Re:Creators – 21

Thanks to Magane, Souta was able to create a miracle in bringing Shimazaki Setsuna back to reunite with her creation Altair. But early in the reunion, I was filled with a constant uneasiness—and was no doubt meant to be—would the all powerful Altair truly accept this?

If not, how long would it take before the spell was broken, she breaks the train station world, and returns to the real world. What the heck will Team Meteora do then? Everything is on the line here.

Well fortunately, there are no further twists or turns or defeats for Souta and the team; this really is it, and as soon as Setsuna speaks, Altair is well and truly neutralized as a mustache-twirling, world-ending villain. She becomes something far more complicated and interesting; something she only could have become by meeting her creator.

Setsuna doesn’t transparently beg Altair not to destroy the world. Instead, she starts by apologizing for making Altair carry the burden of “curses” she carried with her until death and transferred to Altair. Without judging her, Setsuna earnestly thanks Altair for her efforts, even if they were ultimately misguided.

Setsuna also impresses upon Altair the fact that she is no longer simply her creation; she’s become accepted and loved by everyone as a “king” or “knight of the weak” who took her weaknesses and made them strengths. Altair will always have power, and never be alone, as long as those others exist.

So, realizing her presence is a miracle, but a “twisted” one that shouldn’t be (at least in her world), when the train alarm sounds, she walks to the same spot where she walked before and leaps out over the tracks. Only this time, because she’s not alone, Altair rushes in front of the train and destroys it with her Holopiscon.

When she finds no matter how much she hacks at it, the train will still come in a fraction of a second, Altair redirects the infinite power Setsuna and the world has bestowed on her, into creating Setsuna’s story from now on.

That means creating a world where she and Setsuna can live—them, and no one else, it would seem. Altair is no longer interested in destroying worlds, only creating one world where she and Setsuna can be together, and where her story can continue. They’re basically gods now.

There, in the water, Altair finds a pair of glasses, but they’re not Setsuna’s—they’re Souta’s. Setsuna recognizes them as such, and without saying his name, tells Altair that she was drawn in the first place because of Souta, and others who liked her creations and wanted to see more.

Whether the Setsuna we saw was a combination of who she really was and Souta’s own interpretation of who she was, or one or the other, Souta poured his own heart and soul into creating her, which makes her basically the opposite of Sirius.

All Souta wanted was to “see the same world” as Setsuna. And he did, thanks not just to his own efforts, but to those of the other Creators, their Creations, and the people whose acceptance made them endure.

With one more strum of her Holopiscon, Altair and Setsuna are transported away to their own little infinite world, leaving the normal world safe and bringing a happy (if somewhat bittersweet) ending to Chamber Festival. The hosts sign off, the stadium roars with approval, and the creators and Meteora stand in the control room, basking in the knowledge they saved their world.

While Altair’s transformation was quite sudden, and doesn’t fully absolve the fact that she was fairly one-dimensional up to this point, the means by which she transformed were credible and even, at times, genuinely affecting, for which a lot of the credit goes to seiyus Toyosaki Aki and Ohashi Ayaka.

I also appreciate that the main conflict of the story came to a climax and was resolved with one episode to go, which means there’s time for a closure-giving epilogue.

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Re:Creators – 20

One by one, Team Meteora’s bag of tricks are neutralized or absorbed by Altair, who unlike other creations, never had a backstory or any distinct story at all that she is tied to. Instead, she’s an open source character whose abilities and power are as infinite as the internet.

She is, as she says, a product of emotion, not logic, both in her sole motivation (to avenge her creator by destroying the world that rejected her), and the way the vast and ever-expanding network of creators who fuel her existence and acceptance has reached a near-relativistic scale.

This is why she can take away Hikayu’s new martial arts abilities with one strum of her rifle and even turn the tables on Sirius, her essential copy and the last remnants of Shimazaki Setsuna’s original creations, turning their secret weapon into one of her own to restore herself, complete with new outfit.

Throughout their struggles, Meteora and the Creators and Creations on their side have had to abide by certain rules, which means they were never going to be able to defeat an entity that surpasses those rules and can change them or make new ones on the fly.

Enter Chikujouin Magane and Mizushino Souta, with the last weapon against Altair, one that, if it’s ineffective like the previous ones, will result in them resigning themselves to the fact the world really will end.

A lie about a lie (in this case, the impossibility of beating Altair) turns inside out, transporting Altair and the others to the day Setsuna took her life, just as she is approaching the train platform from which she intends to jump.

