Little Witch Academia – 13

The Gist: The Samhain Festival is quickly approaching and Team Akko can not escape their fate as sacrifices to the sorrowful ghost Vajarois…and Sucy and Lotte can not escape the feeling that Akko’s plan to make that sacrifice more fun, is just a lot of wasted effort.

However, things begin to turn around when Diana’s lackeys Hannah and Barbara pull Akko aside and chew her out for the ‘trick’ she played on her. While making fun of Akko’s place in life, they go out of their way to throw shade at Lotte’s lack of presence and Sucy’s creepiness…while those two are within earshot in the hall. And why not? Team Akko isn’t anything but the laughable leftover losers in their eyes, and in the eyes of much the rest of the school.

The Samhain Festival gets underway and it becomes quickly apparent that the guest witches’ opinion of Luna Nova isn’t much better than Andrew’s muggle father’s. The traditional events largely bore them, or are done incorrectly like the bubbling pot that spits slime at them or the dancing flower that eats one of the girls casting the spell.

Curiously, the guest witches heap much of their criticism at the feet of Luna Nova’s Grand Mistress, Miranda Holbrooke. This struck me as a bit strange, only because Holbrooke has come off as stodgy as Professors’ Badcock and Finneran (At least, she had until Akko had raised her father from the dead a few episodes ago). Regardless, the visiting witches don’t give any examples of why Holbrooke’s management has been deficient, though she certainly lets Team Akko run with their tradition breaking idea—going so far as to restrain the other professors from interfering.

Speaking of Team Akko, with an energized Sucy and Lotte now by her side, Akko puts on a slapsticky ‘Sacrifice Show’ for Vajarois and the guest witches. While many of the laughs are at Akko, whose magic transformations teeter on the edge of failure, the crowd is laughing and, eventually, the trio manages to lift Vajarois’ curse in a fantastic display of light and pleasure.

The emotion of it all even reaches Diana, who can’t wrap her head around what she’s seeing, and who she’s seeing do it. More interestingly, she’s shocked to learn that Akko’s group isn’t even allowed to qualify for “Moonlit Witch,” because they broke the rules, in spite of creating a good and unexpected result appreciated by all in attendance, including the dissipating ghost herself…

Thankfully, winning “Moonlit Witch” was never really the point for Akko. As much as she said otherwise, all she wanted was to do some magic that other people thought was fun, and to do it with her friends.

Confronting traditions seems to be the major theme this week. That, and that witches are overly focused on magic without practical application, and don’t appreciate that practical application is needed in their world, and needed to justify them to the non-magical world.

Like AkkoAmanda, Jasminka and Constanze put on a great show of skill cleaning up after the failures of the traditional performances and, like Akko, that trio is payed no mind at all because of their place in life (magical janitors).

Even Diana’s masterful performance rings a bit hollow, as summoning a magic unicorn doesn’t serve a practical application in comparison. Diana hasn’t made that exact connection yet, but it will be interesting to see if she carries more respect for Akko and the others into future episodes. Because she was impressed, even just for the magic’s sake, this time around.

The Verdict: LWA has re-tightened it’s grip on my heart these past few weeks. Putting aside the lackluster episodes that weakened that grip mid-season, LWA knows how to charm with western style slapstick (Sucy’s casual pointing as Team Akko plummets to the ground is pure Bugs Bunny) and simple power of friendship themes.

The battle against tradition is an interesting focus as well. Consider how strange it is that Luna Nova has had the ability to lift Vajarois‘ curse for ages—right there on the shelf—but none of the witches have bothered to investigate, let alone try it out. Its little wonder that a baffoon like Akko is needed to shake up their world.

How this all plays into Chariot’s secret identity and the greater magic words plot, who knows? (I didn’t see Akko unlock another word this time out) Regardless, it moved the characters along, the world along, and was a hoot to watch throughout!

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Tsugumomo – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: One day, Kagami Kazuya’s sakura-patterned obi, given to him by his late mother, takes the form of a blue-haired girl named Kiriha revealing she is a tsukumogami.

After saving him from an attacking amasogi, Kiriha assigns Kazuya as her “servant” and shares his living space, remaining as inseparable as they were when she was a mere inanimate obi.

Roll Credits…

Even with a rather poor translation, I don’t think I missed much nuance here. Kazuya is defined by his utter lack of distinguishing features or personality traits—other than carrying around an obi and smelling it all the time, which would be kinda sweet, I guess, if it wasn’t also a bit weird.

