Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 15

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Yuki’s temporary “disappearance” felt like it would be a kind of catalyst to propel her and Kyon together, but in it’s aftermath, one would be forgiven for thinking they’re back to the way they were back in episode one, still trying to feel each other out. They’re both searching for a way to act normal, but since thing were so abnormal for a time there, it’s understandably tough; especially when Kyon isn’t sure this Yuki feels the same way as the ephemeral one who confessed to him.

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But what better way to get two people back on the same page than a beach trip? This episode actually made me pretty excited because I myself will be going on a beach trip tomorrow, along with the rest of the staff (resulting in an unfortunate but unavoidable hiatus in reviews for the day). The bright sun, the hot sand, the swimsuits…it’s a very fun, summer-y vibe.

And both Yuki and Kyon have friends who are ready, willing and able to do little things here and there to make their reconnection easier, like Kyouko kicking a ball to the other end of the beach, sending Yuki out to get it, and ordering Kyon to follow her and play ball.

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Kyon’s little sister comes along on the trip, and even manages to provide an unintentional assist by kicking his brother into a compromising position with Yuki that neither of them seem to mind; in fact, they’re kind of entranced until Kyon’s sister snaps them out of it.

But the fact of the matter is, both he and Yuki are thinking the same thoughts about acting normally, while meanwhile having fun spending time together one-on-one.

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Tsuruya provides another key assist by pairing Kyon not to Haruhi (who at this point is pretty much out of the running…amazing figure or no) but to Yuki for the “test of courage” at night, which turns out to be nothing more than a pleasant evening stroll to a lake known for its swarms of fireflies; a romantic spot if ever there was one.

When Kyon hears Asahina screaming in fright (she thinks they’re will-o-the-wisps for some reason; one of the weaker aspects of the story this week), he runs in that direction, but not before taking Yuki by the hand.

Yuki is clearly exhilarated by being swept along, and even when they reach their destination, neither of them let go, but just soak in the tranquil beauty of their surroundings. Looks like these kids are gonna be fine. Will they (re)confess to each other in the finale, and if so, who will do it first? We shall see.

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GANGSTA. – 02

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Everyone in the city of Ergastulum seems to be hanging by a thread in terms of keeping their internal organs internal, so it’s striking to see a relatively well-adjusted little girl living amongst all this violence and danger.

I guess it helps to be the nurse for a well-respected mob doctor, Theo, as well as good friends with Nic, who seems to be the most powerful cat in town, even against his own “kind”, a class of Shizuo-like supermen called, among other things, “tags.” Nina may be small and frail, but she’s tough, hard-working, and definitely a good influence around the feral Nic.

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Nina’s boss Dr. Theo, neutral in the various wars of the city, wants Nic to take care of somebody trying to bully him into joining an organization, theatening Nina in the process. In the chess game of these two sides, the guy targeting Theo already sent some wiseguys after Nina, but Worick sniffs them out, and uses Alex (or “Ally” as he now affectionately calls her) as a distraction so he can ghost the three of them.

Worick congratulates her on her measured reaction to the violence, but it’s clear she’s not exactly okay being around it, perhaps choosing to turn the despair inward. Ally later marvels at Nina’s stomach for this business, but this is Nina’s home, and always has been; she’s simply used to it.

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We’ve seen how well Worick and Nic work as a team, but in this case, against a fellow “tag”, Worick leaves the bulk of the work to Nic. His target actually gets a knock or two in, but only because both Nic and Dr. Theo are screwing around to a remarkable degree, considering Nina’s right there in the crossfire. But Nic, an “A/0” rank, is just giving his “B/2” opponent three minute lead time to do his worst. Once those minutes are up, Nic does what he does and carves the guy up, though doesn’t kill him.

I’m liking Gangsta’s grungy style and smash-mouth combat, though at times it reminded me of a Durarara!! fight. In fact, this show could almost pass as a spin-off of that show’s underworld elements. We see the guy Nic doesn’t kill beg his boss for his life and get rejected, showing us that while some like Nina consider “twilights” like Nic to be kind, good people, others just see them as tools, or if they don’t perform, plain old trash.

