Kill la Kill – 20

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Episode the Twentieth: Wherein Ryuko, crying bitter tears inside, abjures Senketsu, Mako, and the others to go alone to Honnouji to destroy Harime Nui and Ragyo; in which Satsuki finally engineers her daring, naked escape; in which Nudist Beach unveils its aircraft carrier courtesy of the Takarada Conglomerate; and in Nui reveals she’s a life fiber being as much as Ryuko, and thus understands her plight; and in which Ragyo forces Junketsu upon Ryuko. Thus Ryuko shifts from being the pawn of her father to that of her mother; and is brainwashed into doing her bidding. Thus do Ryuko and Satsuki officially switch roles, with Ryuko as the frighteningly-powerful and arrogant villain, and Satsuki and her Elite Four as the scrappy underdogs with their backs to the wall.

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What started out as a simple selfish tantrum of self-loathing and anger, leading to her running off on her own, turned into something far more potentially devastating, as Her Hot-headedness is perverted through Junketsu into an instrument that could potentially destroy what’s left of a free mankind. And better still, it’s a transition that makes perfect sense. That’s right: no unsightly leaps in logic or ridiculous contrivances are necessary to justify Ryuko’s inversion: she’s always been susceptible to manipulation, and much of her exploits thus far have taken place while she was unwittingly serving as a guinea pig or pawn to others. Every time she’s learned the truth about her involuntary roles in the schemes of others—many of whom have turned out to be her relatives—she’s grown more bitter and lost. Here she was, thinking she was living her own life, while all along others were truly driving her course.

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She’s not even sure who or what she is anymore, and it disgusts her, so she lashes out at everyone close to her and sets of on a nihilistic errand. Harime, who has the same life-fibrous heart as hers, even asks point-blank what Ryuko hopes to get out of killing her and Ragyo. Ryuko doesn’t have an answer, because she hasn’t thought that far ahead, and falls into yet another trap. The blissful montage she sees when Junketsu wears her is a life that never was, but it’s enough to overpower Ryuko’s already brittle grip on her identity, and thus reality itself. Koshimizu Ami changes up Ryuko’s voice accordingly, to something simultaneously more feminine and unhinged—in other words, a lot more like Ragyo’s!

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Fortunately for Ryuko, there are those less quick to rage and reckless action who are determined to get her back. Among them are Mako, the Mankanshokus, the Elite Four, Mikisugi and Nudist Beach…even Satsuki. She may have had her own problems to deal with this week—breaking out of prison with a sharpened false toenail in unfathomably badass fashion—but as contentious as her interactions have been, we don’t think Satsuki wants to lose Ryuko to darkness and evil. In this, she and Senketsu are of like mind, which is why in a sensational latest twist, Senketsu lets her wear him, thus giving her at least a chance against her sister. The two have been in quite a few scraps, but this one is gonna be something else.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Sakura Trick – 08

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The two stories this week share a theme of assumptions based insufficient information. The first, in which Yuu gets the idea she and Haruka are getting married right away, turns out to be wrong. While it’s not her fault the phone connection was bad, she let her imagination get ahead of itself, bypassing simple logical hurdles like the fact Haruka didn’t even propose. But while it turns out to be someone else’s wedding, both Yuu and Haruka revel vicariously in the ceremonies.

Like Yuu assuming they were geting married just like that, Haruka assumes that because her dad doesn’t want “some guy off the street” marrying his daughter, it means he’ll be fine with her marrying a girl, when that very well might not be the case. But as is made clear when they can’t resist kissing and are nearly caught by Haruka’s mom, while their assumptions may be unrealistic (or at least premature), their passion for one another is very real indeed, and powerful. So powerful, in fact, that the couple hits the first legitimate bump in their relationship, which is explored in the second half. Here, Mitsuki assumes that Yuu and Haruka are acting far more distant towards each other than usual.

