Dimension W – 07

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Dimension W’s best episode to date succeeds because it finally lets us into Kyouma’s past, both the heady highs and the devastating lows. Kyouma’s unplanned first meeting with Azumaya Miyabi, the girl who would become his soul mate, girlfriend, and fiancee, is a chance possibility that fits neatly in the show’s description of Dimension W as not only a place of infinite electrical energy, but infinite possibility.

Miyabi may be tiny and soft-spoken amateur photog, but she’s not scared of the semi-delinquent, samurai-looking Kyouma. Why would she be? He saved her! She also prefers her old-fashioned Pentax camera to anything with a coil, something that Kyouma either shares or will come to develop as he grows closer to her.

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The heady highs come first, and it’s just nice to see a young Kyouma who is happy and has whole life to look forward to. He gets into brawls to protect those weaker than him, and ends up in trouble a lot, but there’s the feeling he’ll be alright as long as he has Miyabi by his side to smooth his rough edges (and her sister Tsubaki to bail him out of jail!)

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Then come the devastating lows, as one little trip-and-fall by Miyabi reveals she has an incurable condition that will wear her muscles away to nothing, similar to ALS. Not willing to let such a fate be her reality, Kyouma desperately reaches out and claws at any possibility of saving her, including a full-body cybernetic replacement. Clearly, at this point, with Miyabi’s future on the line, he’s not above embracing the power of coils.

His efforts lead him into the restraining hold of Colin Keys, bodyguard to NTE Yurizaki Seira, Shidou’s wife. Together they’re gathering test subjects to achieve precisely what Miyabi needs: a new body through technology. The catch is, Kyouma has to agree to join Keys’ Beasts of Grendel. Before heading off to battle (presumably fighting a rogue NTE faction), he puts a ring on the bedridden Miyabi, promising to marry her when he returns.

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The battle is a victory, but only Kyouma and Al survive. When Kyouma awakens (he doesn’t remember most of the battle), Miyabi is already gone. Worse, due to a coil malfunction during experimentation, her head is gone, meaning Kyouma doesn’t even have the comfort of looking upon his love’s face before saying goodbye.

Don’t get me wrong: at its heart this is a pretty familiar story: a man twisted and haunted by his lost love rejects everything that he believes led to her destruction, which Mira embodies. But I can’t deny the intense emotions I felt when Miyabi slipped away, or the pain the Kyouma has felt ever since. He couldn’t save her or be there when she died either.

Also, I’m pretty sure Miyabi was voiced by Ueda Reina, the same seiyu that voices Mira (EDIT: According to MAL she’s voiced by Ohara Sayaka, same as her older sister). I’m grasping at straws in Dimension W here, but I’m thinking a part of Miyabi’s mind made it into Mira’s sophisticated cyberbrain, perhaps combined with that of the Yurizakis’ daughter.

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And that’s another reason why Kyouma is loath to get too close to Mira, or even treat her like he would a human being he doesn’t loathe: Maybe Kyouma sees and hears Miyabi in Mira’s voice and mannerisms, and Mira is guilty of nothing other than not being Miyabi. Sure, she may be the next best thing, but that may as well be the difference between infinity and zero, which is…infinite.

Nevertheless, Kyouma is taking Mira with him to Easter Island. He’s just not taking his old Toyota. Instead, he’s taking his gorgeous, newly fixed up Lexus LFA. The show doesn’t immediately explain why the change of cars – and why a car at all – until later, but for now it’s nice to see Kyouma’s taste in cars extends past the seventies.

Meanwhile, Prince Salva makes his case to the other 59 NTE central heads, and explains he’s using self-involved collectors instead of NTE staff to explore the island in order to avoid any possibility of appearances of internal NTE treachery, of the kind that led to the initial battle Kyouma participated in, as well as Yurizaki Seira’s assassination.

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Obviously, recruiting collectors from all around the globe meant we’d be bombarded with new characters, much like the haunted mansion mini-arc, but it bothered me less here since this is a competition to see who can get to the one functioning coil still on Easter Island, so you need competitors. They’re all colorful characters to boot, and Liz and Loser are there too.

Fortunately for Kyouma and Mira, bringing his LFA means having to take a separate flight, relying on Al to fly them to the ruined island. The other collectors travel with the prince aboard an NTE airship that is quickly downed by the strange and unpredictable probabilistic phenomena that rule Easter Island, as well as the sea and sky around it.

Kyouma does eventually explain he needs the car to race around the contour of the island in order to reach the coil first. And combined with the other collectors’ rough start and uncertain state, the episode ends with Kyouma and Mira in a good early position to be the ones to claim the 50 million dollar reward.

