Chainsaw Man – 08 – Cry For Me

Chainsaw Man seemed to be setting up something quite scandalous last week when a wasted Himeno seemed poised to bed an underage and disoriented Denji. We rewind a bit this week to when she first enters her apartment, and watch it from her POV as she plops Denji on the bed, takes a shower, then grabs a beer.

Denji is conscious and lucid enough to question whether he should lose his virginity to Himeno after she already puked in his first kiss. One look at Himeno’s face after she pulls his shirt off and he decides that yes he should. But when she pulls a Chupa Chuos out his pocket—the one Makima gave him when he was out getting air.

In addition to representing his still-intact virtue, it was also his first indirect kiss, since it had been in Makima’s mouth before his. Thus it reminds him of his vow for Makima to be his first, and passes on Himeno, who promptly passes out.

The next morning, the two have breakfast on her high-rise balcony, another new luxury for Denji. Himeno admits she was so blackout drunk last night she claims not to know if she took advantage of him, and is relieved to learn she didn’t since people can get locked up for that kinda thing.

When Denji insists that he only has eyes for Makima, Himeno proposes that they form an alliance. She’ll help him get with Makima, if he helps her get with Aki. Denji agrees, and just like that, he and Himeno are no longer merely co-workers, but friends.

At this point I’d simply been enjoying the lush camerawork, the gorgeous night and morning lighting, and the overall nice post-drinks vibes. Little did I know this was the final calm before a storm that would turn Chainsaw Man on its head.

From Himeno’s apartment we’re on a train, and the claustrophobic camerawork creates a sense of paranoia. Makima, for her part, isn’t looking forward to meeting with her superiors in Kyoto, but admits she had fun at drinks the previous night.

Then the two passengers in the rows in front of and behind her and her assistant suddenly drop out of view, produce guns, point them at Makima and her assistant, and shoot them both in the head and chest. You can imagine this non-manga reader was quite shocked by this development.

But aside from the near-impossibility a main character like Makima would end up dead in the eighth episode, the fact that her eyes look far from dead when the camera pulled in close on her bloodied face. Rather than fade the way most anime characters’ eyes do upon dying, they seem to smolder. So maybe she’s not really dead?

Arai and Kobeni are also assassinated, seemingly by ordinary people who suddenly have guns and are being controlled by devils—or aren’t, and are simply working together to take out the 4th Division. When the shots that take out the rookies ring out, Denji, Power, Aki, and Himeno are at a ramen joint having lunch, still firmly in calm mode.

Even the vigilant Aki wonders if it was fireworks from a celebration. Then a man starts talking across the restaurant from them, produces a photo of his uncle, the yakuza who Denji worked for, then pulls out a gun and shoots Denji and Himeno. Aki dodges and Power gives the guy an uppercut.

Aki then summons Kon, who sardonically declares that he just made her swallow up something neither human nor devil—in other words, like Denji. But instead of a Chainsaw Man, he’s more like a Katana Man, with wide, razor-sharp blades protruding from the same places as Denji’s.

When Kon is wounded and checks out, Aki turns to Curse, a devil he summons by piercing Katana Man three times. When it comes out, it certainly looks like Game Over for the baddie, as it looks like an instant-kill kinda situation.

And Curse does seem to do the trick, as Katana Man ends up on the ground, motionless and defeated. Then an unassuming young woman with short dirty-blond hair appears, revives him, and asks him why he lost. He says he grossly underestimated Aki. Then the woman tells him to kill him next time.

Katana Man’s next attack is so quick, no one, even Power, sees it. One moment he’s on one side of Aki, the next he’s on the other, and a massive blood flower blooms from Aki’s chest. Himeno, who is gravely injured but still conscious, summons Ghost, who is hesitant to enter the fray as the dirty blond woman is nasty AF.

But Himeno is not about to watch yet another partner (particularly one she loves) die, so she offers everything she’s got so Ghost can give her everything she’s got.

As Himeno’s arms and legs vanish one by one like glitches in a video game, Ghost grows larger, more powerful, and more monstrous. Katana Man seems to be on the back foot once again, but the cost of such a victory was always going to be too high.

In her few episodes, I’d become quite fond of Himeno, and Ise Mariya’s voice work throughout has been outstanding as expected. I’d have never guessed that morning she and Denji had breakfast on her balcony would be her last morning ever, but here we are.

Himeno’s final words are an extension of her previous refrain: “Don’t die on me, Aki”. Among the partners she’d worked with Aki was one who cried for each and every one of the rookies under him who were killed. In her last moments, all she wants is for Aki not to die, so if she dies, he’ll cry for her.

To add insult to grievous injury, Himeno’s sacrifice doesn’t defeat the enemy. Kitana Man may be in trouble, but one word from the blond woman summons a mammoth snake that lops Ghost’s head clean off. When Aki looks over at where Himeno had been, only her suit and trademark eyepatch remain.

I cannot overstate what a gut punch this entire sequence is, or how masterful sunlight, darkness, and silence are employed to create a sense of hopelessness and despair. If it sticks, the butcher bill of this episode, and how it came out of absolutely nowhere, puts it right up there with the Red Wedding for pure horrific shock and distress.

And yet, this didn’t come out of nowhere. Throughout the drinks the previous night there was talk of some hunters who didn’t make it there because they’d been killed. Himeno had already lost numerous partners. We already knew that each day in a hunter’s life could be their last. I knew all that going in. I just didn’t know the end would come for these hunters. All that foreshadowing didn’t lessen the hurt.

Now you’ll excuse me while I go have a cry.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 08 – Zero Hour

In the aftermath of the Quincy invasion and subsequent withdrawal, triage operations underway. Lieutenant Kotetsu tearfully asks Captain Unohana if it was really the right call to remain in the Squad 4 barracks for the entirety of the battle. Unohana reminds Kotetsu not to let emotion rule her decision-making.

They made the right choice because it was Head Captain’s final order, and now they’re still alive to take care of the wounded. Ichigo is there, and while he’s received first aid he still needs a lot of work. Less, though, than his pals Rukia and Renji, who are in stable condition. Rukia can tell something’s troubling Ichigo beyond the destruction of his zanpakuto and failure to protect everyone.

