Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 12 (Fin)

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With all the emotional groundwork laid, all this episode has to do is flick the domino and watch them cascade, in a finale that levels up its core duo, gets them to overcome their respective “will-blocks”, and makes some interesting connections on the side while tying up loose ends.

Takeru has been stabbed by Haunted, but Ootori doesn’t hesitate to fight him, even deciding to form a contract with Vlad, something she swore she wouldn’t do until it came time to carry out her revenge. Ironically, had she done it for that reason, Vlad assures her he would have eaten her alive.

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Instead, she’s doing this for Takeru, her captain and her friend, and his beloved sister. It’s a nobler cause, and Vlad equips her accordingly. Like Takeru and Haunted, Ootori gets to don her badass relic eater armor, with which she’s able to push Haunted back and retrieve Takeru. The other three arrive in a van to pick them up.

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With Takeru healed but still out cold for some reason, all the girls can do is fight back Kisek’s overflowing demon mass. Takeru, meanwhile, is in his subconscious with Lapis, who wants him to give himself body and soul so that she can best achieve all his desires. With this, Lapis kisses Takeru, the first overtly romantic act undertaken by the relic eater—albeit only in his mind.

With that, Takeru is now in God Hunter Mode. He drains all of Ootori’s energy, then tells her he may not be able to walk beside her anymore, and asks the others to hang back too, as there’s no time to explain. Takeru is preparing for the worst case scenario in which he dies trying to fulfill his wishes regarding Kiseki. And no one will argue that no one else can stand up against the raging Kiseki.

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Turns out his wishes aren’t to kill Kiseki and die with her. For all these years he’s been conflicted between kill and protect, but now what he wants is the latter, no matter what it may cost. And because of his deepened contract with Lapis, he’s able to not only overpower Haunted and get him out of the picture, but convince his sister with his sheer resolve to start questioning herself whether she truly wants to die, and discovers that’s just one of the hundreds of demon voices speaking for her. Ideally, she wants to live too.

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The wavering weakens and eventually dissolves the overflow mass, and Takeru pulls her out of the mess, safe and sound. The road ahead will be tough, but the two have now decided together that they’ll walk it nonetheless instead of taking the “easy way out”, mutual destruction. And they won’t be alone on that road; turns out Takeru and Ootori will be able to walk it together, along with Suginami, Mari, and Usagi.

Speaking of names, Orochi’s last name is Kusanagi, suggesting a relation to Takeru, while the chairman of Valhalla is another, even quirkier Suginami. Finally, that little blue-haired elf girl Suginami saved back at Alchemist turns out to be Kanaria, another Valhalla member. All these connections hint that a sequel is feasible, even if none is promised. Honestly I’d tune in, if only to experience more of its awesome soundtrack.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 11

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Takeru is categorical with Kiseki: He’s not going to kill her. And if someday he’s forced to, it will be the day he dies too. One might think Kiseki would prefer if her brother lives on with the life she never got to live, but Takeru’s a stubborn mutha. He may also be a fool; but I also have a sister, and I don’t think I’d feel any differently than he does, so I’m a fool too.

His words are enough of a comfort that Kiseki promises she’ll try to hold out longer, but it isn’t long until the siblings are cornered by Kirigaya and Yoshimizu, who is now apparently his relic eater. Then their duel is interrupted by Kurogane and Director Ootori, who retain custody of Kiseki and put Takeru in solitary to cool his jets.

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While Takeru and Kiseki were enjoying normal life, some very big things were going down. The war between Inquisition and Valhalla goes into full swing, with the latter eager to capture Kiseki (whom they regard as one of their own—a “harbinger of chaos”—and they’re not entirely wrong), and the former setting up several decoys to misdirect them. In this whole big peripheral chess game, Takeru is but a pawn, but Kiseki is the King. But I will say, while there have been Preston and Zane episodes, this one is definitely up my alley: packed with action.

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Of course, all that action wouldn’t be worth much if it didn’t have something compelling to back it up, and when we see Takeru’s flashback, which he dreams while in solitary, we get that something. Not long after learning Kiseki was his sister and a powerful immortal demon, she killed the rest of their family and household. But his father didn’t order him to kill his sister. Instead he offered him the choice: kill her, or protect her. That’s what Takeru chose to do—in fact, it’s all he could do—and he’s stuck to his guns ever since.

When he wakes up, he hears Ootori in the adjacent cell, apologizing for getting him in this situation (even though he’s eager to thank her, not blame her). She wants to share his burden the way he pledged to bear have of hers. Why? Well, because he changed her life, and changed her. Without him, she wouldn’t have the “peaceful life” she has now; she’d still be consumed by revenge. It’s no confession of love, but one of intense admiration, gratitude, and hard-earned fondness. Ueda Reina knocks it out of the park here.

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The two lament more can’t be done, but then they’re broken out and given the opportunity to do just that, thanks to some help from their friends. While Takeru promised to share the future or ongoing burdens of Usagi, Mari, and Suginami, the fact of the matter is, thanks to his past deeds, they’re pretty set at the moment, and have no qualms about inverting the deal without delay.

