Noragami Aragoto – 13 (Fin)

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Noragami Aragoto doesn’t pick up right when Ebisu is about to be blasted by a pacification ring; instead, it skips to Yato escorting a young man to the Olive Tavern. It doesn’t take long to realize the boy is the reincarnated Ebisu, which means the adult Ebisu he knew and befriended in the underworld was executed.

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Yato is clearly sick about this whole situation, and Yukine and Hiyori stay on the periphery pondering what they should do as he himself wonders how he can change; how he can cease being a heartless war god now that he has a heart, and follow Ebisu’s example of working to protect and save people, and becoming a god people want to remember and have faith in for things other than contract killing.

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By the end, Yato, perhaps without knowing it, changed Ebisu. Once, he had no qualms about dying over and over, because his shrine maidens would always tell him he’d reincarnate every time without fail, and so should never fear death. In fact, due to his lives’ work, Ebisu kinda had to die a bunch of times in order to make progress researching phantoms and acquiring the locution brush. Needing to break eggs to make an omelette, so to speak.

But by the time that last ring blasted him, Ebisu didn’t want to die and be reborn again. He wanted to live and stay in the world as he was. It was, in fact, his dying wish, and the reason Yato is so beside himself; Ebisu, who told him he’d make a great god who could make people happy, managed to change himself at the end from what he always was.

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Now that Ebisu is back, but with close to no specific memories of his past self, it falls to his overseer to raise him back up into a useful member of god-society. And if that overseer has his way, this Ebisu will never see or touch the locution brush again. Yet when Bishamon and the other gods who assisted him hear of his noble ventures for the first time, they don’t necessarily agree that Ebisu should be stopped; in fact, it wouldn’t be what the past Ebisu or Ebisus wanted: for his reincarnations to carry on his work until he makes a breakthrough.

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Back freeloading at Kofuku and Daikoku’s, a restless Yato takes Yukino to a secluded lake, where he asks his exemplar, heart firmly on sleeve, to help him change: from a god of war and calamity to a god of fortune and happiness; the god Ebisu saw in him.

Hiiro appears on queue to dissuade Yato, dismiss Yukine, and drag her brother back to their father to be “praised”; thus continuing the same cycle of death and soft smiles that’s been going on for centuries. She also points out that the plan to use Ebisu as a scapegoat to allay suspicion from their father, who also works with phantoms, worked like a charm.

But no more. With Yukine beside him for strength, Yato overcomes all the warm memories of him and his sister, and does what is necessary to truly change: release her as his regalia for good. When he does so, Hiiro’s smile changes to one of shock, disbelief, and even despair. But that’s not surprising: Hiiro has never changed, and may never change. It does, however, make me wonder if she could change, once enough centuries have passed.

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Now officially free of Hiiro, Yato turns to Yukine to be his guide on his new path to becoming a less calamitous god, something he has no idea how to do since he’s “only good at killing.” But he’s wrong, and Yukine tells him there’s very little he needs to do that he hasn’t been doing already.

Really, getting rid of the temptation of Hiiro and his dark past was the most important step. He already makes people happy, like Yukine and Hiyori, who has faith that together Yato and Yukine can slay disaster before it strikes. And no, she doesn’t ask to have her tail fixed, nor does Yato offer it. She seems content with being the way she is for now.

The happy ending is only marred by the revelation that Fujisaki, the handsome young man who got along so well with Hiyori, is, in fact, Yato’s father. He joins his classmate, who cannot see the large retinue of phantoms by his side, along with Hiiro. Maybe she’s not going to change anytime soon after all.

As for his dad, it doesn’t look like he’s given up on bringing Yato back into the fold. No doubt many of the disasters thrown Yato’s way will be of his father and sisters’ making. He must be ever-vigilant. But as Kofuku says, with Yukine and Hiyori by his side, he’ll be fine.

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Ushio to Tora – 26 (Fin until April)

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When Tora arrives, he’s really bored and just wants to smash shit, despite the fact things are more complicated due to the presence of Bal-chan within the Hakumen experiment. The insufferably procedural attitude of the scientists continues, with the three preparing to seal the entire lab and detonate it in order to prevent Hakumen from escaping—without regard to whoever is still inside.

That’s when Asako and Ushio are all like STFU with the science-y emotional detatchment, because it’s getting really old. They manage to convince one scientist, Helena, to stay behind and try to stop Hakumen to allow everyone to escape safely.

