Aldnoah.Zero – 20

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In a flashback to when Slaine first sees Asseylum in that damnable tube, we see the belief being imprinted within his heart: “She’s going to wake up.” This was merely a dark night, which would soon be broken by the light of day.

Somewhere down the road, that hope faded, and we see the result: battles being fought and won by knights loyal to him and cooperating, gaining him territory for his new kingdom with Lemrina.

But now that Asseylum is awake, as if to reprimand him for losing hope, he’s now forced to reassess everything.

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Even hot-shot Inaho has few choices other than a speedy retreat when surrounded by powerful knights. Captain Magbaredge may be playing favorites by having the Deucalion execute risky low-altitude rescue maneuvers, but can you blame her for not wanting to lose Inaho, not to mention her remaining kataphrakts and pilots, considering how both are in short supply. Also, seeing the big battleship swoop in and take a licking but still get its people out was its own thrill.

The Deuc loses avionics, but Inaho is able to serve as a supplemental eye for Nina. Thankfully, it’s temporary: once she has her (literal) bearings, she thanks him and takes it form there. She’s the one who pulled off those rescue maneuvers, after all; she’s no slouch at the helm. Inaho could fly the ship if he needed to, but the fact he lacks experience would put him at a disadvantage, in spite of his magic eye.

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Meanwhile, awkwardness is at an all-time high for the engaged couple. Lemrina continues to pour her heart out to Slaine but gets nothing in return; Slaine doesn’t blush in the least at her words, and is quickly off again to “attend to matters,” promptly turning his back on her so as not to suffer objections.

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Lemrina is distressed by the fact her comatose (at least she thinks she still is) sister continues to command so firm a grip on her fiancee’s heart, and no matter how much power Lemrina amasses, she is powerless to wrest that heart away. Similarly, Inko is unable to get close to Inaho due to his continued insistence Asseylum is still alive.

Even if he’s proven right, Inko isn’t exactly happy to be second fiddle (or even third, if you count the Rayet angle). Hell, even Inaho and Nina had a brighter interaction. I wonder what Inko says to him in that corridor. Speaking of not happy, Darzana receives orders to re-take the territory they just lost by throwing everything they have at the Martians, even though it’s pretty clear that’s playing right into the Martians’ hands.

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Earths leaders are short-sighted, inept fools, but the Martian situation doesn’t seem to be in that much better shape, seeing as how Slaine is paying far more attention to Asseylum than the war, and Lemrina’s growing resentment. Slaine tells Eddelrittuo how he gave up hope on the princess and is now being punished by having his plans blow up in his face.

He can now only hope Asseylum’s amnesia is permanent—a terrible thing to hope for the one you loved—or else he’ll be at the center of a power struggle between princesses, and Slaine would choose Asseylum without hesitation. Her happiness is more important to him than power or the war. That means if she wants the war to end, he’ll do everything he can to end it.

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The political swagger gained by Lemrina’s proclamation certainly rallyed the Orbital Knights to her cause, but in her audience with Count Mazuurek (which Slaine patronizingly, callously agrees to in order to essentially throw her a bone and “keep her happy”) she falters fast and hard. Mazuurek has little trouble noticing something’s not quite right about “Asseylum”, and Lemrina, angered she was left out to dry alone, loses her cool altogeher and ends up a pathetic heap on the bulkhead.

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Lemrina acts like a spouse who senses intrinsically that their spouse is being unfaithful. And even though Lemrina told him she didn’t care if he never loved her, as long as they were togther, Slaine isn’t even giving her that right now, and she’s collapsing under the weight of that constant rejection. Just as there was a point in time when Slaine gave up on Asseylum enough to agree to marry Lemrina, Lemrina is starting to give up on Slaine, and it only looks to get worse for her.

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The suspicions Mazuurek develops in his talk with Lemrina are only compounded when he catches Eddelrittuo in several lies and omissions, particularly when he mentions Inaho right after she insisted she’d never been to Earth. Mazuurek is no fool, and that’s a good thing. I wonder what steps he’ll take from here. Lemrina and Slaine have never been more vulnerable, and as Slaine said, there’s nothing more fleeting and worthless than a knight’s loyalty.