At the captain’s meeting, the younger, more hot-headed Captains like Soi Fon and Muguruma get into it and have to be calmed by Iba and Shunsui, who reminds them that if Old Man Yama were there he’d smack them all for whining about this defeat. They do receive some good news: both Byakuya and Kenpachi are still alive. The bad news? They may never wake up.

Captain Kurotsuchi invites Ichigo to his lab to give him the good and bad news: restoring his shikai is possible, but his bankai is gone forever. He then takes Ichigo to where the other captains have gathered near Seireitei’s protective wall…to await the arrival of the Royal Guard, AKA Squad Zero, which consists of five captains, each one stronger than the combined Gotei 13.

Here I was, wondering who the hell was going to fight the Quincy when they’ve taken out Yamamoto and neutralized Ichigo. It’s these guys. And while the Gotei 13 captains find them irritating, the fact is they infuse both optimism and comedy to the proceedings.

As one would expect, the character designs of the five Squad Zero captains are extremely extra, including a dude with a huge, sharp pompadour that’s almost a character in and of itself, a due with a white puffer jacket instead of the standard captain’s obi, and a lady with six golden legs she uses for everything from playing the squad’s arrival fanfare to holding four spheres that contain Ichigo’s broken zanpakuto, Rukia, Renji, and Byakuya.

Squad Zero has come down from the Royal Palace realm to rebuild the ravaged Gotei 13, but first they’re bringing the injured Kuchikis, Renji, and Ichigo back home with them, where they’ll be able to heal properly. After receiving a video call from Kisuke, Inoue and Chad reassuring him they’re all right (and have apparently made a deal with Grimmjow) Ichigo agrees to go with Squad Zero.

They all pile up in the giant pillar-shaped conveyance they used to travel to Seireitei, and with help from Shiba Kuukaku (joined by Ganju and making a reference to her uncle, Ichigo’s dad) it launches back to the realm of the Royal Palace, which is very cool and austere looking. The main palace is surrounded by five city-sized plates where the five Squad Zero captains’ castles are located.

Ichigo and his injured comrades are sent to Kirinden, the castle of Captain Kirinji Tenjirou, who is apparently the healer of the bunch, and someone whose healing powers far surpass Captain Unohana, who was a past student/apprentice of his.

That said, his methods are pretty simplistic on the surface, consisting of soaking the injured in a white-colored hot spring, then tossing them into a red-colored hot spring, then repeating the process. In Ichigo’s case, only one night in the spring will be enough to restore him, while Byakuya will need more intensive treatment.

Once Squad Zero arrived I started to feel a lot better about Ichigo and the good guys’ chances against the Wandenreich. They’re certainly an eccentric bunch, but I’m sure glad Bleach’s cheeky levity is back, anyone who fixes up Rukia is fine by me. They’re also able to re-forge Ichigo’s sword, so even if he can’t restore his old bankai, perhaps he’ll be able gain a new one, or perhaps even something beyond a bankai.

And, oh yeah, the Soul King is awake … so there’s that.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 08 – A Better Future Than Our Fathers

Miorine has taken the plunge into entrepreneurship, but finding herself without any kind of labor, she conscripts Earth House to help get GUND-Arm, Inc. on its feet. This starts a stir of dialogue among the Earth House members, who for the first time this week feel more like a motley group of individuals than a monolithic unit.

Miorine also needs to get a better read on just what the heck she just acquired, and that means a meeting with Lady Prospera. When Suletta sheepishly asks her mother why she lied to her about Aerial not being a Gundam, Prospera removes her arm and basically says it’s all about perspective.

GUND-Arm tech has been widely reviled as “accursed” tech—not entirely without merit due to the effects of Permet on humans—while those who dabble in the tech have been regarded as “witches.” Suletta buys this explanation hook line and sinker, but Mine knows a parent appeasing her kid when she sees it.

She wants to dig deeper into what Gundams are all about, beyond both the pro-and-anti propaganda. So, apparently, does Shaddiq, who minces no words (and spares Suletta no feelings) in proposing that not only should Miorine let him run GUND-Arm, but also take his hand in marriage.

Suletta thinks Shaddiq is in love with Mine, but Mine knows better: Shaddiq is after something, and due to his background as an orphan run by the Grassley family, she knows he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

Disparate backgrounds are front and center in the first official meeting of the staff of GUND-Arm, Inc. Once everyone sees the dire financial straits the company is in before even officially incorporating, the group starts to splinter into  positions based on their background and circumstances.

Earth House has war orphans and rich kids with high ideals. Developing weapons seems like the most profitable direction for GUND-Arm, but that would create more war orphans. I appreciate how everyone, from Chuchu and Nika to the other Earthians, each have a unique perspective to offer. This leads to conflict, but Miorine calms the seas by agreeing not to commit to making weapons, then delegates the various incorporation tasks to be completed in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, Guel is still camping in the woods (and sadly has yet to run into Space Honda Tooru) and being bullied by his former toadies when Shaddiq arrives and scares them off with his mere words and presence. He tells Guel he’s fond of him and wants them to join forces. Guel refuses, since he’s done being beholden to anyone, but again, this is Shaddiq, and he wants something.

Shaddiq also has a plan, a plan he thought he could leave to Guel, but Guel failed. That plan centers around possessing Aerial, but unlike Guel and Ceres does not intend to take it via a duel. Instead, he’ll rely on his gift of gab as long as he can.

Mine’s fact-finding mission takes her to Bel and Piel Technologies, where she learns more about Vanadis and the “true ideals” behind GUND tech. It leaves her with a lot to think about in her rose garden module. There, Shaddiq meets her and makes another attempt to convince her to give him GUND-Arm.

The two have known each other a while, as evidence by a school project they once worked on together. Shaddiq tells her that people will buy Gundams regardless of the regulations against them. Mine reminds Shaddiq that his dad is “allergic” to Gundams and wants them “erased from the world” but Shaddiq doesn’t feel that way. In private and to Mine, he believes both their dads’ visions to be too narrow, and the two of them can create a better future.

