Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 15 – Clones Aren’t Just People…They’re Some of the Best

Suck up to the researchers. Words Kozaku Mitori lived by while she was at the facility. Put on a happy face, be chipper, never show them you actually hate their guts and everything they’re doing. But even if it was an act, her secret rebelliousness was futile. As long as she was cooperating, she was giving in to their control.

This became untenable when her chipper attitude led the researchers to pairing her up with Dolly. Like Misaki after her, Mitori initially found the lonely sick girl to be a pain in the rear, but Dolly’s sad, beautiful soul eventually wore her down, until she was looking forward to their visits. More importantly, her smiles were always genuine.

More than anything, Mitori saw Dolly as neither a clone nor a lab rat, but above all, a human being, deserving of rights and care. So when she saw the condition of Dolly’s body as a result of the researchers’ merciless experiments, she used her ability to learn more about her, and became even more outraged.

Sadly, nearly every adult in a white lab coat is a psychopathic, redeemable monster who tortures and murders children without blinking an eye. So it’s no surprise that her protests don’t just fall on deaf ears, but mocking laughter, which fuel a smoldering fire of hatred for The System in Mitori’s heart.

For dropping the nice girl act and breaking the rules, Mitori is held in solitary for months, never getting to see Dolly again. But one day her cell door is unlocked and she finds the place deserted. She vows to wage a one-woman campaign of vengeance against the Governing Board who approved what was happening to Dolly.

Her attempts ended in failure, mostly because she was acting alone and even 10,000 of her wouldn’t be enough to tough the bigwigs. Enter Kihara Gensei, who puts his trust in hatred and thus in their aligned desire to bring Academy City to its knees. Again Mitori picked the losing side and lost, this time to the good guys”.

Following Kuroko’s beatdown, Mitori lies in the sewer having utterly given up…until Misaki pays her a visit. She still has every intention of turning her over to Judgment, but before that, she has a personal matter to attend to and could use Mitori’s assistance. You see, the Dolly they know may be gone, but her memories were transferred to her clone sister, who is still alive…and they’re going to free her.

Where as everything involving her researcher handlers at the facility was about bending to their physical and psychological control, Misaki spares the Mental Out remote and plainly asks Mitori if she’ll accompany her. Aside from Mitori not having much else going on, Misaki knows that if Mitori felt the same way about Dolly as she did, she’ll gladly tag alone of her own free will.

Thanks to Misaki’s ability, the pair are able to easily infiltrate the facility and remove “Dolly II” from her stasis tube. A tearful reunion ensues, where again Mitori doesn’t have to put on any act; she’s overwhelmed by emotion upon finding this girl who is for all intents and purposes the same Dolly who knew and loved her, and whom she knew and loved.

This episode and scene in particular are the perfect way to wrap up the arc of Kozaku Mitori, who started out as a shadowy, one-dimensional baddie but soon evolved into a full-fledged character beyond black-and-white labels. Her alliance with the geezer and resulting actions may have been misguided, but everything she did was out of a desire to hurt those who hurt Dolly, and you can’t argue with that.

Misaki too, gets a nice catharsis in this reunion scene. At first she’s so guilty about misleading Dolly and failing to learn the whole picture before it was to late, and feels like she’s not entitled to forgiveness or affection. Dolly, of course doesn’t care about what happened in the past; what matters is that she, Misaki, and Mi-chan are together again. It’s what she’d been dreaming about in that tube, and now it’s a reality.

Thanks to Dolly, and her clone, Misaki and Mitori not only became strong individuals capable of setting their own courses in life, but were able to endure the cynicism and cruelty of the villainous scientific complex and retain their humanity. As Mitori tried to make clear to one of those villains, Dolly is a person, not a clone of fodder.

She also happens to be one of the best people, with a warm and kind soul. But even she wouldn’t be who she was (not to mention free of captivity) without her two friends. Hopefully they’ll never be separated again.

In other housecleaning, Mikoto’s circle of friends celebrates Kuroko finally being 100% and out of her wheelchair, and then Mikoto visits a recovering MISAKA in the hospital. But Mitori, Misaki, and Dolly were the refreshing narrative and emotional core of this epilogue, and I was more than fine with that.

The effects of their reunion seemingly carries across the network of Sisters, as MISAKA has a vague sense of deja vu and a sudden desire to visit the ocean. She’s most likely glimpsing Dolly’s beautiful dreams—which can now be a reality.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 14 – Here There Be Dragons (and Dancing)

With all other conflicts resolved, all that’s left is for Touma to capitalize on all of the breaks his allies have given him, charge in, and break that nasty shell around Mikoto once and for all. When he does so, his arm flies off from the impact, but a veritable novelty nuts can full of multicolored frikkin’ dragons erupts and attacks the shell from every angle until it finally shatters. Even Sogiita is impressed by such a grand display of Guts.

