Shimoneta – 12 (Fin)

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Shimoneta ends with an adventure on the road, as SOX is summoned by Anna’s mom Sophia to a hot springs district, possibly for some kind of parley. Only when they arrive, there’s no Sophia to welcome them; only Anna and Goriki, who were also summoned. The gang decides to avail themselves of the spa facilities, but what is going on here?

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Turns out Anna is the first to break the strict non-coed rules regarding the baths, as she sends Goriki on an impossible errand (her favorite way of getting rid of third parties) and again has her way with Tanukichi, but she’s interrupted by the scream of her own mother, who everyone finds unconscious and in her underwear in the changing room. Now they know someone else brought them here.

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That someone is “Black Base”, who claims no connection whatsoever to White Peak despite being a fan of the opposite color of panties. He’s replaced everyone’s clothes with black underwear, and that’s all everyone wears for the rest of the episode, which is a bold but highly appropriate move for the cheekily lewd Shimoneta. 

I especially liked how bashful Ayame and Tanukichi were with one another in such garb, despite plenty of running around either naked or near-naked in their past SOX dealings. But as Ayame says, “this is different,” and she’s right: those were professional duties; this is a lot more intimate.

Also, while Peak and Base represent black and white among SOX’s adversaries, Anna and Ayame are black and white-themed girls in Tanukichi’s life.

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Anywho, Black Base finds the rusty metal wheel Tanukichi brought along (given to him by his imprisoned father, who told him to bring it should he ever visit the hot springs district), and will only give it back if they beat him in a strip rock-paper-scissors tournament. Ayame makes good use of Goriki’s nausea-inducing pink underwear to distract Black Base so she and Tanukichi can escape with the wheel and head to the “treasure trove” its supposedly the key for.

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While taking a rusty old cable car (which Fuwa gets working in a random cameo) up to the mountain trove, Anna manages to beat Black Base and races back to Tanukichi. Unable to breathe, Tanu accidentally grabs Anna’s butt, sending her into ecstacy, whereupon the whole floor of the cable car gives out, sending her to her into the forest canopy.

I’ll say one thing about Shimoneta, it’s always been incredibly creative about infusing absurd lewdness into its action sequences. Once they’re at the trove, a hidden pedal reveals a hexagonal shaft, upon which Tanu’s rusty wheel fits perfectly.

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It takes the full strength of SOX to turn it and open the trove’s doors, revealing a wealth of lewd figurines collected and preserved for posterity. Ayame vows that SOX will continue to preserve such enlightening treasures for future generations, and a fully nude (but thankfully backlit) Black Base, who turns out to have been a good friend and colleague of Tanukichi’s dad, looks on approvingly, knowing the trove is in good hands.

Was the episode, and Shimoneta in general, perfect? Far from it; it never returned Anna to sanity, leaving her a bit one-note at the end; the Ayame-Tanu pairing never materialized; and everyone barfing at Goriki’s underwear seemed a little hypocritical in such an otherwise permissive milieu. But it was still fun, innovative, hilarious, and a surprisingly apt critique of the continuing Japanese struggle to balance decency and lewdness, both crucial parts of the nation’s culture.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 12 (Fin)

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For me, Rokka no Yuusha’s ending was never going to be satisfying. Even if the identity of the seventh is revealed—and it is; it’s Nashetania, whom we’d suspected the most all along—one episode isn’t enough to get to the Demon God, let alone defeat him. It just wasn’t going to happen. With that in mind, I managed my expectations accordingly.

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While it made logical sense based on a lot of her actions throughout the show that Tania was the seventh, it still left me a bit cold. A lot of why I enjoyed the show was the fact that most of the time, especially before that barrier went up, there was no reason to believe Tania was a villain. From the night she visited Adlet in his cell, she seemed like, well, a nice person. The story may have always intended for her to be the villain, but I’m not sure what to do with that.