Back at Earth House the incorporation paperwork is proofread and the PR video is choppily edited, but Mine hasn’t been seen nor heard from in days, and Chuchu even posits that she might have flown the coop for Earth. But Miorine disappoints her by returning, and not empty handed.

She plays the Vanadis Institute’s presentation that lays out the true ideals of the GUND format—not weapons of war, but medical technology that will enable people to live better lives, while expanding the human biosphere. A technology of hope, not destruction and despair.

This is the direction Miorine has chosen for GUND-Arm, and nobody at Earth House has any objections. Despite being the rich Spacian princess, she’s appealed to her team and won them over with a convincing and attractive business model they can all feel better about.

GUND-Arm gets a slick new logo, and a not-so-slick but also adorably disarming PR video featuring synchronized movement between Aerial and Suletta. It does exactly what Mine said was needed in a PR video: to show that Gundams are not to be feared.

But all fun aside, Chuchu is legitimately moved by the direction GUND-Arm is taking, since as a miner’s daughter she knows all about the myriad injuries that make day-to-day life harder for her people. She’s grateful to be able to help them while also making money. The Earthians who had been bickering make up. Now they’re all united in purpose.

The episode allows a few moments of peace and romance as Suletta and Mine share a hoverbike back to Earth House, carrying the celebratory takeout dinner. Mine gets to rest her head in Suletta’s back for only a moment before she gets a text notification that threatens to kill GUND-Arm in its infancy.

That potential killing blow comes in the form of new safety verification regulations being drafted into the school rules regarding student startups. It’s the classic “the club’s going to be shut down!” scenario, only instead of lack of members, it’s an abundance of negative PR over what they’re doing, along with a distinct gap in political muscle.

Of course Shaddiq is behind this, and his assembled group of scheming ladies—also with wildly different personalities—each have something to say on the matter, from celebrating to lamenting the downfall of a rival. The way is paved for a hostile takeover, after Shaddiq’s two more cordial proposals were rejected. Now he vows to take over her company and seize Gundam from Miorine’s hands.

Shaddiq had been on the fence for much of this season, but revealing his true colors comes as no surprise, because the show did the work needed to lay out everyone’s background and motivations, just as it dug into how even the members of Earth House have their differences. Will Miorine, Suletta, and their plucky startup manage to weather the storm?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 21 – Not My Mama

WISE agent Fiona Frost, AKA Nightfall (voiced by Sakura Ayane in her lower meter) could just as easily be named Snowfall, seeing as she’s outwardly as chilly as Yor is warm. When Handler tells her she’ll be working on a joint mission with Twilight, Fiona jumps at the chance.

She considers it an opportunity to speed up and improve Operation Strix by getting rid of his fake wife, a position she would have occupied had she not been busy on another mission when Strix began. Fiona is met at the door by guileless Yor, who apparently doesn’t feel any killing intent in Loid’s co-worker from the hospital, even as Fiona’s resting face is a piecing dagger stare

When she realizes that Yor considers being Anya’s mom to be fun, she changes her tack, ready to exploit Yor’s feelings of being a subpar wife, but Loid and Anya return home from walking Bond. No matter how good Fiona’s poker face is, Anya can read her mind, and she’s petrified to learn the extent of Fiona’s infatuation with her Papa. It’s way worse than Becky!

The contrast between the lovey-dovey Inner and frigid Outer Fionas makes for good laughs, as does the secret conversation-via-mouth-movements that she and Loid make while sounding like they’re exchanging mindless small talk. As Loid, Yor, and Anya interact, Fiona is constantly demanding that she and Yor switch in her head, and Anya can hear her.

Turns out Yor was paying attention to Fiona talking about Loid complaining at work, and even though Fiona didn’t get to actually specify anything, the mere mention of him complaining has Yor acrobatically leaping to the conclusion that Fiona is a potential replacement wife, no mind-reading necessary.

It’s when Anya semi-accidentally spills cocoa, and she hears Inner Fiona talking about how ruthlessly she’d whip Anya into an efficiently Stella-winning machine, that Anya runs tearfully to Yor’s side, asserting that she is the one, only, and best Mama she could have. This in turn spurs Yor to promising to Loid that she’ll do better, even though from his perspective she’s already been doing fine.

When she sees Loid’s fake smile, Fiona is heartened, as it means that at the end of the day this is all an act. And yet, at the same time, she can see some of the truth leaking through that fake smile, and the genuine peace and happiness Loid is experiencing with Yor and Anya is just too much, and Fiona takes her leave.

Loid chases her down with an umbrella, which she declines, while thanking the heavy rain for hiding her face full of heartbreak and anguish. Inside, she maintains that she’s the only wife worthy of her beloved senpai, while outside she negs Loid, telling him the new “softer” Twilight better not impede their joint mission.

Fiona is a stylish and welcome addition to the cast; someone who is actively trying to steal Loid while having no idea how to do so, someone with contrasting inner-outer personalities off which Anya can bounce, and a hint of genuine pathos for someone whose fated role by Loid’s side was usurped due to bad timing.

The final fifth of the episode is a little vignette in which Bond is suddenly jealous of her stuffed Mr. Penguin, and assaults it in the night. Loid eventually mends the doll (after Yor utterly failed) and notes that his “scars” are badges of honor for a veteran penguin spy.

A contrite bond offers peace peanuts to Anya, who forgives him, apologizes for saying she hated him, and enacts a peace treaty between him and Mr. Penguin. It’s slight and sweet—almost to the point of cloying—but does make for a nice parallel for the East-West conflict (would that it could be solved so easily) and reminds us that even precognitive flooffers can get jealous.

Chainsaw Man – 07 – Loosening the Screws

When Kobeni accidentally stabbed Aki, Himeno started to lose it, because she felt like she was going to lose the latest in a long line of unfortunate partners. But while she despaired, Denji scoffed. He didn’t ask Aki to save him, and is done owing anybody anything, so he happily dives into the fell eldritch mass that is the Eternity Devil and pulls his ripcord.

It doesn’t take long for Denji to start losing some serious blood, but once he starts drinking the devil’s blood, he basically becomes a self-healing “perpetual motion machine”, boasting that he, not Power, will be the one to win that Nobel Prize.

