End-of-Month Rundown – December 2014

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Here it is: the last chart of 2014. It’s smaller still than last month’s, due to our saying sayonara to five more shows we either couldn’t find time or ran out of enthusiasm for.

As expected, the battle for the top remained heated until the very last week, with Fate stay/night UBW ending up on top due to a strong ending.

Note that if we excluded episode 00, Fate would fall to two hundredths of a point below Uso…but excluding episode 00 would be silly!

The chart above is the culmination of 200 rated Fall episodes. The total episode tally of the dropped shows comes to 155 for a total of 355 rated episodes.

Some Lessons Learned (in no particular order) :

  • Don’t stick with a show that may look and sound great but seems to be perpetually stalling. (Sora no Methodthough Preston did watch the rest and it ended okay).
  • Avoid shows you can’t say anything nice about. (Akatsuki no Yona, Nanatsu no Taizai).
  • Don’t keep reviewing shows you can’t say anything at all about, aside from providing a summary (Ronja).
  • Shows that air bi- or tri-weekly have a much greater chance of falling by the wayside (Sailor Moon Crystal).
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover (Ookami Shoujo)…
  • …Unless the cover is obviously representative of the book (Hi SCoool! Seha Girl).
  • Drop shows quickly and focus on giving the shows you really love the attention they deserve; don’t drag things out (Many examples).
  • While it’s nice to run comparisons between two similar shows (Daitoshokan and InoBato), it’s probably best to pick one or the other in a busy season.
  • Don’t automatically commit to sequels. They might end up stinking (Chaika).

 

 

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 12 (Fin)

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I was wondering last week: “Why would Beelz be able to control Bahamut?” The answer?” Err…he can’t.

Bahamut is the third MAPPA anime we’ve reviewed at RABUJOI (the other two being Zankyou no Terror and GARO) that suffered from dull, uninspired villains (Beelzebub/Martinet, Five, and Mendoza, respectively). But that didn’t stop this from being the best Bahamut of the past seven episodes, oh-so-close to a return to the heady first handful of eps that made us fall in love with the show in the first place.

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Wait, his name is Gilles de Rais, and he can change his form to various people, from Lavalley to Kaisar to Martinet? Oh, whatever. The bad guy doesn’t matter so much as getting our trio of Fava, Kaisar and Amira back together and taking care of that little Bahamut-related problem. What does turn out being important is the fact that de Rais really just wants to watch the world end.

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Beelz wanted to grab control of the demon world and subjugate the realm of angels too. That wasn’t happening, as Bahamut is not a tool, he’s simply a means to an end…the end of the world. Azazel gets to finish Beelz off (good for him), while Fava wakes up from his arrow-induced nap and crosses swords with Kaisar once more as everything blows up around them.

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Fava seems to mouth something to Kaisar, who makes Rita promise not to interfere, and she doesn’t…but de Rais does, tossing a sword to Favaro, who uses it to slice off Kaisar’s arm just above the wrist. However, it’s that very wrist that has Kaisar’s still-active bounty armband attached to it. Fava uses it to capture de Rais into a stone tablet, which he tosses to Bacchus for a handsome reward!

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Turns out Favaro and Kaisar had a plan all along. The bolt Kaisar shot Fava with had the antidote on its tip, thus curing Favaro, then Kaisar cut off Fava’s arm to make sure de Rais would be convinced Favaro was still under his control. You have to ‘hand’ it to Fava and Kaisar: they work really well together in a pinch.

With that, the two board an embiggened Hamsa, but for different reasons: Fava thinks he has to kill Amira to stop Bahamut, but Kaisar holds out hope he can free her. Their aerial trip up to Bahamut’s head is suitably harrowing, and looks fantastic.

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When Hamsa can get no closer, the fact that Martinet’s goals (the end of the world) didn’t jive with the goals of either the gods or the demons (neither of whom want to die or for the world to end). Thus, both gods and demons work together to build a fresh barrier, which gives our heroes the opening they need.

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Once atop Bahamut’s head, the show never lets us forget this is a gigantic beast moving all over the place; as such, it’s hard to maintain footing, especially Kaisar, who’s down a limb. Favaro manages to plunge Bahamut’s own fang into the symbol on his head (a conveniently lit-up weak spot). This seems to start the process of shutting Bahamut down. By doing so, Favaro not only changes his fate and the fate of the world, but also Jeanne’s – she is merely a spectator in Bahamut’s demise.

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Fava falls off the head, but his rope keeps him suspended right in front of Bahamut’s eye, from which a glowing Amira emerges.

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In this gloriously-staged and touching farewell, Favaro tries to lie with a straight face one last time. When his face finally breaks into a goofy smile, Amira smothers it with her lips, thanking him for what he’s done before returning to Bahamut’s eye. Kudos to the show for not pulling a deus ex machina out of its ass to save Amira. I trusted the old dragon in the forest: there was no saving Amira, except to save her from being the instrument of the world’s destruction.