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Having clearly cried for a long time, an increasingly unstable Lemrina enters her sister’s lab, only to find the tube empty. This isn’t going to be good for Slaine, who probably should have put a lock on it, or used another hologram. But like her, Slaine is so all over the place he’s making a lot more mistakes that could end up paying dearly for very soon.

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One of those mistakes was letting Mazuurek, a recently-released prisoner of the Earthlings, anywhere near Lemrina, as well as being blind to Lemrina’s steady descent into infatuation. Mazuurek was able to return Asseylum’s pendant to her, resulting in the sudden triggering of her memories, the same ones which we’ve seen in the first moments of the opening sequence all season.

This is great news for Inaho and Earth, terrible news for Lemrina, and a decidedly mixed bag for Slaine. In any case, it’s a welcome development, and I hope it leads to peace.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 08

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Masamoi’s sublime life on the run with Saki is made possible by Masaomi’s services as gofer to Izaya. He doesn’t like it, but he has no other means of maintaining such a life. He’s like a pennyless toppled king living comfortably off the charity of those he probably shouldn’t be dealing with if he truly wants to stay out of the fray.

Case in point, shortly after running away, Akane was convinced by Izaya himself that Mitzuo was a hitman after her, hence her preemptive strike. Shocking everybody, Mitzuo is able to lay on that Heiwajima charm to assure the would-be mini-assassin this was Izaya’s idea of a little joke; one he’ll be responding to in kind.

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Last week I opined that Mikado couldn’t stay cooped in that dingy flat forever, but rather than leaving of his own volition, he is instead gently dragged out by Aoba and his goons, who take him to their hideout, one of those abandoned warehouses Ikebukuro seems to be positively littered with.

This happens to be where Varona planted her bike trap, and sure enough Celty is there, looking for Varona, who is watching her from a rooftop. The mouse-and-cat-and-mouse game on display is making Ikebukuro more appealling to Varona all the time.

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Chitoge has another opportunity to demonstrate his impeccable feminism by forcing the proprietor of a non-straight-and-narrow art gallery buy a nearly 2-million-yen painting for his female employee, who was trying to work Chitoge, in a lovely instance of a routine con backfiring in the face of one who recognizes it for what it is.

Whether Walker does too or not, he goes in to complain about the saleswoman’s lack of eloquence in describing the works of his favorite illustrator, only to be kicked out for being blacklisted. Walker, a suspected Dollar, is why Chitoge is there. But he’s always there for a woman in need, even if that need is false.

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With his “senpai” in his clutches, Aoba surrounds Mikado with his chattering, giggling goons, identifying themselves as the Dollars who jumped Torumaru, essentially starting a war under Mikado’s nose, but in his name. Aoba says they’re also technically Blue Square, longtime foe of Masaomi’s Yellow Scarves, and he appoints Mikado as their leader, insisting they’ll follow whatever orders he issues.

In setting all this up, Aoba shows his true colors to Mikado for the first time, and they’re colors as cold and cruel and manipulative as Mikado is warm, kind, and passive. He knows Mikado doesn’t know the first thing about what to do with the power being thrust upon him, and that’s the point: Aoba wants Mikado, who naively founded the Dollars, to reap what he’s sown. He wants to corrupt him.

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Meanwhile, Akane turned out to be an elaborate trap set by Izaya and Namie to frame Mitzuo for wasting three yakuza belonging to Shiki’s company, manufacturing further chaos. But the focus here is on Mikado’ choice, with Masaomi on the outside looking in and increasingly unsettled by the chat room silence.

That’s kind of where this episode falls down, because neither Mikado nor Masaomi are the most compelling characters on the show, especially now that they’re separated. They’ve basically built artificial worlds of passivity and normalcy around them, while their past deeds, no matter how innocuous the intent, remain on the outside, to be utilized by others to stir up trouble.

With most of Mikado’s allies busy with their own issues, I wonder who if anyone will swoop in to help him, or if if he’s finally on his own, which is what Aoba seems to want. Masaomi is free, and seems to be restless. Any action risks crossing Izaya, and thus threatening his life with Saki. But can a friend who is never around still be called a friend?