In a flashback, Himeno visits her parents’ graves with her master; like Aki, she lost them to the Gun Devil, which is why she joined the force. But her master warns that a devil hunter cannot be too earnest straight-laced—devils know exactly how to fuck with and kill those kinds of people. All of Himeno’s previous partners died because they were too sane, and feared the devils, and devils love fear.

Her master “loosened the screws” by drinking heavily on occasion. Knowing that Aki is another upstanding lad, she tried to get him to quit the force and follow her into the safer private sector, but he refused. But as she watches Denji, Himeno sees what the ideal devil hunter is like: window-lickingly insane, unpredictable, and immune to the devil’s mind games.

When Denji’s motor cuts out, Himeno uses her ghost arm to pull his cord, and for three days he tears at the Eternity Devil until he finally reaches its core. By then, it is pleading for its life, but Denji slices it in two. Just like that, the hunters are off the eighth floor and out of the hotel.

No sooner do they leave the hotel than Denji passes out, but Himeno is there to carry him on her back to the hospital. Later, during a mission with Aki, Himeno proposes the whole squad go out for drinks to break the ice … to loosen the screws. Also, bury the hatchet vis-a-vis everyone trying to kill Denji.

Leave it to Chainsaw Man to make the izakaya where the 4th division meets up look like just the place I want to be on a Friday night. The beers are tall, cold, and frosty, and the snacks look delectable (so much so that Power systematically hoards them).

We meet a couple other division members, one of whom recently lost his rookie subordinate, just like that. A haunted look washes over Kobeni as she reckons with the fact that people in their line of work live short lives.

Denji brings up the kiss Himeno promised, but she tells him she needs to drink more first. Things get complicated for Denji when Makima arrives fashionably late wondering what all this talk of kissing is about.

When Aki asks Makima straight-up why she’s so interested in Denji, she says she’ll answer, but only if he can outdrink her. As expected, he can’t, as both he and Himeno fall to her indomitable tolerance. At this point, Himeno’s screws have been sufficiently loosened that she decides to bestow her promised kiss upon Denji’s lips.

It’s his first kiss, with tongue … and also with Himeno’s vomit. Turns out she loosened the screws a bit too much. Denji swallows some of it and gets ruinously drunk (it shocks everyone to learn he’s only 16). He and Arai have a bonding moment when he helps Denji boot—Arai having experience helping his alcoholic mom.

With the hour growing late and everyone sufficiently lubricated, the 4th division departs from the izakaya. Himeno manages to sneak of with Denji, and when he comes to, it’s on her bed, underneath her. She gives him another kiss—this time of beer, not barf—and proposes that they bone. Denji is growing up fast in the 4th Division.

The soft bluish-purple light, Himeno’s fluid movements, and her seiyu Ise Mariya’s gently seductive voice lend an almost sacred beauty to an otherwise profane scene. But it’s also a sad one, because Himeno is clearly compensating for her crippling grief and loneliness, not to mention her part-familial, part-romantic feelings for an Aki who only has eyes for Miss Makima.

Then again, maybe Himeno just figures she could die tomorrow—or later that night—such is the fate of all devil hunters. That being the case, one must take their fun when and where they can get it.

P.S. Every episode of Chainsaw Man has a unique ED and theme, and this one might’ve been my favorite, as it’s a 4:3 standard-def retro-gasm. Reminded me of one of the best OPs of all time, the retro Koimonogatari OP “Kogarashi Sentiment”.

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 07 – Night of Fallen Souls

The last battle between the Gotei 13 and the Quincy looked a lot like the current one, only in reverse. Yamamoto’s thirteen captains back then were vicious, savage killers who made quick work of the Quincy … yet Yamamoto wasn’t able to take Yhwach’s life.

That day of slaughter is memorialized in a painting in Yamamoto’s dojo, as seen by a young Shunsui. Yamamoto warned Shunsui that if the subject of the painting ever returned to Soul Society it would be a dark day indeed. And so it is, with Yamamoto being sliced in half by the real Yhwach after expending all his energy fighting a fake one.

With the Head Captain defeated, Yhwach orders the Stern Ritter to summon their foot soldiers to complete the slaughter of shinigami. The soldiers meet little resistance, mowing down their opponents with east and leaving Soul Society dark, burning, and drenched in blood.

It would appear Yhwach and the Quincy have had their revenge, but after being unable to simply stand by and watch countless lights of souls in Soul Society wink out, Ichigo manages to power his way out of Quilge’s prison and completes his journey through the Garganta.

The first Quincy to encounter him falls quickly by his sword, but before engaging Yhwach, Ichigo pays a visit to Kuchiki Byakuya. Before the sixth captain dies, he takes solace in knowing Rukia and Renji are still alive, and asks Ichigo for a final favor: protect Soul Society—what’s left of it, that is.

Yhwach is surprised but not totally shocked to see Ichigo before him, having defeated Quilge’s prison. It only reinforces the fact that Kurosaki is one of the five special threats that stand in the way of total victory over Soul Society. Ichigo, meanwhile, is already bloodied and battered and not in the best shape to face off against the Quincy king.

That said, he still puts up a hell of a fight, even if Yhwach is likely holding back from killing him. Their ensuing battle is nothing like the flame-wreathed inferno of Yamamoto vs. Yhwach. Things get downright 2001 trippy with the colors and patterns created by the sheer force of their attacks upon one another. But in the end, Yhwach puts his blade in Ichigo’s throat.

Confident he’s disabled but not killed Ichigo, Yhwach prepares to take him back to their realm so that he can revive him and turn him to his side, But he encounters another surprise: Ichigo is still conscious, Yhwach’s stunning strike blocked by a Quincy technique: Blut Vene.

Yhwach surmises that Ichigo’s persistent contact with Quilge’s prison when he busted himself out caused the Quincy’s spiritual pressure to mix with Ichigo’s, enabling him to unconsciously use the Blut to save himself. Yhwach takes off the kid gloves and surrounds and restrains Ichigo with rocks.

But then, just like that, he gives the order to withdraw. It isn’t a retreat, merely a break in the invasion that will be resumed again soon. The Quincy have only a limited timespan in which they are able to function outside of their realm, and that time comes sooner than Yhwach expected due to a little illusory fuckery from his brief encounter with Aizen.

