Junketsu no Maria – 06

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Like last week, Junketsu no Maria felt like two acts that didn’t effectively connect at the middle. In the first, Ezekiel remains a blustery joke and everyone else is too busy hanging around doing nothing, introducing themselves to characters they haven’t met yet, or buying a hat.

Stuff just sort of happens and, while it needs to happen for logistical reasons, it doesn’t project an emotional center or make character agendas that much clearer.

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The second half features a large scale battle, and a large scale battle inside Maria’s heart. She’s been asked not to intercede by Joseph (and pretty much everyone else) and Galif has told her that he has been tasked with killing her if she does get involved.

Maria doesn’t know yet, but Ezekiel has been told to kill her too by the ever simple minded Michael. However, Ann’s father has been conscripted again — as has Joseph — so she’s deeply torn.

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The best moment: is when Galif reports back to Bernard that Ezekiel says Maria is a virgin and that she will lose her powers if she ever is not. Sure, this is ‘crazy face’ they way I normally hate-on, but Bernard really pulls it off. He isn’t some over the top villain. He’s devout and the coincidences of Maria and the Virgin Marry are deeply unsettling to him.

He cries. He dances. He completely freaks out his assistant. This was the best, possibly only good use of crazy face in anime that I’ve ever seen.

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So why an 8, again? Like last week, the two arcs just don’t gel. I was actually not enjoying the show’s offhanded baka-baka-baka cliche routine with Ezekiel at all and almost took a break until the half rolled around. It was just auto-piloty and conventional.

Related, Ezekiel herself remains a weird and confusing character. Why, the hell, did she spur Maria to go into battle? Ezekiel doesn’t want her to do it, doesn’t want to stop her either, and knows the consequences. It just didn’t make sense to me.

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The only other note this week was Edwine’s introduction. It was a tiny one but, since it expands on Viv’s reasons for being there (and implies that Viv is in contact with Bernard because she has the apple cider) it’s worth keeping an eye on.

That said, it really was micro short and… I don’t even know what gender Edwine is supposed to be due to the character design? The answer to that will have obvious implications.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 07

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Ginko’s selfless act has earned her and Lulu Kureha’s permission to crash at her house, but that’s still a very long way from Kureha acknowledging her true love for Ginko. Progress is slow on this front, especially with Ginko suffering from a bad fever most of the episode.

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Meanwhile, Kaoru, who has done everything she’s done in hopes of being protected from becoming invisible, didn’t prevent Kureha and Ginko from coming together, and so she didn’t complete the intended “breaking” of Kureha. For that, she is deemed no longer of any use and disposed of by the mastermind. Since we catch a glimpse of the drawers in her office when she attacks Kaoru in bear form, it’s pretty clear at this point Yuriika is that mastermind.

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Kureha spends a lot of time staring at the feverish Ginko, contemplating why Ginko would protect Sumiko’s letter, and why Ginko says she loves her when they’ve practically just met. Kureha daydreams about her and Ginko getting a lot closer, but they only serve to frustrate her more: if there was such a person she loved so dearly, how or why did she forget?

That’s something I’d like to know too. Kureha’s been through a lot of traumatic stuff, but what could possibly create such a huge gap in her memory?

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Kureha goes to Yuriika seeking info on the “forest girl”, and unlike Kaoru (who’s in one of those drawers…yikes!), Yuriika continues to don the mask of someone Kureha can trust and confide in, while continuing to manipulate her. She says whoever has her mother’s star pendant is the enemy, and Kureha vows to kill whoever it is. But that vow doesn’t seem any more confident than her daydream with Ginko.

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This week, as she lies in Kureha’s attic with a fever that won’t break, we get her backstory; how she was an orphan left on the steps of a church, and raised along with dozens of other bears (most of whom derided her as “Lone Wolfsbane” by that church to believe that “only One needs you and gives you approval”: Lady Kumalia.

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This church made holy warriors of its orphans, who fought human girls on those snow-covered battlefields, and all the while, Ginko was fighting for the approval of Lady Kumalia. When she fell in battle, she was abandoned by her surviving peers, because they’re bears, and nature is inherently harsh.

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Ginko was resigned to that death until a young Kureha showed up and offered her hand, her love, her approval. Chewed up and spit out by the system that raised her, Ginko held true to the basic ideas instilled in her when those ideas aligned with the events in her life.

From that day onward, as far as Ginko was concerned, Kureha was, and is, Lady Kumalia, her savior. When her fever finally breaks in the present, and Kureha is once again watching over her, that’s what she calls her. This surprises Kureha, as only someone familiar with her mother’s story would know such details.

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The deal is all but sealed when Kureha finds Lulu making the same honey ginger milk, which is “the flavor of Ginko’s love”; the very same flavor as Kureha and her mysterious friend’s love back in the day, and then Kureha finds Ginko singing her mother’s love song on the porch in a hauntingly beautiful scene. The switch is finally flipped; Ginko was, and is, that girl Kureha loved.

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But not so fast! Ginko still bears the sin of having witnessed Sumika’s death and done nothing, and Yuriika is still very much invested in continuing to screw around with Kureha’s life. To that end, she is most likely the one who slips a letter through the back door that Lulu receives and reads, finally learning of Ginko’s sin.

Lulu, who has been devoted to helping bring Ginko and Kureha together, now holds in her hands the bomb that could blow all of that up. It’s a secret I see Lulu keeping out of loyalty to Ginko, but one way or another Kureha will learn that truth. Yuriika’s actions suggest wants Kureha for herself, as she had Reia before.

She’s already dealt with Sumika; now Ginko is in her crosshairs, and she’s not above trying to turn both Lulu and Kureha against her.

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