Grisaia no Kajitsu – 02

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This week focuses on Makina and Yumiko, the childish aloof and tsundere murderess respectively. Neither story is earth-shatteringly interesting and neither reveals much about the mystery of the school itself and why everyone is there but they are charming, well timed, and thoughtful.

Perhaps more interesting than either story are the short flashbacks of each girl’s arrival at the school from Yumiko’s perspective. The are brief (they run during the credits) but they establish almost as much about the characters and their class-relationship back story as we’ve seen developed during the meat of the show. Telling us Amane is a Biker Gang member, truthful or not, is an amusing proposition regardless.

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In the first act, Yuuji stumbles upon a sleeping Makina. After checking her pulse and inspecting her partially eaten apple for poison, he let’s her sleep. When she wakes up, he casually follows her and is bemused as she feeds fish and has it out with a ‘claw fish’

They bond and become friends, which surprises everyone else. Without knowing enough Japanese, I’m wondering if this show just made a self depreciating joke about Engrish or not. Either way, the scenes are cute. Almost funny.

GnK2_2only one fan service scene this week… butt it’s a big one!

Much of the rest of the episode is devoted to Yumiko and her wish to stab Yuuji. Up to his arrival, she’s been the mother figure of the student body. Sorta. And Yuuji’s presence does not set her at ease.

Unfortunately, Yumiko does not appear to be an assassin (nor even on the level of Amane) and she is totally useless at attacking Yuuji. I can’t rule her out as being some sort of nasty weapon for hire or some other form of underworld miscreant, as the show implies everyone here is. However, it would be funny if she was the only one who was not…

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This week took a mild but more than a little awkward dip into ‘cutesy’ style. Not enough to make me angry with it, nor really can I fault it per say: Yumiko’s attacks on Yuuji are pretty silly. Childish, even. Making fun of them makes sense. It’s just a dangerous line to toe.

GnK is not the kind of show that I would watch if it got to silly.

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Last but not least we meet JB, Yuuji’s immediate employer. She’s a sexy bombshell who drives a fast yellow car and she annoys the hell out of him. Frankly, she annoys the heck out of me too. She’s just a dull character, fraught with cliché and a unnecessarily pointless story thread.

Additionally, making all the girls jealous (even if it’s just an act to lull us and Yuuji into a sense of ease) came off as silly. Sillier than Amane’s footsie play earlier in the episode at least — AND THAT WAS SILLY TOO!

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In shot: GnK still worked. The mystery is still interesting, still unrevealed, and even though we got very little, we got glimpses of motivation and setting. Episode 2 was far less unsettling than the first but, I’m hoping, this is all going to plan.

Till next week, don’t enrage any girls with exacto-blades!

8_ogk

 

Nanatsu no Taizai – 02

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By resquest, I gave Nanatsu no Taizai (Seven Deadly Sins) a second chance this week and, I’ll admit, there are times when my first impression of an anime is dead wrong.

This was not one of those times.

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NnT/SDS isn’t exactly painful to watch. The animation is passable and it doesn’t aspire to be more than it is. The story isn’t the worst story ever either and, again, it doesn’t appear to take itself all that serious.

So it’s not pretentious or reaching beyond its means.

nnt2_2the self-burying pig-pub is the most interesting element in the show IMHO

Still…  this show abysmally average. The hero’s boob fetish, the cheerful and mostly unflappable princess who accepts constant molestation, and the quest to gather the rest of the party are straight up been there done that.

Does that make NnT/SSD horrible? No but it makes it impossible to recommend when 4 significantly more mature, more original shows air on the same day, let alone  the others that air during the week this season.

If you’re watching this show, or simply disagree, drop me a line in the comments below.

5_ogk drop_ogk

Akame ga Kill! – 15

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Akame ga Kill! really wants you to understand that the Ultimate Battle between Night Raid and the Jaegars and between the Rebellion and the Empire, is about to begin. Both characters and the narrator mention it at least half a dozen times. They should have also said something along the lines of “these battles are definitely on the way, but bear with us a little while we lay out all the details and get people into their proper positions for said battles.” Or something.

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So yeah, this episode is yet more setup. By the end of it, Najenda, Akame, Tatsumi and Leone are engaged with Kurome and Bols, with Susanoo having smacked Wave off the battlefield entirely. It doesn’t seem like either party is going to back down or retreat; this is it. We just don’t get to see any actual fighting quite yet.

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“Wait…WHY are we in bikinis, again?”

