Kekkai Sensen – 11

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In my experience, Kekkai Sensen is at it’s best when it’s balancing the chaos of its setting and characters, with focused, clever, bombastic action setpieces that propel an episode forward. A drawback of the show is its insistence on explaining every last little thing in asides, voiceovers, crawling CRT text and heads-up graphics.

As a result, episodes can end up showing a lot, but still telling too much, or at least more than I really need to know. After a recap last week, I really wanted things to get moving, and they do, but not until some way into the episode. And the forward motion is preceded by flashbacks to White’s life.

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It’s not that I disliked White story of her life, it just felt a little momentum-killing when combined with the recap. There’s too much narrative process and procedure on display; and I had the uncomfortable feeling that all of this was one very large advertisment for further explaining/justifying White’s motivations for betraying Leo for her brother: “She is doing this because of this.”

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And that’s the thing: the family and sibling moments were sweet, and Kugimiya Rie’s dual performance was lovely, but they didn’t feel necessary. I didn’t really need any further explanation for her actions, I already got the gist why she was doing it and felt she had no other choice. The show had already given us subtle, relatively unobtrusive bits and pieces of that past. I didn’t really need all the blanks filled in, especially not now.

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All that being said, once White has finished telling her story and turning on Leo, things do indeed take a satisfyingly dark and dire turn. I’m not sure why White thought to trust the word of the King of Despair, but she believes she’ll get Will back if she helps him get the eyes, probably because, just as she told Will, if he was gone, she wouldn’t know what to do. They are twins, after all, closer than mere siblings.

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Once “Black” starts implementing his plan, which is apparently to cause a Second Collapse, one that Libra will certainly be hard-pressed to stop with people like The MacBeths no longer casting, the show stops explaining things and just shows us a whole bunch of crazy shit going down, all of it set to a soaring classical score that recalled Klaus’ great Prosfair match.

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As Despair grabs Leos eyes and causes city-wide explosions in the midst of a massive Halloween parade, a dejected White pores over Leo’s photos, and remembers why she first started taking photos: to prove she existed when she’s gone.

Looking at Leo’s photos through this lens makes her despair even more, and she asks a suddenly present Sonic to find Leo. As for White herself, she suffers a kind of heart attack, which as Black explains, is part of the spell his parents used to keep her alive through “persistent affection”, and she appears to be at the end of its tether.

In a move I wasn’t expecting, Black takes a gun and shoots her…or does he? With all the camera flashes and the fact there was no audio during the “shot”, part of me wonders if he really shot her. Whatever the case, she, Leo, and all of Hellsalem’s Lot are in big trouble.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 24

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UBW really kicked into high gear as expected, delivering a powerhouse finale to the battle to save the world from Gilgamesh. From the moment Shirou got back to his feet, to Rin’s beautifully dorky victorious thumbs-up, it was an intense ride, with some of the best action sequences yet delivered on a show that specializes in such things.

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As Gilgamesh and Shirou continue to bandy words, the latter begins to understand what his magic is all about, and why he’ll be able to defeat Gil without Saber’s help, a laughable proposition to the king. But it’s because he’s a king that Shirou, a warrior who’s very body is made of infinite swords, will always be able to stay one step ahead of GIlgamesh one-on-one in the reality marble of his making.

 

Gilgamesh owns swords, i.e. Noble Phantasms, and stores them in his treasury. But it’s still a finite number, and he’s mastered none of them, just like Shirou. If any other servant was the last one standing, he or she would easily defeat Shirou with their mastered Noble Phantasm.

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That…actually makes a lot of sense, at least relative to the show’s mythology. Speaking of warriors, Saber comes to Rin’s aid, but is a bit too late and Rin and Shinji are consumed by the Holy Grail goop. Rin’s about to give up and Saber is about to obey her command seals and blow the whole thing up, but a brace of arrows from the sky cut Rin free. Turns out Archer, our Archer, is still around, which makes sense, since he made it clear he remains irrevocably trapped between life and death.

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With Rin out of harm’s way, Saber gives in to her command seal and unleashes Excalibur on the Grail/Servant Monster, blowing it to bits in an awesome display of light and power. But using the Holy Sword means the end of Saber, who wishes she could stick around, but is content in knowing Rin is around to take care of Shirou. (She also probably realizes that if she stayed, the love triangle that would persist would be a pain in the ass ;)

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Saber’s exit is quick, but not unexpected, because the show had foreshadowed quite a bit up to now that she’d be the sacrifice necessary to save Shirou and Rin and end the war. With the grail destroyed, it’s left to Shirou to continue hacking away at Gilgamesh, who is forced to “go all out.” Even so, Shirou slashes his arm off before Ea can touch him.

