Junketsu no Maria – 12 (Fin)

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Junketsu no Maria closes with a story book ending. Maria and Joseph literally ‘live happily ever after,’ according to the narrator, all of the villains are punished and everyone who was nice along the way escapes without a scratch.

Maybe it was a little long winded and maybe it was a bit silly on the philosophy front but, over all, I found it satisfying and a thorough farewell to the cast.

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To sum up: Michael and Maria have their final show down but the action doesn’t last long. Even with the witches, the old gods, and Joseph all supporting her, Michael  is untouchable.

However, instead of killing team Maria, Michael psychically interviews all of the show’s side characters and ascertains that Maria is ultimately a good neighbor. Her opposition to conflict is so basic that he could even say she is part of the natural order now, which makes her out of his realm of responsibility.

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However, he can’t let Ezekiel’s regular opposition go unpunished and so he banishes her from heaven… to be reborn as Maria’s child. Similarly, Le Comte eventually accepts Joseph’s love for Maria, and accepts Maria herself I guess because he’s not a totally bad bad.

Meanwhile, Bernard loses his mind and tries to start a new religion … but explodes into a pile of sand when he freaks out at Michael during their psychic interview. Gilbert is emotionally scared by all of this but, as he’s not really been a figure for evil during the story, his punishment is limited to witnessing the explosion and having to burn Bernard’s documents after the fact.

Oh and Garfa gets nothing for his greed, other than some coins and to live.

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What didn’t work? Well… most of the dialog is gibberish. Not that a show of this complexity should be expected to weave a coherent philosophical explanation for itself but Maria dug its mumbo-jumbo hole pretty deep.

That said, presenting Maria’s narrative out as God accepting her as a ‘good neighbor’ was perfectly fine. It also gave a continued connection between Maria and Ann’s grandmother, and the village by extension.

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Maria was a very fun show to follow. Strangely, none of the grounded, historical tech and technique made it into the final episode but that’s besides the point. The finale was all about the characters and for us to see them off — and see them off happy.

And for all the darkness those characters endured along the way, thats the best, most cathartic way to leave them.

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Plastic Memories – 01 (First Impressions)

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My first impressions of the futuristic sci-fi anime Plastic Memories weren’t all that great. The show just felt a bit off to me from beginning to end, starting with the protagonist Mizugaki Tsukasa stating in his thoughts that he may have fallen in love with the android Isla the moment he laid eyes on her, before he has any idea who or what she is.

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From there, we go on to Newbie’s First Day, with his new co-workers feeling him out while telegraphing their personalities in the most unsubtle way possible. I just felt like I’ve met all these people before, especially Isla and Tsukasa, only with different names and eye colors. Everyone comes off as a bland cypher.

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The uninspired characters aren’t the only problem, though they’re a big one (the impish Zack and tsundere Michiru are particularly grating). While this is the future and we see some futuristic cityscapes, the show doesn’t feel all that futuristic or special; there’s no awe or grandeur.

More importantly, I have a problem with their whole business of selling androids that are treated like family for nine years, then ceremoniously “terminated” by the team Tsukasa joins. Like…what the hell?

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I don’t doubt there’s money in such an enterprise, and maybe this is my early 21st century liddite-ism talking, but it just feels like the company is exploiting the grief or loneliness of their customers. The crassness is amplified by the generally cavalier attitudes and zany antics of the team members, the fact Tsukasa is sent into the field with zero training, and the fact that Isla fails about 90% of the time.

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The tonal dissonance of the show reaches its apex when Isla finally speaks form her own experience as an aging giftia to persuade the “grandmother” of Nina to sign the release form so they can “retrieve” her. I don’t say this often, but as well-performed and well-animated as it was, this tearful scene felt manipulative, after all the slapstick that preceded it. I was more weirded out by the macabre-ness of it all than moved.

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The seriousness of that scene is also undone when, in Tsukasa’s final scene with Isla in the car is a joke about her having to go potty. Har har. What with Tsukasa being just barely there as a character, and his so far arbitrary and unearned feelings for Isla, and the general discomfort I have with the whole 9-year android business, I believe it best to pass on this show. But I’ll watch another week or two to see if any of the issues I mentioned are remedied.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 13

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When UBW’s first season wrapped three months ago, things were in a very bad way, and they only get worse this week, although from one perspective, perhaps it’s best that what happened happened for the sake of moving forward.

