Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 12

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First High’s path to NSC victory grows a lot narrower this week, thanks to what seems to be elaborate sabotage of Mari’s Battle Board semifinal by unknown parties. This episode was replete with detailed analysis and nitty-gritty procedure—bascially geeking out on its own rich magical mythos the whole time.

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Tatsuya also goes well beyond the call of duty as an enginer is gaining a lot of fans, many of them of the opposite sex. First, he’s the first on the scene to help Mari, a fact that makes her blush when she hears it. Mitsui almost loses her shit over the fact he’ll watch her match. He even gains Shizuku as an admirer for working so closely to fine-tune her equipment and offering emotional support. Shizuku doesn’t let him down, posting a perfect score.

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There’s big news for him and his beloved sister, too: due to Mari’s injuries and better-than-expected results from their rival, Third High, President Saegusa has picked Miyuki to replace Mari in the official Mirage Bat tournament, even though she’s a freshman rookie. Knowing what a bad-ass she is, I don’t foresee her having much trouble advancing, but that’s assuming there won’t be any more…sabotage.

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Here’s a bold prediction: there will be more sabotage. Tatsuya figured out how Mari and her rival washed out, and also the strong possibility that the responsible party are members of the NSC committee, someone who had unfettered access to student CADS and a desire to knock out the top contenders. But knowing they’ll strike next is one thing; knowing exactly how and when they’ll strike is another.

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Tatsuya is a very busy and increasingly popular guy. Just as he cracked the conspiracy in the enrollment arc, it’s almost seems a forgone conclusion he’ll succeed in uncovering this plot, and help lead First High to victory. At the same time, the show has yet to throw some serious adversity his way, so if it’s going to start, the next episode would be a good time.

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Mekakucity Actors – 11

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Mekakucity continued its freewheeling M.O. of jumping from flashbacks to the present and from one group of characters to another, shedding more light on how they got to where they are, where they’re headed, and how they’ll get there—in a word, as a single united group.

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The snake possessing Kenjirou’s original plan was foiled by Ayano’s suicide, but he’s still at it, and wants to use the group to fulfill his host’s wish. It wants to do this not because it’s necessarily evil (though it doesn’t think much of humans) but because doing so allows it to exist in the first place.

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Still, the snake is a prety wishy-washy and somewhat creul entity, so he doesn’t have my sympathy. If the choice is between letting it continuing existing or letting the Mekukashi-dan, I’m going with the latter. But it’s clear that neither side really had a choice in the matter. When the snake encounters wishes, it’s in its nature to fulfill them, no matter how much chaos it costs.

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As he lingers at his sister’s gravestone, Kano finally lowers his armor and has a good cry in the arms of Seto, who arrived wondering what was up. Kano has a right to be upset; he watched his sister fall into another dimension, never to be seen again, but both his pain of those events and the responsibility to right things isn’t his alone.

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Similarly, when they finally chase him down, Kido and Momo explain to Hibiya that he’s more likely to save Hiyori if working together with them. When they’re captured and imprisoned in a futuristic jail by mysterious enemy in white suits, Momo ups her idol powers to call for help and cheer Hibiya up, all while being concealed by Kido’s powers.

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It works, as it draws not only Kano, Seto, Marry and Haruka to their location, but Takane as well, back in a physical body. The only Actor missing is Shintaro, who spends the episode in his house talking to Shion, then entering the dreamworld where he meets with Ayano and repeats the refrain of the episode: the time for fighting alone is over.

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Akuma no Riddle – 12 (Fin)

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“If the will to kill Haru can possibly exist, then that will is mine and mine alone. It would mean that my will is free. That it is not being manipulated by Haru.” This is the crux of what Tokaku has to work out: whether she protected and love Haru of her own free will, or if she simply succumbed to Haru’s inate ability to manipulate others in order to survive.

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When all is said and done, it would seem that her will is indeed free. Even after defeating Nio, who used the black arts her clan is known for to impersonate her, Tokaku still tried to kill Haru. Haru survived, though, since her ribs are made of titanium, and kept the knife from Haru’s heart, where Tokaku aimed. Thus, the show has it’s cake and eats it too.

