End-of-Month Rundown – November 2015

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Average Episode Show Word Count (Words per review):

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: 906
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry: 748
Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai: 702
Sakurako-san no Ashimoto: 649
Noragami Aragoto: 642
Ushio to Tora: 616
Owari no Seraph 2: 601
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk: 594
Subete ga F ni Naru: 593
Owarimonogatari: 589
One Punch Man: 568
Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen: 398

Stray November Observations:

  • Gundam IBO remains the best Fall show, with Noragami, One Punch Man, Owarimonogatari, and Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry rounding out the Fall Top 5
  • Zane’s review of RKC episode 9 was 1,196 words, tops among Fall ’15 reviews, edging out Hannah’s IBO episode 1
  • Hannah is continuing her Retro Reviews of Attack on Titan, but is quitting Utawarerumono due to declining interest
  • Among shows we’re still reviewing, only Subete ga F and Asterisk have yet to be awarded a 9 rating, and only those two shows and Taimadou have average ratings under 8
  • One Punch Man and Owarimonogatari are the only two shows with average ratings below MAL’s
  • OPM’s MAL rating (8.88) seems over-inflated, while Taimadou’s (7.17) seems oddly underrated (both, probably, due to source material reader opinion…which is just as valid as anime-only watcher opinion)
  • No Fall shows are experiencing any significant second-half fall-off; it’s been a pretty consistent season
  • To reach the rare 9 average rating, the final four episodes of IBO’s first cour will have to average 9.5 (or two 9s and two 10s)
  • So far, the writers of RABUJOI have written 73,281 words (including 7,377 for the first 13 episodes of Attack on Titan
  • If we printed those words out in single-spaced 12-point type on standard letter stock (~500 words per page), it would be about 147 pages
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Attack on Titan – 13

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The episode that marks the end of the first half of Attack on Titan also, mercifully, marks the end of the interminable Battle of Trost. It’s an episode full of big, great, “Hell Yeah” moments. One of those is when everyone, believing they’re all at death’s door, suddenly stops what they’re doing and listen to the steady, ominous footsteps. Clearly they’re from a Titan, but it’s when they see the boulder moving that they know it’s their Titan, Eren, finally doing what he’s supposed to be doing.

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Finally, with the mission on the right track, everyone knows what to do: Eren must be protected at all costs. If he is swarmed by Titans again and God forbid, drops that boulder, it really is all over. Mikasa for one, is clearly not going to let any Titans get near him, belting out a primal war cries as she cuts them down one by one.

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Another great moment is when Eren finally gets to the broken gate and slams the boulder in place, kicking up a huge cloud of dust. All the torment of the arc’s past episodes seems to be worth it; for the first time, the humans can truly claim victory over the Titans (albeit thanks to another Titan). Rico admires Eren’s handiwork and is staggered by the enormity of what just happened. An most importantly, none of the hundreds of soldiers who fell today died in vain; they all died so that the gate could be sealed and the district saved.

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But there are still a good number of Titans still within the walls, so as much as everyone wants to stand down or pass out from exhaustion, there’s still a battle to be won. Fortunately for Mikasa, Armin, and a freshly-extracted Eren (it seems to get tougher and tougher to separate him from the Titan…uh-oh), the cream of the Scout Regiment arrives, confused by what the hell just happened, but ready to mop up. Captain Levi’s movements in particular are like nothing we’d seen in the battle before, even from Mikasa.

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With the last of the Titans dealt with, the butcher’s bill comes in: over 200 dead, nearly 1,000 wounded. It’s up for the soldiers like Jean and Sasha to gather up the bodies (or what’s left of them, having been horrifically spit up by stuffed Titans) and burn them before an epidemic finishes what the Titans started. It’s a ghoulish, traumatic business that ensures there won’t be any celebration for this first victory; not while one is surrounded by the stench of the burning remains of comrades.

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The final big moment of the episode, which paves the way for the second half, is when Eren wakes up behind bars, chained to his bed. He may have been the linchpin of the operation that saved Trost District and Wall Rose, but he’s still a potentially dangerous and unstable element, so the bars and chains are a wise precaution.

Fortunately, it would also seem that his captors hew more towards Pixis than Woerman, with actions driven by reason rather than fear. The commander of the Scout Regiment, flanked by Levi, simply asks Eren what he wants to do. If they’re to investigate Dr. Yeager’s secrets, hidden in the basement of Eren’s now-destroyed home in Titan-riddled Shiganshina, having a Titan on their side could prove as decisive as it was in the battle of Trost.