I’m mostly just disappointed she turned into a sneering baddie who thinks 500,000 human casualties is a small price to pay for peace with the fiends. Despite the evidence against her, it still felt out of left field, and the big revelation didn’t have an impact that justified throwing her character into the dumpster. It doesn’t help that she turns into muddy goo and vanishes into the wind, meaning she’s still very much a threat to the other braves.

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But hey, at least Maura is apologetic and ready to work with Adlet, right? And Fremy isn’t going to go off on her own, and after she has some time to think, may eventually figure out how to interact with Adlet, whom she has feelings for? And we’re down to the correct number of six braves, right? Well, on that last point, wrong. 

Once the barrier falls, another seventh brave shows up. This brave, Rolonia seems specifically meant to vaguely resemble a cheap Nashetania knock-off, albeit with cow-themed rather than rabbit-themed armor. Worse, her sudden appearance, as well as the newly reignited suspicion and discord amongst the other braves…is played for comedy.

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Sorry, but this development is unforgivable. We were DONE with the seventh brave mystery. It took up the whole damn show, and if we’re being honest, wasn’t enough on its own to sustain most of the show. Combined with Nashetania being wasted, and not dying, ending up as a fresh threat, as well as the sudden arrival of a king who says 2,000 fiends are descending on their position…it’s all too much for a show that gives no indication of if and when it will return.

Part of it is me; I came in expecting the world-saving story to progress a lot further, rather than the show to get bogged down in a mystery. But for the show to solve that mystery, only to immediately start a new one in the last episode, was frankly the last straw for me. I’ve run out of goodwill and patience for this show. I wish I’d run out much earlier, so I wouldn’t have had to watch this botched finale. But I can tell you one thing: if there is a second season, I’ll be passing on it.

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GATE – 12 (FIN)

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GATE ends its first season with a somewhat transitional episode that takes stock of what’s happened (and all that Itami has done) and sets up some new storylines to come in the second season (whenever it airs). Sure, there’s a dark elf looking for help from the Green People to save her village and not having a lot of success, but there’s not much else going on here, and certainly not any kind of season-ending cliffhangers where anyone is in imminent danger.

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That being said, Yao Haa Dushi’s story is a good one, even if it’s familiar (it’s a lot like Tuka’s, only there are still survivors in her village). She comes in fully prepared to use her body to seduce the green people to help her, which comes off as a bit of a sexist move by her village elders, alone with sending her alone with no help. A lot of the time she has trouble with something as basic as language, and is wrongly accused of mugging one of the seedier elements in the Alnus town after she refused his advances.

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The refrain throughout the episode is twofold: the bureaucracy is bad because it keeps the JSDF from helping people (and because in Japan, the ASDF has to share airspace with civvies and the U.S.), and the question What Would Itami Do? It seemed like stalling a stalling tactic to make Yao’s first impression of Itami so poor (at the tavern last week), and even more of a stalling tactic to send Itami away on a random mission just when Yao finds an interpreter (in Lelei, who is starting to augment her magic with Japanese science).

Everyone who isn’t Itami and is still in town wants him to get back so he can do something, because surely he would in this situation. Which begs the question: how is he going to get past the General’s order not to help Yao? Sure, he’s got some privilege and pull in the Special Region, but there’s still the JSDF chain of command.

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The rest of the episode seems concerned with further stroking Itami’s ego and stoking his legend both in the Special Region and in Japan. Pina seems happy to receive a new supply of BL literature (AKA “Art!”), but it turns out to be translated articles from Japan singing praises of everything Itami has done. This is a bit odd, since Pina and her aide react like they didn’t already know all this, when in reality they were present for much of it! Also, it looks like Pina has a bit of a crush on Itami.

So yeah, this episode wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a fiasco, either. And it paves the way for an interesting second season. I don’t think it’s a matter of will Itami go off to fight the fire dragon, but when. His JSDF comrades would seem to welcome this, but it’s implied there will be further consequences involving the military brass and civilian government, both entities the show has shown pretty transparent contempt for.

