DAYS – 09

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The Gist: Sakuragi and Seiseki play about 2/3 of their game this week. Neither has the true upper hand. Tsukamoto spends the episode sitting on the sideline to absorb some general pointers from the coach (or not). We learn a little more about some of the players and Kazama develops a bit more — to the point of getting his face smashed in to save the day.

It may be surprising that Nozomi wasn’t even in the episode and that the crowd shots were all ‘nobody’ NPCs chattering about pretty much nothing. Not a lot actually happened and the budget constraints of animating soccer made that extra painful.

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The Verdict: while it actually breaks with expectations by not resolving the match within the 1.5 episodes I anticipated, the result was not particularly noteworthy. Lots of time was spent on internal monologs, or with Tsuka crying on the sideline.

We just don’t have enough of a relationship with the team to be invested in this week’s struggle, which is only compounded by meeting the upper classmen — the people who play on the team — several episodes after the first years who do not play on the team.

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Macross Delta – 23

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Now that everyone is on Windermere, the this episode has a strong “this is it”, “last-level” feeling to it, where things are going to end one way or another, but hopefully in favor of Walkure and Delta. If they reach the capital and have a tactical show, they’ll win.

But there are serious obstacles, and they make that outcome still feel distant: everyone is scattered across the region, and everyone is constantly on the run from Winderemeran pursuers, including the Aerial Knights.

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There are still some welcome moments of peace, however, such as when Freyja leads Hayate and Mirage through caves she used to play in as a child (yikes), and the surroundings and proximity to her home village dredges up memories of singing Ranke Lee songs as a young child.

We also, somewhat amazingly, see Mikumo eat with others for the first time, with Maki and Reina teasing her and bringing out some more human reactions in her. They think she’ll only become a better singer once she actually starts having more human experiences.

Then we have Freyja and Mirage, envying one another for being able to go so far for Hayate’s sake, before their talk is broken up by Hayate.

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Mikumo unveils her criminally underused rocket petticoat and martial arts skills to allow Maki and Reina to flee, but Hayate, Freyja and Mirage are caught (and almost killed) by Bogue and the Knights, while Roid confronts Mikumo (in a kind of creepy stalker-y way) and says the trigger words that knock her unconscious. Looks like this mission isn’t going to be as easy as it looks on paper, which is as it should be.

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For all of Bogue’s bluster, King Heinz wants the prisoners alive to stand trial before execution, so Lord Lloyd indulges Hayate’s desire to see what they accuse his father Wright of doing with his own eyes. Upon seeing the still seething crater that was once the city of Karlisle (where Bogue’s sister served), Freyja starts to sing a song to soothe the souls lost there, but Bogue knocks her down.

Neither she nor Mirage can change the Windermerans’ long-standing belief in what went down here, and when more evidence is sought, they bring them to a chamber where Wrights’ VF-22 is on display, where his body was found and from which the dimensional bomb was deployed.

That just about seals the deal, right? Wright totally did this horrible thing? Perhaps, but like Mirage, I wouldn’t rule out a heretofore unrevealed motivation…was the same weapon being developed in Karlisle, for instance, and did Wright save the rest of the planet by destroying it?

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If there’s anything else there, there’s only a few episodes left to educate us and complete the picture that still seems to be missing some key strokes. As for Lloyd, it would seem his designs are to replace the ailing Heinz with Mikumo. Mikumo has said again and again that as long as she able to sing, that’s all that matters.

That philosophy will certainly be put to the test, as will her loyalties and human willpower, as Lloyd isn’t just going to let her sing, but make her sing to further his plans for galactic domination. Here’s hoping there’s enough humanity in her to resist. If not, she might soon be fighting against her former comrades in Walkure and Delta.

In any case…that’s way too many pairs of glasses.

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Persona 5 the Animation: The Day Breakers – 00

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What Is It:

A 24-minute anime special based on the Persona 5 RPG due out in Japan later this month and in the US next February. It follows a “story-of-the-week” format to introduce the “Phantom Thieves of Hearts”, who investigate an online tip to bring down the leader of a gang of cat burglars who also beats his little brother.

They do so by dropping him in the “perceived world”, summoning their Personas (powerful allies) to defeat his, and purging his heart of arrogance, so back in the real world he rats himself and his gang out to the police, and they’re promptly arrested.

Why You Should Watch:

If you’re a fan of the franchise and have been eagerly awaiting its 20th anniversary offering, this special may well pump you up for the games’ upcoming release. Sadly, I’m only a tourist in the world of Persona, having only caught the first 14 eps Persona 4 when it aired 2011 before I sorta lost interest (Reviews here).