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As the closing montage shows, Akuma no Riddle was ultimately just as bloodless as Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin, or Sakura Trick, for that matter: none of the assassins I thought were killed actually died; they all recovered from their injuries and live on. Once a means to test Haru’s mettle, now they’re back to their own lives, only Class Black changed them all.

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The class wasn’t all about Haru and Tokaku, as we know. The show went to lengths to flesh out the various assassins in the episodes in which they struck. It showed how they were all in one way or another either running away from their past lives or trying desperately to validate them, but their defeats to Tokaku and Haru led to growth, and now they’re all moving forward.

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While this episode couldn’t quite match the intense showdown with Hanabusa, it was nevertheless a suitable end to the series. Tokaku won, and in the process proved to herself she protected Haru of her own free will. If her wish was to be able to continue being with Haru, it looks like that was granted. We don’t know how she answered Kaiba’s final riddle, but if I had to guess it would be that she told him the thing that the world was full of…was love.

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Final Cumulative Score: 7.75
MAL Score: 7.01 (Fickle Punks!)

 

Sidonia no Kishi – 11

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When Kobayashi first told Nagate she needed a new savior, he’s honest: he has no idea if he can live up to previous heroes, but he’ll do his best, because he’s a Knight of Sidonia. Compare that to Kunato Norio’s mopey, nihilistic attitude that seems to say “Bite Me, Sidonia”. Ever since he lost his cool in the cockpit, he’s been a ghost, with only his loyal little sister to keep him company in his musty mansion with huge ducts coming out of the walls, Brazil-style.

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He doesn’t even bother answering the call to sortie, but Nagate, Izana, and 46 others answer the call. Some, like Nagate and Samari, have duty in their hearts. Others, like Izana and the other greenhorns, have hawk-moths in their stomachs. With the planet-sized Hive Gauna bearing down on the much smaller Sidonia and evasive maneuvers ineffective, the only remaining option for XO Yuhata is to send two platoons armed with the experimental weapons, in the hope they can take the Gauna out.

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After they outrun the anti-planet missile Exterminatus launched as the prospective coup-de-grace to their assault, the 48 frames look fierce, but quickly take on the appearance of tiny mosquitoes bizzing around the head of some great beast. There’s no immediate challenge to their arrival or their first volleys into the placental surface, as if the Gauna can’t be bothered with such a weak enemy. But the Gardes eventually draw some blood; enter Benisuzume.

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The platoon almost successful in disabling the hive’s propulsion system, is utterly annihilated in a matter of seconds. We only catch glimpses of Pilot’s POV video feeds until one after another they cut out to static. She may be the only Gardes-type Gauna, but she’s clearly enough, forcing Yuhata to change gears and call for the activation of Sidonia’s Super-Ultra-Bad-ass Hyggs Cannon to blast a hole into the hive the sixteen surviving frames can enter and take out the Master Gauna.

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As crew members informed Yuhata of the risks to the residential area inherent in firing the cannon, the episode cuts to that area, panning past various structures, but the only actual people we see are Lala, Kunato and his sister, which begs the question: where’s everyone else? I know all of Sidonia is on the line, but what is Sidonia? How many people are left? Why don’t we see them evacuating, hiding in their homes, or running around panicking? Their plight is left to the imagination.

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It’s hard to feel for what amounts to a largely unseen cipher of a population, but that isn’t really a big deal, because I do care about Izana, Nagate, Yuhata, and a handful of other characters, and I’m rooting for them to somehow prevail. They know what they need to do; now it’s a matter of how (and whether) they can do it, and what else the Gauna have up their slimy sleeves. Izana lamented the fact they have “basically no time left together”; Nagate insists they still do. I hope he’s right!

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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 11 (Fin)

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Tensai to the rescue! The whole big fight between Hiiyo and Juugo, on which Hiiyo seemed to have gotten the upper hand, is called off, not because she uses her Master Detective skills to figure out Hiiyo’s secret power, but because she has the cajones—and enough affection for Juugo that she doesn’t want to see him unduly hurt—to bluff Hiiyo into walking away, appealing to his arrogance while building off the legend she herself had built.

