Aldnoah.Zero – 23

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With the Moonbase Chase and Princess Shuffle completed successfully, Asseylum is now in the hands of Count Cruhteo the Younger, and it’s confirmed that those are far better hands to be in than Slaine’s.

And hey, Cruhteo doesn’t seem to have an ulterior motive here: he’s simply loyal to the Emperor of Vers, who ordered him to retrieve his granddaughter. He even helps Asseylum hold firm in refusing to return even after Slaine tries to trick her with an offer to negotiate. Slaine isn’t negotiating anymore. If he says he is, you run.

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As I’d hoped, Mazuurek comes into play as Asseylum’s other ally. Between him and Cruhteo Jr., I can happily report the quality of Martian Counts has improved greatly in the home stretch. Here’s hoping there are other Orbital Knights who will take after them and do the right thing: abandon that little tyrant Troyard for the rightful princess.

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Slaine, obviously thinking he’s come too far to turn back or show weakness, is keen to launch an all-out assault on Earth, a repeat of the Shock-and-Awe campaign the O.K.’s started with, which, you may remember, ultimately didn’t work. Not that that matters to someone who seems to have developed a personal vendetta against Earth.

As he fiddles with Asseylum’s necklace in the chamber where Asseylum had once been in a coma, Lemrina pays him a visit to express how sorry she feels for both of them. I think she’s pretty much done with this palace intrigue bullshit, especially if she senses she may not be on the losing side.

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Somehow, Inko is able to retrieve Inaho, something that happens off camera that I wish we could have witnessed. While sitting with the Captain and Doctor, Inko learns Inaho has given over part of his brain to the AI in his eye, taxing his cranial nerves, which must lead her to wonder if she’s slowly losing the guy she likes.

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Asseylum is surprised but happy to learn that Mazuurek has come to her side, in part, to pay a debt he owes Inaho. Like Cruhteo, his true colors are proven pure: paying his debts are more important to him than grabbing power. While resting aboard his landing castle, Asseylum wonders what became of the gentle, peace-loving Slaine she once knew. Eddelrittuo tearfully corrects her, saying Slaine hasn’t changed at all, insofar as he’s always cared for her, even at the risk of his position or love.

Perhaps Eddelrittuo is right, or perhaps it’s only wishful thinking. My take is that a part of Slaine may still care for Asseylum, but she woke up too late, and as long as she doesn’t feel the same way about her, he will never be at peace.

In an echo of one of the more beautiful scenes of this cour, Inaho wakes up to the sound of his relieved big sister, sitting by his side. When Inaho resolves to get right back to work immediately, Yuki knows she can’t stop him, and not just because he outranks her. Instead, they wish each other good luck and agree to have dinner when he gets back, though Inaho remarks that to promise such a thing could be construed as a death flag.

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Inko tries to stop him too, showing her concern without going so far as to confess or anything, but as Calm knows, no one is going to stop Inaho from going out there and fighting. This leads to an oddly meta exchange:

Inko: Do you think you’re some hotshot ace? That you’re special?
Inaho: I’ve never thought that about myself.

Inaho is joking here, right? He’s just super deadpan about it.

When Asseylum is finally able to contact her grandfather, she sees that he’s too far gone mentally to be fit to rule, knows what her next step must be, and takes it.

Her gramps is also upset that his son died in Heaven’s Fall, but revenge is no reason to subjugate another planet, even if he was of sound mind.

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As the UEF musters for a Final Showdown, Slaine prepares to address his fellow Orbital Knights with a motivational speech. Unfortunately for him, Cruhteo II has more clever techs, because Asseylum is able to override that speech and broadcast on all channels.

She’s got some big news for everyone: First of all, she declares her succession to Empress of the Vers Empire. Then she confirms her betrothal to Baby Cruhteo. Finally, she expresses her, and by extension, the royal family’s, desire for peace with Earth.

Inaho helped get her here, but she had to take the stand, and she did, even if it dooms Slaine. Now we’ll see who among the Orbital Knights will recognize her authority.

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Though I consider myself a strong Seylum+Inaho shipper, I’m not perturbed by the fact that Asseylum—the real Asseylum, not her sister in disguise—must ultimately sacrifice any possible romantic future with Inaho for the good of the empire.

It just makes sense: she’s going to have a hard enough time garnering the support of the Orbital Knights with a real, non-adopted Count by her side; asking them to accept a Terran would be too much, so that’s that. But hey, if Inaho survives, maybe he’ll get smart and pursue Inko. She’s an ace too, you know!

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Death Parade – 11

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Death Parade scores its first perfect 10 with Chiyuki’s wondrous ice skating scene, which combines the series’ trademark beauty with enchanting music, top notch animation, and wordless story telling. What’s more, Nona and Oculus finally come to a clash and Ginti’s judgement of Mayu (and Harada?!) comes to a dramatic close.

