Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 23

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The calm is over, bring on the storm. And my oh my, is that storm ever gross. Let it be said: shutting down the Holy Grail is a task akin to wading through refuse in the bowels of the Death Star; at least that’s the vibe I got. This is mana given physical form, but that form is nasty. It seems too crude weapon for a King of Heroes would use to “cull the mongrels” as he so eloquently puts it. Then again, I imagine it’s the only weapon he has to get the job done.

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Shirou, Rin and Saber’s plan falls apart almost immediately, as Gil confronts the former two while the latter is tied up for the entire episode by Assassin, who has not vanished yet, due to…good fortune? Don’t you mean ‘plot convenience,’ show? Regardless, I’m glad the show didn’t forget about Assassin, and even though he’s fading away, he puts up his usual tough fight at the temple gate, complete with his original brand of stoic banter.

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As for Gil, the glimpse of yore is striking, but his grandeur is let down by his unceasing monologues, which make him sound like a garden-variety villain, contemptuous of humanity, seeking to reshape the world to the way it was, when everyone’s life had purpose. I don’t remember the Gilgamesh of the eponymous epic to be such a dick towards humanity.

Then again, I haven’t read it in a while. He also seems to take his sweet old time killing Shirou, even saying out loud he’s going easy on him, since he’d consider taking the “Faker” seriously a defeat in and of itself. Look, I don’t need all villains to have a sympathetic side, but Gil is essentially nothing but a harbinger of death. He’s barely even a character, and for all his talk of originality, he’s always felt like the thinnest, least developed Servant in UBW. 

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His bluster about not going all out is also an opening to his defeat, as arrogant villains like him are often their own worst enemies. His complete lack of understanding of humanity’s complexity is also demonstrated as Rin casually wades through the goo, climbs the grail, and pulls its vessel Shinji out, disrupting Gil’s plans. Rin isn’t doing it for her would-be sexual predator, but for his sister, someone the show has totally forgotten about but we know to be a good person.

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Gil think’s Rin’s actions are part and parcel of what’s wrong with humanity, but hey, the grail ain’t got a vessel any more, and it forms a giant arm to reach out to him when Shinji is gone, interrupting a fight that Shirou is hanging in fairly well, now that he’s copying all of the weapons Gil sends at him.

In one of Gil’s cooler moments, his mouth is actually mostly shut. Instead, he summons a strange lock-like mechanism which he then unlocks, summoning a bizarre-looking sword Shirou neither recognizes or nor can scan. Gil calls it Ea—no doubt named after the Sumerian deity also known as Enki—and dispatches the grail arm with ease, also destroying the temple he’s standing on and knocking Shirou out.

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Meanwhile, as their battle rages on, Assassin reveals nothing he’s ever done has had any meaning, since he was always a false, fictional servant. Sasaki Kojirou was never his name; he has no name, and only exists to replicate the skills of the real Sasaki.

Yet despite all that untold time as nothing, doing nothing of consequence, he considers the final moments he spends locked in battle with Saber to finally provide him with purpose. Saber manages to cut him through with her Holy Sword, and he lets her pass, making me wonder if she’ll now disappear because she used it…

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So that leaves us with a Rin with an out-cold, messed-up Shinji in her arms, a grail seeking a new vessel and being rebuked by Gilgamesh, a Shirou who is severely winded and lying in a pile of rubble, and a Saber whose time on this earth may or may not have just become severely curtailed a result of using her trump.

Of these people, Gilgamesh certainly seems to be standing on the firmest ground, but with his grail sabotage Saber sure to bear down on him momentarily, he may want to start thinking about a Plan B. I’m certain he’s going down—he’s the bad guy and this is that kind of show—it’s a matter of how fantastically he’s brought down, and what it will cost our heroes.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 11

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Shinomiya concedes that shokugekis of the type Souma proposes aren’t unprecidented, but like any other shokugeki, they requite the consent of both parties; consent he’s not willing to provide. That would be that, but Doujima Gin, who is running this show and its venue, and Inui decide otherwise.

Gin authorizes an unofficial or “street” shokugeki in the basement kitchen of the resort annex. If Souma and Megumi wins, they’re both still in Totsuki. If they lose, they’re both expelled.

