Astra Lost in Space – 12 (Fin) – Lost No Longer

We’re blessed with a double-length Astra finale, which really gives the show time and space to breathe and finish telling the story it’s apparent it always wanted to tell, and more importantly treated a loyal audience to a proper sendoff of the characters we’ve gradually come to love—and who have grown to love one another—one by one.

The first half, itself the length of a normal episode, is devoted to the return trip home. With Charce’s suicide plan foiled and Kanata down an arm but otherwise fine, the work of restocking the ship for the journey back to Astra. Kanata has to rest while the others work outside, but Aries quells his loneliness and FOMO by keeping him company.

Once they’re off Planet Galem, there’s ample time for the crew to assemble and hear Charce’s story of the history of their world—the real history, corroborating and continuing the story begun by Polina. Turns out the plan to relocate humanity’s population was so fraught with conflict, half of that population was killed in bitter wars for land on the new planet before the migration even took place.

The survivors of the conflict vowed never to let anything like that occur again, and so abolished nations and religions on Astra. Furthermore, the first generation to move and live there was the last to know about the true history of Earth; an alternate history of WWIII was fabricated, and the very timeline of humanity turned back 100 years.

All this time, the crew thought they were living in the year 2063, when it has actually been 2163; over one hundred years since the migration was successfully completed. It also means Polina wasn’t asleep for twelve years, but one hundred and twelve—yet doesn’t look a day over 29!

The crew decides that the world can’t go on living with a false history, but understands that telling the world the wrong way could be disastrous, not just to them but to the world.

Ulgar suggests they contact a trustworthy police lieutenant, and an detailed message is sent to him through Aries’ mom, including photos and videos of the still very much alive crew of Camp B5 and the log Aries has been making throughout the show (a nice touch).

By the time the Astra reaches orbit of Planet Astra, Lt. Grace is already at work arresting the King of Vixia, as well as his successor for his role in Princess Seira’s murder. Nothing a cop likes more than a bonanza of hard evidence. Very satisfying to watch these jerk-ass crooks made to pay for their heinous crimes.

The kids are met by an armed fleet in orbit, but after a few tense moments, contact is made and they identify themselves as friendly escorts, reporting that their originals have been apprehended and they are free to land. This is one of those instances where the extra length really counts, as we get to savor the crew’s arrival home and their ship’s final landing.

Once they arrive, and they get to tell their story to every media outlet on the planet, the crew become instant celebrities. Kanata and Charce tell the higher authorities about the need to spread the truth, something the higher-ups ultimately go with.

That bitter pill of truth is washed down without excessive unrest due in no small part to the charm of the crew, including the humanizing memoir about their five-month odyssey written by Kanata…not to mention the modelling chops of Quitterie and King Charce.

The length of the episode not only means it gets to take its time with a happy ending, but jumps seven years into the future, when the bulk of the crew is now 24. Everyone has changed their look a bit, but remain themselves and more importantly, remain good friends with one another, as you’d expect from what they went through. Yunhua sings a song inspired by those experiences, which essentially plays the series out.

Quitterie is married to Zack, while Funi is in high school and looks just like Quitterie (and has Polina as a teacher). Ulgar is now a serious journalist, while Kanata has achieved his goal of becoming a captain in seven years. His new ship is his old ship; buying the over 100-year-old Astra with funds earned from his book and fame.

With his past and present trusty mates Zack and Charce, they take off to chart the exit points of the wormholes and beyond, but they’ll be back. After all, Charce has kingly duties to get back to; Zack has a wife to get back to, and Kanata has to get back to Aries so they can marry and have a daughter they can name Seira.

And there you have it: Kanata no Astra, not just an epic survival story of a group of extraordinary kids, but herald to a bold new truth for humanity. One could say almost too much befell these kids; that they’re too special. But to that I say…what do you expect? They are, after all, the clones of people rich and powerful and ambitious enough to, well, clone themselves.

They were always destined for greatness, but it wasn’t going to be given to them; they were literally left for dead. But their originals made one critical blunder, forgetting about the presence of one last ship in old Earth’s orbit, the chariot of their downfall and their clones’ salvation. In the end, the clones surpassed their originals to become entirely different people—better people.