The reality marble vanishes as Shirou runs out of mana, but Gil can’t kill him because a remnant of the grail attempts to make him its new vessel. Gil, not wanting to die, tries to tether himself to Shirou with a chain, but Archer helps Shirou out one last time by delivering an arrow to Gil’s head. He’s sucked into oblivion. And just like that, it’s over. Cue victory fanfare and calculation of loot and EXP.

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Archer visits Rin one last time to say goodbye and laugh at the “state” both of them are in. His usual scowl and tough-guy talk gone, he looks and sounds more like the Shirou. He urges her, as Saber did, to take care of Shirou so he won’t end up like him, before vanishing before a gorgeous sunrise.

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With Saber and Archer gone, we’re left with two humans (three, if you count Shinji, which I don’t). There’s a big exhale and feeling of heady relief as Shirou suggest to Rin they go home, clean up, get some food in them, and get some rest. Having wrapped up all the big stuff here, UBW can give the entire last episode over to epilogue, an arrangement I can get behind. Let’s see what all this fighting and sacrifice wrought.

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Owari no Seraph – 12 (Fin)

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The final Seraph of the End episode until October was quiet, contemplative, and suffused with unease and a kind of restlessness that’s understandable considering what everyone just went through and how still things stand now.

The only battle being fought is Yu’s slow but apparently certain recovery. It’s a battle we don’t see, because most of the episode is from Shinoa’s point of view. She’s an uneasy, impatient, somewhat outraged Shinoa who wants to know what the hell was in the pills Guren gave her to give Yu.

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When she uses her family name to get into a top-secret installation where the army is experimenting on vampires and wants to have words with Guren on the matter of Yu’s little transformation, Guren has no words of comfort for her, except that if she thinks she’s fallen for Yu, all she can do is stay by his side and wait for him to wake up.

Since Yu’s well-being is more important to her than whatever devious mad-scientist shit Guren is up to, she does as Guren recommends, pleading with the comatose Yu to please wake up soon.

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Unfortunately for Shinoa, it’s Yoichi’s turn to sit by Yu’s bed when he finally does wake up, though Yoichi has the good sense to let Shinoa have some time to herself with him before calling the others in. The camera slowly pans from Yu, crying over having seen Mika alive and well, to Shinoa lurking in the doorway, snapping into smartass mode, hiding the worry she wore on her face while he was out and teasing him for crying, even though she’d do the same thing in his case.

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Being a Hiiragi whose sergeant rank is lower than it could be if she played the game, and the fact she got into Guren’s lab, we know Shinoa knows more than any of the others the dark directions their duty could take them, and in the brief flashback as Shiho carries Yu away, there’s a hint of guilt in her face, as if she’s facilitated Yu’s transition into something way bigger and nastier than he’s aware of.

Yet none of that matters when Yu places his hand on Shinoa’s shoulder, voicing concern for her bitten, bandaged neck. She doesn’t want to be in love with her underling, but as she learns more about the person Yu is, that’s increasingly the case, as her blushing betrays.

Even better, Yu makes himself to be someone worthy of being fallen for, as once everyone is assembled in his hospital room, he takes the time to earnestly thank everyone from the bottom of his heart, and express how blessed he feels to have such good friends. Mitsu and Shiho are taken aback by this change in him, but Yoichi and Shinoa less so, as they know him better and have seen hints of this side before.

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Yu isn’t just happy because he’s okay and his friends are okay; he’s also elated that Mika is alive, an attitude I’m frankly glad for. There’s no angst in the way things are. Friend or foe, Mika is alive, and that’s enough for him, for now. It’s the first time in a while that something has been enough for him, and while he yearns to see Mika again (and Mika him), his provisional inner peace is clear to see. He’s realized his live isn’t that bad, and is worth preserving, both for his friends’ sake and Mika’s.

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I was totally on board with the peaceful end to this first rousing cour of Owari, especially all the scenes of people on both sides just kicking back and enjoying their hard-earned break from death and destruction. But judging from the final scene, that peace will be short-lived. Lord Ferid is apparently exchanging research with, and I’m just guessing here, Guren, both motivated perhaps by their mutual disgruntlement with the higher-born higher-ups.

