Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 11

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Yui is in a predicament. She was sent to the past to save Kaori’s life, but it wasn’t as simple as keeping her away from the runaway bus. Now she’s finally cracked it, and Sou simply won’t leave her alone.

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And then there’s the slightly more pressing matter of…her existence. I’m not sure Future Sou and Airi told Yui, but if she’s successful in saving Kaori, Sou will have never had to create her, so she will cease to exist. That’s not really ideal, because after all this time she’s fallen for Sou and can’t deny part of her wants to be with him.

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Whether or not Sou and the others recall even a faint glimmer of having known Yui before she entered their lives (from the previous times she went back and ended up naked in his arms), on this, perhaps the last time she can come back, Yui finally stumbles on the answer to saving Kaori: by having Sou give her a straight answer.

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With no other ideas, Yui decides to facilitate that course of events. She can no longer afford to be subtle or clever (and in any case that never worked before) so she just comes out and tells Sou that Kaori will confess to him tomorrow, and that he has to give her an answer. The thing is, after how Yui has acted the last few days, Sou takes this in a much different way than Yui intended. It’s almost a case of unintended reverse psychology.

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Kaori reacts the same way when Yui is equally upfront in insisting she harbors no romantic feelings whatsoever for Sou. Kaori isn’t buying what Yui is selling, even if Yui didn’t have possess fragments of Kaori’s memories and personality that come through in her behavior and demeanor.

Kaori can tell Yui’s lying…because she is lying. But Kaori will still confess. No matter what happens, she can’t move forward the way things are. This is also literally true, as every time Sou hasn’t answered Kaori, she’s ended up dead shortly thereafter.

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Things go almost like clockwork on the fateful day, but only in where people are, and when. In terms of what’s said to who, things go far differently than Yui imagined. Despite her feelings for Sou, she never imagined his straight answer to Kaori would be a rejection. After all, they grew up together. Kaori has had so much more time with him! Surely he must return those feelings! Well, he doesn’t…and ironically, it’s thanks to Yui.

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This time Kaori stays at school while Sou chases once more after Yui, who had done her best to say her goodbyes, both to her friends and to the town. But so flags her down just as the bus arrives. It crashes as before, but Yui and Sou avoid it and survive. The loop has been broken.

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It’s here where Sou tells Yui he rejected Kaori…because he really loves her. Yui returns his confession with her own, plus a kiss (get out of the street, lovebirds!), but she knows this is the end for her. Her mission is complete, so she was never created, and she disappears. Put simply, this is time-trippy romantic tragedy done right.

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It’s not the somewhat silly kind of ‘vanishing in his arms’ disappearance either, though she does go a bit translucent. Rather, time continues as if she had never been there. Well, almost. The astronomy club finds Sou at the crash site, and everyone thinks very hard about whether everyone is really accounted for. Furthermore, Sou puts his hands to his lips, where a Yui that never was just kissed him.

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In every physical form, Yui is gone, or rather never existed…even in the group photo, BTTF-style. But somewhere in the hearts and minds of the others, particularly Sou, a part of her still seems to linger. An absence is felt, even if they know not why. Was Sou’s rejection of Kaori negated? Is Yui well and truly gone? Have we really seen the last of her?

I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen in next week’s finale. I kinda like that!

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 11

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In a high percentage of rom-coms, there are two kinds of second-to-last episodes: the ones where either the guy or girl is on the verge of confession, which won’t come until the finale; or the ones where the couple, already together, faces the biggest threat to their relationship, which will be resolved one way or another in the finale. Ookami Shoujo avoids both tropes in its second-to-last episode.

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Granted, it does so by employing another pretty common trope — the Unapproving Family Member — but employs it well. Kyoya and Erika are already a pretty stable, happy couple, and as much of a force of nature as she is, Kyoya’s sis Reika never seems intent on wrecking the relationship. She mostly wants to know if it’s really true, because it would mean not only that Kyoya had changed a great deal, but the woman who changed him did something that she, his own big sis, couldn’t.

