Joukamachi no Dandelion – 09

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This week Aoi discovers the perfect way for Akane to be able to be more assertive and comfortable with helping people without being crippled by her shyness: become someone else. Kanade supposedly creates a set of “jamming glasses”, but as the cold open indicated, they don’t actually work; rather, both Akane’s siblings and the general public are well aware she’s Akane, they just don’t want to let on that they know, lest she revert to her painfully shy state. A nice case of mind over matter.

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Even when Akane saves someone without her glasses or cosplay, she simply concludes it’s because “Scarlet Bloom” has become so popular, they’re mistaking her for Akane. Meanwhile, the superhero act works wonders, propelling her from fifth place to second, even beating out Kanade, who along with Aoi perpetuated the tapestry of lies that facilitated their younger sister’s rise.

Meanwhile, Sad, Insecure Misaki is sad and insecure again, and needs Haruka to cheer her up and tell her she’s the best sibling to be king, because she has the perspective of the masses, what with being average and all. That only holds water, if you set aside the fact she can make highly-talented clones of herself, and that’s not something so easily set aside!

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Finally, Aoi, architect of Akane’s rise, feels bad about the way her friends are mistaken as her entourage of attendants by onlookers. They also mysteriously abandon her one after the other, with flimsy excuses. Alone, Aoi starts to rethink socializing with her friends so much, since she’ll only become more of a burden to them as King, or something.

Of course, she’s quite mistaken; her friends only went off to set up a surprise birthday party for her, confirming the value they place in their friendship with her. While still leading in the polls, Aoi still doesn’t want to be king. She’d rather help her siblings reach that goal, while in the meantime enjoying the friendships she forged on her own, without any mind control.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 09

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This week Shirayuki is still drunk, but also conscious enough to start wandering around on a mission. Of what sort remains a mystery until Obi figures it out (after swatting the Clarines equivalent of a paparazzo): her drunkenness has brought her guilt over Zen’s punishment at Laxdo drives her to want to ride there; only problem is, she can’t ride a horse.

Zen offers to take her, but qualifies that he’s just recently back from there, and produces the proof: some rare herbs that only grow in snow, and a detailed journal of the health of the garrison, both prepared by Shuka, the fortress’ herbalist-in-training. It’s enough to appease and please Shirayuki, though she wouldn’t have gotten far anyway, as she passes out again.

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Since this show has trained us to expect a flashback whenever Shirayuki passes out, we get a brief continuation of Mitsuhide’s recalling of the tragic events with Zen and Atri. Turns out Zen thought something was off about Atri too, but wanted to believe that gut feeling was overly suspicious. Losing Atri and being wrong shook Zen to the core, but it was ‘Hide who told him nobody will ever get close to a prince who prioritizes his suspicions. Essentially, Zen wasn’t wrong, or unprincely, to hope he was wrong about Atri. He was just wrong to have no backup plan.

I think that’s why in the present Zen keeps Atri’s arrowhead in a prominent spot in his desk drawer, which Hide spots, triggering the flashback. Since Atri has no grave, it’s a memorial, but also a reminder to take extra care in vetting those he’d allow close to him. It’s what he believes he’s achieved with Obi, which is why he presents him with a royal ID and the official role of royal messenger, though he’s still expected to keep an eye on Shirayuki whenever Zen can’t spare one.

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Obi purports to be like us, merely observers, not participants, in the goings-on within Wistal Castle. However, Zen seems to be welcoming him into the same tight-knit fold already consisting of Mitsuhide and Kiki (whose story we have yet to hear, unless I forgot about it :P). The episode ends with a wonderful atmosphere of everything being right in the world, with the stars shining down, Shirayuki peacefully sleeping it off, Zen and Obi drinking together, and Hide and Kiki sparring.

And that’s all fine and dandy…except that this episode also felt a bit too stagnant; that we’re going over and over the same themes about Zen finding the right balance of warmth and authority, and surrounding himself with those he trusts. He mentions a path he’s on, similar to how Shirayuki puts it; and indeed, she’s on that path, as well as all his trusted friends and attendants. Rather than talking about it more, why not let’s get back on that path and continue down that path, shall we?

