End-of-Month Rundown – March 2015

Click to view Full-size
Click to view Full-size

Here’s our March 2015 Rundown Chart, which bringing Winter to a close, save a couple episodes. Talk amongst yourselves.

Advertisements

Yuri Kuma Arashi – 12 (Fin)

yuri121

Chouko and her bear extermination squad arrange an elaborate ceremony for a bound Kureha to exclude the evil by killing her friend Ginko. Ginko does the only thing she can do in her present situation to try to protect Kureha: try to reject her as a friend, saying she’s only there to eat her.

But Kureha knows that’s a lie; they are friends. And this week we find out how far their love really goes.

yuri122

When Kureha wakes up after being beaten for consorting with a bear, she decides the only thing to do in a world of severance between humans and bears is to make the bear she loves a human; that way it will be easier for everyone. So just as Ginko went to Severance Court to offer to give up Kureha’s love for her to make her human, we see Kureha also went to Court, offering to give up Ginko’s love for her.

Now, with Ginko’s death by the Invisible Storm imminent, and her own not far beyond, Kureha finally remembers how things went down, and what she needs to do to be with Ginko forever.

yuri123

She places the star pendant around Ginko’s neck, then tells Lady Kumaria she has a wish. The Judgemens fly off and join her growing light, their work apparently done.

yuri124

Kumaria comes down…and it’s Sumika. To borrow the vernacular of Kureha’s classmates, that’s way weird, but also way apropos. Could it be that while Ginko was out of Kureha’s life, Lady Kumaria herself took human form to befriend Kureha and teach her about the true love that awaited her across the wall? Is this an Ursus Desu Ex Machina?

yuri125

Whatever the case, Kureha asks Kumaria to make her a bear, and she does…and an adorable bear she is! Ginko became a human for Kureha, and now Kureha becoming a bear for Ginko; it’s the very symmetry symbolized by the girls in the story facing their reflections in the mirror—and destroying themselves to make a new being; that of tow joined hearts.

yuri126

Chouko still orders the other invisible girls to open fire, and then we cut to the world and the school back to normal, with no active bear alerts and Chouko giving a speech congratulating the exclusion of one evil, and opening the voting on who will be their next target.

But one girl, the one who operated the Konomi cannon, remembers that day on the rooftop, when she saw GInko and Kureha hand in hand, about to ascend a ladder into the heavens. Whether she was witnessing their death, or something more miraculous, I’m going to have to think on that for longer than I have!

yuri127

What’s clear to me, though, is that this girl was moved by that scene; so much so that she’s turned a deaf ear to Chouko’s bile, and seeks out the discarded “defective” Konomi. When she finds her, takes her paw in her hand, joyfully announcing she’s found her.

Even if Kureha and Ginko are no longer of this world, they inspired someone else to find their true love and not give up on it, and a new cycle begins, resisting the invisible storm in which they live.

yuri128

In an interesting framing device, the storybook tale of Kureha and Ginko is being read by Lulu to her brother Prince Milne, who may or may not be in some kind of afterlife. Milne’s take on the whole story is that considering Lulu ended back together with him )(because she’s dead?) he could have given her his promise kiss all along. Lulu says they’ll be together forever; Milne says he loves her, and oh no, that hornet thing comes back, circling both of them!

yuri129

The closing message of Yuri Kuma Arashi is: Change and awaken the world with your own love. It’s a lesson each of our characters learned through the course of the show, after much time and hardship.

It’s also a lesson absorbed by the girl who found Konomi, and even if she and Konomi face are threatened by ostracization or exclusion, if they don’t give up on love, someone will learn from them as well. Perhaps in that way, brick by brick, one day the Wall of Severance will come down.

9_ses

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 25 (Fin)

ange251

One of the question marks last week was what, if anything, would bring Salia back into the fold. That turns out to be Alektra, whom Salia brings to the Aurora. All Alektra wants is a cigarette and the chance to say what she needed to say to Salia, whom she regards as a little sister, if not a carbon copy of herself, complete with the same mistakes. But as Aura halts the world-merging, there’s still a chance to beat Embryo.

ange252

And is there some villainy thee vile Embryo hast not committed? Why, forcable rape, of course! His final move is to return to his own timeless “in-betweeny space”, where he gives Ange more of his backstory in between slapping and stripping her. He won’t be refused, and aims to “purify” Ange, who was “sullied” by Tusk. Now Embryo is just pathetic, though who can say this wouldn’t happen to any man kept alive for a thousand years, with the power to control everything?

ange253

But yeah, in it’s last episode, Ange “goes there”, just it has not been afraid to go there throughout its run, for good or ill. He binds her arms and legs with vines so she’s spread eagle, but is kind enough not to gag her, so Ange takes advantage and sings the song of Villkiss. Tusk boards it, and with his tears of love he’s able to activate her ring, and the Villkiss teleports him, Hilda, Salia and Salako to Ange’s location.

ange254

Tusk is just in time to stop Embryo from going too far, and rescues Ange in their now trademark position of his head in her crotch. This time, Ange is too scared and happy he’s there to blush or slug him. And he even has the panties she gave him so she can cover up. I wondered when those panties would come in handy.

ange256

There’s still Embryo to content with, and Tusk crosses swords with him, as is expected of a knight, and we also learn this is Embryo’s original body. He’s still a tough customer, so Tusk keeps him busy as Villkiss upgrades again to a Ange/Tusk combo paint scheme, and cloaks Ange in a crisp, white flight suit.

ange257

Hilda (riding Chris’ mail), Salia, and Salako prove to be a good group to have accompanied Tusk to this place. They’re kept busy fighting duplicates of Embryo’s Ragna-mail. He tries to brainwash Salia and briefly takes over control of her mail, but as Ange and Salako monologue about how they’ll allow themselves to be controlled (by a man, no less) over their dead bodies. Hilda and Salia join their voices.