That may not quite explain why Saber is in such a suggestive position with the back of her gown hiked up, but that’s a small detail; suffice it to say she’s trying to fight Caster. She’s not yet a full thrall, but she has to fight her own body to resist.

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With Shirou no longer Saber’s Master, and still recovering from his severe wounds, this first episode back is full of doubt and dread, with the feeling that everything is high up in the air…and extremely breakable, so when it all comes down it will shatter. But that hopelessness only goes so far. We know Shirou will make a comeback in some form or another, it’s only a question of where and when.

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That where and when is decidedly not here and now, but Shirou still can’t keep his nose out of Holy Grail business. Which is just as well, as we find out later.

The moment Rin mentioned part of why she was going after Caster now was so that she could restore Saber to Shirou and thus restore their alliance, I knew Archer would have some misgivings about such a plan. What I didn’t expect is that those misgivings would be strong enough for him to straight-up betray Rin and join Caster.

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To be fair, Archer is a super-pragmatic guy who follows strength and goes with the odds, not ideals or hope or emotion. Rin’s motivations stunk of all three. He also warned her several times whether she really wanted to visit Caster, perhaps knowing what he’d do when they did. The fact he’s pieced together the fact she’s the famed, peerless Princess Medea made that choice all the easier.

Still, Archer’s still a billowing billowing dickweed for turning his cloak on Rin, especially in the middle of their battle. Yet, rather than allow Caster to finish Rin and Shirou (who leapt out from the shadows to save her), he makes their survival a condition of him joining her.

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Why the sentimentality all of a sudden? Aren’t the weak useless? Perhaps part of him hopes Rin will come back stronger than ever to wrest him from Caster’s grip…even if he knows she’ll never forgive him for this. Rin, for her part, promises she’ll do just that.

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Now that Rin and Shirou are in the same boat. It looks as if the two could be walking home as if they’d simply stayed at school late doing club activities, rather than walking away from their captive servants; one taken against her will, one who went over willingly. They lost the big game, having come up a bit short, but they’re still alive, and not out of it yet. Shirou insists the best thing to do is to go home, rest, and formulate their next move.

When Rin asks Shirou why he went into that church with that injury, he tells her how her raw emotional wounds must hurt far more than his shoulder, and promises she can whine and gripe about it all she wants when they get home, and he’ll listen gladly; a gesture that moves her to tears.

 

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Later, atop a starlit hill, Shirou confesses why he really saved her life: because he has feelings for her; feelings he’s no longer afraid to report. Having just witnessed such unbridled honesty, Rin dispenses some of her own, thanking him for coming to her rescue, admitting how happy it made her that he saved her.

I for one was delighted that this season wasted no time addressing this couple. Saying such things took a lot of guts for both of them, but considering how much those guts have been punched of late, the time was nigh for the walls to come down and for the truth to come out in the open. It was also a welcome glimmer of hope in a dark sea of doom and gloom.

If they had the strength to be honest about their feelings, it bodes well for them working together to come up with some way to get their servants back.

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Owari no Seraph – 01 (First Impressions)

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Owari no Seraph’s opening episode was a swift, merciless Saturday afternoon gut punch. It was all about getting things done. I mean, the entire population of earth over thirteen years old simply keels over in the first minute. No messing around!

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As for the little ones who are left, well…my heart’s not made of stone; it’s hard not to sympathize with their plight as they cower in their home and are taken captive by scary red-eyed vampires in robes. The power differential is simply staggering.

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The episode jumps forward four years to when Yuuichirou and his “family” of fellow orphans, including Mikaela and Akane who are his age, live a dreadful underground existence as living blood bags to be periodically squeezed for the vamps’ use. But everyone adapted and made the best of a shitty situation. Yuuichirou is always talking of fighting back one day, and while it’s all talk, the smaller kids believe him, and that hope sustains them.

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It turns out to be Mikaela who actually does something, acquiring a pistol and a map from a vampire noble and suggesting they book it out of there. Nobody here on RABUJOI cared enough for Rolling Girls to watch it all the way through, but that certainly wasn’t because of Wit Studio’s animation, which was very crisp and zany and pretty.

