans the use of the sky. But no matter how much she teases and flirts with Jonah (going so far as to kiss him in the bath), he’s not on board with this plan. It may well save millions, but the tremendous number of people she’s willing to kill is the ultimate expression of the ends not justifying the means, because the ends are ultimately unattainable. Warfare is awful, but no matter how many toys you take away from mankind, they’ll only find other ways to fight each other. Swords, sticks, stones, Congress…whatever.

It’s the height of hubris for Koko to believe Jormungand will really end anything, other than those thousands of lives. Death, torture, suffering, slavery will all endure. And like Jonah pulling a gun on her, countless other things she isn’t expecting lie on the horizon with the path she’s on. She may look like a god, act like a god, walk and talk like a god…but she’s no god. But she is one hell of a commander, and seems to truly care about her men (and women). When she took out the CIA drone with her own drone (from her hotel room), then fooled seasoned SEALs by scrambling their GPS – fantastic stuff.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Girls und Panzer – 09

Student council members Kadotani, Koyama and Kawashima tell the others how they were informed before the year began that Ooarai Girls’ School would be shut down as part of budget cuts, because it’s an unremarkable school with no major accomplishments. Miho rallies the girls, and sends Irwin, Yukari, Mako and Midoriko to scout out Pravda’s positions. After repairing the tanks and strategizing, Ooarai bursts out of their corner at top speed, managing to catch Pravda off-guard. They split their forces and keep the Duck Team in the flag tank on the move. Yukari finds the Pravda flag tank. Anglerfish Team corrals it into a trap and Hippo takes it out, but almost simultaneously, Nonna hits the Duck Team…

Ooarai Girls School were dealt a rough hand. The Student Council insists that they have to win the Panzerfahren championship in order to avoid the school getting closed down because it sucks. While we can understand their reluctance to let their classmates know about this, they couldn’t have picked a worse time to drop it on everyone. Some people work better under pressure, but others fold like a table. Fortunately, Miho isn’t one of the latter, and she marshals the troops with an inspiring Anglerfish dance. What follows is the most heated battle of the series, and it’s an absolute hoot. Yes, Pravda makes it easy by keeping their forces totally sedentary for the extent of the truce, allowing Ooarai to craft an intricate path to victory.

And they make it!…or do they? Nonna definitely hits their flag tank, but the Hippo Team takes care of theirs. This episode doesn’t tell us who won, but somehow we doubt they’ll lose. Even if they do, Pravda’s victory is so thin, perhaps the Ministry will spare a school like Ooarai anyway, as a young, bold Panzerfahren team that’s shown promise, and very nearly taken victory from the jaws of defeat against a far superior adversary. Or they just won. In any case, the fast-paced underdog battle is an excellent payoff, with Ooarai’s inferior tanks darting and juking every which way, narrowly missing volley after volley. If Pravda lost, it wasn’t just because its leader Katyusha was a little too confident and indulgent. It was because Miho and her team never gave up.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. We half-predicted Polyushka Polye to be played before this arc was out, and we were right! That’s our favorite Soviet march song.

Kimi no Iru Machi – 02 (Fin)

After seeing Haruto holding hands with Kanzaki, Eba gets right back on the train, devastated. Back at the hotel where his class is staying, Haruto tries her phone in vain, and finally decides to sneak out and visit her at her house. When he gets there, he meets her stepsister Rin who only teases him. He wanders around the city aimlessly, hoping to bump into her, and eventually does, at the station where he’s about to give up. He apologizes for Kanzaki, but Eba isn’t that bothered by it after all. They affirm their love and promise one another they’ll make the long-distance relationship work somehow.

Here we are, finally revisiting what was at the time the only straight-up romance we’d seen in a while. Since then we’ve seen quite a few, including four current series and the excellent Sakamichi no Apollon and Natsuyuki Rendezvous this past Summer. After watching the first installment, we were a little disappointed the drama relied so heavily on unlucky coincidences, poor planning on Haruto’s part, and a overly-rigid adherence to school rules. Whatever punishment the school could mete would be worth it if only he got to meet up with Eba. Then there was the silly cliffhanger in which Eba finally appears, only to witness her boyfriend holding hands with his longtime childhood friend. Uh oh.

Thankfullly, this second installment not only minimized the impact of that encounter (Eba is upset at first, but gradually, sensibly realizes it wasn’t what it looked like), and while Haruto is tortured a little bit more – both by Eba’s sly stepsister and by time and circumstances – he does finally meet up with Eba, or rather encounter her by chance. One of his other friends (whose boobs we see in a naked public bath scene that exists for some reason) says “the red string of fate” connects Haruto and Eba, and while it’s not always straight, it is strong, and they’ll always end up finding each other in the end. And we couldn’t help but feel ecstatic when they finally reunite, Eba shrugs off the Kanzaki thing, and they simply enjoy each others’ company for the short time they have. After all the contrivances the conspired to keep them apart, their closeness felt very real and natural.

More satisfying is the fact that this doesn’t end with Haruto deciding to move to Tokyo, or Eba deciding to move back to the village where they first met – years and years ago – and he cheered her up by showing her fireworks. We see a lot of flashbacks of happy times there, and a lot of what we see happen in the present echoes those times, but that was the past. Now they still love each other deeply, but have a long-distance relationship, and simply have to deal with it. It’s tough – their farewell scene really drives that toughness home – but that red string of fate shows no signs of breaking. They will see each other again, and even if it’s not enough, it will have to be.

Rating: 8 (Great)