Deca-Dence – 02 – A Bug’s Second Life

Well now…that was weird. Deca-Dence completely changes gears in its second episode, all but putting Natsume’s story on hold to answer some of the most pressing questions of the opening outing. Why is Kaburagi so good at fighting? He was once a high-ranking Gear. Why is he collecting “chips” from random humans in the shadows? It’s the true nature of the new job given to him after falling from the system’s good graces.

What was the deal with that crazy Yellow Submarine-like city at the end of the last episode? Well, uh…that’s actually Kaburagi’s reality. His human form is only an avatar, and Deca-Dence is a huge and elaborate entertainment facility run by the all-powerful Solid Quake Corporation.

The Gears are all like him: robot-like beings liking in the corporations “Chimney Town” when not playing Deca-Dence. Only the Tankers are all real human beings—the last of their species.

That’s…a lot, but what’s so incredible is how organically all this new information fits into what we’ve seen thus far, and how everything that seemed a little “off” about last week is logically explained here. And in an extended flashback to seven years ago, we see Kaburagi and his elite ranker team. They all sport odd skin and hair color because they’re not really human, just avatars.

Kaburagi is in the Top-5 Gears in all of Deca-Dence, but he can feel he’s reached his peak and bracing for the down-slope. On the other hand, his young and eager comrade Mikey is slowly rising in the ranks, with much the same stats as Kaburagi in his prime. When not playing, Kaburagi is ingesting Oxyone like all the other people in Chimney Town, or getting stimulation in the form of “beam” sessions.

While Kaburagi sees a bright future for Mikey, Mikey himself is impatient, and feels something is missing, namely the ability to release his limiter, a risky maneuver that will give him enhanced strength and speed in the game.

Now that Mikey knows what it’s liked to be a ranker, he no longer wants to feel like he’s “replaceable” (even though he kinda unwittingly is replacing Kaburagi). After quite a bit of begging Kaburagi relents and shows Mikey how to do it.

However, Mikey gets caught as a cheater and labeled a “bug” by Hugin, the stoic, matter-of-fact system administrator. Mikey gets scrapped and the entire ranker team disbanded. While all of Kaburagi’s other teammates were sent into confinement for refusing their next assignment, Kaburagi decides not to go against the system today so he can live to possibly fight it another day.

The nature of Kaburagi’s new job? He’s demoted to armor repairer with the Tankers, but that’s just his day job. By night he’ll be a “recovery agent”, collecting the chips from humans deemed by the Hugin to be “bugs” that could harm the system.

Now that (mostly) all has been explained, we return to Natsume incessantly begging Kaburagi to train her to fight. Having already lost a dad and an arm to combat, she isn’t fazed in the slightest by the gory aftermath of the Gadoll battle. No doubt Kaburagi compares her to Mikey, who also begged to be more significant and paid the price for it.

Even when Natsume halfheartedly tries to blackmail him with a photo she took with Pipe, Kaburagi won’t budge on helping her. However, one night she spots him sneaking around in the shadows and catches him removing a chip from someone. Of course, not knowing his story, as far as she knows he’s just robbing him because he’s hard up for cash.

Natsume gets Kaburagi to promise not to rob anyone else, and stop talking about it being “over” for him. Little does she know he’s telling the truth, as he’s been intentionally refraining from ingesting oxyone or rebooting, which will eventually lead to shutdown—a slow suicide, if you will.

Kaburagi always assumed that Natsume was another bug—maybe even the next on the list provided by Hugin. But when he scans her face, he finds no data among the current population of Tankers, and a deeper search reveals that she was listed as deceased way back when her dad died and she lost her arm.

That means she’s not only a bug in the system, but one that’s outside it’s control due to the lack of a chip. If the system won’t recognize her, or believes she’s of no value, then he’ll recognize her. He finally ingests the oxyone, crediting her with saving him from an early demise, agrees to train her, and shows her around the swanky Gears’ base.

The more I learn about this weird whimsical world, the more I like it, and the more invested I am in watching how Kaburagi and Natsume manage to resist a cruel system that considers her an anomaly to be eradicated. Deca-Dence has exhibited a willingness to take big bold risks in each of its first two episodes, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Deca-Dence – 01 (First Impressions) – A Study in Scale

Deca-Dance starts small and modest: a father on a mission to investigate artifacts; his young daughter Natsume tagging along out of a sense of adventure. It doesn’t end well for Natsume: she loses her dad and her right arm. Still, she survives, and dreams of fighting and making a difference.

Fast forward to when Natsume’s about to leave school and take on a job as a Tanker, supporting the Gears who fight monsters called Gadoll. They all live on Deca-Dence, a massive mobile fortress and humanity’s last bastion. Only she never hears back from The Power that doles out the jobs. She wanted to be a soldier, but it seems her missing arm disqualifies her.

