Ushio to Tora – 36

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The last three weeks have been rough and the ratings have suffered because everything’s so dark and brooding and hopeless and INTENSE GRRRRR, but glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel have been gathering.

Take Saya. She’s through sitting on the sidelines, and adds her own lights to the battle, in the form of summoned dead she brings back in order to help bind Hakumen. She’s totally badass, even though she’s all on her own.

Now that everyone else has their memories back, everyone is working towards the same end, which means Hakumen finally, thankfully has his ass righteously kicked by their combined efforts.

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Nothing like hearing all about your monster friend’s appallingly tragic past to forgive that friend for his recent transgressions. Tora doesn’t come out of his unconsciousness this week, but he does become the forge into which the millions of shards of the Beast Spear accumulate and bring forth a new spear, one far more powerful than the first.

As all his friends and allies prepare to launch fresh attacks on the Big Bad, Ushio takes a moment to thank Tora for everything he’s done, and even gives him some blood from his arm, though if I’m honest, that was a lot of blood; Ushio should probably be a little woozy at this point!

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No matter. Hakumen sets up the underbosses at the tips of his tails, and Ushio knocks ’em down. Combined with the HAMMR scientists’ TRUMP weapon, Ushio’s Mom and Mayuko, a ghostly Oyakume, Saya, and the Kouhamei sects on nearby islands, Ushio’s new spear packs a whollop, and Hakumen gets the beating he’s so sorely deserved all season.

Up against the wall and moving in another direction against his will, Hakumen calls for help…from uber-Tora Guren. But Guren is occupied with Hyou, who we find, of all things, in the yard of an alcoholic, Academy Award-winning starlet. HWAHHH?

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Yeah, it’s pretty random, and the actress is kinda a dick to her seven-year-old daughter, but when Hyou repeatedly saves them from Guren, at the cost of numerous parts of his body and quite a bit of blood, the woman undergoes a swift transformation. It’s almost too perfect that Hyou should make his last stand not dying alone for no reason, but to save a mother and daughter, after he couldn’t save his own so long ago.

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Letting the gluttonous gasbag Guren eat his eye and arm are certainly last-ditch tactics, but hey, they work, and Guren goes up with n immensely satisfying big blue BANG; Guren was almost as annoying as that whiny Hakumen, and I’m glad he’s gone, and essentially by his own dumbassery.

As for Hyou, well, he achieved the revenge he sought his whole life, and saved a couple of people in the process. One can be forgiven for getting a little glassy-eyed at his farewell, when he joins his family in the afterlife. It certainly seems to have an effect on the previously disaffected mother, who isn’t as quick to swat her little girl away when Hyou passes away.

The cherry on top?  Hakumen can whine and scream all he wants, Guren ain’t coming. You’re on your own, chump!

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Kuromukuro – 09

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Not long after coming to in a cave filled with clocks and obsolete electronics, Yukina passes back out, as if hypnotized by the mysterious figure with the robotic voice and her dad’s watch and journal. She wakes up in a bus shelter, where Akagi and Kaya find her.

Just like that, all the potential answered questions about Yukina’s dad, and all the other mysteries in that cave, dissipate. That was a little disappointing, and the whole cave thing felt like a tease, but I came to forgive the episode when Yukina came around on piloting the artifact with Ken.

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What I like is that there wasn’t any one reason she didn’t want to and tried to run away: she’s scared; overwhelmed by the pressure; uncertain if this was the right path. But she also doesn’t like how she’s been ordered around like some automaton. Would it hurt for someone to ask her nicely?

Having dealt with her absence, Ken is resolved to let Yukina go, but Yukina isn’t ready for Ken to disappear from her life. She’s taken a shine to the guy, and vice versa, and when he realizes it’s as simple as asking nicely, he does so, and before lone Yukina is back in the cockpit with him.

I also appreciated that Hiromi’s decision not to let the military force her daughter into the artifact, even using her body as a shield. The protection is unneccesary, as Yukina was only “annoyed with herself” and needed some time and space, which she got, and is now willing to do her part.