Since her Level 6 pupa destroyed her clothes, Mikoto ends up naked once the remnants of the shell crumble from her body, but Touma is ready to cover her up with his big jacket. He could sense she was mulling some kind of suicide tactic that would purge all the sinister elite forces of Academy City all by her lonesome.

But if there’s anything he learned from this arc, and which she can impart from her eventual rescue, is that nothing can be done about that all at once, or by just one person. Little by little, they’ll change things and shine light on the dark corners together. Before leaving the site of their battle, Sogiita notices the strange metal residue that wasn’t there before, and is likely similar to the material Saten was investigating before everything went nuts.

With that, Mikoto makes her rounds, starting with MISAKA, who is on the mend thanks to Heaven Canceller’s ministrations and the elimination of the virus affecting the Sisters as a whole. But the real treat is when she visits a recovering Mitsuko in the hospital. She offers her heartfelt apologies, but Mitsuko offers her own for not following through on her big words. Mikoto is someone she and others will always naturally gravitate toward.

By watching so many be inspired to action on Mikoto’s behalf, Mitsuko herself has become more compassionate towards others, especially when she learns what Wannai and Akatsuki did on her behalf. Mikoto thinks she’s “not that great” a person, but that’s for others to decide—and they’ve long since decided she is great, and worth putting their lives on the line to aid.

In the aftermath of their epic sub-boss battle, a depleted Kuroko simply left a handcuffed Mitori in the sewers for others to pick up later. As Mitori resigns herself to becoming rat food after realizing the mission has failed if she’s still breathing, she’s visited not by a member of Judgment, but by Misaki. Will she free Mitori as a fellow friend of the dearly departed Dolly? Is there something else afoot for the scheming-yet-slow sparkly-eyed beauty?

Only time will tell, but having learned of all Misaki did to protect the city, Mikoto is committed to seeking common ground with Misaki in future endeavors, citing “her own brand of justice and convictions.” Of course, once Mikoto learns that the memories Misaki implanted in her friends involved her gastrointestinal distress the whole damn school knows about, Mikoto immediately reconsiders simply killing Misaki the next chance she gets.

Misaki also restored the memories of Kuroko, Saten and Uiharu, which almost felt like a bittersweet, almost cruel move, since it meant the off-camera demise of the more nuanced Amnesia!Kuroko, truly one of this arc’s MVPs. I for one would have liked to see her give Mikoto a proper goodbye, even though that would have been tricky as a practical matter.

Aside from Sogiita’s mention of the metal at the battle site and Misaki locating Mitori, this episode doesn’t provide a lot of hints about what future threats are to come, and that’s a good thing; especially after all the episode delays, I was looking for closure on the arc and an opportunity for everyone to kick back, relax, and celebrate their victory, even if none of the city will ever know what transpired.

That means fireworks, festival stall foods…and a positively adorkable folk dance between Mikoto and Touma, set up beautifully by Saten and Uiharu. Kuroko may have her objections to sharing her onee-sama, but the other two acknowledge what Touma did for Mikoto, not to mention how Mikoto acts all flustered whenever he’s around. Of course, Mikoto manages to make herself turn beet red when she also acknowledges she treasures Touma by dint of saying she treasured everyone who helped her this time.

Of course, Saten and Uiharu can only keep Kuroko at bay so long, as she eventually teleport-kicks Touma to the side in order to claim Mikoto for herself, citing “time’s up!” Similarly, while this was a much needed episode to wrap up the arc and provide closure and a period of relief, the preview for the next episode indicates we’ll be getting right back down to business (Edit: it will be an epilogue episode after all…but I don’t mind). All I know is, this was one of if not the best arcs of the entire Index/Railgun franchise, and it will be hard to top.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 13 – Wagering to Lose

After a week-long postponement, followed by roughly 8 minutes (or a full third of the episode) of Kuroko recapping events so far, events finally, finally take a turn in the good guys’ favor.

There may not be a full episode of full content here, but what we do get is just so goddamn good—not to mention perfectly set up by the events previous episodes—I can’t hold back my “9” rating rubber stamp, which will simply keep coming out as long as Railgun continues to be this compelling and satisfying.


For one thing, even a recap is a delight if narrated by Arai Satomi, including her flowery fluster when mentioning Mikoto’s intoxicatingly trusting smile. The recap is also plot-appropriate, as Kuroko is “calmly reassessing the facts” in real time prior to taking decisive action against Kozaku Mitori.

When Kuroko finally appears in the sewer just as Mitori is about to celebrate her win, it’s not only a great moment (one forgets how much Kuroko can bring the pain), but the culmination of a logical string of events.