Wit shows RG was no fluke with another gorgeous presentation, only this time the big backgrounds are filled out with lush detail of the subterranean city. Sawano Hiroyuki (Kill la Kill, Aldnoah.Zero, etc.) contributes another soaring score that lends gravitas to the proceedings.

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Unsurprisingly, the kids end up caught by the very noble who liked the taste of Mikaela’s blood so much he kept him around. So far at least, this is not one of those shows with grey areas in the affiliations, as Ferid is pretty much pure evil and likes the look of despair and hopelessness in the kids’ eyes. As they try to run for it, he kills them one by one with lightning speed.

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All of them except Yuuichirou. Mikaela is able to distract Ferid long enough for his brother to get a clean headshot off, but as Ferid had just put his hand through Mikaela, all Yuuichirou can do now is RUN, alone, out into the unknown world. Ideally, twelve-year-olds shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of trauma, but kids are all that’s left of humanity, and those kids have been dealt a tough hand.

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Upon emerging from the caverns, Yuuichirou finds three adult humans in uniform who have been waiting for him, following some kind of “prophesy.” How long have they been out their waiting? Did they take shifts? No matter, they were here when they were supposed to be, and the kid emerged on schedule.

Now they intend to use him to defeat vampires, something Yuuichirou, who may be in shock but is still lucid enough to express his interest in helping them. After all, he pretty much has every reason in the world to want to dedicate the rest of his life to exacting revenge.

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We jump forward another four years, and we see Yuuichirou more grown up and in a very slick-looking suit, patrolling what looks like the ruins of Tokyo. It’s a wordless, music-less scene made all the more powerful by its use of silence and the white noise of the wind, a silence that continues into the credits.

Presumably we’ll watch Yuuichiro’s life as a budding professional punisher of vampires in the episodes to come, but it was a good idea to begin with a prologue that shows us just how much torment he, and probably everyone else who managed to escape the vamps, went through. After all that darkness, I won’t begrudge them their righteous vengeance. Even so, less one-dimensional vamps would make for more compelling foes.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 01 (First Impressions)

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Whoa, what the hell did I just watch? I’ll tell you: something novel, bizarre and ludicrously entertaining from start to finish. Food Wars wastes no time showing us the kind of depraved wackiness it can stir up by giving us this indelible image of Souma’s classmate being ensnared by a giant squid in a sea of peanut butter.

It is a visualization of the grossness and wrongness of the flavor of those two foods when combined; an assault on poor Megumi’s palate in all its metaphoric glory.

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For all the ecchi mischief this episode gets up to, it uses every minute of its running time giving the main hero Souma a complete arc that propels him from his father’s quiet little eatery to the steps of the most elite culinary academy in Japan, blending shonen themes like tradition, moderation, and the comfort of nostalgia butting heads against modernity, excess, progress, and individual growth.

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Early in the episode, Souma’s goals are clear as he nears middle school graduation: continue training in his dad’s restaurant until he’s good enough to inherit it…The End. It’s a simple dream, and not a bad one, either; but it lacks ambition, and it’s indicated that dream doesn’t utilize his full potential.

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That dream also can’t stand up against duel threats coming from both within and without. Let’s get to without first, with the haughty urban life planner, who looks down on Souma, throws her weight around, threatens him, brazenly sabotages his pantry, and laughs maniacally—everything a shonen villain should do.

The traversal of these well-worn storytelling roads is refreshed by the setting of a restaurant and the weapon of food.

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Contrary to the easy, safe dream the developer seeks to stamp out, the challenge she poses brings out the qualities of a shonen hero who might always talk about simple dreams for his future, but will always ultimately be swept up by grander destinies.

Those qualities include pluck, daring, confidence, and resourcefulness, best demonstrated when he fulfills the developers wish for juicy meat by making a “fake pork roast” with bacon wrapped potatoes.

Both the rendering of the food and the animation of its preparation is suitably over-the-top, as if a great battle were being fought, because in Souma’s head, it is.

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Like Koufuku Graffiti, people eating delicious food react in a very overtly, er, amorous way. But like a foe defeated by the hero’s superior skill (or clever trick), the developer’s practical land shark mind can’t compete with her palate, which been set ablaze by the peerless umami-ness.