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Weekly OP & ED – Charlotte

P.A. Works kinda has a knack for great OPs and EDs as far as we’re concerned, from Canaan and Angel Beats to Nagi no Asukara. Good to see Charlotte keeping up that tradition with very good opening and closing sequences full of bittersweet longing and hope.

OP – “Bravely You” by Lia

ED – “The Wings that Won’t Be Burned Down” by Tada Aoi

End-of-Month Rundown – August 2015

Click to view full-size
Click to view full-size

As expected, Gakkou Gurashi! remains the Summer’s highest-rated show, with its engrossing atmosphere and addictive combo of school slice-of-life and zombies. While it probably won’t unseat Ore Monogatari!! as overall King of Summer, the show has a firm lead over Food Wars.

Rounding out the Top 5 are a couple of shows that had a very strong August: the suddenly sensational Maeda Jun joint Charlotte (P.A. Works is BACK), and the equally awesome GANGSTA. Ushio to Tora and Durarara!! are humming along, though neither has 10 episode (yet), which is what separates them from the Top 5.

The second tier of Very Good shows is populated by Shimoneta, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, a resurgent (if often tardy) GOD EATER, and OverLord, a pleasant surprise we only started watching this month. All these shows are tied at 8.

In the third and final tier there’s still some good stuff, with Dandelion fielding its first 9, Working!!! is its usual lightweight self (MAL rates it much higher than we care too). Gatchaman, GATE, and Rokka no Yuusha remain hit-or-miss, but unique enough to stay on our watchlist for now. Sore ga Seiyuu! brings up the rear, but continues to entertain and inform on the life of a seiyu.

Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 08

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When the strange but gentle beasts arrive, the Gatchamen muster as if they were dealing with another enemy harming the public, but this time, at least at the beginning, is different. Similarly, the people are initially scared of the Dr. Seuss-like creatures, but when they only say supportive, comforting things to their “hosts” and embrace them in warm fuzzy hugs, they quickly accept them as a fact of life.  Well, most of them do.

O.D. warns that while they may be gentle, they’re also beasts, while Hajime remains skeptical of the beasts’ intentions as long as she doesn’t know anything about them besides the fact they came from everyone’s mood bubbles. And she has every right to be suspicious, and not just because she has an anti-conscience in Berg-Katze within her bosom sounding alarm bells, because they seem singularly interested to “making everyone one” even though that’s not possible.

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Softened up by Gel’s gentle I-Know-What’s-Best authoritarianism, 82% of the public votes for him to decide what to do about the Kuu-sama. The remaining 18% voted with their own voice, either yes or no, meaning even after all that’s happened, there’s still “conflict” that Gel can’t figure out how to eradicate. But Tsubasa remains firmly on his side and against Hajime’s inquisitiveness, which she deems negative.

That attitude towards voices of dissent is carried over to the majority, who start to single out and oppress the dissenters. An “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality sets in, and the people’s disgust of those not of like mind breeds wishes for those people to “disappear”, so everyone can become one that much sooner. It’s a lot like the Sneetches, only with red mood bubbles instead of stars.

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Even Rui gives up, so comfortable with his new entourage of Kuu-sama that he simply curls up into one of them and sucks his thumb, ignoring his AI X’s pleas for him to snap out of it. I for one didn’t think Rui would fall so easily, but he’s always been a lonely person, and the Kuus are a quick and powerful remedy.

Fortunately, in addition to Hajime, most of the other Gatchamen are not okay with the Kuu-sama, and are simply waiting for something bad to happen as a result of their presence. True enough, Joe is about to go out for darts with a non-red friend who suddenly gets slurped up and absorbed into a Kuu-sama. Yikes!

This is what Hajime, Berg-Katze, Suzuki Rizumu, and others have dreaded. The Kuu-sama are now so numerous and so accepted, getting rid of them will be a titanic task. In addition, they themselves are at risk of being gobbled up and added to “The One” if they continue to oppose the order of things.

It’s a most insidious and efficient alien invasion—and if Gel is to be believed, he didn’t even see it coming. But he did want everyone to be one—which is exactly what’s happening.