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Not suprisingly, Megumi feels responsible for putting Souma in this predicament, but he won’t have her blaming herself for a choice he made. He says he made it because it’s not time for her to drop out yet, but the unspoken reason is, of course, she’s a dear friend who he couldn’t stand by and watch get unfairly washed out. They’re in this together now, because that’s what he wanted.

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When the contestants, Gin, and four other alumai judges assemble in the basement kitchen, Gin sets the rules: two hours, veggies leftover from the day’s training sessions, and most importantly, Megumi is the head chef who will be going up against Shinomiya. Souma will be a sous chef, nothing more, who must follow Megumi’s vision without alteration.

The reason for this is both plain and very welcome: if Souma is in charge and wins the shokugeki for Megumi, she’ll remain a tagalong, and continue to need to be saved by him. By putting her in the chef’s seat, Gin is hoping this shokugeki is the crucible through which they’ll finally see what Megumi’s made of, and whether Souma is justified in believing it’s worth un-expelling her.

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I loved the playful banter and horseplay between Gin, Shino, and the judges; all of whom are old classmates, if not friends who’ve known each other a long time. They also keep each other in check, the same way Aldini’s more reasonable brother kept him in check as his character was built, so not even Shino can become a full-blown villain.

Of course, the fact she’s going up against a seasoned, up-and-coming French chef-owner straight up freezes Megumi, until Souma slaps her hands together with his, a trick that always stops his hands from shaking, but require two people to do it. The message is clear: he’s here for her, only this time he’s behind her rather than the other way around.

She needn’t be concerned about her opponent or what he’s making, all she can do is put everything she has into her dish, using the skills she’s honed since she used to watch her mom cook as a young girl. Watching her stride proudly into battle with Souma as her trusty sidekick was a great image.

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Also a great image? DAT CHOU FARCI. Honestly, I’ve had cabbage rolls before, some delicious, some gross, but never anything like Chef Shino prepares. The judges put on a clinic in gastronomic know-how in analyzing his dish, and the animators do a great job whetting my own appetite by showing us the intricate step-by-step of its preparation.

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The foodgasm fantasy of the week is the four judges playing off of the fact it tastes like Shino put a spell on his dish, turning them into a magical girl team, complete with Gin in drag. I’ll admit, I’d probably watch a couple episodes of that show!

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Alas, this battle is not settled this week; in fact, we only catch a passing glimpse of the fruits of Chef Tadokoro’s labors, though we saw that she and Souma are like a well-oiled machine, with him supporting her in everything without making his own tasks suffer or taking over. You can literally see Megumi’s confidence surge as they cook, but she gets nervous again when it’s time to present.

Again, Souma gives her the push she needs to approach the alumni with her dish: an elaborate and delectable-looking terrine, this time not limited by Shino’s recette. We won’t know how they feel about it until next week, but we do know one thing: Shino held back, believing he could beat Megumi without breaking out his signature dish (or food bankai, if you will.) While Gin doesn’t think it likely Shino will lose, he does wonder if Shino’s arrogance is his Achilles Heel.

My take? It probably is. If Megumi really put everything she is and has into that terrine, while Shino just kinda half-assed things (at least by his standards), I believe the judges will be able to taste the difference.

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Oregairu 2 – 11

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Okay, so last week we weren’t quite witnessing an omiai, but rather a party for Yukino, with family and friends old and new assembled. But it still creates the rumor that she and Hayama Hayato are going out. And Hayama Hayato is supposed to be “Everyone’s”, in the way exceptionally handsome and talented school idols are.

Iroha knows such rumors could open the flood gates of girls “testing” Hayato for openings, as she most effectively demonstrates on Hikki. But Miura Yumiko is not amused. If Hayato is the King of the School, she’s the Queen, and while to a degree a king belongs to his subjects, Hayato is hers, and she wants to get to the bottom of this upsetting rumor.

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Only all they can get out of either subject of the rumor are unsatisfying answers. While the idea of these two going out feels ludicrous, it’s not like are privy to their every move, either. But let’s say they’re not and move on, because that’s what everyone is going to be doing soon, either to liberal arts or sciences.