I was actually surprised how similar the style of 5 is to 4. The jazzy, jaunty score, slick fashion, rich, lived-in Tokyo setting (a little Drrr!esque), and the seiyu Horie Yui are what drew me to 5’s predecessor. But that was a full-length anime; this is just a special that serves as an appetizer to the RPG main course, which I won’t be playing.

Why You Shouldn’t Watch:

If you’ve played or watched Persona and weren’t impressed, The Day Breakers special likely won’t be changing your opinion. For all the detail in their outfits and surroundings, the characters are painted with only the broadest of strokes. The protagonist is a nameless cipher by design, and because no one else distinguishes themselves, it’s hard to get emotionally invested in anything.

I was also, ironically, less enamored of the “perceived world” than the actual world, which was dominated by goofy carnival and masquerade imagery that frankly isn’t all that interesting. It’s like it’s trying to be darker and edgier than it’s actually willing to be; very PG-13.

Similarly, while he’s only one of many baddies to come, the guy they chose to be the villain in this special was trying too hard. The sudden shift in his character from something that might’ve been more gray (and interesting) to all-out evil was laughably jarring, more appropriate for Scooby-Doo. Finally, while it sounds better in Japanese, “Phantom Thieves of Hearts” is a painfully lame name for the party.

The Verdict:

Watchable and mildly diverting, but all surface. I can imagine myself spending dozens of hours as the bespectacled protagonist in the P5 RPG; I could even probably watch a good portion of its anime adaptation, should it get a full cour or two down the road. I’m just…not sure I either need or want to.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 23

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False Alarm: No Fresh Hell, just not completely dealt-with Old Hell on this week’s menu. Hell leftovers, if you will. Ram puts the convoy under an illusion spell because she fears Subaru switched sides and the convoy is his invading force. This is due to a misunderstanding: the letter sent to the mansion was blank, usually a declaration of war.

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No harm, no foul, then, right? Ram accepts Subaru’s explanations, and while she’s not in love with him like her sister, he and she still have quite a bit of history which lets her withdraw her aggressive stance with confidence.

It’s also confidence Subaru needs in order to tell the people of the village they need to evacuate. At first a couple of malcontents curst the “half-elf” who brought this upon them, but with Ram’s help, Subie successfully persuades the villagers, even the racists, to cooperate.

Just when Subie is about to head for the mansion with Juli and Felis, the latter discovers one of the merchants has been possessed by a member of the witch’s cult. The man self-destructs, nearly killing Felis and Subie, and the remnants of Betelgueses fingers attack the village.

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Smoke (and Unseen Hands) fills the sky, blood stains the ground, adn the scene starts to resemble one of Subie’s past nightmare scenarios. But this time, he isn’t singularly responsible for failing to detect the cult’s, inside men; he’s just one part of an alliance made up of far more capable people than he who also missed this one.

That being said, and in spite of her earlier warnings to the villagers falling on deaf, non-pointed ears, Emilia arrives to help deal with the threat and protect the villagers who still live.

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She and Pick manage to take out all of the fingers…that they know of, all of whom talk and move and act like Betelguese. But even Emi’s last defeated opponent isn’t the end. When one of Juli’s lesser spirits, deployed to protect Subie, leaves Subie’s body, Betelgeuse possesses him.

Since we’ve never seen Betelgeuse leave a body that went on to survive, it sadly looks like the end for this version of Subaru, as he compels a reluctant, emotional Felis and Juli to kill him before Betelgeuse completes his hold. When the curtain falls on the episode, it would seem they obeyed him.

Will we shift to the focus of everyone but Subaru now that he’s left this world, or will we continue to following him as he respawns…wherever it is he respawns? Whatever the case, I doubt this turn of events will be resolved as quickly as Ram’s misunderstanding…

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Orange – 10

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Kakeru continues to look and act forlorn, and even Naho in a cheerleader outfit doesn’t change that. What ultimately does is a team effort by Naho, Suwa, Hagita, Azu and Tako, which is not only used to help Kakeru carry a futon (kind of a bizarre errand in the middle of a sports festival, if you ask me).

The metaphor is not subtle, but effective: his burdens will be lighter because they’ll help bear them. Kakeru feels safe enough to reveal the cause of his less-than-stellar mood: he’s unsure if he should be laughing and having fun when his mom could be watching.

Well duh, any mom would want their kid to be happy, and to not let himself be happy would only worry her, jsut as it worries Naho and the others.