Natsume is instead given a hard, dirty armor cleaning job under the supervision of a joyless man named Kaburagi. He slaps a harness on her and pushes her off a ledge onto the sheer side of Deca-Dence. Rookies typically scrub rotten Gadoll guts and blood for five years before any kind of advancement.

While it’s gross exhausting work, Natsume eventually gets the hang of it. In both the classroom exposition scene and her working montage, Deca-Dence the show exhibits a willingness to use these methods of shorthand to deliver all the information it needs to deliver. The montage works better than the student recitation of What’s Going On mostly because it’s showing, not telling, and what it shows is very cool-looking.

Natsume eventually convinces her stoic boss to throw a welcome party for her, during which she gets tipsy and takes Kaburagi to task for his fatalism. He just wants to live a relatively quiet peaceful life within the walls, and can’t see why Natsume looks at her arm stump and says to herself “More of that, please.”

The older Kaburagi has clearly been worn down by his experiences, while despite suffering quite a bit of trauma of her own Natsume remains optimistic about the prospect of defeating Gadoll and living in true peace and prosperity.

At the same time, Kaburagi has a pet harmless Gadoll whom Natsume names “Pipe”, and also a strange, unexplained side-job involving extracting “chips” from people when ordered to by a shadowy boss. We learn a lot this week, but there’s still a lot of mysteries to unravel; more on that later.

Eventually Deca-Dence comes afoul of a Gadoll attack party, led by an immense, Leviathan-like mega Gadoll that is larger than the fortress, surrounded by a bevy of bizarre candy-colored Gadoll small fry. They may look like Pokemon rejects but even the smallest of them are bigger and faster than humans. It’s a good thing then that the Gears use flight packs in order to increase their speed and mobility (similar to the flight packs in Youjo Senki, another Nut anime).

When the Gadoll are spotted Natsume and Kaburagi are still outside, and their colleague Fennel and another maintenance guy end up falling off the side of the fortress. They fall for a very long time, accentuating the sheer scale of their home as well as the battle unfolding below.

That battle actually doesn’t seem to be going so well when Kaburagi drops in with Natsume, but he grabs a flight back from one of the dead Gears and proceeds to unleash a can of whoop-ass on the lesser Gadolls, with a tethered, nauseous Natsume trailing behind him.

It’s an absolutely gonzo sequence with tons of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details. More importantly, it (along with his side job and pet Gadoll) drive home the fact that there’s a lot more to Kaburagi to sleepy maintenance work, and despite not having Natsume’s moxie, unlike her he’s ready to fight at a moment’s notice.

I can see why he wouldn’t want her getting involved in this bloody business, but I still hope she convinces him to train her, “just in case” she has to fight some Gadoll on her own someday.

From the small-scale battlefield we pull way, way back to the final clash between Deca-Dence and the gargantuan Gadoll boss. In a high-tech command center that belies the fortress’ chaotic, grungy exterior, General Minato has his crew go through a number of checks and elaborate technobabble that essentially transform the fortress into a giant mass driver cannon in the shape of a fist.

Once that fist is charged up, they wait until the Gadoll is as close as possible before firing, and boy howdy can you ever feel the impact of that. The physics of large scale masses coming into contact at ridiculous speeds, and their effect on the surrounding environment, is beautifully rendered down to the smallest spec of debris.

With the latest round of bad guys thoroughly defeated, it’s time to collect all the Gadoll meat, rest, heal, repair, and celebrate…until the next battle, and the next, and the next. You can feel Kaburagi’s weariness with this business, but also understand why Natksume wants to play a meaningful role.

Instead of ending conventionally with watching the humans deal with the aftermath of the battle we see that the humans had been observed by weird trippy robots in a trippy Dr. Seuss city. I haven’t the foggiest idea what’s going on here, but I sure as shit was enticed, as it adds an entirely new layer (and scale) of surrealism and mystery to the past, mostly straightforward proceedings.

Gargantua. Sidonia. Macross. Er…Chrome-Shelled Regios—I’ve always had a soft spot for anime about a group of humans aboard a massive self-sustaining vehicle in a desperate struggle for survival. Deca-Dence is no different. From the city-punching, overarching Gadoll struggle down to the smaller, cozier struggle of one spunky girl trying to carve her way in the world, to the strange intriguing mysteries and ambiguity over who is actually the aggressor in this war, Deca-Dence is a sure keeper in my book.


P.S. Thanks to Crow for another shout-out!

Bofuri – 08 – Maple Ex Machina

In preparation for NWO’s third event, a cow-hunting expedition, Iz kits out Maple, Sally, and Kasumi in some adorably warm wool outfits. But this is event that values high agility, so Maple doesn’t contribute as much as she could to the final cow count. Rather, she stumbles and falls off a mountain and into a fierce battle with an increasingly gross demon boss. She’s swallowed up, but eats her way free.