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I wouldn’t have called her bluff, either. It’s entirely likely she’d observed Hiiyo enough to find a weakness and was ready to expose it, because she actually kinda is a Master Detective. She used his reactions to the proposal to determine his power really was his trump card, and that it did have a weakness, so he delayed using it, and she eventually learned that weakness: that the “damage” done to Juugo wasn’t real, but merely suggestion.

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This was an interesting finale in that from the time Hiiyo agreed to stop fighting to the eerie post-credits scene where Yun-chan’s eyes are glowing like a cursed child’s, it was ambitiously building what looked like the foundations of a second season I didn’t actually know was going to happen. At the same time, it still had the feeling of arranging things up on a high shelf, things it knows we won’t see again for some time, so it took extra care in the arranging.

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For one thing, we got a lot of Juugo-and-Tensai time, which reinforced their mutual respect and affection that sometimes veers into romantic attraction. While she qualifies her reasoning for not wanting Juugo to die by saying “she won’t have a rival”, we know he’s more than just a rival at this point; he’s a dear friend she can’t afford to let slip away. Their relationship was a joy to watch right up to the end.

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Another loose end to tie up is the rift between Juugo and Nanana. Through Tensai, Nanana figures out that he avoided telling her too much about the mission because of her past with Hiiyo. Even so, she bets Tensai Juugo won’t break the promise he made to not use the treasure if he found it, and she wins that bet. Juugo doesn’t break promises, whether its not using treasures or finding killers.

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But his resolve to fulfill the latter is compromised by his uncertainty about what Nanana really wants, so he asks her point blank: What does she really want? It takes a cathartic physical fight that Nanana is on the cusp of winning, but Juugo finally cracks and tells her what he wants, or rather what he doesn’t: he doesn’t want her to leave. That relieves Nanana, for while she wants to find her killer and kill them herself, for now, and maybe even after that happens, she’s not ready to “pass on” yet.

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Things are just getting interesting on the island she built, so she wants to keep watching it for now. So do we, so we hope a second season does come around someday.

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Total Cumulative Average: 7.55
MyAnimeList Score: 7.54

Hitsugi no Chaika – 11

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Hitsugi no Chaika has chosen to close with an epic three-part finale, of which this is the middle part. Middle parts are tricky, as it’s hard to have two episodes in a row with no concrete resolutions (it just kind of…ended), while putting that much more pressure on the third part to deliver. Even so, I think this middle part performed admirably, providing a nice balance of action and fresh insights, some of which confirm/reinforce my ideas about the Chaikas.

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Our heroes remain at the mercy of their enemies, two of whom, Ricardo and Grad, we met last week and got a cursory idea about what makes them tick. The third girl, Layla, only revealed her duplicity at the very end, but when I saw her for the first time with her hood concealing her face, I was pretty darn sure she was another Chaika. Like our Chaika and the Red Chaika we met previously, she too is driven to collect Emperor Gaz’s remains. The difference is how they all go about it.

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Red Chaika is a warrior. Our Chaika is a damsel in distress. And Layla is, or rather, was, a seductress, using her body, wiles, and drugs to acquire remains. Once she learned she was only one of many tools with diverse talents created for the sole purpose of re-appropriating Gaz’s remains; that her heart and soul and emotions and memories were all essentially manufactured for that purpose, she quit being Chaika, joined forces with Ricardo and Grad, and now lives for her own purpose: to help them start a new war.

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War, you see, is when those two felt most content, and, more importantly, most useful. Ricardo’s bloodlust and Grad’s desire to dominate could find true and enduring expression. They’re really more over-the-top versions of Tooru and Akari, saboteurs who had nothing left to sabotage after the war. The atrocities this trio has committed condemns them to villainhood to be sure, but on one point we can feel for Layla: wanting revenge against those orchestrated this whole dastardly plot. Why should she let it continue?

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But our Chaika isn’t like her…at least, not yet. Not only is she still committed to gathering her “father’s” remains even after all Layla has said, but in doing so she’s given the Acuras a new purpose. With their flying fortress packed with magical fuel-giving corpses and drug-manipulated soldiers, Ricardo, Grad, and Layla aren’t going to be satisfied with a grand adventure. They want to set the world back on fire and dance in the flames. And by episode’s end, they’re very close to achieving that goal.

