Aldnoah.Zero – 06

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The Orbital Knights of Vers got what they wanted: an official declaration of war by their emperor. Upon hearing this news, quite a few mecha protagonists would gnash their teeth and tighten their fists in indignation, but Inaho just shoots Asseylum a look that says “Well, looks like your plan went nowhere, Princess!”

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With the war resuming, Captain Magbaredge and the ragtag combination of crew, trainees, and civilians, has little choice but to run and hide where they doubt the Martians would bother them: Tanegashima, an uninhabited land scarred by Heaven’s Fall. It’s a homecoming for Lt. Marito, as that’s where he and his friend Humeray fought Vers kataphrakts with obsolete tanks 15 years ago; a fight only Marito survived.

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Adding fuel to his fire of guilt, Darzana discloses that Humeray was her brother and she blames Marito for his death. I must say I wasn’t expecting that kind of connection between him and what seemed like a side character, but I did enjoy that whole scene of the three adults drinking on the flight deck.

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AZ continues its trend of keeping the peril cranked up and not giving its underdog heroes much of a respite. They could have done a momentum-killing rest episode of mostly character work and it probably would have been just fine, but AZ’s got things to do, so we meet the first female Orbital Knight, someone who apparently was interested in planting her flag on a ruin.

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In fact, it’s that calm, reflective drinking scene on the flight deck she interrupts by launching the four arms of her kataphrakt at the Terran ship like missiles. Even HE rounds won’t penetrate her armor, and the most they can do after Morito himself jumps in the cockpit of a Kat (and after having another panic attack) is to deflect her arms with the blast force of heavy ordinance. Even then, they’re on the verge of defeat when Inaho runs out of bullets.

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They’re saved in the knick of time by Slaine, freshly escaped from Cruhteo and looking for the orange trainee Inaho favors. Now, even if most of them don’t know it yet, the Terrans have the only one on Earth who can control Aldnoah tech (Asseylum), and the son of the lead researcher (Slaine). Combined with the cool-as-a-cucumber Inaho, the vengeful sister, and the functioning alcoholic vet, there’s a nice team coming into focus.

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Stray Observations:

  • I liked how Yuki told Inaho to address her as Warrant Officer Kaizuka on the ship, but when they’re in the cockpit, she allows “Yuki-nee”, which is as good a callsign as any.
  • The rivalry between Slaine and Inaho begins before they formally meet, as Inaho corrects Asseylum on why Earth’s sky is blue; Asseylum having been taught by Slaine.
  • Saazbaum brings up wanting to interogate Slaine now, when Slaine is on the run? Great timing, guy.
  • Even upside down, or out of ammo, Inaho stays cool.
    “Wait…We’re not dead?” Oh Inko…please don’t die!
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Sword Art Online II – 06

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One of the nice things about SAO is that the previews are simply a static screen with the title of the next episode, as Kirito says “Next Time: [Episode Title]” It doesn’t spoil what’s to come, so we had no idea the show was about to hit fast forward on the BoB preliminaries and deliver what we’ve been waiting for: the first battle between Kirito and Sinon.

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By SAOII standards, that came in a hurry, but a welcome one. The second episode showed us how a GGO battle works and how good Sinon is, but fell down on both stakes and emotional resonance, since we hadn’t yet learned about Sinon’s troubled past, and the parties in the battle were fairly inconsequential, beyond reminding Sinon she has to get stronger.

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This episode improves on all of that one’s shortcomings, and while the vistas were cooler in that one, the quality and pace of the combat is maintained, only this time we care more about the outcome, which ends with Sinon conceiting defeat and surrendering. It also repairs the rift caused by a misundrstanding last week that drew Sinon away, and also turned her idea of the “strength” she seeks on its head. For all those reasons, I think this was SAOII’s best episode to date.

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Up until now Sinon had fathomed strength as the thing that allowed her to slay the most powerful foes with ease, and which allows Kirito to stand still and still dodge her sniper fire, or slice her final bullet in two in their final duel. Kirito sees all that as merely skill, not strength. He also relies on luck and circumstance; his interaction with Sinon after the first round wasn’t a calculation on his part, but it affected her aim from then on regardless.

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No, to Kirito, strength is the thing that allows you to continue living with yourself after having chosen to kill, and kill more than once. Even if it was to defend his comrades and the woman he loved, he still took their lives. Sinon also killed to protect herself and her mother, but both of them have the same problem: Sinon has been unable to move on from that event, and now that Death Gun has reawakened his crimson memories, neither can Kirito.

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Kirito and Sinon, sittin’ in a tree…A-N-G-S-T-I-N-G…so now Sinon may well belive that she’s found her soulmate, but Kirito is, not surprisingly, unaware of the connection, since he doesn’t really know about her past. He also already has Asuna. But in any case, he and Sinon are now no longer enemies, which means she could prove a valuable ally in the coming fight with Death Gun, should he choose to involve others. Of course, he’s said he’s done with killing, but up against a killer, he may have no choice.