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 20

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First of all, I enjoyed how subtly the fact Leon and Ema have slept together is treated this week. They don’t even interact all that differently, as they’ve always been a pair that bickered. Prince Alfie, who invites them to the palace to discuss Mendoza, is content not to pry, but does notice Ema’s new hairstyle.

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And good for Alfie, he also at least somewhat suspects Octavia, because not only does she look really really suspicious with that look of constant guilt and worry on her face, but because he saw her sneaking around the church late at night. Now, Alfie isn’t the sharpest tack on the board, but Octavia seemed due for some kind of slip-up this week, so I gave it even odds she’d be found out…whatever it is she’s actually up to.

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Alfie, Leon, and Ema use a neat trick by hiding the sound of a horror-detecting bell by rining a regular bell to bring in wine for the King, who is still bedridden but on the mend. It at least determines Octavia isn’t a horror, but it isn’t the end of Alfie’s suspicions.

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But that’s all he has to that point: suspicions, because Octavia has proven very adept at staying out of trouble, even as she smuggles food to master Mendoza, who faked his death after all, but his body seems to have paid a price; it’s aged and frail. Still, he’s the same old Mendoza, confident no matter how much snooping around those punk kids do, they won’t be able to stop him.

Considering the Garm has Herman serving Mendoza in capacity, it’s hard to argue with him; the only question is what is he up to? Is he making another play at the throne, or does he have further villainy in store for the world? Whatever the case Octavia will do anything to serve him, including give up her life.

Not so fast, Mendoza says: he doesn’t want her to be in a hurry to die for him, because that would trouble him. These are truly two trod-upon hearts warped by loneliness and despair into kindred creatures raging against the world and the god that forsook them both. Their designs may be dark and twisted (we’ll see, won’t we?), but one has to appreciate the mutual devotion on display here.

At the same time, the fact they’re up to good always keeps the idea allive in my mind that while he says he’ll never toss her aside, he may still do just that when he no longer needs her.

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The show had us for a second, too, when Stakeout Alfie confronts the cloaked figure who emerges from the secret underground passage…but it’s only Laura, a young maid serving under Octavia, gathering purer water for the King. It’s an innocent enough reason to be down there, but there’s a hint of recitation in Larua’s explanations, as if Octavia were using her as a decoy to throw Alfie off her trail. Laura also teases a potential love interest for Alfie, who is the only guy in the main cast who hasn’t yet had any.

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Still, the trio continue their investiagtion, springing a thread trap that Octavia, bouyed by a premature sense of security, snags, throwing her into Survival Mode. As I said, Leon and Alfie aren’t tactical geniuses, but Ema is, and Octavia was due for a slip up. What I didn’t expect was how expertly she’d pull out of her nosedive not only totally above suspicion, but with the King and Alfie’s warm regard for her courage and devotion. In other words, in a stronger position than ever.

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That tenacity was born of her upbringing. The other members of her family were devout worshippers who believed God would save them from anything as long as they prayed; even if they didn’t pray, as Octavia’s Laura-like little sister remarks. But unquestioned faith in God can be a tricky thing if things don’t go well in life, which they don’t for the skeptic Octavia.

For all their prayers, a pack of wolves devours her family in front of her and none of her fellow villagers lift a finger to stop the slaughter. From that point on, Octavia was officially through with whatever God her doomed family believed in, and put her faith and her life in her savior Mendoza’s hands. He hasn’t let her down yet.

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And he continues not to when he presents her with a talisman she should use when she’s in trouble. While on the run from Ema’s trap, she activates it, summoning a horror beast that obeys her every command, spoken or thought. She has the beast consume Laura, who was by the dozing King’s bedside (Yikes…R.I.P. Laura ;_; ), then rouses the King, warns him that Laura turned into the beast, and has the beast attack her for good measure, biting off the right leg Ema’s string is connected to.