Along with his one-note “class-rep” character, and his one-note big sister/guardian, there isn’t much depth to be found here, only reminders of shows past (and half-hours wasted on said shows).

We end up seeing many sides of Kiriha, and to her credit, between her superior, imperious attitude, propensity for making messes, and love of pudding, she also has Kazuya’s back (both out in the world and in the bath) and seems to mean well as a companion/protector.

But rather than working in her favor, these myriad sides only served to paint a muddled picture of who and what she is, beyond an once-inanimate object given (pretty) human form. Also, if you’re going to have blue hair and red eyes, you best come correct.

Throw in bland-as-paste Kazuya and a not particularly great-looking production (aside from one okay action scene) and there’s not quite enough here to encourage me to continue.

Souryo to Majiwaru Shikiyoku no Yoru ni… – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: A girl gets drunk at her high school reunion when she realizes the nice boy she fell in love with, but never made a move on, has become a monk. Later, as she wallows in self pity (and a hang over) that same boy carries her home. Then takes her to bed.

Despite a three minute run time, this is hard to watch. The protagonist is a generic ‘klutzy’ girl and the love interest is what we would consider a date-rapist in the USA. There’s nothing visually compelling about it either, unless you get a kick out of panties and guys helping girls drink water by spitting it into their mouths?

Gross…

Sekai no Yami Zukan – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: The World YAMIZUKAN is a four-minute format narrated children’s picture book, featuring an H. P. Lovecraft-like tale of a woman who leaves her husband each night and the night he follows her…to a spaceship! (tragedy ensues)

You may be interested in this for its unusual art style, which has a 70’s French feel but isn’t really animated. The tone is right-on for Lovecraft, even though the narrative itself is more like an incomplete Twilight Zone episode. (There’s no pay off nor a twist, really)

However, you probably won/t find this interesting because its slow pace and lack of payoff are hard pills to swallow. The storybook format didn’t really grip me either, neither with it’s unintentionally funny narrator nor for its oddly erotic imagery. There’s just not enough substance to it.

Verdict: I watch a ton of short formats at the beginning of each season but I rarely stick with them, either because they feel like a single episode chopped into scene-length morsels that would make a better meal at full length OR because the production quality just isn’t there. It isn’t clear if SnYZ will fall into either of these traps yet, but I’m not compelled to watch another episode to find out either…

Alice to Zouroku – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Sana, who belongs to a group of supernatural power-wielding humans known as “Dreams of Alice”, has escaped the research facility where she’s been held as long as she can remember.

While being pursued by the facility’s director, armed with other Dreams of Alice, Sana meets Kashimura Zouroku, an elderly florist, who gets caught up in the ensuing chaos.

He eventually agrees to let her stay at his place “for a while” as long as she helps him out and doesn’t use her powers.

A2Z, as I’ll be shortening it to, is a seinen anime, and as such, deals with what could have been a moetastic mess with a clear-eyed sobriety, a deliberate pace, and with a refined attention to detail. Zouroku is truly an Old Man’s Old Man, who wouldn’t be out of place in a show like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, and the way the young Sana instantly starts cramping his old man style is highly believable as well as entertaining.

We’ve seen plenty of “I don’t need this” characters, but Zouroku immediately earns that attitude by having so many years under his belt, and to a degree, having earned the right to live his life the way he wants. If a bunch of magic-using urchins start messing up his Shinjuku, well, he has a problem with that. Of course, once he learns where Sana is from, and how she’s no doubt had to deal with stuff no little kid should, his position softens, without breaking down into 3-gatsu no Lion Gushy Grandpa Mode.

I also liked the application of the magic itself. It’s weird, fun, and creative without getting too whimsical. As soon as we saw Tachibana standing on the palm of a giant hand, I knew we were in for some weird stuff, and her short but exciting dual with Sana’s mysterious benefactor, as well as the Mini car chase with the chain-and-arrow-wielding twins, are very well-directed sequences. The CGI is very much noticeable, but not distractingly so.

What I appreciated was that mundane scenes of Shinjuku are treated with as much care as those action scenes. This may be a first episode and the animation quality may well dip, but for now the world of A2Z is lively and lived-in, avoiding being too flashy, surreal, or stylized. Similarly, the character design is very simple, but effective, calling to mind that of Madoka Magica. A little kiddy, belying its more mature themes.