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It would seem that as tough-as-nails as Akari is, her older brother would seem to have a slight edge over her in combat ability. I say that because he manages to evade and withdraw from her attacks on numerous occasions while consciously trying not to kill her, while she’s most definitely trying to kill him. I’m also on board with Tooru teaming up with Zito and Vivi when they cross paths, saving each others’ lives in the process.

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Perhaps the best feint of the episode was the heroic arrival of Fredrica, who seemed poised to rescue Chaika when a creepy-ass human-like spider thing snuck up behind her and stabbed her in the brain. It continues the trend of the show using her sparingly; if she were always around to save the day, things would be pretty boring. It was also a promising sign that this mess won’t get wrapped up by a last-seond deus ex machina, but hard-earned with with blood, sweat, tears, and wits.

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No Game No Life – 11

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Last week ended with Sora and Shiro totally unable to function, but that cliffhanger is resolved rather quickly, as it’s merely a simulation of Tokyo where they’re playing, which turns out to be just fine with them. Of course, that realization came after a very random title sequence for the game they’re in, entitled Living or Dead Series Side Story: Love or Loved 2: Hit Her With Your Bullet of Love!

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As random as all that sounds, the title is a nice send up of…this kind of stuff, and ends up making more and more sense as details of game—essentially a gussied-up FPS—comes into focus. The hair dryer-like pistols assigned to everyone are used to reject NPCs (which charges “love power”) turn into “love slaves” and have them fight for you, and make allies fall in love too. This leads to combat that’s patently ridiculous (e.g. shounen-style analysis of pantsu thickness), but also exciting and lots of fun. The game moves at a nice brisk clip, too.

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What also becomes apparent to Blank as the game rolls on is that despite their early dominance thanks in large part to Shiro’s literally otherworldly FPC skills, Izuna is able to evade every attack they throw at her, which means she’s cheating. They need proof to accuse her, but have none, so Blank finds themselves in the rare position of underdog, with an opponent that doesn’t have to play by the same rules.

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This isn’t a game where they’ve already thought sixty-four moves ahead; they can’t, because they’re not sure what’s coming. So they have to resort to winging it. They may not know everything they need to about the game and Izuna’s abilities, but they do know and trust each other. Sora trusted Shiro to “find him” in his game with Kurami; this time Shiro returns the favor, getting shot by Izuna and trusting he’ll handle the rest.

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He does, by realizing it was her clothes, not her body, that got hit by Izuna’s bullet, and that she conserved her energy by not running (like he told her earlier) so she’d still have attack power when she reunited with Sora. This time, however, Sora and Shiro depended on more than just themselves to get this far: Kurami and Fil are still outside, looking out for evidence of cheating, while Jibril stalls Izuna at a crucial juncture. Steph, alas, is useless throughout.

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Blank may not have defeated Izuna by the end of this episode, their exemplary play and convivial attitude is making Izuna actually enjoy playing games again. Blank isn’t desperately fighting like their race is on the line; they’re having a blast. This is something she hasn’t done for some time, since gaming has been more about duty to her country than leisure. And the more they corner the she-warbeast, the fiercer—and, seemingly, happier—she becomes.

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Black Bullet – 11

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The first part of this episode is a perfect example of the adage “this is going to get worse before it gets better.” The conventional military predictably folds like a house of cards before a far larger and very organized Gastrea army led not only by their “king” Aldebaran, but their equally-dangerous “queen”, Pleiades, which possesses “The Spear of Light”, a mercury-based beam weapon that makes quick work of the humans.

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Rentaro’s adjuvant is able to do some damage, but at the end of the first night, half of Tokyo’s forces are gone, converted to Gastrea and added to the enemy’s ranks. I’m a little fuzzy on why the Gastrea didn’t press on and finish the job—they certainly were winning—but they withdraw, and Rentaro & Co. have at least one more night to live. But then He’s summoned by Commander Gado, who cites him for dereliction of duty.

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That’s right: even though the actions of Rentaro’s adjuvant keep the Gastrea from flanking the rest of their forces, and play a role in at least a temporary withdrawal, the fact remains he disobeyed orders to hold his position. I actually found it refreshing that, for once, the hero doesn’t just get a slap on the wrist for acting independently, though it’s clear Gado has ulterior motives for doing so. Instead, he’s sent on a suicide mission to destroy Pleiades.

