Kekkai Sensen – 09

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As Libra, joined by another one of Jugei’s pupils, the half-man, half-fish Zed O’Brien, contine battling the blood breed, Black & White’s story thankfully comes into better focus. We also see HSL’s tentacle defense system in action, knocking the cargo plane the blood breed hijacked out of the sky (This is the second show in a row I’ve watched with vampires operating military planes. Weird!).

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The cockpit of the plane crashes into a giant skyscraper, and Klaus, Zapp and Leo do a little BASE jumping, a sequence that really nicely captures the scale of the building and the drop into the big hole the plane made. Just another instance of the extraordinary made ordinary in HSL.

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While they’re battling, something glows and beats like a heart in an eerie city-sized GeoFront-like cavern.

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Black, or rather the guy possessing Black, seems to have something to do with this beating heart, but nothing seems to come of it, much to the disappointment of Femt and Aligura, fellow n’er-do-wells looking for excitement.

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The blood breed puts up a fight, but is ultimately defeated by the combined efforts of KK, Zapp, Zed, Steve, and Klaus, using the true name Leo discovered to seal him away. And that’s pretty much that. Zed joins Libra, and Jugei peaces out, possibly for another decade. All’s well that ends well.

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But all is not well with White, who also seems tied to that underground heartbeat, passes out, and wakes up in bed, where Black, or rather the entity possessing him, give her a device Aligura fashioned for him, which will allow White to take Leo’s eyes. As Leo is now a friend, White, or rather Mary, doesn’t want to do it, but the agreement was the eyes in exchange for releasing Black, or rather Will.

It’s an unenviable choice between her good friend and kind lad and her beloved twin brother, who sacrificed himself to save her. On the one hand, she feels a duty to her kin, but I wonder if Will would really want her to help a monster to save him. What with Klaus saying Leo’s eyes weren’t the only reason they let him join Libra, maybe Leo isn’t fated to have them forever.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 21

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Yes. The long, long battle between Shirou and his alternate future self continues this week, though thankfully comes to an end around the halfway point. I say thankfully, because as cool as the animation is and as beautiful a setting their fighting in and as poignant the points both combatants are making are, I’ve kinda seen and heard enough, and I was really ready to move on.

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While standing around bearing witness to the Shirous, Saber sees a little of herself in the duality, remembering her days as a farm girl before she drew the Excalibur from the stone. “Even if nothing but regrets remained, if I was able to achieve many of my ideals in the process, then…” Saber trails off, but I believe she means to say it was worth making the choice she made, though both possibilities were correct.

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Shirou, too, doesn’t care about the regrets that have burden Archer and brought on his suicidal rage. His dream to help others so they can be happy is beautiful, and he won’t abandon it. His dream isn’t wrong. The universe around him would tend to agree, because no matter what Archer throws at him, he’s able to slash it away. He’s got almost no mana left, but his spirit is unbreakable.

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The Unlimited Blade Works setting suddenly vanishes, and we’re back in the mansion, with Shirou scoring a fatal blow to Archer. And all because the split second before Shirou stabs him, Archer recalls the memory of sitting on the porch, taking Kuritsugu to step back and let him carry on that wish.

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Oddly enough, it’s Shirou, the victor, who collapses in a pile, as Archer stands his ground, defeated but dignified. He accepts defeat and seems ready to depart, but then he’s stabbed by swords from Gilgamesh.

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Gil, the “genuine article”, means to destroy both of the “fakes” that stand before him, ruining his day, but in his last moment of life, Archer plays the hero once more, shoving Shirou aside and taking the full attack head on, vaporizing him. Rin, abandoning all common sense, shoots a little magic bolt at Gil, shifting his gaze to her, but fortunately, Saber is there to protect her.

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Gil, who was Archer in the previous war, delays killing everyone in order to initiate a enlightenment/gloating session, in which he tells Saber, Rin, and Shirou that the Holy Grail itself is a weapon; a gateway to Hell itself, capable of killing billions of humans. His goal is to do just that, and anyone who survives what pours forth from the grail will be “worthy of his rule.”

Then pieces around the mansion start to fall, and he halts his attack once more, worried about getting soot on him. This was an odd choice, because you’d think if he could effortlessly do so, he’d eliminate anyone who was even the slightest bit of a threat against his plans. Instead, he’s almost challenging them to foil those plans, despite saying their lives are worth less than soot to him.