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When Bahamut blows, Favaro is way too close, and loses a leg (just as Kaisar lost an arm. Interesting symmetry), but Kaisar escapes aboard Hamsa. And thus, the world is saved, by the most unlikely group of characters imaginable!

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Fast-forward half a year, and Anatae is being rebuilt, Jeanne has a new ‘do and is back in the Orleans knights, Fava has a new metal leg, and Kaisar has a new metal arm. Kaisar seems poised to join Jeanne as a lieutenant, but as Favaro departs the city, Kaisar chases after him, just as he did in the first episode.

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Favaro is somewhat comforted (as am I) by the fact that while he’s asleep again, Bahamut will never truly die, which means neither will Amira. All in all, not a bad way to bring things to a close.

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The Best, Most Surprisingly Good, and Most Disappointing Shows of 2014

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2014 was a big year full of tons of shows, and tons of shows we reviewed. We went from several semi-silent reviewers with one voice to three reviewers to four, officially running their own schedules, arguing for the best and worst of each week. Looking back, here were our picks for highlights of 2014:

The Best Shows

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Sidonia no Kishi – We all agree that this was one of the best all-round shows, if not the best. It almost makes the Most Surprising list as well, because if it weren’t for Franklin accidentally stumbling across it early in the season, none of us were planning to watch it!

SnK’s storytelling is solid, dark, weird, and unique but that’s not even it’s most notable feature! For us, this was the first, fully CGI show that is both fun to look at and well-produced!

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Frankly, this show looked like it was going to be great from the get-go, recalling shades of the Ghibli “real world” masterpiece Whisper of the Heart, as well as the more contemporary works of Shinkai Makoto and KyoAni. One 11-ep cour in and it has been great. No other show this year has delivered so many spellbinding moments, or so expertly blended abysses of despair with dizzying heights of triumph.

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Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – No other show we weren’t watching (or had no previous exposure to) was more highly recommended by you, our treasured readers. And, for that, we thank you. Even if it has an eye-rollingly silly title, and we probably missed dozens of references to and easter eggs from other Fate media, it was still a confident, impeccably-crafted show we had no trouble immersing ourselves into.

The Most Surprisingly Good Shows

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Amagi Brilliant Park  A massive (yet massively fun and memorable) cast inhabiting a sprawling (yet specific) setting with lots of room to breathe convinced us to give this show constant praise. What made ABP surprising is how little attention its PR items got and how everyone here but Franklin dismissed it before it even came out.

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One Week Friends – This quiet, unassuming show packed a lot of powerful, even nosy emotion. We also didn’t catch on to this until after the season started, but we’re glad we did.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – Zane watched this with his nose pinched, worried it was another case of ‘guy treats girl like crap; girl keeps coming back.’ It turned out to be a lot more complicated, and satisfying, than that.

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Sabagebu! – Princess Ugly herself, even Franklin almost dropped this absurd show at first glance, assuming it was going to be a knockoff of Gainax’s mostly dull Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 (which only had one or two great episodes). It turned out to be much funnier; so much so that we could forgive it’s subpar (if we’re being charitable) production values.

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WTF?! Special Mention: Love Stage – 03 – A guy essentially sexually assaulting another with “Sailor Moon costume change”-style effects was not what Franklin was expecting at that point in the show!

The Most Disappointing Shows

These weren’t the worst shows, per se. Just shows that were surprisingly disappointing to us, especially because we liked them to begin with.

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InoBato – Put concisely: It simply never knew what it wanted to be. It was a good show, but that indecisiveness kept it from being great.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – It had its moments, and those were times when the show most closely hewed to its 2012 predecessor. Hannah was in the fairly unique position of having finished PP’s first season right before starting the second, with no time in between. PP2 too often traded the old show’s intellectual/philosophical battles for shootouts, explosions, and credulity-straining plot twists. Its ending also felt immensely rushed.

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Zankyou no TerrorThis pissed off Franklin most of all, but even Hannah can’t deny that the introduction of the highly cliched Five character really dragged the show down, especially when she attempted to speak English for no good reason.

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Special Mention: Aldnoah.Zero – 12 – ‘Killing off’ people who are most likely going to be back in the second season was kind of deflating.

Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 12 (Fin)

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Wisely choosing to go with a near hour-long format for its final episode until April 2015, F/sn also finds the magic of its first two episodes, which were responsible for immersing us in this show to begin with. There’s a heroic, almost intimidating scope to the narrative and the emotions that accompany it, that makes this feel like a short but very meaty film rather than a mere episode of television. In short, F/sn outdid itself yet again.

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The adorable but unfazed Morning Rin brazenly asks Shirou out on a date, and while Saber tags along, she tells them to pretend she’s not there. They have coffee; they eat sweets; they try on glasses; they have a spirited go at the batting cages.

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They even have a picnic. It’s F/sn at its most domesticated and on its best behavior. But whether it’s Saber constantly eating or getting excited about eating or getting really into the baseball, or never really knowing 100% whether Rin is messing around with Shirou or sees him as a legitimate love interest (most likely both, I’d wager), this kind of Fate is also eminently charming and fun, even if there’s a foreboding feeling lurking just outside the frame.