Eren wants to join the scouts and drive the Titans out. That impresses Levi enough to decide to take him under his wing. With a clear path set for the second half, and an interesting new master-student dynamic, I’m looking forward to seeing how things shake out with Eren, Levi, Mikasa, and Armin.

As for the other members of the 104th? Well…aside from Sasha and Jean, they haven’t made much of an impact for me, and even those two are a bit muddled. IMO AoT has most effective when it has resisted the urge to give every single character their two minutes in the sun, and instead focused on the core trio.

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First Half Pros/Cons:

Pros:

  • Richly-rendered world with well-defined scale and complexity
  • Palpable atmosphere of large-scale despair, desperation and futility
  • The Titans stike a weird balance of terrifying and cute
  • The Eren/Mikasa/Armin dynamic works very well, with each character contributing a unique strength
  • Mikasa is the undisputed star, cool outside but all churning emotions inside, making it all the more awesome when they break out

Cons:

  • Front-loading of episodes with recapping and retracing to start episodes
  • I’m sure the creator/producers thought through the 3D harnesses, but it still took a while to get on board with the fact they actually worked, and how
  • The supporting cast is generally bland, amorphous, and served mostly to steal valuable time from main triad
  • Excessive explanation combined with camera cutaways from overt gore suggest the targeted audience is younger than me
  • The show suffers from inconsistent pacing; the Trost battle went on far too long

One Punch Man – 09

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ENTER GENOS. Genos doesn’t mess around this week. He gets right down to the Sea King Clobberin’. And it looks, for a hot moment, like he was sufficient, until the Sea King swoops back into view and clobbers him right back. Genos holds out, buying valuable time for the surely en route-by-now Saitama, but when a little girl cheering him on gets targeted by the King’s acid loogie, he blocks it, at great physical cost.

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All I can say is goddamn, it’s a good thing Genos is a cyborg primarily composed of replaceable artificial parts, becaue he looks near-as-makes-no-difference GONE after that acid’s done eating away at him. For a usually funny show, this is a horrific, visceral image that instills despair in that little girl.

And then, Mumen Rider tosses his bike at the Sea King. That gentle rattle of the King’s body brings the laughter right back. Mumen, unlike Saitama, belongs in Class C, at least as far as strength and ability is concerned. But he has a Class S heart, and that’s what matters as he refuses to back down and even tries to feed (in vain) off of the support of the crowd. Again, while he has no hope of victory, he’s buying time for Saitama.

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ENTER SAITAMA. The man we’ve all been waiting to see saunter up to the Sea King. The King sends Saitama’s head gently, hilariously bobbling with his initial punch, but that’s all he does. Saitama doesn’t want to stand in the rain much longer, so he wants to get this over with his usual way, so he does, blasting a hole through the Sea King so hard, the force of his punch actually blows the rainclouds away, an awesome effect. It’s all over; Perfect Victory to Saitama. The crowd of evacuees vociferously voice their gratitude.

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The next day Saitama and (a fully repaired!) Genos receive fan mail via HA delivery drone (they’re going to be a thing, people!), but the first letter Saitama opens is a violently scrawled accusation that’s he’s a cheat who should burn in hell. So hate mail.  We’re helpfully sent back to the immediate aftermath of his defeat of Sea King. There, we see just how much one or two bad apples spoil the bunch when it comes to skewing the opinion of the whole.

One of the evacuees, whose character design seems to have been painstakingly developed to be as loathsome, adversarial, and (one!-)punchable as possible, brings up the fact that this bald guy isn’t necessarily strong, but the other heroes who fell before him were weak. He goes on to call the entire hero class system into question.

This angers Saitama, but he reacts quite differently than I expected: he embraces his role as the guy who “just” delivered the finishing blow. His self-depricating words are a means of preserving the sacrifice of the heroes before him, and he doubles down on racing in at the last second to steal wins off of them. He’s not about to let other heroes who fought with everything they had be thrown under the bus because of his mis-classification. What was left of Genos at the time manages a grin of appreciation; his master truly is amazing.

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And while Saitama’s public image may not be what he might have wanted going into this whole pro hero thing, the fact is paddling against the flow of public opinion is never really going to be worthwhile as long as he’s Class C. That changes after this fight, as he becomes ranked first in C, with the option to be promoted to B after an exhaustive interview; an option he accepts, and which puts him on Amai Mask’s radar as a potential threat closing fast.

Saitama did get one hastily-scrawled letter expressing genuine thanks for his heroism. Turns out it was from Mumen Rider, who treats him to dinner at a food stand. Unlike Saitama, Mumen may be exactly where he should be—atop Class C—but that doesn’t matter to Saitama.

