Aldnoah.Zero – 02

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Vers landing castles have touched down in New Orleans, Maputo, Beijing and Tokyo, and even the defenses Earth has been preparing for fifteen years have absolutely no effect on their invaders. F-22s are swatted like flies and primative kataphrakts are sliced up like cold cuts. Count Cruhteo sends Sir Trillram to “retrieve” the Vers operatives who carried out the Asseyleum assassination, but that means killing them all so that no word gets out about the conspiracy.

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One member of the group of what Trillram deems “rats” manages to escape his initial attack: Rayet Areash, whom the Kataphrakt forces consisting of Lt. Marito and Yuki mistake for a civilian. Yuki scoops her up and rendezvous with an evacuation vehicle with her brother Inaho and his friends aboard. Inaho, who had himself just recently been picked up, has with him two “foreigners” who we know to be Eddelrittuo and none other than Princess Asseylum in disguise; only her body double was the one killed in the motorcade assault.

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While these four cities have all but fallen and all attempts to counterattack are futile, the Terrans aren’t done yet, as long as they refuse to give up. Even though they’re only students, Inaho, Inko & Co. are still called upon to help evacuate civilians from the battle zones. Even in the face of certain death, Lt. Morito and Yuki fight with everything they have to delay and hold back Trillram and allow the innocents to escape.

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They do this unaware that right beside them sit not only one of those responsible for the plot that served as the justification for the Vers invasion, but Vers’ own discarded, peace-loving princess her group thought they offed. They’re not done yet, either: the ferry with the bulk of evacuees needs cover. Inaho & Co will pilot training kataphrakts with live ammo and do what they can, which may not be much against the might of the Vers invaders, but who knows: maybe those bastards’ arrogance will end up being their undoing. In any case, they’re not giving up quite yet.

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Rail Wars! – 02

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“The higher-ups were a good judge of my character, seeing how they assigned me to Public Safety”, says Sakurai, while kissing her enormous handgun; the handgun Iida Nana ultimately takes away in order to try to cool her jets; Public Safety at the national railway isn’t just about run-and-gun action, day in, day out. The passengers’ safety comes first—not Sakurai’s desire to beat up and/or shoot people.

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When the Special Assault Team is called away from Tokyo station to deal with the threat of explosives planted in Yokohama, Sakurai and Defense Four are basically put on standby, walking the station beat and helping passengers with whatever they need. The individual strengths of the team members shine here; from Takayama’s practiced people skills to Koumi’s way with kids. Meanwhile, Sakurai does a lot of pouting.

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Then, while she and Koumi are at lunch break with Iida, Iwaizumi saves Takayama from an exploding locker bomb. Turns out it was just a taste of a larger bomb a perp has planted in Tokyo station, having called in a false report to Yokohama to lure the NRSAT away. It’s up to Defense Four to deal with this threat, though the people in charge are prepared to answer the perp’s demands for one third of the station’s daily takings.

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That would be a hit, and Sakurai bristles at the idea of basically “surrendering” to terror, but again, it’s not about money or pride, but the safety of the passengers. Still, D4 is authorized to search for the bomb; a formidable task in a huge station with over 3,000 lockers. When Koumi is told the lost dog from last week started barking after its owner called lost-and-found, Iwaizumi’s “wild intuition” tells him the bomb’s in the unnecessarily-large dog carrier, and he’s right.

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It’s here where the very tight-skirted Sakurai, after gloomily going about her duties, finally gets a chance to shine, albeit by bypassing her supervisors and making an on-site judgement call to attempt to disarm the bomb, something her father taught her but she’s never done for real. To her surprise, Takayama stays right by her side, even if the wrong wire cut could mean both their deaths. Things get really intimate under there too, but there’s no time for embarrassment; if Takayama has to lodge his arm between her boobs to pin two wires down, so be it.

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With less than two minutes left on the bomb timer, Sakurai suddenly bolts out of the room, asking Takayama to trust her, which he does. Her solution is a brilliant use of the tools at hand: a mini liquid nitrogen gun, used for desserts back at the ladies’ lunch, which seemed like a throwaway novelty at the time but proves pivotal here. She freezes the circuitry, stopping the timer, and finishes defusing the bomb. When it’s all over, she’s so physically and emotionally spent she collapses into Takayama, a touching moment of vulnerability and closeness she tells him he can forget about later…but which he probably doesn’t want to.

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Sure, she bent protocol, but ultimately, the fiery Sakurai was the hero here, along with Takayama. Both of them, along with Koumi and Iwaizumi, put their lives on the line for the passengers, which is their job. Sakurai didn’t need her precious gun or her martial arts to be effective at her job, and Takayama isn’t as weak and spineless as she initially thought. For his valor, Takayama is made substitute leader of D4, a promotion even she can’t deny he deserves. This was a satisfying outing full of unconventional action, a surprisingly thrilling ticking time bomb, and some rather nice character beats.

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