For defeating the demon Maple gains some frightening new skills, including the ability to transform into Atrocity, complete with a deep and demonic version of her own voice. At the gate to the Third Level, the rest of the party just stands back with sweat drops and lets their adora-monstrous friend do her work against a tree monster that never had a chance.

The third level turns out to be a distinctly cyberpunk world full of whimsical machinery and flying vehicles (she’s no longer alone in the skies with her giant Syrup). The party splits up to get a sense of the place, and Maple ends up feeding an old man on the street who gives her a rare quest that leads to an encounter with what I believe to be the first generation Machine King.

The former king is malfunctioning and changes its form and demeanor several times, but Maple is quick enough to keep up with those changes, and in one of the king’s lucid moments, he bestows upon her the skill [Machine God], which enables her to transform into a powerful, midriff-bearing cyborg killing machine straight out of Gurren Lagann.

An intense robo-duel ensues until Maple is the last one standing, packed with some really nice smooth and dynamic animation and lighting effects. Once things have died down and Maple gets a look at herself, she not unreasonably wonders what the heck just happened. Will she be able to change back to normal, as with [Atrocity]?

One hopes so; she’s going to have trouble fitting through the guild hall door with all that paraphernalia! Whatever happens, the paradigm of NWO has shifted once more as the scale of its world has expanded and evolved. As she collects more ridiculous skills, her ability to surprise us with fun combinations increases. As Kanade puts it: “Watching Maple never gets old.”

Bofuri – 07 – Kinda Immortal

As they roll—literally, in the case of her poison ball—with Maple, it’s not long before Yui and May are up to Level 20, have double strength, and are able to dual-wield normally two-handed warhammers. They go at the Hydra boss over and over until they can defeat it in under two minutes and thirty seconds…not bad for three girls with no agility!

The members of Maple Tree branch out (heh heh) on their own little mini-quests once Iz gives the sisters new crystal hammers. They monster hunt with Sally as she teaches them low-speed agility, Kuromu finds a hidden undead dungeon with Syrup and gains awesome new armor, Kanade upgrades her Akashic Records, and Kasumi…shears sheep for wool, until Maple demonstrates a new skill that lets her grow a huge ball of wool around her, and even add poison to it. Talk about hogging—er, sheeping?—all the glory…

While everyone else is off leveling up, Maple ends up falling down a rabbit hole of sidequests involving an NPC mother and ill child. These quests would be difficult if she wasn’t a massively OP’d tank with a giant flying turtle, but she completes them all in the space of a few hours.

Due to the unnatural speed with which she clears the chain of quests, the NPC mom’s dialogue is unnecessarily dramatic. Instead of being happy to be thanked, Maple feels like she owes the mom an apology!

The final reward of the sidequest chain is “Loving Sacrifice.” Maple commissions an angelic new white suit of armor and gathers her guild-mates in the overworld to demonstrate. After shedding a slice of her HP (she has over 1,000, so plenty to spare), she dons wings and a halo and creates a barrier around the entire party of eight that no enemy can penetrate as long as she’s alive.

Rather than jump for joy at this development, her guild-mates are…a little nervous. After all, isn’t this just a bit much? Maple became the target of the gamemasters before when she spammed Devour; no doubt they’ll step in to de-power her again in an effort to restore game balance.

At the same time, a much larger guild has set its sights on Maple Tree as a potential rival, and will be watching them very carefully in the third event preceding the guild competition. So while Maple was on easy street throughout this episode, that may not be the case next week.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 04 – A Companion in Hell

At a royal gala celebrating the defeat of the latest Wave of Catastrophe, there might as well be a black cloud hanging over Naofumi. He doesn’t want to be there any more than anyone there wants him to be there. Raphalia tries to cheer him by offering him food, but when the Spear Hero…[checks MAL] Kitamura Motoyasu sees her, he challenges Naofumi to a duel on te spot.

Motoyasu doesn’t like how Naofumi is using a demi-human as his slave. Even if it’s legal in this world, he doesn’t think it’s right. Of course, he’s coming from a position of great ignorance in terms of the actual nature Naofumi and Raphtalia’s relationship. Myne eggs him on, and even when Naofumi refuses to fight Motoyasu, King Melromarc intervenes, ordering him to accept the challenge and arresting and gagging Raphtalia.

Clearly there are two sets of rules in this world: those Naofumi must follow, and no other rules. A duel between two people shouldn’t be something that can be thrust upon an unwilling participant, even by a king. But Melro straight up abuses his power, and nobody stops him, because he is king. All the while everyone, from the heroes to the assembled nobles, practically pelt Naofumi with a hail of insults and exhortations of disgust.