I dare say, Mayu’s sub-plot nearly steals the spotlight. It’s brutal, emotional, and mind bending that DP’s creators did more with it as a side story, spread over so few episodes, than their master-plot in 11.

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Why was Mayu’s plot so effective? In a nutshell, Mayu is a simpler, yet more rounded character than Chiyuki and the smaller, but more clearly defined plot around her has more obvious stakes.

Mayu loves Harada, and owes much of her life’s inspiration to him. More importantly, after death (and their failed judgement) Harada increases Mayu’s devotion by revealing that her letters did reach him and that he was inspired by her.

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So we understand the characters’ connections and feel the burden when Ginti offers Mayu a choice: if Mayu chooses to send another soul to the void, Harada’s soul will return with her in reincarnation.

It’s obviously a trap, and even Mayu knows her decision will be wrong (morally) but what elevates the plot from trivial side-tragedy to masterpiece, is how the mean-spirited Ginti’s hell-vision of the void proves so wrong.

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Plummeting down the elevator, sensing that she’s been betrayed, Mayu embraces Harada. Then his eyes open, they embrace, and their skin/souls are wrapped apart in a final instant.

The implication is clear: they will never return to being, Mayu and Harada end eternally together. And the arbiters clearly know nothing at all about what is going on…

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Meanwhile, Chiyuki’s backstory is revealed in flashes while she skates Quindecim’s new ice rink. It’s simple but has to be so since it is delivered without dialog: her love of skating began when her mother read Chavvo, continued through school and eventually lead to a professional career… but abruptly ended with an injury and eventual suicide.

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The slightly silly reason Chiyuki eventually gives Decim for killing herself, which relates to the impossibility of people understanding one another, is thankfully besides the point.

Yes, I get that it ties her life directly into the greater Chavvo plot, but the real point is that her life makes Decim think, and that the length of time they are together and the amount of questioning she does, makes him think harder about what is going on.

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And Decim thinks that judgement, like life, needs to include the living (or at least the lived) lest it be hollow. Then he offers Chiyuki a final drink…

and slips her a mickey.

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I don’t know where this is going next week but I love it as an unexpected twist.

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If I had any gripes at all this week, it’s the Nona/Quin/Oculus plot. Rather, I don’t think the plot has enough build up to make for an engaging conflict over-which Decim and Chiyuki’s love must triumph next week.

But that’s next week and I can’t hold that against this week. This week was emotional resonant for four characters, illustrative of the differences between soul-less and soul-enabled Arbitors, advanced the master plot, tied up a side plot, and was lovely lovey lovely to hear and look at.

Show not tell for the win!

Durarara!! x2 Shou – 11

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This episode’s title references the fact there’s no use crying over spilled milk, which is, in Mikado’s case, the perversion of his Utopian Dollars gang into a regular old gang. His free-wheeling philosophy for the group lent itself to attracting scoundrels, and scoundrels are precisely what he has to deal with this week, fellow Dollars or no.

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Even though there’s no rule against Dollars taking hostages, it’s something Mikado won’t accept. Realizing the milk has been spilled, he grabs some proverbial paper towels and starts sopping that milk up. Even he can’t avoid action rather than talk; things have progressed too far for that.

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Meanwhile, in that schoolyard, Kodata and Chitage start brawling in the school yard,  but even though Chitage is still battered from his encounter with Shizuo, the two are almost exactly evenly matched, even throwing the occasional identical punch, kick, or headbutt. They do plenty of damage, but no one seems to have the advantage.

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Mikado can’t do much against small-fry Dollar punks who kidnap Chitage’s girlfriend Non and her three friends (one of them Mikado’s classmate), other than stand in their way until they knock him down and pummel him. But the fact he stood up to them and for his ideals of what the Dollars should and shouldn’t be, means a lot.

Also, we knew Anri wasn’t far behind him, and lucky for Mikado, she’s tough enough for both of them. Mikado shows his own resolve by vowing he’ll keep pursuing the kidnappers, before even seeking medical treatment. Anri decides to accompany him, assuring him she can be “somewhat useful” (understatement of the year).

It’s a nice moment for these two, with Anri in the role as protector, but Mikado not digging to deep into why she’s so good at protecting, because it’s a sore subject.

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Masaomi is getting more and more restless in self-exile, and Saki picks up on it. She reminds him while she’s his girlfriend, they’re not friend friends in the same way he is with Mikado and Anri. She also assures him no matter what he does, Mikado will never hate him. He’s essentially crying over spilled milk too—worried about the ramifications of his running away—but he has Saki’s full support to return to Ikebukuro and help Mikado out. And right now, Mikado needs all the help he can get.

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Kodata manages to finally beat Chitage, but both men are about to keel over. Kodata asks Chitage to call off his boys, and in exchange, Kodata will make sure his comrades get justice. But when some of those comrades appear, the arrogant leader of whom wants to take Kodata down a few pegs, Kodata and Chitage join forces to teach them a lesson.