This development, prepared mostly in the background by Magane and Souta, totally flips the script, as it messes with cause, effect, and reality in ways nothing else in their arsenal had been able to touch.

Will Altair find a way around this as well, her rage further fueled by her foes’ readiness to drag her dead creator ‘out of her grave’? Are hours numbered? Or will she stand down on her own, without having to be destroyed?

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 20

The Demon assassin is eager to fight a dragon, as I assumed he’d killed one or two in his checkered past. However, his true beef is with the fact that Nina is a mongrel and a pathetic abomination for having a human parent. Nina transforms into the Red Dragon, but the assassin transforms into a bigger one. A much, much bigger one.

The resulting fight is one of the cooler, more impressive battle sequences—after all, two dragons are better than one—but Nina is completely outclassed and the assassin’s attacks quickly transform her back into human form.

Naked and beaten up, the Onyx Commander looms over her and tells her the order to kill her came from His Majesty himself, twisting the proverbial knife before killing her with a real one.

Favaro and Kaisar have heard enough, and spring into action, breaking free from their captors—but they’re pretty outmatched themselves, so it’s fortunate the cavalry arrives in a timely fashion, in the form of El, Sofiel, Azazel and Jeanne. The lads are…humbled by the sight of the surpassingly ethereal, angelic Sofiel, but she’s not here to dilly-dally.

Summoning a giant avatar to match the assassin dragon’s scale, she launches a devastating ice-based attack that turns the dragon into a solid chunk that shatters under its own weight. And to think: she is of those who have found themselves flummoxed and beaten back by Charioce.

With the dragon eliminated and the Onyx Soldiers tied up with magical binds, all that’s left is to finish saving Nina, who appears down for the count not due to any physical exertion, but because she’s suffering from a broken heart.

Kaisar leaves the Onyx Commander and his men alive, but the Commander makes sure he knows there’s nothing he or his friends can do to stop Charioce, so there’s no point in continuing to oppose him, aside, I supposed, from a death wish. Alessand also takes note of the fact that El is the “holy child.”

Back at base (which is surprisingly still intact and safe after all that) Sofiel insists that it’s time to go: Her, Jeanne…and El. But El is reluctant; he believes he was born for a greater purpose that can only be served on the surface world. Bacchus, for once given some dramatic meat, tells him he’s being foolish; that all he his at the moment is a child, a gift from his father to his mother. It’s enough to convince him to go with them.

Meanwhile, Nina whips herself into a rage and tosses aside the necklace Charioce gave her, trying and likely failing to get over the guy who not only rejected her, but tried to kill her. She neither needs nor wants these feelings, but unless Rita has a spell or potion for it, they’re not going anywhere. El stops by to say goodbye, and can tell Nina isn’t alright, even though she puts her usual cheerful face on in front of him.

The next morning, the Onyx Commander informs Charioce, who is headed to Eidos to finish opening the rift, that the dragon has been eliminated; Charioce, like Nina, may well be hiding his true feelings on the matter from the world. Ready to set off back to the Land of the Gods, Sofiel admits to Bacchus that she left without permission, and furthermore, can why he stayed on this world: there’s never a dull moment, after all.

After El says his final goodbyes to Azazel, he walks back through the caves alone, and is confronted by Alessand, who stabs him in the chest, making his holy blood pour onto the ground and surround his black ocarina. Alessand, who was humiliated and judged as worthless by the Onyx Commander, still wishes to prove the man wrong.

So Al chose to make himself worth something by eliminating a potential weapon of the Gods. Whether he’ll get any acknowledgment—or even get out of the caves with his life—remain to be seen.

Re:Creators – 19

Never count Altair out, even when she’s imprisoned in a glowing yellow cube, she still has Charon on her side to protect her. This creates all sorts of problems for Team Meteora, as throughout much of the episode Selesia has no idea what she should do, and only ends up mucking things up, including continually getting in Kanoya’s way.

Down on the ground, Yuuya manages to get Shou to fight on their side, and Shou notes how the Yuuya in this world is different from the villain in their world. Aliceteria gets her chance against the now-freed Altair, but mistakes Altair’s despair for contempt. Altair is barely a character; she’s merely a force of nature. Destroying the world that destroyed her Creator is less will and more instinct.

While this episode gets its usual top marks for style as everyone battles Altair and Charon in their various unique ways, there’s one major problem hanging over it all: I simply do not care about Charon. He’s been introduced to the conflict so late, he’s little more than a plot device. That Altair was able to so easily and completely convince him that her cause was just; that he’s so stubbornly non-receptive to the protests of Selesia—purportedly one of his closest friends; it just doesn’t jibe for me.