Speaking of fuckery, Yhwach gives Ichigo something to chew on while heals up and awaits his return: the fact that he’s … a Quincy? Or, at least, possesses Quincy blood. It’s why Yhwach hesitates to refer to himself as Ichigo’s “enemy”—as far as he’s concerned, Ichigo is family: a prodigal son to be brought back into the fold. But something tells me Ichigo won’t be going quietly.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 07 – Gundam Startup

Witch from Mercury has it’s duels down—they’re exciting, fun, dynamic, and pack a punch. But after another episode where not a single character sets foot in a cockpit, I’d argue Mercury’s secret sauce is everything other than the mobile suit duels: the inter-family conflicts and political and economic wrangling. This week it goes full Succession, with a hint of Silicon Valley.

Mine was content not going to the 15th Annual Benerit Group Incubation Event Party, either as a representative of the Rembrans nor as an observer of venture capialist strategies (she’s found past events dull and dusty affairs). But Suletta wants to go in case Elan shows up, so they go.

Suletta hasn’t seen nor heard from Elan since their duel and his standing her up (we know why) and as expected, the death of his clone and the existence of a real, jerk-ass Elan is kept a secret from her. With Elan’s new clone “not ready” yet, the Peil CEOs have a task for the real Elan.

This is a formal event, so Miorine and Suletta are dressed to the nines in elegant blue and red gowns. Suletta learns that Mine and Shaddiq have known each other for years, and from his reckoning, Mine has changed into someone who does things for others’ sakes now. Miorine meets her future mom-in-law face-to-er…mask.

It gets a little awkward when Prospera tightens her grip on Mine’s hand and asks her fiancée if she and her father have always been at odds like that. Prospera then lists all the things Miorine has and can and will be able to do because she’s her father’s daughter, and warns Mine that she’ll have to throw away “that adorable pride” if she truly wants to get anywhere.

When Suletta drops some glasses and her broach, Guel’s brother sneers at the fact his brother fell for such an “oafish woman”. But it’s real-deal Elan who helps Suletta out. Elan plays a more cheerful version of his clone as he explains away his extended absence, then asks if he’ll come with her for an impending presentation.

(We also learn that Shaddiq is in discrete contact with Nika of all people … not sure what that’s about, but it suggests Nika is leaking intel to him. To be continued…)

This is when the scheme that had been cooked up by Peil and Jeturk comes to fruition. Suletta ends up in a trap, answering questions from the four Peil CEOs that end up incriminating Aerial as a Gundam, since the Peils freely admit that Pharact is also a Gundam.

Whether Suletta was aware of this doesn’t change the fact that Gundams are forbidden. So Peil agrees they’ll dispose of their Gundam if their upstart rival from Mercury does the same and disposes of Aerial. Literally in the spotlight, Suletta calls out for her mom to clear up this misunderstanding, but Prospera was drawn outside of the presentation area by Guel’s brother.

With Suletta in the hot seat, what composure she has fading fast, and Delling about to render his judgment, Miorine steps up to protect her fiancee. Having hacked the PA, she takes the stage and argues for keeping Aerial around, as it defeated the best both Peil and Jeturk could develop.

Miorine then gets to show off her skills as a businesswoman by coming up with a business plan on the fly with hand-written notes that will salvage both the Peil research and the Aerial. Her intention is to purchase both Peil and Shin Sei’s developments through M&A and create a new company called GUND-ARM, with the protection of life as top priority.

This, she says, will be the spark that reignites Benerit Group’s flagging profitability. It’s a decent plan, especially considering how rapidly it was put together, and it also diverts attention away from Suletta while demonstrating that Miorine can protect her in her own way.

The only problem is, none of the assembled investors dare make a move to fund Miorine’s venture without the okay from her father, who bluntly tells her to get off the stage as he’s through indulging a willful girl’s whims. While Suletta stood up straight unbidden because she remembered Mine’s words, this time it’s Miorine who hears Prospera’s words about ditching her “adorable pride.”

Realizing what she must do to get funding moving, Miorine kicks off her heels and runs barefoot to her father, bows deeply, and asks him for his support. Delling knows it’s a good business plan that solves a lot of problems and could spell bigger profits, and now his daughter is essentially prostrating herself to show him the deference he believes he’s due.

Delling warns Miorine there’s no shaking the “curse” of Gundams once they’re out of the box, but he still contributes a 3% contribution to her plan. Once Rembran is officially in, the floodgates open and within seconds the plan is successfully funded.

Now not only have Peil and Jeturk lost on the battlefield to the power couple of Suletta and Miorine, they’ve also lost in the boardroom, their gambit foiled as Mine outmaneuvered her by using the tools at her disposal, while also preserving Suletta’s dignity by preventing her innocent words from condemning Shin Sei. Jeturk’s brother can only twist his hair in frustration at the loss.

Lady Prospera once again shakes hands with her future daughter-in-law, knowing Suletta is in good hands. Suletta uses this opportunty to ask her mom to confirm that Aerial isn’t a Gundam, to which Prospera says, no, actually, Aerial is a Gundam, teehee! It may only be a matter of semantics, but this casual revelation hits Suletta like a ton of bricks.

Why, for example, has Suletta never felt any physical or mental ill effects from pushing Aerial—a Gundam—to its limits? Is it simply a matter of her and the Aerial having “grown up” together, or her having just the right collection of genes to prevent damage … or is something more sinister at work? If her mother kept this from her, what else is she concealing?

While these are enticing questions going forward, I really enjoyed the show’s break from piloting and duels in favor of the weapons of the upper crust business battlefield: evening gowns, flowcharts, fancy lighting, funding apps, and, of course, words. This was Miorine’s time to shine and she did not disappoint.

Spy x Family – 20 – TYDTWD

Anya’s next school assignment will be to go to a parent’s workplace to learn about their job and why they chose it. She asks Yor first, who imagines Anya shadowing her while she’s doing her real job assassinatin’, which is great both for some laughs and another excuse to watch Yor do her thing. Thankfully the blood in her imagining is pink, but both she and Anya deem it best for her to go to Loid’s workplace.