People who, rather than lying and cheating and stealing their way through life, scratched and tore and screamed to break the bonds of their origins, united together in love and fellowship, and changed the goddamned world. Hell of a story if you ask me.

Carole & Tuesday – 11 – Plucked from the Jaws of Success

Tuesday’s hand is badly burned, and once bandaged, she cannot play the guitar. As the MC delays by appealing to the boundless ego of Ertegun, Gus tries to find the culprit with the security cams, with no success. We know that it was Cybelle, but everyone in the show has to play catch up, which leads to more interpersonal problems.

What I didn’t know? Whether Cybelle was sicced on Tuesday by either Katie or Dahlia, whether it was egging on her anger or giving her access to the dressing room. When Katie mentions who has motive, Angela suspects her mama. but Dahlia seems too proud for that kind of trickery. Katie has been very shifty the last couple episodes, and her “dumb assistant” act seems almost too practiced.

Whent C&T take the stage, the judges immediately note Tues’ injury and lack of a guitar. Carole passes it off nicely by saying they’e going to show they’re more of a guitar-and-piano duo; which isn’t really lying, since they may well want or have to branch out without either of those instruments at some point.

Carole is also asked about being a refugee and her family. She’s not sure what she’d say if her parents were watching, just “I’m here.” There’s not much of a crowd reaction to her background, so they move on with the song. It’s…fine, again. No ear bleeding thankfully, but the lyrics are reliably trite, sparse, and poorly structured. We see Cybelle is still somewhere in the building, watching on.

Ertegun starts the judge’s review by stating that someone who gets injured just before a performance has no business being a musician, and as harsh as he sounds, he’s not wrong. If Tuesday wants to make the big time, she’s got to learn how to protect herself, speak up, say no, and be a better judge of character. Unable to do all of the above led directly to her burns.

That said, the other judges loved them, and the woman who was introduced as the Simon Cowell of the trio states that the duo “stole her heart.” All the Insta followers in the world can’t keep Pyotr from losing this one, but like GGK he’s a good sport about it, happy he gained even more followers and has a bright future.

The final, then, is set: Carole & Tuesday vs. Angela. This leads Gus, absent any hard evidence, to accuse Dahlia of sabotaging Tuesday, just as Angela initially did. But when the culprit is described as “a slender young woman”, Angela’s suspicions shift immediately to Katie, and she reams her out for doubting her ability.

Katie, who we previously see smelling Angela’s lipstick, is either a very good actor, or legitimately devastated by her favorite artist’s accusations. Thankfully, the cops find Cybelle while she’s trying to flee, all thanks, incidentally, to Roddy spotting her in one of Pyotr’s many video posts. During her perp walk, Cybelle blows up at Tuesday, telling her she got what she deserved.

Like Ertegun, Cybelle isn’t the most tactful here, but she’s right. Though even a firm rejection at the start may have caused Cybelle to go after her, leading someone like her on was playing with fire…or in this, case dry ice. Carole tells her as much outside the hospital, where Tues was told she could play again in a week.

Carole doesn’t hold back in telling Tuesday she needs to not only learn how to handle people better, but also seemed unfocused in their performance, and that perhaps her commitment is less serious because she has a big fancy home to go to if this doesn’t pan out. It’s definitely the most distant these two have been for a while.

But things could always be worse…and they become worse almost immediately after Carole’s shots are fired, as burly goons sent by Tuesday’s family roll up and roughly toss her into the car. Carole gets punched when she tries to interfere, and when she manages to jump onto the fleeing car, the driver switches to manual mode and she’s thrown from it, though she suffers no serious injuries due to good rolling form.

Still, just like that, the duo has been severed, moments after cracks started to form due to their deeply different backgrounds. The timing is horrifically cruel, almost as if it was meant to be. But as we’ve seen, Tuesday is, like a young princess out in the world, not quite equipped to survive in it, and her injured hand was clear for all the millions of viewers to see.

A lot of those viewers are voters, so it behooves Tuesday’s pragmatic mom to put her house in order. I smell a rescue mission in the works.