But as this is the fourth-to-last episode, it’s time for some Creations’ stories to end, and with that in mind Aliceteria’s exit doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Her arc was basically complete; she went over to the right side after overcoming Altair’s manipulations, only for her forthright chivalry to be pissed on by Altair’s glorified parlor tricks, turning the damage of her coups-de-grace on Alice and erasing her from the world. RIP Aliceteria February. Your raw brawn and bluster simply weren’t suitable for this kind of battle.

Yuuya, Shou, Tokar, and Hikayu gang up on Altair, but she’s able to counter each and every one of their simultaneous attacks, as her nearly-limitless power is just as accepted by the crowds watching than everyone else. It looks very much like another stalemate, but if they can bring Charon down they can at least take away her final ally and shield, allowing all the remaining Creations to go after Altair at once.

Sadly, the remaining Creations are reduced by one more in order to get rid of Charon, and that Creation is Selesia Yupitilia. Finally deciding to fight Charon rather than join him, she lets him stab her Vogelchevalier, she locks him in a bear hug and holds him there for Kanoya to blow them both away, after Selesia has delivered her goodbyes to everyone, including her good friend Meteora, who looks suitably devastated as the Vogelchevaliers explode. R.I.P. Selesia. Good riddance, Charon.

With three episodes left, Altair is finally on her own…unless you count the countless fans in the world unknowingly helping her accelerate the destruction of their own world. Will the remaining Creations on Team Meteora be able to overcome their grief and summon enough power to defeat her? If anyone can counter her cause-and-effect abilities, it’s Magane…and Magane is rooting for Souta.

Re:Creators – 18

Whatever wasn’t working for me last week as the Chamber Festival kicked off, it mostly worked this week, while the best thing about last week—Suruga’s gutsy confrontation with Blitz and the reunion with her resurrected daughter—was carried to a satisfying climax: Blitz switches sides to protect Erina.

The merging together of Blitz and Meteora’s stories was accepted by the audience because, well, who doesn’t like parents reuniting with children thought dead? Also, Suruga was wearing one hell of a bulletproof vest, so she’ll be fine; she didn’t have to sacrifice herself to save the world…yet.

Yuuya and Shou go at it, and because Yuuya doesn’t have Hangaku, he’s at a distinct disadvantage…until Extreme Final Legend Martial Artist Hikayu appears, perfectly matched to Yuuya’s skilled set and ready to bring the pain…while retaining Hoshikawa’s easily-embarrassed personality.

I’ve loathed Oonishi since he appeared, but have to give him props here. Armed with a dating sim protagonist with no fighting abilities, he converted her into a badass fighting machine, and the audience just rolls with it, because they truly DO like ‘this kind of thing’—that thing being fanservice.

What held back last week to some degree was the absence of the most intriguing creation, Magane, who until now has been merely observing. The ‘side’ she ultimately chooses to ‘put her money (or pyrite) on is Souta, and Souta alone, whom she sees as being “just like her” in how the ends justify the means.

Souta has decided to move beyond selfish regrets, and gotten better at knowing how to talk to Magane, but she still gets him wound up, allowing her to use her Infinite Deception of Words. Fortunately, she uses it to his advantage, promising him his creation will not only be set into motion, but be accepted and stir people’s hearts.

I like the move: it feels like something Magane would do to make things as entertaining as possible. She likes fun things, and believes she’ll get to witness a lot more fun if Souta is free to do his thing, so she offers him this indirect help against Altair as an endorsement that however he handles things is okay with her.

As Shou, Hikayu and Yuuya bicker over who will fight whom, Blitz arrives, and Shou assumes he’s there to back him up. But Blitz shoots at Shou instead, Hangaku suddenly reappears beside Yuuya (Souta lied about Magane not giving him back), and we have ourselves a three-on-one fight (four-on-two if you count the dolls).

Shou holds his own until Hikayu brings down the hammer with her Killing Cosmo Hell Fist (summoned with a lot of mumbo-jumbo about Arhat and Vajra and accompanied by calligraphy) to put him out of commission. I love how useful Hikayu has suddenly became this week.

Even better, Shou doesn’t get back up or try to fight to the death, because Hikayu and Yuuya also manage to convince him of the truth: Yuuya didn’t kill who Shou thought he killed. Yuuya blurts out some spoilers about the mastermind in their story, but somehow the audience—entertained so much by what’s gone down thus far—also roll with that, and the story remains stable.

