2014 World Cup – KUSO!

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Well, Japan was aggressive, hogging the ball a whopping 75% of the time and out-passing something like 5-to-1, but none of their shots went in the goal. Even though Greece was a man down, they seemed to be playing for a hold, which would net them at least one point, and not trying to win for three, while depriving Japan of two more.

After their scoreless draw, Japan and Greece share the dank basement of Group C. All is technically not lost, but Japan missed a crucial opportunity to control their own destiny, and it doesn’t bode well that they weren’t able to deliver a decisive blow to the weakest team in the group.They play Colombia next Tuesday, and they’ll be playing for pride…and a very slight glimmer of hope.

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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 11 (Fin)

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Tensai to the rescue! The whole big fight between Hiiyo and Juugo, on which Hiiyo seemed to have gotten the upper hand, is called off, not because she uses her Master Detective skills to figure out Hiiyo’s secret power, but because she has the cajones—and enough affection for Juugo that she doesn’t want to see him unduly hurt—to bluff Hiiyo into walking away, appealing to his arrogance while building off the legend she herself had built.

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I wouldn’t have called her bluff, either. It’s entirely likely she’d observed Hiiyo enough to find a weakness and was ready to expose it, because she actually kinda is a Master Detective. She used his reactions to the proposal to determine his power really was his trump card, and that it did have a weakness, so he delayed using it, and she eventually learned that weakness: that the “damage” done to Juugo wasn’t real, but merely suggestion.

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This was an interesting finale in that from the time Hiiyo agreed to stop fighting to the eerie post-credits scene where Yun-chan’s eyes are glowing like a cursed child’s, it was ambitiously building what looked like the foundations of a second season I didn’t actually know was going to happen. At the same time, it still had the feeling of arranging things up on a high shelf, things it knows we won’t see again for some time, so it took extra care in the arranging.

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For one thing, we got a lot of Juugo-and-Tensai time, which reinforced their mutual respect and affection that sometimes veers into romantic attraction. While she qualifies her reasoning for not wanting Juugo to die by saying “she won’t have a rival”, we know he’s more than just a rival at this point; he’s a dear friend she can’t afford to let slip away. Their relationship was a joy to watch right up to the end.

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Another loose end to tie up is the rift between Juugo and Nanana. Through Tensai, Nanana figures out that he avoided telling her too much about the mission because of her past with Hiiyo. Even so, she bets Tensai Juugo won’t break the promise he made to not use the treasure if he found it, and she wins that bet. Juugo doesn’t break promises, whether its not using treasures or finding killers.

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But his resolve to fulfill the latter is compromised by his uncertainty about what Nanana really wants, so he asks her point blank: What does she really want? It takes a cathartic physical fight that Nanana is on the cusp of winning, but Juugo finally cracks and tells her what he wants, or rather what he doesn’t: he doesn’t want her to leave. That relieves Nanana, for while she wants to find her killer and kill them herself, for now, and maybe even after that happens, she’s not ready to “pass on” yet.

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Things are just getting interesting on the island she built, so she wants to keep watching it for now. So do we, so we hope a second season does come around someday.

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Total Cumulative Average: 7.55
MyAnimeList Score: 7.54

Hitsugi no Chaika – 11

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Hitsugi no Chaika has chosen to close with an epic three-part finale, of which this is the middle part. Middle parts are tricky, as it’s hard to have two episodes in a row with no concrete resolutions (it just kind of…ended), while putting that much more pressure on the third part to deliver. Even so, I think this middle part performed admirably, providing a nice balance of action and fresh insights, some of which confirm/reinforce my ideas about the Chaikas.

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Our heroes remain at the mercy of their enemies, two of whom, Ricardo and Grad, we met last week and got a cursory idea about what makes them tick. The third girl, Layla, only revealed her duplicity at the very end, but when I saw her for the first time with her hood concealing her face, I was pretty darn sure she was another Chaika. Like our Chaika and the Red Chaika we met previously, she too is driven to collect Emperor Gaz’s remains. The difference is how they all go about it.

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Red Chaika is a warrior. Our Chaika is a damsel in distress. And Layla is, or rather, was, a seductress, using her body, wiles, and drugs to acquire remains. Once she learned she was only one of many tools with diverse talents created for the sole purpose of re-appropriating Gaz’s remains; that her heart and soul and emotions and memories were all essentially manufactured for that purpose, she quit being Chaika, joined forces with Ricardo and Grad, and now lives for her own purpose: to help them start a new war.