Salako even figures out why Norma exist—judgment for Embryo thinking in his hubris he could control human genes—and why they’re all women: so they can re-populate the Earth with a population of humans he can’t control. Life Will Find A WayCross Ange-style. It holds together pretty well.

ange258

As Tusk runs Embryo through and Ange delivers that dynamite one-liner in the top-right, she runs his Ragna-mail through, and it’s over. No more dirty old man. Good game; let’s go eat!

ange250

The world Ange & Friends return to is the “true” Earth of Dragons, now freed from Embryo’s tinkering. There, with no one left to fight, Ange declares she’ll build a new nation, and at this point everyone at her side is fine with that. She was born to lead, after all, not to mention she’s the reason they’re all alive.

When Momoka asks what’s to be done about the other world, Ange basically shrugs and says it’s not her problem, which she’s well within her rights to do. The people of that world are humans; they’ll figure it out.

ange2510

Sure enough, we see Sylvia embracing the fact that she really can walk, and arms herself with friends and weapons to protect the weak. The show didn’t have to do anything else with Sylvia, but I’m glad they did. She is Ange’s sister, and Ange herself was once an insufferable brat, so it stands to reason Sylvia had that same strength within her.

As the credits roll we get a great epilogal montage that shows us what everyone is up to now that there’s peace: Ersha, Salia, and the surviving rookies meeting Vivian’s parents; Ange opening her dream cafe with Tusk; Momoka and the bridge crew; hanging out with Salako on her time off; paying respects to the fallen, and building their new nation.

ange2511

Left out of the end montage, in a rare showing of restraint for this show: Hilda-Roselie-Chris makeup sex, Ange-Tusk baby-making, and other potential bedroom formations, such as Ange-Salako-Tusk or Ange-Tusk-Hilda-Roselie. Gotta leave some things to the imagination, I suppose…but I imagine at some point they’ll want to populate this new nation, and there are only so many men. Gotta watch out for inbreeding.

And on that somewhat inappropriate note, it’s time to say goodbye to Cross Ange, at least until the OVA or film, if they come to fruition. It was a very fun ride, and I’ll miss the show’s shameless raunchyness and shlock combined with genuinely compelling character drama and feminist commentary.

8_brav2

Koufuku Graffiti – 12 (Fin)

kg121

This is it. The Final Battle. Who lives? Who dies? Who ends up in whose bed? Who is able to exact their revenge, and who ends up burning in hellfire for all eternity?

Ehh, this isn’t that kind of show. Nor did it need to be. When I look back on Koufuku Graffiti, I’ll remember a warm, happy, and taste bud-enticing show; the feel-good show of Winter 2015.

kg122

Don’t worry, all of this is in Kirin’s dad’s head.

kg123

Hey, it’s 2016 in this show. We’ve been watching the future.

kg124

Ryou and Kirin pass their exams, so they’ll be going to the same high school as Shiina next year, along with a couple other classmates who are eager to befriend Kirin, who never had a thing to worry about in the friendsmaking department because she’s kind and sweet and makes a cute pok-pok sound when she walks.

kg125

Then, terror strikes in the form of a depraved house invader. Oh wait, it’s just Akira, trying to surprise Ryou and succeeding, but in the wrong way, getting a bonked nose for her trouble.

kg126

Akira actually has a nice gift for Ryou, who’s thinking a lot about her grandmother, who was there for her opening ceremony, which feels like yesterday. The gift is an apron made from her grandma’s apron, so in a way, whenever she wears it, it will be like cooking with her grandma, or as Kirin maturely puts it, she can look forward to making new memories rather than simply dwelling on past ones.

kg127

Ryou decides to christen the apron by preparing the same meal her grandma made to celebrate her entry into middle school three years back. It’s the same meal she made in the first episode, but it tasted bad to her back then because she was alone and still thinks it’s mising something when she tastes it alone.

That changes when Kirin arrives with all her luggage and samples the meal, and deems it one of Ryou’s best yet. Even Ryou notices an improvement in flavor after Kirin arrives, proving that food really does taste better when it’s shared.

kg128

Everything on the shelf above the sink stayed in the exact same position all those years. That’s some precision right there.

kg129

Ryou is in for one last twist when Kirin explains all her luggage and mentions movers are on the way…because she’s moving in with her, something neither Kirin nor Akira ever told Ryou, though they thought they did.

kg1210

Ryou seems to have a problem with this, though it’s more about being left out of the decision while everyone else from Shiina to Akira to Kirin’s parents know about it, yet she doesn’t; for all we know even Yuki downstairs knows! But now that Ryou knows too, she’s happy Kirin is moving in, Kirin cries tears of joy and relief, and everyone helps her move in.

kg1211

Looks kind of like Laputa, doesn’t it?

kg1212

Ryou started out alone, with her important parents far away, her aunt busy at work, and her grandmother dearly departed. But now her home is full of life and love and energy, and even when everyone leaves, Kirin will still be there. Ryou looks like she couldn’t be happier.

As the credits roll, we get an epic supercut of every foodgasm in the show, putting into perspective just how much delicious food was stuffed into the last twelve episodes, and getting me that much more excited for another cooking show, Shokugeki no Souma this Spring. I’ll also have to track down some yellowtail and daikon!

