Koufuku Graffiti – 09

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This week, it’s not just New Year’s Eve, but also the anniversary of Ryou and Kirin meeting. That calls for more than just New Year’s Soba. Shiina, who will be off with her family (apparently a dangerous affair) suggests Oden, and Ryou agrees: Oden it is.

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Kirin doesn’t reserve a seat and has to wait for an late train because she was watching TV, while Ryou polishes her home to a blinding sheen, starts cooking, and a single innocent taste ends up being closer to a dozen tastes, to the point we thought Ryou might accidentally eat all the oden before Kirin arrived.

To me, this sequence kind of felt like early Thanksgiving day, when everyone is either in transit or preparing the feast. To avoid further temptation, Ryou leaves the house to wait for Kirin at the station, as she did the first time they met.

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She recalls how lonely it once felt to watch loved ones reunite at the station. Now, she has someone to wait for, and after waiting out in the cold so long with a skirt and no gloves or hat, Kirin, who is still warm from the train, is a welcome presence. You can really feel the love as they hug again on the way to Ryou’s house.

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After positively stuffing themselves on soba, boiled eggs, daikon, konjac, fishcakes, and mochi-stuffed fried tofu (!), they, along with Ryou’s aunt, strike back out into the cold night for their first shrine visit of the year, and cut through that cold with piping cups of amazake, which I’ve never tried before but now MUST, as the way its described and the manner in which it’s enjoyed make it all but irresistible.

There’s also the fact that after a year, Kirin has gotten better at acting like her lovely charming self around adults. It’s a subtle but welcome development, as one day Kirin will be an adult herself, so she’d better get used to interacting with them, beyond her own parents.

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Akira ditches Kirin and her niece to drink with some dudes, so Ryou and Kirin head back home and have some oden leftovers. As Ryou watches a content Kirin resting her head on the table, she tells Kirin how it was her who taught her that food tastes better when sharing it with those you love.

Ryou also wishes, in her head, that even many New Years from now, the two of them will remain friends who share their cooking with one another. Kirin then echoes Ryou’s thoughts out loud, suggesting they will indeed be good friends many years down the road.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 21

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Slaine’s preoccupation with the battles on Earth, combined with Lemrina’s relative freedom of movement, means it doesn’t take long for Lemrina to find her sister awake and well, and learn that her fiancee has been lying to her face.

Lemrina had certainly showed signs of increasing obsession with besting her sister, and when she pulls a gun on the real Asseylum, it seems like a natural extension of that attitude. But at least, here, she stays her hand.

Perhaps its the fact that a part of her is genuinely glad to see her sister; that it was easier to consider sororicide when her sister was nothing but an unconscious body floating in a tube.

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Instead of killing Asseylum, she and Lemrina organize a clever little switcheroo on Slaine. This time it’s Asseylum posing as Lemrina, who confronts Slaine and listens to him prattle on about the inevitability of war, proving to her the Slaine she knew and cared for has changed in two years, for the worse.

He’s power-drunk, and there is no longer any reasoning with him. In one of the more badass sequences of this season, “Lemrina” stands up out of her wheelchair, reveals her true identity, and orders Slaine to stand down.

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Down on the surface, the United Earth Forces are faced with three Orbital Knights working together, combining their powers of invisibility, electricity, and duplication to good use. It’s another showcase for Inaho’s inexhaustible resourcefulness, as all three counts’ kataphrakts are taken out one by one by finding and exploiting their weaknesses, just as if they were only dealing with one at a time.

It’s a big victory, in that it proves that even working together, the Orbital Knights are far from invincible. It also shows that Inaho is putting too much pressure on his physical body for the sake of carrying the day for the UEF. I doubt his pain will go away, especially as he takes on more and more complicated operations. He’s running out of time; if he’s to do something about Slaine, he’ll have to act soon, before his own body betrays him.

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And despite the Vers Sisters working together, Slaine isn’t going anywhere. He has the full command and confidence in his subbordinates, and is also pretty sure Asseylum isn’t going to shoot him with a gun. So he disarms her and has both princesses confined to quarters under guard.