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Ushio to Tora – 02

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In addition to destroying his HDTV because he thinks the samurai on the screen is real and being a pain in the ass at school, Tora is also proving a handful (or rather shoulderful) due to his persistent intent to eat Ushio when the time is right, despite the fact Ushio has the Demon Spear.

At each others’ throats they may be, but they also both show each other admirable sides to each other when it counts, inspiring a formidable alliance that allows Ushio to protect his friends and Tora to keep the guy HE eventually wants to eat alive.

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UtT proves last week was no fluke as this week is also a playful, breathless and solidly-crafted twenty minutes of bawdy humor, sudden, intense peril, bold, stylish action, and above-average character work all around. When a stone samurai awakens (probably due to Tora’s proximity) and takes Asuko, Mayuko, and three other girls hostage and starts to petrify them, Ushio eventually feels something is amiss when the spear starts to reverberate.

But I like how Tora doesn’t simply help him out from the start, and instead, tempers flare and they end up fighting each other, wasting valuable time. Tora is still testing the limits of his insolence in the face of the Demon Spear-armed Ushio, and he reaches it, finally offering info on the “Rock Eater” in exchange for Ushio removing the spear from his tender paw.

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It’s also good to see the situation inside the old school building, where the Stone Samurai has set up a barrier that makes the hostages invisible to authorities, before he sticks them with stone tentacles. Asako, to her credit, won’t let herself lose to the bastard, thinking of a time Ushio cheered her on when she was feeling down. There’s a lot that’s familiar about this situation and these themes, but it’s all very well-executed.

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Ushio manages to storm into the old building and challenges the samurai, but finds himself outmatched, and once he loses his grip on the spear, he himself starts to petrify. Tora enters the building unwilling to lift a finger to help Tora, but Tora’s selfless dedication to the hostages (and his begging Tora to save them and leave him there) move Tora.

The final straw is when Ushio, very close to defeat, apologizes because Tora won’t be the one to eat him…no matter how little he cares about humans, he cares enough about Ushio to want to eat him, and won’t let anyone else.

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Suddenly filled with a desire to rescue his future dinner, Tora saves the hostages, then holds the barrier open long enough for Ushio to figure out he can move the spear without touching it with his mind (a pretty good skill to have). He manages to get some good shots in against the samurai, who morphs into a two-headed giant centipede.

Tora tells him how to defeat the changed foe (spit on the spear and stab the left eyes), and it’s bye-bye shapeshifting demon. All that’s left is to break the girls out of their stone shells (they end up being naked underneath, but the show admirably doesn’t linger on their bodies, nor does Ushio stick around.)

Rather, he simply goes home with Tora, the two now grudging companions in battle, if not yet friends. And just as Ushio learned how to use his Demon Spear better, Tora finally comprehends the concept of television, as he sees himself and Ushio all over the local news.

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GATE – 02

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When the JSDF force sets up fortifications around the Gate, the Emperor calls for his tributary states to form an allied army to attack them (joining his Imperial Army), and we see just how effective a woefully-outnumbered force modern weaponry is against a massive army of 100,000+ with nothing but Middle AQges-era arms. None of the troops get anywhere near the JSDF, who wipe out most of the force with artillery and machine gun fire, using flares at night.

It’s a bloodbath, but it seems the Emperor was hoping for one, because it means all of the surrounding nations are now significantly weaker, solidifying his reign (though he too lost thousands of soldiers). The Japanese essentially did his dirty work, but he knows he’ll to deal with them again sooner or later, and so sends his daughter (and leader of her own military order), Pinya (Tomatsu Haruka), to infiltrate the enemy force and learn more about them.

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Frankly, other than the lopsided battles, the first half was a little slow, with an awful lot of time spent in audience chambers and military tents full of old men yelling about stuff. Things pick up in the second half as the POV shifts back to Itami, who is given command of Recon Team 3 and the same basic assignment the Emperor gave Pinya: gather information on the other side.

