Akuma no Riddle – 09

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Isuke may have played Tokaku for the sweetfish last week, but unlike that relative of the smelts, Tokaku probably won’t be fooled like that again. But the fact remains, Isuke is pressing her attack, and Tokaku is not only wounded and separated from Haru, but a hazy memory of another storm continues to keep her from plunging her knife into Isuke during this current one.

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In order to finally rid herself of that “curse”, she has to arrive right at death’s door, where Isuke deposits her by tossing her out a glass skyway. The hazy memory finally comes into focus. Her inability to kill wasn’t a curse; it was a wish, both from her mother and her mother’s twin sister, Mako, meant to protect her.

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The sisters, you see, didn’t want Tokaku to have anything to do with the Azuma family business, which is, you might have guessed, assassination of the finest quality. None of this would be an issue if they were famous bakers. Actually, I might watch a show about a class of people trying to out-bake each other. As long as they know what they’re doing.

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But I digress: Tokaku’s grandmother had big plans for her, and they involved systematically molding her into a soulless killing machine whose name would make the entire world cower in fear. Granny was a monster, and she wanted to make Tokaku a monster too. As Tokaku’s decision to protect Haru proves, she failed. You lose, evil granny!

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Akuma’s murder-blocking memory is of Mako bringing her to a shrine, where she tells her to always remember if she should want to kill something; to remember that her mom will always be watching her, protecting her from squandering her soul on murder. But now Tokaku has found someone to protect. And sometimes protecting means being prepared to kill.

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Meanwhile, many a door was bashed to bits this episode, not from the typhoon, but from Shinya, who single-handedly decimates the school’s door budget for many years to come. But Haru refuses to be taken out so easily. Her scars are proof she’s a survivor, and that’s what she does, even when she’s afraid Tokaku is dead.

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It’s also pretty clever how Isuke uses Shinya’s deep-rooted trauma of bright lights (having been locked in a cellar as a child and photographed by evil men) to shut her down when she no longer needs her. Now even Isuke is out, leaving only the prim Sumireko and Nio, whose body is covered in terrifyingly awesome tattoos. We’ve seen some bad-ass assassins, but Akuma may have saved the best for last.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 08

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The Gauna may be frightening and powerful and immensely creepy, but they’re still life forms, which has us wondering what their beef with humanity is. Do they act out of pure instinct, or reason? When they make a placenta clone of Shizuka who giggles and reports each time she takes out a Gardes frame, are they fucking with them, or is the perceived sadism mere coincidence?

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I could fill a review with what I don’t know about the Gauna, and another with questions, but you know what? I kinda like not knowing. The Cylons in the re-booted Battlestar Galactica were a classic example of the age-old problem with learning way too much about the “Bad Guys”: they get less scary. Right now, the Gauna still frighten me, and that’s the way it should be in a show where two of them are enough to cripple Sidonia if they find their way inside.

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On the other hand, the more I learn about the “Good Guys”, the more I can connect and care about them surviving. We learn a great deal more about Sidonia’s history through flashbacks. The first half of the episode reinforces why we should fear the Gauna; the second half shows us the people who shaped the present Nagate and Izana inhabit.

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Some of those shapers are still around, like Kobayashi, Lala, and Izana’s “grandmother” Yure; others, like Nagate’s “grandfather”, Saitou Hiroki, aren’t. The four were among less than 450 colonists to survive the Gauna slaughter a century ago. They all danced on the razor’s edge of oblivion that day; to avoid falling off, they had to turn to creative genetics.

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Immortals were forbidden from procreating, but when an aged Hiroki, who had been Sidonia’s ace, returned after being lost for eighty years, Kobayashi broke the rules, collaborating with Yure to clone him. After a kick-ass sword fight with bows and arrows (!), Saitou fled to the bowels of Sidonia, where he raised and trained Nagate—immortal from birth—all by himself.

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And that’s pretty much where we stand today: Nagate is a threat to the old guard, tolerated only because of Kobayashi’s influence and because she repeatedly sends him out on ridiculously dangerous sorties. But he’s also the hope of humanity, someone you imagine will blow by Kunato (who didn’t look so good this week) to become Sidonia’s new ace.

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He didn’t get to face off against “Hawk Moth” (what they’re calling the Gauna-Shizuka), this week, and he doesn’t seem quite ready to do so, but I feel like that battle is coming sooner or later. In the meantime, Sidonia’s eggheads have a creepy placenta clone of his would-be girlfriend. Is she a Gauna instrument of communication? An insidious weapon? A biological by-product? As I said: I hope we don’t learn too much.

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Weekly ED: No Game No Life (No Sora)

I always thought NGNL’s ending to be pleasantly catchy and uplifting, but a bit syrupy sweet. To suddenly yank Sora out of it, leaving Shiro alone, futz with the audio, and dull the colors…that was an awesome subversion of expectations. This clip I just found nicely compares the two versions.

I’m most reminded of two other excellent “remixes” of OPs: Umi Monogatari’s “Dark OP”, one of the saddest and most beautiful OPs ever, IMO (especially in context with the normal one), and Angel Beats! “Rock” OP sung by Yui (LiSA).

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 08

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Last week was all about Juugo making amends, but this week is all about expanding and elaborating upon his present milieu, and articulating the fact that many conflicts old and new stand between him and his personal mission to save Nanana-chan, including uncertainty over what saving her even entails. We also get more pieces of the histories of both the club and Room 202.

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There’s sundry doin’s a-transpirin’: Tensai receives ¥3000 from a freshman and storms right out of the damn episode in an uncharacteristic snit. Tetsu and the pint-sized Yoshino-Saki, AKA Yun-chan, AKA Kate Hoshimiya’s cousin, enroll at Juugo’s school. Isshin admits to Yuu and Kagetora that he’s threatened by the brilliance of the new members, which he feels far outstrips his own.

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Most importantly, there’s a stern new face in town to look down on him: Ikusaba Hiiyo, who looks to figure prominently in the three episodes to come (or more if this goes another cour, which I wouldn’t necessarily mind). He’s a tough-looking sonofabitch who professes to be allergic to compromise, an allergy he believes gives him the ultimate edge in getting what he wants in life, including Nanana’s collection.

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Hiiyo also happened to be the former tenant of Room 202 prior to Juugo, and I kinda doubt he ever bought her pudding or played video games with her. Their relationship is summed up pretty succinctly when he pops by to have her appraise one of her treasures he found, then cuts her off and calls it worthless. One kindly ghost’s treasure is a cold-hearted bastard’s trash.

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Shiki chases him off with her boss beer muscles, but I doubt he’s going away any time soon. He wears a big black duster and boots, talks with a gruff aloofness, has unkempt hair, and enjoys watching CGI horsie races. He’s got Archvillain written all over him, and I don’t think he’s interested in making Juugo’s—or anyone’s—job any easier.

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