End-of-Month Rundown – September 2015

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Summer is over as of last week, and we watched and reviewed the last of the Summer anime last night. We’re all done and ready for Fall! As usual, our final watchlist grew beyond our preferred group of 10-12, but unlike usual, there weren’t any late drops.

The only show that will carry over into Fall is Ushio to Tora. Other shows have yet to end (GOD EATER, Working!!!, Durarara!!x2) but will be continued after hiatuses.

Shows speculated or expected, but not confirmed, to have sequels down the road include Food Wars, OverLord, GANGSTA, and Rokka no Yuusha.

Other Fun Facts:

  • As you can see from the matching colors on the left edge, we’ve got an unintentional “Preston Sandwich” with three of her five shows sandwiched between four Braverade and four sesameacrylic slices of bread.
  • Gakkou Gurashi! narrowly edged out Ore Monogatari!! and Charlotte as the King of Summer, with no ties. According to the voters at MAL, the best show of the Summer was Food Wars at 8.72, and the best non-carryover was, oddly, Working!!! at 8.21.
  • The two shows we disagreed with MAL with the most were Gakkou Gurashi (which we rated 1.02 points higher than MAL) and Rokka no Yuusha (which we rated 0.64 points lower).
  • According to our ratings, MAL grossly underrated Gakkou and Charlotte and overrated Rokka, GATE, and Working!!!.
  • The overall weighted average rating for the Summer (including carryovers) was 7.98. MAL’s average rating of that same group of shows was 7.81, or 0.16 points lower.

There were eleven 10-rated episodes this Summer:
(* indicates inclusion on the World Heritage List)

Best Female Character

Hannah: Tadokoro Megumi (Shokugeki no Souma)
Zane: Takeya Yuki (Gakkou Gurashi!)
Preston: Shirayuki (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime) and Ichinose Hajime (Gatchaman Crowds Insight)

Best Male Character

Hannah: Momonga (OverLord)
Zane: Gouda Takeo (Ore Monogatari!!)
Preston: Otosaka Yuu (Charlotte)

Best Couple

Hannah: Albedo x Momonga (OverLord)
Zane: Yamato Rinko x Gouda Takeo (Ore Monogatari!!)
Preston: Tomori Nao x Otosaka Yuu (Charlotte)

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OverLord – 13 (Fin)

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In a battle so epic it needed two parts, Momonga—sorry, Ains Ooal Gown—turns the tables for good. Having told Shalltear that everything has gone according to plan, he transforms into “Perfect Warrior”, the armor of Lord Touch Me, a former playmate. He then proceeds to summon superweapon after superweapon, so fast and unpredictably is the onslaught that Shalltear must abandon defense altogether and focus on offense, losing an arm in the process.

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But Shalltear wasted all her skills and most of her MP in the first half of the battle, when she thought the two participants were a lot more evenly matched. Turns out, Ains was simply lying to her, as well as failing to correct her incorrect assumptions about his weaknesses. The only weaknesses Ains had against Shalltear were dealt with in that first half, which is why he thanks her so profusely before Part Two begins.

Once a timer goes off, Ains dispenses altogether with the fiction that Shalltear had the slightest chance against him and casts “Fallen Down.” As she utterly disintegrates in the light of her overlord’s power, a smile marks Shalltear’s face. He was every bit as great as she thought, and then some. Of course she couldn’t win against him.

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The same reason Ains had all those cool weapons is the same reason he’s able to ultimately resurrect Shalltear, albeit, unexpectedly, without her ample bosom (something she laments once she notices). That reason is cold hard cash. I’ve played my fair share of RPGs long after the main quest is complete and amassed fortunes so large I could buy everything there was to buy, which is what Ains does. And while it costs a cool 500 million to resurrect Shalltear, it isn’t as if there was anything else for him to buy.

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It’s all too common for villains to simply disappear into oblivion, cursing the name of the hero who defeated them. OverLord is different. Not only is Ains not a hero but an antihero, but Shalltear isn’t a villain either; she was under mind control, which we learn was only partial, but it still did the trick in terms of having her rebel against Ains. And she comes right back, mostly the same as she was, and certainly just as in love with the adorable Ainsy-Winesy.

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With Shalltear returned to the fold and Nazarick back at full strength, Ains gets back to work, learning all there is to be learned about this new world he finds himself in. He’s awarded Orichalcum Plate, and plots to fortify Nazarick and discover the entities who tried to steal Shalltear’s Mind—we learn they’re from the Slane Theocracy, and they’re not done yet. We also learn that Brain Unglaus is still alive, as Stronoff finds him in an alley.

