Aldnoah.Zero – 08

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For the first time, Inaho, his friends, and the other Terrans aren’t on the run or fighting for their lives, nor is anyone in particular looking for them…unless you count that ridiculously brief cease-fire (we’re not). Those who would are either defeated or in the dark. Now they have their flying battleship Deucalion and their Aldnoah Drive-activating Princess, what’s left of the world would seem to be their oyster.

The show makes the very unexpected decision not to have the Terrans recover Slaine after he’s shot down. Instead they flee the area, and Cruhteo is the one who finds him. While Inaho, Rayet, and Asseylum have to endure a mildly stern debriefing from Magbaredge and some rather amusing interactions with Inko, Nina and Calm, Slaine is tortured mercilessly for information about why he went to the island.

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Interspersed with sense of his sickening treatment at the hands of Cruhteo as Saazbaum looks on, the show—and Slaine himself—flash back to happier times, which show that after Asseylum saved his life, Slaine was the one who inspired her to want to travel to Earth and seek peace in the first place. He was the spark, but it was only ignited because she was also a good and decent person who saved him regardless of his homeworld.

Cruhteo looks to be on the verge of extinguishing the spark for good when Slaine finally pipes up, telling Cruhteo he killed Sir Trillram because he tried to assassinate the princess, who’s still alive. Like Slaine, we couldn’t know whose side Cruhteo was on, and so had to assume he was an enemy…but he’s not. Once he learns of the assassination plot, he asks Slaine’s forgiveness, genuninely impressed a lowly Terran risked his life for Asseylum.

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Then Cruhteo springs into action…perhaps too quickly and recklessly. If you know other Orbital Knights have conspired against the crown, you’d think he’d be a little more careful acting on the very dangerous information he’s just received. Still, it’s in his character to be all noble and bombastic and arrogant to a fault.

Calling for a cease-fire, asking for Terran assistance in locating the princess, and vowing to punish the traitor knights are all well and good, but blurting it all out on open channels where your enemy can hear you and know you’re a sitting duck…it smacks of incompetence and naivete. Saazbaum descends on his bridge, and Cruhteo is so clueless he just stands there calling for his kataphrakt to be readied…as if Saazbaum would wait for him to mount one so they could have an honorable duel.

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Nope, Saazbaum just kills him. Having a loyal, powerful knight like Cruhteo on Asseylum’s side seemed like a good idea at first, but knowing how ill-prepared Cruhteo was for the game Saazbaum had set up makes us wonder if he wouldn’t have been more a hindrance than a help. The sensible knights seem to have no honor, and the honorable ones no sense.

It gets to the crux of Rayet’s bitter monologue in the Deucalion’s briefing room, which I really dug, so here it is verbatim:

We can’t trust you Martians, either. A nation that latched onto an archaic feudal system that relies on the superscience of an ancient civilization called Aldnoah…Commoners who are obsessed with proving themselves in battle to win social standing…and nobility who casually betray them and grind them into the dirt…How can you possibly trust people like that?!

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Rayet has said often that All Martians are the enemy, but we hadn’t truly appreciated the efficacy of those words until now. Still, as Calm so eloquently puts it during his fantastic flip-flop (thoroughly un-impressing Inko and Nina in the process, as he caves because Asseylum is so cute), there are good and bad martians.

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Yet Between the self-involved knights and the uninformed commoners, the only two good Martians so far are Asseylum and Eddelrittuo. The rest, be it by virtue of their hostility, ignorance, or ineptitude, are indeed the enemy. If there are any other Martians out there—be it knights or their retainers—worth a damn to the cause of peace, we haven’t seen them yet. Will that change, or are our heroes on their own?

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Sword Art Online II – 08

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No more setup or qualifying; Ballet of Bullets 3 officially kicks off this week; a 30-man battle royale with only one victor (at least, there was only one in the previous two BoBs) taking place in a 10 square kilometer stage filled with several different terrains. One of SAO II’s challenges is to make the game look like a lot of fun, and it doesn’t have any trouble with that: the pre-BoB betting; the drinking and carousing; the countdown and the fireworks all conspire to make this a grand, exciting event.

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Before it starts, Sinon allows Kirito to keep hanging around her asking for information, likely because she felt a connection between them in the qualifying finals. Unlike us, she doesn’t know exactly what Kirito’s deal is, but in exchange for letting him stick by her, she gets a lot more information in this regard, and even realizes that Kirito could well be an SAO survivor, something he doesn’t admit for sure (though we thought he would).

