SSSS.Gridman – 07 – City in the Sky

While the Gridman Alliance is still in force, neither Rikka nor Shou believe much of what Yuuta tells them about his encounter with the little kaiju girl and Shinjou Akane’s role in creating kaiju and destroying/rebuilding the city. They even break out kimochi warui, a famous line in Evangelion.

Yuuta knows he can only find out what’s up from Akane from Akane herself, but for a number of reasons he just can’t come out and ask her about such things. Anti also invades the school unbidden, accosts Yuuta and tries to make him “bring Gridman” so he can fight him.

Still, when the team meats up at the Junk Shop, Max admits he too saw the girl. Yuuta remains the most logical person to ask Akane, he just has to suck it up and do it. Akane makes it easy for him by being in his bedroom when he gets home, having clearly sensed that he wanted to talk at school.

Akane proposes they join forces, telling him “it will be fun with a god” while rolling around in his bed and cuddling his pillow. Ueda Reina’s lazy yet sensual delivery really pays dividends here, but Yuuta won’t be seduced; he won’t betray his friends.

Trigger then demonstrates Wes Anderson (or perhaps more appropriately, Akiyki Shinbo) levels of precision in an intricately-detailed top-down composition of Rikka reclining in her room, her various belongings strewn about or just off right angles.

I wouldn’t mind having that shot framed and put up in my living room, and it’s just an incidental scene where she gets a call from Namiko and Hass.

Akane and Yuuta go out to eat on Akane’s “friend’s” dime, and somewhat cruelly picks the restaurant of their now-dead classmate. Her friend is Alexis in the flesh (or whatever he’s made of), and he’s nothing but cordial to both Yuuta and the proprietors.

Before any pertinent discussions can take place, Yuuta’s wrist alert thingy goes off. Akane assures him there’s no kaiju out there or she’d know, but there is something out there…a weird alien-like floating ball of red energy with pointy chrome appendages.

Rikka ditches Namiko and Hass (who are taking advantage of her generosity with her notes), while Akane goes out to see what’s up, and for once, the god doesn’t know what’s going on or why.

Yuuta joins Rikka, Shou, and Neon Genesis, Yuuta merges with Gridman, and they blow up the…whatever. But then it rebuilds itself, gets angry, and starts darting around like a Snitch. Back home, Akane learns that Anti designed the kaiju that’s out there, with Alexis informing her that because Anti hates Gridman more, the kaiju he built is stronger. Akane is not pleased.

Despite not being at all enthusiastic about it, Sky Vitter sorties in order to link up with Gridman and give us one hell of an nighttime aerial battle. There’s a cool contrast in movement between the chunky Sky Gridman and nervously-hyper alien bogey.

Eventually, Sky Gridman soars so high, he hits a ceiling, or rather something that looks like a city in the sky (shades of Patema Inverted). Since Rikka and Shou are watching Yuuta’s progress on the computer, now they believe what he said about there being boundaries to the city.

Also up there is the kaiju “pulling the strings” of the regenerating “snitches”, along with Anti, who quickly transforms into another kaiju. Gridman and Vitter split off, with Gridman cleaving the “puppeteer” kaiju with his sword and Vitter obliterating Anti with missiles.

So Anti fails, and Alexis goes back to Akane, now convinced he needs a “ral human” to make the best kaiju, not just the person who hates Gridman most. (On a side note, Akane’s trash level is really getting out of hand). But there is now a question of whether Akane really wants to kill Yuuta.

If she did, you’d think he’d be dead by now. Maybe she just hasn’t created the right kaiju yet, but between Gridman and his Neon Genesis buddies, Yuuta will always have a fighting chance against whatever Akane can throw at him. It’s been a straight stalemate, with the only gains Akane’s made being the elimination of things in the city she doesn’t like.

But Yuuta knows he can’t keep letting her get away with that. Can she be redeemed, or will the lure of her godlike powers, augmented by Alexis and his constant egging-on, continue to consume her? On top of all that (literally), there’s the mysterious sky city. Here’s hoping we get a closer look at that soon.

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Goblin Slayer – 07 – These Things Happen

The other adventurers give their excuses for not wanting to accompany the Priestess to the baths, but she’s eventually joined by the Sword Maiden herself. She sees many small scars on her body that suggest she’s had experience dealing with goblins.

The Maiden also warns the Priestess that while Goblin Slayer is dependable, one day he’ll “disappear”, meaning she’ll have to find another strength to lean on. Sure enough, GS mails a letter to the Farm Girl; in this context it’s another death flag.

GS, armed with a canary to detect poison gas, begin mapping some ancient ruins when they find themselves suddenly trapped in a chamber and attacked with…poison gas. GS provides charcoal to filter the gas while everyone prepares for battle, and the “mastermind” of the goblins finally shows himself: a massive Goblin Champion.

The party fights well, dispatching dozens of goblins with arrow, blade, fist, rock, and bare hand. But they keep coming, and the when the Champion delivers a crippling blow to GS that sends him flying and spewing blood, the Priestess loses her concentration, the Protection field falls, and the shit well and truly hits the fan.