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But these fun times only comprise a third of the sprawling episode. The idyllic bright sunny day darkens as we check in on Fuji-nee visiting Kiritsugu’s grave, and see that she’s being shadowed by a chick with familiar hair and lip color. Fuji-nee has shown that she’s got combat skills, so she should be fine…right?

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Shirou, Rin, and Saber’s lovely tripartite date comes to a violently rude close so suddenly, it comes as a gut punch, the first of many to come. Their bus is blasted into a bounded field…

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…and Caster appears, with her magic thread wound tightly round a freshly-caught Fuji-nee’s throat. Caster, never one to play by the rules of the Holy Grail War, seeks to end it quickly, and is intrigued by Shirou. If he swears fealty to her, she’ll free Fuji-nee. He refuses, so she makes a counter-offer: take his arm with its command seals.

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With the choice now his arm for Fuji-nee’s life, there is no choice to Shirou. Saber is less sure, and charges Caster. That’s when Shirou, in a panic and worried about Fuji-nee’s safety, inadvertently uses his final command seal to freeze Saber in her tracks. Caster takes full advantage, running her “Rule Breaker” dagger through her, which has the effect of transferring Saber from Shioru to Caster.

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This was…well, what can I say? It was a shock. A huge shock. Here were Shirou and the girls, having a harmless fun time on the town, and it ends with Shirou losing his servant and friend. This is Fate taking the gloves off, and showing no mercy to someone who has someone to lose (Fuji-nee) and who also has no idea what they’re doing.

Caster spares Shirou on a whim and sics Saber on Rin, but Shirou comes between them and takes the strike in his shoulder. Now Shirou is down a servant and bleeding out. Fortunately Archer breaks through and rescues him and Rin, but it’s tough to watch Saber being left behind.

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A surprisingly upbeat (perhaps putting up a strong front?) Rin patches Shirou up at her place, then showers and has a chat with her own servant Archer, a scene which hearkens back to their first encounter at her house in the first episode. Here, they discuss Archer’s past (and his possible tie to Saber), their priority (defeating Caster), and the status of her pact with Shirou, which she intends to honor, even though he’s no longer a Master, until he decides to leave the war for good.

Up in her room, Shirou stirs and finds the pendant Rin used to heal him from mortal wounds once before. The sight of it reminds him just how much he owes Rin, and his still-fresh wounds (no longer being quickly healed by Saber’s mana) remind him how powerless he presently is to repay his debts.

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As the good guys lick their wounds, Caster wastes no time, posting Assassin at the temple gate to protect her Master (opening his chest and rearranging his ribs as motivation), then sets her eyes on the church where Kirei hangs out.

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Even the stoic Kirei shows a bit of shock when Caster presents Saber from beneath her cloak (and gets all touchy, adding to Saber’s clear discomfort). Here, we first learn about a ‘lesser’ and ‘greater’ grail. The latter is summoned when one servant remains, but the former is something she believes can be acquired before that, and aims to beat Kirei into submission.

Kirei calls Caster by her former title, Princess of Colchis, intimates that her ‘soft heart’ is the reason she’s so keen to bring the war to a quick end. He gets pretty banged up in the ensuing battle, as Lancer hangs back, promising someone (his master) not to allow anyone to interfere.

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Speaking of interfering, Shirou goes after Rin, despite the fact he’s no longer a master and can do absolutely nothing except get in her way at this point. He finds her on a rooftop, where she tells him as much without mincing words. So much has happened, their date feels like ancient history. She leaps off the roof, knowing Archer will appear to catch her in midair, and before bounding off into the dense city lights, gives Shirou these parting words: “Stay out of this from now on, or you’re dead.”

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As much as Rin may be trying to cast (no pun intended) aside her emotions so she can focus on the pressing matter of winning the war, those words sound and feel just as much like Rin looking out for him than they are a threat. She can’t afford to have a Fuji-nee-like Achilles’ Heel, after all. But let’s get real: Shirou may be out of it now, but he obviously won’t be staying out of this. We’ll just have to wait three months to learn how he’ll claw his way back in. Three…long…months.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 50 (Fin)

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In our final bite-size installment of ATM!, Tenchi is back home at his temple/shrine pad with Ryouko, Ayeka, and Sasami, with Kuromitsu still around for a spell.

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As a peach pedal flies through the air, Tenchi remembers saying goodbye both to Momo and Beni, who got on their ship and left Earth, and the high school, where Hana took over as StuCo president and the council and science club continued their friendly rivalry.

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So yay me; I stuck with this thing the whole way (which honestly isn’t that much of a feat; all’s said and done we’re talking eight full-length episodes, max), and ATM!  actually wasn’t terrible. Heck, it was even good on a couple of occasions. But mostly it was just…er…fine. Let’s just say it won’t be making the World Heritage List.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 49

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Aw shucks, ATM! got all serious and dramatic on us and…well, having Tenchi and Momo separate after finally meeting up in the same timeline works about as well as you expect in a four-minute episode. There’s just not enough time for the impact to really land.