But if he has to fight, Naofumi is going to fight to win, something that might actually be possible since he’s leveled up and gained so many skills, including several that transform the shield into an offensive weapon. He has Motoyasu off balance until Myne interferes with a wind magic spell. The blatant cheating goes utterly unnoticed by everyone but Naofumi, but as a result he loses, and “Myne” makes sure to rub it in his face.

I put “Myne” in quotes because that’s not her real name; turns out she’s Princess Melty, the king’s daughter. Naofumi goes over in his head how he was set up every step of the way by Melty, using the power of her pops and manipulating Motoyasu into thinking Naofumi was The Worst. Even the other two heroes…[checks MAL] Kawasumi Itsuki and Amaki Ren saw that Myne interfered, making Motoyasu the loser.

But no one else will speak up about the cheating, and however ill-begotten the Spear Hero’s victory was, it was still a victory. That means Raphtalia’s slave contract with Naofumi is terminated. As she turns away to leave, Naofumi is consumed by some kind of miasma. But she doesn’t really leave; she admonishes Motoyasu for freeing her when she never actually asked to be freed, and tells him the truth: that Naofumi has only ever been kind to her, and she owes him her life.

Some time ago, in a moment of vulnerability when Raphtalia broke down, Naofumi was there to hold and comfort him. Now it’s Raphtalia’s turn to comfort him. He may think he’s in Hell, where no matter what he says or does, everything will be stacked against him, but that’s only the case if he completely disregards one very important fact: Raphtalia is his sword, and if need be she’ll follow him through Hell itself.

As she embraces Naofumi she levels up, growing into a grown woman in the process (a quirk of demi-humans and one reason they’re oppressed). The miasma is lifted, Naofumi rises, and is free to leave not with his slave, but with his ward, companion, and sword.

Motoyasu still suspects Raphtalia is somehow being brainwashed, but Ren and Itsuki don’t see how he can think that after hearing Raphtalia pour her heart out so publically. The King skulks away, either disappointed the plot didn’t work out or disappointed in his daughter (or both).

Best of all, when Raphtalia gives Naofumi a sandwich she made and he tastes it…he can finally taste it. It’s as if she broke the curse that made everything taste like nothing for him, either through a passive practical spell, or simply by being there for him when no one else was. Even if they got off to a rough start, he was there for her too. And so they’ve saved each other.

This was a standout episode that really got my blood boiling when things started again piling up against Naofumi, but things more or less worked out in the end. There was definitely some catharsis to him finally being cut some slack. I’m still not quite sure why Malty is so obsessively committed to making Naofumi’s life hell. It’s because she’s just, well, bad, that would be slightly disappointing. But what else could it be? She barely knows him.

After being so pissed off with the other heroes that I didn’t even bother to learn their names, Ren and Itsuki showed promising signs that their opinion of Naofumi was improving, or at least that they’d entertain his claims of unfair persecution. Perhaps that’s the first step towards the four heroes eventually working more closely together for a future Wave.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 03 – The Grateful and the Ingrates

Only a week has passed after the fight in the mines, but Naofumi and Raphtalia have leveled up to a respectable degree. The armorer says as much, and all the extra discounts and freebies the demi-human gets confirms to Naofumi that this world is full of lolicons.

Still, he seems pleased that Raphtalia is less timid and is now able to stand and speak up for herself. She even negotiates to get new custom-made armor for Naofumi that he thinks makes him look like a bandit, but also doesn’t want it going to waste.

It’s a good thing they mentioned the Waves to the armorer, because he points them in the direction of the church where the Dragon Hourglass counts down the time until the next Wave, which will come in less than a day.

Unfortunately the other heroes are there, and the Spear even tries to steal Raphtalia away, but she rebuffs him. They can mock him all they want and even bring up the “rumors,” but Naofumi won’t say a single word of attack or defense. He’s long since done talking with these assholes.

Raphtalia wants to know what happened between her master and the other heroes, but Naofumi isn’t ready to tell her. Regardless, when dawn breaks and they prepare to be transported to the location of the Wave, Raphtalia formally reiterates her undying loyalty to Naofumi. She is only alive because of him, and so she’ll be his sword and never leave his side.

After transport, Naofumi gets a close look at a Wave of Catastrophe for the first time. The other heroes rush ahead, but he notices they’re leaving a nearby village unprotected from the hordes of undead soldiers and swarms of giant wasps.

So he and Raph head there, he orders Raph to evacuate the villagers while he tries to kill as many monsters as he can. It’s tough work, as there are hundreds of them and he can’t seem to get their numbers down. Luckily the bulk of them mill around beneath a watchtower that Naofumi sets ablaze and brings down on top of them.

