Nagi no Asukara – 09

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Lord Uroko calls all of the adults to a secret meeting, sending the kids to the surface until further notice. Hikari and the others decide to do the Ofunehiki on their own. They set to work repairing the Ojoushi-sama and procure a boat from Tsumugu’s Grandpa. Manaka cooks dinner, but when Chisaki and Kaname return to town early and Hikari ducks out, she returns home too, to find the adults waiting for her. When Hikari comes to class to find the others absent, he races home to find heavy saltflake snow falling. Manaka tells him the adults have banned further visits the surface. When his father comes to get him, he grabs Manaka and runs off to their old school, where they have an awkward, confused exchange.

“Poor Hikari”…early in the season we’d never thought we’d ever be telling ourselves that, but here we are. After some ups and downs he’s become a genuinely likable, sympathetic character, and at the moment nothing seems to be going his way. For one thing, every attempt to resurrect the Ofunehiki is met with unwelcome intervention, either by vandals, then elders, or fate. Shioshihio isn’t doing too hot either;  it occurs to us that the only kids of their age left in the village are our four friends. That’s a pretty dire situation, and Uroko-sama has decided that to have any hope of preserving the village, surface visits must end. It seems like far too little too late; the town bleak, dreary, foreboding ghost of its former lush, inviting self. The visuals of Hikari’s return reminded us of the ruined towns in Nausicaa; hauntingly beautiful stuff.

Also beautifully heartbreaking is every exchange Hikari has with Manaka this week. Like Chisaki, he’s tried to “be an adult” and put Manaka’s wants before his own, but this week it seems like he just can’t do it anymore. He loves Manaka too much to just be a friend, but just can’t say that to her. Tsumugu sees Chisaki’s actions as retreat, while Manaka’s reaction to Hikari’s hug is a complicated thing, motivated by her confused feelings for both Tsumugu and Hikari, as well as her knowledge of Chisaki’s feelings for Hikari. The rapid deterioration of their home mirrors that of their relationships. The once-warm, harmonious quartet of friends now find themselves listless and full of doubt, their very worlds upheaved and on the brink of destruction. But it’s always darkest before the dawn…right? Please?!

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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Samurai Flamenco – 08

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King Torture orders the surrender of the government and the enslavement of the people, but the police rather than the JSDF are trusted with dealing with it. As Harazuka continually upgrades his gear, Flamenco and the Girls dispatch one monster after another without casualties, save the monsters themselves who self-destruct after defeat. Both Masayoshi and MMM’s careers start to skyrocket, though Mari is starting to get bored with fighting Flamenco’s leftovers, while Goto’s girlfriend warns him she’s scared of the new look in Masayoshi’s eyes.

We were caught off guard last week by the show’s sudden decision to introduce unrealistic monsters into the story without it being a dream or illusion, and were a little dubious of the execution, but after this week, we’ve come to like the suddenness. Being a superhero, Masayoshi focuses on defeating evil and protecting the people, so we don’t delve much into Torture’s origins or motives, which is good. They’re just the next level of baddies for Samumenco and the Samurai Girls to tangle with. We like how they’ve joined forces once again out of necessity for more muscle, but the same problems with their last teaming-up are still there: Mari doesn’t want to share the spotlight. This episode did a good job taking us by the hand and confidently guiding us smoothly through its new “monster milieu”, efficiently chronicling how things have gradually reached a new normalcy.

Torture’s declaration of war led the government to declare a state of emergency, but as the police and heroes polish off the monsters, the threat level is incrementally ratcheted, until they’re considering not even meeting about it every week. That could prove premature: because we know so little of King Torture, he’s basically capable of anything. Speaking of which, Masayoshi is feeling very invincible at the moment, fueled by Sumi’s encouragement, Jouji’s praise, and Harazuka’s gadgets. But his intention to barrel forward and take full advantage of this auspicious time in his life, while admirable, could also lead to his downfall. Things seem to be working out almost too well for him, too fast. The only ones who see are Goto and his girlfriend. The show is wisely keeping the new monster threat’s effect on the characters as important as (if not more so than) the threat itself.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kill la Kill – 09

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Kiryuin appoints Gamagoori Ira as Ryuuko’s first opponent, due to him having defeated the least cannon fodder out of the Elite Four. Her scissor can’t penetrate the cloth armor protecting the life fiber within, so when he launches his regalia, she and Senketsu bite into his whips with his teeth, and get thrust inside his uniform. Senketsu transforms into “Senjin” mode, becoming covered in blades that tear Gamagoori’s uniform to shreds.