One aspect I like about this team’s chemstry and how far they’ve come is that they know Takeru so well, they’re shocked when he doesn’t tell them he doesn’t want to involve them out of concern for their safety. Mari and Usagi immediately start suspecting something went on with him and Ootori in solitary to change his standard tune. Which is kinda true, but not in the way they’re imagining; the way that makes Ootori blush.

When Valhalla troops attack Kiseki’s transport, Kurogane and Kirigaya fight them off. Then a Valhalla leader, Orochi, shows up, and Kurogane orders Kirigaya to clear out. We don’t see their fight, but the buildup to it, whether we end up seeing it next week or not, was very well done. The music direction remains exemplary, as the scene practically hums with the potential power of the two fighters, expressed not with overly bombastic orchestra, but a relatively low-key electronic track that nonetheless emanates gravitas.

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Then Kirigaya’s face contorts, as he’s sick of transporting one of the “heretics” he hates so much and wants to exact revenge upon, and he opens up the back and prepares to kill Kiseki. Of course, Takeru arrives in the Nick of Time to stop him, but even with Ootori and Usagi backing him up, he and Kiseki aren’t out of the woods. Kiseki herself is starting to involuntarily overflow, and at the worst posssible time, the cavalier, flamboyant Haunted shows up (who is, at least, less boring than Kirigaya).

Announcing he’s here to bring Kiseki back to Valhalla with him, for her own good, impaling Takeru on multiple thorns only accelerates her overflow. If Takeru isn’t dead (and I doubt he is), he’s certainly out of commission for the time being, leaving the rest of the 35th to deal with Haunted (assuming Kurogane gets his money’s worth with Orochi and is delayed).

By being taken out here and now, Takeru has placed his burdens completely on the shoulders of his friends and comrades. But they won’t shrink from their duty. This should be quite a finale.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 10

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This week we finally meet Kusanagi’s little sister, and she’s Akira. with Chaika’s voice. Things start to look very wrong right from the get-go, as Takeru has to swear half his life away just to get to a fake glass partition to see her (it’s actually a large video screen).

Kiseki looks stunted, tired, and is wearing what looks like a straightjacket in the antiseptic but very dark facility. Indeed, what could have been a lame “little sister is in love with her brother” episode takes a dark turn indeed, making last week’s beach episode (which I did get around to watching) well-timed.

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It wouldn’t be an Akira tribute without a Kaneda Slide, which Ootori has the honor of doing during a nighttime motorcycle chase with some low-level artifact-smuggling baddies. It’s good to see the platoon, no longer beset by personal matters among its members, working at full strength again, and doing a more than competent job.

Still, the one guy who hasn’t faced major personal conflict yet is Takeru, and that changes this week with the intro of his Sis, who Ootori isn’t even aware he’s seen yet but suggest he does, as she notices he looks unrested and troubled.

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And anyone would be that if their cute little sister had as much mana as Kiseki, along with “Overflow Syndrome”, a condition that demands she be locked away and killed over and over so that her cells don’t envelop the entire world. I’m not sure I care for Sougetsu’s cavalier demeanor while describing the situation, but then again perhaps someone such as him charged with protecting the world needs to maintain a certain sense of humor to avoid being consumed, if not by Kiseki, than by despair.

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His methods don’t seem to be working particularly well, however, because the next time Kiseki resurrects, she goes berserk and breaks out of the supermax facility. Takeru encounters her in a dark alley, where she absoluely slaughtered (off-camera) another perp he was chasing while on another mission with the 35th.

Faced with his sister out in the open, and knowing the threat she presents, Takeru’s first reaction is to keep Ootori and the others back, even drawing his sword on them to make certain they come no closer. But Ootori assures him that while she knows he’s suffering, they’re not his enemy. They take Kiseki to a safe house together.

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There, Suginami tells the others what Kiseki is, and they decide what do do with her: give her back to the Inquisition. But not before she gets to go on a date with her brother. Now, this was just a shameless opportunity to exploit Kiseki’s adorable character design by having the girls dress her up in various outfits (thankfully the one they settle on is decent). But there’s also a profound sadness to it, especially what happens later, because this is the first and only time she’s gotten to interact with anyone other than Takeru in anything resembling a normal human way.

And while out with her brother, Kiseki repeats the request he didn’t hear the last time, because his time was up and he was ordered to leave her. “—- me,” she said, but I can’t read anime lips so good, so I didn’t know the rest, and even suspected the show would get cute again and be “kiss me.” But she asks him to kill her. To release her from her wretched cycle of dead, rebirth, and the appalling solitary confinement and restraint in between, and to release the world from the existential threat she presents.

It seems like an equatable arrangement for all, except for one problem: Kiseki is Takeru’s little sister. He loves her, and he’s never once considered killing her, no matter how dangerous or miserable she was.  I predict he’ll react to her request with disgust…even if part of him knows there may be no other way.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 09

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Wow, it’s like Hannah has some kind of sixth (or 35th!) sense, because she handed this episode off to me, predicting it would be more up my alley. Oh wait, the episode is called “Crazy Summer Time”…so that’s why…

Anyway, I’m glad to fill in for Han, who is still recovering from Titan overdose. And you know what? As “crazy summer time” episodes go, this wasn’t awful. Sure, boob sizes are compared and protagonists are licked by more than one girl, but the episode manages to keep things light, breezy, and humorous.