There’s no official indication at the end of this extended epilogue that there will be a second season OverLord, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was, whether it’s in Winter or next Spring or Summer. There’s certainly plenty of material left to explore, lots of awesome one-sided battles to be fought (and perhaps some not so one-sided), and, of course, the central mystery of What Exactly Happened to the human MMORPG player inside Lord Ains. Though, at the same time, I’m kind of glad weren’t spoon-fed all the answers.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 13 (Fin)

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Still basking in the awe and enormity of the biggest event of her young career (which is even more enormous in her dreams), Futaba is feeling a bit listless and aimless, which isn’t a good place to be what with her assessment at Aozora looming. Despite her secondary circle of friends (who are either still trying to become seiyus or moving on to other things) believing she’s “super-elite”, Futaba can’t hide her relatively quiet and undistinguished past two years. Sure she’s worked with plenty of legends, but if she doesn’t want to get fired (and go through with her promise to give up on a seiyu’s life if she is), she needs to think more about her future; find a focus; anything to tell the assessment panel.

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She sees a glimmer of that future when she imitates a passing boy, which is doubly significant because A.) she’s so good at voicing boys she gave Ichigo and Rin a start, and B.) the boy was talking about how not to get lost: Remember something big that doesn’t move. As a city-dweller who’s bad with directions, I myself lived by this advice…at least until I got a smartphone with Google Maps (and devised a mnemonic device for memorizing street names).

But I digress: When Futaba first shows up to the slaughterhouse office for her assessment, the atmosphere is suffused with dread and despair, as everyone who exits that room comes out looking miserable. When she takes her seat before a rather intimidating row of assessors, barking questions one after the other, she very nearly loses her nerve, but still manages to get out where she sees herself in the future.

She wants to be a seiyu for a long time. It’s possibly an even more ambitious goal than being a main character or famous heroine, due to the dropoff of seiyu work for most people after 30. But she tells the panel it’s a goal she aspires to all the same, and one she counts on making a reality.

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This week also features Ichigo (her foot now healed a month after the concert) auditioning for and winning the voice role of a local strawberry mascot, and Rin taking and passing her entrance exams. But the spotlight this week, as it was in SgS’s first episode, is Futaba, who despite having never been able to land a main character role, is the main character here. And it’s very apropos for us to see every excruciating minute of her struggles this week, while the others have a relatively easy time off-camera. This is how it’s always been.

But it’s also a welcome development that Ichigo and Rin are right there when Futaba gets The Call—one that starts out ominously but turns out to be a great relief: she’s being given another year to prove herself—and the three are able to celebrate their hard-one individual victories as a unit. Along with Ichigo and Rin, Futaba looks poised to continue working hard in that unit, which will hopefully get her more attention and more roles; especially if she pitches herself as a boy-voice specialist. And the time ahead of her will be more distinguished than the time behind her. Because the Seiyu’s Life is the only life for her!

Like Futaba in the seiyu world, Sore ga Seiyuu! may not be the flashiest or the most watched or lauded, but also like Futaba, it was more often than not extremely fun and rewarding watch full of a unique energy and modesty as it brought insight to the world of a quirky profession while making observations relatable in any profession.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 12 (Fin)

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Both this sequel series and its final episode share the title “insight”, meaning “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.” Throughout much of the story, the public at large didn’t have much insight into anything beyond what they collectively felt they wanted in the moment.

Their growing enthusiasm with becoming one, fueled by Gelsadra’s brief rule and new ways of doing things, created a new enemy that no one saw coming until it was too late, due to their lack of insight into themselves. That enemy was the pervading atmosphere.

Everyone was to blame, but an individual was still needed to represent collective guilt and collective culpability; a bad guy who the Gatchamen would beat so badly, the atmosphere would become too terrifying for anyone to want to be a part of it any more.

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As Tsubasa explains to the public on the Milione Show, in the second phase of their plan, she says Hajime took that role. She used Berg-Katze’s power to become Gel-san, then told her G-men comrades to beat her mercilessly before a live nationwide audience.

Hajime was the ultimate hero of heroes in Gatchaman because he realizes her role in protecting the planet goes beyond simply saving whoever is right in front of her, but, when necessary, saving everyone from themselves, even if it means putting her life on the line. Rather than go with the flow or settle for quick votes and easy answers that feel good, Hajime thought, long and hard, about what she, Ichinose Hajime, could do.

Last week’s straightforward battle is thus place in a far different and more compelling context, with added dialogue that accentuates how conflicted the G-men really were about beating up “Gel-san”, because it was really Hajime. Yet again and again, she told them not to stop, until they literally cleaved her in two. As a result, she’s in a coma, and the sight of her on TV incites public rage against Gel-san.