We do get a somewhat meandering Rube Goldberg-like plan for overthrowing the Capital and Empire; one that depends on a lot of moving parts which could spell disaster if any of them failed. It starts with a popular religious group starting an insurrection within the empires borders, followed by invasions from without by the Revolutionary Army and its allied tribes.

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“Are the crepes good, people? Good!”

They’re depending on the zealots being enough of a threat to warrant a sizable movement of Imperial forces in the direction the Revolutionary wants, as well as the cooperation of disillusioned castellans on the route to the Capital to honor their word to yield their castles to the rebels. If everything goes according to plan, the capital will be theirs, its corrupt leaders dispatched, and all with a minimum of bloodshed.

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But c’mon now, not everything is going to go according to plan. Neither the rebel army nor Night Raid can do anything without dealing with Esdeath and the Jaegers first (Najenda also name-drops Commander-in-Chief Budou). The episode serves as a means to take stock in each Night Raid member or Jaeger’s specific reasons and motivations for fighting, with Seryu’s probably being the most morally upside-down (though that’s not surprising considering the mentors she’s had).

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On the other end of the spectrum is Wave, who isn’t even listed as a target, but he has his own reasons for fighting on the side he’s on. Regardless of whether you’re an otherwise nice guy like him or Bols, or a complete evil psycho like Kurome, they must all be defeated by Night Raid if the rebellion is to have a chance.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 02

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You know how I bad-mouthed Terra Formars last week for choosing black-out censorship over Cross Ange’s ‘no nipples’ approach. WelI…I don’t know why, but Cross Ange chose to do black-out censorship this week.

Still, I can understand how this happened. I mean, I get it! No nipples doesn’t really change the fact that our fiery princess is being sexually assaulted by her commanding officer as ‘punishment.’ At least, I understand it would have less impact from another angle and nipple-or-not doesn’t change the obvious semi-rape so…maybe I’m getting ahead of myself?

Let’s backtrack…

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Our princess starts her day stuck in a Kindergarten class of sorts for Norma children being ‘educated’ for life (and death) as combat personnel. However, since reeducation is obviously not going to work, Arzenal’s command team decides to just throw her into front line combat and let life-or-death sort things out.

The horrors of this decision, and this setting, can’t really be blamed on any of the immediate characters though. Arzenal is a prison/military base that must fight or die to survive; its prisoners would be crushed by the mana-using mages that label them Norma in the first place, which means rebellion is impossible, and lets face it: the princess isn’t helping herself here. She’s a total jerk to everyone, especially her ‘fellow’ Norma.

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Let’s get one thing straight: DRAGON stands for Dimensional Rift Attuned Gargantuan Organic Neototypes! This is a mecha based Sci-fi, people! None of that frilly magic fantasy stuff here. (except from where the Princess is from… er…ehem)

ca2_01bYou like-and-are-nice to the princess? You are so dead girl!

As you may have guessed from the opening theme, Episode 2 introduces us to a truly dizzying number of characters. Each one of them is distinct and believable in what is basically a women’s only prison (only women can be Norma) but for the life of me, there’s too many to quickly recognize yet.

Still, I don’t think this will be a problem for long. I imagine after a few more of them are killed in brutal, swift and merciless ways, I’ll get used to the survivors’ names…

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(this is actually the least graphic frame of this death scene)

As for the xxxploitation of its characters, this too isn’t really a fault of the show. Everyone is a powerless prisoner. It seems obvious that the strong, the ones who control a sliver of power, would revel in dominating everyone around them.

Gross? Yes! But understandable and I imagine part of Cross Ange’s point: that the segregation and domination of the Norma has lead to making the Norma more horrifyingly outside the confines of society then they would have been if left alone.

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Don’t ever say “I’d rather be naked than wear that dead girl’s clothes!” because we CAN and WILL make that happen!

Cross Ange is brutal, nasty, and creepily sexy in the way that Womens’ Prison Exploitation films in the 70s were but maybe — just maybe — it’s got a little more soul than that.

For now, it’s not even that graphic by guro/extreme hentai standards but be warned. Nipples or not, black-out censors or not, Cross Ange is not for the feint-hearted. It’s mecha drama with a vile bite.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 02

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Pretending to be dating the school Prince has its benefits, like when Sata comes with an umbrella to take Erika home in front of a jealous Marin and Aki. But its immense costs of the lie are starting to mount, and I’m not just talking about her self-esteem: half of the school is in love with the Prince, and all agreed to a “look but don’t touch” policy to keep the peace.