It also manages to differentiate between the characters, as Usagi and Mari are totally capable of posing as dates at a gentleman’s club, but Ootori…isn’t, and exhibits an itchy trigger finger when someone tries to scratch a nonexistent itch on her ass. Yes, it’s “specialty” jobs like this where Ootori doesn’t do so well.

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Despite her prematurely blowing everyone’s cover, they do retrieve the magic artifact they were looking for, and decide to investigate it for bonus points (and to mitigate Ootori’s penalty). When the ring accidentally falls right onto Takeru’s finger (like Frodo and the Ring!) he figures out pretty fast what the ring does: make all the girls around him drunk.

Besides being a pretty harsh endictment on the slimeball guy who wielded this ring before, it also gives us the unsolicited opportunity to observe what kind of drunks the girls are: Usagi is a giddy drunk; Mari is a sad drunk, Ootori is a wild drunk, and Suginami is a sick drunk (sick as in vomit). Even Lapis gets a little hiccup in.

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Let’s move on—because the episode sure does! This is really two half episodes, which is just as well…neither of these stories could occupy a full one. The second half involves an “endless Summer” possibly being perpetrated by a magic monster of some kind. While it’s a rather obvious excuse to get the girls in swimsuits, said swimsuits are actually quite reasonable in design. It is troubling that Lapis and her school number steals the show for Takeru. The clear winner of the “competition” is Ootori.

Yet even here, the personalities of the platoon shine through. Just as they handle being at a club or being drunk in different ways, they treat summer differently. Mari and Usagi are all about having the fun with the water and the splashing, but Suginami hates the Summer and the sun (makes sense given her clinical upbringing), while poor Ootori can’t swim (like Kirin in Asterisk).

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As for Takeru, he doesn’t act like a buffoon, but he does eat some off shaved ice, which I didn’t even know was a thing. As such, Usagi, Mari, and Lapis form a “Mini 35th” to take care of the pervy sea monster. Sure, Takeru comes in to help out, but in his heavy armor he’s pretty useless; it’s Lapis transforming into an industrial-grade fishing rod that allow them to hook the sucker and claim victory.

Ootori, knowing that both at the club and on the beach she wasn’t able to contribute that much, rewards the Mini 35th with the last three ice creams. Nothing death-defying or groundbreaking going on here; just good harmless platoon bonding and some ever-so-slightly above average comedy.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 08

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Despite how improbable it looked at the end of last week, Takeru (and Ikaruga’s) chastity survives this episode, as her sister is early to pick her up. Before she says “bye-bye” (never a good thing for her) once more, she injects him with a muscle relaxant, telling him not to follow her because she loves him.

She may claim to know nothing about love or romance, but the fact she’s making this deal to protect Takeru and the others is a clear sign she’s evolved beyond the limitations of the design Alchemist intended. She’s gone from making weapons to sacrificing herself to save her new family.

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Naturally, as soon as Takeru gets the use of his legs back, and the girls get their freedom (and clothes) back, he immediately sets about defying Suginami’s wishes not to follow her. The 35th aren’t going to heed her desire to handle things herself, not if there’s a possibility they could lose her.

There’s a lot of great stuff here: Ootori and Mari, usually at each other’s throats, are still able to fight together when push comes to shove. As for Usagi, she convinces Ootori that it doesn’t matter how dark or dastardly Suginami’s past was, or what she intends to do. All Usagi wants is to bring the Suginami the loves back. 

And while yes, Takeru finally makes Lapis blush by praising her, Lapis quickly changes the subject as the platoon heroically deploys to rescue Ikaruga, all to a thumping techno track that really got me fired up for the battle.

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At Alchemist, Ikaruga reveals to Isuka her true intentions: to ensure the Elves are never resurrected, and to do what she should have done four years ago: get her sister the hell out of there. Isuka says she doesn’t want to leave, but she’s had modifications made to her that causes pain whenever she expresses emotions, so she’s not in a condition to think clearly.

She also shoots Ikaruga in the leg, which convinces her sister to use the nanomachines she’s implanted in herself to transform into some kind of Demon-Ikaruga who can wield antimatter. That’s a lot to swallow all at once, but then again Ikaruga is a pretty smart cookie, so fine.

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At any rate, she gradually wears Isuka down into admitting she feels something for her sister. Unfortunately, that’s just when Haunted decides to break up the sisterly chat and bury his arm into Isuka, a blow that turns out to be fatal. All along, Isuka had only been his pawn, and now that she’s of no further use to him, he wants to recruit Ikaruga. Her response is very appropriate: a hearty Go To Hell and a bullet to the head.

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Haunted exits stage right, but leaves a cyberdragon to deal with the platoon. He should have summoned a pair, because with Usagi at the controls of a railgun, Ootori watching Takeru’s back, and Mari replenishing Takeru’s mana when he runs out of his own, the gang is just able to take the dragon out and save Suginami.

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I say just, because Takeru risks everything on the hope one big final blow using all of the mana Mari gave him would be enough to defeat the one dragon. I like that despite the clear skills and teamwork the platoon possesses, they only win by the skin of their teeth. Of course, they were fighting one comrade short.