Mumen gave him a ride when he needed one, stood up to the Demon-class Sea King, and took an epic beating that in hindsight couldn’t have been that bad as he’s out of the hospital and ambulatory not long thereafter. We see mutual respect at that stand. And Mumen’s thanks means more to Saitama than the impersonal acceptance and love of the masses. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 09

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As the entire episode takes place aboard Teiwaz’s planetary cruiser Saisei, there are no battles this week, except those within the minds of our characters, particularly Orga and Kudelia, who must place Tekkadan and the Martian resistance respectively into larger, more powerful hands. After all, the next steps that need to be made could lead to war.

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That being said, while I have my lingering doubts about Teiwaz and the somewhat inscrutable, almost too friendly McMurdo Barristan, a quick check-in on McGillis, Gaelio, and Ein underscores how tenuous Tekkadan’s position is. They must become stronger, which means aligning themselves with Teiwaz through a blood oath between Naze and Orga.

Meanwhile, Barristan asks Kudelia to make Teiwaz a direct appointee. When Kudelia turns to Mika, he likens her situation to the time he first killed someone: it was a choice her entire future will depend on. It’s also a choice that takes your innocence away, making you less of a child and more of an adult.

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This is an episode filled with young people taking the necessary next steps into adulthood, whether it’s Orga putting aside his pride in an autonomous Tekkadan, Kudelia accepting the blood already on her hands and formalizing her commitment to potentially cause even more of it to be shed.

Orga and the boys also go all out with their celebrating in Saisei’s main street, with Orga drinking way too much (which was probably not much at all) and being offered a handkerchief by a beautiful woman, Merribit (who is unquestionably a cool, confident adult) who tells him adults “have to deal with many things.”

Kudelia also gives Fumitan a necklace that matches her own, a sign she sees her as more than just her maid, and unless I’m seeing things, Fumitan continues to look a bit suspicious while betraying a tinge of guilt over…whatever she’s doing when no one is looking.

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Orga appears passed out, but in reality is listening to Biscuit and Mika as they talk about how Orga’s guts have allowed them to keep “dreaming on” in the face of insurmountable odds, and ekeing through battles they had no business winning but for a hearty helping of luck. Biscuit also expresses his wish that Orga would rely more on them, rather than be the one everyone relies on. That’s what family’s for.

Orga also gets to see something he’s never seen before after waking up; Ride stashing away excess sweets and treats bought from Saisei’s shops, not for himself, but for the younger kids when they cry. Ride may still be so young he still has his spots, but his life has forced him to be an adult for those younger and weaker than him, and Orga is heartened by what he sees and knows he’s making the right decision.

Finally, speaking of stepping into adulthood, there’s one thing Shino needs that he can’t get on either the Tekkadan or Turbine ships. The day after, it’s clear to Yukinojou that Shino got laid, while Eugene proudly/awkwardly mentions to Laffter that he’s an adult now too, having been with his first woman the night before.

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The next day is when everything becomes official between Tekkadan and Teiwaz; between Orga and Naze; between Kudelia and Barristan. Everyone gets dressed up, as adults do, and everyone dons black robes that obscure their distinctive outfits. Orga exchanges his old pride for a new kind: the pride of knowing the house of Tekkadan that he built now stands on firmer ground. Kudelia, too, is no longer in limbo.

Things will probably start to move a lot faster now that Tekkadan is one with Teiwaz. They’ll have to deal with many different things, because that’s what adults do.

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Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 09

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It’s with a semi-heavy heart that I bid adieu to perhaps the strangest Fall show I’m watching. Its episodes are usually fairly fun, but has lacked substance and cohesion. The show’s M.O. is to introduce two or more new cute female characters per week, and the show has gotten very crowded and unfocused as a result.

This week it’s two of Kuon’s “sisters” from her homeland, who baby her like a couple of mother hens. Their treatment of her is over-the-top to the point of incredulity, and we’re talking a show were almost everyone has tails and fuzzy ears. I will say I liked the little mini-arc the Big bird and tiger had, but it’s all just so darned random.

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Random, but at the same time, very workaday. Much of this show has been Kuon and Haku eating and bathing while encountering the new characters of the week, many of whom have stuck around, leading to a huge entourage of people, many of them princesses.

It was  also nice to have Haku inadvertently demonstrate how well he’s come to know Kuon by visiting all of her usual haunts, and going somewhere he knew she’d never go (the BL bookstore) only to find her hiding there. But it’s not much we haven’t seen before, and nothing that reignited an interest in continuing the show for a whole second cour. As you can see, I can barely scrape together 250 words about it. That’s when you know it’s time to say sayonara.