When the royal knights arrive and firebomb the place to mop up, they don’t bother to warn Naofumi, who gets Naphtalia under his shield just in time. When she hears the knights talking shit about her master, she threatens to take their heads off, and Naofumi has to order her to stand down.

Still, despite the knights’ utter disgust of Naofumi, he protects them all the same, and in turn, some of them stay behind to help him and Naphtalia even after their commander orders them to meet up with the other heroes.

With the knights’ help, Naofumi and Naphtalia are able to fend off the remaining monsters, while the other three heroes defeat the “boss”—a chimaera, from the look of it—with their much flashier-looking attacks. All of a sudden, the skies clear and the threat has passed. And Naofumi has passed his first Wave test.

A massacre of innocents such as that which claimed Naphtalia’s parents thus averted, the raccoon girl is overwhelmed by the relief and starts to cry, but Naofumi’s heart isn’t made of stone, especially where she’s concerned, so he puts his hand on her head to comfort her.

Naphtalia may have been a slave purchased to be used a a tool, but even Naofumi has to admit she’s much more than that. By not treating her like a slave but like any other person, he’s helped bring about her transformation into a formidable warrior with the heart of a true knight.

Naofumi has also gained the gratitude of the entire village, none of whom still harbor any animosity towards their hero. There are still a lot more people to convince that he’s actually not a rapist swine, but it doesn’t really matter. He’s not here to make friends or clear his name. He’s here to save this world from the Waves, then go back home.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 19

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Uhh…that ohagi will have to wait.

Roku and Benio give it their all, but they haven’t seen the true breadth and depth of Yuto’s power until now. He gives Rokuro the choice to join him or die (typical villain offer) and when they don’t cower before him, he actually loses the goofy grin and gets angry.

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Don’t get me wrong, Yuto’s still a major drag, but at least he’s showing other emotions in the face of his foes’ defiance. But as I suspected, this isn’t a one episode-and-done battle (no way it could be), and as powerful and determined as the Twin Stars have become, they still only had one day to prepare. It just wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

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Yuto is somewhat surprised by what the duo’s resonance can do, but even their finishing move only causes him to momentarily shed his human skin, revealing his entire body is riddled with Kegare corruption, just like Rokuro’s arm. That’s gotta mess with a guy, which at least explains what a manic, sadistic creep he is.

Once his normal body is back, he separates his two opponents, making sure to get some good devastating putdowns of his sister in before destroying her legs and leaving her to wallow in her weakness and be devoured by some passing Kegare. Rokuro can do nothing, as Yuto puts him in a chokehold.

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Except Benio isn’t devoured. Instead, Kamui appears, having been drawn to a “cool battle” he’s sore he wasn’t invited to. He offers Benio one of his trademark 10-second decisions: he’ll give her new Kegare legs to replace her ruined human ones. But it will mean taking on a curse just like Rokuro and her brother, and she might get lost in the chaos.

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What breaks her out of becoming totally consumed by her new legs are the cries of her name from Rokuro. When he pulls her out of the darkness and into the light, she realizes why it is she feels so warm and at peace whenever she’s around him: she’s fallen in love with the guy.

That love forges Kegare legs that Kamui admits look the furthest thing from impure, as if the love took the raw Kegare material and made it something beautiful and good. Rokuro laments Benio’s decision right up until she darts around like a lightning bolt and shows everyone what those new legs can do.

Thanks to the wild card Kamui—and Benio coming to grips with her feelings—Rokuro and Benio are still in this thing. But Yuto seems pretty dang pissed his sister was “chosen,” and isn’t just going to lay down and be easily defeated.

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P.S. I’ve finally learned how long SnO will be: 50 episodes. That means barring any season-long hiatuses, the show will continue through Fall ’16 and Winter ’17. I’ll be sticking with it to the hopefully-not-bitter end. The extra length bodes well for Rokuro and Benio’s slowly-brewing romance, for which this episode was definitely a landmark.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 18

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This episode followed up on Rokuro’s vow to take care of Yuto by having Benio right by his side every step of the way. After all this time together making each other stronger, it would be silly and futile for him to fight Yuto alone.

We also got a respite episode this week after two straight battles, and the physical and emotional training the Twin Stars do in the 24 hours before the showdown thankfully isn’t limited to a montage, but occupies the entire episode.

Lots of Rokuro and Benio on their own bouncing off one another is always good, and they manage to get over how nervous they are to be holding hands by learning the broad strokes of their resonance ability.

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But Yuto (busy placing lilies on school desks in Magano, the twerp) isn’t just the fuel that allows the Twin Stars to resonate better; he’s also a demon in Benio’s dreams that leads her to run to the dorm for granny’s comfort and advice.