GS is in bad, possibly terminal shape. The Priestess pees herself and then has a chunk of her arm bitten off by the Champion. The Lizardman and Dwarf are swarmed, as is the High Elf Archer, who can’t keep the goblins from tearing her clothes off.

Finally, as he hears the screams of the Priestess, GS remembers someone mocking him for cowering and doing nothing as his mother and village were slaughtered. His hatred of those comments leads to his left eye suddenly glowing red and entering a kind of Limit Break.

Back on his feet and with a full head of steam, GS carves his way through goblins as he bull-rushes their leader, then uses the long blonde hair of a corpse to strangle him before ripping one of the Champion’s eyes out of its socket. The others free themselves from the goblins’ grasps and keep fighting; the elf unfazed by having lost her top and most all of her shorts.

They give the Lizardman time to save the Priestess’ life, and the Dwarf and Elf help GS go to her side. The Priestess apologizes for letting the Protection fall, but the GS isn’t in a prosecutory mood, saying “These things happen.” They’re his last words, as he spews one more cloud of blood and then passes out. From the reactions of all around him, and the lingering closeup of the canary’s eye (over which the credits are supposed to roll), it doesn’t seem like he’ll be getting back up any time soon.

Did the show really just kill off its title character after just seven episodes? If so, that’s a pretty bold move. Will the Priestess, Elf, Dwarf and Lizardman carry on with their adventures without him? Will someone new take up the mantle of Goblin Slayer? Or will they somehow save the current one from near-death?

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 07 – Trouble, as Usual, Finds Kirito

As Asuna has arrived at Rath and taken a seat at the table when one wasn’t offered, Kirito continues to play, or rather live, in the Underworld. Two whole years have passed since we last saw him, and his goals remain the same: to learn this new virtual game’s rules, abide by them as he and Eugeo seek Alice, and most importantly, get good enough to face any opponent that might crop up.

To that end, after winning a swordsmanship tournament, they enrolled at Swordcraft Academy in the capital Centoria, to serve as pages to their mentors. Kirito’s mentor is the Second Seat Sortilienta Serlut, or “Tiena-senpai” for short (SSSS could also work ;), ably voiced by Han Megumi. In the time he’s trained under Tiena, Kirito has learned that attaining strength in this world is, unlike SAO or ALO, as much about confidence and willpower as the hard numbers.

Since they’re now in the Big City, Kirito and Eugeo’s statuses as commoners makes them the target of pompous high class elites who are always trying to press their buttons. When Kirito showed Eugeo the progress on his garden, I thought for sure that garden was going to be destroyed by the two punks who tried to provoke Kirito in the dining hall.

Tiena can tell there’s something of Kirito’s “Aincrad Style” he’s been holding back, and she believes the key to her improving (and finally defeating First-Seat Volo Levantain…what a name) is for him to reveal to her what that is. Since training on a day of rest is forbidden (and rules aren’t broken in this world, only bent a little), he labels his last sparring session with Tiena a “graduation gift.”

But before the session, Kirito picks up a newly completed sword from the metalsmith’s which was forged from a branch of the Gigas Cedar. The resulting black/blue blade is definitely Kirito’s style, and when he successfully swings it, he even gets it free of charge.

Kirito can’t help try out sword skills he was unable to break out with a simple wooden training sword, but in his enthusiasm to do so, he gets mud on one Volo Levantain’s crisp white uniform. Volo lets him off for practicing on a day of rest (he himself finds it hard to keep back from doing that, and understands as a fellow swordsman)…but he won’t let the mud stain slide.

So he challenges Kirito to a public duel to first point (not stop short) with real swords, perhaps eager to see what he can do with his new black blade. Kirito has never defeated Liena in a training session, and she’s never defeated Volo, so his mentor is understandably nervous about what he’s getting into. As for Eugeo, he’s just surprised his friend didn’t get into trouble much earlier.

Of course, Kirito has only fought with wooden swords at Swordcraft Academy; more training tools than actual weapons. We’ll see if he gets embarrassed before his mentor, friend, and assembled fellow students (not to mention punished for breaking the sabbath), or if he’ll be able to call his new blade Volo Levanbane…should he choose to.

Bloom Into You – 07 – Plenty for Right Now

In middle school, a girl confessed to Sayaka. Sayaka thought it was weird, but went with it, and got very much into it, such that when she and the other girl were apart for a long time, her longing only grew. That made it particularly painful when they reunited and the other girl was just, suddenly…done with her. She laughs off what they did to be “what kids do”, and “just a phase.” But Sayaka’s heart was broken that day.

She decided to push the experience to the back of her head, and focus on her studies, enrolling at a co-ed high school where she imagined a boy would fall for and confess to her (or vice versa). But the heartbreak still stung so much she couldn’t quite focus enough to score the top grades of the class. So the role of freshman rep went instead to one Nanami Touko.

Whoever this Nanami was, Sayaka resolved to surpass her. But then she caught a look at her face and heard her voice, and she ended up never surpassing her, and moreover stopped caring about trying to. Despite never wanting to fall for another girl again, Sayaka fell for Touko.