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Due magical objects like the lightsabers and the cloud of petals, everything is fixed about as quickly as it broke, eliciting not much more than a shrug. Momo and Tenchi return, with Momo back to her original young age. Hugs for all, etc.

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It always seemed like she was a deal younger than the other high school girls anyway, and now it makes sense why they protected her so; her mind really was younger. With the return of Tenchi and Lil’ Momo, the rift engulfing Earth vanishes and everything pretty much goes back to normal.

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Amagi Brilliant Park – 13 (Fin)

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Zane here, first-time ABP writer, long-time watcher (I’m actually watching it a second time around, it’s so good), just sticking my head in to offer some thoughts on the final episode. Oigakkosan will be along with his assessment.

I can sum up this episode with the phrase “Tricen makes a PV (promotional video) for the park.” No evil wizard redux; no new park crisis. It’s essentially a means for the excellent sprawling cast to take a curtain call.

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As both Kanie and Moffle note verbatim (proving that like minds often spar), Tricen can’t help but project his own bland personality onto the initial video. Kanie puts Sento in charge of helping Tri spice the video up, which they attempt to do by asking for everyone’s suggestions about what to put in the video.

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Moffle wants more explosions and action, Macaron wants better music, Tiramie wants more female skin (from his collection of covert skinpics), Koboli wants more male skin, Muse wants water, and Salama offers footage of Salama sleeping.

Tricen throws all this stuff into the video without any effort to mesh the wildly varying themes. Even as an art film, it’s a bit awkward. Then Latifah suggests he add video of the lower-tier cast members’ hobbies…and things get a bit weird:

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Whoa. (For the record, I couldn’t stop laughing at this scene. Who would’ve thought the mute dogu would be the most visionary of the bunch?)

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From Ashe’s skydive ironing, to Dornell’s dam enthusiast club video (and there are pictures of dams on the wall of his hideout way back in episode 5; nice continuity!), to Adachi’s footage of a horse giving birth, everything Tricen is given is put in, with no regard whatsoever for coherence.

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Predictably, Kanie is appalled by the resulting ‘masterpiece’ even as Sento weeps from the emotional impact. Frankly, Kanie should have remembered that while he’s softened her edges somewhat, Sento is still an imperial guard, and the wrong choice to assist Tricen. Not that there was a better alternative!

Kanie goes with Tricen’s original milquetoast cut, which underwhelms the cast, who is miffed their suggestions weren’t included. But Tricen gets the last laugh when he tells Kanie he uploaded the ‘unofficial remix’ to the web, where it went viral.

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There was thankfully no more Evil Wizard this week, but the possible negative fallout from the PV can’t be considered real conflict in this, the final episode. ABP seems to be running smoothly with Kanie at the helm and Sento by his side.

No, this was more a final check-in with the characters, who brought us to the table in the first place and kept us there with rapt attention as they worked their way through various dilemmas. I personally enjoyed this inconsequential but still entertaining epilogue.

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 14

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Would Gundam take the Christmas week off? Not a chance! Besides, in the SU-Cordist calendar, Christmas is called Schmistmas and it takes place on Flancember the 46th!

Still, I found it highly amusing that while showing off their new threads Noredo mentions how there are ‘no decent stores’ because this is…ahem…‘holy ground’…

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…And the camera cuts to Aida’s new cocktail dress. First of all, Noredo was lying about there being no decent stores (unless Aida made that red number). Second: how is this appropriate dress on so-called holy ground? Maybe Holy Ground is the name of Sankt Porto’s hottest nightclub?

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Ya hear that, Bell? You gotta do better than “You look nice” when a woman goes to the trouble of contorting herself into a garment of that caliber.

The juxtaposition of Noredo’s holy ground line with the dress makes me wonder if each character’s dialogue is written by a different writer, not knowing what lines the others are writing. If this is the case it’s a novel process, if a bit of a crapshoot.

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I guess even Aida thought her dress was a bit risque for the diplomatic talks, so the next time we see her she’s dressed normally, even though Rara and Noredo are still rocking their new threads (or did the animator forget what Aida was supposed to be wearing?)

Never mind, though…the sight of the delegation from the Moon not only sparks Rara’s memories, but she starts talking in full sentences with proper syntax! This is an awesome development, because the non-talking Rara has become more of a shrug-inducing afterthought than Bellri’s compliments.

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I liked how the quartet left in the middle of the meeting, because it was so damn boring. They even bump into Manny, if only for a moment, in which she tells them she’s a soldier now and she has to go! Hey, you went up to them!

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Manny just wants to be close to Mask at all times, perhaps sensing he’s really her boyfriend Luin, or maybe just has a thing for masks. In any case, she gets a tender moment with him (about as tender as you can get when separated by glass), but then BARARAAA calls him over and the two have a little twirl and Manny is JELLY.

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Yes, only then will you get to spend even more time with that ineffectual blowhard, whom you’ll have to take orders from even though you’d probably by a better pilot. Aim higher, Manny!

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Manny has a point though…whether it’s Mask and BARARAAAA, Bell and Aida, or Klim and Mick here, all the couples seem to be mobile suit partners.

