Akame ga Kill! – 20

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After last week’s almost total victory, in which the Jaegers took a heavy loss, we knew Night Raid was due for a casualtie or two of their own in battles we knew would get tougher from here on out. The episode helpfully narrows down the choice based on who gets initial scenes of levity in which death flags fly: Lubbock and Mine were our predictions.

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The intricate plan to storm the palace and kill the Minister runs into trouble almost immediately when Tatsumi and Lubbock’s rebel contacts all end up dead by the hands of Shura, Honest’s demented, woman-hating man-child of a son. Shura’s way of life is refreshingly simple: He wants to have fun, and everyone and everything in the world are his toys. Hey, he’s his father’s son!

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So yeah, we’re obviously not sympathizing with Shura. As for Budou, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Army, he’s just freakin’ HUGE, as in ‘not-human’ huge, so despite the fact he has no personal quarrel with Tatsumi and even admires his swordsmanship, there’s not much to sympathize with him, either. But that’s okay; these bad guys are meant to impede our heroes, not garner sympathy.

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The two matchups work out pretty tidily, too. While Tatsumi and Budou are primarily hack-and-slash knights, Lubbock’s and Shura’s Imperial Arms employ preparation, deception, and delay. Shura has set up marks all over the city and the skies above with which to teleport using his Shambhala, which Lubbock counters by setting up his Cross Tail’s threads like rigging.

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Lubbock also fights by making it seem like he’s the underdog, when in reality, due to his cunning and Cross Tail’s versatility, he’s a tougher out than Shura. Shura catches a break when the palace informant interferes, stabbing Lubbock in the back in hopes Shura will free her parents for her service…after he already cut her neck open, mind you. Unfortunately for her, Shura already had her parents killed. Yeah, we GET IT. SHURA’S NOT A GREAT GUY.

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That break allows Shura to grab his Shambhala and send Lubbock to a kind of Subspace, but Lubbock has his threads tangled around Shura, and pulls him in too. As Shura blusters and tries to escape, Lubbock throws a thread-spear into his heart and pops it, like he did with one of the Demons a couple weeks back. Hey, if it ain’t broke (and the enemy is as dumb as Shura), why fix it? Night Raid 1, Empire 0.

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When Shura dies, Lubbock is teleported back to the regular world, several hundred feet in the air. His last thoughts are of his would-be love, a particularly adorable-looking Najenda, as he falls to his death atop several well-placed spears. I have to continue to hand it to AGK for giving its characters pretty fantastic death sequences, and Lubbock was cool as a cucumber as green as his hair till the end. Night Raid 1, Empire 1.

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But “Wait,” you say, “What about Tatsumi’s fight with Budou?” Well, it doesn’t go so well for Tatsumi. Budou is regarded as the only person in the empire whose strength is a legitimate match for Esdeath’s, and let’s face it: Tatsumi hasn’t faced an opponent that strong yet, so with very little fanfare, Tatsumi is taken into custody and bound in irons. Minister Honest is upset about the death of his boy…for about five seconds, then starts licking his chops at the possibilities of having Tatsumi as a captive. Empire 2, Night Raid 1.

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And who’s volunteering to interrogate him before his public execution? Why, his true love, General Esdeath, fresh off another successful expedition (I like how she admits she’s better on the battlefield than in the city on guard duty; recent history bears that out). The members of Night Raid still alive and free are down to three: Najenda (with Susanoo), Leone, and Mine. Meanwhile, not counting an ailing Kurome, the Jaegers are down to Esdeath, Wave, and Run. Just four episodes left; I’m starting to get excited here!

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 07

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Erika and the episode waste no time after Kyoya’s latest apathetic remarks; Erika approaches him cordially with the decision that she’s no longer a Wolf Girl, and he no longer has to pretend to be her boyfriend. Yes: Erika dumps Kyoya. It’s a command performance for both, but as Erika later cries to herself on the way home, it’s clear her love for him isn’t all gone, nor is Kyoya as okay with this development as he seems.

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A bit of residual anguish is to be expected, but the next day Erika is determined to move forward. She basks in Yuu’s kindness and accepts his invitation to hang out at an arcade, under the condition San can come along. The whole time, San notes how hyper and happy she is, almost like she’s forcing things — and she is. But Erika’s attitude is to be expected of someone who has just had a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.

She’s free: free from torture and verbal abuse; free to choose someone anew, who really cares for and will treasure her. Only…she makes clear to San she’s not sure Yuu is that someone. San warns Erika she can’t lead Yuu on too long, otherwise she’s no better than Kyoya. Yuu needs an answer ASAP, even if he’s not forcing her for one.

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At school, Erika and Yuu can’t help but see Kyoya with other girls, but his black prince persona is leaking out of him, as he’s frustrated with his loss of Erika and with those girls so eagerly presenting themselves before him to take it out on. Kyoya seeing Erika with Yuu, whom he dismisses as a ‘wimp’ and a ‘huge step down’, pisses Kyoya off even more.

