End-of-Month Rundown – June 2014

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Sidonia no Kishi

Pros: Starkly striking, often lyrical visuals; sweats the hard sci-fi details; well-rendered mortal peril; the best Spring OP and ED
Cons: CG characters take getting used to; male lead is a bit of a doofus and a romantic dilettante

One Week Friends

Pros: Gorgeous pastel-y art style; nice A-couple chemistry throughout; a B-couple that’s even better in some ways
Cons: The memory reset lends itself a certain degree of repetition; girls are perhaps portrayed as too fragile

No Game No Life

Pros: Bright, vivid, gaudy world; fast-paced, manic comedy that often pops; satisfyingly complex games and strategies
Cons: Shiro can get a bit too insufferably loli; only occasionally successful/necessary ecchi elements; some logical issues with the games

Hitsugi no Chaika

Pros: Excellent world-building; a great sense of adventure; numerous similarities to a Final Fantasy storyline, only without the bad English dubbing; competent combat scenes
Cons: Akari’s aggressive brother complex distracting at times; the whole Gillette Corps side story felt like a time-sapping distraction; occasional lazy animating

Black Bullet

Pros: Characters with simple profiles but strong bonds that are easy to empathize with; several nice instances of enemies becoming friends; solid character design; nice soundtrack
Cons: Some dubious Gastrea-fighting tactics; the many-sided competition for Rentaro’s heart wasn’t all that interesting

Akuma no Riddle

Pros: Successful formula of giving each assassin her own backstory each week gave later, more serialized episodes more heft; diverse array of assassin types and motivations; sharp character design
Cons: One of the duller characters happens to be the lead; half-realized yuri elements; overly tidy ending with minimal consequences

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin

Pros: Bright-eyed, bull-headed protagonist who’s more than he initially seems; entertaining games; cute romance between Juugo and Tensai
Cons: Thick, cloudy backstory; dull main antagonist shows up late; Hoshino Daruku

Mekakucity Actors

Pros: Nice looking settings; colorful characters with neat powers; non-linear storytelling; nice isolated character beats
Cons: Uninspiring serpent foe; underutilized storytelling potential; rushed ending

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei

Pros: Stoic, confident, yet imperfect lead with lots of secrets; well thought-out, detailed, original magical milieu; well-executed action; Iwasaki Taku score; cool wardrobe design
Cons: Occasionally overly talky, boring outings; moderate to severe character bloat; underdeveloped world outside of the school

Gokukoku no Brynhildr

Pros: Well-rendered atmosphere of fear and peril; appropriately disturbing blood and gore; everything about Kazumi Schlierenzauer; often effective comedic moments
Cons: Milquetoast Ryouta+Neko romance; turn-your-brain-off practical issues and plot conveniences; early over-reliance on arbitrary fanservice; excessive censoring

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 13 (Fin)

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“Sometimes we fail to operate logically, and act on emotions. That’s why I despise humans.” – Ichijiku Chisato, Human

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Chisato tried oh so very hard to operate logically his entire life, and if Mako could kill Ryouta and Neko all he had to do was recreate a Kotori-like vessel to restore his sister’s soul. But who is he kidding? Saving Rena was always an emotional crusade. I did not expect him to be a human shield for Mako when Hexenjagd made their appearence, but then again, neither did he. Ultimately, he was the very model of human he most despised: the kind who sacrificed his life for another; who couldn’t stand by and watch a defenseless Mako get gunned down.

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His was one of many sacrifices made in the final episode of Bryhildr, in which bodies go down left and right in melty or bloody messes. First Neko and Kazumi knock Ryouta out and proceed to Chisato’s lair on their own. Then Kotori ends the extra terrestrial phenomenon taking place on her back by ejecting herself, quite possibly saving the world from resetting (while that might have been an interesting possibility, there was no time to explore it). In the process, Chisato’s sister Rena actually awakens, only to die again when Kotori melts.

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For a finale where serious shit needs to get down, the show didn’t forget its characters and why they do what they do. Realizing that in her present state of being cleaved in two by Mako, Kazumi can’t do anything other than tell Ryouta to press on in saving Neko. While the shot of Hatsuna healing up last week precluded any possibility of Kazumi dying, I was still moved by her “last moments”, in which she laments not having Ryouta’s babies and not losing her virginity before dying, but takes solace in the fact she at least fell in love.