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It becomes clear to all that there’s no way they’ll be able to dissuade Kakeru from participating in the relay, so they have to carry it out, doing everything they can on their end to make sure it’s a victory, and hoping fate doesn’t rain on their parade in the form of Kakeru worsening his injury, losing the relay to the blue team, and restart a spiral of regret and self-hatred.

Just before the relay, both Suwa and Kakeru are given extra motivation to win the whole thing: a kiss from Naho, which she neither agrees nor disagrees to (she’s too shocked by the prospect). As for Azusa and Hagita, yeah, this is starting to get old. Just date already. Right now. Do it.

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I never thought I’d get all excited about Emotionally Significant School Relay #937…but with some serious stakes in play, I daresay I was. A strong lead by Suwa starts to erode when Tako and Azu run, but Hagita manages to pass a few people.

After Naho’s leg, Kakeru summons heretofore unsummoned athletic ability and hits the finish tape first, no down cheered on by the telephone-style message constructed by his teammates, ending with the sentiments that they’ll all be together in ten years

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After the race, Kakeru’s grandma recalls a relay in the past that his mother attended not long after getting divorced, when Kekeru looked down-in-the-dumps…until he won, and flashed the same smile he flashed today. So all’s well that ends well; Naho & Co. change the future again, without any further speed bumps in the relay phase.

That only leaves the matter of Naho’s “promised kiss.” When coming in close to bandage his shoulder scrape, Kakeru ends up stealing a little kiss to her cheek before running off, no doubt over the moon. Naho reacts exactly the way you’d expect: stunned silence, followed shortly by a warm expression of acknowledgment in said kiss’s power.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 09

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This week’s Zestiria still shined in the technical and aesthetic sense, but it felt a bit mechanical, perfunctory, and inevitable, like very practically moving pieces on the board closer together. In this case, it was uniting Sorey/Lailah/Edna with Alisha, and then with Mikleo and his new mascot-like friend Atakk, a Normin Seraphim specializing in powering up other Seraphim like Mikleo.

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We learn of the cause of the storm that blew out the bridges (an Ouroboros) but that boss is soon usurped by a drake (or baby dragon) who is the cause of the malevolence that is sickening and killing the people of Marlind.

Alisha isn’t particularly useful this week, as her attempts to heal the townsfolk with medicine have no effect, to her frustration. However, sometimes it’s about who you know, not what you can personally do…and Alisha knows Sorey, who is happy to help.

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Edna and Lailah aren’t enough to help Sorey rid the city of the drake’s reign of terror; it takes the sudden arrival of Mikleo, whom Sorey can sense and knows everything will work out. Forming a quick sub bond with Sorey and Lailah, Mikleo’s power turns Super-Sorey blue, and they take out the drake with a purifying water-based arrow.

The drake is toast, and the clouds around the city part. It’s good to see everyone back together, and the episode looked and sounded great as usual…but it also felt very neat and tidy, and after last week’s scrap with Eizen, the enemies seemed like pushovers.

There’s also the looming certainty that if this series wraps in three weeks, a satisfying solution worthy of all the buildup won’t be forthcoming. I’m hoping, as with F/s n, the story will continue after a season or two off.

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Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 10

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This week marks the first time I can remember Isshiki or Eizen speaking this season, and it’s ultimately some exposition about how Eizen recruited Mimasaka to take down Souma. He failed, partly due to underestimating Souma’s rare ability to face down and work through his inadequacies without lowering his expectations.

By the end of Souma’s dish presentation, it wasn’t looking good, as his saury seemed a not insignificant number of notches below Hayama and Ryo’s. But he was about to reveal his trump card: seasoned soy milk, which turns the dish into a rich porridge where glutamic and inosinic acid play. Yum.

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The Chairman bares his chest (WWE-style); Leonora bares her eloquence (Lifetime-style), and all of a sudden, it’s looking like all three are in the running for the win. Their flavors were on par, while Souma’s exceptional creativity largely made up for the others’ superior ability to choose the best saury.

Being all but tied in so many ways, the difference maker was going to be the dish that best represented the chef who made it, the dish only that chef coule make; their specialty. And the winner is…

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Hayama. Hayama Akira. Akira, meaning “bright, intelligent, and clear.” He was a diamond in the roughest of roughs, abandoned in a slum. It was not only Jun’s compassion for helping one in need, but her belief Hayama’s sense of smell would “change the world”, much in the same way some veteran pilot would pluck a newbie out of humble beginning and upon the highest stage in the galaxy. Jun facilitated this, serving both as best friend, mentor, and surrogate mother.