8_ses

Aldnoah.Zero – 24 (Fin)

az241

I knew every Orbital Knight wouldn’t immediately heed Asseylum’s out-of-the-blue call for an end to hostilities, but that didn’t matter: as long as some of them stopped to see which was the wind was blowing, it was going to be a huge blow to Slaine’s power base, drawing things that much closer to an endgame.

az242

Neither Lemrina and Harklight want Slaine to give up, but neither of them have the benefit of his experience, all of which runs through his head in the corridor, where he has a clear view of the death and destruction taking place in his name. From there, he decides to evacuate Lemrina and order Harklight and the rest to surrender while he blows the Moonbase up.

az243

Harklight isn’t going down quietly, however, and neither are his Stygis comrades. They end up changing Slaine’s mind, at least insofar as he’d rather go out dueling Inaho one last time then dying in that control room. And so their final battle begins.

az245

When Inaho engages Slaine and asks him (via radio channel…SEE, Gundam G? Mecha pilots CAN communicate with each other once in a while), Slaine assumes Inaho wants to fight him as much as he wants to fight Inaho. But Inaho’s “different objective” isn’t that.

az246

Asseylum had her big badass announcement that turned the tide of the battle, so even though we know this has to be about Inaho and Slaine at this point, it’s a bit disappointing that all she can do here is clasp her fingers together, watch, and wait, hoping the boys don’t succeed in destroying each other.

az247

They very nearly do, too, exhausting their ammo, snapping all of their swords, and finally just pummeling each other like rock-’em-sock-’em robots. But Inaho, even without relying on his magic eye, is the better tactician, and he manages to neutralize Slaine as a threat and serve as an ablative shield for their mutual re-entry into the atmo.

az248

Once back on good old Earth, Slaine again gets the wrong idea, thinking he’s in a reversal of last season’s finale and that Inaho is going to put a bullet in his head. Inaho might want to do that, considering everything Slaine’s put him and Earth and Seylum through, but I knew he wouldn’t.

az249

That brings us to the epilogue, in which Empress Asseylum activates the first Terran Aldnoah Drive as a gesture of goodwill, and EYEPATCH INAHO visits Slaine, who is believed dead by the public, but remains alive in a creepy lucite prison cell.

az248a

Not that the creepy cell is helping, but he’s not in a great place emotionally, and not eating his meals. He’s still waiting for Inaho to finish him, to exact justice upon him for all of his sins. But while Inaho has been many things throughout the run of this show—Mary Stu; know-it-all; humblebragger; cyborg; savior of mankind—but he’s no executioner, and he entrusts Slaine’s fate to the one most equipped to properly judge him: Seylum.

az2410

Slaine taught Asseylum a lot of things about Earth (some of them, like why the sky is blue, weren’t accurate, but still). But it’s Asseylum who teaches Slaine something about Vers that he may not have picked up on while hanging out with all those Orbital Knights: pages can be turned, people can be forgiven, and lives can be redeemed in time.

8_brav2

Durarara!! x2 Shou – 12 (Fin)

dr2121

Everyone seeks purpose and relevance in life, and everyone has a code; boundaries they won’t cross to attain those things. Drrr! is largely about what happens when the interests and the methods of a great number of people clash, which is almost always immensely entertaining, especially when some of those people can carry sportbikes on their shoulders.

dr2123

The book on Chapter one of three of Drrr!x2 comes to a close with “Adversity Makes a Man Wise.” Shizuo is the force that ceases the brawl between the Rogue Dollars and Saitama, as well as Anri and Varona. Non’s kidnapper is punished, and both sides are satisfied and withdraw.

dr2122

Also, Walker opens his eyes. I would too if I saw Anri handling Saika.

dr2124

But that’s far from the end of the adversity. Mikado watched firsthand (while his vision wasn’t wreck from that flash grenade, that is) what the gang he founded has become. He doesn’t like it, and wants to do something about it; no more hanging back.

But first, Varona meets the unstoppable, nigh invincible Shizuo, who unlike Celty or Anri, is a full-blown human being, which both astounds and frightens her, because nothing she throws at him seems to work, nor can she get away with Sloan and Akane.

dr2125

Shizuo sets his mind to rescuing Akane, so after some car soccer, instant automatic weapon disintegration (IAWD), and box truck punching, he succeeds. Akane is confounded he’d save his would-be assassin, but he’s just glad she wasn’t hurt, and a new, unlikely friendship is forged, with a helmet-scratching Celty as witness. This was Varona’s first defeat this week, but by no means her last.

dr2126

Mikado, meanwhile, tracks down Chitage and Non to formally take responsibility as founder of the Dollars. Chitage doesn’t think he’s lying, but isn’t entirely impressed either, and believes the few moments of time he has to look over Mikado is sufficient to conclude Mikado has no business running the Dollars, and advises him to give it up at his earliest convenience and settle into “the ordinary life” he seems better suited to.

Little does he know that ordinary life is the very thing Mikado escaped his hometown and founded the Dollars to avoid. If he were to quit on them now, it would “negate his being.” He may be better suited for ordinary life, but he doesn’t want to live that way. He wants to be in the thick of it.

dr2127

Mikado isn’t the only one patronized and not taken entirely seriously. Varona is too, after her quiet meal with Sloan is suddenly interrupted by Aozaki and Akabayashi. Like her, I thought she was tougher than these guys due to her military training, but they bring her and Sloan down with grim efficiency, only to reveal that Varona’s dad has struck a deal with their organization to secure her safety and retrieve her.

dr2128

Dennis, Simon, and Egor arrive to pick her up, and point out that, after all, she’s “still a little girl” who hasn’t “hardened” yet, remarking that kids liker her can still “change in all kinds of ways.” She may have become an assassin at a very young age, but she’s not necessarily destined to be one forevermore. And the yakuza ambush really put her skills into perspective; up to that point, she’d depended heavily on firepower, stealth, and surprise. Not to mention her youthful exuberance over Ikebukuro dulled her senses.