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This assumption turns out to be right; even if Mitsuki isn’t yet aware of the depth of Yuu and Haruka’s love, she knows the two aren’t squared away, so she decides to help them make up at the Christmas illuminations. But even when Mitsuki gets the two alone together (getting herself separated from everyone else in the process), Haruka and Yuu are still reticent and tentative, like we’ve never seen before. Each is afraid of letting their passion take over and go too far too fast with the other, harming what they have.

But while they were worrying about that, they were harming what they have anyway. Yuu remembers and repurposes her sister’s words of advice (which regarded a platonic relationship), and the two figure it out. They learn they’d been harboring the same concerns, as hearts that are destined to come together are wont to do. Hearts that are new to this kind of love can lead them to ache—as running around and doing physical stuff without stretching taxes the muscles and lungs—but Haruka and Yuu are resolved to soldier through it.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

 

Weekly ED – Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt

Oh God, Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt was good stuff: GAINAX anime with a distinctly American art style (Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken-esque, specifically). But then it would randomly jump into totally different styles particularly when the titular (heh-heh) characters powered up.

It was the Honey Badger of anime, and sat near the top of our first full season of reviews here at RABUJOI four years ago. Our only issue with the show is that it ended on a cliffhanger and, to our knowledge, a sequel that resolves things has yet to be announced. Which is a damn shame.

The OP was literally like ten seconds long, but the ED was a full minute, as shown here. The combination of serious but very catchy music (“Fallen Angel” by Aimee B) with colorful, cutesy portrayals of Panty and Stocking in horrible, potentially fatal situations was always a great way to end the craziness.

End-of-Month Rundown – February 2014

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Still Winter. Still Cold. Better to conserve energy. Let’s get right down to it:

13. Pupa

The three-minute segments continue to get darker and more disturbing, as not only does the lead guy have to endure his sister eating him as a matter of course, but behind their backs Maria has used their genetic material to impregnate herself. Definitely less “Huh?” and more “OH DEAR GOD!”

Cumulative Rating: 5.429 (7 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 4.79

12. Sakura Trick

No matter what situation Haruka and Yuu find themselves in they ultimately end up making out before, during, or after said situation, as the episode calls for. This is, on the surface, admittedly one-note, but we actually like the low-stress slow burn the show is on, which realistically portrays a very affectionate relationship between two girls who know each other very well and really really like spending time with each other.

Cumulative Rating: 6.429 (7 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.48

11. Samuai Flamenco

(second cour, episodes 11-22)

Since the From Beyond fiasco of episode 14, Samumenco has really gotten its act together, finally addressing all the interpersonal conflicts of the characters (hell, focusing on the characters period was an improvement in and of itself) and essentially “reforming the band” when, after the Flamenger thing doesn’t work out, Masayoshi returns to his best friend Gotou, who’s more than willing to help. The Flamenco Girls’ harsh argument and subsequent reconciliation is also powerfully wrought. Here’s hoping the series finishes strong.

Cumulative Rating: 7 (6 of 11 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 6.88

10. Witch Craft Works

We still commend the flip-flop of classic male-female roles in WCW, but have been disappointed by the poor caliber of foes Ayaka and Honoka have faced. Then it dawned on us: none of the Tower Witches are really meant to be a serious threat; the true threat is inside Honoka; the White Princess whose first seal has been broken. WCW presents a clear and clever distinction between what kind of man Honoka is and the archetypal pathetic weakling. In short, Ayaka is his strength because summoning his own would have calamitous consequences.

Cumulative Rating: 7.125 (8 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.42

9. (tie) Nobunaga the Fool

That brings us to Nobu, who has been given every opportunity and motivation to summon his strength and grab power. Unlike Honoka, he has no qualms about using it, and those around him are eager to see what he can do. He had been hampered by his father’s stubbornness to change and his peace-loving brother’s popularity, but both of those obstacles (we know, it’s cruel to call them that, but it’s true!) are out of his way, and he’s feuled by their loss and the near(?)-loss of his betrothed. Speaking of Himiko, maybe he’ll marry her for real if she wakes up. It’s the least he can do. That aside, his battle with Shingen is great fun, all bluster and honorableness and bashing. Then the crafty Caesar throws a wrench into everything.