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When Alfie, Leon, and Ema arrives, it is plain to see that Octavia is valiantly protecting the King with her own life. It’s a phenomenal ploy by Octavia, and it shows that behind that worried face, she possesses great stores of courage and faith in her Mendoza, all of which is rewarded when the knights she hates so much turn their suspicious gaze away from her.

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It’s not as if Octavia wanted to get attacked by her own horror beast and lose her right leg, but she did what she had to do to stay in the game and, as Mendoza bid her, stay alive at all costs. The last thing she wants to do now is die, not only disobeying her master but making him grieve for her. Like I said, they have a great dynamic, not so much the one-sided manipulation it looked liked in the past.

With Octavia cleared, the case remains open for the Scooby Gang, but Herman suddenly arrives to curtail their sniffing around. Leon doesn’t take kindly to this interference, and he and his shitty dad draw their swords to do what knights do in such situations: fight it out. There’s still every indication Herman is simply obeying orders, but one also senses a glimmer of pride in his calmer, more mature, more badass son.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 08

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This is a different kind of episode of Tokyo Ghoul, made clear by the fact the cold open is over seven minutes long, comprised entirely of the sad tale of the “One-Eyed Owl” as told by Yoshimura to Ken, who is curious about him. These seven minutes are a masterpiece of form and emotional resonance.

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The last time I can remember being as moved, transfixed, and enraptured in an opening as I was here was in the flawlessly spellbinding beginning of Pixar’s Up. Unlike Carl and Ellie, Yoshimura and Ukina are able to successfully conceive despite being Ghoul and Human.

But they are pursued by other ghouls, and Ukina is killed. Yoshimura sets his infant daughter aside to avenge her mother, but when he returns she is gone. And that infant grew up to be Eto. And now I know their connection!

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Honestly, that cold open was about as good as a cold open can get, especially considering how much it opens up the formerly closed mystery that is the owner of Anteiku. The rest of the episode, almost halfway-done, boils down to the Doves’ continued interest in the cafe and in Yoshimura in particular.

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There’s a pall over Anteiku as the Doves, who are always cropped out of the frame to accentuate the fact that they are out of place and a looming threat. Watching Nishio and Kimi, acting like ordinary people, being watched closely by anonymous Doves, sent shivers down my spine.

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Yoma becomes aware of the increased surveillance, so Yoshimura does what he feels he must and sends Touka and Hinami away into the snowy night, to protect them from what could be an impending CCG raid. This entire sequence of events is subtly and impeccably handled, as it should be for someone of Yoshimura’s past and vast experience. Yes, he’s an incredibly badass ghoul, but he’d rather not bare those fangs, for it was over-exuberance that contributed to Ukina’s death.

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Just as Touka and Hinami are out of the picture, the Doves descend on Anteiku, but only one enters: Shinohara, who arrives not as a conqueror or oppressor, but a humble customer. The rapport between him and Yoshimura is steeped in old-school respect and decorum. Neither of them spout a single word of the reality of the situation they find themselves in; they both play it so very cool.

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But the reality is, the CCG now considers Anteiku and its proprietor as ghouls, which makes them a threat to civic peace. The encounter we witness is only the calm before the storm. Yoshimura knows it; Shinohara knows it. Even if Yoshimura was able to connect with a human and even allow her into his heart, such a thing cannot be replicated in the current, volatile environment.

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Kaya and Koma, Yoshimura’s loyal soldiers, make all the preparations necessary before this impending storm, and are both rewarded with cups of Yoshimura’s sublime coffee, every bean of which was treated with the utmost respect and care; a fact Yoshimura attempts to expound upon Shinohara as a symbol of how Doves should deal with ghouls and vice-versa. It isn’t a black-and-white world; there are bad Doves and good ghouls. But perhaps there’s also too much bad blood for that to matter.

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In a dark courtroom, permission is granted to launch an assault on Anteiku. CCG’s instincts aren’t all wrong; Eyepatch did recently visit. One of Ken’s hopes was to protect the cafe and everyone who worked there, but that seems increasingly unlikely after this week. That being said, the people who made Anteiku all remain alive and kicking—for now—so he can’t declare total failure quite yet.

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