That brings us to what has ended up the least interesting part of the Festival so far: the aerial battle with Altair. Don’t get me wrong; I liked Altair’s spinning array of sabres and her ability to stop a Vogelchevalier’s blade with one hand was badass, as was Alicetaria’s big smile while riding Gigas Machina.

But throughout the match there’s the underlying feeling that whatever more powerful thing Selesia, Kanoya, and Aliceteria throw at her (and they finally get her in a cage, separated from her weapons), she’ll be ready with a countermeasue and a smirk, making all the action to that point somewhat pointless. But even that is a a common thing in drawn-out shounen battles, so it’s at least consistent.

We’re also well aware that while she’s lost Mamika, Aliceteria, Blitz, and Shou so far, she still has Charon in her back pocket, and Charon seems fully on her side, despite his history with Selesia. Indeed, I am not sure Meteora, Selesia & Co. were even aware of Charon’s existence, rendering him the latest wild card that would muck up their plans to cage Altair.

How will Selesia deal with her former ally (and lover?) fighting on the other side? Will they be able to muster some on-the-fly writing that will bring Charon to their side? Four episodes remain…plenty of time for more twists and turns.

Owarimonogatari S2 – 03

The first two 40-odd-minute episodes of this second “season” of Owarimonogatari, were good, but seemed to be lacking in something very crucial to an “Endstory” – an ending. So it’s just as well I was mistaken that there would only be two episodes, because this, the third episode, provides that ending.

And what a frikkin’ ending it is! Few series have been so painstakingly fastidious in their careful preparation of a nearly all-encompassing conclusion to the story of its protagonist than Monogatari has been with Araragi Koyomi. It’s only fitting that if indeed his story is over—a story in which he’s helped save so many cute young women, one after another—that the last person left for him to save is…himself.

At Shirahebi Park, formerly the site of Shirahebi Shrine and the town’s god, which was obliterated along with the lake by Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade landing there 400 years ago—a site of so many conversations between Koyomi and those girls—Izuko lays out the minimum requirements of victory.

First, that Hachikuji Mayoi be enshrined a the new god of North Shirahebi shrine, so that she has a purpose in the material world and won’t be swallowed by “the darkness”. Second: that Oshino Ougi be eliminated. Mind you, Izuko isn’t certain who or what Ougi is, only what she isn’t (i.e. Meme’s niece.)

That Ougi is a near-total unknown makes her a threat to the spiritual and physical health of the town, so she has to go, just as any of the other harmful apparitions that have cropped up.

As Itsuko convinces Koyomi (and me) of Ougi’s need to go, Ougi picks up Tsukihi (who is actually a phoenix in human disguise) from Nadeko’s house, where it was being underscored how much Nadeko thinks about and is working towards a finite future, whereas Tsukihi is content to simply live with others in an everlasting present.

I must admit, it felt for all the world like Ougi was either taking Tsukihi hostage (out of an abundance of caution in case Araragi didn’t join her side) or attempting to recruit the phoenix as a kind of last-ditch ally. In any case, the person Ougi is with quickly transitions from Tsukihi to Koyomi in that iconic ruined cram school classroom, who tells Ougi he’s ascertained her identity.

Ougi is, and always has been, him. She is he.

Eager to clearly explain everything, Owarimonogatari steps back a bit to the original meeting between Itsuko, Koyomi, Kiss-Shot, Mayoi, and Ononoki, and explains to Koyomi how Ougi is really him (all while everyone plays cricket in the park, after having played baseball earlier).

Ougi, originally introduced to Koyomi as a “fan” of Kanbaru, explains her name Ougi. Itsuko’s older sister (Kanbaru’s mother) faced a similar “unknown”, the “Rainy Devil”, who was the materialization of her self-control, and the left arm of which was passed to Suruga, her daughter.

When that arm came in contact with the First Minion’s energy drain, it connected the Devil, Koyomi, and Kiss-Shot, and by that route Koyomi’s desire to criticize himself for his actions were materialized into Oshino Ougi, or “Dark Koyomi.”

It’s a complex yet surprisingly elegant and satisfying explanation that ties together so many threads of the Monogatari mythos. Ougi is a fundamental product of all of Koyomi’s victories saving the girls in his life; victories that didn’t come without a great deal of self-doubt about the rightness or wrongness of the methods he used.

Itsuko used the immortal Tsukihi as a lure to draw Ougi out so Koyomi could do the same thing he’s done all along: “killing himself for the sake of others.” Ougi represents Koyomi’s adolescence, and it’s time to end it, and her.