We don’t know exactly what’s up with Zouroku and his granddaughter, but my take was that she passed away or maybe moved out on bad terms (it’s suggested she’s older than Sana in any case). The sudden appearance of Sana in Zouroku’s life suggests this won’t be a one-sided relationship: both parties will get something out of it.

Sure, at first, that means more trouble for Zouroku, but whether he was planning on it or not, it also afford the opportunity for him to do something more important than a floral arrangement for a yakuza’s girlfriend.

What exactly that is, and whether or not he’ll simply stay out of the way when Sana & Co. go off on each other again, I look forward to finding out. This confident double episode was a surefire way to get me quickly invested.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 50 (Fin)

Once the tunnel digging is complete, everyone falls back except for Akihiro and Mika, who stand their ground and continue to buy time for their family. And while Tekkadan’s two toughest pilots put up a hell of a fight, even initially surviving a direct Dainsleif attack from orbit, they’re sufficiently softened up to allow Julieta and Iok to go in for the kill.

Akihiro gets Iok in his giant binders and crushes him, but he in turn is killed by Iok’s subordinates. Julieta, who has vowed to remain human while being as ruthless as Rustal needs her to be, beheads the bestial Barbatos Lupus Rex and raises it in triumph before her elated comrades. It is over. Mika, Akihiro are dead, and so is Tekkadan.

But life goes on, and those who survived thanks to their fallen brothers continue to follow Orga’s final order to keep moving forward. And what to you know, things end up working out both for Gjallarhorn (which reforms from within to a more democratic system under Rustal) and Mars (which gains nominal independence from Earth, as a new union under the chairmanship of Kudelia).

Kudelia and Rustal work together to end the practice of turning destitute orphans into human debris once and for all. Even without the main actors who set the stage alive to see it, and very few people remember who they even were, a measure of their ideals were realized anyway. Atra’s powerful monologue about how one doesn’t notice a flower blooming by the side of the road really drove that point home.

It helps that the “bad guys” who “won” are interesting and likable enough that years after they brutally took Orga, Mika, Macky and Tekkadan down, it’s still satisfying to see Gaelio returning to his old “frivolous” self, only now far more wiser, while Julieta has steady-competenced herself to being the likely successor to Rustal for leadership of Gjallarhorn.

Meanwhile, some survivors, among them Ride, can’t move forward without taking revenge, as he does when he assassinates Nobliss Gordon while he’s sitting on the toilet.

As for Kudelia? She’s overjoyed to learn Merribit and Yukinojou are expecting their second child soon, but can’t go out drinking with Chad and the guys. She heads home to the Sakura Farm, where an older, taller, and very badass Atra is waiting with their kid, with the unmistakable blue eyes and vacant expression of Mikazuki. The kid’s name is, naturally, Mikazuki, and unlike his father, he’ll have a childhood full of love and kindness, not desperation, and violence.

While chatting with Gaelio, Julieta admits the fighters of Tekkadan weren’t devils; she knew that the moment she saw an unconscious Mika when his cockpit cover sheared off. They were, in fact, the most human of us all, belonging on the battlefield for no other reason than to keep living and fighting. So it’s fortunate that there’s civilization to filter out some of our raw, instinctual humanity.

Thanks to the sacrifices of Tekkadan, McGillis and their allies, that civilization has been improved and made available to the next generation of youth, so maybe there won’t be a need for another Tekkadan ever again.

And that’ll do it. Whether you just checked in this week or have been following them since the very beginning, thanks as always for reading my reviews of what I believe to be one of, if not the best Gundam yet. It was a fantastic ride, and the franchise will be hard-pressed to surpass the greatness it achieved in these fifty episodes. But if they make a (non-SD) attempt down the road, I’ll be there to review it.

Attack on Titan – 26 (Start of Season 2)

The Gist: A Titan is discovered inside Wall Sina. Pastor nick warns the scouts to cover it in sheets. Even when Zoe threatens to kill him, he won’t tell her anything he knows.

Wall Rose is breached and Titans are roaming. 12 hours earlier, the 104th Trainees are on standby in plainclothes when Mike mobilizes them to warn the villages of the attacking Titans while he buys time.

Mike encounters a furry beast-like Titan who can speak. It asks Mike about his gear, but Mike is too frightened to respond, and the beast-Titan snatches up Mike’s gear and lets the other Titans eat him.

After four years of waiting—less for me because I retro reviewed it on a lark—and many delays, Attack on Titan is finally back, and the hype surrounding it is inevitable. Titan has a huge and passionate fanbase that has been very patient, and I would say that those who who wanted more of season one’s intense action-packed horror-drama got what they wanted.