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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 09

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In addition to getting a win and advancing due to Ayase’s forfeiture, Ikki also gets a week off with Stella at a mountain hotel. Thankfully, we’re well past the point that one or the other must use this golden opportunity to confess their love—they’re already lovers. Rather, it’s more an opportunity for the two to see just how much trouble they can get into, and find out what kind of lovers they’re going to be.

Alas, it also turns out the director tricked them; at least part of their “vacation” consists of helping the Student Council clean the hotel. I maintain the Student Council are all a bunch of shallow cliches with silly exaggerated designs, but it’s good to know they’re not really evil, and as a group bouncing off one another, they’re fun enough.

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…Just not as fun as watching Stella and Ikki when no one else is around. Stella wants to go see a gorgeous waterfall an hour’s walk away, but she didn’t eat enough in the morning, gets tired and weak, and eventually shows symptoms of a cold. Then it starts to rain, and Ikki postpones the waterfall trip and seeks out shelter. Almost too conveniently, they find a clean, unoccupied cabin with a hearth.

Soaking wet and coming down with a fever, the best thing for Stella is to get her clothes off so she can get warm and dry. Ikki knows it’s probably embarassing, so he strips first. It’s a kind and very Ikki gesture, and reminds Stella how they met, with him seeing “everything” right from the start. She doesn’t look on that day with scorn, but with a smile.

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In the firelight, with Stella sweating and breathing heavily, there’s no way to make this situation not incredibly sexy for both parties. Ikki attempts to keep things “businesslike”, but after unclasping her stockings and bra, Ikki pitches a tent; one that Stella not only notices, but is happy she excites him so, especially when he’s exciting her so much. After a pause that lasts seemingly forever during which only the fire snaps and pops, Stella finally puts the question to Ikki: “Do you wanna do it with me?”

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But that doesn’t lead to any slow dissolves, tasteful panning, or overdramatic score drowning out sex noises. In fact, Ikki is taken aback, asking if she’s sure what she’s saying. Without skipping a beat, Stella looks seriously and calmly at Ikki and says she does; she wants him, he wants her, and if he wants, they can have each other right here and now. Stella may be the instigator by posing the question, but she understands the choice of whether to proceed belongs to both of them.

Ikki says no, but it’s not because he doesn’t want to. For one thing, she’s exhausted and needs to rest, but beyond that, Ikki is thinking about their future—both their futures, not just his. Even if you don’t quite agree with Ikki’s somewhat conservative views on the matter, you can still understand his decision as part in parcel of the careful life he has to lead, whether it’s not getting into useless fights, or not risking getting the girl he loves pregnant in a fit of passion just because all the circumstances align.

It’s not that Stella isn’t being clear-headed, or Ikki is being a prude. It’s somewhere in between, which makes it a far more interesting situation. Stella isn’t just disappointed Ikki turned her down this time; she’s also happy he’s so serious about their relationship. This isn’t just a fling for him. She also surprises herself again with her “naughtiness”, though I sensed more acceptance of, rather than shame about, that side of her.

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In any case, they got as close as you could physically and emotionally get to going all the way, and you have to tip your hat to RKC for going there and not giving us easy or one-dimensional answers or resolutions. And from a practical perspective, it’s good they didn’t get into it, because they would have been rudely (and probably painfully) interrupted by a giant stone golem smashing the cabin.

Again, RKC and Asterisk echo one another when this attacking monster splits into several smaller versions of itself when Ikki cuts it, meaning a central controlling element must be taken out to stop it from reviving. Ikki isn’t able to find it, and nearly loses Stella while fighting when the Student Council shows up to rescue them. A very discreet Student Council that doesn’t ask too many questions about why Stella is in such as state of undress and whatnot!

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Even the council finds their backs up against the wall, until their long-talked-about but previously unseen president arrives and takes the golem—and his controller, many miles away—down with authority. The glasses-wearing, twin-braid redhead is named Toudou Touka (not to be confused with Asterisk’s Toudou Kirin), and she makes an immediate impression as a capable badass who naturally was one of the final four in the last Seven Star. Heck, her attacks even dissolve the letterboxingin a subtle visual breaking of the fourth wall.

As for the gangster-type guy who arranged the golem attack, I don’t much care for him at all, but wonder if he’s specifically after Ikki on behalf of the Kuroganes, or more interesting working against them (and the Kurogane clan having to put on a front of loathing to protect Ikki all this time)

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Mercifully, Shizuku isn’t quite obsessive enough to have snuck on the bus with Stella and Ikki and stalked them on their trip (though it would have been somewhat interesting if she had been the one to save them from the golem, I don’t think she could have handled peeking through the window as the lovers stripped and sweated). Instead, she goes home to her big, cold sad room in the big, cold, sad Kurogane Manor, where she’s summoned by her big, cold, sad father.