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In a nice moment of levity, Kirito capitalizes on his new-found celebrity in GGO, which has all but equaled Sinon’s overnight. Of course, that would evaporate almost instantly if everyone finds out he’s really a guy. But he wants all eyes on him because that’s what all of Death Gun’s victims had when he murdered them: it was done out in the open, with an audience. And there’s no greater audience in GGO than BoB.

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After Sinon reiterates the promise Kirito made her to stay alive so they could fight, they jump into BoB. Nine of the thirty players drop almost immediately, and surprisingly, Sinon and Kirito aren’t apart for long. Kirito makes another deal with her: they’ll watch the battle unfold until there’s only one player left and them; that person is sure to be Death Gun, if he’s the threat Kirito believes him to be, after all.

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Sinon agrees (as long as she gets to fight him seriously at some point in the future), but Death Gun surprises them both by showing up out of nowhere, hitting “Pale Rider” (whom Kirito thought could be Death Gun) with a stun round super-rare silencing sniper rifle then aiming his handgun at him. Fearful Death Gun’s shot will kill the player, Kirito orders Sinon to shoot Death Gun first. Cliffhanger and roll credits. Rats!

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All in all, nice episode. Certainly all the pieces seem to be in place for the final confrontation with Death Gun, including the reveal of who he actually is. Like the 75th Hunger Games, the BoB will probably fade into the background in light of Kirito’s more pressing mission, and again, Sinon should prove a valuable ally. While she may exhibit tsundere-ty on occasion, I’m loving Sinon’s interactions with Kirito, wanting to learn more about him as her trust in him gradually grows.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 08

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Overcome by grief and loneliness, Hinami breaks out of Anteiku to wander Tokyo. This is an extraordinarily bad decision, but it’s one a young girl in her state is more than capable of, and in any case, its the catalyst for two crucial and simultaneous showdowns, which in their combined form we consider to be the best the show has presented to date.

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I want to say that none of this would have happened had everyone taken turns being by Hinami’s side in her fragile state, rather than keeping her in a dark room alone (She’s not a stray cat!), but Mado was gunning for her big time, and ultimately would have found her anyway. She just makes confrontations that have to happen happen sooner, and I don’t have a problem with that.

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One showdown is between Touka and Mado, as Hinami cowers in the corner. The other is between Mado’s partner Amon and Ken. Both showdowns feature the same conversations. Amon decries how Ghouls heartlessly tear apart families and are messing up the world; Touka says pretty much the same things about humans to Mado, trying to get him to see her point of view.

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Touka’s words fall on ears that aren’t necessarily deaf by choice, but it’s hinted that they’ve been permanently closed by decades of torment. It’s simply too late for Mado. With that in mind, morals aside Mado is a brilliant genius for figuring out how to make quinques out of the kagunes of dead ghouls. One can’t help but wonder the good that genius could have done had it not been twisted by decades of grief and anguish.

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Alright, enough sympathizing with Mado, the bastard tries to use parts of Hinami’s dead parents to kill her and Touka. NOT COOL. You can’t spell Mado without “Mad”, right? Touka, still recovering from her last fight with him, is again overpowered by Mado’s dual-wield quinques, but his killing coup-de-grace is nullified by Hinami, of all people.

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She finally reveals her own kagunes, showing she possesses the combined powers of both her loving parents. She uses them, and Mado goes down, but she doesn’t finish him, not wanting to become a killer. Mado bleeds out and dies on his own—a welcome nod to the fact that humans are far more fragile than ghouls, and all but defenseless without quinques.

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Whereas it’s too late for Mado and he won’t listen to anything Touka says, Ken is more than receptive of Amon’s words. He knows them well, since they’re the exact same words that describe what’s happened to Hinami. What Amon doesn’t understand yet, but isn’t beyond understanding like Mado, given time, is that ghouls have the same feelings humans do. Amon is so caught up on the minority of evil ghouls that he’s blind to the fact most of them are just trying to live.

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He’s also so caught up in the grief and victimhood that he’s also blind to the fact that there’s a minority of bad humans that, along with the bad ghouls, are messing up the world together. Neither side is innocent here, and there’s plenty of middle ground to be had if only cooler heads on either side sat down and listened. As he’s being beaten to a pulp, Ken realizes that having both ghoul and human makes him singularly equipped to be the bridge the two races desperately need before they destroy each other.