dr2129

Speaking of hardening, that’s what Mikado aims to do, and furthermore, what he has to do to preserve the Dollars as he envisioned them. All the adversity he’s faced really has made him wise to the truth of his situation: to be able to take control of a group with no rules, he needs power, so he accepts Aoba’s offer to become the leader of Blue Square along with the Dollars, even forming a blood contract by uncharacteristically stabbing Aoba through the hand with a pen. Then again, Mikado is pissed Anri was put in harm’s way, so he’s mad.

dr21210

But once that contract is signed, he snaps back to his usual chipper self, even offering to dress the wound he just gave Aoba. In a way, he owes Aoba one for opening his eyes to the fact that he shouldn’t fear being left behind by all the strange and exciting things in the city, because he hasn’t caught up to it yet. His journey is incomplete, and this was never a static situation. He’s going to fix the Dollars and stay in the mix.

dr21211

We close with one more person being one-upped at his own game, as Varona was: Izaya, who had been slipperier than teflon throughout the show. Like Mikado, even he didn’t realize the full scope of his actions, and ended up stepping on the toes of one Yodogiri Jinnai, who didn’t want Shizuo and the Azuki group getting mixed up. For that, Jinnai literally takes Izaya out, leaving him lying in a pool of blood in a crosswalk. A provocative and enticing teaser for Chapter 2, to air in July.

8_brav2

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 24 (Fin)

garo241

Well now, Anima certainly didn’t hang around long! But it was for the best, as Mendoza rips out his own ribcage and consumes the horror, gaining a shiny new body.

garo242

Leon can slice the body up all he wants (including, hilariously, slicing Mendoza’s face off to shut him up for at least a few moments), but he always comes back together, and always has a rejoinder such as “it is useless” at the ready.

Leon is missing something in this battle, because, in the beginning, he’s fighting alone. That ain’t gonna work against ol’ Mendoza; he of the giant light fists.

gar243

No; he’ll need to draw from the strength Mendoza denies himself, the true immortality humans are capable of achieving, even if it isn’t in the form of a literal everlasting corporeal form. Kinship, love, family, and cooperation will always prevail over Mendoza’s selfish designs. When he blithely discarded his only remaining family, Octavia, leaving himself alone in the world, he did himself no favors.

On the other hand, Leon is able to combine Garo and Zoro into a very cool hybrid suit of armor, imbued with the love and strength of his father, and placed in his hands by the teamwork of Alfie and Ema. Now Leon is no longer alone, so he won’t lose.

gar244

Mendoza also miscalculate’s Leon’s commitment to banishing him from the world, even he’ll be dragged down into Makai with him forever. Ema foils Leon’s suicidal plan by holding the portal open, and Mendoza tries to use this as proof that allies are worthless, since they’ll always have times when their opinions clash. Ema and Alfie would rather Leon not die.

garo245

Their desire for Leon to live on is shared by his own mother Anna, who is revealed as the source of the flames that have always burned within him. They were never a curse or a manifestation of his revenge, but a means of protecting him until he could stand on his own two feet as a knight and a good man. Now Anna’s flames will continually burn Mendoza for eternity, which is an apropos punishment for the man who would be immortal, and took so many lives and souls to achieve it.

Clearly, Mendoza didn’t consider all the angles of this immortality thing. His shiny new body was a dead end; flawed and unnatural. But the love, protection, and duty passed from generation to generation, from mother and father to son, between siblings, friends, or lovers, is both more righteous and more durable.

garo246

With that, mother and son part ways, and as Zoro’s horse bears Leon back home, a semi-spectral Herman rides alongside to tell him he’s a good son…aaand also to look out for that nice young lady Ximena. It’s a great cathartic moment when he emerges from the portal to the elation of Alfie and Ema.

garo247

As the re-reconstruction of Santa Bard commences, we see that Prince Alfie is gonna be just fine. When the rebuilding is complete and he’s further along on being groomed for the throne, he’ll one day take a wife, and his son or daughter will inherit Gaia from him, along with the duty to protect.

garo248

What about Leon and Ema, found and comforted and supported each other in the shadow of the loss of their past true loves? Well, it’s kind of a Princess Mononoke end, in which they say not “goodbye” but “see you around” as they return to their respective lives, which feels right.

garo249

As for Ximena, she’s going to have a baby—gender to be determined, but let’s call it a girl, shall we?—and Leon’s duty now is to protect her and his incoming new sibling, who will inherit Garo and Zoro. Thanks to everything the child’s forbears have done for her sake, she won’t be born while her mother burns at the stake!

GARO was a very fun and entertaining show. A bit inconsistent at times, but it marched to the beat of its own drummer, took bold risks, and wasn’t afraid to fail. I can forgive when it did because it made such powerful impacts when it struck true. Its finale was one of those times. It looks like there will be a second season of GARO. I’ll definitely be tuning in.

9_mag

Death Parade – 12 (Fin)

dpfin3

Death Parade ends its long march with an emotional, twisty, judgement of Chiyuki. It is far from a wartless affair, as the Oculus vs Nona subplot remains weightless and basically unexplained, but it was a solid outing.

dpfin2

To summarize: Oculus and Nona… don’t actually fight. Instead, Oculus info dumps us that Arbiters are built using the discarded dummies (and souls?) of the judged who are thrown into the void and that this means…

well its really not clear what this means but Nona is dead set on getting souls (or soul-like contents) into the Arbitors to shake things up.

dpfin6

Meanwhile, Decim puts Chiyuki through a similar ruse to what Ginti did last week. Here, he pretends they have returned to the living world and shows Chiyuki her grieving mother, an empty house, and offers her a button to press that will return her to life…

at the cost of someone else’s life! While Chiyuki doesn’t realize this is a trap, she still ultimately makes the moral decision, based in no small part on her experiences with other souls and Decim is brought to tears. Then he reincarnates her, learns to smile, and leaves her dummy-body on a chair next to the bar.

dpfin5

What worked: While I thought Decim’s trap was obvious, it was a nice mirror of Ginti’s all the same.