Just as it wasn’t 100% clear it was Guren on that rooftop (we never see him), I’m not sure if Ferid is working against the vamps, Guren is working against the humans, or both of them are just working towards their own goals. But whatever it is, Ferid believes it’s going almost too smoothly, and it definitely stirs up intrigue for the second cour this Fall, in which everyone continues to be sinners, doing sinner shit.

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Nisekoi 2 – 11

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I’ve been a little disappointed with the seeming lack of progress on any of Raku’s romantic paths, along with the general scattered format of Nisekoi in the midst of so many more serialized romances. But it’s episodes like this, particularly its B-part, that make me forget about the “Utopian” (perfect, but impossible) Nisekoi in my head and simply enjoy the Nisekoi being delivered to the screen.  

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The first half of his All Kosaki, All The Time episode is comedic, and pegs her as almost too trusting of notoriously inaccurate bathroom scales. (It’s also an opportunity for Hana-Kana to stretch her vocal muscles, as Kosaki does a lot of yelling). Despite being valued by her family for having the best taste buds, buds she trusts when tasting the new fall sweet lineup, she doesn’t trust her eyes when she sees a slim Kosaki in the mirror, and doesn’t trust her fingers when they pinch so very little fat from her belly.

Instead, she trusts a number (or rather, the silhouette of the farm animal closest to her alleged weight) and begins down a spiraling path of self-destructive behavior to lower it. It doesn’t take long for Raku to notice something’s wrong, but Kosaki refuses to let him in on what it is. But he still wants to help, so makes her favorite food, only exacerbating the situation.

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Now Kosaki feels bad for “weighing too much” and for making him feel bad for making her food. She’s at a loss of what to do, but Raku persists in trying to help her, this time with tea. He’s been worrying about her all this time, and when he remarks that she’s thin and has to eat, the spell the scale put on her is instantly broken, and everything’s fine, because Raku’s kind words are more powerful than any (busted!) scale.

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That unconditional concern and gentle kindness is the segue to the far more serious and affecting second half, in which we get the full story of when Kosaki fell for Raku in middle school. Just as they’re both kind, gentle people, so to was their romance, as both were content with saying “Good Morning!” in the morning and “See You!” at the end of the day.

Those words had power for Kosaki, so when she overhears where Raku is moving on to high school, she decides to make her first real goal in adolescent life to  get into that same school as him. The love is a fuel that drives her to work hard, so she can still exchange those salutations with the object of that love.

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It’s a bold plan for Kosaki, considering both she and Raku are too gentle and shy to just come out and confess to one another. But when Raku spots Kosaki at the exams, he’s filled with elation and tells her they should try their best to both get in. At this confirmation that she may well be as important to him as he is to her, Kosaki swells with confidence.

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Then she FAILS! But, because this is a flashback, we know two things: Kosaki will be getting in the same school as Raku, and neither will be confessing to the other, even in a gorgeous, romantic winter scene perfect for such a gesture…

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…Kinda like this! Well, actually, exactly like this. A romance is certainly dependent on the decisions of its participants, but it also relies on a degree of luck, such as Raku happening to encounter a distraught Kosaki in that wintry park. When she repeatedly declines to take his scarf for fear he’ll catch cold, he proposes they share it, which gets both of them wonderfully flustered.

And just as the gears in Kosaki’s head are spinning like mad wondering if this is the ideal time and place to confess like she should have long ago (it is), Raku pipes up first, only he can’t get it out because luck intervenes in the negative, with Kosaki’s phone ringing. It’s an important call, though: turns out she’s been admitted into the same high school as Raku after all.

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Kosaki is happy. Raku is really happy, and Kosaki is happy that Raku is happy that she’s happy. Get the trend? And the rest is history: a history of kind, gentle gestures and exchanges, of “Good Mornings” and “See Yous”, but also much more substantial conversations and activities and embarrassments and close calls.

But through it all, despite periodic frustrations, both Kosaki and Raku have been happy, even without confessions or official dates or kissing. And in the midst of such happiness, if not full and unequivocal contentment, a mutual hesitation to rock the boat is understandable.

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Oregairu 2 – 12

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Haruno gets the ball rolling from the get-go this week, calling into question Hikki’s efforts so far to find that mythical “real thing” he spoke of tearfully to reconcile with Yukino and Yui after his fake confession to Hina.

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Things seem back to normal for the three, but a tension remains, one that’s probably intensified by the presence of, say, Iroha, who is now all but an unofficial member of the club, while the balance between Hikki, Yukino, and Yui, was delicate before she showed up.