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Did Mako’s death rays take way too long to kill Ryouta and a surprisingly ambulatory Kana? Sure! But pacing aside, but I did like the fact Kana showed up, having given up the forcast ability she used to protect Neko when it came time to protect her with her physical body. Ultimately, none of this moved Mako into surrendering, and she just goes into a self-destructive fit of rage, summoning antimatter that Neko has to neutralize using her hidden powers. For one glorious minute Kuroneko was back, but after kissing Ryouta and telling him he’ll always love her, it’s back to business. She takes out Mako, but there’s a cost: her memories are reset once more.

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But hey, she’s alive, as is Kana and Kazumi and Hatsuna, and Kogoro managed to make a breakthrough with the pills, so all’s pretty well that ends pretty well. With Kuroneko’s memory and Kotori being the only sacrifices that stick, I’d say Ryouta & Co. came out on top in the end. Kogoro’s interest in the drasils gave us pause, but that wasn’t a sure sign he’d pick up where Chisato left off, throwing the world into chaos again. Maybe he’ll operate logically and leave well enough alone, letting his nephew and his harem/family live in peace.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 13

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Whether it’s Shizuku in speed shooting, Honoka in Battle Board, or his own sister in Ice Pillars, this week even the First High rookie ladies dominate their NSC events, thanks to Tatsuya’s engineering prowess and personal attention. That, in turn attracts both envy and derision from the struggling guys, and the attention of his rival-in-waiting, Ichijou Masaki.

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As one girl remarks at a banquet, giving your CAD over to an engineer for close inspection and calibration is akin to bearing your innermost feelings to that person. In that regard, Tatsuya is quickly developing into the school ladykiller, having already “won the hearts (i.e. CADs)” of so many. At that banquet, for instance, he is literally surrounded by girls.

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But Tatsuya isn’t one of those happy-go-lucky school anime leads who has a mission to collect as many lambs as possible for his flock. He has other reasons. He was called upon to do a job, and he’s going to do it to the absolute maximum level. And we still have yet to see the Shiba Tatsuya whose time his sister promises “will come without fail,” pledging herself to him in the coming fight against the Yotsuba clan. All of this is a means of honing his magical skills in preparation for that fight.

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One could say he’s using the girls as test subjects for his new magic methods.. That sounds…a bit underhanded, but the girls obviously don’t care. It’s an equitable deal: they get to win due to their full potential being optimally exploited, while Tatsuya gains valuable data and gets to watch his magic being used the way it’s meant to be, something he couldn’t pull off himself. The ladies’ success also motivates Hanzou Morisaki, who still wants to prove blooms are superior to weeds; a seemingly outdated position to be dusting off at this juncture…until you realize the girls Tatsuya is helping are all blooms.

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Still, none of this is really news; it was already established in the last couple episodes. Rather than make a big bang at the midpoint of the series, Mahouka chose to keep things in cruise mode, reinforcing Tatsuya’s impact and letting First High bask in the gleam of victory a little longer before their enemies come down on them, whether its the bookies who need First High to lose to save their own skins, or the ever-ominous Masaki.

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First Cour Average Score: 7.00
First Cour MAL Score: 7.75

Mekakucity Actors – 12 (Fin)

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While I recognize the wide appeal of the music of this show, I found the meandering, anecdotal lyrics to be tiresome and less deep and clever than they thought they were. That, along with a stubborn reluctance to ever let its audience in on its secrets, contributed to the less-than-glamorous scores I’ve been giving the episodes, and why Mekakucity Actors closes with an uneven finale that had me wishing for more.

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I found myself far more engaged with various character portraits than with the over-arching plot centered around Marry, the granddaughter of the “Monster” whose exploits were narrated in the show’s omake sections. That plot is resolved this week, as we learn Marry is the one who, wishing to be with her friends, basically created the world where everyone’s living.