It’s no coincidence that Koyomi is faced with having to “kill” his adolescence on the eve of graduation from high school and entry into college and adulthood. But when the true “darkness” opens up and is about to swallow Ougi, Koyomi finally goes against the grain and saves himself. 

He loses his right arm (and isn’t a vampire at the moment, so that’s a big deal), but Ougi is saved, and with it his adolescence (both his doubt, unfair self-critique, and love of young ladies)—even if it makes him “the worst” to put himself first.

Ougi is tickled, but saving Ougi only means he’ll be swallowed along with her by the “darkness”—until, that is, Hanekawa finally comes through, bringing Meme to the ruined classroom with only moments to spare, to declare that Oshino Ougi is his niece, and Koyomi has pushed her down and may not have the most honorable intentions with her.

These are lies, but the acknowledgement, like the words in a spell, are what were needed to legitimize Ougi’s existence in the world, and close the darkness. From that moment on, Ougi is no longer Dark Koyomi, or any part of him.

His adolescence is gone, replaced by nothing more or less than Meme’s ‘niece’. His lesson, all along, was that love isn’t forsaking yourself for the sake of others. He’s gotta think about number one from time to time.

But, as the epilogue illustrates, it’s not the end of Koyomi as we know him. He’s still him, which means if a young woman needs help, he’ll come to her aid and do anything he can. The difference is, that “anything” will now have a limit; “anything” is no longer “everything.” Koyomi can save and protect without sacrificing himself.

This is why the new god of North Shirahebi Shrine in Hachikuji Mayoi bows to him rather than the other way ’round; why an otherworldly powerful, fully-restored vampire in Kiss-Shot decides to return to the form of a far less strong young girl in his shadow; and before the graduation ceremony, Hitagi and Tsubasa let him go do his thing when he spots another young woman in distress.

And that’s it for Owarimonogatari! As I said, quite an epic ending; and one that covered a lot more than previous, “smaller” arcs. Chronologically speaking, Ougi Dark covers the second-latest Monogatari events adapted to TV, with only the already-released Hanamonogatari taking place later on the timeline.

I’ve yet to watch last year’s Koyomimonogatari ONA side-story, or the Shinobu-centric Kizumonogatari film trilogy that takes place at the very beginning of the chronological spectrum. Once I do, I’ll have watched everything Monogatari has to offer; a total span of 97 episodes. Of course, there are many novels that have yet to be adapted, so this remarkable run is most likely not quite finished.

Re:Creators – 17

After another week off for another special following a calm-before-the-storm episode, Re:Creators has been giving the impression that it’s not keen on ever ending, even though it must five episodes from now. The supposed “final” Chamber Festival battle has been built up and hyped for so long, its beginning was always going to be hard-pressed to live up to it.

In a distinct case of “be careful what you wish for,” this episode finally initiates that beginning, and is almost all action, with physical, magical, and verbal ammunition filling every nook and cranny of the screen. Selesia and Kanoya fight an arrogant-as-ever Altair, who deflects all their attacks with her infinite arrays of sabres.

As they dual the boss, Yuuya faces off against his old buddy Hakua Shou, which made me wonder when Selesia’s partner would come out of the woodwork and present her with the unexpected scenario of having to fight him. Even Magane shows up to scare Souta, suggesting all of their best-laid plans are far from certain to end this conflict.

Indeed, Altair kinda does what I did with these battles, which is shrug. She seems all too aware of the artiface that has been building around her, and the perfect nature of the military weapons being deployed against her screams Meteora. Even when Selesia uses a powerful “infinite gate” imprisonment protocol, Altair simply slips out of it and comes at Selesia from behind, as Magane did with Souta.

But if all of this is just foreplay, and Altair isn’t falling to (or for) it…why should we care? Sure, the crowds seem entertained, but to me it feels like various groups of combatants sniping at one another with increasingly insipid slogans, Altair being the most guilty of this. For all the evidence this battle has begun, there’s still the feeling that some stalling going on.

That’s why I appreciated the final scene, in which Blitz just kinda casually walks into the stadium’s locker room where Suruga is alone smoking, fully prepared to kill her before moving on to his other enemies. Suruga may be “his god” but he can’t stand that fact, because she’s the one who decided to kill off his daughter to make her story “more interesting.”

For a moment, I thought Suruga was not only expecting Blitz, but okay with him killing her. Hearing her talk about the pain and sleepless nights and despair she endured before she gained success isn’t quite enough to make Blitz stand down, but Suruga’s status as his creator is, as a strike team blasts into the room, accompanied by…Blitz’s very not-dead daughter, Erina. Has Team Meteora poached another ally from Altair?