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Stray Observations:

  • I really dug the GGO victory fanfare that plays when the battles are one. I counted at least three instances of it here.
  • Particular kudos are in order for Sawashiro Miyuki on her voice-acting in this episode. It’s always nice to hear her voice a leading lady, though her villains are pretty great too.
  • Notable Kirito and Sinon contrasts: she’s primarily in white, he’s black; he charges his opponents in a mad rush, she hangs way back and snipes.
  • I dug the flashback to when Asuna was still rocking her Knights of the Blood garb. Too bad we didn’t get to see her fight much. She remains a tragically underused character.

Majimoji Rurumo – 05

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This week MMR keeps things simple with a pleasant, nice-looking “day in the life” episode with a “simple task becomes complex adventure” story. By now Rurumo’s general incompetence has been well-established, but the fact she was similarly incompetent in the magical world leads me to believe perhaps she’s developmentally disabled in some way.

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Nah, I’m just kiddin’! She’s just clumsy and forgetful of details that always turn out to be crucial. But this week she has an urgent desire to complete the task Kouta’s mother assigned her: to deliver a parcel to Kouta, who is at his grandma’s doing farm work. But Rurumo doesn’t get off to an auspicious start, getting lost and mistaking postage stamps for train tickets.

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Along the way she meets a couple of Kouta’s friends who are both into her, but she doesn’t remember who they are, a nice meta dig on their general blahness as characters. I also like she did remember something Kouta told her about saying “cosplay” when in doubt, as it gets her out of trouble with a “busty cop.”

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She does eventually end up in the village where Kouta is, but follows the map wrong and ends up lost in a beautiful field of sunflowers. Chiro, who had accompanied her and left her to her own devices (this is her mission, after all) decides enough is enough, and locates Kouta. That’s when we learn all of Rurumo’s work is to get a lousy wooden smartphone case to him so he can impress his cousin’s pretty friend Yuki.

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As a testament to his devotion to Rurumo, Kouta’s own silly mission falls by the wayside when he hears she’s gotten lost. She doesn’t stay lost long, as when he and Chiro return to the sunflower field, Rurumos’ raiment has accidentally magicked into a massive hat-shaped tree. Fortunately, Rurumo herself did not merge with the plant, as Chiro feared, and Kouta doesn’t have to expend any life tickets.

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For her trouble, Kouta totally strikes out with Yuki, but as thanks for completing her mission, he prepares and old-fashioned country bath for her, to soothe her bones after so much running around and falling down. After that, she dons a yukata (not sure how she got it on properly) and joins the others for some summer fireworks, and Kouta pats her head, so all’s well that ends well.

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Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? – 03

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Satomi finally tells Sakuraba-senpai that he absolutely needs her… to join him in the obstacle course race. Meanwhile, Boobs and Alien Girl set out to cheat as much as possible. Naturally, Cosplay Girl and Sakuraba win the day…

This week’s race involved a foot race, math problems, balancing an egg on a spoon, speed eating, complex kanji reading, a balance beam with a mine field and a scavenger hunt. Between the mines and bad manners, all the major competitors are slowed or removed or punished after the race in as wacky a fashion as you can imagine. It was cute, if not completely predictable.

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Wackiness aside, this week’s RnS was really about introducing the two under dogs to each other: Cosplay Girl and Sakuraba. Both girls have handicaps and feel social isolated and they both come to each other’s need when life is on the line. In Sakuraba’s case, this is literal, as she has a heart attack and Cosplay Girl’s magic is necessary to revive her.

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In all, this week gave us a fairly typical early-season semi-filler ep. We didn’t learn anything new about the characters, nor did anyone’s relative position in the harem change. It was just pleasant and occasionally funny but completely un-thought-provoking.

For now, Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?! has enough for me to watch but only just.

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Glasslip – 06

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The teen drama is kicking into overdrive on Glasslip, with hardly a moment of interaction between two of the friends that isn’t awkward or discordant. Only Hiro and Machi are above the fray, but they seem to be unwittingly isolating themselves from it. While the methods vary from person to person, the fact remains: the circle is tearing itself apart.

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Of course, making omelettes requires the breakage of some eggs, and if these six people are to enter adulthood as “complete selves”, perhaps drifting apart either peacefully or fitfully, is simply a part of that process. In their first confrontation that ends in the punch that gives this ep its title, Yuki and Kakeru both say they can’t help how they’re acting, it’s just the way they are.

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Of course, because of who’s fallen for whom, some omelettes will land back in the pan when flipped, and others will land to the floor. Kakeru and Yuki both like Touko, but Touko can only choose one of them, while Yana loses either way because she likes Yuki. It’s the kind of predicament that can lead young people to make rash choices.

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At points in the episode both Touko and Kakeru remark on how they basically may be awful people, but I don’t think they’re being fair to themselves. They are who they are, and they like each other; one has to assign an order of precedence, and in the case of finding someone who makes you feel complete and with whom you share future flashes, well…in my book that’s pretty important.

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As I said, the drama and intrigue was laid on thick this week, with heated phone calls and even a duel challenge. But as intense as all this feels to its participants, the episode keeps everything in perspective by making the indifferent surroundings of the town as conspicuous as ever; essentially showing life going on as it always has and always will. No amount of omelette-making can mar its serene constancy.

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