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The progression of Erika and Reika’s interactions is predictable, considering their personalities. Erika, who respects Reika telling off a half-assed flirting guy before they even meet, is incredibly intimidated and thus polite and boilerplate ‘brother’s girlfriend’ to Reika. Reika stuffs her full of sweets and continually mocks Kyoya until Erika is forced to put her wolf ears away and defend her man.

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While Erika’s outburst and harsh words surprise her, Reika is actually pleased with this development, as it proves that Erika isn’t just another one of her bro’s ‘ways to kill time.’ But she still wants to know if things between Erika and her bro are as serious as they’re both letting on. The Tigress Reika challenges Erika the Wolf, vowing to apologize if Erika wins.

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Reika calls Kyoya asking him to pick her up, letting him know Erika is with her, and because she ran her mouth she had to ‘deal with her.’ Much to Reika’s surprise, Kyoya races to the scene and promises consequences depending on how badly Reika treated Erika. This Kyoya is nothing new; he won’t let anyone hurt Erika, not even his sister, just as Erika won’t suffer insults directed at Kyoya, even if they’re from Reika.

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In a way, Reika did ‘bust Erika up’, but only because she made her eat too much. Erika is sick, and more to the point, sick right in front of Kyoya, something Reika slaps him for, as it was insensitive for him to barge in while Erika was having such an embarrassing time. It was just as wrong for Reika to set them up, but while she won the eating contest, Kyoya’s behavior proved that Erika was right: he can love someone, and he does: her.

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But there’s no time to rest even though the hurdle of the big sister has been overcome; it’s Summer break, and Erika has nothing to do, so she can’t refuse Reika’s invitation to join her and Kyoya at their mom’s place in Kobe. It’s actually pretty funny how quickly they end up there.

It’s just…I’m not sure what to make the mother herself: she appears to be an extremely well-built, extremely tanned ‘middle-aged lady’. Or the mom could actually be the blonde-haired face behind her left elbow (unless that’s Kyoya). Either way, this should be interesting!

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Akame ga Kill! – 24 (Fin)

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As the big let down that was Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle demonstrated, it’s rare for a long-running series to field a finale that delivers on virtually all of its promises and potential. But Akame ga Kill! succeeded everywhere Chaika failed miserably,  pulling out all the stops for an ending worthy of the excellence that preceded it.

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Akame v. Esdeath was being billed as one for the ages, and in this it did not disappoint, from the moment a surrounded Esdeath seals scores of Revolutionary troops in a jagged ice wall, forming an arena in which to tangle with the raven-haired wielder of Murasame.

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The show could really take its time and do things right with this battle because it so painstakingly took care of everything else on its sizable plate, along with killing off most of the cast. Everything we’ve seen of Akame and Esdeath in combat is brought to the table here, along with a lot of new moves and counter-moves, and it’s just fantastic to see these two go at it like no one on the show has quite gone at it before. There’s the feeling that everything has naturally escalated up to this level.

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When she realizes she won’t be able to defeat Esdeath without her trump card, Akame uses it, merging further with Masamune to increase her speed and power to even more ridiculous levels; a testament to just how tough a customer Esdeath is. Esdeath has basically merged with the soul of a terrifying danger beast and the two share unending bloodlust out of a desire to destroy the weak – all the week.

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The deaths of ‘livestock’ mean nothing to Esdeath, but they mean everything to Akane. Masamune has remembered every life she’s taken, and while the weight of those deaths on her shoulders is considerable, it also gives her the strength she needs to fight not just on Esdeath’s level, but above it.

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Esdeath will always be weaker, because she doesn’t understand and thus can’t properly utilize the weight of the death and destruction she causes. Akame works for the good guys, but she’s not necessarily a good guy herself, just a necessary evil in a world where foes like Esdeath threaten peace and won’t stop killing unless they’re killed.