If she wants to eat more than her first glorious bite, she must give in to his demand she stop going after the restaurant.

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She does, and then both she and her three goons tuck in, resulting in a meat juice-saturated mental orgy of epicurean ecstacy. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have suspected Souma slipped some powerful hallucinogenic drugs in the roast, but no…it’s just really really good.

Again it’s somewhat like Koufuku, bumped up to 11 and rated R. Souma’s food doesn’t just knock socks off, it tears everyone’s clothes away and rummages around in their naughty-bits.

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But Souma can’t enjoy his victory long, as just when he’s cleaning off the defaced sign of the restaurant, his dad announces he’s moving away to work with an old friend, and will be selling the restaurant in two to three years.

Souma, like me, is initially quite wounded by this news, but it didn’t take long for both of us to get it: this isn’t where Souma should settle. He’s bound for bigger, better things.

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He’ll succeed and fail and cause more flavor orgies at the prodigious Engetsu Teahouse Culinary Academy, which has a grad rate of under 10%, he’ll have his work cut out for him, just as a shonen hero should. He’ll also meet friends and enemies and frenemies and enemends whose naked bodies I’m sure we’ll see in due course.

I look forward to watching more of this hilarious, creative…whatever it is, and also to more outstanding metaphors like standing under a waterfall meditating until being hit in the head by a jukebox. It’s pretty Brilliant. Amaburi Brilliant…only raunchier! Moreover, it doesn’t compromise. It gets a weird idea and it commits; no half-measures.

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Oregairu 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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Here’s what I said about Oregairu back in June 2013: “After this season brought the three misfits together and threw challenges at them to strengthen their bonds, we’d like to see a second season in which they, now firmly established as their own little posse, face more challenges, such as the romantic tension between Hikigaya and the girls, while continuing their service work, perhaps with a fourth freshman member? But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.”

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Not the best constructed sentence, but I feel it got the point across in terms of what I was looking for if and when a second season came around. Well, here it is! And what do you know, right off the bat we those challenges start to take shape, some nicely presented romantic tension between Hikky and his two comely club-mates, and a fresh mission involving what else, bringing two people together. The only thing missing is a fourth freshman member, but hey, it’s early!

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I won’t deny I’ve been both spoiled by the crackling good dialogue of Saekano and periodically put off by the overly advanced and pretentious dialogue of Violin Girl. But I never thought I’d be so happy to hear Hikky’s snarky inner monologue again. Hikky’s less wide-eyed than Tomoya and less feckless than Kousei, yet remains unjaded enough to allow himself to be surprised now and again, particularly by the two very different girls in his life right now.

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Oregairu is also playful and efficient when it comes to weaving two service missions into one, with the backdrop of a fun school trip to Kyoto. Tobe likes Hina and wants to get closer to her, which requires them being alone. But Hina wants to strengthen the bonds between her circle of friends, which requires her to not be alone with Tobe.

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Then there’s the fact that Hina is a fujoshi who likes to imagine her male classmates in exciting, complicated relationships, which compliments Hikky’s long-standing, not  necessarily one-sided crush on the very feminine Saika, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say Hikky’s bi; it’s more of an “if only he was a girl” situation.

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As for girls, Hikky’s relationships with both Yui and Yukina remain healthy and stong, if a smidge hamstrung by said romantic tension. Hikky’s discomfort with Yui being so close and friendly and touchy with him underlines the fact he sees her as more than just a friend, and there’s still unresolved things between these two that should provide nice fodder for the season as they work together to tackle missions.

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On the other end of the spectrum, Hikky also can’t deny the appeal of Yukino, nor Yukino Hikky. When talk in the girls’ hotel room turns to her, she escapes and finds refuge in his company. Fortune also favor them this week as their teacher brings them along for some not altogether kosher reason and bribes them with dinner, leaving them to walk home together.

Considering what drew her to Hikky tonight, Yukino is weary of being seen to close with him lest more rumors spiral, but it’s clear at the same time she doesn’t particularly mind Hikky’s company one bit.

My first impression of Oregairu 2 is that I’m glad I asked for and got a second season, and I’m looking forward to watching this intriguing triangle’s dynamics develop further, especially if and when the club is graced with a new member, representing yet another personality type.