Her dad claims to want to know how Shizuku is doing, so had her mother write a letter to her on his behalf. In addition to being insulted by being tricked into coming, Shizuku is pissed that her father won’t even speak of Ikki, even though like her he’s won twelve matches in a row without a loss.

He’s quick to express his pride in her, but not Ikki, so she rejects his pride, along with whatever excuses he has for treating her brother like garbage for so long. (Of course, if there is a good reason Ikki’s family does that, which Shizuku isn’t aware of, it would be nice to hear about it.)

This is actually Shizuku at her best, “behind enemy lines”, where the enemy is the entire rest of her family who treat Ikki like an inconvenient eyesore, and taking the fight to that enemy. If they’re not going to treat Ikki like they treat her, she’d rather they treat her like Ikki, and go to the devil while they’re at it. Going home made Shizuku mad, which is why its such perfect timing that her next match will be against Toudou Touka, in a battle of water vs. lighting.

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Owarimonogatari – 09

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After escaping the trap of the snail by going over the rooftops, Koyomi and Kanbaru encounter a crab-monkey hybrid. Once they deal with it (and as a fellow left-hander I feel for Kanbaru mixing up directions), snakes emerge, which Shinobu grabs, then lends Kokoro-watari to Koyomi to finish the demi-apparition off. All of the animals that afflicted Koyomi’s girls are coming back, and all seemingly in service of the samurai.

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After lying under Shinobu as she swings—revealing a small sticker with Gaen’s location, the shrine—Koyomi heads there with Kanbaru and Shinobu. When Koyomi describes what the samurai was after (and imitates his laugh all too perfectly, another clue as to who he is), Shinobu is incredulous. The minion she created, from whom she took Kokoro-watari…she watched him burn up in the sun and die 400 years ago.

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He can’t be back, she insists; This is all some kind of lie or trick. But when they meet up with Gaen Izuko (introducing herself as Oshino Izuko to Kanbaru and Shinobu, who seem to buy it), and Koyomi tells her everything that happened, Izuko disputes Shinobu’s assertion the first minion is dead.

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While her scenes are primarily exposition, she inhabits a variety of interesting environments as she provides it, eventually whipping out “game pieces” of all the Monogatari characters. She makes connections between the first minion and Koyomi, the second minion, and describes coincidences that weren’t coincidences, like the fact that the first five animal apparitions infected five of his female friends, and later phoenixes and cats and tigers.

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She then takes things all the way back to four centuries ago, glossing over Shinobu’s story (because Shinobu already told it, and beautifully so) and focusing on the first minion, who became so after Shinobu drank his blood. He came to loathe what he had become, but that loathing couldn’t change the fact that his immortality was such that even burning up in the sun would not kill him, only disperse him into a cloud of ash.

Over 400 years, exposed to the elements and through trial-and-error, the first minion resurrected, not necessarily because he wanted to but because that’s just what happened. And the final reveal, that the minion was finally successful in coalescing fifteen years ago, leads us to wonder if he’s someone Koyomi already knows…the fifteen-year-old Oshino Ougi, for instance.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 08

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No doubt motivated by her feelings for Yuu, and her desire to not see him in pain, Shinoa agrees to attempt to save Guren and Shinya. Had she fully comprehended how impossible it would be to snatch from Eusford Crowley something he does not intend to give up willingly, she would never have agreed even to the few minutes of attempted rescue.

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The Shinoa Team puts their absolute best, perfectly-coordinated product on the field, and still get trounced by the mere sidelong glance of Crowley. Not that surprising; even Guren and Shinya only lasted so long until they were exhausted heaps unable to stay upright without a wall nearby to lean on. Rescuing Guren simply isn’t possible. They can only run, live another day, and hope to get another shot later.

(It was good to hear a vocal arrangement of Sawano’s “scaPEGoat”, which not only gave this scene gravitas, but also made me miss the first season’s ED; this season’s OP and ED are pretty weak by comparison.)

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The extent of the futility continues when Guren’s team shows up. Goshi gets his illusory fog going, and even Crowley is plunged into a lava-filled cavern, but none of the surprise attacks from Sayuri, Shigure, or Mito trouble Crowley at all, nor does the illusion. Rather, he’s bemused that the humans have amassed even this much power, even though they remain thoroughly powerless compared to him.

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Guren orders everyone to retreat and leave him behind, and everyone obeys, though nobody is happy about it. Both Shinya and “Guren’s Girls” are particularly broken up about it, but with the exception of Sayuri, maintain their composure and set their sights on completing the mission, linking up with Narumi’s squad and working as a team. But Yuu can’t do it.