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I will say, I enjoyed how the Mekakushi-dan was finally whole this week and operated as a team, but I still felt a bit short-changed. Considering the time spent thus far on their individual stories, their collaboration is all too brief, and there’s no more time to explore the new dynamics, aside from a couple incidental quips.

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This could be a factor of my watching too much varied anime at once, but I must admit I was a bit confused why not only Ene was in a human body again (I recalled last seeing that body in a liquid-filled tube, but what happened in between?), but also Shintaro just showing up with Ayano. And what exactly happened with Hiyori? I’m not trying to blame the show for my lack of comprehension regarding certain matters, but it really felt like certain things were omitted simply due to lack of time.

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Granted, the animation it pretty good as the snake takes oveer Konoha’s body and becomes “dark Konoha”, and Marry’s transformation and the big moment when she decides not to reset everything back to happier days like the snake wanted, but cancelling her wish, which causes the snake’s existence to cease. But in this case, pretty good animation wasn’t enough to carry it.

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I only ever saw disjointed flashes of excellence in this show, and it doesn’t help that there already has been a Shinbou-directed Shaft series where a cute red-eyed half-medusa girl voiced by Hanazawa Kana is the key to everything. The show did technically wrap up the main plot, but it felt quite rushed and I found much of the shows’ potential to have been kept bottled up. As such, Actors goes into the “Just Okay” pile of Shaft/Shinbou efforts.

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Final Cumulative Score: 7.33
MAL Score: 7.75

Sidonia no Kishi – 12 (Fin)

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This was a fitting and thrilling end to the most thrilling series of the Spring, and certainly the finest show I’ve seen so far this year. Summer 2014 has some big shoes to fill. We’re also glad to report Sidonia isn’t over, but will return in October; no show this season is more deserving of a second season. But before that, there was work to be done to ensure everyone would be around for it!

“Flying/battling inside planetary body” scenarios have always been a big draw for me, and I was sure at last week’s end that Nagate would be one to enter the dwarf planet and slay the Master Gauna. Turns out I was wrong; that task fell to the supporting cast led by Samari, Seii, and Tsuruuchi. That’s because I forgot that Benisuzume was still out there, and wasn’t just going to stop after annihilating one platoon.

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Samari & Co. are able to enter the lair of the Master Gauna before the placenta closes because Nagate steps forward to be Beni’s playmate, and they engage in one hell of a duel; the longest and most sustained fights of the show. With his new experimental upgrades, he and Beni are pretty evenly matched, and the two bebop and scat all across the screen in a cosmic lyrical dance.

The show has admittedly not done a great job developing the Honoka twins, or even getting us to tell them apart, but nor has it ever been that concerned with trying; after all, they’re five-year old clones with only the most basic of personalities. But before he goes after Beni, Honoka Ren gives him a bullet she meant to use to exact her revenge, but leaves it to him.

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The way he ultimately uses it (explosively firing his frame’s fist clutching the round right into Beni’s core at point-blank range) is pretty awesome. (When the battle’s over and they’re back home, Ren thanks him, apologizes for her and her sisters’ past hostility, and even flirts with him a little, causing “love-rival” alarms to sound in Izana’s head. Speaking of Izana: despite all her doom and gloom, she not only survives the battle, but saves her love Nagate’s life…before being saved, ironically, by Ren.

With the destruction of the first Death Star as a classic example, there’s nothing like the underdogs finally landing their shots in just the right spot to blow up the previously implacble enemy and watching it all go boom. In Sidonia, there’s also a specific whining groan that accompanies the bubble disintegration of a Gauna; it’s a sound that grew increasingly assuring and satisfying this week.

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Honoka isn’t the only side character to get their just due, development-wise: the show refused to forget about Kunato, even though he’s just been moping in his dusty manse for the last few weeks. Nagate visits him and delivers a heartening speech that seems to win him back, about how he loves everyone on Sidonia and wants them to be happy…including Kunato. But what if Kunato can only really happy if his boot heel is soaked in Nagate’s brains? Or if he’s dead? I guess we’ll see next season!

Nagate himself certainly looks happy as he struts to the top-secret research facility where Placental Hoshijiro is being held. But when we cut to her empty cell where “Nagate” remains written on the wall, it almost seems like she was destroyed when he defeated Benisuzume, but the second season teaser reveals she’s still around in some form, only no longer aboard ship.