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DanMachi – 01 (First Impressions)

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My Spring 2015 opens with the charming Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka, which almost immediately reminded me of Hitsugi no Chaika in a good way. The cold open is quick and efficient, setting up the god-and-mortal cooperation setup along with a battle in which the serious Saber-like girl (Ais) saves the somewhat Vaan-like mortal guy (Bell), who falls for her on the spot.

Besides this simple but effective reversal of the classic rescuing knight trope, one little detail I liked was how a outdoor merchant reacted to Bell running past, spattering minotaur blood on his stall. He doesn’t yell like I expected; instead, he holds back an amused teehee. This isn’t that a harsh world, and Bell is a bit of a lovable buffoon who bit off more than he could chew.

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Bell lives with his appropriately-named goddess Hestia (virgin goddess of the hearth and home), who is perhaps not so appropriately dressed, but I’ll give her medieval clubbing outfit a pass since she’s a goddess. Hestia is all Bell has, and he’s all she has, but he wants more, and while he’s growing bigger and stronger, she is unchanging in her goddessness.

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I’d say Hestia had a brother complex were it not for the fact Bell isn’t her real brother, but their relationship is very much familial rather than romantic, and while he happens to notice her not unsubstantial bust when he wakes up to her spooning him, it’s clear she’s the underdog against Ais, his new object of affection.

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Bell and Ais only meet face to face in that cold open, but she shows up again in a tavern where Bell is weaseled into buying a ridiculously expensive meal by Syr, one of its servers. There, he and everyone else watches in awe as the Loki familia to which Ais belongs swagger in to celebrate. One of its members has a big mouth and wants to put “tomato boy” Bell (whom he doesn’t know is sitting in there listening) in his place.

In his drunken mocking rant, this guy Bete rather conveniently lays bare all of Bell’s insecurities, namely the patriarchal drive to gain a lady’s favor and become worthy of her by protecting her. He’s also driven by the words of his late grandpa: a dungeon is the best place to meet and prove oneself to the fairer sex, which is an only slightly modernized take on a tale as old as time.

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Bell is clearly not strong enough yet to protect Ais, but simply crossing paths with her seemed to start him on a new and accelerated path of improvement. But when he runs out, unable to hear anymore harsh lip from Bete, I got the feeling that perhaps Bell won’t have to surpass Ais so much as catch up to her, that they might fight side-by-side, rather than one or the other being the hapless benefactor of the others’ strength. Bell certainly hasn’t captured her heart, but he has her attention.

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Bell’s sudden spurt in strength and ability is also something that worries Hestia, because it could mean he’ll drift further and further from her as he draws closer to Ais. But we see just how far Bell has to go when the overzealous brother figure returns home half-unconscious in the morning, utterly dependent on her care.

DanMachi has a hearty helping of J.C. Staff fanservice, and Bell seems to have “lucky dull guy syndrome”, but the first episode does a decent job easing us into its world of gods, magic, and Western names. The show is easy on the eyes and neither hits us with a barrage of terminology nor skimps on the fantasy charm. Overall, a promising start. I’m interested in how Bell gets closer to Ais, and how that’ll effect the nice thing he already has with Hestia.

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Steins Gate – 24 (Fin)

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Look at the void in this frame…it’s not really a void, but infinite possibility

I traveled more than three years into the past to watch Steins;Gate, eager to find out if it really was as great ad many had led on. I had no idea what I was getting into, but because I was told to expect greatness, it gave the show a greater burden to overcome than simply pulling something off the shelf and watching it with absolutely no knowledge of its standing in anime history.

I guess what I’m blathering about is that despite knowing so little and expecting so much, I entered Steins;Gate extremely confident it would meet and exceed any expectations I may have harbored. It also felt like an old friend, like something I had watched before and forgotten, as hard as that is to believe (the forgetting part, that is).

For all I know, in another universe, I have seen it, along with many other shows I’ve never watched in this one. And because memories can transcend the boundaries between universes (because I said so, okay?) I knew I was in good hands; that there’d be no way this show would disappoint. Maybe I have Watching Steiner; who knows. All I know is, I have a new favorite anime.