Mitori is ultimately undone not just by Kuroko’s constant countermoves, but by the simple fact that she’s operating all on her own (Kihara is obviously indisposed), while Kuroko has the trusty pair of Ruiko and Uiharu back at the Judgment office.

Uiharu is able to isolate the one festival relay camera Mitori hacked out of the thousands and manipulate it so Mitori loses her tactical advantage…at the height of her confidence in said advantage. A proud Ruiko fanning an exhausted Uiharu is the cherry on top.

Over at Exterior HQ, Kihara uses the code he forcibly extracted from the asphyxiating Misaki…only for the giant brain to self-destruct, rendering Kihara unconscious.

We backtrack to when Misaki first considered how she’d use the gravitron panels against Kihara.  Like Kuroko, she’s calmly assessing her options until the only one that gives her the best chance of winning is…to bet on losing.

In a stunning gamble, she turns her Mental Out remote on herself, switching the limit release code with the self-destruct code then erasing her memory of doing it. Kihara assumed from her body language she was out of options…but only because she herself forgot she had one more option. Just smart, competent writing.

With both Kuroko and Misaki scoring victories, it was inevitable the good guys wouldn’t come out on top in every situation, and so it is with Mikoto, who remains on the way to Level 6.

Even when Kihara goes down and she regains her self-awareness, she remains trapped in the slowly-developing star that is her berserk mode. Sogiita is bloodied and gassed, and all Touma can seem to do is defend from intermittent attacks.

But as he says before the credits roll, this isn’t over. I’m sure Sogiita has a second or third wind in him, and he and Touma no longer have to deal with this alone; Kuroko and Misaki are now free to assist. Even if Misaki is adamant that she doesn’t care what happens to Mikoto, like Mitori she doesn’t like how things ended with Dolly.

Railgun T Episode 13 Delayed Indefinitely (Updating)

Bummer…

Who’s going to step up and stop the out-of-control Mikoto from becoming a supernova (or white dwarf)? Who is going to punch Gensei in his smug cyborg face and foil his plans? Will Kuroko ever get her memories of onee-sama back?

Uh…dunno. We’re seemingly almost at the end of what has so far been the best Toaru arc yet (only five chapters remain to be adapted, apparently), but this week’s episode has been postponed.

UPDATE: Episode 13 will air May 1. We’ll have a review soon after we’ve watched it!

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 12 – A Star is (Being) Born

Misaki hoped that Touma would be able to keep Mikoto under some measure of control with his Imagine Breaker, but that possibility went south almost immediately. Touma finds himself staring down an inability to do anything other than slow Mikoto down a little, and even that largely depends on properly utilizing Gunha’s One Punch Man-style strength.

Meanwhile, Misaki shadows Gensei until she can’t conceal herself anymore, and learns he’s using Multiskill to borrow powers from espers he’s “acquired” (i.e. abducted). He needs the code embedded in her brain (and located nowhere else) in order to release the limiter on Exterior, allowing him to control Mikoto better.

Gensei also deduces that around the halfway point of her transformation to Level 6, she’ll attain other-dimensional entity status. She’ll touch godhood for only an instant, then “come apart” as an individual. And like a dying star, she’ll either end up a withering white dwarf or an explosive supernova—in either case it’s probably curtains for Academy City.

Misaki believes the fact she’s on her home turf, a place full of traps she control, gives her an edge, but it’s not long before Gensei pins her shirt to the wall with ice crystals. Luckily he misses her vitals (and incidentally, her body), but his ability to manipulate air means he can remove all the air from her immediate vicinity, and choke the code out of her.

Fortunately for Misaki, Ginsei’s penchant for theatricality and tendency to get carried away works to her advantage, as she sacrifices a bit of her shirt to slip away while he’s lost in momentary megalomaniacal rapture. A recurring gag throughout the ensuing cat-and-mouse chase is that the un-athletic Misaki is running at, shall we say…a leisurely pace? More moseying than running, really. Just a momentous little nugget of continuity, that.

Meanwhile, Kuroko continues her search for puppetmaster Kozaku Mitori, as she systematically deprives the puppet of sight (destroying the auxiliary camera) and sound (using anti-eavesdropping devices to nullify its echolocation). Her secret agent gadgets and ability to teleport keep Kuroko safe, right up until Ruiko and Uiharu find the building where Mitori is holed up.

Once in that building’s lobby, Kuroko screws up by not assuming Mitori could have a Mk.1 Eyeball on her. She gets grazed in the side and a deep cut to the arm, but she’s still standing, while Uiharu has trained all surveillance cameras on the building, so there’s no escape for Mitori. That’s when Kuroko starts to feel that something is off…is this just an elaborate exercise to keep her busy and out of the way? Is there still something else going on?

