Sword Art Online: Alicization – 15 – Books and Covers

This is an episode of jumping to conclusions with regard to one’s opponents…or is it? Eugeo and Kirito are seemingly caught off guard when the two young Axiom nuns plunge their paralyzing poison daggers into their chest and back, respectively. Linel and Fizel are not merely nuns, but Integrity Knights in their own right. And they both revel in having been seen as nuns just long enough to draw in close enough to attack their prey.

The girls drag the paralyzed guys up to the fiftieth floor Hall of Ghostly Light, where the Four Whirling Blades and Vice Commander Fanatio Synthesis Two are waiting. The nun knights, the last two sheltered survivors of one of the Ponfex’s resurrection experiments, don’t want the other knights stealing their thunder, but still need witnesses when they behead the criminals.

Unfortunately for them, Kirito only mistook them for harmless kids for an instant; far less time than they thought. When he noticed apprentices were disobeying orders (an impossibility in the cathedral) and wearing ruby oak sheaths (for poison daggers), he quietly recited a poison-dissolving art, which completed in time for him to stop them and give them a taste of their own medicine.

He cures Eugeo, then tells him to quietly recite a perfect weapon control art when he can and wait for his signal. Then he drives past the Four Whirling Blades and crosses swords with Fanatio one-on-one. Perhaps impressed by his cheek, Fanatio orders the subordinates to stand back as they duel.

Fanatio learns that despite a sword that contains the reflective power of the sun itself, Kirito and his black sword are no slouch. He chips off a piece of Fanatio’s helmet, endures the heavenly sword’s beam-like strikes (to non-vital areas) and eventually knocks her helmet off. That’s right: Fanatio is a woman. The look of momentary shock in Kirito and Eugeo’s faces pisses her off to no end; they’re faces she’s seen all her life.

But the one who seems most upset that Fanatio is a woman is…Fanatio herself. It is Fanatio reading her own book by its cover, and reading Kirito’s cover as Just Another Guy who won’t fight her with everything he has. As with Zel and Nel, Kirito quickly moves beyond his instinctive surprise and fights her on equal terms; as he says and we know, he’s no stranger to being beaten by swordswomen.

A splendid duel ensues; one that Fanatio almost seems grateful for, as for once she isn’t being underestimated or not taken seriously, despite her “detestable” face. Kirito asks her if she thinks she’s so detestable, why does she doll herself up so; it’s strongly implied she loved/loves Commander Bercouli Synthesis One.

But there’s no room for love, or anything else, for Integrity Knights. Only “glory” through obedience to the Pontifex. And so even when Eugeo unleashes his Blue Rose Sword upon her, he can’t quite finish the job. Part of that is that he trying to beat her with his hatred, and as Kirito calls for his own weapon enhancement, he corrects Eugeo’s thinking.

They’re not there to kill the enemies they hate, but to save the people they love—as well as those enemies themselves—and end the tyranny of Axiom so humans can live normal lives. And he’s going to do it or die trying.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 15

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As Captain Magbaredge and Inaho’s pre-battle match so subtly implies, this episode is a game of chess being played by Troyard Slaine, and his opponent doesn’t even know he’s playing until it’s too late.

The match is also a chance for Darzana to note just how valuable Inaho has become to Earth’s defense, now that he has the Aldnoah activation factor. Even so, she’s doesn’t feel it’s right to keep him away from battle.

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A couple of garden variety racist counts try to put Sir Slayne in his place, but Saazbaum stops them, going so far as to name Slaine his son. Sure, it sounds sudden, but he’s surely been thinking about this in the last ten months since Slaine came back to him, and the situation called for a gesture that would make any action the counts take against Slaine a act of war against Saazbaum, something they’re far to cowardly to try in the open.

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Now that Slaine has been named Saazbaum’s son an heir in the presence of witnesses both common and elite, his manservant Harklight congratulates this next step towards achieving his dreams, to which Slaine responds above. Sure you don’t, Slaine.

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With his new skills, Inaho isn’t just a hero. He’s become The Hero. With Vers’ overwhelming military superiority, if they lose him, they lose everything. Some have expressed frustration that Inaho and Only Inaho is the only one who can do much of anything, but that’s the natural result of the events.

Earth’s survival dangles by a thread, and he’s that thread, grabbing and clawing and maintaining his grip, finding every advantage and blind spot…yet as his quips indicate, the same old Inaho is still in there somewhere. Inko, Rayet, Calm and Nina are there to keep him grounded, but he’s always threatening to float out of their reach.

