Akame ga Kill! – 18

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This was another episode full of bloody, bruising, hard-hitting battles…just not involving the people we expected. When arriving at Kyoroch, where the religious organization Minister Honest is trying to take over is headquartered, Night Raid doesn’t encounter the Jaegers, but an entirely new group of assassins called the Four Koukenji Rakshasa Demons (FKRD). By the end of the episode, three of the four are dead.

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That might make it seem like their introductions were somewhat over-hyped and ultimately pointless, almost like filler, but for the execution of the battles themselves was fun enough to justify their short appearance. Also, something tells me the fourth is stronger than the others. Speaking of storng, Kurome somehow survived and forced herself back into action, worried she’ll be “discarded” if she’s unable to fight. Wave looks after her like a worried big bro, and I have to say, as evil as I know her to be, Kurome gets some pity points from me this week; she’s in rough shape.

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Kurome’s sister, on the other hand, has no problem stylishly dealing with the contortionist Rakshasa Demon called Ibara, who’s all talk at the end of the day. Akame defeats him by letting him take her Masamune blade, which reacts unfavorably to him, giving her an opening to break his neck with her legs then slice off all his limbs. Night Raid 1, FKRD 0.

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Unfortunately, Akame’s battle was watched closely by the angel-winged Run, who merely smiles, gloats, and flies off. Run is the only Jaeger whose battle skills we’ve yet to see, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we do. I’m interested to see who’ll be facing him, and whether anything will come of earlier scenes which seemed to suggest he’s not 100% loyal to Esdeath.

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Akame is awesome as usual, but this week we also got to see Lubbock and his extremely versatile threat arms in action, which makes it only the second or third time he’s done anything. Because we’ve lost a few Night Raiders already, and episodes sometimes strive for good guy/bad guy casualty balance, the stakes were higher than usual, as this could have also been Lubbock’s last fight. Mez and Sten look like tough customers, after all, and two is always better than one, right?

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Well, yeah, but not if Sten rushes after a retreating Lubbock on his own, rushing right into Lubbock’s thread spear, whose threads find his heart and pop it like a balloon. Mez ends up all alone, and takes Lubbock’s thrown daggers as a desperate last resort. Of course, Lubbock is all about playing possum, the weakling, and the casanova; the daggers are connected to threads, and when he pulls them back they go into the cute but unfortunately evil Mez’s back. Night Raid 3, FKRD 0. One demon to go.

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Meanwhile, Tatsumi and Mine are paired up for the first time in a while, to seek out the cult founder the empire is trying to replace. Akame and Lubbocks battles diverted the FKRD from them, and they’re free to taste the local ice cream and bicker like an old married couple about who’s more shallow. This may seem silly — and it is — but when keeping in mind Tatsumi just lost another comrade in Chelsea, humorous distractions are welcome. The founder arrives in the middle of their lovers’ quarrel, and determines the two should just confess to each other already.

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And yes, in case you were wondering, the guy trying to replace the cult’s founder is, like SUPER religious and stuff. Here he is about to engage in a highly sacred and spiritual ritual with a new recruit. Why on earth would you possibly want to assassinate a charmer like this?

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 05

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Oh god! WHAT?

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What?! No! Stop it Ange!! STOP!

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Last week, Hannah gave a convincing argument on how and why Ange waking up naked in a bed next to some guy from the opening credits could work — could shake her out of the routine she was finally able to build — and that she such an event would let her reassess what’s going on in her world.

Instead, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo episode 5 takes Tusk, a new male character with a mysterious past, and forces his mouth into Ange’s crotch as many times as it can… for laughs!

ange5_9Thank goodness he’s a mechanic that can get her off this island!

In previous weeks, Hannah and I have defended Cross Ange’s use of sexual violence and exploitation as a bold (if not brazen) statement about oppression, racism, and keeping a people down through self hatred.

This week is indefensible.

The constant, absurd put-Tusk’s-mouth-on-or-near-Ange’s-crotch scenes, followed by a MONTAGE depicting how they slowly became friends, is mind-blowing.

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The only reason I’m giving this a 2 ( instead of the 1 I gave Vanadis’ boob-sucking episode) is because none of the girls are asserting their relative social status and value as people through comparing breast sizes.

Even then, I’m very tempted to give it a 1 anyway.

Episode 5 is a true, complete failure of story telling and the choice to MONTAGE together random events to show Ange’s growing feelings for Tusk is as cowardly as it is lazy.

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We even get to see Ange is a terrible cook in the most cliché, pot-exploding way, which facilitates yet another crotch-mouth for Tusk. Ha’yuk!

The total irony here is that Hannah and I were talking just yesterday about what it would take for Ange to ruin the goodwill it has built and I foolishly said, it’s built enough goodwill that I’ll give it a full review even if it fizzes out over the season.

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Who knew the character around the corner was a ‘klutz’ who would fall on Ange’s crotch accidentally more than once, that Ange would be bitten near her crotch by a snake and he’d need to suck out the venom, and that everything would be better and happy with no actual scenes or dialogue spent to actually make it so?