Back at Exterior HQ Misaki does her very best to stay one step ahead of Gensei, but while she’s an extremely shrewd and capable (if physically slow) chess player, she’s hamstrung by a much weaker poker game. With his superior years and experience, Gensei can sense when the tables are about to be turned against him through Misaki’s body language, and thus formulate a quick counter.

Misaki’s trump card is the “gravitron panels” that appear to use nanotechnology to build structures and supports. Developed both for scaffolding and making shortcuts for Misaki, she employs them to restrain Gensei by the wrist…only for him to painlessly pop his hand off and cackle in response. Not only does he possess a wide range of esper abilities he can use at will, but his body is more machine than man, a result of a long life of near-death incidents.

There’s seemingly nothing left in Misaki’s bag of tricks, and Gensei can sense that too, so he again sucks the very air from her lungs, and uses the resulting mental weakness to steal the limiter codes from her mind. Things look very dire for Misaki—and Kuroko, if she gets injured any worse. More troubling is that unlike Touma with Gunha, neither Misaki nor Kuroko have any backup (other than the latter’s open comm link to Uiharu and Ruiko).

This episode was a great collection of isolated standoffs and chases, but Mikoto doesn’t have a chance of ever returning to her normal adorable self—nor does Academy City have a chance of remaining standing—if there isn’t some kind of consolidation of good guys, and soon. It makes me wonder if there aren’t more players destined to join the fight.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 11 – Team Lightning Round

Berserk Mikoto is no longer in control of her body, while her mind is being invaded and manipulated by Kozaku Mitori, using the Exterior ability Kihara Gensei is sharing with her in exchange for protection. Mitori convinces a very confused Mikoto to attack the Windowless Building, but a lightning blast dozens of times stronger than her normal Railgun doesn’t even scratch it. Gensei estimates Mikoto is only about 2% on her way to Level 6.

Mikoto is thus well and truly not in control of her fate. After an entire season of running around trying to fix things, it’s up to external parties to save her—and, incidentally, Academy City itself. Misaki serves as coordinator. She may have lost Exterior but she still has Mental Out, and uses it to convince Antiskill to evacuate the festival civilians and not interfere, lest needless casualties mount.

Thanks to overhearing Xochitl and Ruiko, Touma is now involved as well, and Misaki helpfully uploads all of the information he needs to be brought up to speed. Even so, all she can tell him is that his Imagine Breaker might cancel Mikoto’s Berserk Mode. The problem is, there’s so much electricity and debris surrounding Mikoto, Touma can’t get close enough to touch her and test that theory.

That’s when Sogiita Gunha, our third Level 5 of the episode, makes his reappearance, saving Touma from being pummeled by a giant ball of amassed stone and metal debris by giving it the ol’ Amazing Punch. Since Misaki never gave him a headdump Gunha’s a little slow on the uptake, but Touma’s Imagine Breaker intrigues him, and he’s clearly excited to punch stuff, especially if it’s for a good cause. His ultimate offense and Touma’s ultimate defense makes for an inspired pairing.

Thanks to support from Uiharu and Ruiko, Kuroko manages to pinpoint Kozaku Mitori’s location. Since Mitori is at least Level 4 it’s an even match on paper, but I wouldn’t bet against Kuroko any day. I actually like how Misaki gave her a headdump but didn’t restore all of her memories, perhaps assuming they’d be a distraction. Nevertheless, Kuroko is energized by the fact Mikoto trusted her with Mama’s safety. She’s practically shining in this episode.

Once Gunha learns that Touma needs to get close…too close to Mikoto in order to attempt to dispel her Berserk, he uses his Punches to clear a path and then tosses Touma like a baseball straight at Mikoto. Touma finds and opening and touches her shoulder, but it only exposes a few square inches of her normal skin, and only for a second before the electrified skin closes up. Gunha then catches Touma in a Princess Hold, which is frikking adorable, but it’s clear they’ll have to keep this up quite a bit to put a dent in Mikoto’s stout defense.

We end with Misaki, who networked with all of the allies we saw this week to get them on the same page, stealthily stalking Gensei. Since Kuroko is taking Mitori on, Gensei would seem to be all on his own, but I don’t believe for a second he doesn’t know he’s being followed, and has more traps in place for when Misaki eventually confronts him.

Hopefully by then others will have made progress with their jobs and can back her up. However things unfold, this is one hell of a start to the final skirmish that will takes us to Railgun T’s halfway point. I’m thoroughly invested in every one of the little mini-battles going on at once. How often can you say that about a show?