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Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 07

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Ranta believes that the party now knowing about Mary’s past doesn’t change anything, at least in a practical sense. You can’t be friends with someone who simply doesn’t want to be friends with you, and he doesn’t see why they need to go out of their way to accommodating her because she had a tough past. They’ve all had tough pasts.

But that last point is the hole in Ranta’s logic: they’re not so different from Mary, so they can find a way to connect. They lost Manato, their leader, but Mary left a part of herself down in the caverns where her friends were killed. Haruhiro and the others managed to pull out of a similar tailspin because they were still together, and were able to work through the pain.

Shinohara and Hayashi also live with the pain of losing friends they cared about, but didn’t realize until they were gone that they had to treasure those bonds while they were still around. When Haruhiro hears Ranta’s grievanes about always being dismissed or ignored, he listens and takes it to heart: Mary isn’t the only one he hasn’t been attentive to.

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After the party tentatively agrees that they’re all friends, and that they should embrace Mary as one as well, it all comes down to execution. Haru is clearly apprehensive about the conversation; so much so Yume has to jump on him so he doesn’t reveal their position to a goblin (albeit one who has his dagger). By the way, I liked how Yume acted to protect Haru, their leader, from his own emotional desire to get back what he lost, since a dagger is far easier replaced than a comrade.

When Haru asks to speak to Mary, she seems resigned to the fact he’s about to kick her out, just as she’s left so many other party’s after her trauma. There’s the underlying feeling she’s contributing all she thinks she can, but it isn’t enough, and that frustrates her. She’s trying to find the Mary she left behind.

Obviously, Haru doesn’t want her to leave. Instead of pry into her past, he gives her the past of their party, painful as it is. He tells her how important Manato was and how hopeless things seemed without him. He admits he agreed to her joining the party because they needed a priest to survive, period.

But now, after some time, he’s decided, and all the others agree, that she’s become more than a hired hand. She’s become a valued friend, one he wishes to cherish as much as all his other comrades. Shihoru, Yume and Moguzo share the same feelings. And yes, even Ranta relents, buying into the generous atmosphere in the room – leading to one of present-day Mary’s most expressive looks.

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Now that Mary knows the score, and knows that her new comrades also carry pain with them every day, she softens a little more. She doesn’t join them in shopping for Moguzo’s helmet, or any of several subsequent meals, but not because she doesn’t want to, but because she’s easing into a new situation. “Not yet”, she says, which isn’t “no”.

Like all things in Grimgar, Mary’s coming-around takes time, not because the show is stalling, but because such things take time in real life. It’s great that they think of her as a friend, but she still needs to process that and figure out how to have friends again.

Haru takes the party out to fight goblins in the city ruins day after day, creating a strict routine. Each time they go out, they get a little better as individuals and as a team, and rather than spend on better accommodations, they invest in better equipment. Soon, Haru notices it’s getting easier to kill goblins – the spot where he needs to cut is now lighting up in his head.

Repetition strengthening muscle memory, and increasing the efficiency of his motions. They make the most of their newfound skills, and fill each other’s shortcomings. They also include Mary in on their downtime chatter, including Ranta tactlessly asking Mary which guy she prefers (she doesn’t answer).

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After taking things one day at a time for many days, Mary finally agrees to come to the tavern, and it’s a wonderful moment to see her in the middle of the party, sharing in the glow of the fire. Shinohara and Hayashi are also relieved to see her finally looking like she belongs in a party.

Before long, the time comes when it looks like Mary is going to move in with the others. On the last night she’s on her own, Haru is out in the courtyard, where Manato comes to him once more, likening the excitement and anticipation Haru feels to the night before a field trip (a rare look into their unknown past lives).

I don’t see Ghost Manato as a real ghost physically there, but the memory of Manato who appears when Haru is alone with nothing but the calm of night and the crackle of the fire nearby. But that doesn’t lesson his importance as a presence Haru treats like Manato.

The new leader wants to show the old leader what kind of party they’ve become. Other tavern patrons may be half-mocking in calling them the Goblin Slayers, but it’s a name Haru intends to wear with pride.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 20

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Tekkadan did it: they finally got Kudelia Aina Bernstein safely to Earth. The inescapable question is, What now? All they know for certain is that they’re only safe for the time being; Gjallarhorn has their position and it’s only a matter of time before they strike.

This episode provides a breather from last week’s intense (and awesome) battle, giving various characters a chance to consider their options, and determine whether moving forward is the answer, or if returning home is the right way to go.

A lot of the decisions by many of those characters has thus far been informed by those of their brothers (giving this episode its title) and this is no different…until the positions of those brothers comes into conflict.