When the battle is over, the gang can relax, to the pont Mari gloats about saving everyone with her last minute mana infusion, to which Ootori calls her a “fuel tank”…which is a pretty creative insult. As usual, Suginami and Takeru stay above the fray, though she’s glad to be among them once more witnessing said fray.

And despite her earlier assertion she would not fall for Takeru’s smooth words, Sugi does succomb to a comforting head pat and a request that she talk to her friends in the future when she has a problem. She points out that not all girls like having their head patted, but tells him to keep doing it anyway. It’s not intercourse, but right then and there, it’s plenty.

As next week’s episode is titled “Crazy Summer Time”, I’ll be supremely shocked if the girls aren’t in swimsuits for at good part of it.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 07

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This week (and next) is dedicated to Suginami Ikaruga’s personal crisis. But she tells Kusanagi she won’t be “going gaga” over him like the other girls when he tries his noble “I’ll carry half your burden” line on her. He has no idea what she’s talking about, but he has noticed she’s acted different from usual lately, and he would know: the 35th Test Platoon started with just the two of them.

Back then, Kusanagi was beaten by her because he wouldn’t draw his sword on an unarmed opponent. That endeared him to Suginami, who above all seeks and love things that “stick out;” things that are unusual and beg for further study. And Suginami herself is very unusual compared to her fellow platoon-mates; this week we find out just how different.

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Director Ootori calls her a “designer child” created by the lab Alchemist with which Inquisition has always had tense relations. He also suspects Suginami knows of the whereabouts of something called a “Lost Matrix” which could theoretically be used to resurrect the elves, which is apparently a big deal in this world.

Her twin sister Isuka wants to do just that, so now is the time that Ikaruga finally seeks a deal : Isuka gets the matrix, but she gets to watch what becomes of it. Isuka, by the way, is no longer with Alchemist either, having thrown her lot in with Haunted and Valhalla.

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Takeru and the other girls end up following Suginami, but only he and Suginami get away from Isuka’s mercenaries; Ootori, Mari, and Usagi are taken into custody, stripped, poked and prodded by Isuka, who can find nothing exceptional about any of them. She wonders why her sister has become “friends” with such “normal” people (We know they’re not really normal, but Isuka is ignorant to their stories).

As for Ikaruga and Isuka’s story, the two were engineered to be the ultimate scientists; “weapons” with an uncontrollable “impulse for inquiry”. But it was clear in their younger years that Ikaruga got more and more curious about normal humans and their social structures, even “adopting” a wood elf she created (breaking the rules), which was later destroyed.

All this is to say that despite her antiseptic, inhuman upbringing and pre-programmed calling, Ikaruga does have human emotions, or at least more than her sister. She also has a grasp of right and wrong, as she shows despair at the horrors of the lab and, much later, showing affection for her friends by not involving them in her affairs, thus protecting them.

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Knowing her off-limits curiosity would eventually get her labeled as a “defective” Suginami, Young Ikaruga stole the Lost Matrix and broke out of Alchemist, leaving behind Isuka—who had no idea why she couldn’t just stay and keep doing research with her. But as we know from Ikaruga, she and her sister clearly define “things that stick out” in different ways.

She read about a bird who lost her mother, became a human, and had her own child, becoming a mother, and couldn’t help seeing herself in the fairy tale. She befriended Takeru, who thought and acted differently from almost everyone else. Even Usagi’s boobs “stick out”, so to speak, though they’re obviously not the only reason they became friends.

Now, holed up in her safe house with a bandaged Takeru, and little hope of living past the next day or so, Ikaruga wants to go out performing one more experiment of human behavior she wants to try before it’s all over: sex, specifically with Takeru; leading to one hell of a killer smash cut to credits.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 06

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And here I thought the platoon was going to get to work scoring points for Usagi. That enterprise is totally sidelined when Mephisto makes her move. Turns out the scumbag Tenmyoji Reima’s quick rise was made possible by a deal with the witch, who aims to retrieve her body from Taimadou’s custody and exact some revenge.

Mephisto first possesses President Hoshijiro’s ninja aide, then Ootori, who goes after Tenmyoji, incorrectly guessing he’s Mephisto. It’s not the most stunning twist of fate, but it works, and now two platoon members are in danger. Also, it’s cool to see Ootori wearing an evil smirk.

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What decidedly isn’t cool in any way, shape, or form, like, at all, is what Usagi goes through this week, and what she has gone through ever since she met Reima. When her older brother was playing with a rifle, she struggled with him to stop and he accidentally got shot. To Reima, that means she’s a brother-murderer, and he never lets her forget it, claiming her as his property and marking her with a slap even when the two are just peewees.

Yet this is just a memory; the true horror occurs when Usagi wakes up from her latest fainting spell (the fact Reima gives her devastating panic attacks just sickens me) to find herself in a wedding dress, with “betrothed” on top of her, ready to consummate. He uses the same old spiel about how he’s the only one who’ll have her and not abandon her after what she did.

Usagi goes numb for a moment, but thankfully doesn’t give up and let him have his way with her. She remembers he’s wrong; she has a family who will fight for her, so she has to fight too. So she bares those bunny’s fangs and sinks them into Reima.