Cumulative Rating: 7.286 (7 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 6.91

8. Nisekoi

Onodera missed a golden chance, and now there’s a third girl interested in Raku, with a fourth on the way, if the promo art is to be believed. Meanwhile Raku and Chitoge are growing closer together and coming to understand and respect one another, even if they still tend to put on antagonistic airs around each other. They’ve gotten better at pretending to be a couple, too. While the mistaken gender issue was kind of silly, we actually liked Tsugumi Seishirou’s introduction, and she’s a fun and vibrant character thanks to Komatsu Mikako. Of course, her intro means less time for Onodera, but it’s not like she was doing much with the extra time she had, anyway.

Cumulative Rating: 7.429 (7 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.02

6. (tie) Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta

We have now seen two distinct Pilot’s Love Songs: the one Before they reached the Holy Spring, and the one After, when our plucky trainees get their first taste of combat. It’s a stark transition from everyone having fun running a cafe in the dorms to seasoned enemy fighters plucking their bumbling trainee planes out of the sky one by one. Some of the youngin’s buckle under the pressure, others, notably Mitsuo, Ariel, and Kal, rise to the occasion, but the fact remains a ton of damage is done to Isla and many lives are lost. It’s all very intense and harrowing, and the show doesn’t blink or sugar-coat.

Cumulative Rating: 7.5 (8 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.37

6. (tie) Noragami

The show has become less about whether or when Yato will ascend to his rightful place in the pantheon of…well, gods, and more about whether he (and by extension, Hiyori) will even be able to survive with the increasingly troubled Yukine as his shinki. Hiyori once aimed to shelter Yukine from Yato’s negative influence and dehumanizing nature (which to be fair is kinda apropos, as Yukine is no longer human), but now she’s realizing it’s Yukine who’s hurting Yato. Thus the show continues to balance serious dramatic issues with the lighter comedic elements, while expanding our understanding of its engrossing mythos.

Cumulative Rating: 7.5 (8 of 12 episodes + 1 of 2 OVAs watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.15

5. Sekai Seifuku – Bouryaku no Zvezda

It’s always a pleasure every week checking in with our favorite gloriously whimsical secret society of bad guys, and the last month of episodes has done nothing to reduce its charm factor. Asuta is becoming gradually weaned off of “normalcy”, or rather Zvezda and its feud with White Light are becoming his new normal. But the thing he seems to have run away from in the first place—namely his dad—and the political power he wields looms large as Zvezda’s next foe, which may prove less conquerable than the jungle gym.

Cumulative Rating: 7.714 (7 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.29

4. Golden Time

(second cour, episodes 13-24)

While we’re eager to see how Golden Time manages to clean up the terrific mess it’s made of Banri’s brain (if it even plans to do so), we’re a bit sad that the show will be over in just four short weeks. It’s been a long and at times very emotional ride full of cruel twists of fate and luck, but not without its moments of joy and levity. Ironically, Banri is perhaps the least compelling major character on the show, considering if you strip away is unique circumstances there’s not much of a personality there. But there’s so much win around him it’s hardly mattered.

Cumulative Rating: 8.143 (8 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.92

3. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

There are plenty of great shows that have never had sequels and may well be the better for it; but there was a lot more story to tell on multiple fronts, and Chuunibyou 2 is proving that those stories are worth telling and worth watching. The show has settled into a nice groove, switching between episodes that inch Yuuta and Rikka closer together, followed by episodes that focus on the other members of the club.

Cumulative Rating: 8.250 (8 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.05

2. Space Dandy

Chuunibyou is pretty damn good, but Space Dandy has been a little better, making it the undisputed king of the Winter two-thirds into the season. It’s done it by telling a totally different story week to week, jumping from one genre to the next, but exceling with its take on all of them. Our favorite so far was the story with Adelie, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Dandy pulls something even better out of its hat later on. All we ask is that it keep things relatively episodic; we’re enjoying the unpredictability the weekly reset button.

