Ghost in the Shell: ARISE – Alternative Architecture – 09

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In the final fifth of AAA, Kusanagi’s team grows tantalizingly closer to Fire-Starter, locating and capturing a man believed to be only one degree of separation from the unseen antagonist of the series. This man, called “Pyromania” by the Yanks, likes to spout quasi-religious drivel as he blows up airliners.

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About the Americans: Aramaki has little choice but to give them command of the operation to capture Pyromania, but Kusanagi sees the kick-down to observer status as a challenge: no matter what the bureaucracy decides, she’ll prove which team is more capable of getting the job done.

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Kusanagi believes she has the edge because she has access to Hozuki, or rather, the head of Hozuki, recovered from the attempt on her life. Kusanagi hopes the considerable state secrets contained within Hozuki’s brain will prove enticing enough to bait Pyromania.

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Once the operation is underway, Pyromania manages to hack many of the joint teams supporting cast; even the American Jeril is hacked and starts shooting her 9mm at Hozuki’s titanium brain case. But once the hacked parties are neutralized, Kusanagi, Ishikawa, and three Logicomas begin the cyberbattle with Pyro, visualized with 3D graphic representations. I have to admit, the battle gets a little chaotic and hard to follow on the screen, but I kept up with what was supposedly happening.

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In the end, Kusanagi is able to pinpoint Pyro’s location and take him into custody, but they aren’t able to recover any more information about Fire-Starter from his cyberbrain, as it’s all been wiped. But that clearly isn’t going to stop Kusanagi from getting her man.

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Meanwhile, her former commander Kurtz seems to be intricately involved in the Fire-Starter affair, pulling strings from her rather ungainly Ferrari stretch limo, hoping to gain control of the “third world”.

It always seems to come down to someone close to Kusanagi’s past. And on that subject, not much ground was covered (i.e. none) on Kusanagi’s struggles with her identity; suffice it to say she seems content to define herself as a leader of those who will stand before extremists who would use all the technology available to them to wreak havoc. And right now, Fire-Starter is her nemesis.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 09

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What a tangled web Y7 weaves…and yet it all holds together marvelously. As thanks for helping to change her fiery future, Sarushima lets Yamada borrow her powers for their festival booth. Sarushima then asks Yamada to help her erase her power, stating she wants to fall in love and never will if she knows the future of everyone she kisses. As a practical matter, Sarushima has outgrown her power, so it’s not a bad thing for her to want to free it up for another girl.

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Unfortunately for Yamada, the “Witch Killer” whose services he seeks on Sarushima’s behalf is Tamaki Shinichi, a bit of an aloof trickster, who has already stolen the invisibility power of a witch, a power that will stay with him until he kisses another witch. Tamaki agrees to take Sarushima’s ability, but only if Yamada gives him valuable intel on whom Yamazaki will be choosing to succeed him as StuCo President.

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Yamada first asks Yamazaki upfront for this sensitive information, which Yamazaki predictably declines to surrender, so Yamada decides to try Odagiri’s power—given to him with her blessing, as she wants to help Sarushima too—to charm him. Only his lips can’t get anywhere near Yamazaki’s, because of his secretary and bodyguard Asuka Mikoto stops him with a furious, panstu-revealing kick.

They tie Yamada up, expecting to need torture to get his true intentions out of him, but Yamada is happy to just tell them: Tamaki wants the info. Ironically, Tamaki was atop Yamazaki’s list of successors, but is bumped down when Yamazaki learns of his scheming. We also learn Asuka was the sixth witch, who willingly had her invisibility power taken by Tamaki…though that doesn’t explain her amazing strength!

With the candidates neck-and-neck-and-neck, Yamazaki proposes that the one who discovers the identity of the seventh witch will win the presidency.

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There’s suddenly a lot of moving parts in Yamada’s plan to help Sarushima move on, but he never for a second considers backing out of helping her. In fact, he dutifully explains all these moving parts as the cause for the delay (everyone he needs wants something). Sarushima rewards him for his hard work with a kiss, forgetting that it means he’ll see her future.

It’s fun to wonder in the context of their kiss here, that if and when Sarushima does lose her power, whether she’d discover she was in love with Yamada after all.