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That gets Reima mad, and he activates his armor, but Takeru, tipped off by Hoshijiro, intervenes in time to save Usagi. But with Ootori under Mephisto’s control, he can’t have Usagi rest easy now that she’s been rescued: it’s her turn to step up to the plate, using her grandfather’s rifle to fire special magic bullets that will destroy Mephisto without killing Ootori.

Usagi is up for it, but Ootoriphisto uses her craftiness to stay a step ahead, placing a charm spell on her that makes all the guys in the vicinity amorously flock to her. Thankfully, she’s able to run away and no inappropriate contact occurs.

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Back in the church where Reima was going to defile Usagi, Takeru makes certain the little shitbag will never touch Usagi again by scaring him straight (and making him wet himself). If anything, it’s almost too easy, this bad guy. He’s sooooo evil and soooo wrong, and when he loses Mephisto’s protection, he turns into a puddle of cowardice, because of course he does.

Ootoriphisto tries to trick Usagi again by acting like a concerned Ootori (who Mari earlier saw right through, because the real Ootori wouldn’t give a shit about her, at least openly) and telling her Takeru is Mephisto. Takeru retorts that if she doesn’t know who to shoot, just shoot him, than Ootori. Well, he cracked that little standoff quickly enough, didn’t he?

But really, he didn’t have to: somehow, Ootori manages to wrest some control back from Mephisto, at least stop her from moving. This makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt who the witch is, and Usagi takes her shots and doesn’t miss. Goodbye, Mephisto. We hardly knew ye, but considering how easily you were defeated by a pack of misfits, we probably didn’t need to know ye.

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With that, Usagi is safe, then Ootori is safe, and all’s well that ends well. Super-well, as it turns out, because in the midst of the festival during which the 35th does a cosplay cafe, Usagi informs him—embarrassingly festooned with gift bows by Suginami, herself donning an outrageous sexy succubus outfit)—that the marriage to the shitberg is officially off, without any further efforts to legitimize her admittance to the school.

Good. The less we see of Reima moving forward, the better. As for Usagi, she likes it when Takeru pats her on the head, but if somebody ever tries to touch her without her permission again, she won’t hesitate to break out those fangs.

Next up to have a personal crisis that the platoon must band together to help despite her desire not to get them involved? Suginami. I predict a solid Shiraishi Ryouko performance is in the near future.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 05

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It’s not all that uncommon for an anime to come along that appeals to all three of us here at RABUJOI, be it the military action and combat I love, magical milieus that are Preston’s purview, or Zane’s favored school, romance, and comedy themes. TG35 is one of those shows.

This week was definitely a Zane Week, focusing on the relationships and motivations of the characters while bringing the unlikely Saionji Usagi into the dramatic spotlight. This episode excelled at all of those things, enough so that I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the lack of action. That action will surely come when the Witch-Hunting Festival begins in earnest.

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Usagi is in a bind: unlike Ootori and Mari, she doesn’t have a dark past, but a dark future: in order to capitalize on her heiress status and due to her bad grades, Usagi’s “family” wants to marry her off as soon as possible, so they’re pulling her out of Taimadou in a month. Worse, her fiancee is Executive Committee Chairman Tenmyoji Reima.

Watching how he treats a clearly overwhelmed and hyperventilating Usagi, it’s clear this is not a nice guy. He calls her a “belonging” and says “he can’t wait” for her to be his forever. Gross. Now, Takeru is a dense mofo, but he knows something’s not right, and when she faints, he watches over her dutifully, and makes it clear he’ll do everything in his power to help her.

I wouldn’t have guessed the show was going to suddenly shine a light and give dimension to Usagi, who had been mostly comic relief up to this point, but the episode succeeds in efficiently getting her dilemma out and showing both how it weighs on her and how unwilling she is to drag her platoon mates into it.

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When Takeru doesn’t want Usagi to be alone that night, he invites her to his place, which in her current state of mind she takes entirely the wrong way. Takeru’s intentions are as pure as ever, but as she bathes, she considers having a child with him so that she can be freed of her contract with Reima. Something tells me he wouldn’t care either way, but she’s a desperate young woman, and would rather her first be Takeru than that creep.

Unfortunately, she makes her surprisingly touching advance (asking him to spare her further embarrassment and get on with it) just as the other platoon-mates Takeru invited over help themselves in, and while the haremy reaction and gang-beating is pretty pat, I still loved the very true-to-character lines delivered by Mari (You already have me!), Ootori (I can’t believe you stooped this low!), and Suginami (Why didn’t you invite me?!).

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Also, the enmity doesn’t last but for a moment. Once the others hear Usagi out, they understand the situation and want to help as much as Takeru. Not because Usagi is a delicate little flower they like keeping around, but because she’s goddamn family; a girl who’s saved all their lives many times, who is essential to the platoon’s success and happiness. She needs to get it in her head that she’s worth all the effort they pledge to put into rescuing her.

How will they do that? Not by having Takeru marry her, but by winning enough points in the festival and getting her grades up high enough that the Saionji’s will reconsider pulling her. It’s a long shot, but like I said, she’s worth it. They’ll have the four members of the 23rd Platoon assisting them.

