Aldnoah.Zero – 19

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Asseylum’s sudden awakening had a This Changes Everything feel about it. But what struck me was how very little actually changes, at least this week, due in part to the sheer momentum of the developments that preceded it.

Lemrina, posing as her sister, has galvanized the Orbital Knights with her proclamation. “The arrow is loosed,” as Slaine later says; there’s no putting it back in its quiver, making it that much tougher for those on the sidelines—Asseylum and Inaho—to make a measurable impact.

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The brass is pleased with the incremental progress they’ve made against the Orbital Knights (due mostly to Inaho, which, yes, is ridiculous, but I’ve moved on from that fact), to the point they seem to be pussyfooting, which pisses off Captain Magbaredge to no end. They also dismiss the princess’ address as inconsequential, which is pretty damn stupid, as it proves to be an immensely morale-boosting rallying call to the Knights. All of Earth’s small gains could go away in a flash because of that speech.

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One reason Asseylum’s eyes opening doesn’t have a marked impact on present events is that when Eddelrittuo reports it to Slaine, he doesn’t tell anyone else, including Lemrina. In fact, he lies to Lemrina that shes taken a turn for the worst. Lying is not a great way to start a marriage, and it’s clear this is a stopgap move to keep Lemrina—and the power she commands under her sisters’ guise—in his good graces.

While alone in her fancy Roman Space Bath, Lemrina tears up. Is she apprehensive about her sister dying for good…or des she know on some unconscious leve that Slaine is deceiving her?

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Of course, Slaine may have lied because while Asseylum’s eyes opened, at that point she hadn’t actually fully awakened. When she does, Slaine forgets about all the complications and lets himself be overcome by elation as he hears her say his name again.

Down on Earth, Orbital Knights loyal to (or at least tolerant of) him are confidently advancing against the Earth resistance forces; hundreds of people are being killed; his power is being consolidated thanks to Lemrina and Harklight; but in this moment Slaine couldn’t care less about any of that shit. All that matters is that Asseylum is awake and talking. And while not quite on par with Inaho waking up before Yuki, it’s still a fine, moving scene.

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Mazuurek is back from a far shorter hiatus than the princess, but he’s still amazed at how much has changed in his absence. His cordial conversation with Barouhcruz takes a turn for the disquieting when his rumors about Slaine having killed Saazbaum fall on deaf, and at least on the surface, outraged ears. With the loss of Marylcian, Barouchcruz has bent the knee to Slaine, and warns Mazuurek to choose wisely.

Slaine has so utterly taken control of the situation, and his rise so high and swift, those who once openly opposed him fall in line, grudgingly or not, to the point even if those all those rumors are true, it doesn’t matter anymore. Slaine is holding all the cards.

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Well…not all of them. Everything he has done has been for Asseylum…even if the truth is, she neither asks for nor wants any of it. And that seems to be all the more true when Slaine, about to present Asseylum with some very unironic blue roses, overhears Asseylum remembering watching the birds with Kaizuka, his nemesis in all things.

Yes, for all the power he has, he is still unable to capture that which he wants most: Asseylum’s heart. While en route to his next battle, Inaho himself almost seems to sense Asseylum talking about him—similar to how someone sneezes when they’re being talked about while they’re not around.

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It’s a very overt and uncomplicated irony Slaine is laden with, but I consider it a strong and compelling irony all the same. Slaine is only here because of Asseylum, but not only by his choice. The episode takes us back to his crashed capsule where he met the princess and became her ward and tutor.

Destiny has been on his side since that day, but now he must keep the existence of Asseylum saved him with her compassion secret from her sister, even while Asseylum harbors feelings for another. Not only would Lemrina discovering her sister is up and about crush her, the knowledge that Slaine had lied to her would crush her even more.

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Speaking of crushing, though, as all this drama goes on at the moon base, the Orbital Knights are finally starting to crush it on the battlefield, now that they have been (mostly) united under a single leader. They’re working together now, tabling their arrogance and closing one another’s weaknesses.

All of this simply gives Slaine, for all his romantic problems, all of the momentum in the world. So much so that even someone like Inaho—whose shipmates once again found time to reiterate how indispensable and awesome he is—seems caught off guard by the sheer pace of it all. If Earth is to have any chance at all, far stronger measures are going to have to be devised.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 07

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This week’s Drrr! is all about the contrasts between similar pairs of people, starting with the Two grizzled Ivans somewhere in Russia, both post-Soviet arms dealers; one’s pretty much fire one’s pretty much water. The water Ivan is Vorona’s father, and she possesses both characteristics, sometimes in sync, but sometimes in chaos.