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 10 – Goodbye, Dolly

When Misaki and Mikoto hit a major traffic jam, Misaki summons the power of the “Exterior” to brainwash every driver in their path to pull aside, thus clearing a path. It’s clearly a significant effort for Misaki, pushing Mental Out to its limits. From there, we learn about how her ability was developed at the same facility as Prototype, perhaps the first Mikoto clone. Her nickname, “Dolly” is a reference to the first successfully cloned sheep.

Dolly ‘s handlers have been unable to make progress with her ever since her friend “Mi-chan” (heavily implied to have been Kozaku Mitori) went away. The white coats (who distressingly see both Dolly and Misaki as merely test samples to be used and disposed of as needed) conscript Misaki to be Dolly’s new lab-issued friend.

Misaki uses Mental Out to brainwash Dolly into believing she’s Mi-chan. Misaki was just as haughty back then, so she’s initialy feels his whole enterprise to be a hassle…until she becomes fast friends with Dolly. Like the girl who was cloned to create her, Dolly is far more athletic than Misaki, as evidenced by her far superior garbage can aim.

At the same time, Misaki tries to impress upon Dolly the importance of growing into a refined lady—a losing battle she picks up with Mikoto, to a degree. Without even intending to go along with the white coats, Misaki ends up restoring Dolly’s “inner peace”, allowing research on her to continue without emotional anomalies.

More than that, Misaki forms a real emotional bond with Dolly, blushing when Dolly suddenly hugs her—and pointedly smells out the deception. The two are simply playing around until Dolly suddenly collapses, her clone body shutting down.

It’s then, when she reaches her hand out for a distraught Misaki, that Dolly asks her her name. It dawns on Misaki that Dolly knew she wasn’t Mi-chan, but kept the fiction going because she was happy to have a new friend, and grateful to Misaki for being one. Dolly’s death is a gut punch.

The white coats are then frustrated when Misaki is the one in emotional turmoil, as if it never occurred to them she’d have these things called feelings. Call it professional detachment from one’s scientific subjects…but Misaki is human, for chrissakes! Showing no deference to them, Misaki uses her Mental Out on all of them and learns the truth: once they’re done tinkering with her, she’ll meet the same fate as Dolly.

The Exterior project continues, with part of Misaki’s brain removed and cultivated into a huge brain, which serves as a booster for her powers—and which is what she used to part traffic back in the present. It’s also the “DNA Computer” the urban legends site mentioned. By the time she and Mikoto arrive at Exterior, Kihara Gensei’s forces have already infiltrated, forcing Misaki’s associate Keitz to flee to the roof with 10032.

But Misaki is too late: Kihara tunes the giant brain to his own brainwaves, bypassing the need for length registration and enabling him to use Mental Out. He uses it to freeze Keitz, takes his phone, and uses it to trash talk Misaki, revealing that it was he who instructed Kiyama Harumi on how to use Level Upper.

He then removes all of the protection placed on MISAKA 10032, something First Order immediately notices while playing cards with Accelerator in a hospital room. Then Kihara injects a kind of mental virus into 10032, which is instantaneously transmitted to all other Sisters in the network, knocking them all out.

Mikoto arrives on the rooftop just in time for Kihara to trigger her dormant esper powers. She’s revealed to be his main target all along, as he hopes she’ll be the first to achieve a stable Level 6. Several floors below, Misaki no longer has access to Exterior, while Touma manages to track down Saten as she’s exiting the factory with Xochitl.

The main pair of powerful lasses, then, will need some outside help if they’re going to have a chance of escaping Kihara’s clutches. Mikoto looks completely out of control—half-Akira, half-Little Prince—or worse, under Kihara’s control. Will spirited, virtuous youth win out over the greed and contempt of an old man with a Gorbachev birthmark? We shall see…

RABUJOI’S Top 10 Anime of Winter 2020

10. Magia Record

The style, atmosphere, and whimiscal visual language of the original Madoka are there, but the narrative depth (not to mention novelty) are notably absent. Questions are often answered with more questions in a story that remains stubbornly opaque, the very Madoka-esque MC Iroha’s central quest leads to a dead end, and there are probably more magical girls introduced than needed. That said, it’s not terrible, and probably a must-see for Madoka completionist. Hopefully its second season will improve upon the shortcomings of the first.

9. BOFURI

It’s full title—i don’t want to get hurt so I’ll max out my defense—is its general premise, but the devil’s in the execution, details, and above all tone, and BOFURI excels at all three and kept me coming back, where a similar VRMMO game, Infinite Dendrodragon, lost me in its opening minutes. In addition to being cute as all get-out, Maple represents a bright (light-wise, not smarts) ball of optimism who values making friends and having fun together over winning…though she wins plenty!

8. Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun

While there are times when calling this “animation” is generous, the lushness of the painterly stills that suffuse Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun more than make up for the occasional lack of complex motion. Unlike other Lerche entries, it also benefits from a much smaller cast and an optimistic outlook that brightens its darker corners. Nene, Hanako, Kou & Co. are all beautifully drawn and voiced and easy to root for.

7. ID:INVADED

Drawing from a dizzying array of sources from Sherlock Holmes to Blade Runner, ID:INVADED makes up for it’s lack of solid resolution and occasionally scattered ideas with slick character design, a smattering of likable (or at least sympathetic characters with clear motivations, and some truly weird dreamscapes.

6. In/Spectre

A show that celebrates both traditional and modern forms of storytelling, Kyokou Suiri is anchored by it’s surpassingly spunky, takes-no-prisoners, pint-sized supernatural detective extraordinaire, the one-legged, one-eyed Kotoko. There’s a lot of talking in this show, but it’s almost never not thrilling, and often accompanied by just the right amount of action and comedy. Your mileage may vary when it comes to her likability or the show’s structure (half monster of the week, half final showdown), but I loved In/Spectre’s tendency to march to the beat of its own drum.

5. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T

We’re only nine episodes into a planned 25-episode series, but Railgun T marks a return to character-driven, (relatively) straightforward storytelling and planting a firm spotlight on the titular uber-heroine Misaka Mikoto, frightening and adorable in equal measure, depending on her mood. She finds herself and her friends in the middle of a squabble between factions of her city’s underworld, but (perhaps) with her sparkly-eyed frenemy Misaki she looks poised to make life inconvenient for all of them.

4. Fate/Grand Order: ADF – Babylonia

An “It’s All Down To This/Us” pervades every episode of F/GO, but while the future of human civilization is taken to the absolute brink, there’s never the slightest sense of nihilism or fatalism in its narrative. That’s thanks to the dogged bravery of its two leads Ritsuka and Mash and their galaxy of awesome-looking gods, goddesses, and kings doing increasingly awesome things by their side. A feast for the eyes with the capacity to warm the heart.

3. Chihayafuru 3

Chihayafuru manga and anime fans alike probably found a lot to like about the long-awaited third season, arriving six years after the second with a lot to do. The primary gripe, then, is that we may have to wait another few years to return to this quirky world of intensely competitive karuta players more often than not finding the game a haven of clarity from their tangled relationships, emotions, and futures.

2. Somali and the Forest Spirit

Can a human child survive in a world that hates (and eats) humanity? More importantly, does her golem guardian love her? Yes and yes, as explored in a sumptuous fantasy anime packed with gorgeous painterly settings and equally colorful (and morally diverse) characters, in which the destination of the last human colony takes a backseat to the journey, which is educating for father and child alike.

1. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

An deeply satisfying and heartwarming anime about three startlingly different yet equally lovable young women coming together to create something amazing. A Yuasa Maasaki love letter not just to anime, but the creative process itself. Any other challengers for Anime of the Year will face an uphill climb: Eizouken is in the stratosphere.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 12 (Fin) – Breaking a (Giant Metal Spider) Leg

IQ’s second (but by no means the last) season wraps up with two parallel performances: first, that of the school play Cinderella, to which Rem contributes a…shall we say unique version of Cinderella, who exploits the masochism of one of her stepsisters, derides the homebrew pumpkin carriage as “pathetic” (probably because Subaru is part of it), can’t help but ruefully laugh during her glow-up, and kisses her sister.

As that farce unfolds, the “Battle of Maidens” plays out in the schoolyard, with the all-female defense force all contributing their unique talents to keep Destroyer from ruining the play (and likely the school buildings as well). Raphtalia and Filo only need to hear the first few words of Reinhard van Astrea’s motivational speech (which he also gave during the giant whale battle in Re:Zero) to join in.

Aqua actually ends up scoring the coup-de-grace with a God Blow, echoing a similar battle in KonoSuba. As the episode flips from the battle to the play, it employs clever transitions that tie the two performances together. With a strong finale, Isekai Quartet remains a fun lightweight, pocket-size diversion. I honestly wouldn’t mind if they kept it up indefinitely, continually adding characters from popular isekai anime.

Magia Record – 13 (Fin) – Disbanding the Team

Yeesh…that was rough. Even though I felt my expectations for a Puella Magi Madoka Magica “side story” were sufficiently tempered, I wasn’t prepared for an ending this awkward and frustrating. It’s a shame, because we finally learn why Yachiyo is so aloof—her wish was to survive, but that means everyone she teams up with eventually dies—but it’s too little too late.