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A lot of Esdeath’s early confidence in the fight is knowing she can lean on her Makahadoma to freeze Akame if things get that serious. She even says it’s the second time she’s had to use it; the first being to defeat Susanoo. But she’s so confident it will work just as well against Akame, she doesn’t consider the possibility that Makahadoma is exactly what Akame wants her to do.

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Esdeath doesn’t realize this until it’s too late, the Akame before her is merely an afterimage, and the real one is coming down upon her with the full force of her blade. The certainty that Esdeath would use Makahadoma proves to be her downfall.

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After that, Esdeath is not only an arm short, but also mortally wounded from throat to hip, and she concedes defeat. She is not upset; by her own lifelong code, she deserves to die for being the weaker one. If anything, she’s glad it’s something else she can share with Tatsumi, whose body has been lying nearby all along. Before Akame can stop her, Esdeath embraces him and surrounds herself with ice and shatters, in just the latest in a series of gorgeous deaths.

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In their last talk, Akame tells Esdeath about how she draws strength from taking responsibility for the lives she’s taken, but she just can’t understand. And yet, Esdeath loved Tatsumi, something else she couldn’t understand, but still accepted.

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With Esdeath now diamond dust, the Empire really is done. Wave and Run aren’t going to fight for it anymore, and Minister Onest is scurrying through the palace like a rat until cornered by Leone. When he uses his Imperial Arms to destroy hers, I thought “Uh-oh…now he’s going to inject himself with something and become a ferocious beast-man.” Fortunately, I was wrong! He takes out a gun a gun! — and simply shoots her with what looks like small-caliber shot.

But Leone, born and raised in/by the slums, is a tough cookie, Imperial Arms or not, and gives Onest the death that, if I’m honest, I always wanted for him: getting his face smashed in by her bare hands. It’s gruesome, undignified, and downright icky, and underlines the fact that Night Raid are vicious killers too, but the difference being they kill for something other than themselves.

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As Leone later says her goodbyes to Akame (Onest shot her ten times in the abdomen), we also see that the ‘something’ Night Raid has fought for — a peaceful land free of the corruption and bloodshed of Onest and Esdeath — isn’t something they’ll be able to partake in. Leone ignores the calls from the townsfolk asking her to join them for a drink. Instead, she finds a dark alley to lie down in and die with a smile on her face, knowing she’ll be with the others soon. Night Raid gets a different kind of peace.

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With Esdeath and Onest gone, all that’s left is for the Rebellion to take one last life: that of the young, naive Emperor. It’s fitting and very nice of the show to give the lad as clean and dignified and honorable death by guilloutene as Onest’s was dirty and pathetic. The Emperor holds his head high until it’s lowered into the stock as the entire capital watches, while Onest died in the dark bowels of the castle, his killer the only witness to his end.

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Najenda, along with Wave and Run, take up new posts in the New Kingdom (who is actually ruling isn’t made clear yet). After all, those who remember the horrors of the war that brought them this Kingdom are well-equipped to stand and protect it from those who would threaten it again. But Akame leaves the capital, keeping the lives she’s taken on her shoulders. Her work isn’t done, and it will never be done as long as she’s alive, and there is no other course for her.

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The episode also ends with one last stirring hurrah with a booming narrator talking about everything Night Raid did…and how history will not remember any of it. They were assassins, killers, working in the shadows, doing dirty work for a clean world. They’ll have no honors or monuments or even songs or stories sung or written about them, ever…but what they did have was each other, and that was enough.