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Between the resulting abuse from that at the continued humiliations she has to suffer when no one’s looking, from holding his umbrella for him to serving as a shield for car mud, to having to actually fetch a stick, one would imagine Erika is getting tired of this charade, which would mean Sata is winning. Her real friend Sanda tells her to just give it up and find a real boyfriend, or at least look for viable alternatives to the Black Prince, or otherwise quit griping.

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Erika for her part is aware of the shabby treatment she’s enduring, but part of her sees it as a battle of wills: she knows Sata is going the extra mile to torture her, and she’s not going to surrender so easily. Sanda perhaps rightfully sees it as simple masochism on Erika’s part, but she doesn’t actually enjoy being treated like this. She’d like a little romance, like the kind she still sees in Marin and Aki’s relationships. (For all we know, they’re both lying too!)

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She finally experiences some, or at least a very realistic simulation of it, in her interactions with Kimura, after surveying the field of guys and finding them lacking (an amusing mini-montage). Because Erika hasn’t so much as fallen for a guy before, she’s particularly vulnerable to deception, and Kimura fools her hook line and sinker, along with us, right up until she admits to him she’s not really Sata’s girlfriend.

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Since the whole point of Kimura being nice to her was to steal her from Sata for revenge, he drops the act like the flipping of a switch, even rubbing it in what a cheap moron she is for falling for his ploy. That’s when Sata reveals he’s been stalking them the whole time (!) and despite saying he hates violence, clocks Kimura. While he’d never admit it, Kimura did succeed in making Sata jealous.

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This is where the show makes the argument that despite the fact both guys objectify and use Erika by exploiting the weaknesses in her personality, Sata is the lesser of two evils…and in this, it mostly succeeds. Sata, after all, doesn’t seem to be maintaining the boyfriend fiction for any ulterior motive I’m aware of; his behavior towards Erika is a lot more sincere, even if he does code it with unfortunate pet dog references.

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There’s also the notion floating around that while Kimura hurts Erika for no real reason other than spiting Sata, Sata’s dog-and-master act seems to come from a buried desire to reform Erika. He’s not saying it, but his actions scream “Things don’t have to be this ridiculous. If you don’t like the way things are between us, you have the power to change it. His latest heroics have her heart starting to skip for him; will she garner the will to abandon her lies and games?

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It still seems there’s a legitimate risk in doing that, as Marin and Aki would surely not take kindly to learning she lied (again, even if they’re lying too) and she’d still have the scorn of every girl who likes Sata. And even after all that, Sata might reject her, like he rejects all girls. The risk is acceptable, and preferable to continuing to maintain falsehoods that open her up to intentionally shabby, degrading treatment. But that doesn’t make Erika’s choice any easier.

8_ses

Sora no Method – 02

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“We’re continuing this?”Nonoka to Yuzuki

The town seems to have gotten used to the fact there’s a giant shimmering saucer floating above it, as have most of the girls who presumably put it up there in the first place seven years ago. At least, outwardly they seem to have moved beyond it as something outside of their control. Even Nonoka, who only remembers bits and pieces of her past there, doesn’t seem that unnerved by its presence. There’s one girl who thinks differently: Mizusaka Yuzuki.

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—”Why are we running?”
—”Because we didn’t do anything wrong!”
– Nonoka and Yuzuki

Yuzuki, voiced with equal measures fiery, impulsive gusto and delicate vulnerability by the lovely Toyosaki Aki, wants the Saucer gone, period. As Nonoka is a new student at school (which starts far sooner than she thought), Yuzuki immediately tries to recruit her to her cause, and comes on a bit strong. She’s passionate in her distrust of it. While it’s played up as something akin to a UFO nut, and Nonoka reacts appropriately, with polite bemusement and a whiff of “Why me?”

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“You can’t call for the leaders at  a reception desk.” – Nonoka

After Yuzuki tells off her brother Souta, she rushes off with a backpack full of fireworks to take a boat to the island over which the Saucer floats (and is now off-limits to the public). This is dangerous and illegal, and the former underlined when Yuzuki loses her balance and falls into the drink, taking Nonoka with her. As they dry off Nonoka learns why getting rid of the saucer is so important.

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That reason has less to do with Yuzuki’s assertion that there are still many things in the town that won’t truly go back to the way they were until the Saucer is gone, like being able to go to the island to launch fireworks. It has more to do with the fact that after being led around and participating in anti-saucer activities, Nonoka has had a lot of fun with a new friend, and she wants to support that friend so she won’t feel sad and alone, something she can relate to.