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Kisara suggests they run away. They’re strong, after all. But there’s nowhere to run where they won’t be under constant attack but Tokyo. They’ll run out of varanium bullets; his bionic parts will be trashed and need repair; Kisara needs dialysis, for crying out loud. Still, even if the lives they led were short and violent, at least they’d be lived protecting each other, not a city full of racist ingrates.

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Truth be told, the battle that ultimately led to Rentaro’s “court martial” was a bit…meh, perhaps a factor of things escalating a bit too quickly and the tactics of the adjuvant seeming a bit disjointed, as if the producers had a really big battle in mind but didn’t really plan it out when it was time to present it. It felt a bit rushed and half-assed, and when it suddenly ended and returned to a place of safety, it was jarring.

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What actually redeemed the episode, besides the fact Rentaro actually got punished for disobeying orders, was that his one-man anti-Pleiades expedition leads to him running into Hiruko Kagetane and his huge-eyed daughter Kohina. And here I thought he was dead and she was in custody! Their appearance, and not as straight-up foes, gives Rentaro more of a chance against Plei-chan, but it’s oddly nice to see them again, as they’re as kooky as they are lethal.

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One Week Friends – 11

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We’ve known for a while now that Kaori’s memory loss dates back to when she suffered an accident, even if the injuries she sustained weren’t necessarily the cause of it, but rather something psychological. Now we find out more about the events that led to her getting in that accident, from the mouth of the guy who blames himself for everything that’s happened to her: Kujou Hajime.

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Yuuki is understandably curious about what happened at the crepe place—a confrontation that might not have happened hat Yuuki skipped cleaning duty and been on time, mind you. Hajime surprises him by gathering two other former friends of Kaori, sitting down, and laying it all out. What happened was as simple as it was heartbreaking.

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It boils down to the fact that, like Yuuki, Hajime always considered himself more than “just friends” with Kaori, even though they weren’t strictly dating. This led to other girls in the class thinking they had a shot at him. When Hajime invited Kaori to meet him alone in a park before he moved away, he inadvertently set her up. Her friends turned on her, and the shock of that led to a moment of poor judgement, leading to the accident.

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Stepping back and looking at things, the accident was just that—an accident—but Hajime couldn’t help playing with cause-and-effect scenarios in his head. But even if he had done what he couldn’t: confess to Kaori and go out with her, those girls were still going to be jealous, and might well have said those terrible things anyway. Also, it was elementary school…not exactly a bastion of rational or mature thought.

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Kaori, for her part, seems willing and able to turn the page on those dark days, because they were the past and she’s a different person in a different place with new friends, and history doesn’t always repeat itself. The one who is weary is Yuuki, who sees too mny similarities in his situation with Kaori to be optimistic, notably the way Kaori refers to him as “her special friend,” exactly what Hajime thought he was.

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Even knowing the mistakes Hajime made, Yuuki is still terrified of repeating them, since he’s letting his heart rather than his head drive his actions. And he may be right: continuing on the path he’s on may result in Kaori losing her memories of him, and losing her completely. For my part, it pains me to see him so caught up on what could be that he’s blind to what he has, here and now. Avoiding her isn’t the answer, that’s for sure.

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Saki, of all people, has been the one person totally upfront about what she has, and made an attempt to take it. But doing so has put her and Shogo in an awkward situation where she thinks she made him angry and is scared to talk to him, and he’s seemingly too scared to set things straight. Like Yuuki, he may benefit from switching his brain off a bit.

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 11

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Valkyria is all fired up after killing the witches, but one of them, Hatsuna, turns out to have regenerative powers, and survives the attack, gaining her freedom. Hatsuna happens upon the observatory where Neko and the others are hiding out, unaware that her target, 1107, is Neko.

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When she first goes in she’s shocked to find them all dead and covered in blood, but they’re only playing possum, in case she was Valkyria, not an unwise gambit to employ considering how powerful she is. When a phalanx of riot police try to arrest her, she blows up a mountain with antimatter. Yeah, you really don’t want her thinking you’re alive when you meet her!