Knight’s & Magic – 05

As Dietrich, and Edgar head to Fort Casadesus in their suits (along with Ady, Kid, Baston and David), the Order of the Bronze Fang steals a mech and uses it to Trojan Horse their way into the fort, stealing several other mechs in one of the most action-packed and satisfying K&M’s yet.

Eru is eager to get in on the action, but Dixgard warns him to take it easy, as he’s no mere student anymore, nor a foot soldier: the information in his head is indispensable, and he must act accordingly. Meanwhile, when his friends just happen to block the Bronze Fang gang’s escape, Addy and Kid use the gear and training Eru gave them to support Dietrich and Edgar against the far more grizzled and experienced Bronze Fang forces.

Eru casually eliminates the remaining threats in the fortress before heading off to assist his friends, for whom the Bronze Fang and their leader, Lady Kerhilt, prove to be more than able opponents. Kerkilt takes down Edgar before fleeing, and then lures a hige force of duel-class demon beasts to cover her tracks and distract Dietrich.

But this isn’t the old Dietrich: he’s done running, and with the help of Addy, Kid, and eventually Eru and the Fort’s brash Knight Commander, they eliminate the beasts by dawn.

Now that they know a formidable enemy or rival is eager to possess the Silhouette Knight development secrets Eru & Co. are working on, the King decides it’s time to heighten security and secrecy. To that end, he appoints the entire team the new knightly Order of the Silver Phoenix. Very cool. And Edgar, while injured, will be fine.

But while Eru’s research and development should continue, I’d also make it a high priority to track down Kerhilt’s hideout and retrieve or destroy the tech she stole, lest she and her order continue to be a thorn in their side. It would also be useful to learn exactly why Bronze Fang has it out for the Kingdom.

THE REFLECTION – 02

This week’s THE REFLECTION didn’t so much move the plot forward as provide voices and context to the various players we saw in action last week. But I couldn’t help but wonder if most (or all) of the new information presented this week could have filled in all of the long pauses last week, adding pace and urgency to what was, if I’m generous, a slog.

Upon inspecting Red’s Baltimore apartment, X-On concludes that she’s stalking him. She wants him to teach her how to use her powers properly so she can use them for good like him, but he’s “not feeling it” and would rather she redirect her focus on someone else…say “Wraith.”

Meanwhile, after his little battle in New York Ian saves some suit fuel by hitching a ride on a jetliner’s wing before landing in his very Tony Stark-like Malibu beach mansion, where a team of men (rather than robots in Tony’s case) disassemble his suit to reveal a bearded old musician who had one big hit, “SKY SHOW”, in the 80s. The Reflection gave him a new life as a hero, a mantle he’s comfortable staying in the suit to nurture.

While the bad guys, seemingly led (or at least counseled) by a guy who looks just like Stan Lee, ponder their next move, eager to gather more ability users to their side, Red researches “Wraith” and notices something on the NYC camera footage (though the zoom-in-and-enhance only reveals a larger blurry black blob to us).

Then there’s that group of high school girls in Japan we saw in last week’s cold open. As their classmates talk about NYC, they prepare to decide on a name for their “group”, suggesting they have powers and are ready to work together to use them. It’s no coincidence that the ED consists of four Japanese girls in what looks like school uniforms singing and dancing.

But again, due to the questionable animation (gutsy in theory, lazy-looking in execution), and inefficient use of time, I’ll have to qualify last week’s “watchable” 7 with this week’s “niche appeal” 5, as this is certainly an acquired taste. Put together, THE REF is an underwhelming 6 so far…but I still want to know what happens next.

THE REFLECTION – 01 (First Impressions)

THE REFLECTION immediately sets itself apart from the rest of Summer with several distinct visual qualities: highly graphic animation, an understated, rather drab palette, no gradients, and a very thick black line work. Like the animation, the sound is sparse and atmospheric…until it’s not; in quick flashes of intense action, sound, and Henry Jackson/Alan Silvestri-style superhero music.

It is very much a superhero comic book brought to life on the screen with as little modification as possible. It’s as if there are beats and pauses where nothing happens, just as if you were lying on the floor, your eyes going from panel to panel. Only word bubbles are missing, though the vast swaths of LCD and LED panels visualize some sound effects, Batman-style.

It’s not quite explained what’s happening; things just kinda unfold, and I’m thankful for that. And it’s pretty easy to see what’s happening: people with powers, aligned on both the good and bad sides, are battling each other, causing a fair amount of collateral damage (though nothing like The Avengers).

