Nobunaga the Fool – 08

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This week Jeanne/Ranmaru draws “Ace of Wands” signifying the start of a “great journey of dreams and ideals” on which the wand serves both as a weapon, a guide, and a beacon. After seeing a vision of what might come to pass (Nobunaga getting skewered dead by Caesar), drawing this card places the ball squarely in Ranmaru’s hands, and she’s forced to act to change Nobu’s fate. She does so, and Nobu becomes the wand in the card, serving those three purposes. But ultimately it only happens because, Ranmaru steps off of the sideline and does something, for which we’re relieved and intrigued.

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This episode is also all about the regalia. We also knew they were important in the grand scheme of things, but da Vinci further underlines their value: whomever controls and masters them, controls the world. Since that’s Nobu’s goal in a nutshell, his next move after defeating Shingen is clear as crystal: get back the wind regalia Caesar stole. His advisers look ready to bristle at his call to table the investigation of Nobukatsu’s murder, but Himiko makes a surprise appearance—frail but alive and kicking—to support her husband’s call to look outward and move forward. This inspires Ranmaru to a degree, and she’s inspired further when she sees Ichihime’s inner strength, her unswerving faith in her brother, and her plea for Ranmaru to also have faith.

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It’s a good time to be behind Nobunaga, who has changed after fighting and defeating an honorable and worthy adversary in Lord Shingen, but also after almost losing Himiko. He is quicker to acknowledge not only her existence, but her contribution to his rise as his partner. It’s not lovey-dovey as Himiko would probably like, but it’s a start. He is also far more receptive to alternative opinions on how they should go about defeating Caesar. He’s a crafty Western bastard after all; even Nobu admits force won’t be enough. Nobunaga plenty strong on his own, but taking full advantage of the efforts of everyone around him—Himiko, Mitsuhide, da Vinci, Monkey, and Ranmaru—he augments his strength exponentially, and with it his odds of victory.

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Caesar still bears the look and aura of a formidable warrior and legitimate challenge to Nobu, but only for a time. He starts to look considerably less invincible when he learns that wwah-wwah, he can’t actually use the wind regalia he stole; it was entrusted by its former master to Nobu, and only Nobu will it answer. Caesar doesn’t expect that setback, nor does he prepare for the possibility Nobu will employ Western-style trickery in the battle. But his most egregious oversight was Ranmaru (though who can blame him considering how little she’s done in the last few episodes). She jumps into the middle of battle just as her vision is about to come true, and changes the future by activating the regalia of purity she’s been wearing all along but only recently realized its import. She’s decided henceforth to put her life on the line to support him.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 09

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This week Pilot’s Love Song delivers an aftermath episode that’s almost as good as the devastating battle that preceded it. After the memorial services for the dead, the rebuilding of Centezual commences and Isla’s course towards the End of the Sky continues, with the consensus of the higher-ups being that they should explore an alliance with the Holy Levamme Empire. Still, the Sky Clan continues its bombing raids and the people of Isla are on edge.

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We also see that the battle has had a very understandable demoralizing effect on all of the pilots (we can’t really call them “trainees” anymore). Chiharu is inconsolable, and many a pilot’s eye is red from lengthy tears. While lying in bed Kal experiences flashbacks of the carnage; while he may have performed his duty admirably, it still clearly traumatized him, as it does everyone. Being together, helping the townsfolk, and sharing meals can mitigate that pain.

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But what can also calm Kal’s troubled heart is finding the one he loves is alive and unharmed. Again, fate seems to bring the two together at the cemetery late at night, even as Claire is resolved to disappear from Kal’s life and the life of all the other pilots. Kal’s confession of love and their first kiss is a fleeting comfort, isn’t enough to convince her that she’s misguided in her actions, and she takes this, which she perceives as the last time she’ll be alone with Kal, to finally confirm he’s La Hire and tell him the truth, something we weren’t expecting to happen in an aftermath episode. Kal reacts predictably but understandably, with an overwhelming combination of confusion, shock, and rage.

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He’s hated Nina Viento for a long time, after all; though he loves Claire, he can’t just shrug it off. In fact, he can’t do much of anything afterwards, but lock himself in his dorm and lie sulking in his rack. No one, not even Ariel, can shake him from this state (not even when she tries to talks sense into him, then tells him she has to quit piloting due to her injury). In fact, this was the first time we liked Ignacio more than Kal in an episode, as he not only lets Ariel speak to Nina (who Ariel figures out is Claire immediately) and also by crashing Kal’s pathetic pity party and tossing him in the lake. You go, Nacho.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Samurai Flamenco – 18

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Well now, that was pretty damn weird. Dealing with the fairly lame Alien Flamenco, thought to be the next great menace to world peace, was only a one-episode exercise, in which Samurai Flamenco attains new heights of ridiculousness. It aims to fit all of the random stuff that has happened to Masayoshi and Co. up to now into one grand unifying theory of bullshit, and it doesn’t quite pull it off.

In its haste to explain the connections between all of Flamenco’s increasingly strange battles, it inflates Masayoshi to an undesirable god-like status, or at least to the level of a messiah-like instrument of God. Saying the “will of the universe” sent enemy after enemy to Masayoshi because he wished for them is tidy and all, but ultimately not very satisfying. It was all a bit silly, frankly.

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While it tries to come off as a “Ha-ha, we’re in on the joke” silly, we got more of a “Meh, we’ll just make it up as we go along” vibe, which can be fine, but it’s harder than it looks. Even if this was all planned from the start, the answers we get this week just weren’t worth all of the whiplash of the past escalations. It’s a nonchalant, overly-meta resolution that does a disservice to the other characters who sweated and bled and cried and struggled by his side all this time. Like the big From Beyond battle, this just wasn’t as clever or ironic as it thought it was.

Take away the window-dressing of the “illusions” and the brief and fairly plain space battle, and this was nothing but Masayoshi standing around talking with a robot who’d finish sentences in English for no reason, followed by somebody who may as well be God, taking the form of Masayoshi’s friends and enemies. But hey, at least he makes what we thought was the right decision: to stop the flow of goofy villains and return to normal life on Earth.


Rating: 5 (Average)