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We don’t learn a whole lot about what makes Hatsuna tick, but she’s a virtually invincible A-rank witch with no beacon, so she could be a powerful ally. She’s dubious of Ryouta’s commitment and utility as an ally to the girls, but when she tests him, and he risks his life to save hers when the test goes awry, he not only makes her feel silly for doubting her, she also falls for him on the spot.

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Kazumi had previously been the most romantically aggressive with Ryouta, but most of her behavior has been teasing, covering up her own nervousness and inexperience. Not so with Hatsuna, who plainly, clearly confesses to him, asks to be his girlfriend, and kisses him. It’s a quick, but he did save her life, and like the others, she’s never known a human as kind as him.

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The witches’ creator, master, and tormenter, Ichijiku Chisato, isn’t interested in kindness, but in unravelling the mysteries of life. He doesn’t care how many people suffer die if it nets him answers. He doesn’t hesitate when he sends Valkyria, whom he calls Fujisaki Mako, nor does he hesitate to speak his mind to her. Such is her psychological conditioning, one slap to her face causes her to fall into his arms, sobbing and submissive.

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Of his “toys”, Mako certainly seems to be his masterpiece, a witch who can use eight different kinds of magic, some of which we haven’t seen yet…yet she’s just another piece of meat to him, the weapon that will help him inch closer to those truths hes so interested in. Still, Ryouta has amassed a pretty impressive coven, and its not unreasonable to believe all of them working together could give Mako a run for her money.

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The only problem? Pills. There’s only a week left of summer vacation, and only a week left of pills for the girls. If only one girl takes all the remaining pills, she can survive long enough for Ryouta’s uncle to make more. In love with Ryouta or not, Hatsuna is hiding her personal pill supply from the others. Kazumi suggests they draw lots, but one by one, the others bow out, all giving their reasons.

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The old, selfish Kazumi would have said “Fine, thank you very much!” and taken all the pills. But As Ryouta noticed earlier when Kazumi included Hatsuna with the pill distribution: Kazumi has changed. She’s come to see the group as her family; they’re going to live togeher or die together. And what is her reward for this newfound selflessness? Ryouta discovers that Neko is definitely his childhood friend, drawing the two closer together than ever before. Poor Kazumi.

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And oh yeah…Valkyria has found them. Poor everyone.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 11

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Mahouka rebounds from a dull episode by being—Shocking Truth—not dull, as the Nine Schools Competition (NSC) finally kicks off and we actually get to see some of the competitive events. Mahouka hums along with its trademark show-and-tell method, in which we’re shown the action of an event in progress while being given play-by-play and analysis from the spectators.

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When executed with a proper balance, as I thought it was this week, the method works well in providing simultaneous education (about the show’s rich magical universe) and entertainment. There’s also a creative, diverse mix of magical sports: Battle Board, Speed Shooting, Crowd Ball, and Ice Pillars Break; all of which First High girls Watanabe, Saegusa, and Chiyoda, respectively, straight-up dominate.

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Interspersed between the official events are an equally diverse array of nice character beats between Tatsuya and several characters, starting with a kind of pep talk to Mikihiko, small talk with Honoka, an informal powwow with his military superiors, Miyuki visiting his hotel room late at night (for an innocent purpose), the whole gang hanging out in his room (which felt very high-school-y), and the most intimate encounter he’s had yet with Saegusa, who seems to be pressing her attack.

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These were all good beats, but I think I liked that last one best. There’s nothing silly or awkward about Tatsuya and Saegusa’s rapport, and like many anime characters of her status, Saegusa seems to be attracted to the fact Tatsuya isn’t intimidated by her and doesn’t put her on a pedestal. She says it feels like having a little brother, but that’s also perhaps what she’s looking for in a boyfriend; something like an equal.

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This episode didn’t solve the problem of how only a handful of the vast ocean of characters seem talented enough to be at the NSC, though it did reinforce the power of the ones who were, nor did it start the impending rivalry between Tatsuya and the Third High kid. In fact, the other school kids were only ever on the losing side of things here. All the success this week suggests First High will face some actual adversity soon, whether from the actions of the No-Head Dragons, or the fact the fellas haven’t been pulling their weight.