I for one found Titan’s first season quite entertaining and addictive, so I count myself among that group. No boats were rocked here. Bringing down Annie may have been a small victory, but humans are still fighting for their lives, and not at all helped out by the bureaucracies that run things, who are intentionally (and very suspiciously) keeping the people who fight on the front lines in the dark.

My only main gripe with this abrupt return to the Titan storyline is that the main triad of Eren, Mikasa, and Armin were sidelined except for a small scene where Eren wakes up and talks with Mikasa about her scarf before Armin bursts in to tell them about the Titans in the wall.

That means the episode is largely about the secondary and tertiary casts, including Mike, who goes off on his own to serve as a decoy to enable Connie, Sasha, Reiner and Bertholt and other 104s to spread out and get word to the villages that the Titans Are Coming (not that there’s much to be done). And for Mike’s trouble, he has his own poor horse thrown at him by the apparent leader of a pack of roaming Titans.

This isn’t just any Titan, though: it’s an “abnormal”, Sasquatch-Like Titan with an intelligent glint in its eye and, most importantly, the ability to speak in the human tongue. When I first heard him, I wasn’t sure who was talking, and was taken just as aback as Mike and could totally understand why even someone second in skill only to Levi was absolutely paralyzed with fear by this Titan frikkin’ talking to him like it’s nothing.

Alas, as well-spoken as Beast Titan is, he shows no mercy once he has what he’s interested in—Mike’s gear—and sics the other Titans on Mike in a horrifying display that closes the episode, seemingly showing a lot more gore than it really is in typical Titan fashion. R.I.P. Sniffy.

Between Beast Titan, Wall Titan, and a tight-lipped clergy, there looks to be plenty of problems for Eren, Mikasa, and whoever else manages to stay alive, to deal with in this long-awaited 12-episode second season of Attack on Titan, a show that never ceases to demonstrate just how much better your life is than the poor bastards who live in its world.

Not being chased and eaten by goofy-yet-terrifying Titans = #Winning.

Gin no Guardian – 01 (First Impressions)

Some scantily clad girls are sharing ghost stories at school, before their pink haired RA tells them to turn off the lights and then waxes romantic about a boy and his cat who are actually fighting to protect the world, possibly elsewhere?

Meanwhile, two years ago, our hero was a pool cleaning boy who drowns while trying to save his cat from bullies. But he’s saved by the same pink haired girl. Also, he’s protecting a ziggurat in the future. From skeletons or something?

Gin no Guardian is kinda a mess. It’s generic, visually bland, and has a cutesy cat that overly-lightens the ghosts and darkness mood. Also, I have no real idea what is going on, other than terrible background music, and I can not imagine any reason why I should bother giving it a second chance?

If you know a reason, drop me a comment below!

Youjo Senki – 12 (Fin)

The Gist: Topping all but the second episode, this week’s Tanya outing owns some lengthy, thoughtful and horrifying dialog. Despite what high command may think, the war will not be over and that is strictly because humans are too animalistic — too emotional — to follow the rational path and surrender.

The Republic rises in Africa, joined by survivors from the Kingdom and Alliance. The Kingdom mobilizes at home, and we see weapons of war rolling along the rail tracks in the Russian federation and in America as well. (Even Anson’s daughter has volunteered for service, yellow magic eyes and all!)

It all threatens to swallow Tanya and her fragile battalion. But Tanya is having none of it. In a fiery speech to her recently deployed African troops, she vows that the battlefield is no place for God. That her soldiers will put him out of work and that she will slice him into pieces personally and feed him to the pigs.

Back at home, among the frustration and angst of high command, the leadership has come to believe in her. She IS a monster in the body of a little girl and, no matter what, nothing will stop her from her goals.

Dun dun duuunnnnnn!

The Verdict: I have tremendous respect for this show ending on a largely talky episode, and in a so very Tanya-talky way. From her cold, calm, and horrifying explanation to high command on why they are wrong, to her frothing mad rant to her soldiers, it’s all very off putting and terrifying.

I do wish Serebryakova got a bit more screen time, and I do wish I had a sense of where any of this was going, or that it had gotten to this point 2-3 episodes earlier, but, if a second season will come our way, I think it will deserve your watching.

At it’s lowest, Tanya is a combat procedural with an unusual aesthetic. At it’s height, it transcends nihilism and delves right into an antagonistic relationship with God, and man’s own nature. Good stuff, that.