To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 24 – Renouncement And Forgiveness

When Accelerator finds Last Order and Worst, banged up but alive, Hyouka stops by before phasing out to tell him the data to save the little one, like the song once used to save Index, is somewhere in the network, waiting to be extracted and reconfigured. Worst can access the network to find the song, but when asked how he’ll change the parameters, Accel produces the parchment he’s been carrying.

Meanwhile, Hamazura has survived the blast, but instead of Takitsubo, he encounters Mugino in disguise. She swallows a whole handful of ability crystals and goes berserk, with Hamazura barely able to dodge her massive green beam attacks until she basically burns out.

At this point, Hamazura could kill her, but instead he gathers her into a hug, asks for the fighting and death feuds to end, and for the remaining members of ITEM to forgive and unite once more. Before that can happen, they need to escape Academy City’s bombers. But if Mugino indeed stops hunting Hamazura, then progress has definitely been made here.

As Stiyl continues to struggle for a way to free Index from her trance and Laura stands by not helping at all, Lessar and Sasha come to an agreement whereby Lessar will help the Russian sorcerers escape the Star of Bethlehem before shit starts going down, in exchange for them and Sasha helping Britain out next time they’re in a spot.

It’s a crucial gesture of peace and cooperation between two warring foes in a world war started by Fiamma. The remaining half of the episode is spent on his one-on-one confrontation with Touma.

With the dual powers of he Right Hand of God and the grimoires within Index, Fiamma starts by simply having a little bit of fun using various overpowered attacks against Touma, seeing if he can dodge or absorb everything with his Imagine Breaker. Fiamma also describes the current world like a mechanism or watch whose parts are hopelessly rusted and bent.

Project Bethlehem will restore the world to the way it was, which of course means brushing aside most if not all human civilization and industry. This is a personal project, as Fiamma now sees himself as beyond any one faith. It’s actually quite a shock to see Fiamma suddenly slice off Touma’s arm, turning Touma into a crumbled mess of a blood fountain as he absorbs the arm into his own giant hand.

It was around this time that I thought the killing blow to Touma would be stopped by Misaka, but she’s still on the ground with her clone looking for a way to get up to the Star. Instead, from his bloody stump, a second giant arm and hand emerges and grapples with Fiamma’s. It wrests Touma’s arm back and reattaches it, utterly renouncing the power Fiamma offered.

This is just another demonstration that Touma’s arm is not meant save the world on its own, or do anything else that big and important. Fiamma wanted to free it from what he saw was a mundane existence attached to Touma, and a waste of its potential, but the arm thought otherwise, as does Touma.

It’s at this point Touma starts to understand that the reason Fiamma has constructed the massive Star of Bethlehem and utilized the power of so many others (by force, not fellowship), is because he’s actually afraid that he never had sufficient power to “save” the world on his own—and he’s right; he doesn’t. Touma, meanwhile, has saved countless “worlds,” the worlds of individuals who have relied on him and on whom he’s relied right back.

Like Mugino with Hamazura, only on a larger scale, Fiamma’s plotting and raging at the status quo is unnecessary and unproductive. Like her, he risks burning himself out, along with all the bridges that were built to get him to this point. Looking out at that mess of stolen churches and artifacts he’s amassed, I’m tempted for him to say “look on my works and despair” in the ironic sense Shelley intended.

I don’t know if Touma, with Misaka’s imminent help, will have to utterly destroy Fiamma or simply deliver a devastating, cathartic right hook, of if they can convince him to stand down and accept his vision for a new world ain’t gonna happen. All I know is, it’s sure to be epic.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 05

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Like Bungou Stray DogsSnO aims to provide a combination of seriousness and levity, though Oji-san doesn’t think BSD is successful. I haven’t been keeping up with it, so I don’t know, but as relatively brainless, usually amusing, occasionally touching hump day entertainment, SnO fits the bill quite nicely, even if it isn’t blazing any trails.

A part of my enjoyment is that I’m rooting for both of the twin star Exorcists, and totally get where they’re both coming from and why they both clash and harmonize so often. I won’t say their similarities as strong,  fundamentally good-hearted people outweighs their differences, but they complement each other extremely well, and aren’t fooling anyone when they insist they hate each other (which they don’t even come out and say, it’s more of an exchange of barbs).

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Benio is stuck-up, but, well, why wouldn’t she be? She’s been the best at everything she’s ever done, and has to maintain a certain air of confidence bordering on arrogance considering the burden her slight shoulders bear.

To be paired up with someone who, while undeniably strong when he needs to be, has some serious motivational problems stemming from past trauma, and can’t just say he wants to join an exorcism mission, but comes up with a bunch of half-assed excuses to mask his enthusiasm—it’s gotta be frustrating to Benio, who knows exactly what she wants to do and is firmly on the path to making it happen.