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Regardless, the real Hoshijiro Shizuka he knew and loved (and who loved him) died back in episode 7…right? Nagate’s parting words to Benisuzume were that she was “neither human nor Shizuka,” and ultimately that’s just as true of the tamer version back on Sidonia.

Not that knowing that would make Nagate feel any better about her being gone. Nagate is “Sidonia’s light of hope”, and that weird Shizuka-Gauna hybrid is his. Can Yuhata, Ren, Izana, or anyone else make him as happy as he wants to make everyone? When he ever cross paths with Shizuka again? Will Kobayashi get fed up and feed the Immortal Committee to the Gauna? We’ll find out in November.

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Final Cumulative Score: 8.75
MAL Score: 8.05 (On the rise, but still too low, IMO.)

Mobile Suit Gundam IGLOO

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This week’s Hot Summer Flashback is Mobile Suit Gundam IGLOO, the most recent companion tale to the One Year War. Unfortunately, IGLOO is not only jarringly out of aesthetic step with the greater Gundam line (it’s fully rendered CG) but it’s also poorly written. In some way’s the terrible dialog is fitting for a show that looks like the pre-rendered sequences from a PS2-era RPG, as evidenced by this little gem:

Officer A: “Captain they missed us because of the particles” 

Captain: “So! Particles…They missed us due to the particles we scattered” 

In short, even if we didn’t already know the outcome of the One Year War and hadn’t already seen it from 3 other points of view, IGLOO offers nothing to warrant watching it again. Let alone enough reason to watch IGLOO’s 2-sequel OAV series…

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 12 (Fin)

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The bad guys Ricky, Layla, and Grad have a pretty firm hold on the situation at the beginning of this episode, and have the benefit of the commander of the opposing flying fortress being an absolute clod (“Advance! Fire!…Keep Firing!” Really?), but as battles rage both within and without the fortresses, that hold grows more and more tenuous as the good guys regroup and persevere.

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But here’s the thing: at no point do the bad guys ever consider changing their course. They’ve chosen their purposes and paths in life, and they’re sticking with them, even if they lead death…which they ultimately do. This only represents the midpoint of Chaika’s journey, which I’m glad about, and not just because there’s a lot more remains to find, but because the Mad Trio worked far better as a midpoint villain than a final villain.

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But while this wasn’t the end of the show, it was the end of a great many things. It was the end of Chaika being the helpless damsel-in-distress, as she takes it upon herself to take out Layla and rescue Tooru all by herself. When he protests he’s only her tool and she shouldn’t be saving him, she’s as upfront as she’s ever been to that point with her real feelings for him. They even almost get a kiss in before Akari and the others show up (they kissed a few moments previously, but it was more about the delivery of precious oxygen than romance).

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It was also the end of the Mad Trio’s Big Scheme to plunge the world back into the chaos where they once thrived. They were undone by failing to realize that there are others just as determined, and even a little more capable than they are. Take Grad, who didn’t think the opposing commander would launch a suicide attack, even though that’s what Layla just suggested they do when they reach the city.

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Layla too underestimated Chaika’s desire to escape and continue, in Layla’s words, being a tool of Gaz and his ilk. Layla cast away the purpose programmed into her and forged her own, and I can’t be entirely without sympathy considering the life she’s lived when it finally ends. As for the hellspawn Ricardo, whom she pledged the balance of her life? In the end he comes off as less a monster and more a sheltered, pitiable wretch.

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Something else ends: the life of Alberic Gilette. It’s a very quick, almost unremarkable death, but it’s a death that happens when he too is absolutely determined to stop war, even if he has to do it with his bare hands. The way the scene is shot, it almost looks like Leonardo and not Alberic is going to be the one hit by the laser. When Vivi hears he’s gone, she transforms into a Chaika. I wasn’t expecting that!

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That transformation holds a lot of promise come second season airs, because Vivi suddenly became something else. Frederica can change form and even molt into “Minifred”, but she stays Frederica. I’m not sure what the Vivi-Chaika will be like, but it looks like one more way in which Gaz and his followers set up a diverse array of tools. I also hope the budding romance between Chaika and Tooru is explored further (though I’m probably in the minority).

