Aldnoah.Zero – 10

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This week’s episode of A/Z was spectacularly efficient and moving right from the get-go, as Inaho figures out that the Deucalion is down because Seylum is. Does he panic or scream? Who do you think we’re talking about, fool? (You’re not a fool. I apologize.) He enters Inaho Lifesaver Mode, using the CPR he learned (and took seriously) in high school, not hesitating for a moment to do what needs to be done to bring the princess back.

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Lesser shows would have played up the embarrasment a teenage boy would have at having to suddenly be so intimate with the girl he likes, but A/Z is not a lesser show. The scene is immensely tense and thrilling, and as the sweat gathered on Inaho’s brow and Seylum isn’t waking up, I’ll admit to getting a little leaky-eyed. And while in real life only 7% of people undergoing CPR are successfully revived, this is thankfully part of that 7%. Her first gasp for air is a viscerally satisfying moment.

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Then Seylum fingers her attacker, Rayet grabs an automatic, and it’s Standoff Time. Rayet confesses, she’s a Martian too. All this time she’s been calling them the enemy and scum unworthy of trust, she’s also been talking about herself, or at least what she once was, as shes been trying to become a Terran since her father’s death. Seylum counters Rayet’s bile with contriteness and kindness, admitting her rash actions have only made Earth-Vers relations worse.

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Rayet’s frustration is rooted far less in politics, or even the fact her father died, than her jealousy over Seylum’s “transition” in the midst of all these intense events, and that the Terrans so readily accepted her. To Rayet’s eyes, she’s gotten everything so easily, and it has eaten her up inside. She’s so taken aback by Seylum’s response, she loses her cool altogether and turns the pistol on herself. That’s when BAM, INAHO ACTION MODE disarms and restrains her, quick as a flash. This kid is cool as shit.

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As awesome and powerful as this “shower standoff” was, it only took up the episode’s A-part, which also managed to squeeze Yagarai giving Magbaredge a DVD containing his interview with Lt. Morito, in which he lays out the tragic but also very understandable circumstances of her brother’s death during Heaven’s Fall, maybe paving the path for Magbaredge to forgive him. That’s quite a frikkin’ first half.

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That’s a nice segue into the second half, since the day of Heaven’s Fall also carries great weight with Count Saazbaum. He and his betrothed Viscountess Orlane were sent on an advance mission to Earth’s surface, and her kataphrakt’s flight systems failed after the moon shattered. He was forced to escape, leaving her behind to die just as Morito left Humeray.

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But he and Orlane wouldn’t have even been there if it weren’t for the Vers Royal Family, turning the peoples’ discontent over degrading conditions on Mars onto Earth by making Terrans the scapegoat. And while revenge is extremely important to Saazbaum, his motivation goes beyond that. He’s tired of pretending Vers is any kind of place to have a civilization, especially since that civilization has only survived thanks to Aldnoah, which is controlled by the royals.

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This is interesting, because Saazbaum isn’t your Vers true believer, and yet he isn’t simply in this for himself: he has no regard to the empire he hails from. He built up his lands and his wealth all by himself, as did other counts, but always he had to live in the same shadow of Aldnoah as everyone else. Inhabiting Mars is a “fool’s errand” to him; only Earth can properly accommodate them.

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That Earth is already inhabited is of no consequence to him…and in any case, there simply don’t seem to be a whole lot of Terrans left on Earth anyway. When the Deucalion finally arrives at United Earth HQ they find the undergound shelters under-inhabited and over-supplied. Still, it’s all they’ve got, and Saazbaum is headed there to put the Terrans out of their misery.