Attack on Titan – 41 – Nobody Knows a Damn Thing

This week begins with Marlo and Hitch, a pair of military police on patrol in the woods, just shooting the shit with a little mild flirting mixed in. They’re not evil or anything, just ordinary people…just two more bricks in the wall. They find Armin by a stream, and when they try to arrest him, they’re ambushed by Levi and Mikasa.

They don’t expect any valuable intel from these two grunts…they’re merely one step in a whole sequence of steps that might lead them to Eren and Tori’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Hange rescues the Reeves scion, Flegel, and challenges him to do more than spend the rest of his days scampering around like a rat.

Levi first chooses Sasha to tie up and guard the prisoners, but Jean volunteers to do it, and takes Marlo and Hitch to a secluded spot where he threatens to kill them. He then stumbles—on purpose?—and gives the captives an opportunity to kill him.

When they don’t—both lost people in Schoess District, but Marlo seems sincere about wanting to side with the Scouts—it would seem they both passed Jean’s “test.” Two more soldiers for the revolution, perhaps.

Flegel is cornered by military police once again, but all by design. As gratitude for letting them find him, they agree to tell Flegel why his father was killed: he betrayed the police, who threatened him with death if he didn’t agree to kidnap the scouts.

It’s a very inflammatory monologue—perhaps too conveniently so, considering Flegel is not the only one listening. The supposedly “deserted” area where he let himself get cornered happened to be the perfect spot for Hange and her men to turn the tables.

Even better, dozens of the public overheard the police’s schemes, including two journalists. After seeing Flegel face up to his enemies even at the risk of his life, will they or other citizens feel motivated to question the “truth” the military police dispenses? We shall see; that’s certainly what the Scouts want and need: public support to sway back in their favor.

After ambushing a checkpoint, Levi tries to beat intel out of its commander, but when he finally pretty much breaks him, the guy has little of value to say because he wasn’t trusted with the location of Eren and Tori. Kenny—whose last name is Ackerman, we learn—is too cautious for that.

Finally, in the royal capital, a beaten, tortured, starved, one-legged Erwin Smith still manages to maintain both his sanity and dignity, casually asking one of his tormentors about his family. Erwin is brought before the king for sentencing.

Erwin is to be the first of the Scouts to be officially tried, found guilty, and executed, and the Military Police won’t stop until they’re all gone…all to maintain the kingdom’s secrets.

Attack on Titan – 40 – Truth Desert

Titan is effective because the audience shares in the characters’ frustration that their world is shrouded in mystery and they have no idea what The Truth really is. They have to either be content with smaller truths— Historia’s identity as true heir to the throne, for instance—or theories, like the one where the false king altered the memories of those who settled within the walls, and altered history along with it.

As Historia is meeting her father for the first time in years, she goes over her own sad, well, history in her head. She had an objectively horrible mother who never showed her love, but with no frame of reference for what a “normal” mom-daughter relationship should be, getting violently shoved away for trying to hug her made her happy, because it was something.

The first words Tori’s mother said to her were basically the same as the those with which Tori’s mother left the world: words expressing regret she ever gave birth her. Rob Reiss was and in the present still isn’t proud of having to send his daughter away, but the alternative was her sharing her mother’s fate that one night, when the men in black coats and hates came.

Meanwhile, at the farm, Hange returns Sannes to his cell, and reveals to him that his friend Ralph didn’t sell him and the king out, he was simply used as a pawn to get Sannes to betray the king. Hange has very little patience for their weeping and moaning, and voices that lack of patience…emphatically.

Erwin meets with Pyxis to inform him of the coup he’s planning; after he has words, Pyxis agrees to lend his support when the time comes, but the Military Police is working even faster than they are, and when Erwin’s presence is demanded at the scene of Reeves’ murder, Erwin doesn’t hesitate naming Hange his replacement as commander of the scouts in his absence.

I’d congratulate Hange on her sudden promotion, but she just took command of an organization that is about to be unjustly branded an enemy of the state. What had once been a position of great esteem is now a thankless job. Not that that matters to Hange—she’ll do her duty to the fullest.