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Until then, we leave a tool who knows she’s a tool but is going to keep tooling around anyhow, along with her tools who know they’re tools but she’s told them they’re more than that, along with the dragoon who still needs to kill Tooru, a Vivi who’s lost her love and her…Vivi-ness, and half a Gaz body—including his head!—left to find. It’s a full plate; one I look forward to scarfing down this October.

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Final Cumulative Rating: 7.92
MAL Score: 7.62

No Game No Life – 12 (Fin)

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As I’ve said in past reviews, NGNL was never really about whether Blank would win—they were always going to win—but rather how they win; and how they manage to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat, which in their final game of the series are the adorable jaws of a Warbeast girl with Limit Break.

For me, the show didn’t even always have to make perfect, airtight logical sense in delivering its wins, as long as they were complex, fun, and entertaining, which they have always been; in particular this week. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a gamer (I prefer cooking), so just as Izuna ultimately had fun even though she lost, I had a lot of fun jumping through the shows hoops even when I got lost.

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Events in the show’s past were always enough to build a good case for Sora and Shiro’s victories, and this week was no different. It’s no accident that Sora Steph, who was a complete non-factor last week, is the complete opposite this week, being the one to fire the decisive shot. Even better, she wasn’t even aware of how many spells and equations she was a variable in; indeed, that’s why she was effective.

With Izuna beaten and all Eastern Federation lands on the continent returned to Elkian control, Sora’s gang then meets Miko, the elegant leader of the Warbeasts. A bespectacled golden fox shrine maiden with two gigantic, fluffy tails (Miles’ sister?), she’s the latest of the show’s wealth of stylized, whimsical character designs. She immediately challenges them again, ostensibly for revenge, but also because she fears Warbeast subjugation.

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That’s because she believes Kurami and Fil transmitted the particulars of the game just played to the Elves, and that Jibril will bring the might of the Flugel to bear in alliance with Imanity and the Elves. But because she makes the challenge, Sora gets to pick the game, and he picks the simplest game of all: a coin toss. Quite anti-climactic for the final game of the show, no? Well, not quite.

First of all, there’s a nice symmetry for the show to start with rock-paper-scissors (a game that’s more about the relationship of the players than anything else) and end with something even purer. Miko calculates the coin will land on tails (a side I thought she’d pick anyway, because she has tails and is thus partial to them), but at the last second Sora moves a flagstone and the coin lands upright in the crack. A draw.

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Whether you believe Miko could have seen him move the stone with her limit break senses, or could accuse him of cheating to cause a draw is irrelevant; Miko accepts the draw, and Sora makes her decide whether they both win or lose, with both winning meaning a cooperative alliance in which the Warbeasts would maintain the right to self-rule. To quell her concerns about Elven aggression, Sora reveals that he altered Fil’s memory (the ability he won when he beat Kurami) so she gave the Elves false intel.

Again, even if you had a problem with him gaining control of the mind of a character who didn’t participate in that past game, the fact remains Fil might’ve delivered that false info anyway, maintaining Miko’s paranoia about Elven aggression for the very specific time it needs to be maintained. Once the game is over, he came clean, and it’s another example of how Sora treats this world like the world it is, a world without true death and suffering. It’s all just a game.

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Gaining the Warbeasts as geopolitical partners is the first step to beating that game, which means a seat at the table with Tet The One True God, and to take him on personally. While the sixteen races of Disboard have always fought amongst each other, Sora sees the key to getting to Tet: following the tenth pledge: “Let’s all have fun and play together!” A bit trite, but honest: if games aren’t fun, why play them?

If all the races are united, their race pieces will populate the opposing sie of Tet’s chess board. Then it’s just a matter of Shiro playing chess against him…and she beat him once before! And that takes us back to inevitability: even if we never see it actually happen in a second season, Shiro will surely win that chess match. What will matter is how Blank united the races to get there. It’s all about the process; the journey…which was occasionally flawed, but never boring.

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Final Cumulative Score: 8.08
MAL Score: 8.84 (Yikes…that’s a bit high!)