The flashback is a bit schmaltzy at times, but it mostly works, even if the missing pieces to Hayama’s backstory come a bit late in the game, without time to really let them simmer (or age) like the ingredients in the final. It also let me feel okay about Hayama’s win over Souma. He earned it; he deserved it. And his rare showing of emotion, including giving an elated Jun a big ol’ hug (flustering the dickens out of her) was a great moment.

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By winning, Hayama Akira sits in the second position in their class’s ranking, just below Erina. But he won’t be alone and isolated up there, as Souma and Ryo stay in his orbit, stung by the defeat eager to taste the winning dish and compare it with their own.

The three are on the cusp of becoming friends (or at least colleagues) who respect each other and went through culinary hell together. They are all diamonds who will polish each other by smashing into one another, as Leonora eloquently puts it (with her bad Japanese).

While saying this, we see Alice’s head lying in her lap; she’s no doubt nearly as dejected as Ryo by his loss; while Erina watches Souma’s dorm clique heading off to celebrate from her lonely limo high above them. Souma’s dad also calls him, coming away glad Souma found a peer who could beat him; finding the motivation to keep improving.

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With the Autumn Elections finally over, the last act of the episode is a bridge between that ordeal and the next: the forebodingly-named Stagiaire, in which the first years are tossed out of the academy for practical training, presumably in real restaurants, serving real customers.

Before being warned about this by Jun, Souma and Ryo are all up in Jun and Hayama’s lab, which irritates him but makes her very happy, because it means despite his terrifying, monstrous talent, he’s still able to connect with others.

One of the essential elements of Totsuki Academy is simply proximity: that of young chefs to one another, gleaning new insights on cooking from each other. The Staigaire will affect that proximity, but expose the students to new stimuli aimed at sharpening their skills and opening their minds even further. Should be fun!

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91 Days – 08

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91 Days’ eighth episode continues the brisk pre-recap pace of the seventh, with sufficient bodies dropping to make a final showdown in three to four weeks’ time seem…not all that far away. Whatever peace Nero got from killing his brother, it doesn’t last due to three men: Delphy, the new, incorruptible sheriff in town; Fango, who thinks it’s time to wipe out the Vanettis…and Corteo.

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Coreto is sick of hanging around the mafia. He wants “Avilio” to get on with it already. But Avilio is playing such a long game, he has no qualms about following Nero’s orders to kill Delphy—or his wife and young daughter—to eliminate the threat.

It’s a cursed loyalty; Avilio does these things because he won’t let Delphy or Fango have his prey. He’s going to keep Nero standing until he’s good and ready to bring him down himself. But it’s an approach that’s isolated him from his friend, who is tired of being a doormat.

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91 Days decides not to go down the very dark road of offing Delphy’s family, but it sure do manage to make me believe it was going to, right up until we see the empty seat in the flaming car.

Delphy’s wife and daughter didn’t have to die for him to halt the investigation; he only needed to experience a scant moment of fear that they were dead. In this, Avilio demonstrates he’s not totally lost.

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As for Corteo, he somehow gets mixed up with Fango, perhaps out of a need to rebel against a situation and a lifestyle that had grown intolerable. He must be desperate to the edge of reason, however, to think he’d have a more tolerable experience hanging out with Fango than the Vanettis.

When Fango tries to take out Nero, it doesn’t take long for Avilio to suspect him, but he doesn’t immediately take action, despite Corteo all but presenting himself as the latest obstacle to Avilio’s ultimate revenge: another party who could potentially steal Nero away from him (by prematurely getting him killed).

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When Corteo is escorted to a room in Fango’s fortress—too his almost certain death—Fango toys with him the way a cat plays with a mouse. Then Corteo bears his fangs in a blaze of violence, beating Fango to death because he threatened to tell Nero about his betrayal.

Corteo may have been trying to simply end the ordeal with Nero’s untimely death, so that he and Avilio could move on with their lives. Instead, the opposite occured: Avilio dug in his heels, and Corteo came to discover that once his friend dragged him into this, there was never any possibility of getting out. Avilio’s vendetta is a black hole; no light escapes.

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Momokuri – 19 + 20

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Our next episode pair starts off with a nice monologue by Momo explaining where he’s coming from (loving parents he doesn’t see a lot) and how Yuki’s undivided attention is a new and exciting thing. This is the closest the show comes to drama, and while it’s no Orange, it gets the job done.