Erwin walks into what he knows to be a frame-job, but still makes sure to let Reeves’ family know he intends to avenge the man’s killers, and even though they’ve been carefully conditioned to blame him, Erwin’s pure charisma seems to have an affect on them. On the rooftops Kenny watches scouts all over the city get rounded up as criminals, but prefers to let Levi come to him.

Before being arrested, Erwin told Pyxis a story about his childhood, when his father used to teach his history class. Erwin asked a question his dad had to evade, but later that night explained his theory to his son. In a truth desert like the world in which they lived where others only encountered mirages, his father had found an oasis. But Erwin, young and stupid, blurted out his father’s theory in public until the wrong ears caught it, and that was the end of Erwins’ father.

Since then, Erwin had always suspected his father was killed by the government, and if that happened, it meant there was merit to what his father believed, so he came to believe the theory was fact. To get closer to The Truth, the current government and its fraud monarchy must be replaced, and Historia enthroned as the true queen.

With the military police prowling for any scout and the government on high alert, no part of Erwin’s plan will be easy. In the midst of all this intrigue, I’m sure a number of scouts are almost wishing for the days when all they had to do was…kill Titans. Of course, that (relatively) easier life was only possible because they were more in the dark than they are now.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 04

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The next chapter of Re:Zero gets off to a strong start with a great Eva reference from Subaru followed by his and our dashed expectations he’d wake up with Emilia sitting by his bedside.

Instead he’s greeted by no one, walks down a hall loop, then solves it on the first try with his game master-infuriating natural luck, coming afoul of a “drill loli” sorceress who burns him, claiming it’s just a test to determine if he’s friend or foe.

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Waking up again in the same bed (the ceiling now familiar), he hears snide commentary in stereo about himself, then finds two maids, Ram and Rem, standing in his room. Emilia appears, and all is well. He surveys the massive estate where they’re staying, shows “Emilia-tan” Japanese morning calisthenics (a great cultural crossover), and meets the lord of the mansion, Roswaal L. Mathers, whom he not unreasonably mistakes as some kind of jester.

During a sumptuous meal, Emilia informs Subaru that she is one of the candidates in the running for ruler of Lugunica (her insignia was proof of her status), and with the present king’s whereabouts unknown, things are uneasy in the kingdom. As such, one can’t fault Subaru for requesting something relatively modest as thanks for saving her: he wants a job at the mansion. And hell, who wouldn’t? The place is fantastic.

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Once he’s fitted for a butler’s uniform, the twin maids show him the considerable ropes of estate maintenance. He proves he’s not particularly skilled at anything beyond solving Betty’s door magic on the first try every time, but it’s all stuff he hasn’t done before, so some teething is expected.

Ram and Ren are patient and discover some surprising things about Subaru (like his sewing skills), but are quick to nickname him Barusu (a blinding curse) and don’t go easy with the barbs. It’s a great sequence of Subaru once again starting to find his place, and it lulled me into a comfortable place.

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Ram, who it would appear has some kind of special relationship to her lord, reports to him that Subaru doesn’t make the best butler (or spy, most likely) and doesn’t believe interfering in his friendship with Emilia is necessary, since they’re both kids and “nothing will happen.”

That line is accurate due to the personality of Subaru and Emilia, but also proves prescient. But before it does, Subie and Emi have a nice little chat in the masnion’s yard/field. Emilia offer to heal Subaru’s wounds, but he wants to keep them as proof of his efforts.

He also asks Emilia on what amounts to a date in town when both are free, and Subaru ignores her concerns that being with her would be troublesome for him. When he goes to bed, he can’t even sleep, he’s so excited about their day tomorrow, until he starts counting Pucks.

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But then morning comes, and Ram and Ren call him a guest, and his wounds are gone. Return by Death has occured, only with a new spawning location: the bed in Roswaal Mansion. But when did death occur? Was his power trigger by something else? It’s another stunning turn for a show that’s been full of them.

This truly is a gem of a show that lulls us (along with Subaru) into a sense of comfort and security, then resets all the progress he made. Having to start over from scratch in this new timeline will be particularly demoralizing for Subaru, even though neither he no nobody ended up dead—as far as we know—this time.

