Youjo Senki – 08

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The Gist: Colonel Sue Anson wakes up in a Kingdom hospital, months after last week’s battle. He’s seen God and has orders to kill Tanya, and his eyes glow yellow with the power to do it. Despite this scene being tucked after the ending credits, and lasting barely 30 seconds, this is the primary purpose of the episode.

The 20 minutes of content leading up to this shows Tanya’s Battalion in the Rhine valley, where they must retake a city that’s being overrun by freedom fighters. The battle is fierce, as the resistance is backed by air-dropped mages of the Republic (the robot horse guys) and the tight quarters of city fighting play against Team Tanya’s advantages in mobility and ranged firepower. Also, because civilian casualties are guaranteed, it plays against her soldiers’ emotional stability.

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This is especially rough on a gung-ho second lieutenant who’s been trying to win Tanya’s approval. Specifically, after the battle is won and after hauling wounded bodies for hours, he’s ordered to eliminate the Republican mages providing cover for evacuating Civilians, in prep for a lethal saturation of artillery fire.

It’s not entirely clear if he’s more upset with Tanya’s logical explanation that the survivors will simply take up arms against him and the Empire, or if the truth of her words is too hard to bear (he can see a young man in the crowd glowering at him, as if telegraphing a thirst for revenge) or if he isn’t upset at Tanya at all but the war itself. Whatever the reason, however broken it makes him, it is strongly implied that he opens fire at Tonya’s command.

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The Verdict: Youjo Senki captures the horrors of war and the process of dehumanizing soldiers to the point that they act more as tools than thinking humans better than previous outings. However, minus Anson waking up, this was still a ‘war is bad’ episode, it still overly reliant on the ‘ain’t it cool’ factors of the show’s technology and Tanya’s badass war fighting skills. Again, without God or a greater view of the conflict from inside Tanya’s head, the tragedy of carnage isn’t especially compelling.

As for Anson waking up, it finally sets a narrative destination in motion, which is good. However, Anson was never developed enough to be a compelling opponent for Tanya in the first place. Sure, losing his country and being a dad give him the basis for conflict in dealing with Tanya, but we don’t see how his mind works, let alone have there been scenes dedicated to emotional conflict for him fighting Tanya.

This leads me to suspect a fairly straightforward combat focus to their conflict in the future. While that may be visually stimulating, it would be a letdown. Youjo Senki, at its best, can do better than that.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 09

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Todou’s “join me” schtick doesn’t work, as Yukio tells him he loves Rin as much as he hates him, but hates the old Yukio who was a sniveling little punk always in need of Rin’s help.

Yukio summons a coven of naiads and puts Todou in a water prison. I’m glad Exorcist isn’t playing the “Yukio switches sides” angle here, and that Yukio actually gets one over on Todou in what had been a laughably one-sided match.

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As for Rin, he’s trying to stay positive and cheerful while riding Kuro to the sproangium, but Bon can tell from his shaking hands that Rin’s just trying to keep it together, like he is. Kuro gets them into position, and Bon is able to put up a giant fire barrier to contain the sporangium (during which a phoenix screams like a red-tailed hawk for some reason).

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As all his family and friends fight what looks like a hopeless battle, Shino is consumed by fear and self-preservation, even going so far as to abandon Koneko when he refuses to run away. Shino only gets a few paces away before Koneko is about to be killed and he swoops in with his staff. As much as he wants to run from this situation—and his blood—he just can’t. He’s a part of this.

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Meanwhile, Izumo lets her guard down while admonishing Shiemi for not letting herself be protected by someone stronger, and gets covered in spores. Using the “if not now, when” argument, a desperate Shiemi finally manages to summon Nee-chan, and prepares to free Izumo, who takes time to ponder why she agreed to all this in the first place.

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Despite everyone’s efforts, the sporangium still bursts, and it feels like a huge setback when it happens. Fortunately the barrier holds, but that Bon can’t move if he wants to keep it up is a huge challenge for Rin and Kuro.

Rin almost felt like he could unsheathe his sword when Kuro was in trouble (Kuro gets out of it on his own); I imagine the time is quickly approaching when, like Shiemi with Nee-chan, Rin can’t go without its blade any longer.

As for Yukio, his water prison crumbles and he’s about to get burnt alive by Todou, but his eyes suddenly glimmer with blue flame—like Rin—which causes Todou to instinctively jump back.

Before Todou can get back to killing Yukio—or Yukio can determine what the hell’s up with his eyes—Juzu & Co. arrive to fight Todou. But yeah, those blue eyes are definitely an interesting development.

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