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GANGSTA. – 09

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Alex’s gorgeous song, and the momentary tranquility it brought, is over less than a minute before the Corsicas attack Bastard, first with a token B-rank twilight whose daughter is being held hostage, then with the two twilight hunters, Mikhail and Erica, who prove more than a match even for Loretta’s best men, Galahad and Marco.

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Mind you, there was almost enough time after Alex’s song for Loretta to finish inviting her to stay at a room at Bastard if she needs a place, but then the club proceeds to be torn apart as Loretta’s men battle the hunters. Gal and Marco are able to restrain Mikhail, but when Erica is ordered in by Ivan Glaziev, the tables turn quickly, and are then turned into kindling.

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The Handymen get word of the chaos unfolding at Bastard, and Worick sends Nic in to buy him five minutes while he fires a flare that the Paulklee Guild, Dr. Theo, and the police all see. I liked how the flare was reflected in so many different windows, connecting all the people in various parts of Ergastulum’s labyrinth and drawing them to the action.

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When Erica is about to kill Marco, the honorable Loretta can’t help but defend her man, but both she and Alex empty their clips at Erica, she deflects them all and they end up on the wrong side of her sword. That’s when Nic arrives to save Alex and Loretta and buy Worick five minutes to assemble backup, during which Galahad tells Ally that Nic is only an A/0 when he overdoses on Celebrer Uppers; otherwise he’s a B/5 at best. In other words, a “faker.” Nic also pegs Erica as Delico’s estranged sister.

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A/0 or no, Nic gets Worick his five minutes, but no more, as Erica’s about to kill him too when Ginger blasts in and shuts Erica and Mikhail down, with Doug in tow. There’s every indication Ginger is one of if not the strongest twilight in Ergastulum, and her presence forces the hunters to retreat as the police also arrive.

We then see Uranos Corsica talking with Ivan, who has Erica licking her wounds in his lap, when the newest member of their little team, эсминец (“Destroyers”), arrives, and it’s yet another sibling: Alex’s brother. Emilio. Now one of her primary rationales for leaving Ergastulum has followed her there, and he’s with the bad guys.

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GOD EATER – 06

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Hey, remember that show GOD EATER? Which airs sometimes, when it feels like it, but not necessarily every week? Well, it’s still around, and you know what? Those who have been patient with it, like myself, have been rewarded: the last two episodes have been excellent. Episode five tore away the invincibility of the titular God Eaters, and Episode six stripped them of their weapons, making these supposed hunters the hunted, at the mercy of the elements and their own fear.

Fighting the Aragami, saving the world; these are meaningless this week. The mission, the only mission, for Lenka and Alisa, is to stay alive. And the harsh, rain-soaked, Aragami-infested world doesn’t make it easy. But we’re drawn into this basic, visceral, at times pathetic struggle for survival.

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Lenka saves Alisa’s life by giving her CPR, and they then hole up in a hotel room. His God Eater is broken, her’s is missing, and he’s at the end of his tether, bleeding out in the corner. Alisa first considers leaving him behind to go look for her God Eater, but instead gets him on the bed and patches him up. It may be an uncharacteristic act of kindness, or a pragmatic move, seeing as how she only had one pill left when she woke up, and she took it. After that, she’ll need Lenka.

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The crux of the episode is that without her drugs, Alisa falls into a state of intense anxiety and helplessness, almost reverting to when she was a small child happily playing hide-and-seek with her parents when an Aragami killed them before her eyes. I didn’t see this as neutering or weakening Alisa as a character. On the contrary, I saw this as finally revealing who Alisa really is beneath the tough-as-nails exterior. The drugs don’t just repress her fear, they repress everything else that makes her a person, making her nothing but a tool for killing Aragami.

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It’s gratifying to see the curtain pulled back and to see some actual emotion in Alisa’s eyes, voice, and body language. In a way, both God Eaters are rendered inert: Lenka because his Arc is dead; Alisa because she’s lost what the Cowardly Lion called “Da Noive”, which had been drug-induced up to this point. Now, she’s back to playing hide-and-seek, against Aragami she could pummel in her sleep under ideal circumstances.