But it speaks to the confidence of this show that it can sweep the slate clean with such regularity. Reset buttons are typically a way of making quick, neat endings; of making things easier for the writers. Here, the resets make things harder, since an entirely new route and new bonds must be forged.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 03

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Subaru is surprised to find “Satella” at the loot house before dark, but not for long, as he realizes her nature never changes no matter which timeline he’s in. She always helps the lost girl, then ends up tracking Felt down. However, just when Subaru is making progress mediating between the parties (by being nice to both), Elsa comes out of the shadows.

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Again, Subie uses his knowledge of Satella to summon Puck to shield the blade, knowing he’s still corporeal this time of day. But Elsa still manages to severely wound Old Man Rom. Puck and Satella launch a pretty-yet-terrifying counterattack with their green ice-like crystalline magic, but to no avail—like a cockroach, Elsa just won’t go down.

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During Elsa’s fight with Rom, Felt, Satella, and Subaru, she’s full of quips, and so is everyone else. As the blades and crystal saggers fly, so to does the juicy dialogue, which is just as sharp and satisfying as the action.

Subaru makes mention of how cool he is when he realizes he needn’t fear dead (since he can always start over at the vendor) but at the same time, really doesn’t want to die and have to start over, especially now that he’s made progress with both Felt and Satella.

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Satella goes down for a moment, but gets back up and helps Subie when she can from long range, while Felt is able to escape outside to call for help, which they’re going to need because Elsa is as relentless about disemboweling everyone as she is hard to kill.

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That help comes in the form of Reinhard, who is a resplendent model of ultracool fantasy hero timing, appearances, and dialogue. He doesn’t even take out his own sword, choosing instead one that’s lying around, so confident is he that he doesn’t need to go all out against the likes of Elsa, the “Bowel Hunter.” It’s also cool how Elsa knows him too, and is excited to see what he can do before she kills him.

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In a great bit of world-building even within this one loot house interior, Satella admits Reiny can’t go all out while she’s healing Rom. But when Rom is out of danger, she gives the go-ahead, and Reiny goes ALL OUT, launching a terrifyingly powerful attack that rends half of the bottle episodes bottle clean away. Outstanding presentation of an “overdrive” attack.

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Everyone celebrates the victory, until Elsa pops out of the wreckage, STILL not dead; only wounded. Fortunately, she chooses the better part of valor by retreating, but the fact she’s still out there with her chilling desire to disembowel everyone else is certainly…disquieting, as is the fact even that huge attack didn’t kill her.

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Her last attack is foiled by Subaru, who uses Rom’s giant bat to parry her blow, saving Satella in the process. When the coast is clear once again, Subie goes into self-aware fantasy hero mode, asking for something from his rescuee in return for his heroics: her name. She replies, Emilia, with just about the sweetest gosh-darn smiles of the Spring. A great little transaction.

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Even with all the twist and turns we’d experienced so far, Re:Zero still isn’t done yet, as when Felt finally produces the insignia she stole from Emilia to return it to her, Reinhard suddenly hardens his previously lenient stance (he’s off duty, so he’ll overlook theft) and formally arrests Felt, hitting her with a sleep spell when she resists.

Once again, the strong reaction from another world insider creates great gravity and significance for one innocuous-looking little piece of jewelry, like the name “Satella.” But this time, Subie didn’t call her by that name, got on her good side, and when the wounds Elsa made finally open, she heals him and prevents another reset.

I was really glad about that, because my heart nearly plummeted all the way down into the Central Dogma when it seemed like he was going to die. That said, I do hope Felt is okay—she seems to be a pawn in all this—and Subie and Emilia can secure her freedom without making Reinhard mad or getting the law on their backs.

Overall though, this week was simply a tremendous piece of entertainment. Succulent kick-ass combat, quick-witted, tasty dialogue that never felt in the way, and countless twists and turns that only added to the richness of the whole—this was the complete package.

And it was a brilliantly compact package at that, with 99% taking place in the confines of the loot house, without the setting ever seeming stale for a second. Eschewing the OP and ED were also a gutsy choice for what is just the third episode. Re:Zero is a must-watch Spring experience, and this was its best episode to date. Hopefully it keeps this up.