2014 World Cup – “Itai!”

Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel

This photo kind of says it all. Things were surprisingly promising at the half, knotted up at one goal apiece thanks to a stoppage time equalizer by Okazaki Shinji, but then Colombia brought out the steamroller.

The match was another story of Japan’s impressive technical proficiency being nullified by apparent indecision in the box and physical domination by a larger opponent. Still, Blue Samurai fought hard and with heart.

This concludes RABUJOI’s very brief coverage of Japan at the 2014 World Cup.

(Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel/Howler Magazine)

 

 

 

 

Black Bullet – 12

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While I wouldn’t exactly say Gado was unfit for command, one can’t deny that his decisions he made led to costly defeats. But even if there was no way he could have predicted the events that would follow it, one of his last acts as commander may have been his best: sending Rentaro off to defeat Pleiades rather than executing him.

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Rentaro’s unusual sentence leads to him running into Kagetane and Kohina, and they collectively have the strength to take out a weakened Pleiades all by themselves, opening Aldeberan open to airstrikes that force him back for at least another few hours. Rentaro returns to camp to learn Gado is dead, and as the next-highest ranked promoter (due to all his past victories in this show), he is the new commander.

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Before that sinks in, Rentaro visits Shouma’s injured partner Midori, whose corruption level is reaching critical. He has a chance to take her out while she’s still human, but he can’t do it, but she manages to sneak away and do it herself. Midori was only a wisp of character, but her scene with Rentaro has a quiet, sad weight to it. Having Gado’s initiator Asaka pair up with Shouma was also a neat development, even if, again, Asaka is barely a character.

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After that, Rentaro takes the reins of the remaining forces and yanks tight, suffering no objections. When someone suggests they cut and run, Rentaro cuts him with his sword; he explains his ruthlessness as an effort to make his men fear him more than they fear the Gastrea. It helps when Miori arrives with some primo Shiba Brand weaponry and a plan to take out Aldebaran so he won’t come back.

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In another moving scene, Enju asks Rentaro why so many people hate the cursed children so much, and whether being in the civil service is just a means of thinning their ranks. Assuring her like the big brother he is, Rentaro says he became a civil officer to risk his life to save people. The people they’re saving can’t be judged if they’re devoured by the Gastrea, so he’ll keep fighting to save them now, and worry about whether they were worthy of saving later.

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Stray Observations:

  • Pleiades and Aldebaran bellow like whales, but they’re also not that fearsome…like whales. The CGI-to-regular animation transitions were pretty jarring, too.
  • “Papa, can I cut them?”…”You may kill half of them.” What a great dad! I really missed these two.
  • Midori also mentions a “darkness” that could consume Kisara unless Rentaro keeps her close. Sure enough, she promises him she’ll always be by his side, no matter how ruthless he gets.
  • Thankfully the Kisara-Midori rivalry doesn’t rear its annoying head; too much shit to do!
  • Midori’s demise reinforced something that’s been hanging over the show’s head for some time: Enju’s also perilously close to crossing the red line of corruption. Will that come into play in the finale? That would be rather sadistic of the show…
  • Oh God, that insuffrable lickspittle Yasuwaki is back and has something planned for Rentaro. Can’t this punk go die a horrible death already?

 

 

 

One Week Friends – 12 (Fin)

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Yuuki’s present awkwardness with Kaori, and Saki’s avoidance of Kiryu, are both the fault of the guy, and it’s up to them to turn things around. Interestingly, it seems Kaori herself is the catalyst for all of it, by doing what we suggested Yuuki to do, and that is to not let one’s strenuous efforts to retain every past memory interfere with the making of new memories, which is how friendships strengthen and grow.

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She also asks Kiryu what’s up with Yuuki, and while he tells her grudgingly, he knows its something Yuuki may never admit to her: he’s afraid of being with her, lest she one day lost her memories. The tender earnestness of their exchange provides Kaori with much-needed piece of the puzzle (and the knowledge Yuuki doesn’t hate her), it also inspires Kiryu to sort out his own self-made problem.