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Mick has even started emulating Klim’s in-cockpit monologue style…

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…though she’s a few decades too early to think about taking his throne in that arena.

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Meanwhile, back in his G-Self, Bell is all about the murderin’ this week. He even counts off his kills: “One horrific death, ah-ah-ah! Two horrific deaths, ah-ah-ah!” It’s all good; he can’t see the pilots inside. No nightmares for him!

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Although interestingly, one of the Towasanga pilots puts up his hands and drops his weapon, and Bell somehow manages to stop his killing blow in time to save him. That was close, as the pilot was out of his cockpit, and while Bell has no problem killing people, the sight of blood makes him woozy!

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Can’t argue with that! But what’s with the slingshot? What is she, Denise the Menace?

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Not sure what Bell was grabbing for there, but it’s seriously great news that as they approach her home on the moon, Rara is finally talking and identifying the others by name. It’s almost like she’s going to start being a character…instead of a vapid mascot!

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Oh great…another ambiguous romance. And does the blondie let his five-year-old niece cut his hair, or what? No matter. This was not a bad episode, and we have the whole moon to look forward to next time.

It even ended with one of the more pointed, true-to-character, Gundam-y exchanges between Aida, Bellri and Noredo, which I’ll leave you with.

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Well said, all of you! All that was missing was a hearty “Chuchumy!” from Rara, for old time’s sake.

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RABUJOI’s Top 38 Episodes of 2014

Episodes are listed alphabetically by show title.

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Akame ga Kill! – 21


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Akame ga Kill! – 24


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Amagi Brilliant Park – 08


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Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works – 00


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Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works – 01


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Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works – 03


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Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works – 04


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Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works – 07


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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 11


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Golden Time – 22


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Hanamonogatari – 04


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Kill la Kill – 17


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Kill la Kill – 18


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Kill la Kill – 20


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Kill la Kill – 21


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Kill la Kill – 22


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Kill la Kill – 23


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Nagi no Asukara – 18


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Nagi no Asukara – 25


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Nagi no Asukara – 26


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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 07


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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 05


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Sabagebu! – 12


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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 02


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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 04


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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 06


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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 08


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Shingeki no Bahamut – 02


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Shingeki no Bahamut – 04


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Shingeki no Bahamut – 05


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Sidonia no Kishi – 05


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Sidonia no Kishi – 12


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Space Dandy – 05

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Space Dandy 2 – 08


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Sword Art Online II – 23


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Zankyou no Terror – 04


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Zankyou no Terror – 07


RABUJOI’s Top 22 Couples of 2014

UPDATE: We’ve added a couple more couples from Fall 2013 shows that carried over into Winter 2014, bringing the total to 24, not 22.

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1. Mine x Tatsumi

Akame ga Kill! – At first it seemed like Tatsumi’s love interest would be the titular Akame, while Mine was someone he merely constantly bickered with. Yet their chemistry only got better in time, and after both saved each others’ lives multiple times, they finally clicked, and got to say what needed to be said before Mine tragically succumbed to her battle injuries.

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2. Esdeath x Tatsumi

Akame ga Kill! – Another romance involving Tatsumi that started out as a joke but grew more serious as time and circumstances with the war progressed. Esdeath proved that while she was a monster, she was also still a human being, which meant sought someone to give her heart to and share her life of death and destruction with, and Tatsumi literally checked all of her boxes. I only hesitated to list these two because Tatsumi never really seemed interested in Esdeath beyond superficial titillation, but Tatsumi did basically offer himself to her if she came over to the rebellion.

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3. Haru x Tokaku

Akuma no Riddle – While this list is mostly boy-girl pairings, that doesn’t preclude other combinations as long as they were interesting, and Haru and Tokaku’s certainly was, with both girls in turn taking up the “protector” role as conditions warranted, and even Haru’s dark secrets not swaying Tokaku from her side.

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4. Kisara x Rentarou

Black Bullet – Rentarou was adopted into Kisara’s family, but while that technically makes them siblings and thus not couple material, that turns out to be the least of their worries. Let’s get one thing out of the way: Rentarou and Kisara love each other, and it goes beyond standard familial love; they’re devoted to one another, with a bond forged in the hellish fires of the past. What dooms them, in the shows somewhat curtailed ending, is Kisara’s descent into darkness, choosing to become an even greater evil to destroy the great evil that infects the world…starting with Kazumitsu, her brother by blood. It’s a road Rentarou can’t follow her down, and she knows that. It’s also quite sad.

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5. Rikka x Yuuta

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – Well…duh. You didn’t think these two wouldn’t be on this list, did you? I mean look at them…bloody adorable. But that’s not to say they were just a couple of cute faces. They went through some things, including trying to parse out what their relationship is and what its pace should be, as well as overcoming a feisty rival.

