Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 09

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Who makes a better Shepherd: the one who would guide their sheep along a life path that makes the most of their latent talent, or along the path that would net the sheep the most happiness? The question begs asking, because in the case of the “Song Princess” Misono Senri, those two paths are divergent.

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Simply put, as good as she was, or is, or could be at singing, it just doesn’t make Senri happy anymore, which has led her to neglect her practicing. It hasn’t made her happy ever since she learned her best friend Serizawa would quit if Senri beat her. Senri took a dive, yet still won, and lost Serizawa anyway. Her talent hurt someone dear to her, and caused them to drift apart.

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So why keep singing, when it only gives her pain and reminds her of what she’s lost? If she does keep singing, who’s to say she won’t lose more friends to her talent? Nagi, as Shepherd-in-Training, takes the road of maximum talent cultivation at any cost: Senri must get back on track, or she’s doomed to become ‘just an ordinary student’.

Kyoutarou inserts himself in Nagi’s mission and ends up taking it over completely, taking the other road: the road of happiness. He does this not to one-up Nagi, but because he wants to help his friend. His answer is, if singing is painful, Stop. Enjoy life. Have fun with friends. Don’t worry about the labels others give you. Make your own mark. Do what you want, not what’s expected of you. He even suggests the same of Nagi herself.

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Meanwhile, what do we have here? Oh, just Vice Predient Tokigawa obsessively photographing President Mochizuki and photoshopping her face on Kyoutarou’s body for pleasure. She also seems to be in contact with ‘a’ Shepherd, though which one who can say. I can’t say there’s enough here to work with, so I’ll just move on. :)

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Back to Senri, who takes to Kyou’s advice like a fish to water. Who hasn’t reveled in waking up only to realize you can go back to bed? Such Luxury! Or helping her fellow library club members plan their upcoming festival event. Or goofing off with Kana, who assures her no one in the club will hate her for doing what she feels she needs to do to be happy, even if that’s quitting singing forever.

Tamamo initially takes a sterner position, saying she can’t abide people who waste their talents, but later confides to Kyoutarou (in a scene where she’s very physically close to him) that it was her jealousy speaking; she herself wanted to be an artist, but her family forbade it in favor of a path that would lead to more success, if not more happiness. So she doesn’t really begrudge so much as envy Senri’s situation.

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As the episode progresses, one cannot argue that Kyoutarou’s way has resulted in a much bubblier, happier Senri, who literally makes her mark on him by stamping his hand with a smiley face. When Serizawa confronts him about rumors the Song Princess has quit, Kyoutarou refers to the canary who lost its song.

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Then Nagi confronts Kyoutarou, warning him that he could be condemning that canary to a life of mediocrity. Kyoutarou, who is content to give Senri time to ‘find her song anew’, as it were, wonders why Nagi is in such a damn hurry to ‘fix’ Senri…

That’s when the environs darken and the Shepherd recruiter appears, telling Kyoutarou he’s passed the second exam and can become a Shepherd anytime he wants. They transport to the Grand Library, where the recruiter presents Kyou with Nagi’s book.

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Nagi, as we know, is in a hurry to cast away her past in order to become a Shepherd, but as Kyoutarou learns once he opens that book, that is prohibitively difficult as long as her past is right in front of her: Kyou was her “big brother,” which I assume is a term of endearment, rather than an indication they’re actually related.

This is not so much a huge shock for us considering Nagi’s behavior these past eight episodes, but it definitely puts her in a new light for Kyoutarou, who has the power, if he desires to use it, to ensure she lives a normal life, even if that’s not what she wants.

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 09

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Things are a little more focused this week (though there was no way it was going to be as jumbled as last week’s), as we finally build up to the great culmination of all of Arthur Gaz’s designs: his resurrection by Black Chaika, using the parts collected by the others.

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It’s a scene the show’s been building towards for two seasons. So why did it feel a little…flat? Why was I only half-invested in all of this? ‘Chaika Fatigue’, perhaps. Also, Penultimate Episode Syndrome, where the second-to-last episode is either better or worse than the last. As our heroes mostly stand around and gawk at the mustache-twirling bad guys as the shit hits the fan, it seems like the latter.

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That’s not to say this episode was a failure on all counts. For one thing, it succeeded greatly in destroying pretty much all hope of White Chaika performing a funeral for her father, and not just because he’s not her father and he’s no longer dead. There’s also something so very wrong about Black Chaika birthing the reincarnation of her father beneath her skirts while making moaning and wailing in apparent…arousal.