Granny tells Benio it’s fine to run, but warns her not to do anything she’ll regret, as regrets bind you tighter and tighter throughout life. Benio is scared shitless of the battle to come, but she also knows she’ll deeply regret leaving Rokuro alone.

So she re-resolves to fight with him, and Granny sends her on her way. She finds Rokuro still in the basement, asleep after testing his new Red Talisman (which packs such a punch, I worry for their lovenest’s structural integrity).

Rokuro may be impulsive, rude, and a pervert, but Benio still appreciates all the times he and only he showed her “the way out of the darkness.” She’s never expressed herself as brightly before they met. She realizes he makes her better as a person, not just an exorcist, and she does the same with him.

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It’s a relief, then, that when she nods off beside him and they wake up together in each other’s arms, their mutual shock soon turns to laughter. There’s a quick bit more backstory when Rokuro reveals to Benio that his real right arm was eaten by his friends, and while he underwent corruption, he didn’t fully turn, only his arm.

Having learned he had to exorcise a friend of his (a girl who seemed to like him, to boot) on top of everything else, Benio tries to offer apologies both for her initial dismissal of his determination and for her brother’s sins, but there’s no need. Rokuro and Benio are through apologizing to one another. It’s time to get out there, beat that prick Yuto, come home, and eat some ohagi!

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 17

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Like Roku and Benio, I was tired after last week’s battle, hoping there’d be a respite…and then Ijika Yuto had to show up…again. I know he’s pretty much the big bad of this show so far, but I’ve been on record since he showed up that I simply do not care for the singsongy little twerp, because unlike other well-worn elements of SnO, he hasn’t been able to expand or subvert his generic smirking villain nature. I don’t like how he talks, and I don’t like how he holds back for dramatic effect.

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Seigen looks more than capable of overpowering Yuto, and Yuto’s expressions suggest the same. However, Yuto’s just messing around; in reality, he’s far more powerful than Seigen. But he’s just too in love with foreplay and dragging a battle out. In addition to Yuto, I also don’t like it when the show spends extended periods in Magano—it’s cool-looking, but too abstract and fantastical to carry much weight as a setting.

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Seigen is down, but not out, so after taking another hit for Roku and boxing up Roku, Benio, and Mayura in a protective barrier, he launches an apparent suicide attack in order to stop Yuto from harming the future parents of the Miko. I do like how Seigen, for all his bad attitude, has become a believer in the Twin Stars, which I guess is why he felt confident that the end of his life wouldn’t mean the end of the cause.

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Naturally, his near-suicide attack has little to no effect on Yuto, meaning Yuto is clearly strong enough to have already done everything he could want to do—including kill everyone here in the first minute of the episode. But he doesn’t, because he still wants to see Roku unleash the full potential he sees in him…if only to turn him into a corruption as he did the Hinatsuki dorm kids and Mayura.

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One more gripe against this episode: it pretty much sidelined our Twin Stars, who for most of the running time can only react to Yuto and Seigen, and in Rokuro’s case yell and scream far too much for one episode. However, when they finally get some time at the end, they don’t waste it.

Jiisan gives Roku what Seigen prepared for him—a special elite exorcist armor that’s hella cool-looking—which Roku quickly puts on and tells Benio (still grieving over what’s become of her brother) he’s not going to wait for a four guardian task force to arrive and deal with Yuto. It’s something “he has to do himself.” Hopefully, he actually means himself and Benio.

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Ushio to Tora – 30

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With Mayuko doomed to live the rest of her life replacing Ushio’s mom, Asako in the hospital still growing her skin back, and a lot of people either dead, turned to stone, or unable to remember Ushio, this entire second season has been one big fat DOWNER.

There seems to be no end to Ushio’s torment, as one thing after another crops up to make his life that much more dark and tragic. Just take Nagare, who “frees” Ushio and Tora from a JASDF transport taking them who knows where.

As was teased previously (by his evil grin), Nagare is now on Hakumen’s side. There’s no explanation why, nor why he retreats as suddenly as he appeared when a HAMMR helicopter approaches (he sliced an armored humvee in half; he can’t take out a chopper?)

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So yeah, there’s been a lot of piling on this season, and each episode has dug deep into the vast repository of Ushio to Tora characters from the first season, dusting them off and putting them back on the game board, like the two HAMMR scientists who didn’t die.

All the negativity of compounded ordeals early on made it hard to enjoy this episode, but the show does,to its credit, throw us a few bones of both hope and levity, which are much appreciated—though Asako getting out of bed and wandering around town with her skin still healing, looking like a damn mummy, is definitely not one of those bones. For the love of God, Asako, go back to the hospital!

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Rather, Ushio’s first bone is the Rock Eater armor HAMMR procured from the Kouhamei Sect before shit went down. They believe it will help them in the latest trial he must face: stopping the JASDF, all the brass of which have been fooled by a false Jei Mei, to launch missiles at the stone pillar at the bottom of the sea where Hakumen is (barely) being held.