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A show so earnest and confident and masterful in its layering and weaving of stories wasn’t going to mess up it’s ending. More to the point, it knew after twenty-three episodes, many of them putting us in the emotional spin cycle, that its audience would want a “Good Ending” after the “Bad Ending” of Okabe having to sacrifice Kurisu, and the “Worse Ending” of Okabe killing Kurisu.

It’s also great to see Okabe in high spirits again, even if he is partially putting up a brave front. Everyone’s stoked that the Okarin they know and love is back yukking it up and spouting nonsense. His high tide lifts all boats. And when Mayushii manages to get Okabe to admit he and Kurisu love each other, she gives him her full support in saving her no matter what.

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The fact that Mayushii, like Feyris, is able to remember bits and pieces of other timelines, gives both Okabe and me optimism that if Kurisu is saved, she’ll remember the three weeks she spent with Okarin and the rest of the Future Gadget Lab. It’s not so much Reading Steiner as love crossing the boundaries of world lines, and the stronger the love, the more they can recall. Why else would Kurisu have believed Okabe so quickly so often while he was trying to save Mayushii?

Armed with the Cyalume Saber (powered by stuff that looks like fake blood) a stun gun (to knock out Kurisu and lay in said fake blood) and most importantly, the knowledge of who’s going to be where and when, Okabe goes back with Suzu. He buys the Metal Upa so when Mayushii buys one, it’s not metal and doesn’t end up on Nakabachi. Kinda awesome a 100-yen toy is the key to preventing a temporal arms race and Third World War, but that’s the infinite possibility of time for ya.

I want to point out, the music throughout this episode is fantastic. I has the perfect balance of urgency, occasion, an impending end (one way or another), and ambient casualness, making for a stirring “final dungeon” soundtrack.

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Meanwhile, in his exuberance to get on with the mission, Okabe neglected to check if the liquid in the Saber was still liquid. If he’d discovered it had dried up before going back in time, he’d have had time to procure some fake blood from a nearby store (it IS Akiba). Alas, he only finds out he has no fake blood when he’s about to use it. Just as a little metal toy can lead to the decimation the human population, a little slip-up like this can place his last chance to save Kurisu in jeopardy.

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No matter: I knew as soon as I saw that dried-up liquid, before he looked at his own hand, that the mission was still alive; he’d simply have to use real blood; his own. When he interrupts the pleasant father-daughter discussion, this time he has a cool head and even uses his usual theatricality to throw Nakabachi off.

Okabe is front and center, with Kurisu in a much better position in the room to avoid knife charges. Nakabachi has no choice but to pay attention to him and only him. Greatest of all about Okabe’s entrance is that this isn’t Chuunibyou or delusional behavior on display: Okabe really has come to save Kurisu and rearrange the world order.

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He’s also a true hero, who literally takes a knife to the gut to complete his mission. Whatever questionable stuff one can accuse him of doing to get to where he is now, this act absolves him of most if not all of it. Getting stabbed fucking sucks. I’m not speaking from experience, mind you, but even in animated form it’s obvious that it does. And S;G’s sound effects make that even more clear.

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Nakabachi gets Okabe pretty good, but Okabe is able to stay concious long enough to scare the shit of of Nakabachi, forcing him to flee, and then zapping Kurisu with the stun gun. You can see the fates conspiring with Okabe in the depths of Nakabachi’s eyes, willing him to GTFO. Nakabachi is no mastermind villain, just another variable that has to be manipulated at the right time and place, like a Metal Upa.

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Okabe arranges Kurisu face down in his own blood, creating a scene identical to the one he himself saw those same three weeks ago. This scene overwrites the one in which he accidentally stabbed Kurisu, so the horrifying death scene Past Okabe and we witness/witnessed in the very first episode was really the other Okabe’s art project. We know that because we witness it again with Okabe, just before Suzu hauls helps him back into the time machine. MISSION COMPLETE…and it feels so good.

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So what is the Steins Gate World Line like? Well, it’s everything you’d expect from jumping through every hoop, choosing the right dialogue for each character, and collecting every hidden secret crystal: the previously stated “Good Ending.” In it, Okabe recovers from his wound and proceeds to give every Lab Member he’d appointed in the previous world lines a pin, making their membership official in this one.

It’s a beautiful little gesture that reminds us that before it became all about saving people he loved from being killed off by time, and even during those times, this was a show about a bunch of strange, unique, interesting people coming together to collectively do great things. Okabe needed every single Lab Member to accomplish what he did, and his warmth and charisma and crazy ideas, made that coming together happen.