When I was sick but too young to stay home alone, my folks would alternate who took me to work. In both cases, their co-workers were delighted for a cute little kid to be there (their words not mine), and that’s no different for Anya at the hospital. The issue is that she takes careful notes of everything Loid is thinking rather than saying, and also learns about a secret passage she can’t resist exploring.

We finally meet the lady with the short white hair in the OP and ED; we don’t yet get her name but she’s a Westalis agent like Twilight. Anya ends up getting stuck in the ductwork directly over a meeting where doctors are talking about ghosts—and she makes a lot of ghost like sounds freeing herself. Finally, her hasty dumping of all the figures into the “sandbox”  reveals the limitations of the psychiatric tool, as Loid assumes she’s deeply troubled child.

The remaining quarter of the episode consists of Anya taking the idea of coded messages from her spy TV show and running with it. Since her own chicken scratch is illegible to everyone but her (her report—including many of Loid’s thoughts—was quite thorough!) she has Yor write them up, and she then distributes them to Becky, Second Son, everyone.

Even Frankie gets one, and wrongly assumes it’s a love letter handed to Anya by a beauty. When he cracks the code and waits on the bridge at the allotted time in his Sunday best with several dozen roses, Anya’s alarm goes off, but Bond shuts it off, letting Anya sleep right through the meeting time. That’s probably for the best, considering only Frankie showed up and had the wrong idea.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Chainsaw Man – 06 – Endless Eight

After battles that took place in spacious warehouses and the open city streets, Chainsaw Man shifts to an initially innocuous but increasingly menacing and claustrophobic hotel floor. All stairs, windows, and floors lead to the same place: where they are.

Kobeni loses it almost immediately, convinced they’re all going to starve and die in this closed, timeless place. When she falls to pieces saying how the 4th Division wasn’t her choice (apparently it was this or sex work), Power laughs it up, because human fear fuels devils.

Himeno is a lot more calm and collected, as this isn’t her first rodeo. Also, she has cigarettes. But as she lights up her last one, she tells Denji how she “taught Aki the taste” of cigarettes, being intentionally suggestive with the phrasing.

When the family member of one of her past partners took it out on her by slapping her, Aki followed the person and stuck gum to their clothes as payback. From that point on Himeno knew she had someone special. She finally got Aki to smoke a cigarette, which he said would be his first and last, but as we see in the present, that’s far from the case.

Himeno’s point was that no Devil Hunter lives a long life, so you might as well enjoy the little pleasures like cigarettes. But Aki doesn’t intend to die anytime soon, which comforts Himeno. Their host, the “Eternity Devil”, appears in the form of a horrific mass of faces and limbs, and offers the hunters a deal.

If they give it Denji, dead or alive, it will let everyone go. Kobeni, whom Himeno had knocked out when she tried drinking toilet water, comes to just in time to hear this, and rushes Denji with a knife. To his surprise, Aki stands in front of him and kicks the knife out of her hand. As far as he’s concerned, no one’s killing Denji. Himeno has his back.

But time passes, and Power eats all of the food they’d scavenged from the abandoned rooms. When Himeno tries her ghost limbs she’s able to injure the Eternity Devil, but it simply grows larger and then chases them through the halls, making the spaces they occupy even smaller.

Finally, the angles of the hallways (which are really the walls of the devil’s stomach) start to shift, adding to the increasing sense of disorientation and dread. With the devil closing in, it’s time to either give it Denji or die. There is another option: the sword on Aki’s back. But when he goes for it, Himeno paralyzes him with her ghosts.

Her reason is that using the sword shortens Aki’s life, and he has “too much to live for”. Also, Himeno clearly cares for (if not outright loves) Aki and doesn’t want to outlive yet another partner. But her plan backfires, as Aki manages to overpower the ghosts and takes Kobani’s knife to the ribs to protect Denji. His reason is that he can’t kill the Gun Devil without people like Denji.

As he starts bleeding out, Himeno finally loses it, making Aki, Denji, and Power the only ones with their heads on their shoulders. Power uses her blood manipulation power to try to keep Aki alive (even though she’s best at controlling her own), while a panicked Himeno asks Aki what the plan is.

Finally Denji, who never asked Aki to take a knife for him, decides to bite the bullet and jump into the devil’s gullet. Only once he’s in he’ll break out his chainsaws. He figures the one thing the devil is scared of most is him, which is why it wanted the others to kill him first. That ain’t happening; Denji’s going in on his own terms, and I like his odds.

This dark and nervy Chainsaw Man really showed how a hopeless situation can bring out the devil in anyone. Kobeni is probably a nice enough girl, but in a situation like this has no qualms about murdering another to save her own skin. Even Himeno abandons the tenets of her profession due to her personal affection for Aki. Aki keeps his composure, but he’s fueled by vengeance. But as horrible and nightmarish as this place is, it’s not that bad compared to what Denji’s already been through.

The beds in the hotel are so nice he curls up and naps in one like nothing’s the matter. All the talk of starvation must sound extremely quaint to someone who barely ever had enough to eat. Maybe that’s why Kobeni turned on him so fast: despite being a fellow human, his attitude was so different form hers in this situation that she became able to see him as an other, a devil to be sacrificed.

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 06 – Rug Pull

Old Man Yama is always fun to watch, especially when he casually flexes, like when Yhwach thinks he’s slowly walking towards him, then a moment later Yamamoto is twenty feet away, Zaraki in his arms. When three of Yhwach’s subordinates descend on Yamamoto, he ethers them with a column of flame so big it gives his Captains another morale boost.

But Yamamoto isn’t here to play around. In what comes as a shocking escalation so early in the season, he releases his bankai for the first time in a thousand years. And it’s not a one-trick pony, but a four-cardinal-direction Swiss army knife of overpowered goodness. When he pulls all his flames within his sword, just touching the tip to the ground creates a yawning chasm instantaneously.

That first stage temporarily turned Soul Society into a waterless desert, but the second stage of his bankai makes him as hot as the surface of the sun, melting the very stone beneath him and making it impossible for Yhwach to touch him. This is when Old Man Yama starts his withering trash talk.