Since he’s come to like her attentions, Momo takes Rio’s words to heart about the distance Yuki seems to keep, but only confuses Yuki when he tries to rectify it.

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The thing is, there’s nothing that needs rectifying. Rio is observing this relationship from the outside; she can only tell Momo what she sees, how she sees it. Ditto Norika. But Yuki is just fine when it comes to Momo. While 90% of girlfriends would get jealous upon overhearing Momo call Rio cute, she seconds Momo’s opinion; Rio is cute.

Rio worries Yuki is an airhead, but it’s not really obliviousness. It’s a matter of point of view and confidence. Rio doesn’t have it, and Momo is still working on it, but Yuki is already there. She’s over the moon that Momo is on stage dressed up like a wolf, and not only happy all the other girls like him, but would think something was amiss if they didn’t. Momo’s a wonderful person; they should all like him.

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But it never crosses Yuki that Momo might slip out of her hands. What others think or her or Momo or the two of them as a couple is ultimately irrelevant. When Momo sees that as being passive or a pushover, and asks her to be a little jealous once in a while, it’s only more confirmation that he likes her. She’d probably be fine going out of her way to seem jealous for his sake, but not because he asked her to…because she wants to.

I honestly thought Momo already told Yuki he liked her, but perhaps I was taking his agreeing to go out with her as a confession. But the actual official confession happens here, and it only deepens Yuki’s feelings for him, to the point she gathers the courage to tell him the truth about her “collecting.”

The episode ends before Momo has quite grasped what Yuki means, but as I said, this isn’t a drama, so whether he ends up truly understanding the extent of Yuki’s…activities, I’m sure they’ll be fine.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 09

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For a show in which some people are aided by pocket-size elemental spirits, Alderamin is fairly down to earth. And if it was glorifying, say, the daring rescue and return of Princess Chamillie in its early episodes, it is just as careful to downplay whatever glory and honor is to be had in the Sinack campaign, which is precious little.

Indeed, Ikta and his pals are lucky to have a commander unwilling to order them to participate in the wholesale slaughter of the enemy, instead making them burn their villages and march them to new homes. It’s also a show whose heroes may not agree with the horrible strategy they’re a part of, but are either unwilling or currently unable to do anything about it.

When a little kid starts attacking Ikta, he flicks him in the nose. I doubt he intended to draw blood, but the noble knight Deinkun immediaely punishes him for striking the child, doling out a degree of justice so the other villagers don’t riot.

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Suya, who has clearly gained not only respect but affection for Ikta, is angry that Ikta let himself be punched like that, but Ikta takes responsibility for his error. Sometimes one can separate oneself from undesirable actions to such an extent, one can forget that there are things that can be done to lesson suffering, whether it’s taking a punch, or burning a village after it’s been evacuated. Not big things, but things.

When Matthew asks Ikta and Torway how they’ve been dealing with their sexual “needs” on the front, Ikta puts men into two columns: “heroes” who need bonds, and solitary “warriors”, avoiding any details about his own persuasion. But it’s just as true of the two ways knights go through life. Deinkun, a warrior, prefers to put as much on his broad shoulders as possible.

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Ikta may be a rare bird when it comes to strategic or tactical thought, but he’s no hermit. He needs bonds, not just to survive and keep himself in check (See Yatori) but to acknowledge and define his existence. He dosn’t care if his personal honor is besmirched by a punch to the face; he does care when he’s too late to say what he wanted to say to Kanna or protect her when she needed him.

Yatori may want to be a solitary knight like Deinkun, but the fact she goes into a berserk-like state only Ikta can bring her out of denies her that status. She too is a hero, whose brawn, along with Ikta’s brains, and the various talents of the others in their circle, comprise perhaps their empire’s best hope at avoiding self-destruction, which people like General Safida are inadvertently hastening.

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But still, neither Ikta nor Yatori have any designs of overthrowing Safida’s leadership. Indeed, Yatori’s Igsem heritage and conditioning make such a choice unthinkable, even if Ikta was pondering such a rebellion. No, these heroes, must work within the system into which they were recruited; play with the hands they were dealt. It’s yet not their turn to decided how the game is played.

So Yatori saves Safida from an ambushing Nanaku Daru, who learned how to fight from Mugen in Samurai Champloo. Yatori bests her, only to let her go when a group of shady assassins takes advantage of the chaos. They fail to kill the general, but slay Deinkun in the attempt.

He joins Kanna and the scores of other Imperial soldiers who gave it their all despite having to serve under a terrible general in a ridiculous war that isn’t quite over yet.

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