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Then the battle dawns (last week was just a glancing taste), and, well, A/Z has always been pretty unassailable when it comes to combat, and the orbital setting continues to dazzle. Here we see the UE kats protected (for a time) by energy-absorbing umbrellas, along with Inaho’s Space Tarzan-like use of swinging cables against the rocks to speed up his maneuvers.

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Still, Inaho’s out here to fight Slaine, as Slaine is apparently out here to fight Inaho. Inaho suspects Slaine is able to somehow see a hint of the near future in order to dodge attacks, so he tries to launch an attack he won’t be able to totally dodge in time But events force us to consider the possibility that Slaine allowed Inaho to hit him (an outcome that surprised even Inaho), so that Saazbaum would come to his son’s aid.

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He does, right on cue, aboard his new kat Dioscuria II, and suddenly Inaho is a bug being swatted at by a raging papa bear. When Inko flies in to offer relief, my heart sinks, warning A/Z “If you kill Inko here, I’m through with you”, but she obeys Inaho and stays put, which is wise, because Inaho gets Saazbaum into the precise position to be pelleted by high-speed debris he detected was incoming.

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What Inaho didn’t know is that the debris was a cloud of bullets, fired by Slaine in the Tharsis using the maximum extent of its time-bending ability. Originally a gambit meant for his face-off with Inaho, Slaine pivots and instead uses Inaho as a chess piece in order to cripple and destroy…Count Saazbaum.

The count might have shout “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”, if he weren’t simultaneously heartbroken and proud of how Slaine played him. Saazbaum, in his typical Versian arrogance, believed he’d won Slaine over, but Slaine wasn’t going to serve under the man who shot his princess a second longer than he needed to.

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As Inaho is busy becoming the Savior of Earth, Slaine ascends to the rank of count, vowing via broadcast to exterminate all remaining Earth resistance in the name of Princess Asseylum before slipping on the burgundy coat. Both lads have risen higher than ever…but even this only feels like one more step on a long road for Count Slaine. Those dreams he claims not to have: what are they, truly? And will Inaho be able to divine a way to stop him?

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 02

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This was one of those episodes that had a little bit of everything, and just kept getting better and better. I don’t care if this is based off a Pachinko game; it’s a blast. The cold open takes us to an Olympus-style heavenly realm, then down to a legendary battle between Jeanne D’arc’s army of knights and the forces of darkness. All with the titular Bahamut floating in the sky, dormant but ominous.

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After an awesome OP with a healthy dose of metal, we return to the present and to Favaro’s latest predicament: in kissing him the previous night, the pink-haired maiden gave him a demon’s tail, which won’t go away until he tells her the way to Helheim as promised. Life’s tough in a world without Google Maps. The only thing that matters to Favaro is getting rid of that tail. But he probably lied about knowing where Helheim is. Probably, because when he looks the lady straight in the eye, it isn’t long before he has to smirk.

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That’s beside the point, as after escaping once again from his noble nemesis Kaisar, Fav immediately considers simply murdering the woman in order to break the spell. That’s right, this guy shot Greedo first; he’s no saint, and he’s always looked out for one guy: Favaro. When he brings her along to a manor to slay a demon goat (ram?) mounted in the wall, he sees her demon power again and realizes killing her won’t be so easy. So he plays a longer game.

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With the bounty Bacchus pays him for the work the lady mostly did, Favaro buys her some clothes (after trying on a good number of outfits), some food, and then some drink, which she’s apparently never had before, but enjoys quite a bit, to the point that when the music picks up, she joins Favaro for some stirring, sexy and very well-animated dancing, followed by a dip in a gorgeous starlit lake.

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At this point, Favaro is thinking it’s the perfect time to stab her in the back, but then he learns her name—Amira—and why she wants to go to Helheim—to reunite with her mother—and he hesitates just long enough for Kaisar to burst out of the lake, having held his breath an untold amount of time. Kaisar, momentarily dazed by Amira’s beauty, gets drop-kicked by Favaro, and the two escape again. Between the goat in the wall, the fantastic dancing, and Kaisar, this episode is full of surprises.