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No matter what anyone, even Shinoa, says to him about family or how much better they know Guren, Yuu is simply incapable of letting Guren go as long as he’s still alive. He remembers the first sleepless, nightmare-ridden nights after Guren rescued him. Even back then they’d developed a rather combative sheen to an otherwise deep brotherly bond, and for the first time, we see how much Yuu meant to Guren as a means of making up for the person he lost.

He also spoke of a day Yuu never thought would come: when the pain of living would give way to purpose: finding someone who needed help, as Yuu needed Guren’s. Yuu believes that time has finally come, and he’d rather die than pass it up. So he takes two more pills than he should, then starts to convulse and bleed and pass out, to everyone’s horror; particularly Shinoa’s.

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Just as Yuu is apparently dying of an overdose as his friends stand around him, helpless, Mika arrives with his squad of vampire underlings, who he promptly kills. He’s not here to “check on Crowley”, after all. He’s here for Yuu, and it doesn’t look good for Yuu’s friends right now.

As for the larger battle, Kureto, on the front line and feeling directly responsible for the survival of the entire human race, hasn’t quite let the power get to his head, but he has certainly grabbed all the power he can. Despite the arrival of a brother closer to the Hiiragi patriarch, Kureto is going his own way with his own means and methods, and no one can judge him, because if he fails everyone will be dead anyway.

His own means include the deployment of a “test subject” ominously stored in something resembling the Jurassic Park raptor crate. What devilry lies therein? Will it make a difference? Is Yuu really dead of an overdose? (No, he’s not.) The preview for next week shows Shinoa holding back a line of vampires…for Mika’s sake. I am definitely intrigued.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 09

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Okay, no more messing around: the long-awaited Phoenix Festa is finally upon us; that is, after the introduction of Irene Urzaiz, a student so badass she’s in school prison. The head of the “Steering Committee” also announces the controversial decision to allow contestants to field alternates (AKA puppets), bringing a grin to Ernesta’s face.

Before Ayato and Julis’ first match, a light lunch is indicated, which is provided in the form of various over-sized rice balls made by Kirin with Saya’s help. Saya is able to glom onto Ayato briefly, and even get her head patted by Ayato like Kirin. Julis, however, does not request to have her head patted, and lets the silver and blue have their fun.

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When lunch is over, it’s Showtime, and Julis has Ayato all to herself. I liked how confidently Julis, used to distant adoration, strutted out to the arena, while Ayato was a lot more nervous, and how she actually flaunted that confidence by acknowledging the cheering masses. She is a famous princess, after all.

Going in, Ayato is hyped as the only Rank #1 fighter in the Festa, and he decides to waste no time demonstrating that, breaking out Ser Veresta and putting on a little show of powering up before dispatching the two opponents (who weren’t even introduced) all by himself, with one swipe.

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But it’s not just a convincing win; everything went according to plan. Ayato’s chains were presented as showmanship rather than a hindrance to his abilities, and his battle time limit was kept secret by keeping the battle short, with the assumption that Julis would step in once he can no longer fight.

Julis also makes sure Ayato knows to be evasive to the press lest they give anything away. This isn’t Julis’ first rodeo; she knows ignorance is their best weapon, while any info their opponents glean is ammunition against them.

That brings us to the next battle, one between two Le Wolfe brothers who each look at least 35 years of age (Why?) and the two combat puppets built by Allekant’s Ernesta and Camilla, a male-female pair named “Aldy” and “Rimsy”, whose dynamic and banter resembles that of their human creators.

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Le Wolfe dudes flash their skills with wind magic and marksmanship, but even with one minute period in which the puppets don’t attack, they can’t put a dent in ’em. The minute is up, and it’s Game Over for the over-aged brothers, as expected.

Those puppets will definitely potentially pose a challenge to our Seidokan pals; I’m thinking Kirin and Saya will face them at some point, while Irene Urzaiz is gunning for Ayato, with orders not to necessarily win her match, but simply to destroy him.

In any case, we’ll see if the show takes us to those faced, named challengers or if Ayato & Co. will have to carve their way through more nobodies before they reach the “bosses.”

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Noragami Aragoto – 09

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Because Yato is in a charitable mood and possibly harbors guilt for the things he did with her, he goes along with Hiiro’s idea to go into the underworld to rescue a conjurer, despite the fact he could very easily get trapped down there by it’s queen, Izanami. When that conjurer turns out to be Ebisu (who is absent for the latest colloquy, correctly suspected, and for whom an arrest warrant is issued), suddenly Yato’s personal dilemma is intertwined with the overarching threat of Ebisu.