What I appreciate most about GOD EATER’s recent foray into hopelessness is that it’s so utterly and mercilessly stripped away all those ideal circumstances. Now the Aragami have all the advantage, just as they do over all the other helpless humans scattered around the rainy wasteland. Seeing the disheartened look on Alisa’s face, and the look of fear whenever the Aragami find them, really draws us into their plight, where even a simple gesture like Lenka offering his cape thingy is given extra significance.

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When her parents were killed, she was left all alone before she was old enough. Now, at least, Lenka is by her side, and while he’s probably scared too, he’s not as profoundly scarred by his past. He’s for lack of a better term, simply better-adjusted to this world, and doesn’t need drugs to stare down Aragami. And that’s exactly what he ends up having to do, since even when Alisa finds her God Arc, it doesn’t magically make her better in the head. She’s still paralyzed by fear when the Aragami surround her.

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Lenka is bandaged up, but his Arc isn’t long enough to reach the foes, and when it is, he’s only able to deliver a tap to them. You can see the Aragami figuring out these guys are no threat; only food. Lenka knows when it’s pretty much Game Over too, so he drops his useless weapon, puts himself between the Aragami and Alisa, and either makes peace with his end or prays for a miracle. He gets the latter when Lindow comes out of nowhere and easily defeats the low-level baddies.

After making a slightly sexist remark about protecting people being “a man’s job”, he admonishes Lenka for almost giving up and putting his life in someone else’s hands. Lenka, not wrongly, protests that there really wasn’t shit he could do, unless his God Arc magically came back to life, which would be no less a miracle. He and Alisa are safe now, and Alisa is sure to get back on the meds as soon as they get back to Fenrir. But now Lenka, and we, know and understand her a little better, and the rough hand she’s been dealt.

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Back in Flashback Land, Aisha discovers Johannes has been falsifying reports, blah blah blah, then comes to his house, ostensibly to comfort him. Their relationship will eventually produce the dour Souma, and their work will be insufficient against the approaching Aragami explosion and apocalypse.

Alisa’s flashback made perfect sense this week, and added to the power of her arc, but we didn’t even see Johannes or Souma, so I continue to be perplexed by the show’s need to end episodes this way, aside from reminding us that they’re starting to figure out how doomed they are. At least it didn’t interrupt anything important in the present.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 09

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Adlet and Hans end up defeating Chamot, though not killing her (it looks like Hans simply hits her with his blades in a way that knocks her out). But getting to her person was something Hans would never be able to pull off on his own; he relies on Adlet to throw enough distractions and misdirections as Chamot’s fiend shield to give Hans an opening, while Adlet needed Hans to buy time so he could think of the best tactics.

Chamot laughed off the possibility of people working together to beat her, but Adlet’s resourcefulness (and bag of tricks) prove to be the deciding factor.

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While I like how Chamot was ultimately brought down, I don’t like how it doesn’t really change anything. Chamot has already made clear she doesn’t really care who is or isn’t the seventh, so she’s a liability to the Braves no matter what, having vowed to kill everyone but Maura. If Maura is the seventh, that plays right into her hands.

But for all of the smarts Adlet needed to summon to beat Chamot with Hans, he took two steps back after taking one step forward, by splitting off from Hans and Chamot. At least when those three were together he posed a less tempting target and more convincing innocent party to Maura and Fremy. Going out alone when those two still think he’s the enemy is, frankly, idiotic.

And I say that even though Adlet is convinced he’s figured out the Seventh’s plan and convince Fremy to side with him. Fremy has tried to make it clear she trusts and believes in nothing and nobody, but even after she decisively debunks Adlet’s elaborate theory, the fact he’s still smiling and laughing and not giving up intrigues her too much to simply kill him. In effect, she’s starting to believe in something: him.

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Meanwhile, Maura, who split from Fremy (also probably not the best idea) ends up in the temple. She frees Chamot, and refuses to believe Hans when he says Adlet isn’t the enemy. In fact, Maura seems to change Hans’ mind back to suspecting Adlet by saying Adlet is “attacking their hearts”, which is frankly pretty vague accusation, just as Maura is a vague character.

I’d suspect Maura most at this point if it weren’t for the couple of odd and, on the surface, innocuous cuts to Tania and Goldof, the only two braves who didn’t encounter anyone else this week. First, Tania remarks how Hans seemed to know she was a princess when they first met, but then pretended to forget, calling her “bunny girl” instead, angering Goldof.