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The conciliatory scene between Kiryu and Saki isn’t long, but it’s extremely sweet. Kiryu capitalizes on the fact their group is up on the rooftop cleaning to confront Saki, and on her inability to run too far away from him, owing to her modest height. Saki merely misinterpreted his reaction to her proposal, something he apologizes for. He agrees to keep letting her rely on him since she’s so intent on it, though he won’t “baby” her the way her girlfriends do. What goes unsaid is that he doesn’t mind being her rock, because he likes her, but it’s implied in their agreement.

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With that couple’s problem efficiently resolved, it’s back to Yuuki and Kaori, whom everyone, even Kujo, notices a change in their behavior, like they’re forcing themselves. They seriously needed to work things out, so I was heartened when the news came both of them would be going on winter breaks with their families, because that felt like a dead giveaway they’d end up crossing paths.

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Sure enough, both their family trips are cancelled (or those plans never existed in the first place…?) Yet despite this, Yuuki and Kaori walk to the same bridge in what they think are futile hopes of seeing the other there. Their mutual shock and elation at finding each other there is lovely to behold. Though many opportunities arise to part ways, they end up spending the whole day together, because the truth is, neither wants to part ways.

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First, thank God, at long last, they FINALLY HIT UP THE CRÊPE PLACE! I’m in full agreement with Kaori that it’s “like a dream” watching them sitting there, enjoying the crêpes, together. Had the episode not done this, there’d be a far lower score at the bottom of this review, believe it. The dull grey of their surroundings is pushed to the edges of the frame by their warm colors; they look less in a gloomy fog and more in a kind of fluffy heaven.

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Yuuki walks her home, but they come across a shrine and decide to pray to it. Then Kaori starts to cry out of frustration, not knowing what to do in light of Yuuki’s wishy-washy behavior. While she doesn’t know what to do, she knows what she wants, and tells him: she wants to talk to him more, spend more time with him, and become ever closer friends. You know, what Yuuki wants. His wrongheaded attempts to keep her from crying caused her to cry.

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To Yuuki’s credit, he snaps out of his funk, hits himself in the face and insults himself for being such a dolt, and apologizes to Kaori, and goes further to say he wants the same things she does, and lastly, giving her a genuine, unforced smile, borne out of the progress they just made. From now on, they’ll worry less about losing the past or being burned in the future, but focus on making as many new memories together, in the present, as they can. They’re no longer just one-week friends.

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Final Cumulative Score: 8.33
MAL Score: 8.05

Stray Observations:

  • This was a thoroughly beautiful-looking episode, really making the cold overcast winter sky a major character all its own in terms of setting the mood and reinforcing that this was the end, or winter, of the show.
  • Like we said, as Kaori and Yuuki drew closer, they became a warm island, making the monochromatic starkness less ominous.
  • That’s not to say the whole episode was colorless save the characters. Kaori’s talk with Kiryu has a gorgeous palette and composition reminding us of a de Chirico painting, which also inspired the creator of Ico. An appropriate aesthetic, considering how isolated and lost Kaori was feeling.
  • Good on both Kiryu and Yuuki for getting over themselves, admitting they’re at fault, apologizing, and working to make things right. Like I said, the balls were in their courts.
  • I’ll admit I *gulped* when Kaori crossed the street, trailing behind Yuuki.
  • It’s notable that this episode didn’t contain any classic or overt “confessions”, but nor were they necessary, since couples are now on the same wavelength.

Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 12

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This episode essentially started at “checkmate” with Mako and Chisato cornering Ryouta and his harem, but thanks to a lot of quick thinking, stalling, a trump card or two, a sacrifice, and a ghost it turns out to just be “check”; the game isn’t over. The episode relishes this standoff and explores the possibilities accordingly, keeping the specter of everyone dying just close enough to be taken seriously.

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The first thing Ryouta does is activate the mysterious GPS, because why not? Worst-case, more bad guys come, but there’s a possibility someone else could come too, which is what ultmately happens. Even so, he can’t stay Mako’s hand indefinitely (and calling her Valkyrie, a nickname she detests, doesn’t help matters). He gets in the way of her blast to save Neko, tearing out the side of his torso in the process.