When the Quincy King summons the ultimate Quincy defense, Yamamoto changes gears once more, summoning not just any old undead army, but an army made up of Yhwach’s fallen subordinates. He can plow through them, but he must look each one in the face as he does it. It’s enough to make the hardened king weep.

That’s when Yamamoto brings the hammer down, as the fourth stage of his bankai is a blast so devastating it slices Yhwach clean in half at the midsection. But at this point I was already convinced that Something Wasn’t Right.

We just saw way too much of Yamamoto’s repertoire in just the sixth episode of the season, and the Quincy boss can’t already be dead. Sure enough, we learn that Yhwach wasn’t Yhwach at all, but another one of his subordinates disguised as him.

While his double fought Yamamoto, Yhwach infiltrated the dungeon below the 1st Squad barracks to have a few words with Aizen Sousuke, who is imprisoned down there. He doesn’t mince words, and asks Aizen to join him. Aizen may hate Soul Society and Yamamoto, but he may just hate the Quincy just a bit more, because he refuses without hesitation.

As for Yamamoto, his big light show didn’t seem like something he could easily repeat after such a brief rest. His intention from the start of the fight was to end Yhwach’s life, but he was deceived, and not being a Spring chicken anymore, dude is clearly winded. Worse, the defense he held against the Quincy—that they didn’t know enough about his bankai to steal it—goes out the window, since he just showed Yhwach virtually everything he had.

That enables Yhwach to steal Yamamoto’s bankai, then draw his glowing blue Qunicy sword and unleash one of his special attacks on his opponent. The episode ends with Yamamoto’s flames being extinguished, and Yhwach’s strike causing a great deal of blood loss and the clipping of one of his trademark long eyebrows.

But just as Yhwach couldn’t be beaten so quickly, it’s hard to believe Old Man Yama will be out for long. If nothing else, that was one of the best-looking battles in Bleach’s long and illustrious history.

Spy x Family – 19 – The Mysterious Spider Woman

Spy x Family reveals who was trying to crater the Damian brothers’ test scores: George Glooman, son of the CEO of Glooman Pharmaceuticals, who are on the cusp of being gobbled up by the Desmond Group. While Damian managed to escape his father’s frightening looks, George is the spitting image of his dad, with a turnip head and gloomy eyes.

When George learns Daybreak failed, he takes desperate measures, like trying to get a teacher to believe Damian was smoking and shoved him to stop him from reporting it. The teacher doesn’t believe Damian’s lackeys, but when Anya comes forward with the truth, Damian is shocked—and it confirms to Becky who Anya likes best.

With this last desperate attempt to get Damian expelled foiled, George instead plays for sympathy from the class, laying out his story in detail and noting that this is his last day at Eden College, so he only wants to experience some final small joys.

If nothing else, George is extremely good at emotionally manipulating people into pitying him, so he gets juice, a pricey caviar bowl, a class-wide singalong just for him, and armloads of gifts from his classmates urging him not to forget them and the bonds they shared at Class 3.

Naturally, it’s not really George’s last day. His fears about family bankruptcy and being sold into slavery in Westalis were grossly exaggerated. His dad assures him that everything’s fine; Damian’s dad’s company saved Glooman, it didn’t destroy it. George’s walk of shame the next morning is a wonderful bit of comeuppance for someone who squeezed the class for every drop of sympathy … all for a lie.

In the next segment we see just how peaceful and cozy Anya’s room is (especially with Bond curled up in the middle of it) and how hard it must be to get up and start her day. Yor has some free time before work, but when she notices Anya forgot her gym clothes, she panics. Loid did say she’ll be punished by the school if she keeps being late to school and breaking rules. Yor imagines an expelled Anya turning into a Bad Girl and resolves to get the clothes to Anya without detection.

Yor hesitates over whether taking the bus or trolley will get her there faster, but then an old lady accidentally drops a potted plant off her seventh-floor window, and a switch goes off in Yor: neither. After using her superhuman speed and agility to catch the plant and kick it back up to it’s owner, she goes on a parkour tear through the alleys and rooftops.

It’s truly inspiring whenever we see Yor do cool shit, especially when it doesn’t involve murdering people! This is Yor at her best, as when she went into Mama Bear Mode to protect Anya in the terrorist arc. She uses her considerable skill to get to Eden her way—and other than confirming a school legend of a “spider woman”, she largely stays out of sight.

Yet like George when he exchanged heartfelt goodbyes with his classmates, Yor has the wrong idea. Anya didn’t forget her gym clothes, she didn’t take them because she doesn’t have gym class today. Yor breaks out the “SHOCK!” face Anya usually makes (like found daughter, like found mother), and leaves the school in a gloomy mood, feeling like a failure of a mother again.

Loid, who was spying around the school all along and wondering why Yor was there, “coincidentally” bumps into her as she heads home, and learns her reason for being there was perfectly innocent, and she hasn’t discovered any of his secrets. But Loid also sees that Yor is feeling depressed. When he invites her to a choice spot for lunch together, the shot of her face brightening back up is alone worth a Stella.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Chainsaw Man – 05 – Don’t Die on Me

Well, color me surprised: Denji doesn’t chicken out. When Power sits there waiting for him to obtain his reward, after some hesitation and heavy breathing, he places his hands on her chest and gives them a squeeze. When he does, foam pads drop from under her shirt. Without skipping a beat Power asks him to go in for seconds, then thirds. And just like that, it’s all over.

Power heads to bed with Meowy, and Denji stands paralyzed in the toilet wondering … Was that IT? Achieving his dream was far more underwhelming than he expected, and it sends him into a haze of confusion, as he’s now suddenly utterly bereft of his primary source of motivation. It might’ve been better to never cop a feel at all than to have copped a feel and felt so … so little.

While perhaps Power’s smaller-than-advertised bust size was probably one factor in his disappointment, the fact is touching a boob is an incredibly small dream to base your life off of, just like wanting a soft bed or a warm meal. When Makima sees something’s up and asks him, and he pretty eloquently verbalizes what’s up, she takes swift action to re-motivate her favorite new tool.