Anyway, in that future, he sees that Sarushima has lost her powers (which is good), Tamaki has become president (which is fine), Shiraishi is Tamaki’s secretary.

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That last bit is concerning to Yamada, especially the way she walks away with Tamaki and looks back at him in the vision. It spurs Yamada to decide to change the future he sees, by helping Miyamura find the seventh instead of Tamaki.

At the bonfire where he and Miyamura keep their distance from their reveling friends and classmates, Yamada admits to him what we’ve known for some time, but he hasn’t been able to verbalize until now: he loves Shiraishi, and doesn’t want to lose her.

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Miyamura and Odagiri thus begin separately researching all the troublemakers in the school in their search for the seventh witch. Tamaki seems unmotivated to Odagiri, but by telling Miyamura this, and how it could be a two-horse race between them, Yamada figures out that Miyamura, Tsubaki, Itou and Shiraishi have been kissed by Tamaki, making him invisible to them, which he no doubt used to steal their research.

Rather than simply continue the race to find the seventh, Yamada, who is very much invested in Tamaki not winning, decides to use Shiraishi’s body-swapping ability to get back at him.

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That plan will be set into motion with him switching bodies with Shiraishi, but in the light of his realization of his love for her, Yamada finds it more difficult than ever to actually kiss her, worrying about all the variables they never bothered worrying about before. Shiraishi isn’t having it and kisses him.

This upsets him, and when Shiraishi asks why, he tells her: in that future, she wore a look he never wanted to see again; a look of isolation and loneliness; the antithesis to her warm bright smile at the bonfire, surrounded by friends. But Shiraishi responds to his concerns with her own resolution: to never go back to being that lonely person, before asking Yamada to change the future for her.

Perhaps, once he has, Shiraishi may not have further use for her power, nor Yamada for his, and these two can move forward, along with Asuka and Sarushima, to lives defined not by supernatural abilities, but confidence, devotion and love.

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Kekkai Sensen – 10

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This week Libra works with HSLPD to defeat a thousand-strong yakuza mecha incursion, and with LHOS’ help, start to uncover they mystery of Black & White with regards to one of the city’s damaged barriers. White also picks a side—her possessed brother’s—and demands Leo hand over his eyes. And she gets that opportunity because Zapp ate some bad tuna!

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While many of those events sound far more significant to the overarching story, it will come as no surprise to those who have followed Kekkai Sensen thus far that the majority of this episode is spent on the most mundane of those events: the search for lunch that ended with a sushi place Zapp had a bad feeling about from the start. Still, it’s clever non-linear storytelling and yet another opportunity to present how strange even a lunch run can get if you walk in the wrong doors.

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Like Zapp’s bachelor nights filled with victory, defeat, and a girl kicking him out of her place, the show portrays the lunch run in rapid-fire fashion, only like a house of horrors, with a staggering variety of bizarre foods. Even when they locate human-run establishments, they’re either getting blood from extramarital brawl all over the food, or trying to serve rival yakuza stew.

Having to flee from so many establishments takes Leo to his breaking point, hallucinating about a “God of Chow” spouting random (and unhelpful) diet-related slogans, before Leo finally declares they’re receiving “Divine Famishment” as a result of trying to use food to haze newbie Zed O’Brien.

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When they finally end up at Leo’s usual foodbag, where they were in the cold open, we now understand why Leo and Zapp are crying with joy upon receiving their chow. And yet, even then they can’t even take one bite, because the Libra-Yakuza battle blows another hole in the diner, and one of those mechas flattens Leo’s beloved burger.

Yet it takes one more round of narrative calisthenics to get Leo to the hospital before a waiting White: After the battle that interrupted their lunch, they end up at the sushi place, and Zapp ends up so sick he has to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, this development is explained with words on the screen, which somewhat undermines the cleverness of the narrative so far.

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In any case, Leo’s there, White gets him alone in the church, where she very well could have been praying to someone, anyone, for some way out of the unfortunate mess she’s in. But then Black arrives, and it’s time for her to ask for Leo’s eyes, revealing her duplicity.