The fact that Yachiyo’s need to self-isolate is so deep-seated makes it that much more implausible when Iroha pulls her out of the witch, takes her hand, and tells her she’ll defy the effects of that wish and stay alive by her side. Even having lost comrade after comrade, both to death and the Wings of Magius, Yachiyo is convinced.

That’s when things start to fall apart, both literally and narratively. Touka sics Tomoe on Yachiyo and Iroha to prevent them from leaving. Perhaps Tomoe has been overwhelmed by grief over losing her own comrades, but seeing her character reduced to a glorified attack dog is disappointing to say the least. I also wish I could say I was excited by the sudden appearance of Miki Sayaka…if only I had the slightest clue how she got there and what she was doing there!

The episode doesn’t bother explaining Sayaka’s presence, because it’s too busy setting up an interminable battle between the team of her, Yachiyo and Iroha (who both go into Doppel Mode), and a totally berserk Tomoe.

The battle has some cool moments but is undercut by several issues, among them choppy frame rate, half-baked CGI, bits of sloppy animation…and an almost complete lack of emotional investment on my part. This battle felt like it only existed to run out the clock on the season, while the technical shortfalls prevented me from enjoying it for its own sake.

Barely ten minutes after promising she won’t die, Iroha ends up being dragged into an abyss by the defeated(?) Tomoe; Sayaka only manages to save Yachiyo, who is again alone and apparently the victim of her wish to Kyuubey. Baby Kyuubey, whose nature and motives were notably never explained in these thirteen episodes, dives in after Iroha.

From there, we get a The Force Awakens-style address by Touka before thousands of Magius followers, which include the newly-converted Tsuruno, Felicia, Kaede, and even Kuroe, a character who was only in the first episode and then forgotten. Sena and Momoko remain robeless, though one wonders how long.

And that’s pretty much that! I would say that at least there’s a second season on the way, but this episode couldn’t make me less excited about it, except to see if it can pull itself (and Iroha) out of the hole it dug. Magia Record was only ever a pale shadow of its subversive predecessor, and its first season little more than a lengthy prologue to the real battle between Magius and “free” magical girls.

In the end, Magia Record was a show primarily concerned with not saying as much as possible, and employing nostalgia and fanservice to string us along. For proof, look no further than the pointless final battle mostly between two characters from Madoka.

I’d like to say I won’t get fooled again, but I also won’t dismiss a potentially stronger second season out of hand. The first Madoka series and its movies built up a lot of goodwill Magia Record didn’t fully expend. But season two will have its work cut out for it.

In / Spectre – 12 (Fin) – What a Lovely Day

Whew…Rikka doesn’t play any last-minute trump cards, and Steel Lady Nanase vanishes in a wisp of smoke; the forum have had their say and decided she wasn’t a realy ghost—even though she was.

It turns out Rikka was aware she was dueling with Kotoko and Kurou all along, and emails the latter to congratulate their victory…and warn them that This Isn’t Over. But for now, Kotoko can celebrate her momentous, hard-fought win with Kurou and her youkai associates.

That said, having exerted so much mental energy outwitting Rikka, Kotoko has to rest for a while…a while that turns out to be 28 hours. While she’s asleep, Kurou goes behind her back and has a dinner date with Saki, the scoundrel!

Just kidding; the two have a very proper and cordial dinner as a form of closure on their relationship that ended so abruptly years ago. It’s also an opportunity for Kurou to tell Saki that Rikka is basically trying to create a god who has the power to turn her into a normal human.

The next morning, Kotoko is furious and suspicious about Kurou’s goings-on, and punishes him by getting his only remaining clean shirt wet by pouncing on him straight from the bath and shaking her hair on him, then tumbling around in the bed.

This is why I was so glad the Steel Lady story was wrapped up last week: so we could watch more of this fascinating and endlessly rootable couple interact and bounce off one another. Kotoko is such a formidable firecracker, she practically requires an immortal as a partner.

The two check out of the hotel as it looks close to rain, and Kurou assures Kotoko that he and Saki are so over (which is the truth after all) by comparing her to Princess Iwanaga from the KojikiWhen she’s offended (the princess was sent away because she was homely), he makes an appeal to her surpassing beauty.

After a momentary blush she scolds him for being superficial, then suggests they head for her house to meet with her parents, casually taking Kurou’s hand and holds it tighter and tighter. Honestly, I could watch this pair of lovebirds playfully bicker for another two seasons! Hopefully we’ll get at least one more, since there’s plenty of potential for more supernatural mysteries, not to mention a Rikka rematch.

Read Crow’s review of In/Spectre Episode 12 here.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 09 – The Thick of It

Mikoto and Misaki take different routes to get to Kihara Gensei, underscoring their very different methods of infiltration. Mikoto can blast her way in with her Railgun, but has to wear a suit and sunglasses as a disguise, but Misaki can stroll right in the front door and simply Mental Out anyone posing a threat, then use them to assist her search.