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Who thought it wouldn’t be creepy as hell that Tusk can leave the island at any time during this episode’s development?

Who thought it would be okay to have Ange whimper in an orgasmic way as Tusk “eats out” her poison??

What madness led the writers to have Ange fall for Tusk, her captor and possible sexual predator, by the end?

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Oh my god WHAAAAAATTTTT?!?!?!?????

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 05

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Aki and Marin reminded us so much of futaba’s superficial friends of Ao Haru Ride, I thought Erika would eventually go on a similar “realness” trip and dump them, but to the show’s credit, they’re keeping them around, only their role has changed. Now instead of being slightly annoyed by them talking about their boyfriends, Erika is jealous of their happiness with pliable boyfriends, not hard to crack nut like Kyoya.

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Jeez, has it only been five episodes? Things are moving along so well on Ookami Shoujo. I feel like most shows like it take an entire cour to get to where Kyoya and Erika are romantically even though there’s still much work to be done and fresh obstacles on the horizons. I say “work”, but as the next episode music suggests, Erika’s struggle is a battle, one to wrench open Kyoya’s heart and conquer it.

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Making that happen starts with believing it can be done, because despairing at his imposing gates, believing their impregnable-looking surface, will only lead to defeat. While going over her ideal Christmas (which is pretty standard: cake, fried chicken, gifts, being together), Kyoya complains on more than one occasion that “women are a pain”, and Erika agrees. He’s not wrong; women are a pain…but so are men. Especially Kyoya.

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After touching cheeks during their staged Christmas selfie she promised to send to Aki and Marin (a promise she cares about keeping) and going to a cafe to warm up, Erika gets a stomachache, then asks Kyoya a direct question in an attempt to quell it: “What am I to you?” Is she nothing but a useful servant? A convenient toy? Does he care about her? Erika is essentially scrambling up Kyoya’s ramparts here, blind to all the defenses he has waiting for her at the top; defenses she’s seen before.

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Her own defenses drop completely when Kyoya gives her precisely the perfect response of her dreams: He likes her, always has, but has been to shy to come out and say it, and the nervousness that builds from that pressure led to all of the nasty teasing. When she asks him to have a silly cliche Christmas night with her, he agrees without complaint, saying that whatever will be fun if it’s done with her.

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I’ll admit, my defenses were lowered too, this went on so long. Then evil shadows form on his face and he admits to just messing with her, calling it a “monkey show” and mocking her gullibility.  In other words, he pours hot pitch down upon her, and she falls back down to the base of the wall. Kyoya gets a glass of ice water to the face. He’s a terrible piece of trash, Erika shouts, and she hopes he dies, storming out in a public display.

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Men aren’t just a “pain” to women (and vice versa) because they make you jump through hoops, or interpret things without sufficient information from your perspective: they’re a literal emotional and physical pain. A pain in the gut, A dull burning in the heart. Kyoya cuts deeper there than he ever had before, and I feel Erika’s pain clearly, having been there as we all have.

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Here’s the maddening thing about Kyoya: he cruelly passed his sweet and sincere confession off as false, but it wasn’t the content of the confession that was really false; only the florid presentation. Confessing like that isn’t Kyoya’s style; it’s far outside is comfort zone where he picks on and teases and runs down Erika because, almost like a little boy who likes a girl, he doesn’t know how to process what he’s feeling, and that frustration causes him to lash out. It’s pretty textbook stuff…but Kyoya isn’t a little boy anymore, and he knows he went to far.

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Erika’s parents are really chill. They didn’t even make the couple keep the door open!

But in fixing things, which is what he wants it wouldn’t do him any good to pretend he’s comfortable (yet) saying the kinds of things that made Kyoya so happy she cried. No, he atones in the most Sata Kyoya way possible: announcing himself as her boyfriend to her folks, coming into Erika’s room, demanding an apology for her throwing water and wanting him to die, and slapping a “collar” – or rather, a cute gold necklace, around her neck, so everyone knows she’s his. He resorts to his code.

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BAAAAAAAAAW. So f-ing cute. And hey, we finally learn Aki and Marin’s boyfriends are REAL!

The impregnable defense Kyoya maintains is as false and deceptive as the psych-out that got water thrown in his face. Erika hasn’t busted open the gates to brought her main force in yet, but she did sneak over the walls, and found that she’s always had a place there. He won the battle in the cafe, but she won the battle after that, when Kyoya comes to her and, in his way, apologizes and tries to make things right. Like me, Erika chooses to believe what Kyoya said, because that was him going out on a limb, before retreating and laughing it off as a joke.

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But, yeah, the war isn’t over. Post-credits, we see Kyoya returning home to a ringing phone. After the answering machine prompt, the caller hangs up without a word. Who was this? Kyoya’s parent? A stalker or ex-girlfriend-gone-bad? My two guesses: either a red herring cliffhanger to be quickly resolved next week (less likely) or…trouble (more likely). Trouble for Kyoya, trouble for Erika, trouble for Kyoya+Erika, and trouble for me.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 05

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What’s almost as annoying as a TV show or movie employing the “humans only use 10% of their brain” trope? A TV show or movie mentioning the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment as if it was the first to do so. Regardless of their scientific efficacy, both concepts are simply played out in entertainment, bordering on buzz terms.