Then, after musing about how there’s “something different” about Adlet, she asks Goldof to look at her crest, confirming all six braves are still alive. If we’re splitting hairs, there aren’t seven petals on the crest, so if the seventh dies, the crest won’t change. But Tania takes it to mean Adlet and the others are still alive, that Adlet is working hard, and that she must work hard too.

The way she says all this, it’s unclear whether she’s looking ad Adlet as a comrade…or a worthy adversary. If Tania is indeed the seventh, she seems to be enjoying herself.

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Working!!! 3 – 09

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Working!!! starts off with a typical scene—Yachiyo talking about Kyouko to Satou while Souma smirks—with the added element of a rapt Popura. Turns out she’s noticing something different about the two, surprising Inami, who assumed Popura already knew Satou was in love with Yachiyo.

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One person who barely gets noticed ever is Otoo’s wife Haruna. Her almost nonexistent presence, and the fact she needs to be chained up in order to avoid losing her again, remains one of the more entertaining teritary characters in the show. Even better, ever since Otoo married her, his own presence has gradually diminished, making them a “stealth couple”, which considering how rarely they show up in the show, makes perfect sense.

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Another tertiary character who hasn’t appeared in a while is Minegishi, who comes to Wagnaria to report Yamada’s mom is “back on track” as one of Takenashi’s mom’s executive assistants (a job he lets slide involves assassination, among other things).

Souma sent a vague report about Takenashi and Inami to her, but Takenashi sends him away before he can mention something important to him. When he comes back to try again, he encounters Inami out back, and when he touches her to get her attention, something happens that hasn’t happened seemingly all season: she slugs someone.

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Minegishi runs off, and Inami is mortified and ashamed, but Takenashi is there to assure her that not only did Minegishi of all people deserve to be punched (and he actually enjoyed it due to his masochism) but it inspired Minegishi to seek out a punch he had missed: that of his ex-wife, Takenashi’s oldest sister Kozue. He rather embarrassingly re-proposes to her at work, and she says yes!

Besides all that, Takenashi takes Inami’s hands in hers, and when she doesn’t feel the compulsion to punch him, he takes it as evidence she’s still cured of her androphobia, and her fists merely struck someone who both deserved and didn’t mind being struck. It’s a nice acknowledgement of the progress she’s made personally, and in her relationship with Takenashi, even though neither of them have yet to be clear about their mutual feelings.

Minegishi comes back not to scold Inami, but to thank her, as well as to tell Takenashi that his mother, a powerful politician and VIP who is on the news (his co-workers never watch), is returning home, much to his consternation. Considering the myriad personalities of her kids, Mama Katanashi could be literally anyone…I look forward to meeting her and watching everyone I know bounce off of her!

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Shimoneta – 09

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SOX’s simultaneous offensive against both decency and Gathered Fabric continues as Ayame splits Sox up into two groups: one which will distribute dirty material around the school perimeter, and a second which will use Tanukichi’s dirty underwear to lure GF panty thieves whom they’ll then capture as a sign to the establishment that they do not condone GF’s activities.

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Kosuri, who is convinced she is far more valuable to SOX than Tanukichi feels shafted when she’s paired with Saotome for the first job, rather than Ayame for the second. When the panties end up luring Anna instead of GF, Kosuri considers it a failure for Tanukichi, but Ayame had planned all along for Anna to take the bait to get her off their backs. Even so, Kosuri rats out Saotome for drawing while they were supposed to be working, further demonstrating her Me-First attitude.

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When they try again with the same two teams, things go almost too smoothly for Tanukichi, as one GF member after another fall for the dirty underwear bait like clockwork. Then the lights go out and Tsukimigusa comes in the locker room, and Tanukichi, mistaking her for a GF, uses one of his father’s special moves, thus discovering “she” is really a “he.” Anna comes in too, and mistakes Tanukichi for the “false” Tanukichi she met before, but he’s able to distract her once more by shedding his boxers. I like how no matter what, Anna will not suspect Tanukichi of being a member of SOX; in her eyes, he can do not wrong.