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6. Hilda x Roselie x Chris

Cross Ange: Tenchi to Ryuu no Rondo – Yes, I know, this is a trio, not a couple, but I’ll allow it. Arzenal is many things, and ‘women’s prison’ is one of them. As such, the ‘weak’ (either physically or emotionally) ally themselves with the ‘strong’, be it in the skies, the mess hall, or boudoir. These three comprised Troop Captain Zola’s harem, and Zola looked after them both on duty and off. When she was killed in action they carried on with Hilda in her place. Then Hilda deserted, and it was just Chris and Roselie. When she’s recaptured, Hilda claims she was just playing around with them…but I wasn’t convinced she was being totally honest with herself.

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7. Nagi x Kyoutarou

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – Yes, the show wants to give all the girls possibilities with Kyoutarou, and seems to want to nudge him in the direction of Tsugumi in particular, but I’ve always found this pairing to be the most compelling. They have a past, and spend the most time together, often with no pretense or tension. The only problem is they share the same father. Whoops…

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8. Rin x Shirou

Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works – Rin and Shirou are far from an official couple, but it can’t be argued that they have a certain romantic tension in their interactions, which have varied from verbal to physical/magical altercations to sharing dinner and spending the night under the same roof (though not in the same room). They’ve been enemies, and they’ve been allies, and there’s the constant indication that the alliance is temporary and they’ll be enemies again before too long…but in the interim, they make a good team.

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9. Kazumi x Ryouta

Gokukoku no Brynhildr – This is another case (there were many this year) when I wasn’t as interested in the show’s intended ‘main’ couple of Ryouta and Neko. Kazumi was a way more dynamic character and she and Ryouta have some great dramatic and comedic scenes together.

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10. Tomoyo x Jurai

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – There are cuter and more precocious (Chifuyu), taller and more voluptuous (Sayumi), lovey-dovier (Mirei) and more familiar (Hatoko) women in Jurai’s life, but none ever clicked quite so well as he and the crimson-headed Tomoyo. They bicker a lot, but out of mutual interest in and affection for each other, not loathing.

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11. Satomi x Shinichi

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – File Satomi and Shinichi under 2014’s Most Doomed Couples, despite their mutual affection and brilliant natural chemistry…well, when Shinichi isn’t making scary faces, yelling at her for no reason, or tossing puppy carcasses in the garbage.

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12. Rurumo x Kouta

Majimoji Rurumo – You can’t tell a book by it’s cover, and the rather childish-looking MMR had a surprisingly rich and mature romance at its core, which rightly took center stage, rather than the magical milieu. Ruru even shelves her original purpose for contracting with Kouta, because completing that would separate the two (via his death), something neither of them want.

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13. Chisaki x Tsumugu

Nagi no Asukara – I loved Miuna to death, but for most of the second core when she’s a main character, her’s was a one-sided love. No, the best couple in this show were the two I thought least likely to pair up, only it happened anyway due to circumstances and time. Their relationship is threatened by Tsumugu’s future and the awakening of their friends, but by the end it endures. They just fit, as the photo above indicates.

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14. Kosaki x Raku

Nisekoi – Sorry, Chitoge, but Kosaki was here first! Not only that, Raku liked her and she liked him first. They were on the cusp of connecting when Chitoge arrived, and no matter how much progress she and Raku made towards becoming less of a fake couple and more of a real one, Chitoge still felt like an interloper. Of course, that’s partly on Kosaki and Raku, for not having the guts to come right out and confess to each other. The show itself didn’t seem to want them together, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were the best fit for each other.

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15. Kaori x Yuuki

One Week Friends – There were times on this show when you weren’t sure whether Kaori’s was a real brain condition caused by her accident, or if it was a psychosomatic process she went through in order to avoid getting too close to anyone. In any case, it made her a tough nut to crack, but Yuuki put the work in and devised a way for her to remember him even when she forgot, regardless of the reason. It was a bumpy road, but immensely satisfying.

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16. Erika x Kyoya

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – One of the upstart surprise of the year, Ookami’s general premise of ‘guy treating girl like a dog’ naturally had me pre-turned off, worried it would be demeaning towards women. It turned out to be a lot more nuanced and likable, as were Erika and Kyoya, despite their many flaws and missteps. I’m not sure if any other couple had quite so many obstacles to finding happiness, but they navigated them all with grace and humor.

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17. Aoi x Naoto

Rail Wars! – Aoi is constantly telling Naoto he’s not tough enough for railway public safety, dubbing him “Stringbean” and such. But the truth is, Naoto was a lot tougher than he looked, and never let her down when they were in a spot. They developed a good working relationship, but the more death-defying adventures they shared, the closer they became, to the point where Aoi is unashamed to be officially in the fight for Naoto’s heart along with the other girls, and Naoto is not opposed to the chase.

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18. Tensai x Juugo

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – While these two were never an official item, they shared a mutual respect and admiration that would sometimes veer into the realm of romantic affection/attraction. They’re rivals who keep one another on each other’s toes, but when they come together – Tensai’s brains and Juugo’s brawn, they can accomplish great things.

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19. Yuu x Haruka

Sakura Trick – This show mostly focused on one thing and one thing only—the budding relationship between two young people in love for the first time—and did it damn well. Perhaps no other show this year captured that unique joy and excitement that comes not just from finding the right one, but knowing that person thinks you’re just as right for them. That, and the thrill of making out in places where one could get caught.