And trap aside, seeing Chiyuki’s mom and her anguish was emotionally resonant. This was a major feels episode and, for once, it didn’t feel contrived and cheap in the delivery.

dpfin7

What didn’t work: any second spent without Chiyuki and Decim on screen. Oculus’ objection to Nona, the lack of coherent reasoning for Nona’s agenda, and the complete lack of a conflict between them just zap the subplot’s strength.

It never got meaningful development and, like the ‘people are dying too quickly’ the fuzziness of it all felt more annoying than apetite-wetting for more. Really, beyond Decim learning to smile and possibly becoming a better ‘person’ nothing feels consequential at all.

dpfin1

So I have mixed feelings about this series. If not obvious from all of my reviews, I greatly respect Death Parade’s sense of style and that it is, to some degree, a show that took risks. When it tried, it was good at making me feel for its characters too.

That said, I found it highly predictable and muddled. The secondary conflict, which should explain what and why Decim is, never manifests and Chiyuki is not very interesting after you strip away her sex appeal.

Certainly not one for the heritage list by any event but a nice, mostly pleasant show. Probably worth a binge if you didn’t catch it and have time at some future point.

8_ogk

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 12 (Fin)

tg2121

Tokyo Ghoul Root A delivers a finale as still and austere as the previous episodes were flashy and frenetic. It was a hauntingly gorgeous episode so quiet and deliberate, every gesture and breath and ambient sound contained multitudes. Aside from the insert song, a stripped down version of the first season’s OP, there isn’t even any music telling us how to feel. It’s all in the artistry of the camerawork, lighting, and, of course, the characters we’ve come to know.

tg2122

More than anything, there’s a palpable feeling of finality to this finale, that a page is about to be turned. Ken starts in a kind of limbo, in the place that held so many happy memories for him. It’s as good a place as any for Hide to finally tell Ken that he knows he’s a ghoul.

tg2123

But Hide is in a bad way. The reveal of is injury is a masterpiece of careful unveiling, and the first sign that this truly is the end. Hide was an almost casual, neutral observer of everything Ken and Touka and everyone else have been through. Now that the show is ending, there’s no longer a need for such an observer, so in a way it makes sense for him to die here.

For Ken, his connection and lasting friendship with Hide, someone he had been estranged from going back to the first season, is the only bridge forged between ghoul and human. It was a bridge that was there from the start. If everyone in the CCG had a loved one turned ghoul, they’d likely all be a little more tolerant…and vice versa.

tg2124

Touka arrives at Anteiku to find it ablaze, apparently the work of Ken, again closing a door to the past before walking out with Hide. Touka sees his human eye and moves to meet him, but wreckage nearly crushes her; wreckage that came loose due to a ghoul’s weapon.

tg2125

Touka still follows Ken and finds him approaching the fortified CCG staging area bearing Hide, who may or may not be dead. At this point Touka’s path is barred again by Yomo, and my suspicion that Ken and Touka might never meet again is confirmed.

The episode really takes its time with Ken’s slow walk, both to and through the CCG ranks, but while it’s not perfect pacing-wise, it’s still some very powerful work, and it’s a credit to the show that it was able to slow things down so we could savor the end rather than choke it down.

Like a carefully-made cup of coffee, it takes quality ingredients, the proper tools, patience, and restraint, and TG exhibited all of the above with aplomb.

tg2126

Ken’s final scene is carrying Hide (echoing the show’s promo art) as various CCG soldiers gawk at him and helicopters swoop menacingly above him. These moments were suffused with thick tension as I pondered if and when the CCG would make a move.

tg2127

Ultimately, it falls to Arima to face Ken, who stops and puts hide down. But true to this finale’s minimalist atmosphere, we never see a fight, one-sided or no; only the click of the briefcase containing Arima’s quinque. I can’t imagine it’s a coincidence they both have white hair.

tg2128

Dawn rises upon Tokyo, Anteiku’s fires are out, and only Arima and a rapier-like quinque stand where Ken once was. The snow has stopped falling, the storm is over, and peace has returned to the city. Was it peace attained by Aogiri’s tactical withdrawal, in which case it’s only temporary? Was some kind of deal struck between Ken and Arima?

tg2129

“All we can do is live as we endure loss,” Yomo says to Touka as he stops her from going to Ken, who wasn’t coming back. And he’s right. You can’t just stand still and wallow in despair until it consumes you. The fact som many people on both sides did just that is what put them all on that costly collision course.

After the credits we see Touka has opened a cafe of her own. While cheerfully opening up, she allows a brief moment to gaze wistfully out at the block before her; perhaps she saw something or someone in the corner of her eye? But it’s only a brief moment that passes, and she goes on with her morning with a smile on her face, remembering, but enduring and living. Because that’s just what you gotta do.