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In the post-credits epilogue, Akame continues her duty, facing those who would destroy the progress made, both burdened and fueled by the ones she killed before. She’s not with Leone, Mine, Sheele, Bulat, Chelsea, Lubbock, Kurome, and Tatsumi…yet, but one day she will be. Until then, she has work to do.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 11

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This is a Rondo of Angels and Demons, so I’m not surprised to see Julio under the mind control of Riza Randog, thanks to some kind of evil serum she secretes. Sylvia walks in on the two and is appalled before being restrained by RIza’s demon tail, suggesting the drug wears off. I’m guessing both were under Riza’s influence when Ange was around.  In any case, the royal family is in deep doo-doo.

This week gave me just about everything I could ask for in a Cross Ange episode: high stakes, new bad(?) guys; Arzenal camaraderie, more Salia backstory; a significant if incremental elaboration on the world’s mythology; lots of awesome aerial combat, and new friendships being forged in the crucible of imminent death!

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We’ve seen from her hobbies that Salia is still a little girl at heart, and it seems to surprise even her when a group of actual kids salute her and regard her as an idol (she is quite pretty). She can’t believe she’s already a whopping seventeen.

As she and Mei visit the grave of (I’m guessing) Mei’s sister, a fallen pilot, and remembers losing her, as well as having ‘Elektra” (Jill) lose her arm, give Salia a first chance in Vilkiss, but not a second.

If she still lives her life like a kid who needs protecting, Jill is going to treat her like one. WIth only five active pilots, First Troop is downgraded to third.

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But when an enormous cloud of DRAGONs appear directly over Arzenal HQ, the second and third troops are quickly overrun and it becomes necessary to put the half-strength Salia Squad out there anyway. And we’re talking the first couple minutes of combat that the other squads are wasted and the command center is wrecked.

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The DRAGONs are apparently being led (shepherded?) by three Vilkiss-like paramails that emerged from the same portal. The pilot of the lead mail sings a song, and the mail turns gold and unleashes a high-yield beam that destroys half of the damn island. Forget this show being tough on Ange and Hilda; it’s tough on everyone.

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With memories of the past fresh in her mind when the assault occurs, Salia gets it in her head that This Is Her Time to prove herself to Jill, Mei, the rest of her troop, and herself. To that end she disobeys orders and pilots Vilkiss herself.

Momoka frees Ange and Hilda and they race to the hangar bay. It’s kinda cute how pissed both Ange and Hilda that they’re so dirty, stinky, and disheveled from their confinement, but things get grimmer as they traverse the bloody corpse-filled mess hall.

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It would be enough in their rusty states to simply hop aboard their own paramails and fight the biggest battle Arzenal has faced yet, but Ange and Hilda have to reel in Rogue Salia first before she gets herself killed and Vilkiss destroyed.

Rivals they may still be, but Ange and Hilda prove they’re still quite capable of working well together under duress. Hilda even gets a little turned on by Ange being so close, which is understandable considering how much sex Hilda is used to and how long it’s been since she’s felt a woman’s touch.

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Ange also breaks out her daredevil routine, jumping on top of Salia and then tossing her off for Hilda to catch. There’s a lot of trust in these maneuvers, and however much the girls may swipe at each other, it’s clear they all know that they can count on one another.

That’s probably no comfort to Salia, as it’s basically confirmed during her short stint piloting Vilkiss that despite all her hard work and determination, she just doesn’t have what it takes. Vilkiss is sluggish and unresponsive in her hands.

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But Salia’s shortcoming isn’t so much talent as intuition, not to mention blood. When Ange hears the enemy mail singing again, activating its main weapon, she sings her song right back (a little Macross with our Gundam, if you will) which causes an identical golden transformation in Vilkiss, both to Ange’s and the enemy pilot’s surprise.

About that enemy: she’s the Chinese-looking woman at the end of the line of faces in the credits, and her outfit is extremely bizarre yet awesome-looking – essentially a loincloth that descends from bust to groin with a cross strap for her bust. Interestingly, it reveals the opposite parts of skin as the Arzenal flight suits. That would make for some bad-ass cosplay.