In this, the “palace intrigue” side of A/Z would seem to have come to an end, especially when Slaine tells Harklight he doesn’t care anymore whether the sisters ever understand his actions anymore. There’s no more pretending there’s going to be a fairy tale ending for anyone. The sisters are his keys to Aldnoah, and so still have value, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a little further down the road, his plans include doing away with Aldnoah altogether, righting a great wrong Saazbaum was never able to.

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But like Inaho, Slaine is running out of time. None of the Orbital Knights know of all the drama going down with the princesses, and assume everything is being done under Asseylum’s authority. One such Knight, the son of the late Count Cruhteo, Cronkine, is arriving. Like Asseylum, he knows Slaine from way back. I doubt he’ll be pleased with what’s become of him.

I forsee Slaine becoming far less patient and thus far less careful in maintaining all his lies and deceptions. Combined with the fact the Deucalion is being deployed to space for an as-yet-unannounced but surely important (and risky) new mission, it opens up the possibility for an anti-Slaine resistance, involving Inaho, Mazuurek, and possibly Cronkine. But first, Slaine’s source of power taken away, which means the princesses must be freed.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 22

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This week somewhat inauspiciously begins with Salia being spanked like an insolent child by Embryo, for letting Ange get away. But as painful and humiliating as this experience is, there’s still a glint of defiance in Salia’s face and words. Chasing after Ange the Chosen One like an obedient errand girl is not what she signed up for; in fact, it’s one of the very reasons she defected from Arzenal in the first place.

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Aboard the Aurora, Embryo finally manipulates Emma Bronson to antagonize what looks like the beginning of a Norma/Dragon alliance, in the midst of Riza’s report that Embryo is trying to merge both their worlds to form a new one, destroying them in the process. Even if Salako & Co. are Dragons, Hilda can relate Salako’s friendship to Ange. Roselie, meanwhile, isn’t looking forward to killing Chris, but it’s her or them; something she laments with great sadness.

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Embryo expounds on his grand plans for the world by stating it will be ruled by “strong, intelligent women.” He leaves out “pliable women who will acknowledge his unlimited power and know their place below him.” At the same time, he takes no pleasure in watching Ersha grovel and beg him to restore the lives of her children. He really never intended those children to survive the merging at all. Rather, he intends Ersha to become the mother of the new world’s children, which has some pretty messed-up ramifications if you think too long about it, which, judging from Ersha’s expression, she does.

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Like Salia, Embryo essentially warns Ersha that she’s not acting like the “intelligent women” he needs for that world. Unlike Salia, he basically casts her aside and tells her to stay out of sight, whereas he at least gives Salia one more chance to prove her loyalty. Salia won’t be doing that, though.

It looks like her spanking was the straw that broke the camel’s back; she won’t prove her value to Embryo by finding Ange; she’ll prove she’s stronger by besting and killing her, going against Embryo’s wishes in a desperate bid to win his approval.

This is not the best plan, considering Embryo can bring people back from the dead at will, but even if her judgement-quashing inferiority complex is still as strong as ever, at least she now realizes how much of a sack of shit Embryo is. Ripping up her Pretty Salian cosplay is as strong a symbol as any that she’s done playing the heroine.

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Ersha, meanwhile, realizes how appallingly naive she’s been, and how easily she allowed Embryo to win her obedience by manipulating her powerful maternal instincts. In both her and Salia’s case, they were girls with ambitions (albeit very different ones) that got their way, and now that they’ve seen how thin the veneer of Embryo’s goodness extends, They’re both well and truly disillusioned, and will no longer follow him.

Chris is different, in that nothing happened to her this week that suggests she’ll be going against Embryo. Embryo is her best bud, after all; the one person who would simply be her friend the way no one else ever did. Her ambitions are far smaller by comparison, and so easier to both fulfill and maintain. Are Chris, Roselie, and Hilda doomed to try and kill one another without ever reconciling the often twisted shit they’ve all been through? Or will something Embryo does cause CHris to revolt as well? I hope it’s the latter.