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Then the hostages come out, and all of a sudden superior strength is no longer the order of the day. Mikado and Anri have arrived, but before they can do anything Anri is jumped by Varona, who is as curious about Anri as she is disappointed Mikado is just a human.

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Varona sets off a flash-bang, and in the ensuing disorientation and chaos, Dollars brought by Walker and Erika rescue the hostages, while Walker decides to  lay some Tsukuyomi Komoe-style justice of his own.

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Then Shizuo shows up, holding Varona’s motorcycle like someone rolling in a keg about to join the pah-tay. This episode aptly illustrate’s Drrr!’s knack for snowballing events nearly out of control, as well as plucking numerous characters from every corner of Ikebukuro and dropping them in the same schoolyard.

But with Mikado on the scene and Masaomi on the way, all that spilled milk is on its way to being cleaned up.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 23

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The penultimate GARO is almost non-stop action, but action informed by some very nice character texturing on both sides. Mendoza vs. The World isn’t that interesting on its surface, but it’s made more interesting by the people fighting for and against him, along with those on the outside looking in.

The latter group is represented by Ximena, who loves Herman and is worried sick, but when she sees her fellow townsfolk coming together to organize an evacuation, she shifts her focus. Ximena may not be a major character, but we know her well enough to know this is exactly what she’d do in such a situation: put others before herself.

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But like I said, she’s on the outside. On the inside, some crazy shit is going down. Mendoza has bestowed Octavia with Majuu armor, which feeds off her body and soul, but as long as she can withstand that feeding, it makes her able to fight on the same level as Makai Knights and Alchemists, giving our heroes a headache.

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I’m glad Herman was wrong and Octavia still has her human body under there, beauty mark, freckles, and wits (such as they are): for her to have transformed into a mindless, faceless automaton would have been a big shame. Instead, she goes out fighting for what she believes in, which is that Mendoza is her god.

The way she cradles Mendoza’s loose forearm, isn’t so much gross as pathetic, but at the same time, you can’t deny her undying loyalty and commitment to someone who did save her more than once.

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I also like how Ema sets things up so Octavia gets tossed out of the inner chamber with her and Alfie, but not before Ema plants a big ol’ smooch on Leon, leaving Mendoza to Leon. The kiss plants Leon in the here and now and calms him, and she urges him not to lose himself…again. Then Ema uses one of Mendoza’s toys to move her and Alfie’s battle with Octavia to that modern-day city, spicing things up quite a bit.

Leon dives down to the bottom of the abyss and confronts Mendoza, who is ready for him with some fresh psychological warfare: the sight of Herman, relieved of limbs and encased in red crystal to join the other souls in the giant dagger intended for Anima.

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But after all the growing and maturing Leon’s gone through, he’s done being manipulated into blind rage by this old fart, which Mendoza can’t help but respond with a half-impressed snort. Whether Leon can keep it together or not doesn’t matter to him; he’s convinced he’s going to have his way with the world.

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Octavia proves a nasty customer by breaking out of Ema’s illusiory city, and the wild aerial battle continues, culminating with her and Alfie balanced on either end of a long wooden plank in midair. GARO doesn’t hold back on the fancypants, acrobatic, gravity-defying combat, and it’s all very slick and fun. Hannah could probably watch this stuff all day, and I’d probably watch it with her.

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The whole elaborate struggle is grounded in the two sides’ contrasting loyalties: Octavia to Mendoza, and Ema and Alfie to the public good, as per their responsibilities both as Makai warriors and in Alfie’s case, as his kingdom’s prince and protector. They’re not worried about Leon or the odds of winning, they’re only focused on getting the job done.

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But so is Octavia; only her job is to dispose of them. After Ema shoots Alfie up to the floating Watchdog center whatsit, she duels with Octavia in the matchup I’d been waiting for. It’s not long or drawn out, but it’s good stuff indeed, with Ema learning Octavia asked to be given the armor knowing full well it would kill her.

Ema can only lament what she sees as the worthlessness of Octavia’s cause. Whatever Mendoza did for her, he isn’t deserving of her fanatical devotion. But he has it all the same, even as Octavia breathes her last and is consumed by the Majuu, which Ema destroys soon after before collapsing herself, having taken a leg shotgun to the chest.

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As for Alfie, he shoves his sword into some kind of field protecting the structure he flew up to, and though his armor and sword crumble to bits in the process, he does manage to break through, and the structure disappears.

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By the episode’s end, all three of our remaining heroes are in desperate need of some Phoenix Down. Hell, a few Phoenix Pinions couldn’t hurt either. They’ve made their stands, handled themselves well, and done everything in their power to oppose Mendoza.

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But despite the fact they’re all sprawled out on the ground, bleeding and absolutely winded, their remaining foe is none other than the ultimate horror, Anima, who as terrifying to behold in all his towering, giant red dagger-impaled, D-cup glory. How in the hell are our exhausted heroes going to deal with this?

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