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She says as much to Noel, and that she has nothing in particular against the Saucer herself. Despite the fact Noel’s presence is directly related to the Saucer’s, Noel seems receptive to helping Nonoka, as Nonoka wants to help Yuzuki. Ultimately, getting rid of the saucer may be a matter of all the former friends from seven years ago coming back together…though the cynical Souta and cold, perpetually headphoned Togawa Shione will pose a challenge.

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A shout-out to Franklin for passing this on to me: not only is this a pleasant, charming show, but it’s also getting more intriguing as long-separated friends re-forge their bonds. It looks great, too…even if the character designs border on the over-cutesy. And the dialogue is peppered fun, witty little lines like the ones that dot this review.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 02

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Makai Knights and Alchemists have a solemn duty to use their armor and arms to dispatch Horrors from the land. Some treat it solemnly, like Leon, or like a bit of a hassle, like his Pops Herman, or like a fun pasttime, like Emma. Yet as differently as they approach their duty, all three are natural allies by merit of sharing the same duty.

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Of course, that doesn’t mean some toes aren’t stepped on occasionally, or that there isn’t some extreme dysfunction between these three out of the gate. Whenever Leon thinks about his dead mother, the flames that give Garo power also threaten to consume him and turn him into a bomb. It also doesn’t help that his father is a shameless libertine.

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Well, it does help in that he gets intel for their next mission from a wench, justifying his promiscuous behavior with the semi-serious excuse that he needs a second child to inheret the Zoro armor, since Leon aleady has his own. Frankly, considering how messed up a business slaying horrors is (and how volatile his son can get) it makes sense for Herman tries to stays grounded and keep things as light and breezy as possible.

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As for Emma, I’ve rarely seen such a sly and unconcerned imminent torture and murder-by-fire captive, but in this case, her captor, an awful priest conducting the witchhunt, has bit off more than he can chew. Herman assumes she needs rescuing, but it turns out she could have freed herself at any time, but was merely toying with the priest.

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So Herman swoops in and Leon gets overheated for not much of a reason at all, as Herman ends up spending more time putting Leon out to help Emma, which, again, neither wants nor needs help. I imagine she’s being a little too arrogant, and may want backup in the future. But she certainly showed us another way to kill a Horror.

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As for the man making those Horrors, Mendoza has decided to implement his plan to grab power by accusing the Queen of poisoning the King to speed her son Prince Alfonzo’s ascension, then questioning Alfonso’s true parentage, now that he knows Fonzy also carries the seal of a Makai knight. The castle intrigue stuff is a little rote, but a meeting (or rather clash) between Alf and Leon is something I wouldn’t mind seeing soon.

7_mag

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 01

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The second most difficult story to tell, is the story we’ve already heard, that we already known*. What’s there to add, really? Embellishment? Extraneous details? That sounds so dull.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works ‘first’ episode does just that. It’s starts the same day as episode zero. It features the same characters and the same events. Only our point of view has changed from Rin to Emiya Shirou.

My God, it’s wondrous!

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As before, we begin with a quiet day where Rin is early to school and Emiya is repairing broken classroom heaters. We see he’s doing this partially with magic, which was not stated before, but may not have been important enough for Rin to tell to the audience.

Unlike Rin, Emiya is more interactive with his class mates. He spends a lot of time doing work for (and listening to) the class president, Sakura prepares some of his meals, and Fujimura-sensei is both his landlord and a constant mooch at meal time.

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Still, like Rin, Emiya appears a little detached. He’s recently been chased out of the archery dojo by school ass-hat Matou Shinji and he doesn’t even know who these girls are.

To be fair, I don’t know who they are or what their significance to the plot the have yet either…

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From Emiya’s perspective, we learn that Fujimura-sensei is quite a bit more competent than we may have suspected from her always on the edge of late demeanor. We also see, though do not know for sure, that Sakura is being abused, presumably by Shinji.

Ultimately, Emiya’s point of view is a great companion to Rin’s. Where she gave us magical world context and a taste of the non-magical people in the world, he gives us low-stakes magic use and a greater understanding of the non-magic human network. Same world, same people, opposite sides of the coin.

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The only completely new content is Emiya’s past, which shows his adoption by a mage named Kiritsugu. It also shows Emiya surviving a fiery tragedy 10 years in the past and establishes his motives and frustrations with heroism.

These scenes are superb. They carry a great sense of heat mixed with the stillness of giving up. Magically fueled or not, there is a grand magic to presenting so much chaos, yet capturing the isolation of being alone in the chaos, powerless.

