Akame ga Kill! – 17

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This week we say farewell to the Empire’s most lovable town-burner, Bols. He blew up his Imperial Arms last week, so we knew even if he survived that, he wouldn’t be long for this world. But aside from all the atrocities he committed for the Empire, he remained a decent human being to the end. He knew what he was doing was bad, and would pay for it one day.

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This was that day, as Chelsea disguises herself as an injured little girl and exploits Bol’s big heart, stabbing him in the back with a needle as they hug. As dumb-looking a character as he was, I’ll always prefer guilty villains like Bols to mindlessly evil/sadistic ones. The Jaegers are composed of both types, and yet it’s funny how they can still all sit at a table and enjoy a meal together just like Bizarro Night Raid.

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One of the Jaeger’s psychopaths, meanwhile, is Kurome, but we learn there’s a damn good reason for that: she and her sister were victims of a deplorable crime. With only two corpse puppets left, she makes a tactical retreat in the present, and remembers when she and Akame were first snatched up and thrown into a beast-ridden forest gauntlet with more than 100 other children.

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Kurome only survives because Akame…and vice-versa, but then the sisters are cruelly separated. Kurome’s master experiments with drugs to boost her attributes, while presumably Akame’s master didn’t. No doubt the sisters drew further apart, to the point that when Akame finally defected, Kurome was fully indoctrinated, believing her sister wasn’t just betraying the Empire, but her as well.

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While armless and exhausted, Leone lives to fight another day, as does Akame, Mine, and Tatsumi. Najenda and Susanoo are also fine, as is Lubbock, who informs the others what the only unaccounted Night Raid member, Chelsea, is up to: she’s going after Kurome.

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Chelsea is able to convince Kurome she is Bols, having learned his personality through Tatsumi’s exposure to the Jaegers. She’s also able to stick Kurome with a needle, just as she did with Bols. Kurome goes pale and collapses. Everything seems to have gone swimmingly for Chelsea, who works to rid the world of depravity…

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…Which is ironic, because had she used a less elegant, more depraved means of killing Kurome — like beheading her or destroying her heart — she would have actually succeeded in killing her. Kurome, who deals with animating the dead all the time, survives the needle. She herself is extremely weak, but she still has Natala and the gunner lady puppets, who chase Chelsea down, destroy her Gaia Foundation, slice off her fingers and arm, and shoot her in the back.

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All those times Chelsea warned herself of going soft, and she turns out to be right. She screws up royally, and unlike Leone, doesn’t get a second chance, which is annoying, because Chelsea was frankly a far more compelling character developed in a fraction of the time Leone’s been around. And for the record, both Bols and Chelsea get equally somber, contemplative death scenes, despite being on opposite sides of the conflict.

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In a final insult, Natala beheads Chelsea, who lost because she didn’t do the same to Kurome, and her head is stuck on top of a spike in the Capital, which is how Tatsumi finds out she’s dead. He’s lost beloved comrades before, but that doesn’t make him any more prepared for that horrible sight. So Bols and Chelsea are the first casualties of the war between Night Raid and Jaegers, with Leone and Kurome narrowly escaping demise. So…who’s next?

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Sora no Method – 04

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Having everyone back together in the spot where they once played doesn’t have quite the effect Noel was expecting, and Nonoka suddenly remembering calling the saucer with everyone and leaving without saying goodbye doesn’t suddenly make Shione or Yuzuki. In fact, Yuzuki is so pissed off, she slaps Nonoka in the face and storms off.

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But this episode isn’t primarily about Nonoka, our ostensible protagonist. It’s mostly about Yuzuki, with a hearty helping of Koharu, whom hasn’t had much to do until now. The truth that Nonoka is that Nonoka sends her into a bitter rage, suggesting her problem with the Saucer is about far more than fireworks. It’s about something more painful…something in a hospital.

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We don’t know the details, nor does Nonoka. But whatever the saucer did to Yuzuki, it’s haunted her incessantly ever since. She’s worked tirelessly to try to dissuade tourists from visiting the saucer — and in vain. And since every other business has banned her, her last outpost of Quixotic anti-saucer protest is Koharu’s family’s store. When customers complain, Koharu has no choice to shut her friend down.

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Meanwhile, mindful that she’ll need to learn more before approaching Yuzuki again, Nonoka meets with her very different twin brother Souta, to try to get some perspective. If he knows what’s really eating away at Yuzuki, he doesn’t let on, but he tells Nonoka not to worry about her; it’ll only cause her trouble.

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He said practically the same exact thing to Koharu, who tried for a long time to stand beside Yuzuki and support her as she tilted at windmills. Yuzuki was in earshot when Koharu couldn’t say with certainty that she didn’t think Yuzuki’s efforts were pointless. Since then, Yuzuki has harbored that non-answer as evidence Koharu may only be on her side to be nice and avoid confrontation.

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After Yuzuki happens to spot Nonoka talking with Souta, she races back to the tourist area and physically blocks a road full of buses, and Koharu is again forced to choose between her friend and the reality of the situation. Yuzuki brings up Koharu’s talk with Souta, and Koharu finally admits to her face that her actions serve no purpose. Yuzuki declares her hate and storms off again. It’s rough.