For a supposed Big Bad, it’s surprising how casual Yato and Ebisu are when they meet. Perhaps it’s because Yato trusts a far more famous god, or because hasn’t always been the most scrupulous fellow himself (as his continued entanglement with Nora attests) but he doesn’t really protest Ebisu’s use of Masked Ones as “phantom regalias”. In fact, we get a lot of Ebisu’s silly, eccentric side, rather than any goofy evil face-twisting. It’s a nice change of pace; I like it.

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While Yato, Hiiro, and Ebisu tread deeper into the underworld, Hiyori is snagged by her high school friend into a triple date at Amagi Brilliant Park some Capybara-themed park. Notably, Tenjin stops Tomone (curious about where Yato went off to) from getting Hiyori’s attention in the street; it’s been established Tenjin wants Hiyori to stop hanging out with gods an regalias and live a normal living high school girl’s life.

Now it looks like that might be happening. We don’t know her friends that well, but their meeting up and pairing off at the park is very well done. It’s amusing to see the girl who arranged everything ended up pairing up with a different guy, leaving the handsome, well-spoken Fujisaki (who caught her from falling last week) to Hiyori, and the two have instant chemistry, courteously apologizing to each other for putting one another out.

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When Yato and Ebisu encounter Izanami, everything seems arranged to keep them by her side. She takes the form of people they care about—a very forward Hiyori, in Yato’s case—and she constantly offers food, drink, friendship; all of which will keep them stuck in the underworld as her “friend” forever. Hiiro actually does Yato a solid by protecting him from “Hiyori’s” kiss; let it be said that Yato and Hiiro really do make a good team; it’s just that being in that team puts serious strain on Yato’s newer relationships in the living world.

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Yukine, for his part, has very little to do this week, but he continues to train and become stronger in body and mind under Kazuma’s wing. Kazuma notes that Yukine is also trying to remain strong for Yato’s sake, even though he’s worried about him.

He should be, it would seem: when Izanami says she’ll only give them the brush if one of them stays behind, Ebisu picks Yato to stay with the logic that he’s the more famous god with a lot more at stake. Obviously, Yato takes exception to this—he has as much a right to exist as Ebisu, regardless of his past—so they fight.

But it all turns out to be an elaborate distraction. When Ebisu “beats” Yato by snatching Hiiro from him (she once served him as well, taking the form of a pistol), Izanami celebrates the fact Yato will be her friend. But then Ebisu uses his little masked phantom bat to snatch the brush, and he and Yato high-tail it together as Izanami fumes.

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As they flee, Yato thinks only of getting back to the near shore and to Yukine and Hiyori, whom he cares for so much. Surely this is the end of his dealings with Hiiro, right? He’ll pop back at an awkward time during the date and Hiyori will be embarassed but relieved and happy at the same time, right? Right?

Well…no. As the date progresses, Hiyori continually remembers someone who’s name and face she can’t place, and it starts to eat at her, until it’s clear to her date Fujisaki that something is very wrong. But Fujisaki reads her demeanor as something that can be remedied by taking her hand and kissing her in front of the hugely-romantic fireworks parade.

His instinct isn’t wrong, nor could he possibly be aware that by being kind and charming and comforting to Hiyori all but snaps the thread connecting her to Yato. Who was the one she wanted to take to the park so badly? Wait…she’s at the park with someone now. Does it matter? 

This is what Tenjin – and Hiiro – wanted. Will that kiss really work, or will Hiyori become even more troubled by her inability to remember? Will someone be able to jog her memory before it’s too late?

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Ushio to Tora – 22

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Sensitive as Ushio is, especially when it comes to mother figures, he remains emotionally drained and doubtful of his own strength in the wake of the loss of Oyakume. Logical arguments like it was her choice, and perhaps she was always meant only to live long enough to protect Ushio there and then against the minion of Hakumen, won’t dissuade him from his spiral of despair.

As for Tora, he gets sick of this attitude real fast, and tries to snap Ushio out of his funk by threatening to kill and eat him in his weakened state. Ushio listlessly fights back, causing Tora to conclude he’s far too weak to be worth eating, so he’s peace-ing out until he is.

Ushio and Tora may have become near-as-makes-no-difference friends, but Tora’s not the hand-holding, comforting kinda friend; he’ll split if things get whiny and boring. After all, Ushio’s weakness uncomfortably reminds Tora of just how strange an tenuous a relationship they have, which makes him question his own strength in terms of being a Big Bad Monster.

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Conveniently, Tora’s absence leaves Ushio open to a confrontation with Kirio and a group of ten Kouhamei monks who steal the Beast Spear, intending to destroy it in favor of Elzaar Scythes, the “superior” holy weapons.