Cumulative Rating: 8.625 (8 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.6

1. (tie) Kill la Kill

(second cour, episodes 13-25)

Dandy is king of the Winter, but Kill la Kill has, in our humble opinion, already cemented its place among the best four or five anime of this decade (sure, it’s only been four-plus years, but still). Honestly, if we didn’t have a constant stream of new shows to watch every season, we’d sit down and watch it all over again almost as soon as it ends. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: there’s still six episodes left to watch, and a world to be saved from alien clothing.

Cumulative Rating: 9.143 (7 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.11

Golden Time – 20

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A lot of shows can feel drawn out when they try to take things slowly, but Golden Time can be deft at at delaying gratification and generating interest in unresolved matters. By the end of this episode, Banri is really no closer to giving the ring to Koko, Mitsuo is no closer to reconnecting with Linda, and Oka is no closer to acknowledging Banri’s existence after catching him “having a frank conversation” with Linda.

And let’s not forget the overarching unresolved issue: the fact there’s still another Banri rattling around in his head, making it physiologically impossible to move on, as his heard has resolved to do (and had been, to a degree, succeeding.) We’ll confess to Banri’s ring-holding growing more and more excruciating; internally we were yelling “GIVE HER THE RING. GIVE HER THE DAMN RING NOW, PRECIOUS!!!” at the TV at one point. But it just doesn’t happen.

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There’s a reason we’re so apprehensive. We’re hoping that whatever’s going on in his head could be somehow resolved if he garners the will to present that ring to Koko—knowing Koko could very well interpret it as a proposal. It’s a powerful symbol burning a hole in his pocket. There are no guarantees the ring will do anything of the sort, but the way he and Koko talk, there would be worse things than them tying the knot and sharing the rest of their lives together.

But while his big memory problem is left unresolved (and his identity left in a very precarious position after his “relapse” in the middle of the parade), along with all the other things listed above, the episode is still an odd joy to watch. Banri’s journey to find someone to talk about it takes the weirdest turn when Sho and SHi of the Tea Club, of all people, are the first to learn of the ring, and fill his head with a dizzying cocktail of wisdom and conjecture. The duo is brimming with zany, aggressive energy; they’re an underutilized gem on Golden Time’s deep bench.

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It’s as fun as it is frustrating watching Mitsuo struggling so mightily with Linda, and the show isn’t messing around with the obstacles in his path, as he isn’t even able to utter a word to her for the entire episode. It’s also sad when Oka utterly ignores Banri. We love how she often subverts her usual chibi aura with striking displays of seriousness. Like Mitsuo, Nana, the Tea Chicks, or even 2D-kun, Oka feels like she carry her own show.

And that’s why we thoroughly enjoyed this episode even though it tortured us with the ring and didn’t resolve any of the characters’ many problems: the more time we spend with the supporting cast, the more we want to learn about them, and the more time we want to spend watching them interact and do ordinary, non-supernatural stuff. Golden Time could presumably keep this up for some time, but with only four episodes left (that we know of), we still the show resolves a few things before the end, preferably without leaving us trembling despondently in some dark corner, as poor Banri was.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – 08

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Sometimes the friendships that are the most fun to watch are the ones whose participants never overtly acknowledge they’re friends at all, and go about trying to prove they don’t like each other at all when in reality they’d be sad without one another. The unspoken friendship in Chuunibyou is obviously that of Shinka and Sanae, bourne out of the latter’s reverence for the former, but made bitter and rancorous by the former’s efforts to erase that embarrassing part of her life and move on as a normal mortal.

Her normal, flawless, overachieving high school life aside, Sanae is still tightly in the grips of Chuunibyou, and has always fostered disappointment at Shinka’s retreat from that world. She labels her as a fake, because the real Mori Summer wouldn’t be ashamed of who she is and hide that identity from everyone else. So when an impostor claiming to be the Real Mori Summer approaches Sanae, she readily embraces her. Where the episode is ultimately ambiguous is whether did Sanae do this only to make Shinka jealous.

