GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 22

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When Herman’s little talking accessory thingy (his equivalent to Leon’s Zaruba) tells Leon that his father has appeared to side with Mendoza so he can take Mendoza and Anima out, Leon rushes to meet his dad in Mendoza’s lair deep below Santa Bard. Alfie and Ema accompany him. So Herman didn’t turn bad after all, nor was he blindly following Garm’s orders.

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Herman is already there, barely masking his contempt for the fact Mendoza is using hundreds of the souls of knights and alchemists he’s massacred as sacrifices to strengthen Anima (the process resembles Tetris). He eventually hits his limit and decides to reveal his true colors and attack Mendoza right then and there, which considering the stakes seems recklessly hasty.

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Then again, Mendoza is supposed to be super-frail, or at least his withered face would suggest as much. Yet he’s able to survive Herman’s attacks, using a willing Octavia as a shield several times in the process, before Herman slices off Mendoza’s arm and falls back to open the gate for Leon & Co. Now it makes more sense why he gave up the ghost so soon.

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Still, he could have timed it better with the arrival of the others, who have to first get through a gauntlet of barriers and booby traps, including three magic projectors that transport them into a modern-day metropolis, which is a super-WTF moment if ever there was one! All things considered, the trio takes the shock of being in such a strange place pretty well.

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As they work to break the illusion, Herman suddenly has his hands full with a legion of horrors Mendoza has summoned. Mendoza’s arm stops working and the gates start to close again, requiring Herman to hold it open with one of his daggers, greatly reducing his offensive effectiveness. From here on it becomes a battle of endurance.

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Leon, Alfie and Ema destroy the projectors and escape the trap, but they still have another course of barriers to break through, which will take up more time and energy. All the more reason Herman should have held his horses!

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Angry she’s not strong enough to do more, Octavia asks Mendoza to give her that strength. He hands her his staff, she draws a circle in the air, and recieves a torrent of needles. Ouch. Well, I’ve never questioned Octavia’s devotion to Mendoza.

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Those needles transform her into some kind of horror-like anti-Makai knight, who stands over a bruised and beaten Herman after he sabotages (and goes down with) the lift. It looks like it could be the end for him, but we don’t see him die, so it’s probably not quite time for him to bow out.

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He managed to hold the door for the others; now comes the hard part: defeating a Mendoza who won’t go down, protected by a horror-Octavia, and then the small matter of destroying Anima without taking the city with it and them. Plus Garm and the rest of the Watchdogs.

Shit’s certainly gettin’ real, but I really didn’t mind Mendoza being defeated back at the end of the first cour. To be honest, the fact they’re facing the same enemy, only somehow more powerful than before, who is after the same basic villain thing (immortality), is a little disappointing.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 23

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Even though two more episodes remain, this had the feel of a second-to-last episode, with a lot of character housekeeping leading into the start of the final battle that will decide the very fate of the world(s). With such a tangled web of character connections, any housekeeping episode in which many were either resolved or set up to be resolved soon could run the risk of feeling overstuffed and unwieldy.

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Not so here, and you can chalk that up to the show’s genuine care and concern for each and every one of its characters, with the possible exception of Embryo, who has been painted pretty consistently as a transparently evil pervert of late.

Because Cross Ange cares so much, so do I. So even when minor characters like a sober Emma and Riza Randog achieve redemption, it lifts my spirits as much as Ange returning to the Aurora with Tusk aboard his mother’s paramail, or Ersha returning to the fold. Everyone is getting into the right place.

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As Ange later remarks to Salia, she has a lot of “errands” this week, which starts with welcoming Salako back and thanking Riza, and continues with trying to slap some pride back into a sulking Jill. Hilda now sees fully what she’d only seen glimpses of before; how inspiring and natural a leader Ange is.

To that end, she offers Ange the command, and to Hilda’s credit it feels more like a correct and practical decision rather than any kind of emotionally-driven concession borne out of her inadequacies. She just prefers to run around with a gun, which is true.

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As for Hilda’s feelings for Ange, well, now is the time to confess them, and when Ange insists, Hilda doesn’t hold back: she sees Ange as her knight; her Tusk. When she laughs away these feelings as strange because they’re both women, Ange leans in for a kiss, and tells her the world where such things are strange is the same world they’re going to destroy.