The focus is on an Iron-Man like powersuit hero and a more ground-based red masked guy in a tight bodysuit with a big X emblazoned on his face, calling to mind Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Deadpool.  He’s able to absorb the powers of anyone he touches.

A photojournalist gets lots of nice shots of X-guy’s fight, but when she ends up caught by a bad guy, she uses her own pretty slick teleportation power to escape, thus not having to be saved.

After a lot of back-and-forth, both X-Guy and the Caped Robot Guy prevail in their battles, each using big loud, devastating finishing moves with authority. Robot Guy then reluctantly introduces himself as “I-Guy”, and is very stingy with answers, except that he probably won’t be able to save NYC every time, since he’s based in L.A.

All four bad guys are placed under arrest by suits and SWAT officers belonging to a S.H.I.E.L.D.-style organization “higher than the FBI”, but while in transit, all four are released by stronger bad guys, though one is apparently killed, presumably for failing. Those two bad guys meet atop one of the Chrysler Building’s chrome eagle gargoyles, adamant that things have only just begun.

Later, the photographer returns to her exposed brick apartment in BALTIMORE, MARYLAND (a very specific American city for an anime) and watches some video on her computer that serves as exposition: three years ago the mysterious “Reflection” incident gave many humans (like her) superpowers. Some went good, some went bad.

What no one knows is how or why. While we’re not sure Red has taken a side yet, and is content to document battles between “The Reflected”, it’s clear she’s not with the metal-manipulating woman or the flame-wreathed “Russian Ninja,” and she’s attracted the attention of someone who seems to be her favorite hero: X-On…who has followed her to BALTIMORE, MARYLAND.

THE REFLECTION is a bit of an odd duck. It features very straightforward heros-vs.-villains story, and a relatively straightforward introduction to the world and its various players, and the potential for some rip-roaring action. And yet it made the choice to eschew an overly flashy visual presentation for very sparse, elemental aesthetic, all thick lines and solid colors.

While perhaps not the prettiest or most precise, and even a bit sluggish at times, I enjoyed the show’s unique (for this Summer season) look and feel, and am interested to learn more about this Baltimorean woman and her role in all this.

P.S. Marvel’s Stan Lee himself announces the next episode. Whether he’ll do them all, or they’ll be done by a new famous comics world player each week, we will see. UPDATE: He’s involved in the production, so it’ll probably be him every week. 

P.S.S. MAL apparently HATES this show, with a dismal rating hovering just above 5. It’s a small sample (a little over 1,000 users) but still surprising to me.

Jikan no Shihaisha (Chronos Ruler) – 01 (First Impressions)

Well, if nothing else, Chronos Ruler wastes no time demonstrating its semi-decent-looking action; if only its premise were a little easier to swallow and its characters a little more likable.

Koyuki, a high school girl who blames herself for losing her only family, her brother (killed in an auto accident—the leading cause of death for big brothers in anime).

One night while visiting his grave, Koyuki ends up in the middle of a battle between some kind of monster and two apparent brothers, Victor and Kiri, who rescue her and force it to retreat.

Victor lets perhaps a little too much of his and Kiri’s secret duty slip on  purpose, so Koyuki, following up on school rumors about turning back time at the clock tower at the midnight of a full moon, lures the “time demon” back to her.

One of Koyuki’s teachers, Ms. Emily, ceases to exist by aging in reverse, a somewhat unsettling example of what happens when one gets bitten by such a demon.

Victor knows simply telling Koyuki not to give up on bringing her brother back won’t work, but between Ms. Emily and his own condition (every day he becomes a day younger, losing his memories along with his age), there’s enough to get Koyuki to heed their warnings.

Victor uses the “oath of time” he and Kiri, “Chronos Rulers”, possess to defeat the demon using limited time manipulation, but it accelerates his “illness,” but Koyuki is safe, and content to live on with the memories of his bro.

Of course, it’s likely we’ll never see Koyuki again, as the pair will be off on their next mission next week. As for learning Victor isn’t Kiri’s brother but his father really only caused me to shrug.

I dig time magic; I just left this episode wishing more interesting people were wielding it against more interesting foes.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 13

As it turns out, Charioce wasn’t being overconfident about his chances against the gods. Sure, it looks like a rout at first, but once the human king activates his secret weapon Dromos, the battle not only sways in man’s favor…Gabriel straight up runs with her tail between her legs, leaving her (very insubordinate) army to be wiped out. El tries to keep fighting, but he ends up being the overconfident one, and is rendered unconscious in a blast from Dromos.

It would appear the weapon worked almost too well, as Charioce doesn’t really seem to know what he should go do with himself after the gods retreat. That’s mostly because the winds literally blew Nina into his arms. When Nina sees that Jeanne, Kaisar and Rita are in danger (and who knows about Favaro; he’s blown elsewhere), she insists the king hug her.

Nina hopes she can appeal not to the cold, evil king, but the warm, kind young traveler who danced with her. He acquiesces to her demand, and before you know it boom, she’s a dragon again. This certainly seems to prove that only Charioce can transform her now.

The Black Knights try to capture her with a colossal golem, but Nina the dragon is far stronger than Nina the girl, and Nina the girl is redonkulously strong. As such, whenever it seems the golem has her number, she finds an extra store of strength with which to stay in the fight.

That fight ends when she finally dives through the golem, blasting a hole through it that deactivates it for good. Then the dragon approaches Charioce, who touches its head, casuing Nina to transform back into a (naked) girl.

Nina appears with the wagon to pick up Nina and Jeanne, while Kaisar distracts the guards, who quickly beat up and re-capture him. Favaro is still at large, which is why when the wagon is safely in the air, Rita jumps out to go “check on” the lads.

Left only with orders to look after one another, Jeanne decides her best next move is to head for the land of the gods, where she might be able to see El. She doesn’t know how to get there, but Nina remembers her granny talking about the place often, so they decide to head instead to Nina’s home village…which should be fun.

Meanwhile, Gabriel is a nervous wreck after having seen Dromos, which she didn’t think the humans would be able to build at all, let alone so quickly. That begs the question what the heck Charioce did to make that happen, and considering it’s the worst threat to the balance of the world since, well, Bahamut, it clearly falls under the category of “things safe in no ones’s hands.”

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 12

The plot of this episode couldn’t be simpler: as Rita, Nina, Jeanne, Favaro and Kaisar escape the prison, the battle between humans and gods commences—and quickly turns into a rout, forcing Charioce to use “The Device”, a WMD cure that looks far worse than the disease and which I have little confidence he’ll be able to control.

Speaking of controlling unknown quantities, Sofiel continues to worry about how Gabriel is using El as the linchpin of their attack. Gabriel, apparently quite jazzed up about going to war, dismisses Sofiel’s wordless concerns with a sidelong glance. But Sofiel is still full of doubt and apprehension; we should keep an eye on her.

Down in the depths of the imperial prison, Rita has no trouble re-springing Nina and Jeanne, and the three women embark on a harrowing escape from an almost unreasonably vast and relentless garrison of guards.

The chase is depicted from a variety of different areas of the prison, and from many different angles, colors, and speeds, keeping things from getting repetitive. It’s a positively rousing adventure, and it’s especially satisfying to watch the ladies taking care of business without help from, say, Kaisar and Favaro, who are still locked up on the men’s side.

None of them escape before Gabriel’s giant celestial donut appears ominously in the skies over Anatae. Charioce has a giant, impressive and deadly-looking force waiting for the gods, but one piercing glance from a fully-operational El renders all the humans’ (and subjugated demons’) fancy toys inert.

From there, the heavenly shock troops are deployed, and waste no time demonstrating why You Do Not F*ck With The Gods. Each one of them is able to take on entire platoons and battalions. It’s enough to make Kaisar’s younger Orleans comrade essentially call for a timeout; though no such halt in the battle is forthcoming. The humans asked for a war, and Gabriel has given them one.

Our heroine trio eventually make it to the other side of the prison, and Favaro decides it’s ready to reveal the secret ability of Kaisar’s metal hand as an explosive device when the right gang sign is made and words spoken. Kaisar is, not unreasonably, quite cross upon learning his hand was explosive all this time, and would like the next one Rita makes him to not have that “feature.”

Both those means of escaping their cells and the moment when Favaro and Kaisar finally cross paths and team up with Rita, Jeanne, and Nina, makes for some warm and laugh-inducing levity in an otherwise intense outing.

Naturally, Favaro makes an inappropriate comment about Nina’s “development”, and Kaisar and Jeanne’s reaction upon reuniting made me a shipper on the spot. The band has gotten back together at the perfect time: when the sh*t is categorically and profusely hitting the fan.

Gabriel has backed Charioce into a corner, but he doesn’t waver in calling for the activation of the previously-mentioned “Device”, which rises out from beneath the prison (destroying said prison in the process…collateral damage much?) and resembles a Laputa core. It seems poised to fire upon the god donut.

It’s the kind of bahamut-like escalation it will take the maximum effort of our heroes to overcome—possibly even a sacrifice or two.