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Don’t get me wrong; Schrödinger’s Cat is a very cool thought experiment, and it’s not like it turned me off the episode, which tossed a lot of other concepts for us to chew on, like the brane-world, strings, eleven dimensions, gravitons, cause and effect, etc. Clearly, the writers had spent an hour in the science section of the library (or wikisurfing). It was also an episode that started with the effect and then preceded to lay out the cause, as well as creep ever closer towards the Big Central Mystery that still endures. The precise temporal flow of the show remains unfixed and elusive. This is not a bad thing.

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When the Gardening Club chases the Survival Club for damaging flowers with paintballs, they cause a collision between Airi (minding her own business) and the student council, causing the destruction of three computers. Nagisa then secures the Computer Club’s machines by outwitting their experimental AI system.  It shows how random and intricate a set of events can get to lead to an Astronomy Club “job”, which only four members participate in, leaving Kaori alone with Yui in the clubroom so Kaori can ask Yui about Sou as well as why she’s keeping such a protective eye on her.

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Kaori doesn’t get much in the way of straight answers, except that Yui sees Sou as a “father.” What could that possibly mean? The episode also cuts ever so enticingly briefly to the dark lab where a girl is suspended in stasis while a scientist is hunched over a terminal bearing notes of the same concepts the teacher mentioned at school. Where, or when is this place, and who’s in that damned tube? I want to know these things.

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Kaori…the only character who’s been shown as both dead and alive … like Schrödinger’s Cat! And the episode closes with another example of causality, in which an already uneasy Kaori gets a call from her mother that she won’t be home that night, which means Kaori and Sou are alone for the night, and Kaori pays a visit to Sou’s room with her pillow.

Her first assertion of her feelings for him came under different circumstances; this has the makings of another attempt. If that’s what it is, could confessing lead to her death by other means, as well? Is this a cycle Yui is there to try to break? This is an average-looking show at best, but all these enticing mysteries are keeping me engaged.

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Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 05

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Not a promising start, Vanadis…not a promising start

In my review of last week’s disappointing episode, which led Oigakkosan to drop the show in disgust, I mentioned that I myself would consider ceasing reviews as well if the show didn’t “improve significantly” this week. There’s just too much good stuff to watch this Fall to be wading in mediocrity.

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“Don’t pay special attention to her! I know, I’M paying special attention to her, but don’t pay special attention to her!”

Was this week’s episode an improvement? Yes it was…although that’s not hard when the last episode had a boob-size fight instigated by the heroine and Tigre sucking on a boob (though one not related to that fight). Was it a significant improvement? No. Too many of the same problems plaguing last week, plus a couple new ones, kept this out of the minimum “good” or even “fine” rating it needed for us to retain it.

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Limalisha recovers so she can make pained faces and comment when Elen is being overly childish in her dealings with Ludmila, but she doesn’t call her out on it strongly enough. The comely war maiden who had maintained a quiet dignity in the first episode has devolved into an embarrassment whose petty antics have grown increasingly hard to watch.

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It’s no wonder, then, that having been caught in the crossfire between the war maidens long enough, Tigre eventually chooses to strike out on his own in order to find the backdoor route to the Citadel of Tatra, a stronghold Elen aims to take from Ludmila. Yes, this is to stop Elen from charging in on her own, but…wait: Why doesn’t Elen just charge in on her own?

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I appreciate that the war maidens aren’t invincible, and that they serve as generals for the armies of the lands they serve, but…they clearly possess the power to single-handedly take out entire armies. Wouldn’t it be a lot less of a waste of life and material if the maidens simply fought each other, as champions of their lands?

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There’s a very strange transition from Ludmila accompanying Tigre and Elen to a market to sample wheat gruel, to a series of battles between the two maidens’ armies, all of it not exactly pretty to watch, not because it’s bloody, but because the animation is underwhelming and they’re battles I just don’t care about. The old-guy narration has officially gotten old, as well.

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At any rate, Tigre implements his plan, but happens to hit the same fox with an arrow as Ludmila does while hunting. Because of the bearskin Lim gave him, Ludmila can’t see his face, but his impressive marksmanship impresses her enough to lovingly prepare him an elaborate cup of tea, confirm that she hates the Thernardiers, and ask him to join her, completely unaware he’s Tigre. This is the best part of the episode, but it’s also totally isolated from everything else. And I don’t buy that she’s not cold in that get-up.

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Tigre follows her tracks (what kind of war maiden allows herself to be followed?) and finds the route he was searching for, then meets back up with Elen and her siege force. After failing to blast through the gates with Arifar on her own, Tigre again borrows her power for his bow and get the job done, setting up a showdown between Elen and Ludmila. But frankly, I’m not keen on seeing those two interact again. No good can come of it.

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