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But Tsubasa implores everyone to follow Hajime’s example and think carefully about what is to be done about Gelsadra: Should they expel him from Earth, allow him to stay, or leave it up to the Gatchamen? Unlike all other previous votes, the people have a whole month to decide, and can change their votes as much as they want until the final tally.

As the days and weeks go by, anti-Gel-san sentiment goes from a boil to a simmer, as after longer and more thorough thought, everyone starts to take responsibility for what happened to the atmosphere rather than blame it all on Gel-san, who was, after all, only a naive facilitator with the very best intentions.

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When the vote comes, Tsubasa is relieved that not only do the people (by a narrow margin) agree to let Gel-san stay on Earth, but only a tiny sliver left it up to Gatchamen. Well over 90% of the population decided for themselves. To Suzuki Rizumu’s delight, the people evolved beyond the level of apes.

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After the vote, public opinion is driven a little less by what happens to be the flavor of the week, but greater intuitive understanding of the situation and their own individual power to shape their own opinion. X tells Rui to think long and hard about what to do about the Crowds, who play with the remaining, calm, Kuu-sama. The Prime Minister reminds his salty colleagues in the Diet that everyone was responsible for the atmospheric fiasco, and everyone is responsible for preventing it from happening again.

As for the savior who woke everyone up from their destructive bliss, Hajime does, thankfully, eventually wake up from her long slumber, without any fuss and grateful she slept so well. She’s clearly happy her big plan worked out, since so much of it depended on her fellow Gatchamen as well as the general public to make it a success.

Now, with the world more or less back to normal, the G-men await the next arrival of an alien who might, unwittingly or not, take a certain human quality to its most dangerous extreme. If that ever happens, I’ll be here to watch and cover it. GATCHA!

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 12 (24, Fin)

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The conclusion of the second of three cours of Durarara!!x2  is marked by two major plotlines: Mikado’s Dollars vs. Masaomi’s Yellow Scarves, and the whole Yadogiri Jinnai business. In both cases, there’s a lot to be hashed out in the third and final cour next January.

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Ten, like Shou, ends with Mikado and Masaomi very far away; or as the former puts it, the threads of their bonds are so tangled up that perhaps it’s best just to burn those threads and start over. Celty thinks Mikado has gone mad, and is even more upset when he insists he isn’t. She also laments that for all her centuries of experience, she’s unable to stop two young friends from going to war and possibly destroying one another, simply because neither is willing to budge, and Anri isolated from both of them.

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Ten, like Shou, also ends with Izaya outmaneuvered by Jinnai (who isn’t an individual so much as a network of old-man decoys led orchestrated in the shadows by Kujiragi Kasane, who has the red eyes of Saika. That I was not expecting, but it does mean we may see more of both Anri and Haruna (who also carry Saika within them in some form or another). It also establishes the latest “monster” threat for the final cour, running parallel to the “human” threat of Mikado and Masaomi’s war.

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I also daresay Celty is as confused as I was by suddenly coming home to find so many disperate characters assembled in her and Shinra’s apartment. There’s Shinra’s parents, Namie, Egor, Seiji, Mika, Togusa, and Walker. Their gathering isn’t explained any further than the fact no one assembled was able to resist being brought together.

How will this seemingly random collection of people make their mark on the third cour? I have no idea, but like every season of Durarara!! it’s going to be a very full plate.

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GANGSTA. – 12 (Fin)

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“It’s no use. Any of it.”

It’s a dark, nihilistic and very open-ended finale for GANGSTA., and although I wasn’t expecting many happy endings, then endings we did get were ambiguous, and I felt that too much was left on the table. Maybe that was the intention.

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One ending left open perhaps by design, was the Marco/Connie crisis. Connie’s grief-stricken grandmother whacks Marco with her cane, cursing him for taking yet more of her family. Nic stops her, at later drapes a coat over her in the rain, and all she wants at this point is to seem some thing, any sign of what happened to Connie, even if it’s just a head or an eye. But all we get a heartbreaking flash from Marco’s POV of her smiling in bed, a perfect moment that may never come again.

Marco, once a member of the Destroyers who are wreaking havoc on Ergastulum, laments he no longer has the strength to protect what’s important to him, or even save his girl. So what does Loretta do? Strips down, puts on her work clothes and shoulder holster, and steps up to the plate. Marco has given a lot to the Christiano family, and she’s going to see that he’s repaid for that leal service. Marco sees the ghost of her father behind her as she speaks with his voice.