As for me, Itami’s head may be getting a bit big for my taste, but between Rory, Tuka, Lelei, Pina, and now Yao, GATE has a solid cast whose future adventures and fates will have me coming back, and hopefully its more troublesome elements can be kept at bay long enough for me to stick with its second season to the end.

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Charlotte – 12

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The harrowing events of last week, which resulted in the rescue of Nao and the capture of anti-wielder actors, along with Pooh’s heroic sacrifice, eventually bring Yuu around to Shun’s big-picture way of thinking. It’s not enough to keep those he loves safe; in order to ensure their safety, he has to save everyone.

But at first, this week, he’s unsure of how to do that. In the beginning, all he can do is heal from the injuries he sustained, accept he’ll probably never see out of his right eye (or time leap), and allow himself to be spoon fed delicious meals provided by Takajou (school beef tongue curry), Yusa (cream stew) and Ayumi (omelette rice that has never tasted so good).

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I enjoyed the rhythm of the very people he cares about and wants to help the most visiting his room one after the other, helping him build up his strength with food they made with love. And having almost died, he makes sure to tell Misa to see her parents before Yusa loses her ability and she passes on for good.

Yusa rather ingeniously uses her job on a TV show to visit her parents, and Misa has a cathartic moment in which she actually possesses Yusa on camera to describe the love she tastes in her parents’ otherwise run-of-the-mill soba set. Combined with Yuu’s newfound love of Ayumi’s cooking, there’s some lovely blood family beats to be had this week.

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Despite being back on his feet, the one person Yuu can’t get himself to see is Nao, but as her injuries weren’t as bad as is (and let’s face it, she’s a tough one to boot), she’s discharged before him, and ends up visiting him. He asks her what he should do, and she says it’s technically possible, if extraordinarily difficult and dangeous, for him to simply end the entire crisis by plundering the abilities of every wielder in the world.

She almost seems to be shrugging it off as she proposes it, but Yuu agrees that’s exactly what he’ll do: travel the world, find every wielder, steal their abilities, and trusts he won’t turn into a world-ending monster. When Nao asks why, Yuu is upfront: it’s his turn to save her, because he loves her. The reaction of a Nao who didn’t actually save him in this timeline is dubiousness and confusion, which frustrates Yuu unti they’re literally growling at each other, seemingly proving to Nao they have the worst chemistry possible.

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But Nao’s rather aggressive inability to instantly accept Yuu’s confession doesn’t sway him; he still loves her, and he’ll still save everyone, including her, in order to repay the debt of her alternate self. She rather perceptively points out that other Nao may have just been taking responsibility, as she brought Yuu into all this to begin with, but she can’t deny Yuu has become someone dear to him that she knows she can believe in.

So she makes a deal they pinkie-swear on: they’ll settle down as lovers. Yuu warns her she may be putting too much faith in the one-time “cheating fiend”, but to Nao that’s the point of the deal: if he can pull off this final mission, she’s convinced she’d be in a position to fall for him. Before they part, Nao has Yuu plunder her power first, thus officially setting him on his path.

Once it happens, Nao looks lighter, relieved, and grateful. I want to believe these two didn’t just exchange death flags by mapping out their ideal future together. That is, I’m hoping Maeda Jun doesn’t rip my heart out again; I’m tired of putting it back in my chest!

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Having already started his mission, Yuu visits his brother on the hospital roof, who is still mourning Pooh and fills him in. He gets the blessing of Shun, who tells him to go overseas while he and the Syndicate handle Japan. Yuu also takes Takajou and Yusa’s powers, which in the latter means the end of Misa, who writes a tearjerking farewell letter to her sister thanking her for letting her borrow her now and then.

Finally, while packing to leave on a trip to do something he must do because only he can, Nao pops by to wish him Godspeed, and they exchange tokens of their commitment to meeting again. Nao gives him English conversation notes, and Yuu gives her the media player she gave to him. Hopefully this isn’t ZHIEND for these two, because they’ve emerged as one of the better romantic pairings of the year, in one of the finest shows.

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