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Yuzuki hates Nonoka Koharu, and Souta; while Shione hates Nonoka and she and Souta would rather not be wrangled back into this hot mess; they’ve moved on with life. That leaves the two subjects of the others’ hate: Nonoka and Koharu. Neither of them want things to stay the way they are, but neither is strong enough to change anything alone. Maybe working together they can make something happen.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 04

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“Back again so soon?”

It’s one thing to end the third episode with a confession, regardless of result, so much sooner than I expected. It’s another still for Erika to cross paths with the girl who was at Kyoya’s place before him, hears that “he’s done with girls because he has a dog now”, then rushes back for clarification! This is just outstanding initiative from Erika, who won’t let things stand the last time she was this door. But while she gets him to believe she really does like him, she doesn’t get a straight answer about his feelings for her (though the “got a dog, done with girls” comment to that other girl made it pretty clear to me).

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Letting a soccer ball hit Erika head-on, then punching the one who kicked it…that’s Kyoya for you

With the answer still ambiguous to her about whether Kyoya likes her in the same way, she decides to operate under the assumption he doesn’t…quite yet, and that it falls to her to do something about it. Enter Kyoya’s friend from middle school, Hibiya Takeru, who comes in and immediately makes a big impact on the show.

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Likely still too sore over Kamiya’s deception to talk to him, and with Sanda never talking to Kyoya, she needs an ally, and finds one in the muscular, boisterous Takeru, who is very gung-ho about helping her crack the infuriating nut that is Sata Kyoya. But enthusiasm and good intentions don’t necessarily translate into success, and they don’t here.

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Backfired!

In short, Kakeru give Erika terrible, terrible advice and goofy stunts that would never work in a million years. It might even be that not allying herself with Kakeru could have made her better off, because all his advice seems to afford her is the opportunity to make a fool of herself in front of Kyoya again and again.

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The contents of Kakeru’s mind would make great van murals

That said, I’m glad Erika now has another friend (and a guy, at that), who she can talk with about these things earnestly. His ideas for her may be cockamamie, but she carries them out to the letter regardless; after all, love makes fools of us all. She’s so desperate for results, she pretty much ignores the logical side of her brain telling her this is all a waste of time, effort, and dignity.

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Your advice is crap! GIVE ME MORE!!!

Fortunately for us, watching Kakeru and Erika in action also happens to be a hoot and a half. Not only because they have great comedic chemistry, but because they’re both romantics, and feed off each other’s energy where someone like Kyoya either sucks it all up or deflects it entirely. Kakeru may be a a bit of a Mimbo, and more chivalrous and devoted to Erika’s cause than the average joe would be, but he’s a heckuva lot more normal than Kyoya in how he interacts with Erika. He and Erika are on the same level.

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That’s refreshing after seeing Erika play the servile supplicant so frequently, even though I know it’s been her choice to do so. You probably know where I’m going with this: the more I watch Kakeru and Erika together, the more I’m thinking they’d make a better couple, to the point even both of them seem to get that vibe. Kakeru uses this for his last, and perhaps riskiest idea yet: calling both Erika and Kakeru out, saying he’s fallen for Erika, and forcing Kyoya to decide right then and there.

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Oh, man, look at that! It’s a triangle! So on-the-nose. But hey, it’s also covered in little “cracks”, which means it’s a brittle triangle. While the prospect of Kakeru being a legitimate rival for Erika’s heart, the reality is, he hasn’t really fallen for her. The triangle is only rhetorical, and that’s how Kyoya sees it, which is why his seemingly cold, assholish response makes perfect sense: He tells Kakeru to “do what he wants”, even though it breaks Erika’s heart right then and there, because he knows Kakeru isn’t serious. In other words, “Nice try, but this isn’t going to work on me either.”

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Erika’s heartbreak is short-lived, as Kyoya chases after her and gives her a real arm (not a plastic skeleton arm this time), and essentially tells her she’s just going to have to keep working at it if she really feels the way she does. He’s essentially asking for even more emotional commitment from her…but he is asking for it, about as nicely as he can. As he says to Kakeru, “I’ll decide when I’ve fallen for Erika.” Neither Kakeru or Erika can decide. He’s asking Erika to buy into the self-importance he’s placing on himself, like a leap of faith, not knowing where it will lead, but looking forward to seeing what happens.

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And just to put a final cork in the short-lived Kakeru+Erika route, in a post-credits scene Erika meets Kakeru at the riverbank to politely reject him; naturally, he forgot he confessed to her for real. He may not be a love interest, nor a particularly useful ally in Erika’s fight for Kyoya. But he is still a new, real friend she can treasure. And real is always valuable.

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 04

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For my 100th review on Rabujoi, I sat down with my son and watched Sanzoku no Musume Ronja’s fourth episode.  Frankly, it leaves me a bit muddled, reviewer wise. In some ways, this week was even prettier than the previous 3. It’s fall colors are just wonderfully vibrant and little details like dead leaves floating in the lake sell it flawlessly.