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As Nic backs up Christiano at Bastard, leaving Ally behind at the office, Worick prepares for a last stand with Miles to buy time for Daniel Monroe. When the Destroyer Striker arrives, no normal or Twilight or steel door can stand against him.

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Worick and Miles set up an elaborate trap, but both are seriously wounded, and though Worick manages to get a sedative into Striker, Striker tosses him out the window. It’s an exciting fight, but there’s never the feeling Worick or anyone else has the slightest chance. Hauntingly, Nina suddenly wakes up as soon as Worick’s bloodied body hits the ground, sensing he’s done for.

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Delico continues to trudge through the rainy streets with Heather searching for his sister Erica, and he finally looks up helplessly at her flying over the rooftops with Mikhail. Worick lies bleeding out, remembering being told he can try as hard as he wants to keep up with Twilights, but they’ll always be different from him, and out of his reach. Nic flies through the rainy sky and delivers the nihilistic line up top.

Is he right? Are Loretta, Marco, Connie, along with Nic and Worick, all simply doomed? Is all we got, and all we’ll ever get as viewers, is a brief, twleve-episode look-in to this accursed world populated with wounded souls, beasts, and lost causes? Or is Nic wrong, and the fact none of the above characters end up dead for sure offer hope that things can turn around in a future GANGSTA. sequel?  This episode gave no indication of a continuation, so we’ll just have to wait and see. But in the meantime, our look-in has concluded.

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GOD EATER – 09

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In the final episode before a Fall hiatus (the final four episodes will air in the Winter), GOD EATER comes to something of a logical crossroads to pause at, while looking back at one of the least-used main characters in Soma Schicksal, who up until this week we’d only gathered bits and pieces about. As it did with Alisa previously, the character is improved and made more understandable when the show looks back upon his history and how it shaped the dour, taciturn God Eater.

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This new information comes when Lenka of all people is selected to lead one of the five squads that will set up the devices for the Meteorite Project, and Soma is assigned to Lenka’s team. Lenka’s as surprised as anyone else, but Major Amamiya isn’t aware of his life-threatening situation (only Sakaki and Licca know), so she’s sending him in. He accepts the mission and leadership role, but decides to bone up on Soma’s history, and learns that he was the first God Eater.

His mother Aisha died in childbirth, and his development as a weapon against Aragami hit a number of bloody bumps in the road. As such, everyone around him has thought of him as a harbinger of death (or Shinigami); a label he may not like but certainly seems to accept, especially when his nightmares include looks of fear from injured researchers and a look of resentment and disappointment from his dad, now Fenrir’s director. The father and son share just one brief scene in an elevator, and it’s cold as ice, which isn’t that surprising considering Johann lost Aisha the day he gained a son.

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But Lenka learns an important lesson from Major Amamiya before the operation, after he asks her why she retired from being a God Eater. Rather than get the answer he expected—like him, her God Arc was going to eventually kill her—she said she simply lost hope, after watching so many Aragami emerge from the barren ground right after killing others. Rather, she lost hope that she could do anyting about them, so she decided to put her trust in the future; pass the hope onto those who haven’t been beaten down as she has.

Lenka carries those words to the battlefield where they set up the device, and when everyone, including Soma himself, tells him to run, he refuses, instead using the device to lure the Aragami and ordering Soma to aim his deadly attack directly at him. He trusts in his battered arc’s ability to shield him from the attack, and all the Aragami are wiped out.

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Lenka decided to put his trust in Soma, not as a harbinger of death, but a vessel of hope. That’s why his name is Soma in the first place; for the wine of the gods bestowing life energy to man. That hope was placed in Soma by his mother Aisha, who volunteered to sacrifice herself and her baby for the good of mankind, absent time or other viable options. And for the first time, with Lenka, Soma sees that hope, and value, in himself.

Unfortunately, Lenka doesn’t have a lot of time left; but rather than pass his hope onto others, he’s willing to bet that little time he has left is enough to make more than an impact than retiring. So he asks Sasaki and Licca to repair his God Arc, even if it accelerates his demise. Meanwhile, Johann seems miffed that Lindow has kept a secret village a secret, while an increasingly sinister doctor seems to be brainwashing a drugged/hypnotized Alisa not just to fight Aragami again, but Lindow as well.

There should be plenty of action and character drama in the final fourth of the series. We’ll just have to wait a few months to see it pan out.

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Working!!! 3 – 13 (Fin*)

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GODDAMNIT, WORKING!!!. Would it kill you to resolve what has remained a romantic standstill for three seasons?!! Don’t get me wrong; I love Working!!!…but I fucking HATE WORKING!!! sometimes. And as good a start as it gets off on, this episode is unfortunately one of those times. I know, Japanese anime usually tend to focus more on maintaining a status quo than progressing relationships, but Working!!! proved it could buck the trend by finally bringing Yachiyo and Satou together. Is it so much to ask that they do the same with Takanashi and Inami?