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Whatever Sanae’s motives, the Fake Real Summer (voiced by Koshimizu Ami, no stranger to fantasy roles) makes it abundantly clear to both us and the gang: she wants Sanae. Assuming Sanae is just trying to make Shinka mad and compel her to some kind of action beyond ignoring her, she eventually learns she’s in over her head, and even if the impostor wasn’t creepy and predatory, to be blunt, Sanae doesn’t swing that way. Then Shinka comes to the rescue, as Sanae had probably hoped for. The resulting Chuunibyou battle between Shinka and the impostor is a nice piece of action, with the imposters’ attacks turning darker and more sinister as she gets angrier, overpowering Shinka in imagination and thus strength in such a battle.

Sanae has seen enough of the impostor at this point to know she’s not the real Mori Summer either, and if she has to choose between two fakes, she’s choosing Shinka. The impostor’s powers are no match for the Mjolnir Hammer, but more importantly, her wierd crush on Sanae is no match for the genuinely deep (if unspoken) bond between Sanae and Shinka. We thought we’d be a little annoyed when they went back to their usual bickering and denials of mutual affection, but it was actually oddly comforting to watch, as it was for Yuuta, Rikka, and Kumin.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Nice use of Sophia Ring SP Saturn VII as a combat coach for Shinka; she is pretty rusty, after all.
  • We’d be surprised if the animators had never heard of Inoue Naohisa, because the Mori Summers’ battlefield resembles his work. Incidently, one of his paintings also inspired scenes in Whisper of the Heart.
  • While walking home with Yuuta, Rikka realizes they’re not holding hands, and rights the wrong. Nice!
  • Kumin continues to subject everyone to her incredibly hokey wordplay humor, but she gets a pass after winning a battle that saved the club.

Noragami – OVA 01

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We’re big proponents of the body-swapping episode when done well. In addition to being a refreshing change of pace, it is also an opportunity for the seiyus to show off their talent. Listening to Uchida Maaya successfully imitate the way Kamiya Hiroshi voices Yato is enough to justify watching this OVA (or OAD…whatevs). That’s not the only reason to do so, however. With the immediate crises of the main storyline set aside and the show placed in a sandbox, it decides to have a little fun, which turns out to be infectious.

With the aim of increasing his exposure to humans, creating new delivery god business, and simply staving off boredom and loneliness, Yato decides to impliment a “divine possession” of Hiyori. That would be stressful enough for her on an ordinary day, but he decides to do this on her first day of high school. Even if she’s in class with many familiar faces, she’s brand new to the other three-fourths of the school, so impressions matter.

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Yato’s field day consists of solving a hard math problem (making Hiyori look smart), acting very forthright and brash (confusing those who know her) handing out his number (making Hiyori look a bit loose), singing, dancing, kicking ass in soccer, etc. Kofuku also joins in the mischief, involuntarily causing dozens of accidents and mishaps. Eventually a (weak) phantom shows up causing a voyeuristic student to jump out a window, but Hiyori-Yato catches him heroically.

There’s a great impish energy emanating from Hiyori-Yato, and a gnawing frustration in Hiyori (and Yukine). Calling upon Lord Tenjin and Mayu backfires when the two appear on campus dressed to the nines and become engulfed in bewitched students (though they do eventually put an end to Yato’s fun). When Hiyori returns to school the next day, we appreciate that everyone remembers everything she said and did yesterday. All eyes are upon her, most of them full of admiration and respect. So at the end of the day, Yato did get her high school life off to an auspicious start. All it cost her was a dislocated shoulder!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Witch Craft Works – 08

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Witch Craft Works pulls gracefully out of its nosedive with a solid episode in which we learn about Ayaka’s history and Honoka gets to stand on his own two feet, however briefly. The first part introduced Ayaka’s two middle school handlers, Hoodzuki Kanae (Taichi You) and Hio Touko (Asumi Kana) two decent sorts who, as Honoka will later, are persecuted for their closeness to the Princess. The present Ayaka may be an incredibly stoic individual, but she’s made a lot of progress since middle school, when she wouldn’t react to anyone or anything.