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As for Kosuri, she reveals she was the one who sent all the GFs to the locker room for Tanukichi, and also knocked out the lights and turned on the sprinklers. She even collaborated with Fuwa. But all this initiative only gets her scolded by Ayame, to the point she starts to see SOX as no better than her father in that they’re not doing enough.

Then White Peak, the leader of GF (who seems more up Kosuri’s alley anyway), calls SOX out for a formal meeting. Looks like they’re not going away any time soon, and in the meantime, SOX has a self-involved loose cannon in Kosuri to contend with.

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Charlotte – 09

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Judging from the amount of time he spends figuring out what to wear, Yuu is not only looking forward to his concert date with Nao, but also seems to be developing some feelings for her. When they meet, he encounters a much more pleasant and bubbly and less surly Nao who is genuinely excited to see ZHIEND live (and collect their very practical smartphone case!)

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As the concert progresses, Yuu’s mind-splinter like nagging feeling of deja vu keeps building until it finally explodes when Sala starts singing a song caled “Trigger”, which just happens to be the trigger that sends Yuu…somewhere, somewhen else. Here, he and and a very alive Ayumi are patients/inmates at the very kind of government facility Nao always warned about, where ability users are rounded up and monitored, while those more powerful (and thus dangerous) are restrained, dissected, and/or disposed of.

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Is this a flashback, or an alternate reality? The show doesn’t say for sure, nor does it need to. Suffice it to say this is an awesome new direction for a show featuring characters with all sorts of crazy powers, so the ability to travel through time (Yuu’s “big brother” Shunsuke’s ability) isn’t that far out there.

The episode fully commits to this new, harsh, dystopian setting with abandon, along with the efforts by other users to free Shun with Yuu’s true power, “plunder”, or the ability to steal other abilities. That power makes him uniquely suited when the time comes to race through the corridors of the facility to release Shun. In the process, many of his associates fall to the security forces. The time between 13:55 and 17:30 is a thrilling masterpiece in and of itself.

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Everything seems to be worth it though, as Shun is released, his eyes uncovered, and…well, something happens. Yuu wakes up in the hospital with Nao by his side, as if it was all a dream, but the timing of Shun using his powers suggests it’s because of Shun that Yuu is here, and was here in this world living peacefully with Ayumi.

Nao is confused by Yuu’s thinking out loud, until a dry Kumagami (who was in the facility with Yuu and Ayumi) enters the room, offering to take Yuu and Nao somewhere where they’ll learn everything they’ve missed out on so far, including reuniting with Shunsuke, who Yuu learns was the one who set Nao on her path of finding and protecting users, thus helping the overall cause. Kumagami also says he can help Yuu rescue Ayumi, as if she wasn’t dead (and indeed, we never saw a body.)

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From post-rock concert to dystopian government facility to comfy hospital room, Yuu then finds himself following Kumagami with Nao to another top-secret underground facility, though in this case, it’s the well-funded but time-deficient headquarters and last stronghold of the “resistance” of ability users against the government, an organization led by Shunsuke, who is now blind.

This is little more than a reveal, with Shuu exchanging pleasantries and preparing to tell Yuu and Nao Everything, but this episode had done more than enough already, completely changing the complexion and expanding the scope, stakes, and very reality of the show. This is no longer just about a school club that rescues kids one at a time. This is about saving them all, including Ayumi. I’m always suspicious of un-killing characters, but in this case I’m very intrigued to see how they do it.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 09 (21)

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After opening with an “insurance agent” interviewing a guy who apparently sold Orihara Izaya his name, Drr!! cuts to the familiar cat-and-mouse of Celty vs. Kinnosuke, before she returns home, exhausted and lamenting her police-target status before putting things into perspective: Shinra is in bed convalescing, having been beated half to death by Adabashi (Of course, Celty is also missing her head, so I think she wins the whole despair sweepstakes).

While changing Shinra’s bandages, Celty discovers an old scar, which Shinra proceeds to talk about despite the fact he has some mixed feelings about it. He received it twelve years ago in middle school. That’s incidentally where and when he first met Orihara Izaya, and learned of his love of observing humans. He got him to join a two-member “biology club”, even though they wouldn’t be doing much biology.