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First High can still win the tournament despite the lads’ slacking, but they’ll have to win the majority of the remaining events, and depend on an exemplary performance from their rookies. This may also herald Tatsuya’s entry in the tournament as a competitor and not just a tech. Finally, his fellow Tech Izumin certainly had an ominous vibe about her, didn’t she? I wonder if she’ll also be a source of future trouble at the NSC.

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Mekakucity Actors – 10

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It’s been abundantly clear for some time now that Mekakucity isn’t particularly interested in presenting a linear narrative, preferring to blend episodes of the present with glimpses of the pasts of the characters involved in that present, for us to better understand, or more to the point, care about said characters.

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This week, the present is mostly placed on the back burner in favor of Kozakura Marry’s backstory. Wouldn’t you know it, she’s the granddaughter of the “monster” in the fairy tale. One day, fearful townsfolk come to kill the monster, but she fiercely protects her husband and daughter Shion—Marry’s mom—before leaving them, and the world.

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Marry was raised to believe her eyes would turn others to stone, just like her grandmother Medusa, but her life of lonliness grows intolerable, and she can’t help but cry out for help. Help arrives in the form of Seto Kousuke, who has eyes just like hers, even if they’re embued with a different power. In any case, a connection between two kindred spirits is formed, and the rest is history.

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The entire flashback is neatly framed by a dream the present-day Marry is having while nodding off, when she’s supposed to be keeping an eye on Amamiya Hibiya. This leads to her finding Konoha and bringing him back to HQ, and after seeing Marry’s mom and dad, we couldn’t help but wonder if Honoka’s resemblance to them was intentional. In any case, Akiyuki Shinbou certainly has a thing for manipulative asshole snakes…and now that we know where Marry is coming from, we care about her more than we did before.

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Akuma no Riddle – 11

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With all of the assassins defeated save Nio, the rhythm of the show changes this week. Instead of trying to figure out who’s going to target Haru and when, she and Tokaku are rewarded for their victory with a “true orientation” that reveals big, hard truths, most of which had been hinted at, but now brought into the light.

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Now theres no more doubt: Class Black wasn’t assembled to assassinate Haru, but to test her readiness to take the reins as the “Queen Bee” of the ultra-powerful clan that “controls every aspect of the world.” That last bit sounds kind of silly, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a good test, and she passed it.

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Unfortunately, the power and potential she exhibited in the process aren’t going to entitle her to the normal life she wants so badly (and apparently had earlier in life), but condemn her to serve. A Queen Bee isn’t designed to live for herself, but to ensure the survival of the hive, even at the cost of her life. Nio drives the point home by taking Haru to a massive clan graveyard deep below the school, full of people who died for the clan’s survival.

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Nio continues to glare and bare her teeth from time to time, but her true motives are still a mystery. Could it be she too is a potential queen, who will kill Haru and ascend if Haru refuses to accept her fate? A few moments of apparent sincerity aren’t enough to make me forget about all the two-faces we’ve already encountered and trust her. She’s still dangerous. Otherwise, why would she have those awesome tattoos?

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Tokaku doesn’t take these new revelations well. She’s been lost all this time trying to figure out the toughest riddle of all; why she wanted to protect someone she was told to kill. She has no way of knowing whether her relationship with Haru was nought but an artifice built by Haru’s innate charisma. Whether she used it to manipulate Tokaku consciously or not is beside the point; it’s possible; likely even.

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It’s with that in mind, and with a great appreciation for the things Haru made her feel and think about for the first time, that she decides to turn on Haru after all. Kaiba tells her the riddles he’s sent have no right answers. Really, they were meant to spark independent thought. After a life of completing tasks and following orders to the letter, Tokaku’s time with Haru and the other assassins has taught her a great deal.

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This wasn’t just Haru’s initiation, then, but Tokaku’s as well. Haru’s purpose was already determined from the start, and Class Black was just a means of validating it. But for Tokaku, Class Black helped her define herself and her purpose. Haru never really needed Tokaku’s protection, but becoming allies facilitated Tokaku’s advancement to where she is now: in the ideal position to eliminate the target.

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