Ange will need Hilda in that world as much as Tusk and Salako. This suggests it will be a society in which relationships need not be monogamous. It’s another credit to the care with which these characters’ roller-coaster history has been portrayed that this corridor exchange hits all the right emotional notes. Tamura Yukari also turns in a great performance as Hilda here.

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When chewing out Jill, Ange pointed out that many lives were destroyed in her failed missions for revenge and revolution, and that even Salia had to latch onto Embryo when Jill spurned her. When we see Salia saluting Embryo, you can tell that Embryo himself is now secondary to her own desire to rid the world of Ange once and for all, hoping that will make her special and desired. It’s a misguided motivation that I simply don’t see unfolding.

As Ange’s “errands” continue, she and Tusk have a quiet tender moment on the eve of battle, when Ange insists on giving Tusk something back for his undying devotion. Something more than being safe, that is, which is enough for him. But being light on the possessions, she decides to give him the panties she’s presently wearing, which Tusk accepts graciously and promises to return “so she doesn’t catch cold.” It’s the same kind of risque sweetness that has defined so much of their romance.

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After Ange delivers a stirring pre-battle speech that only demonstrates Hilda made the right decision in raising her to the command, the Aurora, with Jasmine at the help and Ersha on the weapons, heads to the Dawn Pillar for a frontal assault. The conventional Misurugi military units don’t put up much of a fight, so as the enemy nears, Embryo sends his harem of ragna-mail pilots out to meet them, and the battle’s stakes heighten accordingly.

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Such a wide-ranging battle with everyone involved means we get some nice matchups: Hilda and Roselie against their former lover Chris, who’s still in Embryo’s court; Salako’s two lieutenants we can’t remember the names of versus the other two Embryo girls we can’t remember the name of, and Vivi inspiring the rookies with her usual kick-ass combat skills. And then Tusk takes on Embryo, who is amused that Tusk isn’t dead.

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Jasmine and Ersha successfully fire the Aurora’s cryo-cannon at the Dawn Pillar, destroying it and opening the way for Salako and Ange to free Aura beneath the ruins. But Ange has to get past a hate-fueled Salia, who may yet again be ignoring her natural shortcomings in her obsessive quest to destroy her rival. Note that her arc has gone in essentially the opposite direction of Hilda’s.

Salia tosses Ange into the palace, where Ange happens to come upon her sister Sylvia, who is being harassed by commoners furious that nothing’s being done to protect them. Ange has nothing for these people but contempt, and in one case, a bullet to the head. In what she believes will be her last encounter with her pathetic little sister, Ange fires warning shots at her, forcing her to stop pretending she can’t walk and run away, taking care of herself for once.

It’s pretty harsh treatment when you consider that like much of the rest of humanity, Sylvia is simply a slave to her genetic abhorrance of Norma and Dragons, and a victim of her weak, brainwashing-susceptable mind. But alas, this is not a fair world; that’s why Ange’s going to destroy it, giving rise to a fairer one.

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With that last “errand” taken care of, Ange returns to her duel with a patient Salia, and it’s pretty clear at this point there’s nothing Ange can say that will make her see reason. Enter Alektra Maria von Levenherz, who has taken Ange’s words to heart, suits up, and pilots Ersha’s ragna-mail to join the fray, doing her part for Libertus.

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Perhaps Jill will be able to succeed where Ange has thus far failed vis-a-vis Salia. She certainly knows how to press Salia’s buttons, as the first thing she says to her is that she’s disappointed, the kind of tack that drew Salia away from her in the first place.

Is she provoking Salia to throw her off the game so she’ll break off from Ange and start attacking Jill? Is Jill’s goal to atone by snapping Salia out of it, or simply by letting Salia kill her, if she can? Did Embryo really set up this whole world-merging threat simply to draw Ange to kill him for realsies, using the Villkiss’ inter-dimensional ability.

Will the battle end next week, making episode 25 an epilogue? Who will live; who will die; who will reconcile? The housekeeping and table-setting is over: it’s time for the big dance.

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P.S. In the adorable preview, Vivi celebrates Ersha’s return by demanding food, and Ersha headbutts her, but the preview ends before she can tell us what happens next week. Drat!

Aldnoah.Zero – 22

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The Deucalion launches into the Satellite Belt with its space loadout and catapult module, and with it launches the best chance of Inaho saving his princess.

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Before that, Captain Magbaredge is briefed on the particulars of the battle, in which, no surprise, the Deucalion will be used as little more than bait to split the Vers defenses. Darzana doesn’t like it, and neither does the crew, but they carry that plan out…with one slight adjustment.

