Aldnoah.Zero – 07

az71

AZ delivers yet another action-packed, cinematic tour-de-force of an episode. After fighting with little but their wits and some luck, Inaho & Co. finally catch a break when the sorta-deserting Slaine tracks down the Princess and “Orange”, his nickname for Inaho’s trainer, and they finally have a decent weapon in his sleek Sky Carrier with which to do battle with their latest Martian foe.

az72

I’m not going to mince words; Femieanne is not much of a character at all, but we can see how her sturm und drang routine would scare most humans into submission. Not Inaho; he continues to keep his cool and pinpoints all her weaknesses, such that by the time she stops playing around and getting serious about the fight, it’s too late. Meanwhile, Inaho, Yuki, Inko and Slaine buy valuable time for Magbaredge’s ship.

az73

When a secret cave is revealed in the island’s rock face, the ship is steered in and collapses the opening. What they find is something even the Martians apparently didn’t know about: not only is the very red “demon” kataphrakt that Morito battled fifteen years ago, but an entire Aldnoah-powered hover-battleship, the reveal of which is suitably bad-ass in scale and intensity.

az75

I can forgive Femieanne being a bit lame because of that and pretty much Inaho does this week, always carrying the expression that it’s, like, no biggie. He decides to put his trust in “Bat” and climbs aboard the carrier so he can gain more height in his fight with the enemy Kat. As I said, he determines the fingers and engines of Fem’s arms are weak points. But between his cool heroics and the battleship reveal, this wasn’t a bad romp at all.

az76

After that battleship runs Fem over, leaving her a heap of twisted metal and red lights, it’s Rayet, piloting a Kat, who delivers the killing blow. Then Inaho does something unexpected but not out of character: he shoots Slaine down, calling him an enemy, and who can blame him? The humans will need the power of Aldnoah to defeat the Martians, and if Slaine aims to stop them for Asseylum’s sake, he is indeed the enemy.

9_brav

Advertisements

Sword Art Online II – 07

sao71

In this calm-before-the-storm episode, SAOII puts the action on hold and takes the time to reflect on the present emotional states of Kazuto and Shino, painting the coming rematch as must-win for both of them. If Kirito loses, his chances of facing off with Death Gun diminish greatly, now that Death Gun is far more than the target he was hired to investigate.

saoii72

While outside of the MMO where he gets to shoot and slash and take his mind off things, in the real world Kazuto is haunted by his titular “crimson memories,” or rather the lack of detail in them. After putting on a brave, reassuring face for both Asuna and Sugu (a face they don’t quite believe), it’s Nurse Aki who finally gets to the heart of his torment: because he forgot two of the faces of the men he killed, he believes he’s a monster who doesn’t deserve to be saved.

saoii73

Aki can’t do much more than offer hugs of increasing intensity, but hugs can be immensely effective in moments such as this. I particularly like how Aki admitted she had no idea what it must’ve been like to kill in SAO, but as a medical professional she deals in life and death all the time, and sometimes someone has to die for someone else to live, and someone else has to choose, and live with that choice.

saoii74

Neither I nor Aki can believe that Kazuto is the monster he claims, simply because a monster wouldn’t suffer like he is. And as Aki says, people have a right to save themselves by balancing their guilt for the people they killed by remembering the people they saved and protected. It’s a burden to be acknowledged and carried, not a pyre upon which to immolate oneself.

saoii75

Shino is in a bit of a tough spot as well. Her time spent with Kirito in GGO has changed her; she’s even making a gun shape with her hand in the real world, something she never could do. As much as she doesn’t want to admit it, he’s helping her become stronger. Meanwhile, Kyouji confesses to her in both worlds, wanting her to go back to the way she was; a selfish notion, considering how much we know Shino didn’t like the way she was.

saoii76

Continuing his campaign of acting like a very suspicious motherfucker, Shinkawa Kyouji makes Sinon even more uneasy—not the best thing to be when you’re in the tournament of your life—but Kirito is just as uneasy. These are two people whose souls have been wounded by the lives they’ve taken, and both have chosen the BoB as the venue of their redemption, if there’s any to be had. But only one of them will move on.