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Gaelio has evolved greatly from the haughty, simpering aristocrat soldier of yore. He got swept up in Ein’s vendetta by giving him an arena to exact revenge, but that failed, Ein’s life hangs by a thread, and Gaelio feels responsible.

The old Gaelio actually comes out when the doctors recommend the only course is to give Ein the Alaya-Vijnana system, something Gaelio was brought up to dispise as less-than-human. He sees Ein as a brother now, and doesn’t want to make him a monster.

It takes the desperation of Ein’s situation, and counsel from an out-of-mask McGillis to start to sway Gaelio towards consent to Ein’s A-V operation. As McGillis says, the hatred and mistrust of tech like A-V (or even prostheses) were a calculated part of Gjallarhorn training, since its original mission was to avoid another Calamity War.

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Ein’s only hope is a relic form that war Earth would rather forget. But Tekkadan has been out there using it all along. While Gaelio must consider a practice the effects of which are more widespread in Mars, the Martians of Tekkadan have to get used to something a lot less intense: live fish.

Before meeting the illustrious Makanai, he gives them a big load of the flounder (or sole) which the orphans distrust almost as much as Gaelio mistrusts the A-V. Both are strange and alien, and elicit disgust. The food they’re used to is awful by Earth standards, but to them, it’s just food, and fresh fish is an aberration.  But Atra gets over that, and with the Turbine girls, pulls up her sleeves and prepares a meal…but we never see Mika take a bite.

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When the meeting with Makanai arrives…it’s a little disappointing. First, the good news: they’re in Oceanian territory, safe from Gjallarhorn for the time being. Peaceful progress has been made in the Dorts thanks to Kudelia’s efforts. Because that has led to lower productivity in the Dorts, Oceania is benefiting by filling the shortfall, giving Oceania greater incentive to protect Tekkadan, who helped make it possible.

Now the bad: Makanai has been exiled from Arbrau, and currently has no real power. He shares Kudelia’s desire for talks on Martian half-metal deregulation, but first he needs an escort back to Arbrau for an upcoming session of parliament in preparation for a new election. Makanai’s rival, Henri Fleurs, has Gjallarhorn support, which means if Tekkadan sides with Makanai, Gjallarhorn will have yet another reason to take them out.

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And all this, when Orga admits to Naze that despite all they’ve managed to accomplish, Tekkadan are still “nobodies” without firm ground to stand on. Naze tells Orga he has a wide berth when it comes to deciding what to do next; he’s already fulfilled his debt to McMurdo. So it’s Orga’s show, and never before has he needed the support of his right-hand-man Biscuit. (Notice how Biscuit is seated on Orga’s left above).

The problem is, while Orga believes their best shot at a prosperous future is to help Makanai, Biscuit disagrees. He just received a posthumous communication from Savarin, telling him to choose the life he wishes to lead. Whether it’s loud and dangerous or quiet and calm, what’s important is that Biscuit chooses.

Biscuit still has family to protect, be it his sisters back home or his little brothers in Tekkadan. And he suspects a lot of Tekkadan’s success has simply been due to luck. So when Orga comes to him wanting to barrel forward, with the sea in front of them, Biscuit can’t help but think about how his brother, armed with the best intentions, got swept into the undertow, couldn’t get out, and drowned.

Orga is upset with Biscuit’s no, but understands it a lot more when he hears about Savarin’s message. As Merribit comments on Orga’s long-time dependence on Biscuit’s agreement to this point, Yukinojou tells Biscuit it wasn’t luck that got them this far, it was the fact they were all together.

Orga isn’t rushing ahead without fear or reason. He is thinking about the future Biscuit wants now. They only disagree on the timing and the path.

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Kudelia knows the only way is forward, and prays to Fumitan to give her the strength to do so. That strength enters on cue in the form of Atra and Mika with some food; Kudelia hasn’t been eating. Just as Orga draws strength and confidence in Biscuit, Mika, Naze, and others, Kudelia knows she can’t go anywhere without the strength lent to her from Atra, Mika, and Fumitan’s memory. Brothers and sisters.

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Speaking of sisters, I’m pleased to report we haven’t seen the last of Carta Issue (thought it was pretty evident we were going to get more than just that one confrontation with her). With her pride and the pride of her fleet on the line, she’s coming after Tekkadan harder than ever. Thanks to her connections, she’s been given clearance to enter Oceanian jurisdiction, meaning the “time being”

Tekkadan was safe from Gjallarhorn turned out to be no more than a couple days. While I totally understand Biscuits desire to go home, considering the myriad dangers that surround them no matter what they choose to do, Orga’s plan is the one with the greatest reward. And thanks to the help of the Turbine girls, they’ll have a few more tricks up their sleeve with new Earth-optimized suit mods.

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