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Apparently it is; at least in a 13-episode span. And wouldn’t you know it, it isn’t any particular problem between the two that causes the impasse from continuing. Rather, it’s freaking parents. First, Inami’s estranged father, who crashes Inami’s date with Takanashi when she forgets her wallet, then calls into question Takanashi’s fitness to date his daughter due to his transvestite tendencies (for which his mother can be blamed). Thus, the date goes pear-shaped, returning the two to their status quo of being cordial, even affectionate with one another, but not yet a couple.

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This displeased me. What displeased me even more was that precious minutes of this supposed finale were spent revisiting whether Inami has been cured of her androphobia, or exploring Souma’s scopophobia, or Popura’s atychiphobia. These phobias are all well and good, but the resolution of Yachiyo x Satou gave me hope the same would be done with Inami x Takanashi. Only yet again, Working!!! is dilatory; skittish about resolving its most compelling romantic entanglement, for no other reason than it need to keep going a little bit longer.

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That “little bit longer”, it seems, will come in the form of an hour-long special, in which hopefully the fact that Takanashi flakes out on another get-together with Inami due to the intervention of his mother will be resolved. I certainly hope it does, because frankly, I’m sick of the status quo. I know this is slice-of-life, and it’s a comedy, but I didn’t introduce these serious romantic elements, the show did, and it’s the show’s responsibility to follow through and stop leading me on, damnit!

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Charlotte – 13 (Fin)

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As we open on the Charlotte finale, the situation is dire and the task ahead for Yuu—locate and steal the ability of every person in the world—seems impossible. But the show wisely infuses dark comedy into the mix, like Yuu fumbling with his English flash cards, and the task starts to get easier with every ability he steals, including mind-reading and the ability to speak any language early on.

Yuu becomes even more of superhero badass as he travels the world, getting in, plundering, and getting out. He even earns a nickname: “The One-Eyed Grim Reaper (Shinigami)”, which he’s a bit embarrassed about.

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But he’s not just stealing powers from criminals or people like he used to be who only use them for selfish purposes. He also has to steal from the likes of a Peruvian girl with healing powers, helping her village stay healthy. He pillages her power without hesitation, then realizes he can heal his eye, go back in time, and bring Kumagami back. But remembering how far he’s come, and the primary goal of his mission, he abandons such a move as mission creep.

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As he moves around the world gathering tens of thousands of abilities, he becomes stronger and better at it, but at a steep cost: his memories short and long term, along with his very sanity. The episode follows him in a similar manner to when Ayumi died and he started falling. This time his intentions are honorable, and he’s literally saving the world and thousands of young people from horrible fates, but the toll on his individuality and soul are no less severe.

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The one thing that seems to anchor him to the past he can’t see anymore are Nao’s flash cards. Even though he doesn’t remember who gave them to him or why he treasures them so much, a part of him always wakes up when he focuses on them. Nao isn’t watching over him this time, but by giving him those cards, she is the sole reason he doesn’t totally lose himself or, while in the Arizona desert at the end of his tether, doesn’t give up completely.

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While a single episode could never do the scale of his mission justice, and the speed with which Yuu reaches his final target, a girl in Beijing, the efficiency, excitement, humor, and breathlessness of his journey that takes place this week and only this week can’t be overstated.

He’s literally limping on a walking stick when a lowlife seeking a bounty and an easy life starts firing crossbow bolts into his back, but the very girl Yuu is after is able to save Yuu by stalling his attacker. Yuu suspects her ability is immense courage, but even after he steals it, she still requires convincing that it’s alright to leave him. After all, he’s not as weak as he looks.

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The minute his mission is finally accomplished, he’s picked up by Shun & Co. in a police helicopter and brought home. When he wakes up in the hospital, he’s told he’ll survive his injuries. He’s told this by a pretty silver-haired girl with blue eyes sitting by his bed. Someone who, to him, in that moment, is a total stranger.

Nao introduces herself as his lover, and goes over their history together, right up until his promise to come home. Because he was successful, Nao holds up her end of the bargain, and while she’s truly hurt he doesn’t remember her, she’s just happy he came back in one piece and of otherwise sound mind, something that was by no means certain after the stress of absorbing so many powers.