8_brav

Tokyo Ghoul – 07

ghoul71

After six weeks of building up our affinity for the Ghouls, we finally get a more in-depth look at the Doves. Like the Ghouls, not all of them are remorseless killers. If you forget the overarching fact that they’re a force tasked with subjugating and eliminating another race, they occupy a comparable amount of shades of grey as the Ghouls.

ghoul72

Both sides have their extremes. Mado is very much the Dove equivalent of Rize and Shuu: unhinged and completely detached from morality. Both sides have their innocents, whether it’s Hinami and her mom on the Ghoul side or Amon’s two colleagues, who always seem to be the ones who pay the price for the action or inaction of a third group. “The more earnest they are, the sooner they lose their lives.”

ghoul73

Amon and Touka belong to that third group: far stronger and more capable than the innocents, but still aware that their actions are wrong, but must be taken anyway. I don’t think Mado was born rotten any more than Shuu was; time and the horrors they witnessed and committed over the years, twisted all of them gradually.

ghoul74

When Hinami’s mom is killed senselessly, Touka cannot stop herself from retaliating, even though Mado is a walking ghoul encyclopedia armed with a deadly zabimaru-esque quinque that seems to be fueled by ghoul blood. In other words, she’s no match. Touka is as indiscriminate in her victims as Mado was.

ghoul75

Murdering the affable “dove schlub” Kusaba sets off Amon the same way Ryoko’s murder set her off. This is a cycle of violence that is very much in practice in several parts of the real world, and that’s just between factions of humans; It’s not surprising coexistence between humans and ghouls is equally untenable.

ghoul76

This isn’t just a case of evil people doing evil things and good people doing nothing to stop them; it’s about people who could be good becoming seduced by anger and revenge and letting it drive them to commit evil themselves. Ken still hasn’t made sense of it all, nor does he know who, if anyone, to endorse. All he knows is that Touka is his friend and he doesn’t want her or anyone else to die.

ghoul77

He’s also sick of doing nothing, so he collects his spooky mask from Uta and accompanies Touka; not to kill investigators, he says, but to do something. He’s not sure what he’ll do—it will greatly depend on what Touka is up to—but at least he’ll be in the position to do it.

9_mag

P.S.: The illustrations during the end credits have always been a feast for the eyes, and we get a new set this week. If only the characters looked this awesome all the time!

Sailor Moon Crystal – 04

smc41

While the Sailor Guardians have spent much of their time fighting Youma since gaining their powers, this week emphasizes that their “ultimate mission” as described by Luna, is to protect their princess…only even Luna doesn’t know who that is. They have to seek her out.

smc42

What a coincidence: there’s a princess in town! Princess D of the Kingdom of D, comes from a land famous for its precious stones (Africa?) with a “secret treasure” in her possession she’ll unveil at a fancy masquerade ball. Could this be the princess they’re meant to protect?

smc43

Well, obviously no. For one thing, we’re only four episodes into a 26-episode series, and for another, only three sailor guardians have awakened. When they’re all accounted for, some kind of seal will presumably be broken, revealing their charge to them.

smc44

But while they don’t know who their princess is or where the Legendary Silver MacGuffin is, now they have a clearer picture of their enemies: the Four Kings with names ending in “-ite.” All four assemble and reveal themselves to the three guardians, but then withdraw.

smc45

Nephrite was the active king this week, disguising himself as a woman and making the princess possessed by a Youma in order to steal the treasure. Like the Guardians, he was lured to the princess believing her treasure was the crystal, but it’s only a big carved diamond.

ssmc46

The episode also allowed room for the girls to bond a little at the arcade, then use (abuse?) their powers to infiltrate the ball as princesses, which is definitely something pretty guardians and Usagi in particular would do. If you can transform into a princess, you ain’t staying home that night!

smc47

This is also the episode in which Chiba Mamoru AKA Tuxedo Mask seems to start falling for the girl he’s stalking in order to find the crystal. I like how despite how close he and Usagi are getting, he always draws away at the last minute, as if to preserve his neutrality. But he can’t help stealing a moonlit kiss.

smc48

Of all the characters in the show, he’s the only one who isn’t overtly good or evil, though that’s partially because we just don’t know enough about him yet. He’s someone who could save (or be saved by) Usagi one week, then back-stab her the next, and Luna doesn’t like anyone she can’t place in either a black or white column.

