Akame ga Kill! – 17

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This week we say farewell to the Empire’s most lovable town-burner, Bols. He blew up his Imperial Arms last week, so we knew even if he survived that, he wouldn’t be long for this world. But aside from all the atrocities he committed for the Empire, he remained a decent human being to the end. He knew what he was doing was bad, and would pay for it one day.

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This was that day, as Chelsea disguises herself as an injured little girl and exploits Bol’s big heart, stabbing him in the back with a needle as they hug. As dumb-looking a character as he was, I’ll always prefer guilty villains like Bols to mindlessly evil/sadistic ones. The Jaegers are composed of both types, and yet it’s funny how they can still all sit at a table and enjoy a meal together just like Bizarro Night Raid.

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One of the Jaeger’s psychopaths, meanwhile, is Kurome, but we learn there’s a damn good reason for that: she and her sister were victims of a deplorable crime. With only two corpse puppets left, she makes a tactical retreat in the present, and remembers when she and Akame were first snatched up and thrown into a beast-ridden forest gauntlet with more than 100 other children.

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Kurome only survives because Akame…and vice-versa, but then the sisters are cruelly separated. Kurome’s master experiments with drugs to boost her attributes, while presumably Akame’s master didn’t. No doubt the sisters drew further apart, to the point that when Akame finally defected, Kurome was fully indoctrinated, believing her sister wasn’t just betraying the Empire, but her as well.

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While armless and exhausted, Leone lives to fight another day, as does Akame, Mine, and Tatsumi. Najenda and Susanoo are also fine, as is Lubbock, who informs the others what the only unaccounted Night Raid member, Chelsea, is up to: she’s going after Kurome.

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Chelsea is able to convince Kurome she is Bols, having learned his personality through Tatsumi’s exposure to the Jaegers. She’s also able to stick Kurome with a needle, just as she did with Bols. Kurome goes pale and collapses. Everything seems to have gone swimmingly for Chelsea, who works to rid the world of depravity…

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…Which is ironic, because had she used a less elegant, more depraved means of killing Kurome — like beheading her or destroying her heart — she would have actually succeeded in killing her. Kurome, who deals with animating the dead all the time, survives the needle. She herself is extremely weak, but she still has Natala and the gunner lady puppets, who chase Chelsea down, destroy her Gaia Foundation, slice off her fingers and arm, and shoot her in the back.

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All those times Chelsea warned herself of going soft, and she turns out to be right. She screws up royally, and unlike Leone, doesn’t get a second chance, which is annoying, because Chelsea was frankly a far more compelling character developed in a fraction of the time Leone’s been around. And for the record, both Bols and Chelsea get equally somber, contemplative death scenes, despite being on opposite sides of the conflict.

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In a final insult, Natala beheads Chelsea, who lost because she didn’t do the same to Kurome, and her head is stuck on top of a spike in the Capital, which is how Tatsumi finds out she’s dead. He’s lost beloved comrades before, but that doesn’t make him any more prepared for that horrible sight. So Bols and Chelsea are the first casualties of the war between Night Raid and Jaegers, with Leone and Kurome narrowly escaping demise. So…who’s next?

8_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 16

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As Night Raid and the Jaegers clash in various new combinations, AGK returns to what it does best, big, bold, bombastic yet stylish battles. There is a ton going on this week, with only Lubbock and Wave sitting out the action, and sides made even more complex by Kurome’s “collection” of corpse puppets, all formidable warriors she’d assassinated in the past, including her own childhood friend Natala.

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Thus sub-group of one-shot baddies, both humanoid and bestial, is as diverse and colorful in both appearance and skills as Night Raid and Jaegers themselves, and are the initial barrier keeping Night Raid from taking on Kurome directly. Some get more backstory and screentime than others, but the bottom line is, most of them are tough enough to hang around for most of the episode.

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Frankly, there are so many different combinations of face-offs in the simultaneous battles that it would be a major pain to list them all out, but suffice it to say the episode stays fresh because of the sheer variety of combat going on, and the numerous times a Night Raid member will shift from one target to another one that’s a better fit. They all strive to match their unique Imperial Arm power to the weakness of the opponent in a particular time and place.