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Here’s another, though I shouldn’t have been surprised: the next day, Favaro sells Amira out to knights for what looks like pocket change. Can you believe this piece of work? Lucky for him, his own horse won’t sit back and let her get killed. And oh yeah, the knights, with all their bad-ass armor and magic circles, only manage to give Amira strange and oddly pleasant tingles, so she was never in much danger.

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Still, now that he’s with Amira again, Favaro decides, for now at least, to stick with her. When they’re blocked on either side of a rope bridge over a massive waterfall, Fav shoots the bridge and they drop, Fugitive-style. I imagine a lot more thrilling predicaments and death-defying stunts are in store for this trouble-prone couple, as they now have a bounty out against them (which Kaisar takes up), while a collection of demon authorities watch the progress of Amira, who bears one of the two “God Keys” that can unlock Bahamut.

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Even if Amira is your standard fish-out-of-water bishoujo with hidden powers, it’s a hell of a lot of fun whether she’s hanging out with Favaro having fun or showing off those frightening (and slick) powers. The cat-and-mouse between the roguish Favaro and Kaisar, stemming from some incident we don’t yet know about (but the details of which vary greatly between the two) is similarly amusing to watch unfold.

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Kill la Kill – 18

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Mother of God, what the heck is going on here? Kill la Kill is looking down on our Plebeian rating system! We’ve watched and written a lot of anime in the last few years, but it’s been a long while since we’ve seen a show string together so many awesome episodes in a row, including the two best episodes of the Winter (so far at least), back-to-back. Last week it threw a hundred balls up in the air; this week we learn all those balls were actually bombs, and they all get blown the fuck up.

Where to begin? Satsuki’s wholly terrifying upbringing, in which Ragyo used her as a life fiber test subject, tossing her baby sister away when she didn’t fit the genetic bill? Might as well, because that was the last straw for Satsuki’s dad Souichirou, who started Satsuki’s lifelong vendetta against her mom. It did look like her dad kinda stood by and let this crap happen to his children, but ultimately Ragyo killed him for opposing her. Junketsu was her inheritance: the garment with which she’d exact her revenge.

And so there you have it: Satsuki isn’t just after power, or the salvation of mankind; all that’s just a means of getting back at moms. The whole time she was looking down on Ryuuko, she was harboring the exact same base thirst for revenge. We’d always seen Satsuki and Ryuuko as two sides of the same coin, and we’d entertained the possibility they were really related, but the nature of the reveal knocked us back in our seats: Ryuuko was that discarded baby sister who ended up surviving. Her body is imbued with life fibers, just like Ragyo’s.

The tables in this episode must be sturdy, because they’re turned more times than an Ikea furniture testing facility. It’s a whiplash-inducing back and forth between Satsuki vs. Ragyo; the Elite Four vs. Nui; Satsuki’s Army vs. Satsuki, Ryuuko, and Nudist Beach; Nui vs. Ryuuko; Zombie Ryuuko vs. Satsuki; Satsuki’s katana vs. Ragyo’s neck. Everyone experiences victory and defeat, but nothing is permanent and there’s always another twist lurking. We’re left with both co-heroines out of commission, Ragyo in Junketsu, a sky full of angry COVERS, and the entire supporting cast left to pick up the pieces. This is finale-caliber shit going down, with nearly a quarter of the show left to go. Hold on; we’ve got a live one!


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Stray Observations:

  • Yup, all of Satsuki’s conflicts against Ryuuko were a means of testing whether she’d be a worthy ally. Everything she does seems to condescend to Ryuuko…but as she’s the elder sister, it makes perfect sense!
  • Mako reunites with her family, who weren’t bothered enough by being imprisoned by their clothes to even pause their gorging on free food. We love that family.
  • Good to see the Elite Four back in action. They do seem stronger.
  • Gamagoori orders Mako to help evacuate the crowds. We like their relationship.
  • We liked how Satsuki and Ragyo got into a bit of a light shine-off.
  • This episode and/or the last didn’t deserve 10s? Leave it out. We couldn’t rank ’em lower if we tried. We’re merely puppets of the producers at this point.

Kill la Kill – 17

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We’ll say this much: Kill la Kill does a “sports festival episode” like none other. We’ve spoken before about how sometimes a primarily building-up episode can surpass the payoff that follows, for the simple reason that the buildup episode is suffused with boundless promise even a great payoff would be hard-pressed to fulfill.