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At death’s door, Nanami appears in his head and tells him Neko is more powerful even than Mako if she’s unlocked using the top button on her harnest. But with a 99.9% chance she’ll go out of control and die, he can’t do it. He’s ready for the end, but then Hatsuna, who was cut in half by Mako but healed, repays her debt, giving her life to heal him (he still needs mouth-to-mouth and CPR from Neko and Kazumi to be revived). Haruna hangs up and melts, but not completely, and a hint of life in the last shot of her suggests we haven’t seen the last of her.

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Why does Chisato allow all this to happen? Well, he peaced out with Mako and Kotori after the timely arrival of Hexenjagd (Witchhunt), a shadowy organization fighting Chisato’s lab. You’d think they’d be natural allies of Ryouta & Co., but their first duty is to exterminate all the lab’s witches, and not for the reason we thought (so the lab wouldn’t have weapons). The real reason is far more chilling: the Drasil, aliens inside them are growing. If they hatch, they’ll devour the witches who bore them and then hunt mankind.

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Chisato manages to make off with Kotori—turns out she and not Neko was 1107. Kotori has the brain of Chisato’s dead daughter Rena, and that brain, and the prospect of bringing her consciousness back, is more important than any other life to him; the one exception to his credo that all lives besides your own are worthless. He even trashes Mako behind her back, which could come back to bite him later, even if she still says she loves him.

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That “later” will have to come quick, since there’s only one more episode left, and the show has decided to make the drama and peril a global affair, as the Drasil within Kotori will melt all of humanity if it hatches. To go from Ryouta and his humble harem to all of humanity in one episode is a big leap in scale, but the way the witches have been treated thus far has been hinting at the possibility of such a leap. Can they clean up this mess in a satisfying fashion?

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Stray Observations:

  • Hexenjagd make a bad-ass entrance, but their quasi-Christian getup is kinda lame. For a show so devoted to including fanservice wherever it can, this was a wasted opportunity for Miki to show some skin.
  • Chisato’s Taxi Driver-style spring-arm holster was a nice touch, surprising his surprisers.
  • Kazumi’s brief moment of jealousy watching Neko give Ryouta the kiss of life was one of the only moments of levity in the episode.
  • Our memory’s not as strong as Ryouta’s, but it occurs to us the clues of Kotori being the real 1107—a target Chisato wanted intact—may have existed in prior episodes.
  • The blue light painting the sky from Kotori’s alien hatching looks a bit like a cocktail umbrella from space.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 12

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First High’s path to NSC victory grows a lot narrower this week, thanks to what seems to be elaborate sabotage of Mari’s Battle Board semifinal by unknown parties. This episode was replete with detailed analysis and nitty-gritty procedure—bascially geeking out on its own rich magical mythos the whole time.

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Tatsuya also goes well beyond the call of duty as an enginer is gaining a lot of fans, many of them of the opposite sex. First, he’s the first on the scene to help Mari, a fact that makes her blush when she hears it. Mitsui almost loses her shit over the fact he’ll watch her match. He even gains Shizuku as an admirer for working so closely to fine-tune her equipment and offering emotional support. Shizuku doesn’t let him down, posting a perfect score.

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There’s big news for him and his beloved sister, too: due to Mari’s injuries and better-than-expected results from their rival, Third High, President Saegusa has picked Miyuki to replace Mari in the official Mirage Bat tournament, even though she’s a freshman rookie. Knowing what a bad-ass she is, I don’t foresee her having much trouble advancing, but that’s assuming there won’t be any more…sabotage.

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Here’s a bold prediction: there will be more sabotage. Tatsuya figured out how Mari and her rival washed out, and also the strong possibility that the responsible party are members of the NSC committee, someone who had unfettered access to student CADS and a desire to knock out the top contenders. But knowing they’ll strike next is one thing; knowing exactly how and when they’ll strike is another.

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Tatsuya is a very busy and increasingly popular guy. Just as he cracked the conspiracy in the enrollment arc, it’s almost seems a forgone conclusion he’ll succeed in uncovering this plot, and help lead First High to victory. At the same time, the show has yet to throw some serious adversity his way, so if it’s going to start, the next episode would be a good time.

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