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The urgency and seriousness of these battles is helped by the fact we’ve lost Night Raiders in the past, and everything from limbs to garment integrity is lost at various points in the action. But everyone gets to shine, striking and dodging, landing what they intend to be coups-de-grace, only to find their opponent slipped away for found another edge…or if one of their allies interrupts.

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One of the funnier battle “cross-overs” coming when Najenda, disgusted her former trainer and general is still moving around despite the fact she beheaded him, goes in to Overdrive and launches him into the air. The body hits the beam of the Destoghoul just as it’s blasting Susanoo’s arm off (though unlike Leones, it reappears instantly, since he’s, well, an Arm.) It’s a small but funny gesture that conveys the sense that All Of This Is Going On At Once.

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Another instance of clever use of character ability, personality and timeliness under certain conditions, Chelsea, who is hidden most of the time, uses her makeup kit to take the form of a tribal elder one of the puppets won’t attack, opening him up for a fatal needle to the brain. She took the risk to protect Tatsumi, whom she’s developed feelings for.

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But after one foe is downed, it isn’t long before another has to be dealt with. Susanoo brought the PAIN thanks to Najenda unlocking his secret “Madman” power, a life-threatening option, but the only way to quickly dispatch the Destoghoul.

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After she defeats her gun-toting opponent, Mine is ambused by a giant toad and swallowed, to burn up in its stomach acid, but as Kurome gloats, Mine blows enough holes in the thing to escape before the acid does too much. Mine then makes the very unreasonable, but very Mine demand for Tatsumi to somehow help her without looking at her.

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Yes, I liked that even in these tough battles, there’s still the occasional exchange of wry banter or joking around that we’ve come to expect of AGK, though there’s less of it than usual, and even in this it throws a curveball, as in the moments Leone lets her guard down watching Najenda fight, she loses her frikkin’ left arm to an opportunistic, ruthless Kurome. Keep your eyes on a swivel, guys!

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how long Bols manages to stick with Akame and later Akame and Leone. He even calmly asks Akame why she became a rebel, and doesn’t argue with her right to feel the way she does…it just doesn’t change the fact his job is to incinerate her. But when his corpse puppet guard goes down, it’s two-on-one, and his Imperial Arm is severely damaged by Leone biting it, he tosses up his turbine backpack and Detonates The Entire Episode. Talk about ending things with a boom! Keep it up with this AGK. You’re in your wheelhouse.

8_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 15

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Akame ga Kill! really wants you to understand that the Ultimate Battle between Night Raid and the Jaegars and between the Rebellion and the Empire, is about to begin. Both characters and the narrator mention it at least half a dozen times. They should have also said something along the lines of “these battles are definitely on the way, but bear with us a little while we lay out all the details and get people into their proper positions for said battles.” Or something.

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So yeah, this episode is yet more setup. By the end of it, Najenda, Akame, Tatsumi and Leone are engaged with Kurome and Bols, with Susanoo having smacked Wave off the battlefield entirely. It doesn’t seem like either party is going to back down or retreat; this is it. We just don’t get to see any actual fighting quite yet.

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“Wait…WHY are we in bikinis, again?”

We do get a somewhat meandering Rube Goldberg-like plan for overthrowing the Capital and Empire; one that depends on a lot of moving parts which could spell disaster if any of them failed. It starts with a popular religious group starting an insurrection within the empires borders, followed by invasions from without by the Revolutionary Army and its allied tribes.

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“Are the crepes good, people? Good!”

They’re depending on the zealots being enough of a threat to warrant a sizable movement of Imperial forces in the direction the Revolutionary wants, as well as the cooperation of disillusioned castellans on the route to the Capital to honor their word to yield their castles to the rebels. If everything goes according to plan, the capital will be theirs, its corrupt leaders dispatched, and all with a minimum of bloodshed.

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But c’mon now, not everything is going to go according to plan. Neither the rebel army nor Night Raid can do anything without dealing with Esdeath and the Jaegers first (Najenda also name-drops Commander-in-Chief Budou). The episode serves as a means to take stock in each Night Raid member or Jaeger’s specific reasons and motivations for fighting, with Seryu’s probably being the most morally upside-down (though that’s not surprising considering the mentors she’s had).