On the other side, we learn both through the president who lost most of her team and from the last shot of the episode, that Reima is more than just the organizer of the festival and a creep who aims to “own” Usagi—he could also be a form of the demon Mephistopheles, classically a soul-collecting servant of Satan. Bring him down, 35th. Do it for Usagi…and for money Takeru can use to pay off his parents’ debts.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 04

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Note: Preston and I have been watching both TG35 and Subete ga F, but we’ve decided to swap reviewing duties of those two shows. So going forward I’m your TG35 reviewer, while Preston will be handling the SgF.

As Preston observed last week, this show is proving very swift and decisive with its character orientation arcs. Ootori was essentially one of the gang last week after a tense gestation, and by this episode’s end, Mari has also become an official member of the 35th.

It’s great when Mari notes how famously Saionji and Suginami get along, Takeru reveals that the two used to be as much at each others throats as Mari and Ootori, and he looks forward to the two settling down, which he’s sure they’ll do in time. Takeru dismisses any notion of abandoning Mari should he, say, find out one day she’s an evil murderer. Instead, he promises to help her.

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Indeed, Ootori learns about Mari’s past and relays it to Takeru, but he goes into mock battle with her all the same, which is interrupted by the necromancer Haunted bursting out of one of their opposing players; a grim, demented entrance if ever there was one. He’s there for Mari, but Takeru won’t let him have her.

Takeru is surprised to find Haunted has an armored suit and legendary sword able to pierce Lapis, and ends up bloodied very early in the fight. But as he fights, Ootori is having words with her adoptive father the director about the circumstances of the crime scene where Mari was arrested. The magic used to kill people wasn’t hers.

This means, witch or not, the director had Mari arrested on false charges. In exchange for overlooking such a crime, Mari makes a certain demand of the director that proves crucial in the battle with Haunted.

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Now we know why Takeru had zero problem heading into battle with Mari, nor did he seem the slightest bit troubled by the news Ootori gave him: she’s innocent. When Haunted restores Mari’s memory, she remembers being surrounded by a lot of death—including that of her family at an orphanage—and blaming herself both for being such a valuable resource to Valhalla, and for not being able to save them.

With all her terrible memories back, Mari must feel like going with Haunted is what she deserves, and it’s what she’s prepared to do in order to stop others from dying because of her. But Takeru will have none of it. As he promised Ootori, if need be, he’ll carry half her burden, but he won’t leave her side or let Valhalla swallow her back up.

Haunted may be a swordsman, but he’s not a Kusaragi, and Takeru cycles through Lapis’ many weapon forms and effectively drives him back.

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Haunted is a tough customer, however, and it’s everything Takeru can do to stay alive in their duel. Mari decides to cast a spell to help Takeru out, even if it means the collar around her neck detonating. But it doesn’t, because Ootori had the director shut it off just in time. Ootori then tells Mari to prove to her that magic can be used for things other than death and suffering. Now’s the chance to change my mind about you.

Naturally, both Mari and Ootori insist they’re not doing this for the other, but in truth, they’ve already warmed to each other and are working as one. Ootori saved Mari so Mari can save Takeru. Ootori provides cover fire so Mari can cast her spell. Suginami wakes Saionji up by riddling her with insults from when they were frenemies, and then Saionji covers Ootori with her sniper rifle.

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Finally, rather than fire her magical attack at Haunted, she sends it to Takeru, and it’s absorbed by a grateful Lapis, whose pride has been impugned by Haunted’s “lost-type” Dainsleif’s trash talk. The attack is enough to push Haunted back and disperse his armor, and he retreats with a smile on his face, intrigued that he has a challenging new foe keeping him from Mari.

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The magical barrier falls, Takeru passes out, goes to hospital, and wakes up with Lapis by his side eating apples (her low-key presence continues to be a nice contrast to the powerful personalities of the other girls). There’s one more “uh-oh” moment this week when Ootori tells Takeru of bad news, but it’s just bad news for her—Mari has officially enrolled at AntiMagic Academy—but it isn’t really such bad news for Ootori either.

In fact, it was Ootori who used her leverage against the director to negotiate Mari’s present status as comrade. I can understand her doing this to stay in Takeru’s good graces, so to speak, but it’s just as much about Ootori being a champion of justice, as well as having her mind about witches changed, if only a little, by Mari, when it mattered most.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 03

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I’ll say this for TG35—it isn’t wasting any time developing its characters. While Ootori was the reluctant outsider last week, that roles passes to Nikaido Mari, AntiMagic Academy’s very first witch Inquisitor-in-Training. What the other 35s don’t know is that she was picked up last week on suspicion of murder, but had a powerful (but not ironclad) amnesia spell placed on her.

Apparently she’s dangerous enough to held naked chained by her ankle in solitary confinement, but is given back her regular clothes, which is odd, because the director wants her to blend into the school. The best way to do that would be to give her a green Taimadou uni, but alas.

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Like Ootori, Mari wants to be left alone, and Suginami and Saionji are fine with doing just that, but Ootori can’t help but get into verbal spats with her. Not only does Mari represent everything Ootori hates—witches and magic—but she’s also competition for Takeru’s attention. The two snipe at each other and square off both in the classroom and P.E., to essentially a stalemate, periodically swapping smug victory and angry defeats, all of it very petty.