Which one Hayama chooses could help everyone figure out what he’s going to do with himself, and who he’s going to do it with, but he volunteers no information to Hikki upon being asked. Turns out Everyone’s Hayama is No One’s Hayama.

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When the Service Club shows up to help Iroha rearrange a room, Yukino and Yui don’t only see how Iroha acts towards Hikky when she thinks they’re not behind him (they are), but the alumnai who show up to help include Haruno, who doesn’t know anything more about Hayama’s future plans.

Making Hikki walk her home (not a bad deal for Hikki, really), she shares in the growing frustration with not knowing the path Yukino and Hayama will choose. But she does know Hayama was hoping Hikki would ask him like he did.

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The next day there’s a marathon, and after we see Yui’s adorable “Ganbatte!” face, we see what Hikki planned with Saika: the tennis club holds the field back to let Hikki run alone side by side with Hayama. Hikki tries to capitalize on the emotionally vulnerable state of someone at the halfway point of a long trial to get more out of Hayato…and he succeeds!…sort of.

Faced with Hikki’s smug assertion Hayato has been using Yumiko as a shield against other girls, and telling him if his goal is to keep them away, he should choose the Sciences, Hayato tells Hikki he doesn’t like him, and they could never be friends, because as much as he’s tried to be equals with him, he can’t help but feel inferior to Hikki.

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Hayato may be able to find another gear and win the footrace, as the setting of high school is his wheelhouse, but he doesn’t think he’ll win the battle he wants to against Hikki. Not necessarily the battle for Yukino’s heart, but something more abstract: the battle to find “The Real Thing.” High School is ultimately just practice for such a thing.

In thanking only Iroha and Yumiko in his victory speech, Hayato quells the rumors about him and Yukino. Then Hikki heads to the nurse’s office to tend to his skinned knee, and Yukino is there, having forfeited her race. She insists on dressing his wound, which puts the two in direct contact and even within kissing distance at the perfect time of day, but understandably (and somewhat infuriatingly), neither can pull the trigger.

That’s not all bad though, because these two, plus Yui, are in a good place. And it seems all three will be going into Liberal Arts, so they’ll be together at least a bit longer.

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At the after-party, Hayato formally apologizes to Yukino for getting her mixed up in the rumors, and when he has him alone, Hikki declares he doesn’t much like Hayato, either, something hardly anyone’s ever said to his exalted face, and almost seems to make him happy.

But Hayama Hayato, the one with seemingly all the choices in the world, stalwartly refuses to choose anything, no matter who it may confound hurt, calling it his “self-satisfaction.” It’s a fence somebody like him, with his particular lot in life, has decided to continue standing on, and it’s hard to judge him for it.

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Nisekoi 2 – 10

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Nisekoi 2’s intense episodic nature means we’re never quite sure what we’re going to get from week to week, and considering the success of other rom-coms with more serialized format, often leave us feeling like it’s taking the wrong approach. But this week demonstrated that when it wants to, Nisekoi can do a lot in just one week.

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Submitted for your approval: four-eyed class clown and horndog Maiko Shuu actually gets DIMENSION, and gets to make more than just sly cat faces! I sure didn’t see that coming, but once it got going I was not complaining.

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While they go way back, Shuu has always been far better at hiding who he likes than Raku, whom Shuu knows full well loves Onodera. All Shuu gives away at first about his love is that she’s an “unattainable flower” who will ultimately break his heart. Raku bounces this idea off of Tsugumi of all people, which is perfect because she happens to be in the very situation he’s presenting to her as a hypothetical.

Fortunately for Tsugumi, Raku is far to dense to pick up on the source of her embarrassment, but Tsugumi ultimately treats his questions with respect, telling him she’d probably never tell that unattainable person how she felt, lest she cause trouble for him; matching Shuu’s position on the matter.

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One can make the case that Tsugumi’s unattainable love is Raku, assuming what she’s feeling for him is love (something she’s not at all sure of). But Shuu’s love is the teacher, Kyoko-sensei, who suddenly drops the hammer that she’s getting married and quitting teaching.

Shuu reacts to the news with a big smile and lots of laughter and hearty congratulations, but inside he’s devastated. And yet, because it was the older Kyoko who told him he was the most mature of the guys in his class, he’s apparently determined never to tell Kyoko his feelings—something he may regret—but will instead live with that regret, like adults sometimes must do.