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On the other end of the spectrum is Wave, who isn’t even listed as a target, but he has his own reasons for fighting on the side he’s on. Regardless of whether you’re an otherwise nice guy like him or Bols, or a complete evil psycho like Kurome, they must all be defeated by Night Raid if the rebellion is to have a chance.

7_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 14

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For those among you who don’t particularly care about the Tatsumi+Esdeath romance thread, this episode was probably a bit of a slog. However, I don’t mind it in the least, so it was a lot of fun. I couldn’t tell you why; but there’s just something very endearing about such an otherwise heartless, cruel villaness having such a tender side to her; aside only Tatsumi can bring out.

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She’s not even mad about him running away the first time; she’s just happy they’e reunited…and on a remote and deserted island, no less. She treats it as a date, with the two of them enjoying fun activities like bringing down colossal danger beasts, harvesting fruits, hunting for game, and relaxing on the beach. She’s so into Tatsumi, she’s even taken to drawing crude but adorable sketches of the two of them.

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Tatsumi manages to hold back her amorous advances, and instead uses the opporunity to learn more about Esdeath. Tatsumi doesn’t really tell her much of anything about his past, but she tells him the lot: how she was originally from the Paltas clan, daughter of the chief, who taught her that the strong die and the weak perish every time, and that’s just the way it goes.

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When she returns to find her village and her father attacked and killed by the Northern tribes, it’s merely another case of that fundamental philosophy. All she could do was continue to be strong, get stronger, and survive, because that’s what life is. When prey grew scarce, she joined the military, and simply applied the same tactics to humans as she did beasts.

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Everything she’s done since has been to serve the Empire, including her subjugation of the Northern tribes—not revenge. Even her father saw that something was “missing” in Esdeath; that she seemed to enjoy dissecting beasts a bit too much, which then turned into a taste for torture. It was all in service of the universal truth she’d seen in action firsthand: death is the fate of the weak.

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When it came time for her to choose an Imperial Arm, she chose an urn of demon elixir that had made every previous taster insane. But because she was already a bit loopy, and felt the drink “calling to her”, she chugged it down without reservation, and a powerful ice danger beast merged with her body, which she is able to control.

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The result of learning all this is that despite all the fun times they had on the island, Tatsumi has come to realize Esdeath isn’t someone who would ever defy the empire or join the rebellion. But the jury is still out for me: after all, he affects her like nothing else does. He’s not merely a boy toy to her, he completes her. If the demon within her is an internal covenant, she seeks an external one with him. She’s not messing around.

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But again, rather than stay by her side, Tatsumi hides again. They are separated once more, and Tatsumi is all but certain the next time they meet they’ll be enemies. If that’s really how it’s going to go down, I guess this episode was a means of convincing Tatsumi (and us) that as nice as it would be for Esdeath to be on his side, it’s just not to be; she’s far too set in her ways. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.

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Oh yeah, and the guy who teleported the doomed couple to the island in the first place is Honest’s son. He seems like a real swell fellow!

8_mag

Psycho-Pass – 12

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Complete change of gears this week, as we enter Backstory Mode, starting with how Kunizuka Yayoi joined the MWPSB as an Enforcer. A passionate guitarist, listening to “Non-Sybil-authorized” bands clouded her hue to the extent she ended up in a chilling rehabilitation facility.

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When reports of “antisocial organizations” spring up in her neighborhood, she’s visited by Ginoza and Kogami, who is still an Inspector. Brass tacks: Sybil says Yayoi has the aptitude to be an enforcer, they’re willing to give her a chance, and there aren’t a lot of other options for leaving rehab.

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Kogami breaks the ice by giving her some long sought-after guitar strings, and Yayoi agrees to assist in the investigation, eventually finding herself in the very club she used to frequent when she was free, listening to the band that clouded her hue to begin with, fronted by the lovely Rina.