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So Gil just struts off, finding the wounded Shinji in the forest, and decides to turn him into the vessel for the grail, and Shinji undergoes an Akira-style transformation that is none too pleasant. Then again, this show has been extremely clear about how huge of a piece of crap Shinji is, so this kind of an improvement.

This episode was an improvement over last week’s more open-ended affair, but still suffered a bit from repeating itself too often. There’s also the problem that Gilgamesh is a two-dimensional demigod with lofty but obvious goals of world destruction and domination. In other words, he’s not as interesting a foe as Archer was; not yet, anyway. Prove me wrong, F/sn.

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Owari no Seraph – 09

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Owari no Seraph brings the action this week, starting with a gloriously ridiculous cold open in which a squadron of Vampire Apaches are taken out by a line of Demon Army archers, before two higher-ranking Vamps fly a C-130 into Shinjuku’s barrier wall, blasting a huge hole in the humans’ defense.

It looked for all the world like a suicide attack, but not only do the two co-pilots survive without a scratch, but they even carry on a casual, Joss Whedon-style dialogue, like it’s just another day at the office.

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Things are a bit tenser for our young Moon Demon Company members, as the war literally comes to them and doesn’t ask if they’re ready. Thankfully, they are, and we get to see the whole gang flying and slashing through the air in a brilliant sequence that captures the tense chaos. Unlike many action blockbusters, the relatively steady camera makes it pretty easy to see what’s actually going on, which I appreciated.

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As I said last week, the setting of all this fighting couldn’t be more gloomily appropriate: the ruins of Shinjuku are a constantly unsettling reminder of what’s already been lost and how little is left. Particularly striking is the shot of a school—once the site of silly clubs and laughter and columns of teammates chanting “Fight-o”—converted to a field hospital. Even if all the vampires were to drop dead, we’re not even sure humanity’s gene pool is diverse enough for the species to survive. And many humans will die before this new offensive is over.

I also liked the contrast between the urgency of Yuu & Co. with the relative calm of Guren and his immediate subordinates. They’re veterans who have seen it all, or close to it, and they seem a little more comfortable in their skins and confident in their abilities. Even when Guren spots Feris with a scope and Feris stares right back, it doesn’t faze him. He’s also on a first-name basis with the others, like the power-punching Mito.

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Like Guren, Feris is just kind of chilling as the underlings get valuable battle experience; ready to swoop in if there are any problems. Mika is with Feris, but soon goes off on his own. Feris’ insistence he drink someone’s blood takes Mika back to his first days as a baby vamp, during which Krul Tepes was trying to get him to do the same.

Mika refused a human boy’s blood, and knocked a cup of Krul’s own blood out of her hand…but the sound of that blood pouring and splattering on his face has a visceral effect, and in a moment of possible weakness, possible necessity, he finally digs into her arm. She’s very clear: Mika is her dog, and will always be her dog. In the present, he still carries vials of Kurl’s blood—no one else’s—and he has 10 days of it before he needs more, during which time he hopes to find Yuu.

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That makes Krul’s blood a drug that keeps Mika alive and not a reasonless demon. Turns out, it’s also drugs that, in a pinch, give the humans the edge they need to have a chance against higher-ranking vamps. Shinoa whips them out as casually as Bleach’s Kuchiki Rukia introduces the body-swapping Soul Candy to Ichigo.

In both cases, a fundamentally terrifying biological transformation is treated like taking your Flintstones vitamins. But that’s Shinoa for you; always keeping it light and breezy.

Then there’s the fact that she gives everyone, including Yuu, more than the maximum of two the human body can tolerate, almost assuring that when he’s in a tough spot, Yuu might get stupid and take more than two.

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There’s a foreboding to the truck driven by Corporal Nagai taking them to the front line, but that’s replaced when an Apache ambushes them. The team works together to save Nagai and destroy the chopper, but they end up separated when the street collapses and they fall into the subway below. Yuu is with Shinoa and the unconscious Nagai and head for the nearest base, while Mitsuba, Yoichi and Shihou head to the defense line where they’ll ideally meet up later.

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Meanwhile, as Mika is milling around, looking for Yuu, a cloud of dust is kicked up, and a detached vamp limb flies by his face. As the dust clears, we see Guren, ready to exterminate his next target. It’s kind of fitting that Yuu’s brothers, past and present, meet before Mika and Yuu, though I don’t see either defeating the other, nor do I see Yuu being brought up unless Yuu himself enters the fray.

However this goes, the buildup in the end, presented without music—just the falling rain and a cut to silence—was very effective. Guren v. Mika: Who ya got?