Kanae and Touko do what they can socialize her, and when the delinquents gang up on them, Ayaka raises their body temperatures, neutralizing the threat. We also enjoyed witnessing the genesis of her obsession with Honoka, staking out every middle school in the prefecture until she found him. The entire flashback is played off as Honoka’s dream as Ayaka lies in bed beside him; we return to a Takamiya residence in which Tanpopo and her four fellow Tower Witches are embraced as family. Considering how ineffectual they were at fighting Ayaka, it makes sense to go over to their side, though if they do end up stabbing her in the back, she’ll look as silly as she did standing like a statue on a tennis court as balls whizzed by.

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The present day situation, in which Honoka is student council president, deteriorates rapidly as n’er-do-well Otometachibana Rinon—a handful in name and in person—stages a revolution. Within minutes the school becomes a graffito-strewn den of chaos. But Honoka answers the challenge and faces Rinon one-on-one, successfully dodging her punch precisely when Ayaka tells him. Ayaka, hidden from the assembled students’ view by her cape, mops up. Student support for Honoka skyrockets after his “defeat” of Rinon. Rinon turns out to have been a mere pawn of the former president, who fed her lies to her about being assaulted and tossed aside by Honoka.

It was a plan she actually went over with Ayaka—whom she still adores—beforehand, in another flashback. The non-linear progression of the story, as well as the scale of chaos that went down and was just as quickly snuffed out, all contributed to what was a pleasantly rambunctious offbeat outing. More importantly, it successfully legitimized the notion that Honoka isn’t a useless wuss. After all, it takes strength to accept one’s weakness and dependence on stronger parties, while resisting the urge to wish for more power, which is readily available but will lead to the breaking of more seals.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 08

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As intense and harrowing as the last episode was, it was but the first taste of what was to come this week. We don’t know what’s gotten into this show, but we like it. It brings the hammer down hard on everyone this week, and a ton of characters get knocked off. Last week took a very telegraphed outcome and totally sold it with the execution; this week, the only thing we were relatively sure of is that our main couple would survive; for everyone else—Ariel and Ignacio included—all bets were off.

The sudden assault of Isla by air and land of the mysterious enemy forces with very modern and competitive weaponry causes different reactions in different trainees; some hunker down and rise to the occasion, Mitsuo and Chiharu. Others’ hands shake, or their resolve wavers, and who can blame them? By any measure, they’re not ready for full-on combat against an older, wiser foe. But for the likes of Ari and Kal would rather be unready than dead, and fight their goddamn hearts against dreadful odds.

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There’s only so much they can do in their training aircraft, and one by one they’re picked off, the show totally uninterested in pulling punches. Before we know it, Kal and Ari are the last ones in the air, surrounded by superior force. And then Ari takes a bullet to the shoulder, and all seems lost. In this moment, Kal starts to lose it, pleading for Ari to wake up, but he doesn’t stop piloting the plane, and doing an incredible job of it. Ultimately, he buys just enough time for a blue fighter to turn up and waste the last of the enemy before disappearing into the night. It may have been a bit of deus ex machina, but it’s a welcome ray of hope in a series that has washed much of its hope away, along with its innocence.

There are allies out here, not just foes. The dogfighting throughout is really riveting, occasionally lyrical stuff (setting aside the fact the enemies don’t have the best aim). Clearly the show had been holding back with its budget for these past two episodes. But most satisfying is that when the spotlight turned back onto Kal, Ari, Claire and Ignacio, they didn’t disappoint in their scenes. Kal and Ari’s sibling interactions during and after the battle were a highlight. Barely surviving a hellish battle in which many of their friends died tends to bring people closer together.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Nobunaga the Fool – 07

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The twin shocks of the serious wounding of Himiko (who seems to be alive for the time being, if barely) and the news that Nobukatsu has been killed shake Nobu out of his pity party. Now, whether his advisors like it or not, he’s their last hope at surviving the coming onslaught against Takeda. However, Nobu doesn’t immediately lash out in rage. After hearing his counselors debate the next step, he makes the decision to meet with Shingen and ask him face to face if he sent the assassins.