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When Takeru tries to get between them, the two girls reflexively punch him, something Ootori regrets immediately and Mari regrets…a little later. In a very effective and efficient scene, Takeru ably disarms Mari: he doesn’t hate witches or magic, and he’s willing to give her a shot, just like he gave Ootori.

Takeru also shows genuine interest in her motivations for enrolling, and she eventually opens up: she’s enthusiastic about changing peoples’ hearts and minds about witches and magic. By the end of their exchange, they’re on first-name terms—if only because Mari thinks “Kusanagi” is lame and Takeru thinks “Nikaidou” is awkward to pronounce.

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The next day Mari is in the Platoon’s HQ, sparring with Ootori. Once she knows Ootori likes Takeru, she wastes no time using their first-name basis (and some close contact) to enrage her even further. To her credit, Ootori doesn’t let it come to blows; in fact she barely tries to conceal the fact Takeru’s promise to “share half her burden” is something she values very much.

At the same time, Mari looks a little nervous clinging to Takeru, like she’s getting swept up in the competition with Ootori in spite of herself. Not surprisingly, the other platoon members, including Lapis, fade into the background this whole episode, which I didn’t mind.

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A little more incredulous is the fact that Mari has nowhere else to stay but Takeru’s dingy, creepy apartment. Naturally, the protective Ootori won’t let the two spend time in Takeru’s place alone (she figures a “closet perv” like Takeru would be all too easily wooed even by Mari’s “meager charms”), so she tags along, despite Takeru’s building freaking her out.

That’s when we end up with the most ridiculous scene of the episode, in which Takeru walks in on a totally naked (and “insecure”) Mari drying her hair, just when Ootori runs out of the bathroom also totally naked, scared by some kind of ghost. The two naked girls end up on top of Takeru, who meekly protests none of this is his fault, leading to an off-camera double slap (though no synchronized scream).

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The next day the 35th begins their first round of a mock battle tournament, and things start to go pear-shaped pretty fast, until Mari decides she will assist them after all and serves as a decoy so Takeru, Ootori, and Saionji can clean up and advance (Suginami doesn’t participate).

It’s the episode’s one concession to action (unlike last week which was mostly action), and it’s pretty inconsequential. But the lesson to take away is that with Ootori, Mari, and Lapis, the 35th is climbing towards respectability…or at least less ridicule.

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When Ootori acknowledges Mari’s contribution in her roundabout double-negative-laced way, we see that despite, or even perhaps partially due to their intense co-antagonism, Mari and Ootori are on their way to gelling with the 35th. That’s of course, until Ootori delivers her report to the director, finds him absent, and picks up a document describing Mari as an ancient witch under suspicion of murder, thus confirming all of her earlier suspicions about the witch, without knowing the whole picture about her amnesia.

The thing is, even Mari isn’t sure who she is. She gets a flash of her true past after making nice with Takeru, and before going to sleep at his place, warns him she may not be someone he should be trusting in. I don’t know whether her amnesia spell is permanent, but even if it is, Ootori can’t unsee what she saw, Mari may not have the means to fully explain herself, and Takeru will continue to be in the middle, trying to keep the peace.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 02

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TG35 tables its fanservice and harem elements this week, instead focusing on the more serious matter of Kusanagi continuing his quest to make Ootori accept him as a captain and a comrade, a decision I felt made for a better episode than the first.

When Ootori affirms her unwillingness to allow being lumped in with the Small Fry Platoon, Suginami reveals her nickname of “calamity” in Inquisition, where she was a revenge-driven loose cannon – accusations she won’t deny.

Eager to make his unit better and not willing to sit back and let Ootori continue to fight alone, he keeps trying to convince her, but his efforts are interrupted by the summoning of a hero or “einhenjar” tasked with assaulting the academy. In confronting and battling that einhenjar, Kusanagi eventually backs into the very means to help shoulder Ootori’s burdens by contracting with a “relic eater”, Lapis Lazuli.

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But first, Ootori runs off and tries to take on the einhenjar (Arthur Pendragon, armed with a railgun Excalibur) all by herself, questioning what good she is if she can’t handle such a “puny threat” on her own.

When conventional attacks fail, she summons her own relic hunter, Vlad, in the form of two pistols, but she only has a provisional contract with him, and Vlad’s need to take her blood to function effectively weakens her more.

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Finally, the director de-summons Vlad, leaving Ootori defenseless against Pendragon. But that action reveals the director’s intention: to give Kusanagi the opportunity to contract with Lapis, a pairing he’s been looking forward to.

Kusanagi comes to Ootori’s aid, backed up by Saionji and Suginami, but his attacks also fail. At the same time, Ootori realizes it was Kusanagi she beat back in the past; they didn’t meet for the first time last week. I wonder if there’s anything else to that past connection.

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Pendragon then does to Kusanagi what he did to Ootori, and he ends up bleeding out on the ground—until Lapis suddenly appears through the dust cloud (a nice visual), transports him to a different dimension, and takes him through the contracting ceremony, consisting of questions such as “would you abandon what is precious to you” (hell no) and “would you abandon your humanity” (sure) to achieve his goals.