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At first, he tries to make Amon understand by letting himself get beaten up. When that doesn’t work, he grudgingly summons Rize’s power and attacks Amon, but like Hinami, holds back, not wanting to become a killer. Rize, as mad as Mado, fights hard to take over Ken’s body, but Amon isn’t mortally wounded, and heeds Ken’s desperate cries to run away. Amon sees the tears and the pain Ken is in, and knows Ken just had mercy on him. Maybe that’s the beginning of him starting to understand.

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I just hope Amon finding Mado’s body doesn’t undo all of the progress (such as it was) Ken made with him. Ken, meanwhile, is saved from flying off the handle by Yomo, who takes Ken’s strike like it’s nothing (though it probably is something), calmly states he now sees what Yoshimura saw in him, and asks him to come home. They reunite with Touka and Hinami. When the latter asks if “it’s okay for her to be alive”, Ken is ready with an apt reponse: “your mom was telling you to live.” Is it okay to be alive? Absolutely. Is it easy? Not a chance.

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Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? – 07

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The Roommates practice their roles for the play, with Tulip training Satomi especially hard in Knightly duties — including fighting. Satomi takes his lumps but learns quickly.

Apparently the villainous villain is “Clan,” Tulip’s sister and second crown princess to the empire. Tulip says Clan has a stealth ship, which is why they cant find her. Why she is explaining this to Satomi (who doesn’t care) during there a tea break is rather questionable.

Her reasons for training him to be a Knight are pretty dubious for that matter. He’s only supposed to walk around on stage in costume for goodness sakes…

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“it would be pointless to go looking for her” – Tulip says while Clan is hiding in the closet behind to her. Smooth!

Clan makes several attempts on Tulip’s life but is regularly thwarted by Satomi. In fact, Satomi is first to notice Clan, who’s terrible at stealth because she’s clearly evil and conspicuous amongst the theatre club. (regardless of wearing their school uniform)

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Meanwhile, Ruth has discovered Hercules-chan but hasn’t figured out that ‘the cute bug’ is a ‘beetle.’ So she hasn’t gotten made yet. Because aliens know everything about everything except that we call certain types of insects beetles. Gotcha!

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“I have come from untold time and distance” – Blue Knight

The Blue Knight’s introductory lines to the Gray Princess sound and awful lot like the premise to El Hazard. That the princess doesn’t recognize his crests either — and remember Tulip just submitted her nation’s legend word for word — make it look more and more like we’re going to have a time travel other world moment somewhere in the future.

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Apparently Boob-chan is the only one to notice this. Though, for added mystery, she’s heard the same line from… some guy that gave her a trading card or something. It’s unclear, honestly.

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The conflict climaxes on the eve of the festival, with Satomi saving the day on several levels and Clan being completely defeated. Satomi even gets a dragon ball style charge up moment to break through Clan’s defense field.

Then Tulip knights Satomi while he’s sleeping through the credits. (episode end)

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Seven weeks in and RnS is has cornered the market on watchability the way Bud Light has cornered the market on drinkability. It’s absolute minimum effort and quality necessary to keep a viewer’s eyes on the screen and their brain function just above absent.

A mystery has been eluded to but who can care? This was a wacky antics comedy for 3 episodes, remember? It’s not like there’s anything at steak hear — for goodness sake! The worst that can happen is 4/5 of the characters lose their claims on a 10×10 apartment that has, thus far, shown no significance other than they all ended up there!

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Still, drinkability is drinkability! The character interactions are more fluid now. Their relationships a little more believable and nuanced. Amidst all the nonsense, Satomi even asks Tulip to teach him how to dance and it’s half way cute, in a Tsundere sort of way.

But my goodness! I’m not invested in this show and it’s clearly going to ramble on in a predictable-yet-random direction for at least 6 more episodes, I think I’m going to leave it where it is. Satomi is knighted. He’s going to travel time and space somehow and several of the girls will probably get happy endings, one way or another.

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Final Note: The best moment since the premiere was Ruth, having realized the Beetle is a Beetle, chasing Cosplay-chan and Hercules saying ‘Shoo! Shoo!’ with an angry Japanese accent. If there was every a sound byte worthy of a ring tone or an alarm clock in my life, this would be it!