It’s pretty obvious by how she speaks and looks that this Jei Mei is not Ushio’s mother, but a Hakumen fake, and it’s just as clear destroying the stone pillar will have the opposite effect of destroying Hakumen’s power.

You know you’re in a plot-heavy show when a fleet of submarines makes an appearance in your supernatural action fantasy shounen rom-com-a-drama! So much stuff going on.

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After Nagare’s tease and HAMMR, Ushio decides to stop by at home to…clean his room for some reason. Naturally, he runs into an ambush by more agents of Hakumen determined to crush the stone Azafuse before they revive and join the fight.

In the process, Ushio’s house is fucking destroyed (I can’t believe that hasn’t happened like five times already, considering all his dangerous adversaries!), and even when he dons his arguably badass Rock Eater armor, he and Tora end up in a tight spot.

So it falls to the shattered bits of petrified Azafuse to glom onto Tora like armor which, while lamer-looking than Ushio’s, enables Tora to take out the baddies with ease.

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After that, all that’s left is for Ushio to collect a couple of mementos from previous episodes and go down to the cellar to re-enact the scene where he first met Tora, which was….weird. I guess it speaks to how on-the-same-wavelength these two are—and how desperate for a moment of fun and levity among all the destruction and despair—that they’d do such a goofy thing.

However, after seeing Asako wander the streets in her bandages, I was really hoping she’d end up at Ushio’s place, even if, realistically, she’s still probably too frail to make it there. But she didn’t, which sucks, because now Ushio is off to the Okinawan Sea to stop those JASDF subs from doing something stupid.

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One Punch Man – 12 (Fin)

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With just one episode left, One Punch Man doesn’t waste any time with an OP or recap; we’re plunged right into the hugely-anticipated Saitama-Boros bout. It’s everything I could have hoped for. As Saitama claims an early arm from Boros, below the ship the S’s finish off their opponent, led by Silverfang/Bang, who grabs the foe’s core before he can regenerate his body around it, showing sprightliness beyond his years. Drive Knight also warns Genos not to trust Metal Knight, potentially presaging interhero treachery.

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Meantime, it’s back to the Main Event. Yep, all my shows are ending the same way, but that’s okay, as they’ve all used slightly different approaches to the Final Epic Duel. OPM gets into abstract territory by unleashing a lush and dazzling rainbow of colors, textures, movements, and styles of line, with ironically very little damage being done to either combatant. Hell, Saitama is punched literally To The Moon—what I assume is an equally iconic image in the manga.

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But it’s no big; Saitama takes advantage of the Moon’s weaker gravity to blast himself right back to ex-City A (causing the alien ship to list in the process) and the battle continues. It’s clear both combatants are having a lot of fun, now that they’re fighting opponents who won’t go down instantly. And many a frame in the fight would make a great piece of art to hang on your wall.

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After hearing about so many special moves from so many foes, Saitama decides to break out his ulitmate move: Killer Move: Serious Series…Serious Punch. And No, he doesn’t need to work on that awful name; the fact that it’s awful matches his persona perfectly…not to mention reminds me of “The Paddling of the Swollen Ass…With Paddles.”

Whatever it’s called, it’s the punch that defeats Boros, who remains alive long enough to thank Saitama for a good fight, happy that the prophecy proved true, but also very cognizant of the fact Saitama had plenty of strength to spare and held back; Boros never had a chance of beating him. It’s nice to hear an enemy admit defeat so graciously at the end, rather than cursing and fuming his way to the grave, as many a final boss are wont to do.

As for his surviving crew? The Class S’s round them up and take them into custody, but before that, Amai Mask confronts them and tells them what a terrible job they did due to the destruction of City A and resultant damage to the Hero Association’s reputation. He doubts the media and public will buy that they “did their best”, even though they did.

Amai Mask thus reveals himself as the ultimate villain in OPM; the guy who’s never satisfied with a victory he did not himself create. Metal Knight swoops in like a vulture to pick the bones of the alien ship and develop new weapons…for, uh, for peace. Right.

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Due to coincidence, Tornado happens to be floating right by the exact spot where Saitama bursts out of the wreckage of the ship, where he’s met by an elated Genos. Both of them ignore the little green esper until she protests, and Genos shows some rare saltiness by calling her a spoiled brat and ordering her silence (Bang breaks up an extended fight).

While Amai Mask is initially right and the destruction of City A remains in the headlines for months, news about it, and any public disgust that went with it, eventually fades. The Hero Association builds an even bigger, stronger headquarters, and builds highways sprawling out like spokes from a wheel to every city for quick dispatch of heroes. Humanity comes out of its clash with Boros’ ship stronger than ever.