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Asako works with Helena up in the control room, but when Helena is seriously wounded, Asako has to take over getting the oscillator up and running. Once they immobilize the Hakumen in its tracks, Ushio and Tora free Bal-chan and smash the Hakumen to pieces. But while everyone is in a good position to be saved, Helena seems to know between her blood loss and the encroaching poisonous gas that her own time is up.

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In her last minutes, she’s enlightened by the power Ushio and Tora draw from each other, those they wish to protect, and the powerful enemies they face. As such, this episode becomes a kind of mission statement for the show and it’s core chemistry as a whole. No one in Ushio to Tora thrives alone. Ushio needs Tora and Asako; Tora needs Ushio and Mayuko (and vice versa all ’round); and Ushio and Tora need Hakumen no Mono to realize their full potential.

Without Asako and Helena’s help, Ushio and Tora wouldn’t have been able to beat Hakumen. When the humans succumb to the gas, it’s up to Tora to get them all out of the lab before it explodes. It’s a “pain in the ass”, but Tora has to do it nonetheless, or he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. More than that, he’d have a lot less fun without these humans around.

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I was glad to see Helena, initially a thoroughly unlikable and immoral mad scientist, redeemed this week, along with her less courageous colleagues, who surrender to the JSDF, ending H.A.M.M.R.’s brief rebellion. They can take solace in knowing their faithful colleague worked tirelessly until the end to get them data on Hakumen vital to developing a weapon against it.

As for Ushio, he’s faked out by the Asako dummy Tora made from his hair, and the real Asako is right behind him to hear him cry out for her. So naturally, the two start bickering in each other’s faces about who was more reckless today, but at the end of the day, aside from Helena, whose sacrifice made it possible, everyone is safe and sound.

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Back to Fugen’in we go, where it’s another day, another threat by Tora to eat Ushio, and another instance of Ushio successfully resisting being eaten by using his Beast Spear. Asako and Mayuko arrive to calm things down, or at least join in the chaos, and Shigure celebrates how back-to-normal life has become, hoping it can stay that way at least a little longer until the final showdown with Hakumen no Mono, who is awake and biding his/her time. We can look forward to that showdown this coming Spring.

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Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt – 01

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Sunrise had a Christmas present of a kind ready for me today: another Gundam series that looks and feels like it could take place in the same universe and timeline as IBO, even exist in the same debris field that show’s cast is currently engaged in. In fact, IBO takes place in “P.D.” (Post Disaster) 323, while Thunderbolt takes place in U.C. 0079, the same year as the original Gundam, making it a direct spin-off.

Unlike Recon in G, but like the new Star Wars movie, it’s easy to settle into this world, which comes down to the juicy details. A melange of the ordinary (smoking, romances, jazz drumming on consoles, waiting on standby) and the extraordinary (the tremendous speed of battle, how quickly tides can turn, the blood-and-guts brutality of the battles) create a rich world in a scant fifteen minutes and change.

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The show also makes clear there’s no good or bad guy here, only two different warring sides who each have their reasons to fight. The Federation ace Io Fleming loves the freedom of space combat. Zeon’s Daryl Lorenz, who like many of his comrades has prosthetic legs, seems more serious, duty- and honor-bound. Many of their comrades die beside them in this episode, causing a great deal of grief for everyone who knew them but they keep on ticking.

Above all Thunderbolt portrays this futuristic life as a hard one, no matter which side you’re on, and no matter what you’re fighting for. It’s scuffed and gritty and bleak, so one living in such a world would tend to retreat into the embrace of the opposite sex, or porn, or carve out a little hollow of peace, be it girls or plants or music. Notably, Io prefers free jazz, while Daryl’s tastes hew more towards more structured pop music.

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After his own suit is destroyed, Io manages to EVA over to the Zeon snipers, take one out, and steal his suit to return to his ship. His captain (with whom he seems to be on close terms with) assigns him to a new prototype, Gundam, because everyone who outranked him is dead.

Whether it’s mobile suits, trained pilots, or simply flesh-and-blood limbs, everything is in short supply here in Thunderbolt, on the bleeding edge. And while Io embraces the increased  power of his iconic new suit, Daryl plans revenge against him for the death of his comrade.

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P.S. If the music reminded you of Cowboy Bebop, that’s because it was composed by Kikuchi Naruyoshi, saxophonist for The Seatbelts.