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Yayoi admired and maybe was also a little into Rina, for she represented a rebellious nature she’d never been able to fully replicate, even if she eventually became a latent criminal. But when she learns Rina is an actual rebel, fighting against Sybil with Molotovs along with music, she seems to turn off her heart and turn on her head.

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Believing what Rina is doing is wrong, she pulls the Dominator Kogami gave her and tries to shoot her. The trigger is locked (even Kogami wouldn’t give a non-enforcer latent a live Dominator), but Yayoi passes the test: when the chips were down, she chose the side of law and order, horribly flawed (and unforgiving to her as it is).

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Yayoi’s story is pretty simple, but it doesn’t need to be that complicated: even among those wronged or harmed by Cybil’s tyranny may prefer it to violence and chaos. In this regard, Yayoi is an obedient student of her time. She’ll carve out the place she can in this messed-up world, just as Kogami and Sasayama seem to have done (Sasayama is, indeed, kind of a dick, BTW).

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They may not be true believers, but they’re willing to stand behind the safety and comfort Sybil provides, because it gives them power. In a world where things are constantly being taken away from you, the opportunity to be on the side of the takers is hard to pass up. Still, it’s encouraging to see there are people out there fighting against Sybil.

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Mekakucity Actors – 10

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It’s been abundantly clear for some time now that Mekakucity isn’t particularly interested in presenting a linear narrative, preferring to blend episodes of the present with glimpses of the pasts of the characters involved in that present, for us to better understand, or more to the point, care about said characters.

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This week, the present is mostly placed on the back burner in favor of Kozakura Marry’s backstory. Wouldn’t you know it, she’s the granddaughter of the “monster” in the fairy tale. One day, fearful townsfolk come to kill the monster, but she fiercely protects her husband and daughter Shion—Marry’s mom—before leaving them, and the world.

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Marry was raised to believe her eyes would turn others to stone, just like her grandmother Medusa, but her life of lonliness grows intolerable, and she can’t help but cry out for help. Help arrives in the form of Seto Kousuke, who has eyes just like hers, even if they’re embued with a different power. In any case, a connection between two kindred spirits is formed, and the rest is history.

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The entire flashback is neatly framed by a dream the present-day Marry is having while nodding off, when she’s supposed to be keeping an eye on Amamiya Hibiya. This leads to her finding Konoha and bringing him back to HQ, and after seeing Marry’s mom and dad, we couldn’t help but wonder if Honoka’s resemblance to them was intentional. In any case, Akiyuki Shinbou certainly has a thing for manipulative asshole snakes…and now that we know where Marry is coming from, we care about her more than we did before.

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Oreimo 2 – 03

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Kyousuke, Kiriko and Ruri visit Saori’s house for a surprise birthday party, and she arrives home from school out of her otaku disguise. We flash back to when her sister Kaori first introduces her to her otaku friend circle, “Pretty Garden.” The desperately shy Saori makes friends there and has fun, but when Kaori suddenly ups and leaves, the other circle members drift apart until Saori is alone. She promises she’ll show her sister up, doing so by starting a new circle. Back in the present Kaori and her friends have reunited, and give the older, taller, more sociable Saori their regards.

Ayase was the focus last week, but this week she’s absent as the focus is entirely on Saori Bajeena, AKA Mikishima Saori, a very rich, high-class, beautiful young lady who presents herself to her otaku friends as a lurchy otaku dork with oversized novely glasses. They don’t even recognize Saori when they see her. Now that we can see her eyes, face, and hair properly, it’s like we’re meeting the character all over again, only now she’s on more of an equal footing with Kirino and Kuroneko. And hey, it turns out she’s an imouto too!

Her backstory is one of her older sister practicing tough love: introducing her into a sink-or-swim situation where she must show her face to people and talk to them, and once she’s comfortable there, indirectly breaking up the circle, removing the proverbial training wheels from Saori’s social development. It’s sad, but people grow up and move on; it doesn’t mean they’re not still friends. And Saori’s experiences gave her the strength and wherewithal to find her own circle of friends, and the cycle continues. We liked learning more about this non-bespectacled Saori, and hope to see more of her.


Rating: 8 (Great)