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Meanwhile, Tusk’s chopper-thingy deposits Ange on his island and releases her, and it doesn’t take long for the same crushing loneliness Tusk must have felt in the years he was here to sink in for her, combined with her grief over losing both Tusk and Momoka. Ange can’t see the purpose of trying to save a world she can’t share with those two very important people.

She even considers taking her life, before remembering Tusk’s final words to her about her having to live. But reading Tusk’s diary, including the entry when she arrived (not Ange’s best outing), at which point he’d already chosen to be her knight, only makes Ange more upset. She may have spared her own life for now, but she still can’t see the point of sparing it indefinitely.

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And then, all of a sudden, as she remarks on how she’d have gone all the way with Tusk if she’d known he’d sacrifice himself, Tusk pops up behind her, alive and well! She thinks it’s another of Embryo’s illusions at first, but I had a pretty good idea it was Tusk. Am I going to defend this ridiculous plot twist? No, but I can understand it: You don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it; we never saw Tusk actually die in the explosion.

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Having tasted the bitterness of losing Tusk, Ange isn’t going to side-step the issue of the furtherance of their relationship any longer. On the contrary, she has sex with Tusk right then and there, under the stars, to prove it’s really him. Afterwards, it’s as if all of that sexual tension had simply melted away, leaving two far calmer, less distracted people.

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Momoka’s back too, because Hell, why not? She had a frying pan in her clothes that stopped a bullet. I’m more on the side of happy than angry they’re back, even if it’s very sudden. The why isn’t really important, only the that. And that Tusk and Momoka are alive means Ange has far stronger motivations to stop Embryo.

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I just don’t see how she’s going to do it considering how easily he dispatched them last time. Maybe these two finally getting laid was the key?

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 09

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Huh…now why did I get the strange suspicion that almost nothing happened in this episode? While events did take place, the episode came off as a somewhat frustratingly slow-paced incremental step forward, and paling in comparison to episode 4, the show’s best outing to date.

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It doesn’t help that this week’s voice-over is provided by some yakuza guy we’ve never heard of and couldn’t care less about, who repeats “Disturbing” over and over again like some kind of mantra.

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So what does actually happen? Mobsters try to bring in Shizuo, even as Shiki doubts he was the one responsible for wasting his men. Aoba continues to bully Mikado until Toramaru thugs show up, and then Celty gets Mikado out of there, and Varona follows them. Anri and Akane are also accosted by mobsters but Celty and Mikado meet up with them and they all escape on Shooter, who Celty transforms into a horse and carriage.

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The Dollars/Toramaru conflict is largely de-toothed this week, which is a shame, because the prospects of an all-out gang war brought a welcome sense of danger to the comfortable environs of Ikebukuro, just as Aoba’s ultimatum put Mikado in a position to actually make a decision on something. Unfortunately, we get neither the danger nor the decision.

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At least there’s some complexity to the conflict, what with Celty not knowing what her role should be (though she doesn’t pick sides when she rescues Mikado) and Varona continuing to stalk her (though Varona is still quite ignorant of the situation; not to mention Celty’s gender). Varona, like us, watches some stuff happen, but it doesn’t really us anything new or exciting. Varona expresses her excitement in the hunt for something her books haven’t prepared her for, but…we knew this already.

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Celty’s rescue of Mikado is a cop-out for what was a pretty tense situation. Anri and Akane’s encounter with the yakuza, who in turn more Toramaru thugs and are insulted by their boorish manners, is a little more interesting, in that, again, it adds layers of complexity to the conflict unfolding. But it’s really only a fragment.

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Previous episodes succeeded in telling cohesive stories within the story, but everything this week simply felt cobbled together and devoid of any payoff. I can weather such episodes as long as actual payoffs are on the way soon, but considering this is only the first of three cours planned for Durarara!!x2, this episode has made it apparent the show isn’t in any particular hurry to deliver further significant developments.

Still, I’d hope that un-compelling transitional episodes such as this remain a rarity. Variably clever dialogue and whimsical coincidences can only make up for a lack of narrative urgency so long.

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