All the while, Mitsu sits there, concealing the knowledge that it was he who killed Nobukatsu, clearing the way for Nobu to take unchallenged leadership of the clan. The episode begins with Mitsu remembering the day his father committed seppuku, and it’s possible that Mitsu will one day have to do the same, but as long as his life serves Nobunaga, he doesn’t really matter how it ends. Jeanne, meanwhile, has decided to stay by Nobu’s side for the time being, accompanying him to Takeda’s main camp.

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The bawdy encounter between Nobu Lord Shingen is a pleasure to watch, with Nobu satisfied Shingen is telling the truth that he did not send assassins, and Shingen impressed at Nobu’s cajones for even showing up. To Jeanne’s dismay, however, their cordial talk turns into a duel, not because of any slight enacted upon the other, but for the simple fact that neither can sully their reputation by avoiding a fight with the other. They want to fight each other, as do Shingen’s men. A fight is what they get, and a glorious one, at that.

It’s hella fun to watch these two dyed-in-the-wool warriors whaling on each other in their regalia-infused war armors, reveling in every moment of it. It is here where Shingen is revealed as an honorable foe, one who will abide by the laws of the duel, keep his men on the sidelines, fight Nobu one-on-one, and admit defeat and the loss of his two regalia (fire and wind) when Nobu bests him. Caesar proves far less principled, stabbing his business partner Shingen in the back and snatching the wind regalia, and then framing Nobu for the act, enraging Takeda’s army. Nobu still comes away with the fire regalia, but a Roman thorn remains in his side.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Noragami – 08

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Last week Hiyori and Yato decided not to give up onf Yukine, but if they’re to survive, Yukine has to not give up on himself. That becomes increasingly difficult when Yato’s next request for help comes from Hiyori’s underclassman, a mercilessly-bullied kid named Manabu. Manabu’s whimpering disgusts Yukine, and when Yato calls him out for harboring similar feelings, he wanders off on his own.

The “Bullied Kid” mission may be relatively routine for Yato, but after we’ve seen a case of someone crossing over to the dark side (i.e. that lost little girl), the possibility Manabu could meet the same fate remains throughout the ordeal. The danger is only compounded by Yukine growing more resentful and alone as he observes the living students. Throughout all this Yato is looking far more sluggish to Hiyori; to the point her playful beatings actually end up hurting him.

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Yato decides to place Manabu’s fate in his own hands in the form of two utility knives: one for him, and one for the bully he confronts. A phantom grows behind Manabu’s shoulder, egging him on with a creepy chorus of voices that he himself joins. But while he scares the bully into wetting himself, he remembers Yato’s words to him: crossing the line means abandoning humanity.

Through his unpleasant school experience Manabu’s cultivated the wrongheaded belief thinking he has no place in the world; but if he used the knife, he really wouldn’t. And while Yukine’s angsty antics (angstics?) are starting to wear thin, there’s still ample motive for them continuing and escalating: unlike Manabu, Yukine has no place in that school.

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The frustration that comes from realizing that truth leads him to smash the school’s windows with a bat. That’s the bat that breaks Yato’s back, as he can no longer hide the blight that covers most of his body. Hiyori is shocked by its progress, but snaps to and heads for Kofuku as instructed by Yato if things turned bad. You can see and hear her bitter disappointment in Yukine, after everything she’s done for him.

Only things are worse than she can imagine, because when they arrive, dripping with blight, Daikoku throws up a borderline. It may only be a quarantine precaution, but it was still surprising, and a gut punch for Hiyori. Earlier Kofuku momentarily switched into badass mode when she told Bishamon there’d be hell to pay if she harmed Yato. But so far Yukine’s doing Bishamon’s work for her.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Space Dandy – 08

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This week Space Dandy plays the Dying Dog Card. The DDC is a surefire way to switch on the waterworks for a good portion of the audience, provided it’s done right. The Aloha Oe lands on Machinia, a planet made of junk, quite possibly from all of the space missions in the galactic vicinity. There, as QT geeks out and collects parts and Meow samples the local cuisine, Dandy discovers a dog and coaxes her to his side. Unlike say, Guts from Kill la Kill, a pug highly stylized in design, this P.U.P. is realistically rendered, making her optimal for emotional connection.