Of course, Sayaka could never admit that to anyone, most of all Touko, because she could tell the burdens Touko bore even without knowing about the tragedy of her older sister. Touko was friendly and kind and approachable to all, but only to a point; she’d keep everyone, including Sayaka, at a certain distane to avoid exposing the old, flawed Nanami Touko she was hiding from everyone with her flawless facade.

Sayaka never thought she was special for detecting that other side, and so never seriously considered crossing that boundary to get closer to Touko, however much she might want to. Touko, in her words, belonged to no one. Rather, Sayaka carved out the role Touko’s right hand; her sidekick; her rock. Thus she could be pretty much closer than anyone else.

Touko is aware of this, and to the episodes credit, it takes time away from Sayaka’s head to spend some in Touko’s. Touko knows Sayaka is aware of “the other Touko,” but never oversteps any boundaries. Sayaka is only ever asking Touko to keep up that perfect version of herself while also supporting her in that effort. That’s the way things have been, that’s the way Sayaka likes it, and that’s the way Sayaka wants things to stay.

But now there’s a threat to that status quo named Koito Yuu. Sayaka didn’t consider Yuu a threat at first, and perhaps she still doesn’t; after all, Yuu hasn’t known Touko as long as she has. But at much as Sayaka prides herself on knowing Touko more than anyone, Touko and Yuu continue a gentle dance that is drawing them closer together. It frustrates Sayaka to no end that Yuu seems willing to so blithely cross the boundaries Sayaka established for herself…but still thinks she’ll fail, due to her “Touko belongs to no one” theory.

Touko’s reactions to calling Yuu “Yuu”—not to mention Yuu calling her “Touko-senpai”—make Yuu want to be more “aggressive;” to see how far she can make Touko go. Maybe, just maybe, if and when she does, Yuu will finally feel something as strongly as Touko does.

Like Sayaka, Yuu always thought it was puerile, weird or somehow not right for girls to like other girls. And it’s true that even in 2018 the LGBTQ community in Japan has it pretty rough, at least relative to other developed countries.

So it’s most gratifying that the show introduces a serious adult same-sex relationship in the form of the Japanese teacher Hakozaki Riko and her girlfriend, who owns the cafe where Touko, Sayaka and Yuu meet with Koyomi on writing the script for the stage play.

Hakozaki-sensei conceals this from her students when they ask how she knows the cafe owner, but like the intimacy of a first-name basis, the way the owner first greets Hakozaki before either of them are aware her students are there betrays the fact she’s hiding the true extent of her relationship. Ever the observer of human behavior, Sayaka also notices it in the way Hakozaki drinks her coffee at the counter.

While the other students are oblivious, Sayaka can tell something’s up, and her “suspicions” are confirmed when we see Hakozaki staying at her girlfriend’s place and kissing each other goodnight. It shouldn’t be such a big deal (again, this is 2018)…but it still feels like one. It’s not just what kids do. It’s not just a phase.

Sayaka’s isolation only intensifies when she hears Touko calling Yuu by her first name like it’s nothing. She stages a passive-aggressive protest, to no avail. Then, the next day, she visits the coffee shop and strikes up a chat with the cafe owner. She asks, as carefully as she dares, what her relationship is to Hakozaki-sensei. The owner states clearly and unequivocally that she’s her girlfriend.

Sayaka wasn’t prepared for such a frank, unambiguous response, but it’s something for which she’s greatly appreciative. It’s also liberating for her, and she opens up about her own feelings for another girl, even after having her heart broken by another (Touko’s name is left out of it, of course). It goes without saying (though Sayaka does mention it), but she really really needed to talk to someone about this, especially with someone who, like her, thought she should keep it a secret when she was younger.

When asked why she doesn’t simply confess, Sayaka lays out the reasons: there’s no room in Touko’s heart to accept the feelings of others; it would only be a source of stress for her; it could disrupt or even ruin what they have now, something Sayaka couldn’t bear. She asks the cafe owner if it’s okay to hide one’s feelings for someone in order to stay by her side…or is that just selfishness or cowardice?

The owner responds by giving Sayaka another coffee on the house…for being such a kind soul. Because that’s what she deems Sayaka to be. Someone who keeps her feelings hidden for the sake of her friend, who carries a lot of stress so their friend won’t have to, is very kind, in her book. Confessing wouldn’t be wrong…but neither is staying the course.

The truth is, Sayaka isn’t ready for things to change one way or another, so staying the course is the right path. Does Yuu get on her nerves? Absol-friggin’-lutely. Could it become more of a problem if Yuu and Touko get ever closer together? Of course. But as Touko makes it clear—almost as if she sensed Sayaka needed some reassuring on that particular day—is that she’s glad Sayaka is a part of her life.

If she weren’t, things would be too easy, and Touko would slack off. Standing in front of Sayaka helps her be the ideal person she strives for (which, as we know, is the person her late sister was). Wherever Yuu falls in the equation in the future, Touko will keep relying on Sayaka, which is, for Sayaka, plenty for right now.