Aldnoah.Zero – 03

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Last week A/Z left the two bands of Terrans we’re following in Tokyo with some steep hills to climb: Lt. Marito to save the civilian stragglers and his students, and Inaho and his friends to mount some kind, any kind of counterattack against Sir Trillram’s purple pillbug. The damn thing has to have its weaknesses; they turned out to be very glaring weaknesses in the end, but time, prodding, and a good deal of decoy work was needed to reveal and exploit them.

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After Inaho devises plan and they prepare as best they can, It’s SHOWTIME, Everybody! and A/Z does not disappoint with the righteous action that follows. I particularly liked Asseylum handling a grenade launcher while Rayet handled the wheel of the decoy truck. Inko pilots a Terran kataphrakt along with Inaho and Calm, so the ladies aren’t sitting on the sidelines here.

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As it turns out, Trillram’s kataphrakt is totally blind without help from recon drones in the air, easily obscured by smoke bombs, and while most of the pillbug’s surface is covered by that impenetrable barrier, there are “bald spots” that enable it to function at all, which Inaho finds when the pillbug falls into the bay. As Count Saazbaum pointed out, there’s no time to waste; the kataphrakt’s technology revolved around a strategy of quickly and utterly defeating the enemy.

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But the “rats” who survived the initial onslaught were small, crafty and had enough time to chew through that technology. Needless to say, it was extremely satisfying to see the damn thing finally go down, with Inaho dedicating his coup de grace to the friend whose hand slipped out of his the day before. He and his friends old and new proved something this day, both to the rest of the world and their conquerors: the Vers aren’t invincible, and if they want to play at war, they’ll get one.

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Another nice shift in momentum for the good guys: Slaine shedding his status as Terran lapdog, when he comes to pick up Trillram and learns of the plot to assassinate the princess. Trillram is still too arrogant for his own good and turns his back on Slaine, who snatches up his sidearm and terminates his command with extreme prejudice. Now if only Slaine can somehow meet back up with Asseylum. There’s far more work to be done…and traitors to expose, if any of Vers will still listen.

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Sword Art Online II – 03

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After her great victory over Behemoth in GGO, Asada Shino logs off to find herself back in her lonely, tenuous, pitiable existence in the real world. Bullies shaking her down for fare in a dark alley threaten to show her a model gun, and we learn why that’s such a big deal: having put three bullets into a bank robber to save her mom as a small child, Shino now gets intense panic attacks every time she sees or touches a gun.

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Shino’s guy friend Shinkawa, who saves her from the bullies, suggested she dive into GGO as “immersive therapy”, and she found she could handle the guns in the virtual world without any issues. In fact, her entire motivation for rising in GGO is so the strength she’s gaining as Sinon will somehow “rub off” into the real world. But that seems like wishful thinking even she can’t always maintain, as she sinks into her bed thinking “Someone, please save me.” The real world is the real world, and GGO is GGO.

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Thanks to Death Gun, whom Kirito still hopes is just an urban legend but whom we know exists, those worlds are becoming intertwined. Those he targets in GGO die in the real world. Kirito and Shino’s paths have yet to cross, but now that he’s in GGO it’s only a matter of time, especially since we learn in the end that Sinon needs saving too: she’s Death Gun’s next target, no doubt having gained enough esteem to catch his attention.

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Kirito has a nice setup thanks to Kikuoka: a hospital room; the same saucy nurse Aki who took care of him when he was trapped in SAO; constant observation and instrumental monitoring. He’s not going in half-cocked, except for the fact he’s still not convinced the Big Bad is real. So…who is he? Well, we only see part of his face in the end as he strokes a picture of Sinon, but my guess would be Shinkawa. (Note that this is just a guess; no spoilers in the comments, please!)

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Their awkward tea revealed some of the inadequacies that could fuel a villain, from daddy issues and being on a path not on his making, to his friend surpassing him in the thing he introduced her to. It’s still unsettling to think he’d resort to murder; perhaps he bears deep psychological scars as Shino does, only his are expressed in violence towards others, particularly those who make him feel inferior, and he can’t stop any more than Shino can keep herself from vomiting. We’ll certainly see.

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Glasslip – 03

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Despite the tumult teeming just below the surface of Touko, Yana and Yuki’s feelings, they can still go out and have fun on a summer hiking trip and cookout, owing in part to the fact they’re very much still treasured friends to one another, but also to the “anchors” of their group not involved in the triangle: Hiro and Sachi.

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While the trip has Yana confronting Touko about the confession she witnessed, and Touko formally rejecting Yuki, Hiro and Sachi are the small warm fire in the middle, drawing everyone back together. Of course, Hiro is also trying to eventually confess to Sachi—and comes tantalizingly close. But even if he comes up a bit short, their interactions throughout the episode were very soothing.

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Unfortunately for Hiro, Sachi and his entire day with her was also replete with death flags, things you don’t usually pay that much attention to in breezy slice-of-lifes, but this is a slice-of-life with a clairvoyant. Earlier in the episode Touko lamented to Okikura that she saw a vision of Yana crying in the future, and assumed it was because of her.

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It could be that Yana was crying for a different reason altogether. Even if Sachi gets down the hill in Momo’s banged-up car perfectly safely, her unspecified health condition still looms over her head, and a new vision from Touko suggests that condition could worsen, making Sachi’s gifting of a book to Hiro and her text to Touko that much more ominous.