And unlike Guts, she’s not invincible. In fact, she’s dying. She tells them this only after Dandy makes her the fourth member of his crew and plays with her all day. Dandy’s translation band even translates her barking into the voice of a frail woman who is glad she got to play one last time. Before Dandy built a rocket memorial for her, we knew the dog was probably Laika, and the narrator—even he gets teary-eyed—confirms the possibility, in a nice nod to real-life space history. It’s also comforting to think Laika may have somehow survived and lived long enough for another human to find her and tell her the humans didn’t shoot her into space because they hated her, but to advance their understanding of the universe. She was a good dog.

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Rather than switch gears entirely, the episode then deals with the consequences of contact with a dog who’s been hanging around on a dumpster planet for God knows how long: namely, fleas. The way they’re gradually revealed is very slick. When we first see the brothers, we actually had no idea the golden fields in which they were lying was in fact the dog’s coat. We should have picked up on it when they started bouncing around like, well, giant green fleas.

After dealing so many normal-sized or huge aliens, a microscopic one is a refreshing change, and they’re able to wreak plenty of havoc despite their size. In the end, though, the Aloha Oe escapes via warp from the black hole created when Machinia imploded, just as Dr. Gel and Bea warp in. Victims of horrible timing, they’re sucked in, perpetuating the trend of Gel and Dandy being two ships passing in the cosmic night.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 07

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Going into the treasure hunt, we predicted Renge would be forced to choose a side, as her new friends Kate and Roboko were being targeted by her superior White Egret, disguised as Madame M. The hunt is just a means to and end: exposing and capturing Zvezda members, but Kate and Natasha take over and make it a real thing. This could mean that part of Kate’s power is making her own whims, wishes, and beliefs come true through manipulation of time and space, a talent akin to Suzumiya Haruhi’s.

While Renge is a member of White Light to better herself and fight evil, Mikisugi seems to take pleasure in looking down on people; she teases Kate and arrogantly tries to shoo off Renge by phone, only to be talked down to herself by her superiors. A box of men is released on the school when Kate activates a trans-dimensional portal in the pool, and White Light’s operation is cancelled. And even though Asuta often questions the validity of his fellow Zvezdans’ wild theories about history and mythology (the voice of reason keeping the show honest), even he can’t deny the fantastic stuff that goes on this week.

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Kate drags him into that dimension, then wanders off, and next time he sees her, she’s a towering shadow monster demanding he let her conquer him. He chases her back into the regular world, where he happens to have his Dva mask on when he bumps into Renge. Kate unleashes a massive attack that appears to disperse all parties involved, but the flurry of dark seals stops before it reaches Asuta and Renge. Everything returns to normal abnormalcy, and the item conquered this week by Zvezda could be Asuta’s skepticism.

It could also mark the conquest of the last remnants uneasiness with his new life with Zvezda. The school, his last sanctuary of normalcy, was invaded by Zvezda, White Light, and the Tokyo Special Forces, but he’s not that upset about it. What makes him upset is the final twist we never saw coming: those Special Forces are under the direct command of Tokyo’s governor, who just happens to be Asuta’s estranged father. That means he knows about UDO and Zvezda; it could also mean he knows where his son is and what his son is up to. That is, if people in this show weren’t so easily fooled by masks.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Gorou can do Morse Code by foot…but not well.
  • Asuta really doesn’t want to do the “Treasure Dance”, but Renge, Natasha and Roboko goad him into it with incessant chanting. Renge smiling when she knew she’d won was a nice little detail.
  • Kate doesn’t remember anything about the evening after she and Asuta jumped into the pool, which means Asuta was the only person who remembers that bizarre stone version of the school sitting in the desert.