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Once Yukina and Ken are in their tough new skin-tight nanofiber flight suits, Yukina puts on a brave front but Ken sees her hands shaking. She admits it: she’s scared shitless, but that command artifact out there isn’t going to defeat itself, and she doesn’t want Ken to use her absence as an excuse to get himself killed, nor does she like the idea of him sacrificing his life to save her. She’d prefer if they get through this together.

What “that” is could have been very intriguing indeed, had Efidolg succeeded in abducting Glongur and bringing Yukina and Ken up to the mothership. But that possibility is negated when the UN’s hunch about the tractor beam neutralizing the artifacts’ shields proves true.

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Another possibility not realized: Akagi and Kaya are once again very close to an errant missle explosion, but neither is even slightly injured. Not sure why they keep teasing the fact that these two could end up stains on the mountainside, adding to Yukina’s burden by association, but Akagi is determined to play a larger role in her protection, and not just because he teased her when they were little.

Sophie and the guy with the dirty mouth show up to take out the small fry, leaving Ken free to take on the boss artifact. He has trouble with his acrobatics, but Yukina again uses her unusually extensive knowledge of geology to lure the artifact onto a rock face she knows will crumble.

Rather than self-destruct, the Efidolg pilot surrenders. This was initially surprising, but I’m pretty sure when both Plan A (capturing Glongur) and Plan B (defeating Glongur in a duel) failed, he pivots to Plan C: letting yourself be captured by the enemy so you can learn more about them and possibly escape and cause more damage from within. We’ll see how he plays it.

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Space Patrol Luluco – 10

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Luluco is in bliss: she’s finally found Ogakubo, she’s being rewarded by Space Patrol Central HQ, and Nova seems as warm as he always is… right until he reaches into her chest and removes the crystal that’s been growing there and she dies.

It was all a trap by the Blackholeians, who are considered the source of all evil in the universe. They’ve taken over HQ… for reasons not entirely clear except that, at the height of any civilization’s technological discovery, a place like Ogakubo is created as an ideal cultural hub.

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The hub itself is worthless, except it has a chance to foster a normal girl who’s first love is perfect. Perfect, in that it is the most worthless thing in the universe, and worthlessness is the most valuable thing to the Blackholeians.

“The first love of a stupid middle schooler is a boy who’s nothing but his looks. This is the pinnacle of worthlessness!”

All of this is explained to Midori via print outs and exposition. The chief is there, but Midori is really the only character interested or, at least, antagonistic to the antagonist. Then everyone is locked in a cell and they hold a funeral for Luluco.

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Verdict: it was hilarious watching a villain flat out say all youth romance is crap, and give a ton of visual examples of why it produces nothing of value. It was also a great development to reveal Nova is not evil or good, just purely empty of everything.

There were good visuals, an interesting narrative turn, and the narrative was funny by poking fun at the characters and at life and conventions of story telling too. Solid solid and only falls short due to a lack of action… which wouldn’t have been possible within the play length of a single short format episode.

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Space Patrol Luluco – 09

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Luluco visists a private investigator on a limited color pallet planet. She’s half heartedly asking about Ogikubo but really, she’s there to away from Nova. She can’t decide if he like her or not?

Luluco doesn’t have much time to ponder, because the PI office is abruptly attacked by a mob boss and a car chase/mass brawl ensues. In the end, Nova comes to rescue her and take her to the real Ogikubo.

Roll credits…

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This was, by far, the worst episode of Space Patrol to date. I have no idea what show was being referenced and, even if I did, the whole battle between the Don and the PI was so truncated that there was no time to build any sort of connection with anyone. It was just weird and epileptic action.

It could actually have worked as a manga — the styling is pretty cool and some of the snarky humor would have had room to breath — but it really doesn’t work as an animation. It’s too hard to follow and not enough is actually going on, even if you pause the action and inspect everything on your own time.

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The verdict: the narrative was all over the place, the action was so energetic I had to keep pausing to re-read dialog, but the dialog wasn’t interesting in anyway. Then the second half reveal of space patrol command and probably next season’s villain just came out of nowhere.

Two acts in 7 minutes devoted to not telling a coherent story or presenting our characters in a new or interesting way is not worth your time. Not even in short format anime.

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