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Oregairu 2 – 09

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Happiness is:

  • Hikky dreading going back to school after the club’s big conciliatory catharsis.
  • Komachi doing a pitch-perfect impression of Hikky’s condescending mumble, before remarking that she likes this “scum-niichan” just fine, and Hikky agreeing with her.
  • Hikky returning to a very brightly-lit club room to find a perfectly civil, downright chipper (for her) Yukino.
  • An elated Yui wanting to sit as close to Yukino as physically possible.
  • Yukino being both happy and a little uncomfortable with the closeness.

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Happiness is:

  • Yukino and Yui attending the event meeting with Hikky. The cavalry has arrived!
  • Yukino and Yui’s priceless reaction to Hikky and Irohas’ little bag exchange ritual. “What was THAT all about?” their eyes seem to ask…
  • Yukino and Yui both agreeing with Hikky’s opinion of the other president dude, but being unable to enact instant change. Fixing will take some doing.
  • Shizuka giving Hikky, Yukino, Yui and Irohas tickets to Destiny Land to celebrate the club pulling through.
  • Hikky’s demand for someone to marry Shizuka already, before he’s forced to.
  • The gradual reveal that Yukino is not only a yearly member of Destiny Land, but doesn’t want to go during the busy season.
  • Yui and Hikky working together to convince her to come anyway.

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Happiness is:

  • Iroha inviting her crush Hayama, which leads to Miura, Ebina, and Tobe also tagging along. One big happy family. (Unfortunately absent but probably for the best: Kawasaki and Totsuka).
  • The resulting dynamic of Hikky with his two girls (Yukino and Yui), Hayama and his two girls (Miura and Iroha) and Ebina and Tobe, a pairing that Hikky worked so hard to prevent, which led to all that unpleasantness that is now behind them.
  • How Hikky is cut off in the group photo, but the one closest to him is Yukino.

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Happiness is: This photo.

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Happiness is:

  • Yukino teasing Yui about how there will never be a “next time” in which she’ll allow her photo to be taken.
  • Hikky’s realization the two are only joking around and are actually closer than ever.
  • Ebina properly thanking Hikky once more for what he did, knowing what it cost.
  • Hikky telling Ebina his, Yukino’s and Yui’s problem had nothing to do with her request; it had been brewing before; at best it was a catalyst/last straw.
  • Hikky smiling unironically. I know; I’m scared too!
  • Yukino demanding absolute silence on the Panda Battle ride.

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Happiness is:

  • The adorableness that is Yui getting up in Hikky’s face with a panda puppet.
  • The moment Hikky believes Yui is making “the first move” she told him she’d make (last season), rather than wait.
  • The way Hikky agrees to a date at the theme park next door (Amaburi?), “someday,” which is enough for Yui for now.
  • Yui slipping animal ears on herself and Yukino and having Hikky snap their picture.
  • Everyone wanting to give Komachi gifts. She got the ball rolling on Hikky’s redemption, after all. But more than that, she’s just a very cute and lovable sister.

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Happiness is:

  • Circumstances working out so Hikky and Yukino end up separated from the others.
  • Yukino taking Hikky’s sleeve in her hand, asking him to “save her someday,” just before their boat takes the plunge. DAT PLUNGE. The silence…pure poetry.

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Happiness is: Yukino making relative peace with the fact she isn’t like her sister, or Hikky, and may not “have what they have,” but that’s okay, because she still loves them both. (She doesn’t say that part, but it’s pretty evident.)

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Happiness is Hikky, Yukino, and Yui side by side by side, watching the park’s fireworks show, being bathed in warm and cool flashes of light as they wear smiles on their faces.

Happiness is Yukino’s many smiles throughout this episode, in particular that last one looking up at the sky, and Yui whispering to Hikky, again getting as possible close to the person she loves.

Happiness is NOT watching Iroha confess to Hayama, only to get flatly rejected and run off, more upset than we’ve ever seen her.

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However, as unhappy an event as it was, I was very happy with how it was portrayed: from the POVs of the others, in particular Hikky; without words, only expressions half-concealed by the shadows. All the planning in the world to create an opportunity for Iroha to get closer to Hayama didn’t mean a thing, because Hayama didn’t want to get closer to her.

Will she now turn to Hikky, fulfilling the prophecy in the OP of Iroha taking her place among the other three Service Club members, filling the void between Hikky and the others? Whatever happens, and as sadly as this episode ended, there was still plenty of happiness to be found.

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