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When Egor enters Russia Sushi, Simon and Dennis initially suspect he’s there to knock them off, but he’s really there for Vorona over, among other things, stolen anti-materiel rifles. Dennis is doubtful Vorona would use such a weapon in Tokyo unless she was in “a real crisis”, and at that moment it become’s Chekhov’s AMR.

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For all its prolific complex, multi-modal, zig-zagging storytelling, Drrr is just as capable of focusing in one one person an delivering a quick, efficient profile. Vorona’s life as an assassin and general badass began with one of those real crises; an unsavory home invader.

Vorona, armed with a sprawling library full of knowledge in every field, but useful and useless, Vorona answers her sudden fear of being killed with a ruthless plan, luring the burglar into a trap and literally killing him with water (from the bath) and “fire” (from a hair-dryer), executing everything perfectly and precisely like her dad, but also seeming to take a bit of enjoyment from it like the other Ivan.

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Seeing this new side of Vorona for the first time, her dad let Simon and Dennis train her, and she learns quick. These two ex-military guys ostensibly came to Ikebukuro to start new, laid-back lives, but it’s cool to see their old lives on display here, and how closely they’re connected with Vorona, who’s only just arrived.

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Without their tutelage, she wouldn’t be nearly as tough and honed a killing machine as she is when we meet her. But because she’s not just a carbon copy of her father, once she gets really good, odd jobs and small fry aren’t enough for her. She seeks out her father’s rivals and eliminates them to a man, but not for his approval or to help with the family business or because they were an imminent threat. She did it because it was fun.

Her first kill was overzealous self-defense,  armed only with household appliance and her wits. But I don’t think Ivan turned his daughter into a monster by having her trained; he was only facilitating a foregone conclusion.

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That brings us to Vorona’s latest job; capturing Anri. Ikebukuro has been so weak and unimpressive to her thus far, she’s riding a wave of arrogance and invincibility, which rams her right into a concrete wall. Vorona is good, but she’s still human, and coming up against something not quite human is a glass of cold water to the face. Even more than that, it’s something she hasn’t read about in any of her books; an unknown.

Vorona and Anri are a lot alike, in that both are imminently capable and potentially dangerous young women, one of whom choses to explore that potential to the fullest, and one prefers as quiet and normal life as she can manage.

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Armed with her bookish knowledge, wits, resourcefulness, Vorona thrived, but she didn’t fact Anri with as an underdog, but with the mentality of of a favorite. Her earlier success wasn’t success at all; you cannot beheaded what is already headless. Suddenly outmatched by real and frightening aberrations, Vorona returns to that night before she took action, and remembers again what it’s like to fear being killed.

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In other words, she enters the “real crisis” mode Dennis thought so unlikely, whipping out the AMR and firing it right at Celty, blowing her away but obviously not killing her. Having bought some time, and learned more about what she’s dealing with, she’ll formulate a new strategy that doesn’t rely on brute force alone.

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That brings back to Mikado, who has followed Masaomi’s advice and stayed in of a Saturday night. Considering what went down, that looked like good advice. Of course, by staying in Mikado is subjected to another manipulative phone call from Izaya, who understands Mikado founded the Dollars not only to put some excitement in his life, but also to fit in, to belong within the ensuing community.

Just because that community is off doing unscrupulous things like picking fights with rival gangs, that Mikado doesn’t agree with, doesn’t mean it’s all falling apart, nor can Mikado impose his pacifist will on them without destroying the Dollars’ fundamental philosophy of freedom. The Dollars are evolving, that’s all, and Mikado’s fear of being left behind is similar in strength to Vorona’s fears about being weak, unable to cope with threats, or killed.

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It’s a New Day in the Dollars, and Mikado can’t stem the tide. Aoba, Izaya’s heir apparent arrives at his door the next day, as if to herald that fact. Simon’s voiceover returns, and he mirrors his earlier comparison of the two Ivans with these two Taros: one who is Mr. Nice Guy, and the other who uses nice guys.

Will Mikado evolve, or dig in and let the wave crash around him, leaving him alone and left behind, his greatest fears realized? Such a scenario suggests there’s no one around of like mind to help him resist that wave, which is untrue. But in that case it certainly points to some kind of conflict. Mikado can’t very well stay holed up in that room forever.

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