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The show doesn’t make it clear whether Yuu’s memories are gone for good, or whether they’ll return once his body and mind get enough rest. Not plundering any more powers will certainly be good. But regardless, Yuu lets himself fit right back into the family he left behind, and Nao keeps her camcorder going. If his old memories won’t come back, then he’ll just have to make new ones with Ayumi, Yusa, Takajou, and Ayumi.

And there you have it! All in all, a very solid ending, if not quite Charlotte’s absolute best. All I asked was that Yuu and/or Nao survive the series, and they do, and the ambiguity of Yuu’s memory loss and the fact he’s happy to be back and start having fun again lends the right amount of hope that things are going to be just fine. Not a perfect ending, but a happy and satisfying one. And another faith-reinforcing triumph by Maeda Jun and P.A. Works.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 24 (Fin)

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Hannah (Braverade): Here we are: the final dish, which after watching I considered deserved a spot among the best of the series, for various reasons, but most notably because it didn’t try to do too much. With only two challengers left, the show could really focus in depth on their two dishes and get down to the delicious culinary details. In effect, this was like an informal Shokugeki: Hayama and Souma going at it with everything they’ve got.

Zane (sesameacrylic): A delicious final ep to be sure, Han! Glad to be contributing for this final episode of a show I handed off to you to to my heavier Summer workload, though I still watched it along with you. And I agree that while it’s no episode 12 or 14, this episode is indeed required watching that gets at the essence of the show: smart culinary commentary backing up a good old-fashioned shonen-style duel with food instead of weapons.

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Hannah (Braverade): In the process of dueling, Souma, and for that manner many other characters, not only developed their characters further through their processes, influences, and innovations, but changed the minds of their peers in the process, or at least gave them a better understanding of who he/they are.

Zane (sesameacrylic): That’s quite a mouthful there, but I think I see what you’re getting at. Take Erina. She’s looked down on Souma all this time—literally, since she’s in the luxury box for this competition, above the fray and all—but this last dish, and the manner in which Souma came upon it, not through perfection but failure, learning from each and every loss, basically forced Erina to, at the very least, kinda-sorta acknowledge him.

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Hannah (Braverade): Exactly. They don’t even meet in this episode, but Erina can’t dismiss the five judges’ reactions to Souma’s dish, nor the final score, which is only one point below spice expert Hayama (who clearly expected to win running away, not by a squeaker) and two points below her own cousin Alice.

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Zane (sesameacrylic): The similar unveiling of the two dishes as “fragrance bombs” was pretty clever, and really expressed the impact that “contained” spiced dishes make on the nose. Even cleverer was the fact the bombs worked in different ways, as did the impact of the two dishes. Hayama’s was like a piercing spear, but Souma’s was more like hit combos from a mixed martial artist.

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Hannah (Braverade): The show wisely avoided letting the hero Win It All. Rather, this is another failure for Souma, who wanted to win but didn’t. But failures have driven him to become a better chef, and this one will be no different. And what a close loss it was. Setting aside the one-point difference, the scoring shows that two judges clearly liked Hayama’s dish more while the other three were firmly in Souma’s corner.

The fact that had this been an official shokugeki, Souma would have won 3-2, and the resulting heated argument among the judges, proves that Souma was even closer to winning that the one-point difference indicates on its face.

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Zane (sesameacrylic): For all the excitement and delectableness of the final two candidates, the episode still manages to save plenty of time for a nice epilogue. I’ve always liked when the show simply lets the characters have fun and blow off steam after a big battle, as they do here with a party congratulating not only Souma and Megumi, but Marui and Takumi. The Aldini brothers are there, and so is Nikumi, showing that those who enter Souma’s orbit don’t easily leave it.

Hannah (Braverade): Hojo admitting she misjudged Megumi was also a nice little moment. Hojo wasn’t the deepest character, but I appreciated that the show didn’t forget about There’s also an interesting tension between those at the Polar Star party and those who aren’t: Alice, Ryo and Hisako aren’t in that social circle, and neither is Hayama, who is content to carry a piss-drunk Jun, his savior, mentor, and muse, to bed.

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Zane (sesameacrylic): The show also smartly ends with some nice Souma/Megumi moments. Souma tells her “I like your cooking” the same way you’d confess to someone, and Megumi reacts appropriately. Then the show closes with a callback to the first episode when Souma subjected Hinako to peanut butter calamari. This time he uses yogurt, which is even dirtier looking when Megumi’s disgust is visualized as softcore tentporn.

Hannah (Braverade): Fortunately, this show had a lot more to offer than hilariously wrong foodgasm visualizations. Like Souma’s curry risotto omelette rice, it leaves me wanting more, like to know who will ultimately win the autumn elections. I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Food Wars.