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Touko tells Yana she’s committed to supporting her, and Yana vows not to give up on Yuki. Yuki also takes the rejection well, considering. Things aren’t exactly peachy for all, but it could be worse. Losing the group’s anchor in Sachi (if that’s where the show decides to go), would be far worse than any love triangle fallout.

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Stray Observations:

  • After telling her parents not to go in the studio for some made-up reason, we half-expected them to mutter “She brought a boy over” in unison a beat after she left.
  • Okikura visiting Touko’s glass studio and watching her work reminded me of the scene in Whisper of the Heart where Shizuku watches Seiji working on a violin. Nothing like sitting back and admiring the girl or guy you like working hard at his or her craft!
  • Bringing a hair dryer to a hiking trip? Yikes.
  • Momo’s car is getting more and more beat-up, but I hope the the show will turn what’s been played up for comedy into a serious accident. I’ll admit, it put out some weird vibes.
  • Yuki just HAD to stumble upon the two girls in his triangle chillin’ in their skivvies, didn’t he? And yea, the anime gods were propitiated.

Majimoji Rurumo – 02

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The book of magic tickets are Kouta’s life (something only he and Chiro know) so even when he desperately wants more female members in the Occult Research Club, he daren’t make any more reckless wishes. But the club quickly learns that their witch-summoning was successful, putting Kouta in the unusual position of having to stop his clubmates from stalking and peeping on Rurumo as she camps in the woods.

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So once again, Kouta uses the tickets to help Rurumo (to protect her honor, specifically). And by using her magic, he learned that that was what she and Chiro were doing camping in the first place: waiting for him to use it. She can’t go back to the Underworld until her training is complete, which I take to mean “until Kouta uses up all of his tickets.” In other words, she can return when he’s dead? Something to ponder going forward.

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But first things first: Kouta doesn’t think it’s right for a delicate little witch like Rurumo to live like a dirty hobo, so he invites her into his home. His family consists of his mother, who knows what kind of horndog he is and is constantly staring at him, as well as his little brother and his dad (whom we don’t see). Worried by how bringing a girl home might look to his mom, he tries his best to keep it a secret. Between Rurumo’s loud slipper-shuffling and Chiro yelling in the bath, his clandestine guests don’t make it easy.

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Indeed harboring a magical trainee is no cakewalk, physically or psychologically, as Kouta is so stress out about being discovered he neglects to realize that for three days he has, essentially, been “living with a girl not related to him in the same room before marriage”, which as it happens is the official SI definition of Living Together. In other words: he has arrived, at the “highest stage” of his life, almost by accident.

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The bliss of sharing his room with Rurumo is all too fleeting, however, as his mom storms in the room, and…it looks bad. The situation looks like exactly what she suspects: that he’s abducted a girl and is keeping her captive in his room. Kouta only saves his mom from committing filicide by expending more tickets to magically create a cover story for Rurumo, which is that she’s his sister.

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That means the whole family now accepts Rurumo’s existence in the house as perfectly normal, but it also means she gets a separate room, much to Kouta’s dismay. Still, he’s alive (and not in jail) and Rurumo is safe and secure, so he doesn’t have too much to complain about…though I wonder how many of those 666 tickets remain.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 02

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This week we’re introduced to Mizuno Ami (Kanemoto Hisako) and witness her progression from quiet genius girl, to brainwashed tool of the enemy, and finally to Sailor Mercury. This second episode also suggests the show wants to balance the main serialized storyline with smaller, more episodic plots. Like the first, it moves briskly and embraces the goofiness, even coming off downright cool in some moments.

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The story of the week is that Ami, despite having perfect scores, is suddenly attending the equivalent of a cram school (and a very evil looking one, at that), along with an increasing number of students. Like the jewelry women last week, they all wander willingly into the trap, and then the enemy has them. Unlike Usagi, Ami is first conscripted by the enemy, albeit after she’s brainwashed.

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Yet again, Usagi’s weaknesses as virtues: just as she was too poor to buy any evil jewelry, she’s not…ahem…academically inclined enough for the brainwashing CD-ROM(!) to work on her (i.e. girl dumb as brick, yo). But this episode showed that her most powerful weapon wasn’t her crass materialism, ignorance, or quickness to tears: it was her profound kindness and loyalty.

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While other classmates were intimidated and stayed away from Ami, Usagi, after Luna provides an opening, extends a hand of friendship. Having just become a sailor guardian herself but discussing it with neither family nor fiends, Usagi gets that there’s more to Ami than her cool exterior. Sometimes it takes a fluffy black kitty to bring out one’s warmer side. Unless one’s allergic.

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Usagi’s kindness gets through even to a heavily brainwashed Ami under duress from the fake teacher (though it’s ironic Usagi warns Ami while dressed as a fake doctor). The teacher is really a demon servant of another servant of Queen Beryl. The higher-ups seem to employ a lot of delegation rather than doing things themselves.

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That strategy is looking increasingly flawed as the Sailor Scout ranks expand. When Usagi transforms into Moon and gets whaled on by the demon, taking blow after blow for Ami’s sake Ami snaps out of it, produces the pen she won at the arcade, and then we get the second elaborate CGI sailor guardian transformation, that of Ami into Mercury…Game, set, and match.

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Mercury commands water, which makes sense with her delicate yet ambitious personality, and creates a fog that gives Usagi the chance to slice the demon in two with her boomerang. Tux Mask gets an assist as well, but only Usagi sees him and he vanishes quickly thereafter. Luna—ever the Good Kyuubey—rejoices that she’s found the “brain” of the group. Usagi and Ami seem more happy about the fact they’ve made friends.

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