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But like I said, Benio doesn’t hate Rokuro. He’s got his flaws, but when it counts, he’s no slouch. He puts the big Kegare boss away, motivated by a desire to stop others from getting hurt anymore for the day. He’s fed up.

So when Twelve Guardians member Ikuruga Shimon shows up to clean up, Rokuro moves and takes care of it before him, and Benio has Rokuro’s back. She wants Shimon to see what she’s seen: great potential, hampered by persistent wishy-washiness.

Shimon and Benio share a kind of monk-like calm that Rokuro sorely lacks. And while Rokuro seems to become more powerful the more up against the wall and desperate to end things he is, he could stand to learn a few things about keeping one’s cool and minding one’s surroundings, things both Benio and Shimon possess in spades, owing to their experience.

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I especially liked Benio’s little smile when Rokuro meekly accepts the heartfelt thanks of the boy’s soccer team he helped save (with Benio and Shimon’s help). Benio sees that the key to keeping Rokuro focused is a healthy awareness that his actions keep people safe; that his strength is necessary to protect the weak, and he can’t be content with the way he is now.

As such, Shimon, who was Rokuro’s age when he became one of the Twleve Guardians, should prove to be a valuable goal for Rokuro going forward; one not hampered by the whole betrothed thing, as he is with Benio. The fact they’re arranged to marry some day is kinda kept in the background, as it’s still clearly a way off, but everyone is right that the two are already bickering like an old couple.

As for Arima, he’s a guy who’s clearly powerful enough to goof off with swimsuit mags as much as he wants. You get the feeling something seriously messed-up has to go down in the world for the guy to break a sweat…especially when he has Shimon, eleven others like (or better) than him…and the Twin Stars, slowly building their sheen.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 04

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“I get it, okay?” says Rokuro, after running off in a snit after the guy who is basically his older brother annoys him: “I know I can’t run away forever.” He’s implying he needs more time to put the past behind him and move on. But…we’re a quarter into the show now, and he’s still angsty and hesitant while we haven’t heard the full story about why, so…hurry it up, willya? Thankfully, Rokuro takes a couple of steps forward.

It starts with the old woman who runs a candy store he used to frequent as a youngin’ with Ryougo. In a five-minute exchange, she’s able to cheer him up and make him feel silly for being so harsh to his big bro when all he’s doing is looking out for him. By running off, he was also refusing to tag along on an exorcism mission with Ryougo and two others.

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When those two others show up at home without Ryougo, Rokuro doesn’t hesitate to do what he needs to do in order to spring into action, which at this point is to bow his head and beg Benio to accompany him to Magano. He’s afraid to go himself, plain and simple. And that’s perfectly okay. Benio, for her part, insists he rise his head – no one should have to beg an exorcist to fight for or with him.

Ryougo is up against a huge, two-headed, constantly-chortling Kegare with no way out and no talismans—except the one Rokuro made for him, appointing him his servant when he’s the baddest exorcisin’ mofo in the world. He’s kept it ever since as a charm, and it comes in handy as Ryougo shows up just in time to save him from going out in a blaze of glory.

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Benio is there to assist, and while Rokuro later scoffs that he could have handled the peripheral Kegare she takes out during the fight, the fact of the matter is, he wouldn’t have even been able to go there without Benio by his side, and he freely admits this when he waits outside for her to finish purifying the house, to thank her from the bottom of his heart.

Rokuro’s earnestness and heart-sleeving catches Benio off guard, insisting he doesn’t have to thank her any more than he had to beg her. So here, both in moments of emotional vulnerability, the two exorcists begin to see something besides contempt in one another. Rokuro sees her nice side, while Benio sees the greatness in him, when he fights in spite of his trauma.

Sure they start slinging insults in an attempt to backpedal, but they’re not fooling anyone: they’ve made real progress this week, and they’re sure to make more, which is very encouraging.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 16

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While the last couple weeks were a bit of a rest going into the Li Twins battle, this is definitely all battles—the end of one and the beginning of another—with the slightest of breaks in between.

While that makes it a bit disjointed (I prefer episodes that start and end with one battle), the action, taunting, and over-the-top explosive tactics were all there, and the fact I knew the Li Twins battle would end this week (this show doesn’t spend long chains of episodes on single battles after all) I felt I could kick back and enjoy the carnage.

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Until the climax of the Li Twins battle, Ayato is simply meditating in the corner whil Julis acts as his shield, enduring attacks from both twins, who seem more interested in torturing her than snapping her badge and ending things quickly. One look at Shenyun’s increasingly twisted face and you know the guy’s a sadist dick. Shenhua, less so, since she’s not shown piling on the way her brother is.

But all of Julis’ suffering isn’t for naught: Ayato finds the key to unlocking the next level of his sister’s seal, enabling him to store far greater amounts of prana and go longer in battles. He says it doesn’t result in any significant powering up, but I’ve gotta wonder, after the destruction he unleashes with ease on the twin’s carefully constructed web of traps, talisman bombs, and invisible strikes.