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Ushio to Tora – 13

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Ushio gets a much-needed breather at the bread shop of the old man he saved from the youkai, but the youkai hordes are still out there, and once they find him, he’s thrown right back into a battle where the youkai have all the numbers, and Beast Spear or no, Ushio is getting worn down. Enter Kagari and Raishin, who are not only there to help him, but are willing to die by his side.

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The kamaitachi are nothing if not loyal to those who helped and empathized with their plight. I find myself liking them more and more. Yet even with them around, the youkai keep coming. It’s ultimately Tora who saves the three of them from the hordes, deciding not to sit on the sidelines after all. Sure, that puts him in Hitotsuki’s crosshairs, but he couldn’t care less; in fact, he wouldn’t mind fighting his old associate, for no other reason that he keeps calling him Nagatobimaru!

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Ushio finds himself deposited before a large traditional Japanese estate wreathed in fog, and he is welcomed to come in, calm down, sit, and listen. The Zashiki Warashi is there, along with the leader of the youkai who have been attacking him; Hitotsuki’s long-nosed boss. He tells Ushio a little more about who her mother is, and the nine-tailed Hakumen no Mono she protects from the youkai with a powerful barrier, as her predecessors have done for the last thousand years. What the youkai boss can’t tell Ushio is why, but he suspects Ushio can ask her himself when he finds her.

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Ushio also learns the reason the boss is being so nice to him: he’s the old man he saved in the forest, who he hung out with at the bread shop. Like Kagari and Raishin, if one is kind to youkai, chances are they’ll be kind to you as well; they’re not wholly evil or anti-human under all circumstances.

As for Hitotsuki, the boss is miffed for him disobeying orders, but allows him to duel Tora to decide whether he gets to have his way. As I said, Tora is fine fighting him, considering they have history, but twists himself in knots explaining to Ushio that he’s not doing this for his sake (even though he really kinda is.)

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At first Hitotsuki mops the floor with Tora, slapping him around and biting him with his many serpent-head digits and goring him with his giant horn. But Tora eventually takes the gloves off, breaths fire on his opponent, then zaps him and smacks him around until he’s declared the winner (though Tora doesn’t kill him, again showing his new, slightly softer side). The boss shows his true form—a magnificent Tengu—and promises Ushio none of his youkai will harm him ever again, as per the terms of the duel.

With that, Kagari patches up Tora (I like the deference the kamaitachi now show to who is essentially their “senpai”), and he and Ushio head into the misty woods on the next leg of their eventful journey to find Ushio’s mom. Turns out it will take a lot more than bumping into an old acquaintance like Hitotsuki to break his complex bond with Ushio.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 12 (Fin)

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Though Yuki is the only one who can save everyone, I appreciated that she didn’t have Kurumi’s zombie-smiting strength, as her first target doesn’t even feel the force of the aluminum bat she swings. She’s not going to get it done with brawn, but she does get it done with a bit of luck, as well as the relationship she’d cultivated with Taroumaru all this time.

He’s loose again, but rather than bite her, he chooses to bite the zombies cornering her, remembering just enough of his pre-zombie life to instinctively protect his friend, just as Megu-nee did by staying in the basement. It gives Yuki the moments she needs to slip into the broadcast room.

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There, she makes a P.A. announcement that school is out, along with a moving speech that mirrors her monologue in the first episode. Only now, her eyes are wide open, and she’s aware that the ideal school she speaks of is no more. The announcement works, and the zombies disperse, freeing Miki, who rushes the medicine to Kurumi in time to save her. Thank goodness!

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But there is a price for Yuki and Miki succeeding and Kurumi recovering, in the form of the show’s biggest gut punch yet. Taroumaru is doing much better than he was, but he can’t eat and only drinks a little bit of water before letting out one last little yip before dying in Miki’s lap. Needless to say, this was a heartwrenching and tearful scene, but like Megu-nee’s end as seen in flashbacks, and Yuki saying goodbye to her “specter”, the sendoff further demonstrates this show’s devotion to giving its doomed characters a proper, unblinking sendoff.

The girls bury Taroumaru next to Megu-nee; two protectors who gave their lives to save them, and when Miki says she’s fine, Yuki lets her know it’s okay to not be fine; to not bottle up one’s grief, but let it flow out without reservation. This is sage advice coming from someone who once broke from reality rather than face what was going on, but eventually opened her eyes.

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With the school’s utilities trashed and provisions dwindling, the School Life Club must disband and depart from the school for a more suitable shelter. Megu-nee provided locations of other shelters on a map, and though the group doesn’t know what kind of survivors (if any) they’ll encounter, they have little choice but to take their chances out there.

