Darling in the FranXX – 12 – Time is Running Out and Zero Two Drops the Pretense

Squad 13 returns to Garden, to the place where they were made, even if it isn’t where they came from—a question Kokoro ponders while doubting the adults’ answers. In narration, Hiro says it doesn’t matter where, as long as he can live life to the fullest. But his increasingly distant (and feral) partner Zero Two feels the opposite: where she came from—what she is—means everything.

Hiro the rest of the squad are only tagalongs. The reason they’re at Garden is for Zero Two, or “Iota”, as the leader of the elite “Nines” calls her. He’s surprised she’s been able to integrate so well into a squad of humans, and is rudely explicit about how inhuman she is, gaining the ire of Ichigo. Ultimately the adults’ patience with Zero Two’s sullen bit runs out and they have to tranq her.

The rest of the squad tours the Garden, even though they were forbidden from doing so, and the memories come flowing in. Hiro, for one, vageuly remembers a red girl with white hair and horns. They see children getting parasite injections far earlier than they did.

With the increase in klaxosaur activity, it would seem humanity no longer has time for experiments in disobedience or individuality; they’re basically growing bodies to put into cockpits as fast as they can. Squad 13 is a relic; an indulgence they can no longer afford…even though it could be argued they bear elements of humanity crucial for its long-term survival.

As humanity hopes continuing to refine their children into increasingly efficient parasites will help extend the time they’re on the planet, Zero Two insists her time is quickly running out. Every time she sorties with Hiro she tries to kill as many Klaxosaurs as possible, as viciously as possible, hoping it will help her become human.

Because Hiro believes everything in this show is about him, he assumes Zero Two feels like she can’t truly belong in the squad, or in his heart, unless she becomes completely human, shedding everything that made her part klaxosaur. Since Gorou and Futoshi’s feelings helped him understand his own, he thinks confessing his love for Two will both appease and please her.

Imagine my combination of delight and despair upon witnessing Hiro completely strike out after confessing to the person who always insisted on calling him her “Darling”, not to mention kissing him and staying by his side. Hiro drops the Darling and calls Hiro “fodder.” She only cares about him if she can use him to kill klaxosaurs.

Since partnering with Hiro, we learn Two’s level of “saurification” has been steadily rising, which explains why she’s been acting so feral lately. (Ichigo hears this, because the adults apparently have an open-door policy.)

When she learns what is becoming of Zero Two, which she adds to the knowledge given to her by the leader of the Nines, Ichigo moves to have another conversation with her squadmate, only to find her smashing mirrors to bits for daring to reflect her face. Ichigo freezes in terror and closes her eyes, ready for the worst, but Two just walks past her.

Despite her clear and worsening imbalance, the adults continue to let Zero Two sortie with Hiro, and Two continues to believe she can become human if she kills enough klaxosaurs. Whether someone told her such a theory was true, or she simply decided for herself it was true, the evidence just doesn’t bear out that outcome.

If anything, killing klaxosaurs only seems to increase her bloodlust for combat. When Hiro tries to hold her back, she eventually overloads and starts to choke Hiro, while more and more images of the red girl with horns flash through his head. This totally berserk Two wants to meet her darling from “back then.” I imagine we’re in for some crucial flashbacks at the start of the second half.

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Macross Delta – 20

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I was wondering how Delta would follow up an episode that was 9/10ths an advertisement for other Macross series (some worse but most better than Delta), and 1/10th nice character work between Mirage and Hayate, which for me saved it from a 6 (not recommended).

Turns out this episode was a lot more like the last 1/10th of last week, only with a lot more action, which pleased me. For once, though, the action doesn’t predominantly serve the plot; the status of the war remains unchanged.

Instead, all the action is character-driven, not a bad way to go for a show whose characters have too often felt like little more than props (or shadows of aforementioned better shows). Forget the war, we’ve got more basic problems: Freyja can’t sing, Hayate can’t fly, and Mikumo is God-knows-where.

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Everyone is full of doubt and uncertainty, even in Windermere, where Heinz is definitely spooked by the fact his song was overpowered by Mikumo’s. His brother Keith (who has had very little to do since losing an eye) seems to want to know more about Heinz’s specific medical problems, all while wondering what the heck is going on with Lloyd, who he thought he used to know well.

Lloyds reassurances to Heinz that his voice is peerless, and to Keith that all will be well, aren’t received with enthusiasm by either Windermere. Cassim is also still walking around looking lost; the only ones who aren’t are content to blindly follow the most powerful authority.

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Things can’t stay this way for the main players on both sides of the war, so it falls to the second tier of the cast to bring about some kind of change. Makino and Reina start prodding the medical frigate’s security for weaknesses, and when Kaname catches them, they convince her to join their cause, even if it’s against the rules, because they love Mikumo.

Hayate and Freyja actually manage to sit at a table together, but only to exchange unilateral life-altering/ruining decisions. Hayate wants to quit flying so Freyja can keep singing; Freyja wants to quit singing so Hayate can keep flying. Their affection for one another precludes doing anything that might hurt one another.

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Enter Mirage, who does a far better job than Lloyd to, well, not so much reassure them as knock some sense into them with harsh words. She considers both their offers unacceptable; Hayate has to fly and Freyja has to sing; that’s what they were frikkin’ born to do.

And she’s not even going to give them the choice to give up on their dreams, because she loves them too much. There; she finally said it, only two both of them and not simply Hayate. Better than nothing, I guess. Mirage (and Seto Asami) do great work here.

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While Mirage puts her heart on her sleeve to help the comrades—the friends—she loves, Kaname, Makino and Reina potentially put their careers, freedom, and lives on the line for their comrade Mikumo. Reina’s hacking isn’t pefect, but Kaname doesn’t give up when the other two are arrested, running through corridors and belting out song until she reaches Mikumo, who despite being in a stasis tank, sings along.