And, in a comforting epilogue, Saitama and Genos remain Master and Apprentice in mopping up baddies who’d threaten humanity. Sure, there’s still a lot of collateral damage in such battles, but buildings and infrastructure can always be rebuilt. Evil must be punched, and Saitama and Genos will keep punching, for fun and profit. Here’s hoping someday we get to watch them punch more.

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One Punch Man – 11

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I’d call this episode a non-stop action thrill ride, but to its credit, it’s not exactly non-stop. Sure, millions of lives hang in the balance as the Class S heroes fight the alien invaders, but there’s a lovely nonchalance about how they’re fighting, almost like another day at the office, while the ship up above also offers moments of workplace comedy and the inefficiencies of bureaucracy, even on a space pirate ship.

Saitama is laying absolute waste to the ship, but the alien leader’s lieutenants are either off doing their own stuff, hiding out on the bridge, or already dead. That leader, the one-eyed Lord Boros, seems unconcerned with the damage to his ship; instead, he seems to want to meet with the one doing the damage.

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But he doesn’t make it easy. Saitama loses his way, then ends up on the bridge by not falling for the oldest trick in the book (being told to go right when he should go left). Then the blue octopus-like lieutenant shows off his elaborate destructive powers, but is really just tossing lots of rocks at Saitama, who dodges everything, then splits the guy’s head in two with just one well-struck stone.

Down on the surface, the heroes eventually figure out they need to destroy the cores of their foe to prevent him from regenerating. Before they do, a lower-class hero laments that as Class S heroes they’re very stuck in their ways and not prone to listening to their inferiors, even if their ways are futile and listening could get them somewhere.

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When the progress bar on the artillery department tech’s computer finally fills up, the ship prepares to unleash another barrage of shells on the surface, killing all the heroes below, but Tornado arrives just in time and shows just how useful she is to have around by stopping the falling shells, then turning them around and launching them at the ship.

Saitama doesn’t see the effects of that damage, as he’s deep in the core of the ship, having finally found the Guy In Charge, Boros, who tells Saitama here there to fulfill the prophecy of a warrior who is his match in a fight, thus curing him of his existential ennui.

We’ve seen how similar Saitama and Mumen Rider are, but Boros could be an example of what happens when someone with Saitama’s level of ability (or something close to it)  uses his power for so long he runs out of enemies to fight.

Saitama destroys his armor easily enough, but Boros gets right back up, unharmed by one punch and unleashing his full power. Only one episode left to see how many more punches Saitama will need to send this jerk packing.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 07

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In keeping with the werewolf theme…Woof. What the heck happened here? I mean, I could tell you;  the story isn’t complicated: Leon loses a battle, then goes on a rather wild ride through dreams and memory before snapping out of it and breaking up a church child slavery ring. Wait, whuh?

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First, the loss. With Pops probably off somewhere humping his shadow, Leon has to face off against what appears to be an evil or DARK Makai Knight, who’s a lot better at fighting. But even at this point, I’m pretty disoriented about what’s happening when, because the episode insists on jumping around like storytelling whack-a-mole.

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Oh HAI EMMA! Emma is in this episode for twelve seconds, and while she saves Leon from Batman, you could say that by sending him flying, it’s also thanks to her Leon ends up in his next…predicament, which is when things get weird.

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That’s what I’d like to know, pal. As this was all going on, I kept thinking “This is either Zaruba testing Leon in some way, or someone slipped him some strong psychotropic drugs.

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Turns out I was right about the latter. But the episode is still too clever by half, and its clumsy attempt to put us in Leon’s whacked-out disoriented state was somehow random and repetitive, and left us cold. It was weird, but not weird enough to be compelling, or even that tolerable.

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Speaking of intolerable, that pretty much describes Agatha, the Kid of the Week who has buck teeth and one of the more annoying voices I’ve heard in a while. It’s nice that the Makai Alchemist who drugged Leon regails us with Agatha and Pepe’s sad story, but I can’t be bothered to care when these uniformly irritating people have been so abruptly thrust upon us.

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From a technical standpoint, aside from a couple nice close-ups and the usual decent CGI armored suits (which are meant to stand out quite a bit from everything) this episode had some ugly moments. The side characters — and there are way too many of them — are generally pretty badly drawn, and in the climactic battle against the real Pepe’s Horror form is comically brief. Also, the baddies just aren’t as cool-looking as they were in earlier episodes.

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There’s a pretty funny delayed gag at the end where Herman is talking all seriously to Leon and we don’t see until the end that he, well, had a bit of a rough night himself, but it’s not nearly enough to redeem an episode that was a tiresome chore for most of its running time. But I guess one thing’s clear: it’s too early to storm the castle.

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