What we’re saying is, whatever the quality of the payoff that awaits us down the road, it won’t not diminish the excellence of the buildup that took place this week. Despite hardly solving anything, this just might be our favorite episode of Kill la Kill yet. We’re tempted to watch it again immediately, and again after that. Sometimes, buildup can be its own payoff.

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So what was this buildup we’re on about? Satsuki returns to Honnouji and announces a sports festival in her mother Ragyo’s honor. Ragyo oversees the global distribution of life fibers and prepares to head to Honnouji. All citizens of Honnou Town are invited to and issued dress uniforms for the catered affair, including Mako’s fam.

Meanwhile, Mikisugi and Kinagase observe the academy from hidden cameras and complete Ryuuko’s education, telling her the academy and surrounding town are one big laboratory for testing human resistance to life fibers. The student body and townsfolk are the white rats, and the dress uniforms provided by Ragyo are snakes that, when she presses a red button, start to feed on the people.

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The good guys swoop in to the stadium to save the day, stare down the bad guys and “To Be Continued” flashes on the screen in those big chunky red letters…Right? Well, not so fast: as Ragyo is talking (down) to Ryuuko, Satsuki plunges her katana into her own mother’s back, announcing she’s rebelling against the life fibers. Ohoho, now we’re talking.

Especially last week, the show’s been going out of its way to humanize Satsuki and facilitate empathy for her; she was, like Ryuuko, dropped into her current role by her parent, after all. By contrast, Ragyo and Nui, for that matter, only vaguely resemble humans both physically and emotionally.

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In any case, those two are clearly not on the side of humanity—which isn’t to say Satsuki’s suddenly turned into a “good guy”, but she’s certainly become an even more compelling and likable co-protagonist alongside Ryuuko. Frankly, there’s a lot we still don’t know: Ragyo’s fate; Nui’s response; the fate of all those people (save Mataro) being eaten by their clothes; how Satsuki will deal with Ryuuko & Co.; what she’ll actually do with the throne she seeks to take; what the life fibers have to say about all this.

In any case, Satsuki has obviously worked diligently to maintain the illusion of a dutiful daughter while plotting her mother’s downfall behind her back. In reality, for a while now Satsuki hasn’t seen Ragyo as her mother at all, but as a rival to be defeated; and Ragyo has been too blinded by her own splendor and hubris to notice.  Everything that built up to this fresh batch of questions was impeccably engineered for maximum entertainment value. It was at times serious, introspective, fascist, funny, and florid, and took us (like Ryuuko) completely by surprise. We couldn’t have asked for much more.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Btooom! – 10

Ryouta fools Oda into thinking he’s closer to the booby trap than he really is, then avoids Oda’s shuriken BIM by diving into the water. Oda runs off with the supplies, but not before asking if he’s Ryouta. Ryouta then realizes his foe is Oda, a former close friend in high school who betrayed him by sleeping with the girl he said he liked. Taira’s wound isn’t healing due to the lizard venom, so Himiko suggests they return to the complex to find medicine. Himiko goes to meet with Murasaki. She races back and implores Ryouta to drop the case he’s carrying, as Date placed a BIM in it to kill him.

The first one to move wins. Stay on the defensive, and you’ll lose your chance.

So says Ryouta’s high school chum Oda, while Ryouta is hesitating to ask out a girl he likes, Aiko. Oda excels at everything: grades, sports, music, th’ladies. Everything seems to come painfully easily for him. That can invite quite a bit of admiration, and Ryouta certainly admired him and trusted him enough to open up to him. But it also invited scorn and envy from those who didn’t like him, so Oda eventually ended up getting voted onto the island where he reunites with Ryouta, his former friend. What’s interesting is that once Oda realizes this guy is Ryouta, he’s in no greater hurry to finish him off.

He said he felt bad about sleeping with Aiko, and he probably still does, to the extent he wouldn’t blame Ryouta for hating him forevermore. But he did warn Ryouta that passively waiting around for things to happen will get him nowhere in life, and believing what anyone says is just as dangerous. Trust is nice and all, but on the island, trusting someone you know as little about as Date could be lethal. Date finally moves first, sick and tired of the admittedly pretty good niceguy act he’s put on. We’d be surprised if his trap actually did Ryouta in, so assuming he’s alive, here’s hoping the experience teaches Ryouta a lesson everyone else on the island has already learned.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. The naked evilness of the Tyrannos staff watching the game unfold with relish is rather chilling. Why the hell are these people so evil? We know, because the plot requires it, but we wish there was a more satisfying reason.