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Shuu-as-Raku’s-mirror works surprisingly well throughout the episode, especially as the perennial Best Girl Chitoge and clingy Marika are all but absent this week. We can focus instead on the triangle of Tsugumi, Raku, and Kosaki. Raku’s affection for Kosaki is so strong, merely thinking of her being married off to some other guy makes him cough up black stuff and does significant damage to his soul. Heck, I felt pretty awful about that dark fantasy!

Yet, when Raku gathers himself, he can indeed see himself living life under those circumstances, as long as Kosaki is happy. That’s when Tsugumi flags him down, eager to clarify her responses. She maintains that she could see herself never confessing to that hypothetical guy and choosing to live with that, but that doesn’t mean she wants to…nor does it mean she can.

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That settles things for Raku, who clarifies his position to Shuu: he’ll stand by whatever decision he makes, including not confessing to Kyoko. But he’ll also give Shuu a push if asked. Shuu asks, Raku pushes him, and he manages to catch Kyoko right before a taxi drives her out of his life. We can’t hear their exchange, only the pounding rain, but we don’t have to: Shuu gets the gentle rejection he knew he’d get. Even when Raku worries he meddled too much, Ryuu is thankful for his push.

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That push was made possible by Tsugumi, and led to Raku giving himself a push by asking Kosaki, who was looking all over school worried about him, to walk home with him, not because anything is wrong, but because he feels like it. Kosaki is initially shocked by his forwardness, but still accepts, as readily as Kyoko rejects Shuu. You can’t spend your youth wallowing in unpleasant hypotheticals: you gotta enjoy!

That brings us to the final piece of the puzzle this week: Ruri. Frankly, I thought we’d see more of her this week than we ended up seeing, but what we got was still pretty good, as the episode was peppered with moments of her love-hate relationship with Shuu and her status as an attainable—but up-till-now under-noticed—flower in Shuu’s life.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 11

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“I couldn’t tell who I was.” so begins a stirring re-telling of the events of last week’s episode, only from Nagato Yuki’s perspective, or rather “Nagato-Yuki”, someone who carries Yuki’s memories but don’t feel like her own. As a result, in this portion of the episode everyone’s voice is muffled slightly, as if there’s too much wax in our ears.

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Those muffled voices combine with the darker and grainier imagery to really effectively express the discombobulation of Yuki’s condition. And yet, even though there were sinister undertones to Asakura’s “Who are you?” query that ended last week’s episode, it’s a testament to the writing that Yuki is bestowed with even more humanity, as Asakura decides she’ll make an effort not to “deny” the “current” Nagato Yuki.

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That doesn’t meant Asakura isn’t concerned about Yuki’s health: a personality change could be a precursor to a more life-threatening condition. So she convinces Yuki to go to the hospital, where the doctor believes Yuki is suffering from a type of memory impairment called “dysmnesia” brought on by the shock of the accident. The doc believe it to be temporary, but recommends a hospital stay. Asakura talks her down by promising to take care of Yuki, who has thus far still been able to function.

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When Asakura finally lets Kyon in on this, he’s not surprised, and even more readily believes what’s happened when Yuki confesses she left her video game at home, something the “old” Yuki would never do. But like Asakura, while worried, he’s still respectful of the “current” Yuki’s right to exist and doesn’t want her to feel alone. To that end, they resolve to treat her just like they always have. Continuity and normalcy will hopefullly hasten recovery.

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Sure enough, even though when she first encountered Kyon after he accident she said her current self couldn’t feel the feelings she knows the former Yuki had for him, she’s not incapable of emotion altogether. She even expresses some very Yuki-esque embarrassment at not wanting to ask for so much food, even though her stomach growls more than once as a result, betraying her true state of hunger.

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This development, which has been foreshadowed all along in the show’s title, has certainly provided a spark to the show. And while I decry overly assertive music that “tells me how to feel”, I’ll make a notable exception here: Kato Tatsuya’s surging score throughout this arc has been phenomenal. This arc is also reminding me of one of my all-time favorite animes, Serial Experiments: Lain; never a bad thing.

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