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It seems they mostly hung out in a lab, collecting money for sports betting. One of their classmates, Nakura, got in too deep and demanded a refund with a pocket knife, but Shinra came between them, getting stabbed in the process. After stopping the bleeding with duct tape (truly a mob doctor in the making), Orihara asks Shinra to tell the police he, not Nakura, stabbed him. In exchange, he’ll make sure Nakura regrets it the rest of his days.

It would certainly seem like Nakura regrets a great many things, considering Orihara made him both “Lizard” of Amphisbaena and “Mr. Momui” of Heaven’s Slave, two apparently fictional leaders of the two organizations, fictions whose respective Number Twos (Mimizu and Shijima perpetuate to maintain order. And if there’s ever a gang war between, say, Awakasu and either or both of those organizations, Nakura, not Izaya, will take the heat.

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It was the first of many acts by Izaya that could be construed, depending on your perspective, as selfless, thoughtful, or loving acts to protect his friends and family, or more selfish poking and prodding of humanity. Ostensibly, he tortures Nakura to this day for hurting Shinra, and hired Celty to protect his sister, but in both cases those actions served him just as much as the beneficiaries.

And as Izaya continues to carry Celty’s head around, it would appear his own stabbing by an associate of Yodogiri Jinnai hasn’t discouraged him from continuing his usual habits.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 21

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Sleeping Souma was a red herring! He was just nodding off a bit waiting for the perfect time to add his spices and fill the kitchen arena with a tantalizing aroma that even Hayama Akira must acknowledge has promise. But that’s pretty much it for Souma this week, as all eyes are on Megumi in much of the episode’s first half. Just when the “bumpkin” is being chastised for her lack of showmanship and clumsiness, she unveils a giant monkfish hanging from a tripod.

After remembering how hard she trained back home, under the tutelage of a big burly fisherman, she prays for Souma to lend her some of his courage, then butchers the ungainly fish like a pro, impressing everyone, even then very hard to impress Hojo Miyoko. Both girls have had to work that much harder to gain the respect of their elders due to their gender, and in Megumi’s case, her gentleness. But she’s a lot tougher thatn she looks, and proves it again here.

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With that performance, the clock runs out and the cooking is complete. Now all that’s left is for the five judges to grade the students’ dishes on a scale of 0-100 (with each judge having 20 points to award). Even though they heap praise on the first dish, they award a measly 33 points, jaded as they are by years of impeccable culinary excellence, “pretty good for a student” ain’t gonna cut it.

Student after student fails to break 40 points (50 being something to be proud of), and when Sadatsuka Nao unveils her putrid-smelling dish, I figured her to be the first chef to earn precisely zero points. And yet, she not only broke 40 point barrier, but was awarded 84 out of 100 to shoot up to the lead. Once the judges held their noses and tasted her horrifying kusaya-infused jet-black curry, they became enthralled in its bold, assertive flavors. In other words, they all fell under her curse. BDSM also comes into it, as all the judges willfully submit to Nao’s gastronomic punishment.

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With Nao having set the standard for her group thus far in the most unorthodox way possible, her arch-nemesis and rival for Erina’s heart (and verbal abuse) Arato Hisako steps to the plate with a seemingly safe-looking curry bowl made with mutton. But her approach, steeped in her family’s traditional focus on Eastern medicine and medicinal cuisine, has the opposite effect on the judges, purifying and revitalizing them rather than beating them into submission.

Hisako’s dish is essentially the antidote to Nao’s, which is apropos considering their diametrically-opposed personalities. Both are great chefs, but Nao cooks for her own sake, while Arato claims to cook for the sake of others, including Erina. She even gives Nao a bowl, destroying “Dark Nao” in a cascade of medicinal light and giving rise to a much purer “White Nao.” Nao’s defeat is so complete, her masochistic side causes her to shift her fixation from Erina to Hisako. Love is in the air!

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I’m guessing this is how the remainder of the episodes will pan out: episode 22 will cover the judging of the Aldini brothers, Alice, Megumi, and possibly a few others not seen in the preview (like Miyoko and Yuuki); episode 23 be Souma and Akira, and 24 will be the wrap up. That’s assuming this show will end at just 24 episodes…which if you ask me and Hannah, would be a crime.

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