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He, and we, are finally rewarded by not only getting Kurisu back, but having them meet by chance on the (very!) busy streets of Akiba, home to the Culture of Cute as it should be. And not only do they meet; Kurisu remembers him, because they share a bond only Mayushii’s can compare to, one in which two people who love each other deeply don’t forget that love just because the world line has changed.

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There’s a lovely understated elegance to Okabe and Kurisu’s pre-curtain reunion. No big dramatic music calculated to rend the heart just so; no sudden change in the world’s palette; just two people suddenly realizing they just crossed paths with the one they love, and affirming it with a few simple, in-character words as the sound of the bustling city around them fades. Kurisu being alive may have been enough for Okabe, but not me. Her being alive and back in his life is a far better outcome.

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P.S. Whew…now that was a good show, wasn’t it? But I know; these 24 episodes aren’t all there is. I’ll get to episode 25 soon enough, along with the film. Looking forward to both. Thanks for reading!

Junketsu no Maria – 11

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Picking up hot on last week’s tale, Edwina takes Maria to the battlefield and reveals that she was the source of paralysis gas (and Garfa’s arm). But the little details aren’t the point of this episode, even though there are a ton of gems sprinkled throughout.

No, the point of this episode is making sense of everyone’s feelings and bringing a close to the hostilities between France and England. At least, within geographic reach of Maria.

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ignoring why Joseph is there in the first place, he makes a good point about Garfa: He’s the same as Maria. They are both strong, strong willed to the point of being stubborn, and use their strength to pursue the purpose they have assigned to their lives.

This does not go well and at last lends some coherent emotion to the nicely animated fight. (which, in the tradition of the show, is the opposite of over-the-top in rendering and style)

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Meanwhile Gilbert confronts Bernard about the witches medicine, which Bernard admits he knew he was using to help the people. Rules be damned, anything in the world can make the world a better place. (and to better the church’s position)

This declaration also doesn’t go well. However, unlike Garfa, Gilbert doesn’t try to run anyone through in a haze of frustration. That said, I get the feeling Bernard is about to get an unexpected smack down from the inquisition…

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Continuing to tie in all the loose threads, the Old God tries to make Ann forget Maria, possibly to force Maria onto his side, but it doesn’t work. Ann’s support is iron clad, much as the Church fears it to be, and when Joseph finally defeats Garfa, Maria’s tree house (and powers) are quickly restored.

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As to Joseph’s victory… let’s just look above at the hilarious take down assist brought to him by Maria. She’s so unabashedly hard core about it that I can hardly fault Joseph for his lengthy banter and refusal to accept his worth in her eyes.

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The resolve, starting with their exchanged vows and ending with the tree-ification of the castle, was all quite nice. As with everything this episode, the visual details were all unique and really lent to the wonder and excitement of their coupling.

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And then the couple is summoned by Arch Angel Michael and who knows where the series is headed for its final episode? Honestly? I don’t care at all — it’s been a lovely ride all along and, typically sluggish middle or note, it was well worth all of our attention.

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Junketsu no Maria – 10

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Episode 10 asks a leading question: is human emotion better or worse than God’s lack of emotion… or is there any distinction between the two in the first place?

Certainly Michael’s violence isn’t as base as Garfa’s but it’s easy to argue that Michael’s mixture of intervention and indifference put Garfa (and his many victims) in the situation in the first place. If humans only exist to suffer before death and transition to the afterlife, and that no amount of prayer will change the degree of their suffering nor bring about otherworldly protection (except from Maria), the shows depictions of greed and violence become an understandable offshoot of survival of the fittest.

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And that’s saying nothing of Michael’s direct acts of violence. First with Maria and now, nearly killing Viv for calling him out on being an empty automaton.

While I suppose this is all rather heavy handed, I appreciate that JnM is subtle enough to leave the question unanswered. Ezekiel is emotionally broken (though it’s not clear why she has emotions in the first place) and humans are particularly violent for much of the episode.

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Bernard’s total lack of attention even mirror’s Ezekiel’s. He’s said his piece, feels the rules are being followed, and moves on content to let the masses do whatever they want.