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War, you see, is when those two felt most content, and, more importantly, most useful. Ricardo’s bloodlust and Grad’s desire to dominate could find true and enduring expression. They’re really more over-the-top versions of Tooru and Akari, saboteurs who had nothing left to sabotage after the war. The atrocities this trio has committed condemns them to villainhood to be sure, but on one point we can feel for Layla: wanting revenge against those orchestrated this whole dastardly plot. Why should she let it continue?

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But our Chaika isn’t like her…at least, not yet. Not only is she still committed to gathering her “father’s” remains even after all Layla has said, but in doing so she’s given the Acuras a new purpose. With their flying fortress packed with magical fuel-giving corpses and drug-manipulated soldiers, Ricardo, Grad, and Layla aren’t going to be satisfied with a grand adventure. They want to set the world back on fire and dance in the flames. And by episode’s end, they’re very close to achieving that goal.

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It would seem that as tough-as-nails as Akari is, her older brother would seem to have a slight edge over her in combat ability. I say that because he manages to evade and withdraw from her attacks on numerous occasions while consciously trying not to kill her, while she’s most definitely trying to kill him. I’m also on board with Tooru teaming up with Zito and Vivi when they cross paths, saving each others’ lives in the process.

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Perhaps the best feint of the episode was the heroic arrival of Fredrica, who seemed poised to rescue Chaika when a creepy-ass human-like spider thing snuck up behind her and stabbed her in the brain. It continues the trend of the show using her sparingly; if she were always around to save the day, things would be pretty boring. It was also a promising sign that this mess won’t get wrapped up by a last-seond deus ex machina, but hard-earned with with blood, sweat, tears, and wits.

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2014 World Cup: “Jitaku iku katsu ka”

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“自宅行く勝つか” is as close as we (with the help of Google) could get to saying “Win or go home”, which constitutes Japan’s remaining choices.

Beat Greece, and they’re still in Group C contention. Lose, and they’ll be eliminated (and we’ll only have one more post here commiserating their quick exit from the tournament, for those of you who don’t care about soccer).

The match starts at 6PM Eastern, or 7AM in Tokyo. Blue Samurai will be looking to play more aggressively, having only managed one goal by Honda Keisuke against Ivory Coast, which just fell to Group C leader Colombia 2-1.

Photo by Javier Soriano / AFP Photo

No Game No Life – 11

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Last week ended with Sora and Shiro totally unable to function, but that cliffhanger is resolved rather quickly, as it’s merely a simulation of Tokyo where they’re playing, which turns out to be just fine with them. Of course, that realization came after a very random title sequence for the game they’re in, entitled Living or Dead Series Side Story: Love or Loved 2: Hit Her With Your Bullet of Love!

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As random as all that sounds, the title is a nice send up of…this kind of stuff, and ends up making more and more sense as details of game—essentially a gussied-up FPS—comes into focus. The hair dryer-like pistols assigned to everyone are used to reject NPCs (which charges “love power”) turn into “love slaves” and have them fight for you, and make allies fall in love too. This leads to combat that’s patently ridiculous (e.g. shounen-style analysis of pantsu thickness), but also exciting and lots of fun. The game moves at a nice brisk clip, too.

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What also becomes apparent to Blank as the game rolls on is that despite their early dominance thanks in large part to Shiro’s literally otherworldly FPC skills, Izuna is able to evade every attack they throw at her, which means she’s cheating. They need proof to accuse her, but have none, so Blank finds themselves in the rare position of underdog, with an opponent that doesn’t have to play by the same rules.

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This isn’t a game where they’ve already thought sixty-four moves ahead; they can’t, because they’re not sure what’s coming. So they have to resort to winging it. They may not know everything they need to about the game and Izuna’s abilities, but they do know and trust each other. Sora trusted Shiro to “find him” in his game with Kurami; this time Shiro returns the favor, getting shot by Izuna and trusting he’ll handle the rest.

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He does, by realizing it was her clothes, not her body, that got hit by Izuna’s bullet, and that she conserved her energy by not running (like he told her earlier) so she’d still have attack power when she reunited with Sora. This time, however, Sora and Shiro depended on more than just themselves to get this far: Kurami and Fil are still outside, looking out for evidence of cheating, while Jibril stalls Izuna at a crucial juncture. Steph, alas, is useless throughout.

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Blank may not have defeated Izuna by the end of this episode, their exemplary play and convivial attitude is making Izuna actually enjoy playing games again. Blank isn’t desperately fighting like their race is on the line; they’re having a blast. This is something she hasn’t done for some time, since gaming has been more about duty to her country than leisure. And the more they corner the she-warbeast, the fiercer—and, seemingly, happier—she becomes.

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