If White had sat Leo down to explain everything to him, he’d probably understand, but considering how in the dark he is (ironic considering his eyes), this betrayal must sting all the more, especially as it’s being committed by someone he’d come to like as a friend and possibly as something more. Then again, he’s also still convinced she’s a ghost.

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P.S. The preview mentioned a “Special episode” while time-lapsing the whole show so far, which can only mean one thing: A dreaded recap is likely next week. >:(

Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 09

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So, here we are, and it’s apparent that Nagate isn’t going to read into Yure’s bizarre assignment for him at all, both because he’s primarily worried about getting his head blown off, but also because he’s got nothing but dust bunnies floating around inside that uncommonly hard skull. Or, to be more charitable, he simply doesn’t possess the means to express how he feels.

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His obliviousness doesn’t keep Izana from being charmed by the “code” he’s using to take her on a date (especially when he inspects Chekhov’s Bed), and Yuhata and Tsumugi are also convinced that they’re up to no good, and manage to locate a vantage point to spy on them.

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That point turns out to be a gorgeous (and expensive) zero-gravity onsen with an omnidirectional view of the stars outside. When Izana, bless her, takes off her jacket and asks for Nagate to join her in the bath, she’s also asking him to drop the pretense, not knowing there is none; this really is a mission for the dolt.

That’s made clear when Izana gets a peek at his tablet, which has her grandma’s scribbling all over it; this was all a setup orchestrated by her, with no input or even awareness on Nagate’s part. Rather than charmed, she’s pissed, and throws a couple of cybernetic punches at her would-be partner in frustration.

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Where she’s wrong, though, is that Nagate “doesn’t care about her at all,” as no matter how much punishment she dishes out, he sticks close to her, determined to apologize, and make things right. It’s also an opportunity to tell her exactly how he feels about her.

But we don’t get to hear it, or see Izana’s reaction, or any other part of their evening. Like Shirou and Rin in UBW, Nagate and Izana are two kids who really like each other and are always at risk of being killed tomorrow. But while the UBW couple had a tasteful if sedate intimate experience that we at least got to see.

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Instead, Sidonia leaves everything to our imagination, cutting from the onsen to Yuhata and Tsumugi, watching from afar, unable to hear, like us. The next morning is a little more telling of what happened: the two enter the house, and while on the stairs momentarily forgot they sleep in separate rooms, because last night, they slept with each other.

That’s my take on it anyway, and it’s supported later on in how both of them act. Your mileage may vary on what went on, but I think the show’s point is to think what you want to think, at least until more information comes to light.

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All I knew was, after their little vacation, things were almost certainly going to turn perilous again, testing the bond they just took to the next level. The show doesn’t do this in the most subtle way, but in this case, unsubtlety is welcome.  When a disgruntled pilot defects at the sight of the new hayakaze armor, which looks to her like a kamikaze ram for the Gauna, Izana is called up to replace her on the recon mission to the dark side of Lem system’s ninth planet.

The kicker is that Yuhata makes this call to Izana. Yuhata, who stayed up all night worried and likely also upset about what was going on with Nagate and Izana. Is she Yuhata only acting in her official capacity as XO, and Izana truly the best person for the job, or did Yuhata put Izana on this mission as some kind of payback? I certainly hope it’s the former, but the latter can’t be ruled out.

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As for the mission, it’s one of those rare instances when Izana is out there while Nagate is on standby, and Nagate is a nervous, pacing wreck, more than ever if it’s true that they’re now lovers. He’s also concerned because Izana is attached to a device he heard the deserting pilot call a death trap, and we know that Kobayashi plays favorites wouldn’t hesitate sacrificing lesser pilots for a second if it meant furthering her goals.

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So like Nagate, my heart was also in my throat the minute Izana left the (relatively) safe confines of Sidonia…especially with three redshirts. The cloaked Gauna they find in the rings of Planet Nine is a nasty customer, and promptly takes out one redshirt.

Please make it home, Izana—the last and most important moment you have with Nagate can’t have occurred offscreen…unless, of course it is, and we only revisit it in Nagate’s memory or dreams. Then again, if Hiyama is right about Kobayashi putting Sidonia on the wrong course, even if Izana makes it back, everyone’s doomed anyway.

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