I liked the prompt, no-nonsense introduction of Lapis, as well as her occasional moments of playfulness (bum-ba-da-bum!) amidst her usual ethereal stoicism. She also reminded me of Knight Rider a bit; a sentient piece of technology-as-companion. Also notable: no boob-grabbing or nudity silliness with Lapis, and her outfit, while cool-looking, is also pretty modest. Refreshing!

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There’s the sense Kusanagi isn’t quite sure what’s going on, but Lapis helpfully informs him the contract is complete and she is now his. And what she is is an unbreakable sword and suit of armor which are just the two things someone with his sword skills needs to not only fight witches effectively, but also in order to convince Ootori he can be relied upon, despite his normally unreliable aura.

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With Pendragon easily dispatched,  Kusanagi joins Ootori against a tree trunk, saying he won’t presume to lecture her about revenge, but earnestly asks her to at least let him share half of her burden, as her comrade and her friend.

Ootori, having been saved from certain death, is hardly in a position to protest further, and in any event, once Kusanagi passes out on her lap, she privately confesses to not really minding the feeling of having someone wanting to, and being allowed, to share her burden. If her fight with Pendragon taught her anything, it’s that she won’t get far alone.

As for the sixth main character, the witch Nikaidou Mari, she seems to be in reluctant cahoots with the murderous necromancer who summoned Pendragon, but passes out before Inquisition arrests her. I imagine she’s on a course that’ll eventually lead her to Kusanagi and the 35th.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 01 (First Impressions)

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This is now the third “magic academy” anime we’ve come across this Fall. But unlike Zane’s two shows Rakudai and Asterisk, TG35 focuses less on school and more on the occupation they’re all training for: which amounts to witch-hunting and preventing the smuggling of magical items. It’s the most regimental, but also the most like a typical school anime in that the titular platoon is like a club, complete with a clubroom HQ where they hang out.

Naturally, this is a club of misfits, mocked as the “Small Fry Platoon” at their academy for racking up zero points in a half a year of ops. Their captain is the katana-wielding Kusanagi Takeru, Saionji Usagi is the girly sniper, and Suginami Ikaruga is the tech whiz. The trio becomes a quartet when they are joined by Ootori Ouka, a prodigy who’d already advanced to the rank of inquisitor, but has been recently knocked back to the bottom for killing prisoners.

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Under orders from the academy director (and her guardian), Ootori makes nice as best she can, and Kusanagi plugs her into an ambitious (for the 35th) interdiction operation, which is played straight and seems to be going quite well right up until Kusanagi gives Saionji the order to start sniping…

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…Which she does…into the wrong window. Instantly, we see why this platoon has zero points. Kusanagi ends up on the wrong end of several mafia handguns, but is able to halve their bullets with his sword. Halving bullets is a great skill, but halving bullets alone can’t get you points; for that, the whole platoon needs to hum like a well-oiled machine. No slip-ups, no emotional outbursts.

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There’s plenty of both on the op, as Saionji crumbles under pressure and Kusanagi almost lets the gangsters’ barbs get the best of him, while Suginami, back at HQ, is a non-factor. They only manage to salvage the op when Ootori puts it on her shoulders, taking out all the gangsters and even quickly, efficiently disabling the culprit’s stolen Inquisition mecha. The show then manages to get Kusanagi to grab Ootori’s boob when he trips on a shell casing (groan).

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The next day, Ootori dresses down the rest of the platoon (verbally, not literally), putting particular emphasis on Kusanagi being a disgrace of a leader. When they try to win her over with a welcoming party, she scolds them for goofing off. Kusanagi catches sight of her bleeding arm wound and flags her down, making it clear that however she feels, he is her comrade, and her captain, and they’re going to make this work, somehow.

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She brushes him off, but lets him accompany her to an op she was going to take on herself. It’s a good thing she doesn’t. Sure, she has to save Kusanagi from a booby trap, but his bullet-slicing comes in handy against the henchmen. Moreover, when Ootori discovers the appalling handiwork of their targets—buckets of children’s body parts, perhaps for necromancy—she loses her cool and is about to kill everyone in sight.

Only Kusanagi, her CO and comrade in spite of her protests, restrains her. He posits that if she exacts revenge in this way, she’ll never be an Inquisitor again, and there will be more victims. Then she reveals the reason for wanting revenge: witches killed her family.

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Kusanagi doesn’t pretend to know what she’s feeling—he’s only trying to become an Inquisitor because the pay is good and his family needs money, not revenge—but he won’t stop trying to understand, nor will he stop trying to be her comrade and captain no matter what, because that’s what they are. The words move her as outside, a witch-looking girl with glowing purple eyes looks on, apparently observing all.

So yeah, definitely the darkest (out of the gate) and most serious of the three magical academy shows RABUJOI is reviewing, and the second with a more-than-decent opening episode. Despite the familiar character types and unimaginative fanservice, there’s a degree of promise here, as long as you enjoy misfit-rising stories, which I myself happen to. It executes capably on action, character design (no one’s boobs are too big), and music (the ED theme in particular is pretty sweet). We’ll see!

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