The plot moves along too but, for some reason, we get two flashbacks as well and those feel entirely unnecessary. Believable? Maybe? I can understand adults would tell a child the same stories over and over again but it felt arbitrary. Like the episode needed to frame the ending scene as a cliff hanger instead of resolving it.

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Ronja is now more familiar with her surroundings and comfortable doing all sorts of adventure — including a rock climb up her castle’s mountain base.

As with previous outings, Ronja’s sense of wonder and happiness is contagious. My toddler son was absolutely glued to the laptop screen, giving me updates on what Ronja was doing and what she was feeling.

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Another interesting detail is how we see Ronja’s expressions emulating her father’s expressions. She yells at the harpies and squints defiantly just like him. It’s reasonably subtle but you get the sense that she’s daddy’s little girl, with very little of her mother’s common sense and community anchoring.

That isn’t to say Ronja doesn’t love her mother. There’s a lovely bed time song scene that, unfortunately, had dreadful lyrics that don’t culturally translate when you’re reading them to your own child. Still, it’s a lovely scene.

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Then Ronja explores the castle’s guts and, eventually, encounters a boy. We’ve known this was coming since he’s shown in the ending credits, and we can assume he’s the other tribal chief’s son, but it will be interesting to see how these two get on.

Honestly, I’d assumed Ronja would meet him on her own terms BUT on his turf in the forrest. Nice contextual touch that ‘the forrest has gotten too dangerous in early fall due to the harpies (mating season?). Regardless, we can expect a battle of the ‘who’s better at making terrible decisions and jumping across a gorge’ next week.

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As always, Ronja is lovely but you have to go into it knowing that you are watching a children’s story. It’s well produced and watchable by adults (more so than all children’s swill-shows I can think of, actually) but it is for them and not for us.

If you’ve got a little one, and are willing to let them watch age appropriate anime, this is worth a little sit down. It has none of the normal moralistic shove-a-message-down-your-throat of american/british children’s TV and that’s a good thing.

If you don’t have kids and want… well I don’t know what you would want from a meandering children’s tale about growing up and adventure with low stakes? It should be pretty obvious if this one isn’t for you.

Still, even though it’s not for me, Ronja is clearly a great show.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 04

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Jill repeats my assertion at the end of last week’s review: these girls are in Hell. But like anywhere else, Hell has a pecking order and an agree-upon way of doing things. Ange is struggling to fit in and, worse, is not even trying. As far as she’s concerned, she’s already a corpse on borrowed time that’s only going to be spent killing Dragons. No time for possessions or friends or enemies. No time for drama!

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Of course, her enemies and would-be have something to say about that. Just as Salia took up a leadership position that she’s not ready or equipped for as Zola was, this week Hilda takes over as the Zola of the bedroom, the one who fills the void her death left in Rosalie and Chris’ lives. There’s always someone to step forward and assume a vacated role. But like Salia, Hilda is no Zola. We know she couldn’t even satisfy Zola on the eve of her last battle, leading Zola to prey on Ange.

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I’m not saying Zola was a saint — she did try to f-ing rape Ange — but she was a vital, competent authority figure that kept her troops’ clashing personalities in check at HQ, kept them alive out in the field, and tended to their emotional and physical needs in the boudoir. No one can dispute that she owned herself. That woman has been replaced by two girls who are clearly out of their depth, but still try to cultivate the fiction that they aren’t, because at the end of the day, they can’t afford to be. They’re it.

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What’s so great about the new character dynamics is it isn’t the Hilda faction vs. the Salia faction, or Hilda vs. Ange, or Ange vs. Everyone. It’s all of the above. Salia has to protect Ange from hazing because it’s her job as the captain, but there is no “Ange Faction” as long as Ange refuses to accept the help or kindness of others, or refuses to help herself. And while Ange seems to have found her new self, she remains a pretty crap person, as evidenced by her cold treatment of Vivian. Yes, Vivian can be a pain, but I felt bad for her here!

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It’s not just Hilda, Roselie and Chris who are loathing the princess, either, but a large chunk of the nameless general population as well. The way she’s acting right now, Ange deserves some of that scorn. But she doesn’t seem to care either way. In an escalating battle of wills, somethings gotta give, and it does when Hilda goes too far and sabotages Villkiss.

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This leads to another great aerial (and partially naval!) battle in which Ange falls from the sky and sinks, followed by a twist ending where she wakes up nude in bed with a guy (who isn’t nude, just shirtless) on some tropical island. Is this…a bit goofy? Sure, but the set-up of the scene is thankfully quite straightforward: this lad saved Ange, got her out of her wet clothes, and is letting her use his bed. He has her tied up just in case she’s trouble, which we know she is! Any kinkier interpretation is just in Ange’s (or our) own head/s. Yes, a gentleman would sleep on the floor, but maybe he’s not a gentleman!

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It’s par for the course in terms of Ange continually finding herself strange, unexpected, and/or unprecedented situations. It’s also pretty standard in these kinds of stories for the protagonist to at some point end up exiled or isolated and in a situation where there’s time to analyze and re-examine, and emerge changed. I’m looking forward to seeing Ange suddenly outside of the regimented, lethal existence she’s only just gotten used to.

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