9_mag

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 12 (Fin)

sae121

This final episode of Saekano that we know of had the air of a show that was merely saying “see you later down the road” rather than a full-on sayonara. So while it crossed its Ts and dotted its Is for the (remote, IMO) possibility that it wouldn’t be back, it made the right move by not trying to do too much in its finale. Mainly, it focused on sealing the deal on Michiru joining the circle.

sae122

Tomoya got Michiru and her three bandmates their first gig, and while it’s not much, they’re glad to have it. Kato is on her way to the venue with a still very dubious Utaha and Eriri, and finds herself acting as mediator between the bullying Utaha and the sensitive Eriri. Both are still sore from their experiences with Michiru and are acting out in their own ways, but Kato is confident in Tomoya’s ability to achieve his objective. Michiru’s going to come on board and the game’s going to be great.

sae123

It’s interesting that Utaha and Eriri grudgingly accept Kato as something resembling a friend, not the threat they may have perceived her as when she first came on the scene. Heck, they even agree with one another in their little faith in Tomoya, but one can hardly blame them for being so unenthusiastic; it’s like they’re well aware they’re dealing with two very potent competitors in Kato and now Michiru.

sae124

For her part, Michiru doesn’t disappoint in proving she’s by far the most overtly physical member of Tomoya’s harem, essentially mounting him out of shock and anger that she has to play her set in cosplay. She’s too ashamed of one thing—having to play with cat ears—than she is about being on top of her cousin, moving up and down rhythmically just as the others enter.

sae125

In what is definitely a forced, unnatural plot twist (Eriri’s words, not mine), Michiru’s three band-mates fess up to being otakus themselves, and all the music she’s played with them have been anime cover songs. They agreed to let Michiru make the music for Tomoya’s game if he gave them the opportunity to come out of their shells and declare their otakuness to Michiru.

sae126

Tomoya then proceeds to offer a still-uncertain Michiru a heartfelt pep talk (while she’s on top of him the whole time), convincing her that they’ll do great things together, and that her affinity for the anime music she’s already played is proof enough of her respect for the world of otaku that she’ll do fine in front of a crowd of same. He even reverses her past insistence grow out of otakudom by assuring her one day she’ll grow into a fine otaku.

sae127

She takes the stage, and suddenly there’s a tinge of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso in my Saekano. But Icy Tail (which when said with a Japanese accent sounds like “aishiteru” or “I love you”) breaks the ice not with piano or violin, but with Soairo Days from TTGL…nice choice!

sae128

I didn’t catch Michiru’s seiyu Yahagi Sayuri (whom I also loved in Bakuman and Sankarea) being credited for the insert song performance, but whoever did sing it did a decent job, even if the band sounds rather polished considering it’s there first time on stage before a crowd. More than anything though, the episode really captured joy and fun of the concert. Everyone other than Utaha and Eriri looked like they were having a blast.

sae129

And Tomoya’s plot, assisted in no small part by the rest of Icy Tail, works: Michiru agrees to score Blessing’s game. When she draws in far closer than first cousins should for what could be a deal-sealing kiss, then bends over for something even more improprietous, it turns out she’s just pulling one of her patented wrestling moves on him, like her lakeside suplex in the prologue, she’s an athletically gifted girl, and wants to let Tomoya know he doesn’t hold all the cards here, and she hasn’t completely forgiven him for ambushing her with the cosplay.

sae1210

From there, the episode starts to wind down, but not before Megumi and Eriri have a nice little talk. Before she knew it, Eriri had Megumi over for all-night game work, so they can’t very well refer to each other so formally anymore, so they agree to start addressing each other by their first names. This is a pretty big gesture for Eriri, who calls Utaha by her full nine-syllable name on purpose.

sae1211

After a look at the happy ending of the seemingly completed dating sim, and then the credits, we jump forward to the assmbled group admiring their work, which gets close to Aku no Hana levels of plot compression. But it turns out they’re only done the first route, with two months left till Summer Comiket. So there’s still much work to be done.

It’s as good a stopping place as any, but I’ll gladly join the chorus of voices who look forward to a second season where we see those other routes unfold, both in and out of the game. Throughout its run, Saekano was a smart, sexy breath of fresh air: cheekily self-aware, but never obnoxiously so, and full of so much witty banter and laughs that I wouldn’t rule out a full re-watch as I await a sequel. Until then, matane, Saekano.

9_ses

Steins Gate – 23

sg231

Just moments, by Okabe’s reckoning, removed from consigning the love of his life to temporal oblivion for the sake of Mayushii, he gets a call from Suzuha, who has arrived in the undamaged time machine Future Daru and Okabe built, in cool resistance soldier get-up and her braids pinned up behind her ears, urging him to come with her on a mission to save the world from World War III. Okabe is extremely disinterested in any more time-meddling, nor does he give a hoot about the 5.7 billion people Suzuha says will die in the war.

sg232

But two things get him to hop into that dicey space-capsule looking contraption with Suzu: the possibility that Kurisu can still be saved, and Mayushii, after showing a moment’s reluctance in her face, urging him to help this Kurisu friend of his, whoever she is.

And as I had always suspected, saving Kurisu means plucking an arrow all self-respecting time travel stories have in their quivers, and traveling back to the beginning of it all, in this case, Professor Nakabachi’s talk at the Radio Kaikan Building back on July 28, and stopping her from being stabbed.

sg233

At first, this seems all too easy, at least practically speaking: as Suzu prepares the machine to jump back to the future, all Okabe has to do is keep an eye on the Kurisu of that time, while avoiding the July 28 Okabe, lest he create the kind of unsolvable paradox that rends the universe asunder. Frankly, Okabe’s main difficulty is bumping into Kurisu herself on a staircase, and being so relieved and in awe to see her breathing, the fact she has no idea who she is doesn’t even bother him that much.