Makima tells Denji that sex and the contact that leads up to it feels better when you truly understand the other person. Makima then demonstrates this by sensually caressing Denji’s hand (phenomenal animation, that), giving one of his fingers a nibble, then showing him that not all boob grabs are created equal. Then she offers to make any dream of his come true—and that means anything—if he can defeat the Gun Devil.

The Gun Devil is no bat or leech, but an uber-devil created on this world’s equivalent of 9/11. Once it appeared, the Gun Devil killed millions, including Aki’s mother, father, and a sickly little brother with whom he was only starting to get along. The flashback switches gears from family warmth to utter destruction so fast we’re left in as much horrified shock as young Aki.

The key to finding the Gun Devil is to use pieces of its flesh it has dropped, which are drawn to it like magnets. Aki leads a six-person team of Denji, Power, and himself along with his senpai Himeno and two rookies, Kobeni and Arai, and the flesh leads them to a hotel. When Himeno tries to offer a kiss to whomever gets the Gun Devil, Denji parrots some of Makima’s words, only for Himeno to up her offer to a French kiss.

Himeno’s informal, happy-go-lucky attitude belies her past, as Aki is her sixth partner. She makes sure to clarify that the other five didn’t die because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because they were all useless. Himeno alone senses the first devil they encounter: a head that moves with a hand and foot that leaps at Kobeni, but is held in place by Himeno, allowing Power to slash it in two.

When Power, who as always yearns for blood, casually threatens to kill Kobeni, Himeno demonstrates her ability on her, specifically her throat. Himeno contracted with a Ghost Devil and is able to control a ghost hand (that is, an invisible hand Power cannot touch). Lesson learned: Let’s all get along!

Teamwork will indeed be needed for the coming trials, as the group suddenly finds themselves in a M.C. Escher-style loop, ending up on the same floor they killed the Head Devil even though they went up a flight of steps. Going down a flight gets Arai nowhere. Looks like we’re dealing with a Devil that can either morph reality or morph others’ perception of it. Pretty wicked.

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 05 – Old Man Yama’s Fire

So sooner does word reach Soul Society that Kurosaki Ichigo is on his way, and everyone starts to celebrate, than Akon learns that Ichigo is currently trapped in Garganta, and the glimmer of hope fades as fast as it arrived Akon tries calling Ichigo, but when Ichigo picks up all he hears are screams.

The 12th division gets torn apart by Jidanbou, one of the gatekeepers a Quincy apparently brainwashed to do his bidding, which is a good trick. Back in Hueco Mundo, Quilge is about to murder Orihime and Chad when a bolt of red light cuts him in two. We’re left to wonder who it could be … an Espada, perhaps?

Back in Soul Society, Byakuya’s Quincy opponent notes that the shaking of the good captain’s hands isn’t due to any kind of poison, but plain old fear, something Byakuya hasn’t experienced in centuries. Specifically, fear without cause, which has no limits and cannot be overcome by experience.

Renji can only stand and watch while Byakuya is torn to ribbons by his own bankai. Renji is about to unleash his when a second, dumber Quincy hits him so hard he flies clean to the other side of the city. Honestly, it’s the best thing that could have happened to Renji.

The Quincy King and Blondie are looking for more serious opposition, and finally appear to find some in 10th Captain Zaraki Kenpachi, one of my favorite captains because he just doesn’t give a shit about anything but fighting the strongest motherfuckers he can. It’s why he and Ichigo are such good buds.

Zaraki arrives with the bodies of three Stern Ritters he defeated in simple yet poetic ways. Heck, the way he describes defeating them kinda sounds like a poem. But when Zaraki rushes the King and swings his chipped zanpakuto, the King manages to block it … with his bare arm. That might be worrying for some other shinigami, but a block like that is what Zaraki lives for.

Ichigo, completely isolated from both Soul Society and Hueco Mundo, can only rage within his cage of lightning. Either he can summon enough power to blast his way out and open the Garganta back up, or he’ll need help from Kisuke, Orihime, and Chad’s mystery savior.

That brings us to the battle where the tide is finally turned in Soul Society. 9th Lieutenant Hisagi Shuuhei is about to be murdered by a Stern Ritter when the latter’s attack is blocked by Head Captain Yamamoto-Genryuusai. When the Quincy unleashes the late 1st Lieutenant Sasakibe’s Bankai, it takes Yamamoto back to the distant past—the last time he saw it.

Then, Yama’s hair and trademark ‘stache were black, and Sasakibe, still wet behind the ears, didn’t have a ‘stache at all. He also went by Ejisai since the scar on his head looked like the character eji. Sasakibe pledged himself to Yamamoto not as a student who would mimic him, but a right-hand man who would complement his captain’s abilities.

Sasakibe used his bankai against Yamamoto, and it gave him a scar that changed the symbol and thus his nickname. Yamamoto ended up altering it to Genryuusai. And now we know why the cat’s name is so damn long and where he got it from: his trusty lieutenant.

The grief he must feel for outliving his young comrade must surely fuel Yamamoto’s rage as he laughs at the pathetic excuse for an imitation of Sasakibe’s bankai the Quincy throws his way. Yamamoto’s robes are tattered by the blast of lightning, but otherwise he’s unharmed. The Quincy isn’t so lucky: Yamamoto’s counter burns his flesh and bone away, leaving nothing but ash.

Yamamoto turns to a flabbergasted Hisagi and tells him there’s no further need for concern, as he will be personally murdering each and every Quincy invader. With that, he launches up into the sky like a rocket and screams across it like a burning mustachioed phoenix. It’s one of the coolest and most badass displays of power I’ve seen in Bleach … and he’s just getting started.

Sensing their head captain is angrier than they’ve ever seen him, the captains (both those with and without their bankai) and their lieutenants suddenly feel their second wind, and a resurgence of confidence after the initial onslaught of despair. Captain Shunsui in particular feels like Old Man Yama is scolding him for feeling so down on himself.

After the credits we see King Quincy, whose name is Yhwach, having no trouble at all with Zaraki. He has him in a chokehold and is ready to wrest the life from him when Yamamoto blazes in to announce that his true opponent has arrived. Very soon, the two will cross swords for the first time in a millennium. Should be fun. Ichiwho?

%d bloggers like this: