Guilty Crown – 21

UN launches a massive assault on GHQ, but Gai emerges and destroys the force with a single devastating attack. The Undertakers take advantage of the distraction to infiltrate the building, led by Shu using everyone’s voids as he goes. When they reach Central Command they are blocked by Yuu of Naath, who isolates Shu and duels him. Shu wins, but is a moment too late to save Inori, who Gai has had enclosed in crystal to be reborn as Mana, his Eve.

That was a mighty fine penultimate episode. It employed an enthralling “infiltrating the final dungeon” setpiece, complete with a nasty-ass boss in Yuu, who sacrifices minions for void weapons like we usually eat popcorn chicken – rapidly and without mercy. Finally, it just about finished explaining what the heck is going on. Yuu is a member of Naath (he says he is Naath), an organization that apparently chooses the next stage of evolution for humans. Inori is their Eve, it’s clear, but Adam was pretty much a stalemate between Shu and Gai until Yuu asks him a simple question: Will you press the reset button on the world?

Shu is, as Inori observes, “heartbreakingly human”, so much so that heals guys who aren’t even on his side. Eliminating the entire human population, including his friends and family, simply isn’t in his character. Killing Gai to save them all is, though, as he states in perhaps the most touching scene with Ayase yet – part goodbye, part acknowledgement of mutual affection. The stirring score really makes its presence felt and adds gravity to the proceedings. We’re feeling good about a coherent ending taking place, though we can’t speak to how derivative and/or contrived said ending will be.


Rating: 3.5

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Guilty Crown – 19

Haruka steals the last void genome ampule from the bowels of GHQ and heads to the Kuhouin manor, but her old friend Kurachi leads her to an office where remnants of Funeral Parlor are holed up. Segai infiltrates the office and Ogumo is killed protecting Haruka, who is swept away by Argo to another hideout. There, Ayase volunteers to inject herself with the genome, but Segai shows up before she can. The ampoule trades hands a couple times before rolling away and into the hands of Shu, who injects it, forms a new right hand, and defeats Segai, absorbing Tamadate’s cancer in the process. He vows to bear all of the virus, and all the bad will with it.

We now have ourselves two kings: “Unsightly Idol” Gai, and the re-crowned runt Shu. Gai’s goals remain somewhat hazy; but Shu’s job is clear: get Gai; end the suffering of his people. The manner in which he got that crown back is not without many moments of incredible luck and circumstance, and his ultimately victorious battle strained credulity at other moments, but we’ll cut the series some slack; it’s almost the endgame, and as Segai says, this isn’t the time to hold back (though he wasn’t talking about logic). But yeah, Segai’s dead now. We won’t miss him that much, he’d become another fairly bland military sadist.

It’s just as well Shu arrived on the scene when and where he did; Ayase was on the ground and about to be killed by Segai (who had plenty of time to do so but didn’t) and even if she’d retrieved the ampoule, there’s no guarantee her body wouldn’t instantly reject it and kill her anyway. Shu’s not-mother insists that if he takes it again he won’t survive, and she turns out to be right about whether he’ll die. She didn’t say when, though. Perhaps he’ll live long enough to save the world, sacrificing himself in the process, and at least in his mind, atoning for all the sins he feels guilty for.


Rating: 3

Guilty Crown – 17

As Shu prepares the school for “Exodus”, in which they’ll escape from quarantine, his oppressed subjects are starting to resent his rule. This is exacerbated by Arisa and Nanba spreading the rumor that you’ll die if your void is destroyed. After being attacked by Inori, Arisa is planning a coup d’etat. The operation begins and goes off without a hitch, but when it’s over and the students can escape, Arisa strikes, with many students on her side. A Gai resurrected by GHQ arrives and slices of Shu’s right arm with Inori’s void, taking his power. The UN approves a resolution to “eliminate Japan”.

Wow. Damn. That kingdom didn’t last long. With five whole episodes left, the story is moving alarmingly fast. Shu started the episode with everything and ended with nothing. Well, that first part isn’t quite right. At the start, Shu had become fairly comfortable with his role as reluctant tyrant in order to shape the school into a fighting force. But at great cost: Ayase and Tsugumi are alienated, he impulsively discards Yahiro, and even Arisa, who he once could have counted as a friend, is the leader of the successful revolt against him. Inori stays by his side, but she’s a loose cannon, acting alone when she assaulted Arisa, an act that only made matters worse.

What’s so distressing about all this is that Exodus was a success. Shu did what he set out to do and freed the people. Would they have performed as well had he exercised a gentler hand? Would they have (A)risen up against him regardless? We’ll never know, but that’s the least of Shu’s problems: he’s lost his arm, and with it his King’s power. He’s just a kid again. And just to pile on the peril, the entire country itself is about to be bombed by the UN – apparently to stop the spread of the apocalypse virus. Things are bad – and we can’t see how they’ll get better just now.


Rating: 3.5

Nitpick: Wouldn’t the Tokyo Tower falling create, an enormous shockwave/dust cloud that would envelop/consume Shu’s whole army, considering they’re all gathered around it’s base?

Guilty Crown – 16

Mr. Kuhouin sends Argo to Tokyo to retrieve his daughter for an arranged marriage in exchange for diplomatic favor. When Argo touches down, he finds a dire situation in which Shu has adopted Yahiro’s ranking system and the entire student body has fallen in line. It’s a highly regimented operation in which the weak are discriminated against due to shortages of food and medicine. Shu has Argo detained, but when he escapes and tries to make off with Arisa, Shu confronts him with a member of his secret service. In the fight, a ceiling beam falls on her void, killing her – something Shu didn’t know could happen. Back at GHQ, Shu’s mother is helping Segai awaken somebody…

Wow, talk about a quick turnaround. We knew there would be big changes once Shu decided he wasn’t going to dick around anymore, but what we have here goes beyond a tight ship. His New Order is an authoritarian regime that draws its power from fear: both the fear of Shu’s void power and the fear of Shu, their last hope, being infected. So the weak like Souma are marginalized (with Shu even ready to let him die in a scene of heartless micromanaging) while those with strong voids get preferential treatment and are invited into the elite secret service. We like how the episode introduced a new Rank A character just to kill her in the end, not only to show us that even the strong aren’t safe, but to expose Yahiro’s lies to Shu, even if it may too late.

As for Inori, well…it seems she made a choice right beside Shu; the choice to put her conscience aside to serve her king. Tsugami is basically going with the flow, and Ayase is just flat-out disgusted with what Shu’s become (he tells her he’s glad they were alone when she slapped him so he didn’t have to “reprimand” her) , as is Argo (the best line of the episode adds some levity to all the dread: “We really liked that ‘pale-faced weakling strugglin’ for all he’s got’ thing you had going, you know!”). But as Shu says to Argo when he’s got a knife to his throat: let’s see you try to keep this mob together and keep them safe with no resources. It’s a thankless job, really. Is Shu expressing the archetypal excuses of the tyrant, or are his sacrifices justified to ensure at least some of his kingdom survives what’s coming?


Rating: 3.5

Guilty Crown – 15

As the red line draws nearer to the school, food and vaccine supplies are dwindling. Shu, now president, doesn’t want to use the void ranking system Yahiro devised, but he realizes he may not have a choice. Some low-ranked students including Souta get ahold of the ranking, and trick Shu into releasing their voids. Rather than practice, they head out to find more vaccines, but are intercepted by Antibody gunships and endlaves. Shu and Hare head out to help them, but both are seriously injured when Souta makes Hare try to fix a car, which Daryl Yan blows up. Hare heals Shu, at the cost of her own life. When he wakes up, she shatters in his arms. Consumed by fury, Shu uses Inori’s sword to destroy the Antibody attackers. After beating up Souta, he vows to purge his kindness and do what must be done.

This week the series didn’t hold anything back, putting Shu up against a wall. He has a clear choice between discriminating against the weaker students and surviving, or continuing to be kind to everyone and merely delaying the death of all, and the inevitable chaos when supplies run out. Taking over as class president was such a hopeful, optimistic moment, but this episode wasted no time bringing the reality of the situation to the forefront. Shu tried to stay on the fence, but in the end, his hand is forced by the tragic and surprising death of Hare, who was on the cusp of confessing her love to him when their last moment together was interrupted by the news Souta was going off to be a hero.

Hare has a powerful final episode, in which she’s nudged by Tsugami to confess, because there’s no telling what may happen tomorrow. She’s then her usual selfless self, doing all she can to heal the wounded in an extremely hazardous situation where she’s in the line of fire. Her final act of sacrifice to save her “kind king” is heartbreaking – there’s no words of goodbye- she’s dead before Shu wakes up. And when he does, cries of grief are stuck in his throat. Then, like a switch going off, the old kind Shu is gone. Kindness didn’t save Hare, and it won’t save his kingdom. The gloves are coming off. The dark side beckons…


Rating: 4

Chihayafuru – 16


This was a 99% clip show documenting all the big events of the series thus far, interspersed with omake skits that asked the characters questions, like which girl would they rather date, or give your colleague idiom nicknames. They also included another instance of Chihaya being a doormat for her sister. We basically skipped the bits that we’ve already seen and were left with about five minutes of original material.


(No Rating)

Guilty Crown – 13

After the “Second Lost Christmas” that killed Gai, the city center district known as Loop 7 is quarantined by GHQ, now led by former Major, now Chief Segai. Ayase and Tsugami join Shu and Inori as classmates. After two weeks separated from the rest of the city, nerves are starting to fray, so the school council led by Kuhouin decide to organize a cultural festival. It is crashed by rioters who were supplied with military equipment by Segai in disguise, but before they can hurt anyone, Shu uses his new power – drawing out a void so its owner can use it – on Ayase. Her void is a set of prosthetic legs which, combined with his Inori sword, take care of the baddies. But when the TV feed is restored, the other shoe drops: the GHQ is closing off Loop 7 for ten years, in hopes of eradicating the alleged apocalypse breakout there.

We were a bit weary when we heard the words “cultural festival”, but this turned out to be a very good aftermath episode, with lots of good Ayase characterization. There isn’t any way around it, practically speaking: Ayase needs technology in order to prove to herself and others that she’s useful. She blames herself for Gai’s death, and is lost without him or her endlave. Fortunately for her, she’s got a friend who can draw out her very convenient – but still poetic – void that enables her to move as she would within an endlave, only with her own body. Which, any way you look at it, must be an absolute thrill. The final action piece with her and Shu kicking ass and taking names was awesome.

Of course, this was just the eye of the storm. Shu, all his friends, and perhaps tens of thousands of people are now trapped within the confines of a few city blocks. Things were already starting to get chippy, what with bands of the strong starting to prey on the weak. That shit’s only going to get worse from here, unless Shu & Co. can either stop it or break down the walls that surround them. There’s also this interesting dynamic with Segai treating Loop 7 like some kind of zoo or lab; no doubt he isn’t just going to leave Shu and his powers alone. Things may have gone from bad to okay to bad again in a jiffy, but the good guys aren’t without means…or guts.


Rating: 3.5

Guilty Crown – 12

Anti Bodies Chief Koudou captures Inori with the goal of reawakening Mana, the entity that caused the first Lost Christmas. Koudou wants to bring about a second, remaking the world for him to rule. But he has to ‘marry her’ in a strange ceremony. With Gai and Ayase’s help, Shu remembers what he had forgotten: Inori/Mana was his big sister, and together they found Gai washed up on a beach and became good friends. When Mana touched the purple rock, she became infected by Mana, eventually leading to the Lost Christmas. Shu draws out Gai’s void – a gun that itself draws out voids, then uses Inori’s sword void to stab Mana, sacroficing Gai as well. Apocalypse averted.

Well, now, that certainly took a few twists and turns we were not expecting. Seriously, a whole lot of stuff came out of left field this week; much of which, as far as we know, wasn’t ever foreshadowed or touched upon in the previous eleven episodes. We knew there was something odd about Inori, but never suspected she was some kind of clone of Shu’s big sister. Of course, with this revelation, there are a few uncomfortable Luke+Leia moments, but chalk that up to his sis being under the influence of what is essentially a horny demigoddess.

As for Gai, well, we hardly knew ye…until your last episode. Turns out the reason Shu has been such a bland, wishy-washy character is because he repressed much of who he was, who Gai will say he emulated. “You can be me, like I was once you,” he says in his last moments. Shu used to be a take-charge, assertive dude, and can be again. So he takes charge, and saves the frikkin’ world in the deal. This episode wasn’t without its oddities (crystal eyeball monsters? Digital nuptual veils?), but we still enjoyed it; it was a pretty nice wrap-up to the Undertakers vs. Anti Bodies arc. So…what’s next? Where does the show go from here?


Rating: 3

Guilty Crown – 05

Before Shu can become a member of Funeral Parlor, he must undergo basic training in order to keep up with everyone. Gai puts Ayase in charge of training him. Despite being wheelchair-bound, Ayase is tough and strong, and initially finds Shu hopeless, like everyone else. He proves himself to them in a mock battle in which he gets past Ayase’s endlave Steiner by drawing a void from Argo, one of the members in the audience. She gives him back his pen, and he becomes a full-fledged member. But Gai’s next big operation hasn’t started well.

This week, Shu meets more of the gang, as do we. We see a lot more of Ayase in particular and we have to say we like her proud, spunky character (voiced by Kana Hanazawa). Shu, meanwhile, is still pretty wimpy and unconfident – when he’s not drawing out voids, that is. Inori, so lovey-dovey up to this point, is much chillier to him, telling him not to get too close, then dropping a bomb on him: Gai told her to act like that, no doubt hoping the pretty girl would be successful in recruiting him. Part of us doubts this is how Inori really feels, but it’s what she’s told Shu, so that’s what he believes.