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Can Inaho and the others wriggle their way out of it? Is Rayet destined to sit out the remainder of the show in the brig? Will Darzana forgive Morito, and will Morito be able to move forward? Heck, Asseylum even made Inaho flinch by calling him a kind person, no matter what practical excuses he gives for all that he’s done for her. Will these two go anywhere? What side will Slaine pick? There’s an awful lot of questions to answer. I sure hope two episodes is enough to do it.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 05

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It’s been a long time since the last Sailor Moon Crystal, so…um…where were we? The Sailor Guardians are only three-fifths assembled and they’re no closer to finding their princess or the crystal. While we’ve said Usagi’s superpower is ineptness, she actually has another: the ability to make friends with anyone. Usagi, Ami and Rei are profoundly different people who don’t make friends easily, but Usagi made it easy, and their bonds are bolstered by their shared mission.

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Enter the statuesque Kino Makoto, a new transfer student. The school is awash in rumors that she possesses superhuman strength, and got kicked out of her old school for fighting. Usagi doesn’t listen to all that noise (or her ears possibly filter it out) and reaches out to Makoto, not because she’s taking pity or “being nice”, but because she thinks Makoto is a beautiful, capable person. I agree, and Koshimizu Ami is the perfect voice for that role (note that I’ve never heard the original Jupiter). There’s also Luna’s belief that the other sailor guardians are being drawn to Usagi.

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Others just see her size and strength and are intimidated and avoid Makoto, but Usagi sees the beauty and girliness beyond. The pattern of Usagi befriending a future sailor guardian, followed by that person being targeted by one of the bad guys (Nephrite), is repeated here, with the Makoto’s lure being her memory of being rejected by a senpai she liked. Meanwhile numerous men are being lured into slavery by a demon bride mannequin controlled by Nephy.

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The Sailor Guardians (or Scouts, whatever you want to call them) never miss an opportunity to help a captured group of ordinary people in the process of recruiting a new member, and this is no different. They also get into trouble, but their brand-new member Sailor Jupiter bails them out with her combination of graceful rose hurricanes and forceful lightning blasts. Rei now has some serious competition for the most powerful guardian.

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Rail Wars! – 10

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After D4’s biggest challenge yet, there’s no rest for the weary, as we go straight into the next mission, which is just as well, as there are only two more episodes left after this one. Naoto & Co. are charged with protecting Prince Bernina, fifth in line for the throne of Atela, as his highness travels in style aboard the Hakutosai to Sapporo for a sister city ceremony. “I thought broads loved this royalty shit!” C’mon, Naoto, don’t you know Aoi? She’s a knight.

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Why Bernina is putting his faith in JNR public safety trainees rather than having his own entourage of highly-skilled royal guards is never explained, but whatevs. Also, we know D4 is more than capable. For his part, Bernie’s is your typical delicate blonde European type, but rather than be an entitled little snot, he’s quite nice and down-to-earth, and really into trains, just like Naoto. I can’t blame him; that Hakutosai looks like fantastic way to travel.

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Unfortunately, Aoi misses the train because she’s chasing someone, intent not just on protecting the prince because its her duty, but protecting Naoto because she looooves him (we can assume). Her blank expression as a wordless response to Naoto’s comment that “anyone she seduces is in for a lot of pain” is more evidence, as if we needed any. Naoto’s kinda got a big mouth this week; he also kinda tells a shorter-skirted (for mobility) Haruka she only has to be bait.

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Shuu can’t hold off two would-be baddies going after the prince, and one of them shocks Naoto repeatedly with a taser, which seems to be set to “tickle.” Even if Aoi’s training involved building up Naoto’s pain threshold, he seems to take a ridiculous amount of shocks. That stalls the baddie long enough for Aoi to swoop in and clean up. We missed Aoi, but her absence for most of the episode gave her surprise arrival more heft. The first threats to Prince Bernie’s life have been neutralized, but there will surely be more as this story continues next week.

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The central twist, which wasn’t all that surprising, is that the prince is actually a princess, a secret known only to the royal family…and Naoto, who busts in on her when he hears her fall in the shower. I chuckled at Naoto’s strategic placement of his head and arms when he made this realization, but it remains to be seen if there’s a connection between her secret femininity and the baddies after her. For now, we’ll rate this as Aoi rated Naoto’s performance: “Not bad.”

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