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20. Kaori x Kousei

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – I considered putting Tsubaki and Kousei here, because despite having different callings (athletic versus musical) they seem to be the more natural match due to time and proximity, which are tried-and-true reasons two people come together. Kaori and Kousei, meanwhile, have the look of a more idealistic, star-crossed couple. Kaori is amazing and everything, but she’s also dying, as we the audience know better than the other characters.

But at the end of the day, Kousei is in love with Kaori, not Tsubaki. He’s said as much to Kaori, though he could have been clearer and she has yet to clearly respond. Still, there’s nothing else on TV, animated or not, quite like watching these two make music together. Yes, music music…get your head out of the gutter!

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21. Chiharu x Mitsuo

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – Pilot’s Love Song had some issues…chief among them, it didn’t really, um…end, so much as stop. But one thing it did well was introduce perhaps the quickest but most compelling and moving romances of the year, between the affable Chi and kind Mitty, both side characters in this meandering tale. Like so many other couples who suddenly find each other in the midst of war, that war ends up tearing them apart prematurely, in one of the most heartrending scenes of the year.

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22. Yui x Sou

Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – Aside from her super-romantic (and heartbreaking) confession/kiss/farewell in the street where Sou had just narrowly escaped death-by-bus, a kiss immediately proceeded by her no longer existing in his universe, the time-traveling Yui’s love story was often overshadowed by future Sou’s obsessive quest to save Kaori, but always present, to the point where Yui started as a means to save Kaori, but then a safe Kaori became a means for Sou to one day create Yui anew. Still with us…?

Bonus Couples

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23. Kouko x Banri

Golden Time

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24. Mako x Ira

Kill la Kill

Merry Christmas!

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 48

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Okay: so the peach tree is actually Beni and Momo’s ship, which Washuu needs in order to set everything straight. They start the start-up process as Yuki tries to hack into the warhead. They’re confronted by troops, but Touri, Hana, and Hachiko take care of them. When more arrive, Kurihara orders a retreat, warning the girls to get as far away as they can.

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Something tells me with Washuu on their side, they won’t have to worry about anything going BANG, at least in this situation. When Beni gets the ship started, Tenchi and Momo finally ‘synchronize’ in the same time, much to Momo’s tearful delight. Some progress at last!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 47

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With the rift widening, the Galaxy Police commander has no choice but to swallow his pride and ask for Washuu’s help. Washuu, understandably smug, agrees to ‘bring the situation under control’, but only if the GP drops all the charges against her. With no leverage to negotiate, the commander caves completely.

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Meanwhile (if that’s even the right term to use in this situation), Momo and Tenchi are ships passing in the night, only the ‘night’ in question is a variety of random timelines, all presented in different color palettes. Tenchi doesn’t know what the heck is going on, only that he has to try to stick with Momo through it all.

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As Washuu gets in her spacetime manipulation chair (or whatever), cracks her knuckles and gets started, Ryouko and Beni finally soft-land at the bottom of that cavern, where they find an enormous blossoming peach tree. What does it mean? Err…I’ll have to get back to you on that.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 12

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In this heart-crushing powerhouse of an episode that marks the halfway point of the show, it felt like Parasyte had finally put all its visceral and emotional pieces together.

Like Migi, it’s been an often cold and calculating show that more often than not punishes anyone who takes actions based on emotion alone, and takes things to their logical conclusion. But with both Shinichi’s occasional romantic interactions with Satomi and the tragic events of this week, the show proves its blood is still red…’for now’.

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Kana is still having dreams in which Shinichi is rescuing her from a monster than sweeping her off her feet. Considering he’s with Satomi, you’d think she wouldn’t want them, or the feelings that go with them, but a.) she can’t help how she feels and b.) all of this stuff going on supports her belief that she is the only one for Shinichi.

Meanwhile, Migi is all worked up (and playfully complex in his forms) about the prospect of his own kind running for and even winning elections, as farfetched as it seems. He even takes a cynical but not inaccurate dig at politics, stating that anyone with a grasp of psychology can succeed in that arena.

One great thing is that as stuck together as they are, Migi still can’t read Shinichi’s mind. That’s good, because Shinichi is far more concerned with Kana than the mayoral election. To Migi, that kind of ‘concern’ could get them both killed.

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Not willing to give up, Kana ‘bumps into’ Shinichi again, whereupon he takes her aside and reiterates the danger of approaching signals she thinks are him. Mitsuo spots the two and assumes Shinichi is trying to steal Kana from him. Shinichi telling him “it isn’t like that” is hardly convincing argument after Mitsuo hears things like “you make me feel like no one else can.” Somebody’s jelly.

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Migi doesn’t like this persistent interaction with the unpredictable (or perhaps all-too-predictable) Kana, and warns Shinichi that her welfare is not more important than his, and if Shinichi goes and does something that threatens his safety, Migi won’t hesitate to act on his own. It sounds like a threat, because it is. Because Migi has no sympathy.