First, Itami has time to stand amidst the utter destruction wrought in repelling the armies, estimating they killed over 120,000 both there and in Ginza; a figure very similar to the number who lost their lives in the dropping of the first atomic bomb, and certainly the most life taken by the Japanese military since WWII.

Of course, with tens of thousands of armored troops and cavalry charging your comparatively puny garrison, the JSDF’s options were obviously limited. This wasn’t a force that was going to back down, as we see from the badass general launching a defiant arrow at the spray of bullets before getting blown up by a shell.

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It’s a somber moment, but it passes, and Itami shows how he runs a laid back command that borders on unprofessional/disrespectful when he and his buddy Kurata sing lyrics to his favorite magical girl anime. Itami’s is an approach that irks one of the sergeants under his command, the far more serious Kurebayashi (Uchida Maaya, an inspired casting choice considering how big an otaku she plays in Chu2Koi).

Surprisingly, the recon team actually makes a bit of progress, though the first contact with the villages they visit are only shown briefly and wordlessly. Suffice it to say, they’re starting to get a rough estimate of the geography of the region. Before they’re about to camp for the night, they encounter a forest being burned by dragon-fire; a forest they know to contain a village. Itami puts two and two together and assumes a massacre is in progress.

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By the time they arrive, there’s nothing but a charred wasteland to welcome them, along with a nearly dry well, at the bottom of which, to Itami and Kurebayashi’s shock, lies a beautiful young woman with pointy elf ears. Is this maiden a member of Pinya’s order, or merely a villager who escaped the carnage the only way she could? Either way, their imminent meeting will likely represent the first persistent Special Region-JSDF interaction.

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Danchigai – 01 (First Impressions)

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I’ll be brief, like this episode was (under three minutes, if excluding OP, ED and preview): Guy lives with his four sisters who are always on his case about something. One looks older than him, one is a little younger and seems to be a brocon tsundere, and the other two are tiny balls of energy.

We only get the slightest glimpse of their morning. There’s nothing terrible here, but I already have my full-length slice-of-life about a guy with lots of sisters. It’s called Working!!!, plus another show about a big family, Dandelion. So this is redundant. But hey, at least the sisters aren’t eating their brother!

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 01 (First Impressions)

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For two-thirds of its first episode, Gakkou Gurashi expertly lulled me into a false sense of security, looking every bit like another bright, colorful, perfectly pleasant and innocuous moe school slice-of-life, starring a Kaname Madoka look-alike voiced by Hestia, with friends who like cooking, reading…and shovels,  are members of a silly club, and spend much of those two-thirds chasing a puppy.

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And yet, by the time the final third of the episode had come and gone, it was an entirely different show altogether—and a damn intriguing one, to boot; one that made me want to watch it again to see if there were any other clues as to what was really going on before the overt symbol of the just-out-of-focus rooftop grave. 

Things like Yuki saying her teacher “doesn’t stand out much”, Miki being so brazen in interrupting classes, and the fact the puppy is allowed to run around, and Yuki and Miki able to chase after him without any repercussions, all come to mind as other subtle clues.

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Then, all of a sudden, when Yuki returns once more to her class to chat, and Miki comes in after her, everything comes crumbling down. The school is abandoned and full of gloom, death, and decay. The “students” outside appear to be zombies; giving a grim irony to the “school life club” and introducing the premise of a school of the dead/undead having such a club.

And then, perhaps most disturbing of all, is the fact that Yuki doesn’t see any of this. All of the happy life at her school full of living people (other than her three club-mates) was all in her frikking head, and from the look on her face as the episode fades to black, it would seem those illusions are persistent.

How did the school get this way? Did Yuki suffer a mental break and is now in a dissociative state? Are her underclassmen protecting her as she wanders around blissfully unaware of the perils of reality? The mind races at the possibilities. This was a damn good start!

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