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This woman wants to know why Ange knows a song no “unworthy citizen” should know, and Ange just wants to know who the heck she is. Both are then shown flashes of what looks like histories that never occurred involving the both of them, as everything from opponents to classmates to lovers. The still-nameless pilot withdraws after an alarm and five ominous words: “The time comes, it seems.” 

Nearly halfway through the series, we may still be in the dark about what’s really going on here, but this episode made us rest assured the time is indeed coming when light will be shed on that darkness. In the meantime, the Arzenal girls keep on keepin’ on, since all they have are each other.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 10

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That sky, that field, those swords…I must say, Rin has some pretty dreams.

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Archer continues to pout and be baffled by her choice to ally herself with Shirou, whom he considers the absolute worst choice, suggesting they team up with Caster instead. Rin tells him that’s not happening. Caster is a monster, and she can trust Shirou to never betray him. Archer still protests, and worries for his master, whom he believes Shirou is making soft.

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But she is his master, so what she says goes. The search for Caster’s Master continues and seemingly hits a breakthrough, as both Shirou and Rin witness Issei conferring with Rin’s homeroom teacher Kuzuki Souichirou, who is staying a Ryuudou Temple with his ‘fiancee’.

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That connection is enough for Rin to suspect Kuzuki, and she plans to test him that very night. Shirou, while dubious, won’t let his ally jump into potential danger alone.

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It becomes clearer and clearer that he’s not merely concerned with holding up his part of the alliance, but also with his dear friend’s safety.

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Rin fires a light magic burst at Kuzuki, ruining his umbrella, and Caster shows up shortly thereafter to protect him, proving Rin right. I can’t say I was surprised by this, but I guess it wouldn’t do for them to be wrong again. Caster must have a master; them’s the rules.

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But Kuzuki is an odd duck. When Shirou asks him if he’s somehow under Caster’s control, Kuzuki is bemused. Shirou calls him a good and decent man who would never turn a blind eye to Caster’s crimes…but he doesn’t know Kuzuki at all. Neither in Caster’s thrall nor totally controlling her, he prefers to stand on the sideline and see what happens, not involving himself unless absolutely necessary. Not a bad strategy, for a Master who claims not to be a mage at all.

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But then Rin, Shirou, and Saber force the issue, and he’s forced to involve himself. He comports himself far better than I imagines, as he’s able to block Saber’s strikes with his bare hands.

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Not only that, he’s able to strengthen those same bare hands in order to put Saber in a chokehold and toss her aside like a ragdoll.

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Rin is dispatched even quicker than Saber…Yowch…

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…And it doesn’t seem like Shriou will fare any better. In fact, it would appear that by hitting Kuzuki with that spell, she rattled a hornet’s nest and they now find themselves in way over their heads.

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Then, Shriou sees an injured, knocked-out, helpless Rin lying on the ground… and knows that he and only he has to do something, or she’s going to die. What he does looks more like instinct awakened from extreme conditions, i.e. Rin being in mortal danger. Shirou’s been thinking about Archer’s two swords for some time, and in this, the moment when he really needs a weapon that isn’t just a pipe or a stick, he is able to summon those swords using projection magic.

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With these, he’s able to not only keep up with Kuzuki, but keep him at bay until Saber recovers, forcing Kuzuki and Caster to withdraw. Rin is surprised and somewhat annoyed he didn’t mention how good he was at projection before, but he surprised himself was well. I also imagine from the pain we see him in that some kind of price will be exacted for using this power if and when he ends up using it again. And because he’s the hero, it’s likely he’ll bear that pain without telling anyone.

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That was a nice battle, and also a good new power awakening for Shirou, as well as another trial that brought him and Rin closer together. It seems like Archer would have been useful in the situation, but Rin left him home, afraid of Caster’s effect on him.

Meanwhile, Shinji is in a very green area talking with a bloke who I’m guessing is his new servant. Speaking of being in over one’s head; the naive, petulant Shinji definitely seems to be that.

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