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Attack on Titan – 13

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The episode that marks the end of the first half of Attack on Titan also, mercifully, marks the end of the interminable Battle of Trost. It’s an episode full of big, great, “Hell Yeah” moments. One of those is when everyone, believing they’re all at death’s door, suddenly stops what they’re doing and listen to the steady, ominous footsteps. Clearly they’re from a Titan, but it’s when they see the boulder moving that they know it’s their Titan, Eren, finally doing what he’s supposed to be doing.

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Finally, with the mission on the right track, everyone knows what to do: Eren must be protected at all costs. If he is swarmed by Titans again and God forbid, drops that boulder, it really is all over. Mikasa for one, is clearly not going to let any Titans get near him, belting out a primal war cries as she cuts them down one by one.

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Another great moment is when Eren finally gets to the broken gate and slams the boulder in place, kicking up a huge cloud of dust. All the torment of the arc’s past episodes seems to be worth it; for the first time, the humans can truly claim victory over the Titans (albeit thanks to another Titan). Rico admires Eren’s handiwork and is staggered by the enormity of what just happened. An most importantly, none of the hundreds of soldiers who fell today died in vain; they all died so that the gate could be sealed and the district saved.

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But there are still a good number of Titans still within the walls, so as much as everyone wants to stand down or pass out from exhaustion, there’s still a battle to be won. Fortunately for Mikasa, Armin, and a freshly-extracted Eren (it seems to get tougher and tougher to separate him from the Titan…uh-oh), the cream of the Scout Regiment arrives, confused by what the hell just happened, but ready to mop up. Captain Levi’s movements in particular are like nothing we’d seen in the battle before, even from Mikasa.

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With the last of the Titans dealt with, the butcher’s bill comes in: over 200 dead, nearly 1,000 wounded. It’s up for the soldiers like Jean and Sasha to gather up the bodies (or what’s left of them, having been horrifically spit up by stuffed Titans) and burn them before an epidemic finishes what the Titans started. It’s a ghoulish, traumatic business that ensures there won’t be any celebration for this first victory; not while one is surrounded by the stench of the burning remains of comrades.

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The final big moment of the episode, which paves the way for the second half, is when Eren wakes up behind bars, chained to his bed. He may have been the linchpin of the operation that saved Trost District and Wall Rose, but he’s still a potentially dangerous and unstable element, so the bars and chains are a wise precaution.

Fortunately, it would also seem that his captors hew more towards Pixis than Woerman, with actions driven by reason rather than fear. The commander of the Scout Regiment, flanked by Levi, simply asks Eren what he wants to do. If they’re to investigate Dr. Yeager’s secrets, hidden in the basement of Eren’s now-destroyed home in Titan-riddled Shiganshina, having a Titan on their side could prove as decisive as it was in the battle of Trost.

Eren wants to join the scouts and drive the Titans out. That impresses Levi enough to decide to take him under his wing. With a clear path set for the second half, and an interesting new master-student dynamic, I’m looking forward to seeing how things shake out with Eren, Levi, Mikasa, and Armin.

As for the other members of the 104th? Well…aside from Sasha and Jean, they haven’t made much of an impact for me, and even those two are a bit muddled. IMO AoT has most effective when it has resisted the urge to give every single character their two minutes in the sun, and instead focused on the core trio.

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First Half Pros/Cons:

Pros:

  • Richly-rendered world with well-defined scale and complexity
  • Palpable atmosphere of large-scale despair, desperation and futility
  • The Titans stike a weird balance of terrifying and cute
  • The Eren/Mikasa/Armin dynamic works very well, with each character contributing a unique strength
  • Mikasa is the undisputed star, cool outside but all churning emotions inside, making it all the more awesome when they break out

Cons:

  • Front-loading of episodes with recapping and retracing to start episodes
  • I’m sure the creator/producers thought through the 3D harnesses, but it still took a while to get on board with the fact they actually worked, and how
  • The supporting cast is generally bland, amorphous, and served mostly to steal valuable time from main triad
  • Excessive explanation combined with camera cutaways from overt gore suggest the targeted audience is younger than me
  • The show suffers from inconsistent pacing; the Trost battle went on far too long