Of course, things always end up more complicated and fucked up than initially indicated, as we learn along with Okabe that Nakabachi is Kurisu’s father. When she presents him with her latest theoretical paper on time machines, seeking his approval, he flat-out snatches it from her, intending to publish it under his own name. When she objects, a scuffle every bit as nasty as Okabe and Moeka’s ensues.

sg234

I’m not entirely sure why the father-daughter meeting takes place in such a dark and isolated room (besides the fact that that’s where Okabe found her in the first episode); but Kurisu’s unconditional love for her father blinds her from his current state of weakness and volatility. “No daughter should be smarter than her father,” he says, trying to choke her to death.

Things take a turn for the tragically ironic when Okabe springs out of hiding to save Kurisu. Physically he’s a match for Nakabachi, but Kurisu isn’t able to get away, and in the confusion and darkness, Okabe ends up accidentally stabbing Kurisu in the gut with Nakabachi’s pocket knife, just as she wrenches free.

sg235

Forget gut punches, this was a gut-stab to me as well, even though I knew something like this was coming, there was never going to be a way to emotionally steel myself for it, any more than I could for Kurisu’s sacrifice last week. “This is the perfect end for you,” says Nakabachi as he flees with Kurisu’s paper.

Well, it is an ending, as Kurisu dies in Okabe’s arms, sorry she got him involved.  But since this show is based on a visual novel and involves time travel, we also know it’s not the only ending, and it’s certainly not a perfect one. For that, Okabe has to save Mayushii without losing Kurisu.

sg236

But as Okabe and Suzu return to August 21, the experience of watching Kurisu die has left him defeated; her blood is still all over his lab coat, still fresh despite traveling forward three-plus weeks. This small detail injects a measure of hope in me: unlike the pink thread, Kurisu’s previous way of “marking” him, the blood didn’t vanish. Sure enough, Suzu confesses to Okabe that in order to save Kurisu, he had to fail once.

The present is already changed by his actions: Nakabachi appears on one of AKiba’s many public TVs, announcing his defection to Russia with his Kurisu’s paper on time machines (and Mayushii’s metal upa that has her name on it…so that’s what happened to it!). The paper is the key that leads to WWIII, fought with devastating temporal weapons.

sg238

But as I said, Okabe is physically and emotionally spent, and having failed once more, is ready to throw in the towel. That’s when he receives a ringing SLAP from Mayushii. He didn’t give up when he visited her grandmother’s grave with her, and helped her get better, and she won’t let him give up here.

Here, as in the beginning when she gave Okabe’s blessing to go with Suzu to the past, Mayushii proves her worth. Saving her meant sacrificing Kurisu, but saving Kurisu depends on Mayushii convincing Okabe to keep moving forward, which only she can do. And she does. Suzu directs them to Okabe’s phone, which he left in the present, which has a new video message.

sg237

That grainy message is from the Okabe Rintarou of the Future, who helpfully lays all  the cards on the table. The two objectives remain: destroying the paper and saving Kurisu. But simply trying to save Kurisu and change the past will always end in failure (as it did with Mayushii before) due to “attractor field convergence.” More to the point, changing the past changes the three crucial weeks Okabe and Kurisu had together, which must not be lost.

A different approach is called for, one in which he deceives his past self into believing Kurisu is dead when she’s really alive, which will take him to a third world line that he’s called “Steins Gate”, which he and the present Okabe agree is a name chosen despite “no really meaning anything.”

sg239

Future Okabe breaks down the parameters of “Operation Skuld”, named for one of the three norns in Norse mythology (whose name can also mean “debt” or “future” that decide the fates of people. The fact there are three ties in to the existence of three main world lines Okabe has had to weather in order to secure the fates of those he loves. As long as his past self sees Kurisu in that pool of blood, the past won’t change and Kurisu can live in the present that results.

The video ends with a Good Luck and an El Psy Congroo. The fact that his older self, in spite of all he’s been through is still able to channel Hououin Kyouma shakes our present Okabe out of his funk, finishing what Mayushii started. Thanks to her and his future self, he is able to take up the mantle of Kyouma once again, and even let out the first evil laugh we’ve heard from him in a good long while.

I never thought how good it would feel to hear it again. Optimism is back in the air, he’s a mad scientist again, and he’s feeling good about deceiving his past self and the world in order to save Kurisu.

10_brav2

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 11

sae111

It sounds like Hannah was pretty disappointed about her show squandering its promise…though that’s partly on her for even remotely thinking that show was going anywhere daring or compelling.

Not to be smug, but didn’t have that problem with this latest Saekano. Last week focused heavily on the wild card Machiru, setting her up as someone who could genuinely challenge Tomoya, who was in need of some challenging in the midst of all his ladykillin’.

sae112

What last week failed to do was show us what would happen when his harem came into direct contact with his purple-haired, skantily-clad cousin. The results were momentous; everything I hoped for and more. Utaha hawkishly defends otaku culture, while an initially flabberghasted Eriri even finds some common ground when Machiru mentions that, on some rare occasion, Tomoya can be cool and come through for you.

sae113

We also find that exposing oneself to Michiru isn’t enough to convince her to compose your dating sim’s soundtrack; far from it. In fact, part of what gets Utaha so steamed is Michiru’s outsider-looking-in perspective of Tomoya, and his obsession with otaku culture, is something to mature out of rather than cultivate. When Michiru disses Tomo, she disses everyone in that room. Except for Kato…who is definitely in that room…watching and waiting.

sae114

Michiru’s reasons for not jumping into Tomoya’s project go beyond her semi-maternal dubiousness with his present course in life. She’s got her own dream of being in a band, after all. When she says she needs a manager to appease her dad, Tomoya is eager to step in, but when she tells him it won’t be a part-time job, it becomes her dream versus his. That’s right: Michiru isn’t perfect; she’s selfish too.