8_mag

Stray Observations:

  • The dresses Usagi, Ami, and Rei choose to wear match their personalities perfectly.
  • Ever since there’s been more than one Sailor Guardian to transform, the show’s done them one at a time in sequence, which tends to kill the momentum a bit. I feel like they’re wanting a split-screen treatment, something used to great effect in Kill la Kill to move transformation sequences along and imbue them with more power.
  • It’s been established that Usagi can be a major klutz, but she doesn’t bump herself once while rushing out of the house in the morning, and she dances quite gracefully with Tux. Are her newfound powers affecting her regular self?
  • The Four Kings will probably kick themselves for not combining their powers and defeating the Guardians now, while there are still only three of them. Ah well, no one said these villains were smart.

Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? – 04

RnS4_0p

Satomi and the girls call a ceasefire and head to the beech. Sakuraba, who is rich and owns a ocean side summer home, is there too. While overly nice to all of the girls, Satomi only really has eyes for Sakuraba, which alienates everyone, especially the Aliens. Meanwhile, a mysterious group of ecchi Yakuza are up to something. Probably no good!

This week RnS throws down its gauntlet and challenges us to watch a beach episode—that also has a hot spring! Each girl gets to have her own ho-hum pre-beach adventure at the shopping mall, which results in typical (and not very exciting) alternate character designs for the episode’s second half. There’s really nothing remarkable here—the girls fan-service play in the water, Satomi gets in trouble for accidentally copping a feel, and Magic Girl even sports the group’s genre-appropriate gym class swim suit!

RnS4_0y

While the reason is not explained this week, the beach trip appears to have been staged by two Yakuza Bros. I certainly appreciate that RnS is giving us a side plot that doesn’t entirely revolve around yet another girl for the harem, but it probably would have worked better if the Yakuza plot was given a little more context.

Sure, we know the Bros rigged the lottery so the girls would win, and that they ecchi spied on the girls at the beach, and refer to a nefarious plan, but it’s all so ambiguous, which is totally out of step with the rest of the show (unless you count the still unexplained and not revisited shrine maiden vignette from the premier…).

Maybe I found it more egregious because the episode ends with the Yakuza, still not explaining anything and makes it very clear the beach will be a two-parter! I guess that’s kinda ballsy for the genre?

RnS4_0j

The episode also gave us a short but surprising amount of screen time for the captain of the Cosplay Society, who I’d written off as a complete side character but who knows? The unspoken lines between her and Satomi alone make me nervous that she, too, will join the Harem at some point. At least the other cosplayers don’t even have faces and are unlikely to emerge in the harem.

RnS4_0a

In the end, the episode is about Satomi showing affection to each girl to some degree, each girl wanting that affection to some degree, and each girl coming to understand-if-not-respect her competitors’ motivations. Well, except Kasagi. I have no idea why she’s in this group at all since she has no motivation to like Satomi, care who wins the apartment, nor have anything on the line at all. But hey, Harem right?

Oh! Sakuraba isn’t in on the hot springs either, because she’s at her mansion or wasn’t invited or the animation team forgot she was even in the episode. No character development for you!

RnS4_0n

Siiiiiigggghhhhhhhhh

What can be said? RnS is as cliche as ever but, not counting the totally bizarre reason Satomi accidentally grabbed boob (dreaming about climbing a tree to catch a giant beetle), this week was all harem and no humor. Seriously! RnS isn’t drawn well enough, nor is it smutty enough, to get away with that.

5_ogk