In a pleasing twist of events, Edwina shows up and saves Maria from burning at the stake and Gilbert, Bernard’s underling, recognizes Edwina’s cat/girl familiar as the source of the church’s medicine… which causes his own internal conflict.

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Unfortunately, the episode suffers from Joseph having garbled reasons for being away at war and Garfa being pure evil. I just don’t get how we’re supposed to buy into Joseph going to war for glory to… use his glory to save Maria? It doesn’t make any sense.

Similarly, Garfa has gone from being an interestingly gray character to some smirking, knife handed, “gonna kill you in the church” jackal. I suppose I ‘buy’ that he could turn out this way but I don’t find it very interesting…

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It’s worth noting that despite all the animation in this episode — and there was a lot with wonderful technical detail — it was not animated very well. Scenes jerk together with no transition sequence, walk cycles are choppy, and many of the characters look… off.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Kami-Haji wastes no time piling on the adorableness in its final episode. Lil’ Nanami is button cute, just the kind of person you want to hold and squeeze and protect for all time. But we learn along with Tomoe that that cuteness is tempered by a steely resolve to look out for herself and be wary of men; advice given by her mother, who herself could not escape a life of bad luck with a crappy excuse for a man. We also learn that the women in her family only ever bear more women, all of them beautiful.

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Tomoe is positively transfixed by this educational foray into Nanami’s past, and even though Mizuki tries on numerous occasions to nudge him to put an end to it, Tomoe watches on, even as things go from bad (Nanami’s mother dying, as expected) to worse (Nanami living with her awful dad, who does nothing but goof off and burn their house down). The things that happen to Nanami are almost comically cruel, but for all the slapstick mixed in with the narrative, the episode never makes light of her plight.

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It also makes it clear these are the experiences that made Nanami the young woman she is today, and that something great and beautiful can come out of all that suffering and hardship. With that, Mizuki again confronts the lil’ Nanami to try to coax her back to the present, and again, she flees from Mizuki, who if we’re honest doesn’t have the most trustworthy aura about him.

Tomoe is different, though. Even though he’s a man, Nanami seems to trust him implicitly. Is it the connection she has with him in the present shining through here, or the connection between her family lineage and the god who granted them beauty at a heavy yet bearable and character-building cost?

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Tomoe isn’t just a fan of lil’ Nanami because she’s adorable. He also likes the fact that everything she desires is clear to him here in her flashback world, as things she concentrates more on appear with more detail and in greater focus. Seeing everything she wants to clearly, and having the power to grant it all, Tomoe’s devotion for her grows. Here, when asked if he truly loves her and is someone she can count on, he can answer directly: yes he does.

Heck, he even proposes marriage, and she accepts…but when the grown Nanami wakes up, she’s seemingly forgotten everything about her dream, which deflates Tomoe quite a bit, because he thought he’d actually made progress.

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He laments the fact that the happy-go-lucky yet delicate girl he was able to confess to so easily was lost in the twelve years since, especially when she’s able to single-handedly convince the zodiac sheep to allow the new year god to shear him. Then Nanami surprises Tomoe again and makes him rethink everything when the Year God furnishes her with a photo of her mother.

Now, that wouldn’t seem such an impactful gift, but considering her mother died when Nanami was very young and all photos of her were lost in the fire (a heartbreaking fact), it means multitudes for Nanami to finally see her face clearly. And in doing so, Tomoe sees that neither Lil’ Nanami nor her mother really vanished; they’re still within Nanami.

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Back at the Shrine, Nanami is back to work on her talismans, and Tomoe is back to work denigrating their poor quality, earning her defiant scowls. But when relaxing after a long day ushering in the new year for worshippers and the like, Nanami settles down for some tea and TV with her shrine family, whom she’s been with now for a year.

When she steps outside, the falling snow reminds her of what a shadowy figure once said to her in a half-forgotten memory of the past (which we know to have just happened at the Torii gates), in which Tomoe tells her younger self she won’t always be alone and wary, but be “the lady and mistress of a household more rowdy than she could wish for.”

And so it’s come to pass. She has a family, without having resorted to marriage she’d sworn off. And yet, when asked again, Nanami adds the qualified “probably” to that swearing-off, opening the door for Tomoe, if he wishes to walk through it.

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