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The normalcy with a film of tension continues when the club gets Yumiko and Saki as clients, both wishing to make chocolate for the impending Valentine’s Day, a day when people typically give chocolate either out of obligation or affection to the recipient.

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Iroha uses her resources and the other school they worked with before to share resources and organize a big chocolate-making workshop. The girls cook with varying degrees of success while the guys taste.

Here, after a previous incident in the episode where Iroha seemed flattered Hikki didn’t consider her younger than him, Iroha seems similarly flattered when he praises her cooking skills, but hides it with another rapid-fire rejection before shoving a spoon in his mouth. Their push-pull, along with Kaori’s promise to make Hikki chocolate this year (likely out of obligation), paint the picture of a Hikki who’s more popular than ever.

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Then there’s Yukino, who seems increasingly nervous and flustered around Hikki, and both panic when they both touch the same bowl. Their behavior is plain to see, especially to Yui, who can’t mask her discomfort with the moment of closeness between the other two.

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Things get increasingly awkward throughout the workshop, especially when Haruno further stirs the shit, Orihara Izaya-style. The elder Yukinoshita bemoans the fact the three youngins before her are “boring”, and questions both the existence of the “real thing”, and calling into question Hikki’s resolve to achieve it.

As he eloquently puts it, Haruno is always there to remind him of things he’d rather not think of, just as another older mentor in Shizuka is less aggressive and cynical in her meddling. The olds are sitting around watching the youngs, and they want something to happen. I can relate!

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The cake is taken when Yukino’s snooty mom shows up in her Toyota Century in traditional clothing to scold Yukino for being out so late doing who-knows-what and expressing her fear her daughter’s on the “wrong path” to the future.

She claims to want Yukino to live her life, but maybe that’s something she told herself before Yukino got to the point where she actually would, a time that’s is already here. She can’t help but want to set her straight, no matter how intrusive it looks.

That puts Yukino on edge, and also increases the awkwardness between the trio, all three of whom, we must remember, are still, with just one episode left, trying to figure out who they’re supposed to be, and what happiness is supposed to be…and still struggling mightily.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 12

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This week is another quiet, pensive exploration of “New Nagato Yuki”, as time passes and more aspects of “Old Nagato Yuki”‘s personality gradually begin to surface. With four more episodes left after this one, the show may as well take its time.

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As a result, we’re treated to a rare instance of observing a character more or less observe themselves, along with Kyon, constantly on edge about the possibility of fading into oblivion once Old Yuki fully returns.

It’s a slow, slow burn, and very…neostalgicNew Yuki is seemingly experiencing this library for the first time, but it is in fact the same library where Old Yuki met, and possibly fell for, Kyon.

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I continue to be fascinated with the two different sets of glasses Nagato Yuki owns. The New Yuki wears one set; the Old Yuki wore the other. And as if she were getting superstitious, or even validly worried about further stimuli progressing her disappearance, New Yuki chooses not to put the old glasses on.

When Kyon tries on a pair of sunglasses, Yuki is almost taken aback by how easily he can do so without having to worry about his personality drastically changing.

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But even though she eschews the old specs, there are other stimuli New Yuki cannot avoid, because she doesn’t know about them until it’s too late, such as when Kyon gets her a book she’s too short to reach. She’s blushing, getting nervous for “no reason”, and her heart is beating faster.

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Hell, she’s even smiling. New Yuki wants to think she’s in control; wants to think she has a decent chance at surviving, that this “change” is permanent…but there’s too much evidence to the contrary, and it’s all because of her continued proximity to Kyon.

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New Yuki is remembering Old Yuki through dreams that are really memories, but they feel like someone else’s, an interloper’s, if you will. I find it fascinating that the show isn’t automatically taking Old Yuki’s side here; New Yuki has every right to exist, even if it’s not for much longer, due to the fact she only exists at all due to some strange brain glitch as a result of an accident that will pass with time.

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But things may not be so black and white. There are at least three Yukis to consider: the one before she met Kyon, t one who is in love with Kyon, and her current self, who stands between them, with bits of both mixing with her.

It would seem as though her brain injury fractured these parts, and that their “natural state” is combined into one; the one that, thanks to the linear passage of time, loves Kyon.

Yet that doesnt’ make it any easier for New Yuki, who considers herself a separate entity within the same body—a body she doesn’t necessarily want to surrender.

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