The first of Ryuuko’s battles with the Elite Four committee chairs was immensly fun to watch. It was well-established last week that Gamagoori wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, a notion reinforced by his flashback battle with the adorable Lil’ Kiryuin, in which he managed to snatch the scabbard of her sword to prevent himself from kneeling before her. Last week we saw what he was capable of tactically; this week we find out why he does it: his self-punishes as an example to the student body to correct their own behavior of their own accord. When Ryuuko refuses to do the same, he revokes her independence and threatens to mold her into a model student. Mold literally, like taiyaki, which is hilarious. We also like how the battle was initially delayed, another example of Gamagoori’s devotion to protocol.

But both the intensity of Gamagoori’s resolve and his dogged desire to impress his mistress form another shield: one of arrogance. He’s too busy getting the job done (and punishing himself) to realize Ryuuko and Senketsu have a plan; they adjust their tactics to the mechanics of this particular battle (she also ate Mako’s mom’s bento, ensuring victory!) Senketsu’s new look is even more ridiculous and extreme in keeping with the show’s escalatory nature. No doubt other transformations will reveal themselves as Ryuuko faces the other three. But we’re wondering why Mikisugi won’t tell her anything, doesn’t want her to fight the elite four, and isn’t “happy about it” when she beats Gamagoori. Will the truth implicate him in some way, or otherwise make Ryuuko even more angry and unsatisfied?

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

Golden Time – 09

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Kouko says she has a cold, and when she returns after several days, she still doesn’t seem right. She confides to Banri that she’s scared and anxious about whether he really loves her. Banri comforts her and assures her he loves her and everything is fine. The “Ghost Banri” remembers comforting Linda in a similar fashion when they were third-years. She found out her brother’s fiancee was cheating on him, and planned to expose her with pictures.

Linda changed her mind and instead confronted the fiancee directly, agreeing not to tell anyone if she stops. Linda is scared and anxious of the choices she’s made, but Banri promises to stand by her no matter what, though stops short of confessing his love. In the present, when Banri tells Linda Kouko is still out sick, she repeats the words he told her. That night, Ghost Banri regains Banri’s body, along with his memories of the past.

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Golden Time shows it’s not content to sit on its hands for a single episode; developments have been coming with great alacrity belying the fact this is a two-cour series. This liberal distribution of meaty plot is most welcome. Going in, part of us feared this might be the episode where Banri and Kouko break up. And while Banri reaffirmed his love to Kouko and set things straight (in a sweet, beautifully-directed scene), the fact is the episode ended with a totally different Banri; the one only we can see and hear.

Serious kudos to the flashback, which enriches Banri and Linda’s relationship, going back to before he confessed to her, to what Ghost Banri believes to have been a missed opportunity, while also showing that Banri promised something to Linda that his amnesia wiped out, leaving Linda not only without her best friend, but also without someone to share the knowledge of what she did. After her discovery, she was basically trapped, with no way to resolve the situation without hurting her brother in some way, either with truth or lies.

In his interactions with Kouko in the present, New Banri shows that like his past self, he’s a guy who will rise above his unreliability and weakness to shoulder the burdens of the woman he loves. Linda may not know it, but by re-reciting Past Banri’s ornate non-confession back to him, it’s as if she said the magic words that break the spell. Fate has been cruel to Linda for a long time, but now it seems it’s turned on New Banri—in many respects a different person—and on Kouko. Meanwhile, Ghost Banri may have gotten his wish: for things to return to the way they were.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)