White Album 2 – 08

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December arrives. Setsuna and Haruki start dating with Touma’s blessing.Touma lets Setsuna start calling her Kazusa. They also help her study for exams, which she ends up passing, assuring her graduation. To celebrate, the three go on a trip to a hot spring inn in the mountains, a tradition Setsuna hopes they’ll do every year, no matter what happens. Kazusa tells the others she’s delaying college to give piano a serious go, starting with a recital after new years, which Haruki and Setsuna promise to attend.

With Haruki and Setsuna dating, Kazusa seemingly fine with it while also passing her classes, things seem to be going swimmingly since their school fair concert. The three continue to spend time together, including Christmas at a very swanky mountain inn, culminating in the three sharing a hot spring together, without doubt the most intimate contact they’ve had yet. But this show has always been about what people aren’t saying, or in Touma’s case what she “jokes” about. Then there’s Haruki the narrator, speaking from the future, who knows how this all ends, and knows that concert was the apex of the trio’s happiness.

We still find it sad that he’s looking back at the Christmas adventure with a degree of regret and/or anguish, because by all rights, they really do seem to enjoy themselves, whether in the car together (which Kazusa drives with increasing efficacy), to getting stranded on a snowy road, to even being comfortable being naked together in a hot spring (major kudos to this show for not taking the cliched anime route here), everything seems to be fine between them. But it’s not just Touma’s jokes, Haruki’s voiceovers, or the cautious whispers of their outer circle of friends, but also the fact we’ve got five more episodes that tell us that the trio’s troubles aren’t over.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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Valvrave the Liberator – 19

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L-elf rescues Lieselotte from her captivity, confessing his love, but their escape is interrupted by Q-vier. Haruto crashes through the wall in Unit 1, and L-elf hands Lieselotte off to him. Her presence in the cockpit surprises Pino, and Haruto learns she is a Magius—a being with no physical body that lives off of runes—and that he’s one too. The rocket launch is stymied by the loss of a runway, but L-elf lowers a drawbridge and the rocket launches as the Valvraves protect it. Q-vier hits one of its hydrogen tanks, but Liselotte repairs it, at the cost of all her runes.

So the Magius crash on earth, possess animals and people to live and consume their runes to survive. They eventually form a council with humans to oversee earth’s affairs, of which Lieselotte doesn’t want any part, so she’s imprisoned and regularly drained of power with that tanning booth. Meanwhile, the Magius serve as cores for Valvrave units, whose pilots must literally resign humanity in order to operate them, thus becoming a “new lifeform” similar to immortal Magius, which explains Saki’s presence in the distant future. Should we be worried that some of this is actually making sense? Valvrave, how could you!

Practically speaking, this is an episode in which the New JIORans get the hell out of Dodge—er, Dorssiana. But L-elf also came to rescue the one he loves. He helped build and strengthen New JIOR for her more than anyone else. Sure he’s only known less than an hour in total, but that’s apparently enough. So it’s unfortunate, even tragic, when we find that she can’t return his feelings, not because she doesn’t share them, but because she’s unsure what love is, even after centuries of living in human form. It’s your classic lovers-of-different-races predicament. Worse still, she ends up “emptied” like Marie. L-elf just can’t catch a break!

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Nagi no Asukara – 08

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Hikari stays at Itaru’s house with Miuna and Akari, who is surprised Hikari and Miuna get along so well. The next day Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki, Kaname and Tsumugu all accompany Miuna into the city to buy a gift for Akari, as a sign of her approval and love. They can’t find the shell necklace she wants at any of the stores, so they return to the village and find comparable materials on the beach. After Miuna presents the necklace to Akari, saltflake snow starts to fall.

All hands on deck: Miuna has to find a gift for Akari? We agree, that’s a pretty lightweight premise for an episode, but a lot is achieved along the way. Chief among them, Hikari isn’t looking back or regretting his decision, something even Akari can’t believe. He’s also not letting the unplesantness with the sea and surface elders get him down. Life goes on, only on the surface. Helping Miuna is just as much about him taking his mind off those troubles, while bonding with who could end up being his step-niece.

But we’re not done with the sea, as Itaru and Akari both want to do their marriage “properly” if they can (which means dealing with people who haven’t been reliable in the approval department.) We also enjoyed Chisaki and Hikari’s discussion when they were alone together thanks to her setting off the elevator’s weight limit buzzer (another unfortunate dig on her alleged “largeness” that has no basis in physical fact). Their talk is brief and incomplete, but we hope it’s the first step in more forthright dialogue between them.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)