For all the buildup around the two girls teaming up, we don’t actually see them together as much as I’d expected, and they ultimately don’t have much to do at the facility (more on that later). Instead, the episode checks in on Kuroko and Uiharu’s investigation of Kozaku Mitori, who apparently faked her death at the reform school she was sent after committing acts of terrorism.

And then there’s Ruiko, who makes the mistake of letting Touma of all people borrow her good luck charm for his scavenger hunt! It’s a nice little cameo that is also a way of the show admitting with a shrug that “yeah, the Daihesai Festival doesn’t really matter anymore!” 

Ruiko could’ve used that charm on her impromptu trip to the abandoned liquid metal factory. She had a hunch that it might not be so abandoned after all, and she learns not only are the lights and security doors functioning, but the place is crawling with people probably up to no good.

Soon she’s lost and trapped and bumps into Xochitl (in her latest disguise), who is content to let a foolhardy civilian go unharmed until Kozaku Mitori shows up and demands Ruiko be disposed of after (likely harsh) interrogation.

Instead, Xochitl challenges Kozaku to a fight, condemning her as a traitor working outside the bounds of the Governing Board who basically used MEMBER’s services without the proper paperwork. Mitori decides to retreat rather than risk finding out what weird tricks Xochitl has up her sleeve, and Ruiko is free to go.

Meanwhile, Mikoto and Misaki’s infiltration efforts prove all for naught—if Kihara Gensei was ever in the building, he’s not there now. All they find is an underling disguised as Kihara, with memories that address Misaki by name. As powerful as Misaki’s Mental Out is, Kihara managed to troll her with it! That’s bound to stick in the craw of someone as prideful as Misaki.

Mikoto can only follow, shedding her fetching suit (which fit perfectly somehow!) and piling into another Mental Out Lyft with Misaki as she races to where the real Kihara might be. The old man also mentioned something called Exterior, but Misaki deflects Mikoto’s questions about it in the preview.

Just when I was quietly praising how relatively straightforward and character-driven Railgun T has been compared to its Index cousins, here comes the underworld organizations and their shadowy agents muddling everything up. Even so, characters still shined this week, especially Debonair Mikoto and the near-pathologically curious Ruiko.


Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 12 (Fin) – No Daughter of Triton

The finale of Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun begins with a rare look at Nene’s house, where her exposed legs…look like they’re of normal thickness?!? We’re brought up to speed through her narration: Kou told her and Hanako about his connection to Mitsuba, leading Hanako to worry about Kou and trying to determine a way to cheer him up.

Her preoccupation with Kou makes Hanako jealous, and he visits her when she’s in the middle of class before skulking off, leading Aoi (who can’t see or hear apparitions) to wonder who Hanako was talking to. I was a little surprised Nene hadn’t dealt with this kind of situation to this point!

But just as she’s worried about Kou and frustrated by Hanako’s lack of openness and tendency to tease, she’s courted by Puffy the pufferfish of the Fish Kingdom for the title of Mermaid Princess. She’s already eaten the mermaid’s scale; all she needs is to drink some of her blood and boom, she’s a princess.

While she likes the sound of having a harem of hot guys and being at the top of the popularity pyramid in said Fish Kingdom, Nene is not okay with breaking her contract with Hanako, and she becomes far less enthusiastic about the princess offer when she learns all of those hot guys are just hot fish, and henceforth she’d be a fish too.

Puffy drops the kindly act and goes for the low-hanging fruit in criticizing Nene’s judgment with men and her fat legs, assuring her neither would be a problem once she comes into her fishy throne. Then the Mermaid grabs and pulls her under water to further force the issue.

The blood is mere millimeters from Nene’s lips when Hanako pulls her out and restores her human form, scaring the fish off by threatening to turn them into sashimi with his knife and declaring his cleaning assistant officially off the market.

When Nene was asking Tsuchigomori-sensei for advice about what to do, Hanako was listening from behind a curtain, and he apparently got the message, because he finally does let Nene in a bit by telling her about the little brother he killed, following that up with the question of whether she really wants to learn more.

Again, the answer should be obvious: she almost became an apparition, sacrificing her very humanity, in order to try to understand him more, when him simply talking to her would have done the same job! Nene may not be in love with Hanako, but she finds herself unavoidably charmed by and drawn to him.

Nene won’t accept anyone else’s ideas about who or what he is. Sure, a lot of the problems she’s had that required him to save her were of his making, but the fact remains, he saved her! And so, she’ll keep visiting him in the girls’ bathroom, and helping him keep the balance among the School Wonders. It’s a heckuva lot better than being pursued by presumably hot fish suitors!