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Yuu arranges a White Day date with Erika at the aquarium (ZOMG axolotls!), where they proceed have a ton of fun…while Kyoya lays on his couch at home, defeated. Kakeru (who along with his crew looks like a bunch of disguised shinigami from Bleach) spots Erika having fun with another guy and calls Kyoya in a panic, like the good friend that he is, to ask him what his fucking problem is.

Kyoya hangs up on him. It was so easy to mercilessly berate a girl who genuinely cared about him; now that she’s gone, and Kyoya finds that dispite his assertions to the contray, he genuinely cares about her, suddenly he has a far tougher road ahead to fix things. Yet there he lies on the couch. Who is truly the ‘wimp’ here, hmmmm?

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I said last week that Yuu’s syrupy-sweet, unconditional, suffocating niceness would grow old for Erika quick, and not just because she’s used to being mistreated, and it does. Because of that past pain, she desperately wants to fall for Yuu, but it’s just not going to happen as long as Kyoya still draws breath, cad that he is. Not only that, Erika just isn’t the type of person to fall for Yuu. She thrives in the battle, and giving up on Kyoya would mean surrender and retirement.

For that reason, Erika does the right thing and promptly, calmly explains why she can’t return Yuu’s feelings. Yuu may seem a but over-yielding and understanding here, but let’s keep in mind just how delicate and worrying a guy he is. He knew this was a long shot all along, and has no ill will to Erika. If anything, their brief fling was an enlightening experience for him, which will pay dividends in his future dealings with both people and girls.

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It’s worth noting that the popular fountain that’s said to increase a couple’s love doesn’t actually activate or light up until Kyoya happens to show up, with as close a tail between his legs as he can muster, which translates to him possessively grabbing Erika by the arm and dragging her away from Yuu, even though there’s no call for that beyond saving face. Yuu warns him that this time he’d better ‘treasure her properly’, something Kyoya doesn’t respond to, but perhaps understands now.

When Erika demands to explain his actions, he silences her with their first kiss, saying “No more ‘Whys’.” But a kiss isn’t going to cut it for Erika, who’s been through enough with him to deserve a straight answer. Again, it’s only as straight as Kyoya dares, which means it’s still pretty damn roundabout:

I already said you belong to me…it means you aren’t just a way to kill the time…in general society, they’d usually call it love, right?

Yikes. Still, it’s genuine. Satisfied that he was close enough for her to claim victory this time, Erika kisses him back, then agrees to let him be her real boyfriend. He takes exception to who is letting whom do what, but the long and short of it is, these two have worked things out. I couldn’t be happier.

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Sora no Method – 07

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As Nonoka, Yuzuki and Koharu near the gravesite of Nonoka’s mother, the day turns cold, cloudy, and grey. I just so happened to myself watching it on a cold, cloudy grey day. While it was just a coincidence for me, for Nonoka the weather reflects her mood; she hasn’t visited her mother’s grave in some time, because she’s been afraid.

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And not because her mother was a mean-spirited, fearful woman — precisely the opposite: she was as kind and loving a soul as one could ever hope to meet, and a wonderful mother to boot. But then she got sick, and didn’t get better, and they moved to Tokyo where she could get care, but she died anyway, leaving a massive hole in Nonoka’s heart.

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Nonoka patched that hole, which was causing so much grief and pain, by essentially letting go of her life before her mother died, and moving forward as if none of it ever happened. In the process, she forgot about a great many other things, like her promise to her friends; something Shione still hasn’t forgiven her for, though Koharu and Yuzuki surely have, and now probably feel a bit silly for ever being angry at Nonoka for moving, something she had to do suddenly for her mother’s sake.

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In the B-plot, Noel, who can’t accompany Nonoka because the cemetery is out of saucer range, sticks with Souta, who is again stuck minding Koharu’s family’s store. Noel breaks the monster photo board thingy, and breaks it again while trying to fix it. After some little-kid negotiations, Souta convinces Noel to assist him in fixing the monster. As with Nonoka’s psyche, the repairs are quick and imperfect, but unlike Nonoka, it doesn’t matter; just as the monster was originally built by Souta, Koharu and Yuzuki as a labor of love, repairing it was a similarly rewarding experience between Souta and Noel, and when Yuzuki and Koharu see their handiwork, they approve.

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As for Shione, she’s in an unenviable situation where she’s held Nonoka to task for so long over lying and breaking her promises that now, even if Nonoka or the others were to explain the very understandable circumstances surrounding what Nonoka did, Shione still seems too proud — or too scared, or both — to lose face by softening her stance or letting Nonoka back into her life. After all, intentional or not Nonoka hurt her deeply.

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It was Nonoka’s mother who allowed Nonoka to become friends with Shione in the first place, by reminding her to smile when meeting new people, especially shy ones like Shione. And yes, it was Nonoka’s mother who indirectly drove the two apart by being the reason Nonoka had to move away and abandon Shione. But when a snowflake melts in Shione’s hand at the cemetery, and when she arrives at places just before or just after Nonoka was there — they’re signs that Shione is ever-so-gradually warming to the idea of reconciliation. She just won’t be rushed.

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