Meanwhile, Kouhamei sect members who haven’t fallen in with Kirio—Nagare and Hinowa—both act to support Ushio. Tora hooks up with Nagare, who at the moment is more interesting than Ushio, while Hinowa’s loyalty to the high priest and late Oyakume won’t allow her to let Ushio or the Beast Spear be destroyed.

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Hinowa and Ushio get an education on the Inasa, a former sect member who raised Kirio. Driven by his fear for Hakumen, he grew so obsessed with developing weapons that he started to believe he could make one better than the Beast Spear, using a forbidden combo of sorcery and science that got him excommunicated. He took up residence in the “House of Whisperers,” which is where Nagare and Tora begin their search for Kirio and the Spear.

What we basically have, then, are two very common genre concepts—mad scientist and his haunted mansion—cloaked in an Ushio to Tora skin. Which is fine; again, we knew he’d have to contend with one more would-be successor (albeit one who wants to destroy, not wield the spear), it’s just that Ushio’s crisis of confidence feels like a rehash, and we’re with Tora when he says a weak Ushio is a boring one.

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Nagare and Hinowa, on the other hand, are their usual delightful selves, with the former offering Tora some interesting insights about his life, (seeking a life of excitement while stopping short of putting his own life on the line for others), while the latter is constantly scolding Ushio for his lack of manners and propriety, but not hesitating to help him, because she believes he’s the true wielder.

Then there’s Towako, a woman who comes out of nowhere to help Inasa advance his research and perfect Elzaar scythes. Another evil crazy-eyed character? Sure, why not?

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Towako seems like some kind of dark muse for Inasa, until she steals an infant and decides they’ll use it to create the “materia”, the ultimate artificial spiritual warrior who will wield the Elzaar Scythe, and along with Kuin take out Hakumen no Mono. They share the desired end with Kouhamei Sect, but it’s the means that are so, so wrong, to the point that even Inasa isn’t really fully on board with creating Kirio, though he’s not strong enough to step in and stop it.

Inasa ended up dying in that house, while Towako is still around somewhere, having raised and twisted Kirio into her instrument. But you know what? Despite learning that Kirio had a rough upbringing and probably suffered much at the hands of people who were, charitably, on the cusp of insanity, the bottom line is I still don’t much like Kirio.

Revealing him as a GMO Monster that can only act as programmed doesn’t make him any more sympathetic or compelling a character. He’s literally a tool, and an obstacle to Ushio, and whether he’s killed or joins the cause, I’d prefer if he was dealt with sooner rather than later.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 08

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After spending much of the previous episode apart, this episode almost revels in pairing up Moe with Saikawa once more. With dawn approaching and the police soon on their way, Moe believes she can get her uncle in the police department to keep Shiki’s murder a secret for the length of time the lab needs; that way no one has to lie. Moe goes to the roof to try to determine how Shindo’s killer could have gotten on or off the roof from the outside, but more than anything she’s just happy to be with Saikawa.

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As for that sunset, it’s a really lovely scene during which the sky gradually lightens and the sun comes up over the trees as Moe and Saikawa lean on the rail, enjoying each other’s company. Moe talks about how she hurt her when she lashed out in her mad grief all those years ago, but Saikawa never held it against her; “glasses can be fixed.” It was more important to him that Moe knew she wasn’t alone, even though her parents were gone.

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The pleasant domestic theme continues when Moe takes a shower and Saikawa makes a hearty breakfast of bacon & eggs, and then Saikawa lets Moe doze off for a few hours, then for the two to keep each other company during a slightly scary blackout as the lab’s computer is rebooted.

Saikawa notes how differently he and Moe think: he sees the path and carefully walks along it to find the answer, while Moe grasps at random facts and tries to make connections. Saikawa implies Moe has much to learn, but can’t deny that she presents ideas that he wouldn’t have come up with. They make a good team.

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With Moe, who feels much lighter since  by his side in the dark as he puffs away at a cigarette, Saikawa comes upon what he believes to be a truth that may turn everything on its head: the Magata Shiki Moe spoke to via teleconference wasn’t really Magata Shiki. The episode also brings up the possibility of passing Miki off as Shiki, despite being taller and more filled out…but what if Miki IS Shiki?

What if that whole English conversation Saikawa had was with Shiki? Could the whole “sister” thing be one long con? Or, even more distrubing, did Shiki cut off Miki’s longer limbs to pass her corpse off as her own, thus faking her death? Shiki considers bodies mere containers, so she’s definitely capable of it.

All this time I’ve been operating under the assumption Shiki was definitely dead, even if a part of her still existed in, say, the computer system. But now even that fact is in dispute. If Miki is Shiki, that’s a whole new ballgame.

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