The twist of the knife comes when he sees Inori go into a bedroom with Gai, then hearing from Ayase that they do it two to three times a month. He gets the idea they’re a couple, when…it’s actually more complicated than that (perhaps she just has to sit by the bed and protect him from vamps or something?). His heartbreak aside, this episode efficiently dealt with Shu’s training and initiation. His void genome powers are crucial to Gai’s plans, and next week, Shu will likely need to put them to use in a life-or-death situation. And then there’s that dang pen he still has…


Rating: 3

Chihayafuru – 02

Wataya has a chance to show his peers what he’s made of in a class karuta tournament. Taichi resorts to lying, cheating, and stealing to keep Wataya down once they’re the last two players. Chihaya sits in on the game, replacing Wataya, and proceeds to figure out how the game is played and how a player’s senses should work. She beats Taichi, and the three eventually reconcile, united by their love of karuta

We’re still in flashback mode this week, and one thing’s for certain: Chihaya and Wataya have to contend with some awful people. Taichi is beyond embarassing, but his character is very realistic for his age group. Young boys will tend to tease an pick on girls they like, rather then, you know, be nice to them, while at the same time hating any other guy who looks at said girl. His helicopter mom is pretty grim too; her attitude towards his defeat helps garner some sympathy for the lil’ stinker. Still, the bastard’s lucky Chihaya has such a thick skin.

Meanwhile, when Chihaya calls home to announce she won the class tournament, her mother doesn’t even listen. It’s all about her older sister, the up-and-coming model. For her part, she dismisse’s Chihaya’s feat with two words. “Lame. Boring.” Harsh, just harsh. I have just one word for her: bitch. Even in the country that invented it, Karuta is not that popular, but it doesn’t seem like that will stop Chihaya, Wataya, or even Taichi from continuing to pursue it. On that note: when are we going to go back to the present?


Rating: 3.5

Chihayafuru – 01

High schooler Chihaya Ayase is very beautiful, like her model older sister, but her odd behavior at school earned her the nickname “Beauty in Vain.” She also happens to be a decent player of the obscure card-grabbing game Karuta, though it wasn’t always that way. In a flashback, she remembers her classmate Wataya being teased because of his accent and tatty clothes, but after a chance encounter while he’s on his paperboy rounds – and an incident where both she and Wataya are pushed down and ostrasized by her childhood friend Taichi – Wataya shows her how he plays Karuta, and his dream to become a master. She shares that dream, and back in the present, starts a Karuta club at her high school.

This is the second straight series debut to be dominated by a flashback, and why not, best to establish the character’s motivations right off the bat. This was a strong start. Chihaya had always dreamt for her sister to excel at something – modeling – but the awkward, bespectacled Wataya breaks her out of that. We liked how their initial one-on-one encounter was just pure chance: he was a paperboy on his early morning route, and she was outside waiting for the paper with her sister’s picture on the front page. Of course, to Wataya, it looked like she was waiting for him.

We tend to see Japanese society in best light possible, but this series shows that teasing and ostracism for being “different” is no less present there than anywhere else. We got annoyed when classmates talked about how Chihaya is pretty, but that that beauty is “wasted” whenever she “talks or does something.” Hmph. No matter, we like Chihaya, and this series, so far. We knew nothing about Karuta, but after watching this, we now know we probably wouldn’t be too good at it. Memorizing poetry in hiragana and rapid recall aren’t our strong suits.


Rating: 3.5

Oreimo 15 (Fin)

With this final web extra, Oreimo finally comes to a close on a happy note. Disturbed by a cryptic text from Kirino, Kyou totally brushes off a confession from Kuroneko (bastard) and dashes off to L.A. It’s a bit of a shame they don’t spend any time in America at all; he just takes a cab to her dorm, they play an eroge (her first since she arrived) and with a tearful confession of his own, convinces her to come back to Japan.

Kyou must’ve sensed the same thing his father did from those texts: she wasn’t doing to hot, and was going to proceed to keep working hard, perhaps too hard, to reach her goal of becoming a track star. Basically, it wasn’t working out. She swore she wouldn’t contact anyone back home until she beat another runner: three months later and no texts, save the ones instructing Kyou and her dad to toss her collection and trophies, respectively.

While Kyou kinda had to go and snap her out of her stubbornness, it’s still a bit disconcerting he so casually shot down Ruri, especially after her unprecedented spilling of her honest feelings. He made her happy caring for her. But this is a show where the imouto is the star, unfortunately for Ruri. So rather than be happy with an Ayase or Saori or Tamura or Ruri as his girlfriend, Kyou continues to live his life in service of others. He derives his happiness from making others happy. Pfft…what a weirdo! Rating: 3.5