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Emiya looks back on the disaster with frustration and sadness. Not everyone was saved — not everyone could be saved — and that conflicts him. As a hero, he doesn’t want to be limited by choice. Who lives or dies shouldn’t be a blessing to those he cares for more than others. It should be a blessing for everyone.

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As with Rin’s story, Emiya’s introduces several side mysteries that go unexplained — unexplored even within this admittedly long format episode. A murder is on the lose. Possible gas leaks are making people sick. Sakura’s injuries and, very briefly show, her mysterious acquaintance.

Each one of these mysteries is handled with care and, for the most part, given very little consideration in dialog. As always, Fate/Stay is playing its cards close to its chest.

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As it must, Emiya’s story catches up to the initial tragedy told in Rin’s: Emiya witnesses Lancer and Archer fighting at the school and is killed in the hallway. Even Lancer is annoyed that it must go down this way. If only has master wasn’t such a cruel and cowardly one.

Later, following a resurrection that we really only understand because of episode zero, Emiya returns home, Only to fight Lancer again. Fortunately, this time Emiya is ready. Sort of.

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Magically increasing the durability of a poster to fight a spear at close range makes for a exciting little fight. From the beginning, we know it’s a losing battle and, given the peeks here and there at Emiya’s pentagram, we also assumed that he would be revealed to be Saber’s summoner.

Even so! That was a satisfying fight and it’s immediate escalation into a servant vs servant fight put a satisfying cap on our retread. Well timed because the episode comes to a tight close face to face with Rin, who actually knows and is willing to give Emiya some answers.

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My favorite details this week came from Emiya’s television, which displayed a mixture of japanese programs. Some news. Some dancing mascots harrassing anchors. None of it was relvant to the story. They were just there, for your eye to catch and ponder instead of just staring at talking characters.

That’s some effective world building. Effectively lived-in world building.

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The locket remains a bit of a mystery, since it isn’t quite in the same place in the two episodes…

Episode One is a little more chatty, though actually has less exposition and more character interaction, which nicely rounds out the experience.

Additionally, episode 1’s magical battles are slightly less spectacular, as Emiya is less magical and can’t participate in the same way in the same way as Rin. However, his personal fight against Lancer with a reinforced magical poster was delightfully unique (even to Lancer) that it more than made up for its reduced after-effects budget.

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Really, what is the difference between a 9 and a 10? Certainly, Fate/Stay is superior in every regard to every anime we’ve rated 9 so far this season, but when you’re faced with a second week where you consider giving it a 10, you can’t help but second guess yourself. Really? Is Fate/Stay really as good as every single episode of FLCL, one of the only perfect-score-every-episode anime I can think of?

Yes. At least, so far. And yet, Fate/Stay accomplishes it’s perfect ten so brilliantly in the opposite direction of the FLCLs and Kill La Kills. Where they are masterfully orchestrated spectacles of brilliant action, style and re-watchable overload, Fate/Stay is serene, patiently dolling out story and character development and subtle with their mystery.

Goodness, if there ever was a season for a show to say definitively that it was the best, it’s now. It’s fall 2014’s killer season. Well done Fate/Stay. Well done!

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*The most difficult story to tell is a prequel.

Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 02

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The timeline in which Kaori ended up killed by a runaway bus right after confessing to Sou falls by the wayside, as the arrival of the naked, silver-haired amnesiac Furukawa Yui seems like the herald of a new and different timeline. The Astronomy Club takes care of her, and it isn’t long before she enrolls at school as a transfer student,

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While she knows her own name and seems to know Kou’s, the rest of Furukawa remains a stubborn mystery, aside from the fact she’s a bit clumsy. Meanwhile, the school brass wants the club to continue its role as mediator and defuser of conflicts, and also to investigate ghost sightings, though I’m pretty sure Furukawa is the ghost in question.

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All that, while organizing their planetarium exhibition, complete with maid costumes. Throughout both the investigation and the preparation, the club is its usual rowdy, ebullient self, which Furukawa seems to enjoy in her own sedate way. The romantic complexities of said group are largely put on hold this week, but once Furukawa accidentally touche’s Nagisa’s mysterious magical box, she suddenly remembers why she’s there.

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…She just didn’t deign to share that with us this week, so we’ll have to wait for the next. I must admit, this episode was not nearly as strong as the first, and was a largely workaday affair, introducing a new element without shaking anything else up too much. That element, Furukawa, is presently straddling the line between mysterious and…dull.

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