The graduation ceremony they have isn’t some empty gesture, but is carried out with the same decorum and formality as the real thing would have had most of the school not been zombified—Yuki even neatens her hair! They are literally graduating from one kind of life, one of relative safety and routine and contained within the walls of their beloved but now-broken school, and striking out into the vast, unknown world, full of as many possibilities as hazards.

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But I have no doubt that they’re ready, if they stick together, they’ll do fine. And when Kurumi fires up the Mini Cooper and they pull away from the school, even when Miki catches a glimpse of one last zombie who may well be her friend Kei, she doesn’t insist they turn back, because they can’t turn back.

Megu-nee, Taroumaru, and even Kei may be lost to them, but they wouldn’t be alive without them, and aren’t going to squander the product of their noble sacrifice. We also get a glimpse of the puppy Taroumaru saved; an upbeat parting shot of the school grounds.

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After the gang heads off into the horizon and the credits roll, there’s one last ambiguous scene imparted with GG!’s signature sneakiness, in which a glasses-wearing girl we’re not familiar with (but who definitely isn’t a zombie) approaching a field of debris (though it looks more like building rubble than car wreckage) finds Yuki’s childish drawing of the School Life Club members with the message “We Are Happy”.

Is this something Yuki left behind, like Miki’s note to Kei on the blackboard, for anyone who might come past, like this girl? Or is this drawing all that’s left of them? The latter possibility is too dark and ghastly for me to contemplate any further, so let’s say the latter and call it a day, shall we? After all, it’s School-Live, not School-Die,right?

…Right? O__O

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Ore Monogatari!! – 24 (Fin)

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All good things must come to an end, whether it’s the most charming and engaging romance in recent memory, or a lovely but ultimately dead-end relationship between two incompatible people. Yes, that’s right, kids, this also marks the end of Rinko+Takeo, as Ichinose swoops in, sweeps Rinko off her feet, places her on a bed of maringue, and drizzles caramel sauce on her.

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…PSYCH! They remain a couple to the end. Ichinose is unsuccessful in stealing her away, despite his firm believe that A.) Rinko is his muse, and B.) he’s a better fit for her. Takeo, as usual, is a worrywort who finds it necessary to prepare for a life without Rinko should Ichinose succeed, as dense to the depths of Rinko’s love as Rinko is of Ichinose’s feeling.

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Even though we knew there was no way in hell this couple would break up in the last episode, it still managed to maintain a respectable tension, as we basically absorbed Takeo’s anxiety. But despite his worrying, he puts up a brave front, and doesn’t despise Ichinose. In fact, for all their differences, he can relate to him simply because he too likes Rinko. Suna, meanwhile, is just glad to see these new sides of Takeo; it means he’s growing as a man.

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Takeo also suspects, quite correctly, Rinko has no clue about Ichinose’s feelings, but is simply helping him out because she’s a good person, because he asked, and because she loves cakes. When Ichinose forgets his tools (no doubt distracted by Rinko), Takeo has no problem answering the call and bringing them with his superhuman speed. And as he watches Ichinose work, Takeo is rooting for him to win. He can win the pastry competition; Takeo is simply hoping he’ll lose the competition for Rinko’s heart.

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Ichinose himself can’t help but regard Takeo as a good man too, even if he feels he’s the better match for Rinko. It’s a great dynamic, with no one overtly evil or villainous or ridiculous. Even Ichinose’s extreme bluntness in his intentions as expressed to Takeo and Suna make sense, considering Ichi is a far better pastry person than people person.

He wins the Gold with a pastry containing all of the same qualities as Rinko, even naming it after her before confessing his love and asking her out—in front of Takeo and Suna, no less!

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Rinko is shocked and taken completely by surprise, but it doesn’t take long for her to formulate her response: She’s fine helping him out at the pastry shop, but she’s no muse, and her heart belongs to Takeo, as it has always belonged since she first laid eyes on the big lug. All of Takeo’s anxiety washes away in the warmth of that pronouncement, and shortly afterwards, Takeo gives her a big ol’ hug and does something he’s been working hard to do since they became a couple: call her Rinko.

Appropriately, it’s as big a deal for her to hear him say her first name as it is for him to say it, so when Takeo promises he’ll learn to use it more casually, I was also thinking Rinko would, at the same time, learn to hear it without her heart melting into goo.

An there you have it, peeps: My Love Story!! (Well, not mine…theirs). It has been quite a fun ride, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ll dearly miss this day-brightening, mold-breaking show, which is the first this Summer to have the good sense and manners to thank the audience for watching at the very end! Trust me, show: the pleasure was all ours.

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