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Asseylum, Lemrina, and Eddelrittuo locked in the observation room is about what you’d expect: Lemrina blaming Asseylum for waking up and ruining everything, and Asseylum picking up the fact her sister must care for Slaine quite a bit to have gone this far for and with him.

What angers Lemrina more than Slaine loving her sister more than her is the fact that Asseylum won’t return that love. She tells Lemrina her heart belongs to the world and people of Vers—or so she’s always been raised to believe. We’ll see, won’t we?

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Meanwhile, Lord Troyard meets with the newly-arrived Count Klancain Cruhteo. It’s a meeting replete with mutual etiquette and flattery, but in between sips of tea, it’s clear Klancain is sizing him up. It’s obviously suspicious that Slaine speaks of starting a new kingdom, but the princess he claims wishes for a “dream” is nowhere in sight.

Slaine, on the other hand, seems hopeful he can bring Cruhteo to his side, which he believes will cause a domino effect with the other “loyalists”, consolidating his position. Cruhteo doesn’t strike me as that pliable, and despite his successful coup against Asseylum, Slaine doesn’t strike me as that capable.

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As for the slight adjustment to the Deuc’s mission: Inaho consults with Darzana, who apparently approves his plan to sneak into the moon base and rescue Asseylum. He and Inko spot a friendly transport dropping off a covert ops squad Inaho suspects are tasked with assassinating the princess.

This discovery betrays a surprisingly shrewed, if unethical, competence on the part of the heretofore appallingly dunder-headed UE military brass. It’s clear they were never going for a tactical victory with this attack; the idea was for a loud and shouty battle to obscure the death team that would take out Slaine’s Aldnoah source.

If Magbaredge sent Inaho and Inko off to save Asseylum, she’d be ruining the brass’ plans; but it can’t be called insubordination, because she was never officially informed of their true plans. Even so, her trust in Inaho is formidable. There’s also something sad about poor Inko having to literally (and figuratively) “let go” of Inaho so he can go save another woman. But hey, she volunteered.

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Another miscalculation by Slaine is sticking the princesses with the most inept bodyguards imaginable. Sure, they’re up against hardened special ops infiltrators, but shouldn’t that be exactly the kind of foe they should be able to hang with? Instead, like rats in a maze, they dart all over the moon base and get headed off time and again.

In the middle of this chace, Lemrina stops and tells Asseylum and Eddelrittuo to continue on without her. It’s not because she doesn’t want to slow them down, but because she has nowhere to go, which is also really sad and lonely. A/Z is not being particularly charitable towards anyone with unrequited feelings this week.

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We also get—at last—the much-anticipated square-off between Inaho and Slaine, and…it’s pretty underwhelming. I guess that’s par for the course; neither are what I’d call brawlers (I think I’d rather have Rayet on my side in a hand-to-hand fight), and the zero-g conditions contribute to a stalemate after a brief exchange of gunfire. That, and the ever-wily Inaho hits some steam pipes, the steam of which covers his escape.

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By that point, Inaho has really used his Google Glass implant way too much, to the extent that just moments after finally reuniting with his beloved Seylum, he passes out. That’s when something strange and unexpected happens: the implant takes over his brain and voice; a totally artificial “backup program” for Inaho the human being. Whoa.

For a second I wondered if this Inaho was an android—it would explain a great many things—but the AI puts that matter to rest at once with these deeply romantic words:

Even though this boy is aware that Princess Asseylum is a separate individual, he misidentifies her as a part of himself. He therefore placed maximum priority on her safety and has acted to protect her.

What a novel way to confess. The AI also tells Asseylum and Eddelrittuo where to go to get picked up by Inko, and Asseylum tells it to thank him when he wakes up, and confesses that she also thinks of Inaho as a part of herself. As if there was any doubt.

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With the last standing assassin cornering Asseylum and Eddelrittuo, combined with Inaho’s breakdown, those who are loved by the one they love didn’t have it any easier than the losers.

When Eddelrittuo valiantly stepped in front of her princess, I feared the worst, but the assassin is taken out by none other than Count Cruhteo…who may either be our new best friend, or a cure that’s worse than the disease if he intends to exploit the the princess just as Slaine did.

He’s quite the wild card, but the glass-half-full part of me wants to think his intentions are honorable, but I do wonder what will become of Inaho, unconscious behind enemy lines, along with Mazuurek, who was a no-show this week.

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