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Well do, so it hurts to see Kana get so obsessed with Kana through no fault of her own; she’s only following the ‘power’ she’s suddenly gained. She has a very close call when she runs out into the night and comes across a parasyte, but isn’t attacked. I’m going to chalk that incredibly lucky result to the parasyte having already eaten its fill that night.

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Shinichi meets Kana somewhere private for a ‘serious conversation’, and her infatuation makes her get her hopes up that he’s going to confess to her. When he instead tells her about everything – the parasytes, his right hand, all of it – she’s not shocked; she’s disappointed! More to the point, she doesn’t quite believe his story, either, especially since he can’t morph his hand, as Migi is asleep.

She then tells Shinichi that she can now discern his signal from the signals of the other monsters, furthering her self-imposed narrative that they are meant to be together. In exchange for this secret, she makes Shinichi promise to show her his squiggly right hand sometime, even making a cute little Migi-like hand gesture.

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Migi and Shinichi are both surprised to find the mayoral candidate won, meaning the parasytes now have a safe haven and food source, but there’s nothing to be done about that at the moment, so Shinichi and Satomi arrange a movie date.

Again, Kana is not far from them, and even tries to will Shinichi to look back at her. She can’t believe Satomi, who doesn’t have the power she does, could possibly be right for him. But only Migi looks back at her (which she doesn’t notice).

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Mitsuo shows up again, apparently stalking the stalker, and Kana’s frustration boils over. However, as much as a loathe Mitsuo, I like how Kana walks back her harsh words, since she and Mitsuo have clearly been friends long enough that he’s not someone she’d dispose of so easily, even if she can’t return his feelings.

And she definitely can’t…she’s in full Shinichi Fixation Mode, writing their names on the pillar of her hideout. Then Shinichi learns from Migi that Kana herself was putting out a signal, making her and even more vulnerable and conspicous target for parasytes, should she run into the wrong one.

Shinichi decides to cancel his date and meet with Kana again, a move Kana again interprets in a way that supports her fate theory. Confident she’ll be able to find Shinichi with her power alone, she wraps his plucked hair around her finger and sets out…without her phone.

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As much as she wants to sense Shinichi and only Shinichi, and even though she told Shinichi she had that power, it turns out she doesn’t, and even though I knew this situation was a long time coming, my heart still sank down below the foundation of the house as she ran into the hideout to find another parasyte feeding.

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And that…was just it for Kana. In this case, the show took her obsession and her increasing vulnerability to its logical conclusion. She may be able to sense parasytes, but she can’t fight them, or even run away. Her knight Shinichi does arrive, just as she hoped, but not soon enough to save her. [Bangs fist on desk] DAMN IT!

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Shinichi’s retribution is swift and chilling in its grim efficiency. He tells Migi to “handle the defense”, rushes the parasyte, dodges his attack, and rips his heart out, impressing the hard-to-impress Migi.

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But while I’m sure the gesture felt good for a moment to his still-human psyche, it is far too late to save Kana. He holds her as she bleeds out, and she tells him this is just how it went in her dreams, before quietly passing away. Then Shinichi looks up to find she died right in front of the pillar she wrote on, making it a gravepost.

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With her sensing power, Kana was special, no doubt. But did that power go further into a kind of precognition? Did she dream of things that then came to pass, with just the detail of her surviving being different? It’s neat to think about, even if its hard to connect those more ‘magical’ concepts with the more scientific reality of the parasytes. But maybe that was the point. In any case, losing Kana was very upsetting. I didn’t realize how much I liked her until she was taken from us. She deserved a much longer life.

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Detectives with knowledge of the parasytes questioned him thoroughly but let him go, (he’s mostly above suspicion because they plucked his hair), though they’re faced with the mystery of who killed the parasyte who killed Kana. Mitsuo, who has seen (and been on the wrong end of) Shinichi’s strength, gets in face and starts pummeling him anyway for failing to protect Kana, who from his perspective had strayed into Shinichi’s arms so willingly.

Mitsuo is even more upset that Shinichi takes the beating so calmly, and didn’t even shed a tear for Kana, as if he weren’t human. All Shinichi can to to respond is drop Mitsuo with one blow, say “that’s right!” to the non-human claim, and curse Mitsuo for ‘going down so easily.’

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He’s not just talking about Mitsuo, though. He’s talking about Kana, who went down so easily, and his mom, who went down so easily, and those cops at the school who went down so easily, and those yakuza who went down so easily. Humans are so goddamn frail and weak, they can’t protect themselves or anyone else from the parasytes.

Only Shinichi, who is no longer fully human, seems capable of protecting them. And yet, he couldn’t protect Kana. For once, I agree with Migi that Kana was probably a hopeless case anyway, but that doesn’t change the fact that none of his awesome powers were worth a damn when it mattered most.

There’s simply too much on Shinichi’s plate; too many people to protect and no good way to do it. And it’s tearing him up inside.

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P.S. Kudos to Sawashiro Miyuki for some fantastic work voicing Kana.