What’s so awesome is how much sense her selfishness makes. She’s known Tomoya all their lives; and she has an idea what he could and should be that just doesn’t jibe with what he is and wants to be. But it’s her affection and concern for him, not merely her own self-interest, that comes through when she says this manager job could be just the excuse he needs to drop this whole gamemaker charade.

And she calls it a charade because she had a good look at his fellow circle members. While she’s well aware that they all have their reasons for being in that circle (calling Tomoya a sly dog in the process), she doubts their commitment to making the game is anywhere near Tomoya’s level.

sae115

Of course, we know better, and so should Tomoya, but Michiru’s words create genuine conflict in his heart. Suddenly he’s not just the fumbling leader of a haremy doujin circle, but a guy trying to find out whether his dream is really as quixotic as she says. But Kato is up all night at Eriri’s working on the game, knowing Tomoya is a week behind; and Utaha is up too. They’re all working their pants off while he worries.

He then makes the best decision of this episode and calls Kato early in the morning, and they have this lovely, natural boyfriend-girlfriend phone conversation, in which he voices his anxieties.

sae116

Yet again, Tomoya luxuriates in the very thing he has no idea he has with Kato, yet simultaneously must know on some level he has. Kato gets him out of his house, where he’d been worrying all night rather than working, and gets some breakfast into him, ever the practical mind. But in an ingenious gambit, she talks through the game prototype to comfort and reassure him.

sae117

And in an even more ingenious and somewhat diabolical scheme, she keeps her hand firmly planted on Tomoya’s and the mouse as the dialogue starts going to places Tomoya rather wouldn’t; things about having feelings for attractive cousins, something to which she can relate.

While Kato claims the dialogue was simply random, let’s get real: there’s no way it was random. This was calculated payback for Tomoya “steppin’ out” on Kato, and it was absolutely glorious. For the first time in a while, she’s able to make Tomoya squirm as much as Michiru.

At the same time, she proves how good she is for him by picking up his slack without even being asked to, and not feeling forced or obligated to. It’s a brilliant dynamic.

sae118

His confidence in the project thus restored, and his apology delivered, he shares an earbud with Kato so she can hear Michiru’s music, and she agrees that she’d be perfect for the soundtrack. And it could be that Kato’s little piece of mischievousness also inspired Tomoya to come up with a plan to snag his cousin.

sae119

As he is a man of wide-ranging otaku means and connections, he’s able to get Michiru’s band a slot at a live performance, a gesture he uses to prove to her he can be an effective manager. In turn, Michiru lets him see her get teary-eyed for the first time since he carried her on his back when she twisted her ankle years and years ago. She also apologizes, admitting she was being selfish.

sae1110

Thus, Tomoya has his cousin right where he wants her: in his debt. Tomoya looks awfully proud of himself as the episode cuts to black, but I’m certain more compromises are in store for him, and managing both Michiru’s band and a circle full of girls competing against each other won’t be a cakewalk either.

Still, I’m willing to come out and say these past two episodes cemented Michiru’s place as my second-favorite girl after Kato. As she demonstrated quite emphatically, there’s simply no beating Kato!

10_ses

P.S. I’ll be watching Saekano’s final (for now) episode later tonight and hopefully have a review of it up not long thereafter.

Kantai Collection: KanColle – 12 (Fin)

kc121

Well, you have to hand it to KanColle, it wasted no time whatsoever declaring it was going to pour all of the compelling drama and peril and promise of the previous episode down the drain. Within the first thirty seconds, Fubuki arrives in the nick of time to save Akagi, as does the main battle force led by Yamato.

kc122

As such, this entire episode is, at its heart, a complete re-writing of history, which makes you wonder (or possibly not wonder at all) why the heck they bothered to set up battles with real-world parallels when they were only going to turn the result of those battles upside down.

kc123

But revisionism aside, this was never that exciting an ending at all because that early taking away of the stakes came with it the knowledge that this episode wouldn’t even be sorta adhering to reality. The show failed to rise above its somewhat unsightly core reason for being: to promote the video game it’s based upon, as well as its sundry characters.

kc124

Thus, the result isn’t just a foregone conclusion (the Fleet Girls win it all without suffering any casualties), but the battle itself feels pointless and needlessly drawn out, infused with setbacks we know will be overcome by the time the credits roll. It’s an extended victory lap, as well as a showcase for every Fleet Girl character.

As for the Abyssals, they disappoint to the last, as one finally actually says something, but only simply phrases like “SINK!” Gee, I sure wish a show in which the good guys fight the bad guys had bothered to, you know, give us something, anything, with which to understand what the bad guys were about. But nope, they’re just evil.

kc125

Looking back, Mitsuki’s loss of Kisaragi was the only remotely significant casualty the Fleet Girls suffered, other than the fancypants Admiral we neither saw nor heard for the extent of the show, and therefore wasn’t any more a character than the Abyssals. I kept watching this show because it had the guts to take Kisaragi out. Unfortunately, that’s all it had guts for.

Still, this episode is saved from total inanity by some nice moments between characters who actually were characterized in the past eleven episodes. Bonds like Nagato and Mutsu, Akagi and Kaga, Kaga and Zuikaku, and the core trio of Fubuki, Mitsuki, and Yuudachi, while nothing particularly special, got some pleasant closing beats.

kc126

As for this admiral dude, I’m just not sure why I should care about him, considering we never see or hear him. I guess the Admiral is really you and me, huh? Well, excuse me if I’m not going to get all that excited about myself, nor a great host of Fleet Girls getting all hot and bothered about me. Simply put, I’m not that special.

6_brav2