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Final Fantasy-style final chapter cutscenes are notorious for the rambling speeches and grotesque transformations of the Big Bad(s) as the good guys stew in the corner with clenched fists. In that regard, this episode succeeds admirably. Before you start fighting the final boss, the game wants to make sure you hate him as much as possible, but also learn his twisted worldview. And the simple reveal of Young Gaz — who looks a lot like Guy, not accidentally — had an understated awe about it.

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Speaking of awe, Neo-Gaz wastes no time killing Hartgen (with a casual but lethal one-word incantation — “Pierce”). Harty was just a pawn, after all, whose power, clout, and charisma were used to gather both the Chaikas and the masses of bloodthirsty warriors. War only appeals to Gaz in that it is the state of civilization that nets him the most powerful emotions and memories which make the magic he feasts upon. He’s less a megalomaniac and more a force of nature at this point: an all-consuming storm.

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And Chaika? Not only was she never his daughter (he has none), but “Chaika” is merely the term for the magical technique he used to resurrect himself. Pawn, tool, technique, doormat — however Chaika wishes to call it, as far as Gaz is concerned her task is complete.

After destroying the flying fortress Red Herring with his personal Gundo Niva Lada, he uses her to activate a heretofore dormant fortress in orbit. Space Fortress. Now we’re talking. Where the heck to the good guys go from here? I don’t know, but the fact Gaz and his underlings are too arrogant to bother killing them all immediately proves they have a chance.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 10

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Tachikawa was a combination of stupid and heroic when she confronted Shimada Hideo alone last week, but the universe isn’t ready to snuff out her candle yet, as she trip-dodges his first blow and tosses the nearest thing at hand — a bottle of paint thinner — that just so happens to give the monster nasty burns and render him unable to morph. Hey, who said fine art is useless!

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That same universe must have determined that it had tortured Shinichi and Satomi enough for the time being, as Shimada’s rampage proves the perfect opportunity for Shinichi to not only play the hero, but mend fences with his sweetheart. Shinichi’s desire to get rid of Shimada himself is another case of his human desire for revenge — combined with the knowledge he has the ability to Do Something — overpowering Migi’s cold logic.

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The ep gives Shinichi and me one last shock when we see a corpse with hair similar to Satomi’s in the hall, but it’s not her. In a vicious beat of dark humor, Shinichi repeats Satomi’s line of “I mistook you for someone else.” The other two students wig out and run right into their deaths, but Shinichi goes into full Get Hitomi To Safety Mode, and damn the consequences of the abilities he exposes.

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Things really escalated fast for Shimada, who was probably going to try to keep the experiment going as long as he could, but the universe wasn’t having it, and in the end he resorted to his killer instincts. A firing squad of pea-shooting cops riddle him with holes before he kills them all. Migi wants Shinichi to leave it to the cops, who will eventually bring something of a larger caliber to bear, but feeling responsible for the Shimada mess to begin with, Shinichi insists on ending him personally.

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He does so…with BASEBALL. The most violent and deadly sport in human history — if a few rules were tweaked a bit, that is. Conceding to Shinichi’s wishes, Migi makes sure this is done right, giving him an awesome muscle monster arm to nail Shimada mortally through the heart from over 300m away.

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The final butcher’s bill? 17 deaths, including students, faculty, and police. But because everyone who saw Shimada in Battle Formation is either among those 17 or scarred from the trauma of the situation, the police and media keep the incident under wraps.

In a big room with a big desk (and a Big Board!), Professor Yui cheerfully briefs the assembled authorities on the nature of the parasites, which he calls “sentient muscle”, and how to detect them: By plucking a hair from the one you suspect. Of course, that assumes it will let you live long enough to pluck the hair and do something about it, which is assuming a lot.

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Still, I guess it’s better than nothing. After a few days, school starts back up (presumably after all the blood was mopped up) and Shinichi runs into a cautious but cordial Murano, who apologizes for not responding to his texts, but thanks him profusely for saving her.

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Shinichi suggests they not dwell on the horrors of the past, and when he does, he doesn’t just mean forgetting about the harrowing bloody experience Satomi just went through, nor the fact he bounded around around like a superhero while she was in his arms. No, he also wants her to forget about all the awful exchanges they had prior to Shimada going postal.

Satomi seems receptive to that arrangement, and just like that, they’re incredibly back on good terms. Just because things went pretty well for Shinichi this week doesn’t mean the trend will continue. But at this point in the show’s 24-episode run, it was nice to see a glimmer of hope that things will turn out okay return, even if that turns out not to be the case at all.

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