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Ayato basically takes a bi ol’ Ser Veresta to all that, blasting Shenhua then delivering a well-deserved bone-crushing fist to the face of Shenyun, ending the fight. Julis gives the thumbs-up (the fanservice on her torn uni is kept to a minimum), while the Twins’ tiny prez looks approvingly at Ayato’s performance, and looks forward to meeting him (i.e. fighting him, probably) someday.

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With that, Ayato and Julis are in for some well-deserved rest before heading to the semifinals. Claudia, making a rare appearance this season, wants to not only offer her thanks to the partners on their great win for the school, but also thank Ayato personally, in her room, at night. Hmm…could she be talking about sex???

Julis doesn’t stand by and let Ayato be dragged off; insisting he stay with her to “go over strategy.” C’mon Julis. You don’t want the kid sleeping with Claudia. Simple as that.

That leads to the week’s second match: Saya and Kirin versus the Allekant robots. Aldy and Rimsy give another one-minute grace period, but both girls are tired of being mocked and looked down on for being weak and organic.

Kirin uses a bit of old-fashioned samurai sword skills to show Aldy he’s wrong about his defense being perfect, because he cannot hope to reach the sensitivity necessary to fight Kirin. For that, you have to be human.

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Her attacks make Aldy pull out his weapon before the grace period is over, which combined with scoring several strikes on him, are all first in the Festa. Meanwhile, Saya stands by during the minute, choosing not to attack Rimsy until she’s coming at her with everything she’s got.

When she does, Saya breaks out some badass-looking flying battle armor that suddenly makes her a good match for Rimsy. And like Kirin, she scores the first hits of the Festa on Rimsy. Things are looking good, but while watching the match in the stands, Flora gets kidnapped…probably by someone working for Dirk at Le Wolfe.

I guess the Festa fights aren’t the only thing our guy and gals will have to contend with…not that I doubted that would be the case!

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 15

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Ever since learning Haruka may still be alive, Ayato has been distracted. Julis thinks he’s afraid his sister abandoned him, but she’s big enough to admit this time she isn’t the person best-suited to bringing him out of his mini-funk.

That person is Saya, who knows her mission and swoops in like the adept climber she’s always been, as when she watched Ayato and Haruka spar from a tree branch years ago. I’ll admit, I half-forgot these two go back so far, but it’s nice to see Saya get to be nice and cozy with Ayato for a change.

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In one of the more sustained flashbacks involving Haruka, we see a big sister clearly concerned with the potential of her little brother, whose approach could either be ‘you’ll never beat me so please don’t try’ or ‘you won’t beat me until you not only become stronger, but employ the aid of strong friends.’

Ayato tries both in the flashback, but fails both times. But at least, with Saya on his side (asking a favor of her with “favor cards” they often exchanged to help each other out) Haruka had to fight more seriously than when she was sparring with Ayato alone.

And Saya of the present finishes their little get-together by saying, with a melancholy smile, that as much as she may not like it, sometimes she won’t be the one best-suited to fight beside him either.

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The message is clear, and it’s kind of a repeat of what we already know (hence the mere 7): you can be the strongest, but you’ll still never be as strong as if you have someone fighting beside you. That’s why fighters have partners in the Phoenix Festa, and why the fights are often more interesting than one-on-one matches.

The match with the Li Twins doesn’t disappoint in terms of sheer frustration. Having thoroughly researched their opponents, the twins coolly reach deep into their bag of tricks, employing illusory smoke, shadow clones, invisibility, and explosive talismans to make life a living hell for Ayato and Julis and, more importantly, drag the battle out until Ayato’s dreaded 5-minute limit arrives.

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The match follows a pretty well-worn pattern of moves, counter-moves, and one-upsmanship. The Li twins grow more and more sadistic and evil-grinny as the match intensifies (Shenhua’s finger caress being particularly creepy), and while they acknowledge the pluck of their opponents, they have full confidence they will emerge victorious, with a wealth of tricks left to use if they ever get into trouble.

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Indeed, Ayato uses what seems to be his last ounce of strength to slice the medallion of who he believes to be the real Shenyun, but turns out to only be another shadow clone; Shenyun, like Shenhua, has in reality spent most of the match concealing himself.

But Ayato isn’t alone here, and before he gets blasted to smithereens, Julis flies in and rescues him. As they regroup, she asks him to rely on her, repeating the words he said to her back when they were first starting out: “Well then, who’s going to protect you?”

The line does a lot more than Julis expected, as Ayato seems somewhat restored in vigor, as if he suddenly sees something he didn’t se before; perhaps something involving his sister’s seal on him. Maybe the seal can come undone once he accepts the strength within him is to be used not alone, but in concert with another. Like Julis!

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