And that’s it for episode 20. With six episodes left, the sing-and-fly formula of earlier episodes has been immensely disrupted, and we’re left wondering what will become of the singers of Walkure, the pilots of Delta, and the overdressed tools of Windermere.

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Macross Delta – 19

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After making me care about the “bad guys” a bit last week, Delta continued to impress by suddenly having Freyja and Mikumo kinda go off the rails, resulting in the destruction of the Protoculture ruins—and thus a pillar of the Starwind Sector—on a large scale, and sending Hayate into superhuman berserk mode, from which he still hasn’t recovered when we check in this week. Mikumo has been secured aboard a medical frigate.

While both waiting outside the door to Hayate’s hospital room, Freyja and Mirage encounter the dude in the keffiyeh who was so dispassionately reporting on the status of the ruins and Protoculture structures back in Windermere. In a time of great doubt and apprehension, he’s arrived to complete an undisclosed business transaction with Chaos.

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But…he goes into an incredibly long-winded and detailed bout of exposition that not only serves as a shout-out to all previous Macross series (of which I’ve only watched Frontier, back when it aired), but connects the events of all of those Macrosses to explain what’s happening with the Wind Singer, Walkure, Freyja, and Mikumo.

Long story short: the Var is a product of fold bacteria left behind by the Vajra, and there are people with immunity to the Var and fold receptors who generate powerful bio-fold waves when they sing while their lives are on the line.

Berger Stone surmises that the Protoculture inserted some code related to music in the he DNA of all humanoids, and that music is more than just culture shock, but a mind-controlling weapon.

He also brings up rumors of the mysterious “Lady M” who finances Chaos to be developing an “ultimate weapon” utilizing music, which sounds a hell of a lot like Mikumo, considering the flashes of her past we’ve seen.

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I’m glad to be caught up on exactly what’s going on, but I can’t help but wonder if there could have been a more organic way to convey all this information. When you think about it, why is Berger Stone telling them all this to begin with? Frankly, the only reason I can think of is that the plot requires that he do so.

Sure, it’s a vehicle for a bunch of lovely nostalgia, but this is where my limited exposure to the Macross universe is exposed, since most of the shout outs failed to resonate simply because I haven’t watched everything. Thus, much of Berger’s story feels more like a quick cram session of everything that led up to the current situation.

It’s more than a little awkward and rushed, not to mention static. With a few excellently-executed exceptions, there’s usually something unsatisfying about watching people stand around and listen to a guy talk while watching what amounts to a fancy PowerPoint presentation behind him…for almost an entire episode.

And while Berger is talking to Walkure and Delta, Lloyd is telling Keith basically the same story. So everyone on the show is simply standing around chilling. That lack of immediacy after so much action and upheaval was a bit deflating. It felt retconny. felt…recappy.

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What earns this episode a 7 as opposed to a 6, then, is the very end, when it’s Mirage, not Freyja, who musters up the courage to go see Hayate. Since there’s every indication he’s out cold, Mirage is able to be honest with herself, if only briefly.

Admitting you don’t understand anything is the first step to rectifying that, and Mirage does so, while also admitting she likes having Hayate around and wants him to wake up and be with her again. Seto Asami does good work in Mirage’s small but significant scene. Naturally, it’s left up to interpretation how long Hayate was conscious and listening to her, but it’s not as if she confessed her love or anything.

That being said, it’s important that Mirage visited him and was there when he woke up, not Freyja, as Freyja’s fear her music is a weapon that can change and potentially hurt Hayate leads her to keep her distance. Mirage is just Hayate’s flying buddy; she has no such misplaced guilt to contend with.

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Macross Delta – 18

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I never thought it would happen, but Macross Delta actually made me care a little bit about one of the bad guys. A big part of why is because he’s unsure the direction his people are headed it. Cassim is on the wrong side of 25, and knows full well the king is now Lloyd’s puppet. Like Hayate and Freyja, whom he invites into a storehouse where he’s thinking things over, he’s not exactly sure what is the right thing to do.

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I especially liked when Freyja showed up first and they just shot the Windermerean breeze, so to speak. When Hayate shows up, he’s not hostile, but sees that these two like each other and worries for them, as he worries for the future in general, which for him, is far shorter than he’d like. He also worries for his son back home. Lloyd may be hell-bent on galactic domination, but Cassim just wants to die happy, assured his family will be safe and prosperous when he’s gone.

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It’s good to see Hayate and Freyja trying and largely succeeding in moving past the awkwardness of his father’s past, at least for now, and dedicating themselves to working to support one another, along with their respective teams, Delta and Walkure.

Freyja is back to her ebullient self when she joins her groupmates by the Protoculture structure for a tactical show kicked off by Mikumo, and the structure starts to react immediately. Interestingly, Lloyd lets them sing, which suggests…maybe they shouldn’t be doing something he’s okay with?

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Freyja’s fold waves mesh with Hayate and make him a better wind-rider, able to keep up with Keith in the skies. But the song and aerial battle get progressively more intense and chaotic, with both Freyja and Hayate seemingly going out of control—perhaps the very reason Lloyd let them play on.

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Even more troubling is that after Heinz sings his Song of the Wind, nearly causing Hayate to succumb to the Var, Freyja essentially shorts out after going into a trance. Then Mikumo goes into a trance of her own, recalling old, buried memories of being some kind of test subject (of course) before restarting a song so strong and assertive it even knocks out Heinz’s song—as well as his clothes— before she passes out.

The episode kinda leaves us hanging with her collapse, following it up with an ending sequence that looks for all the world like a Mikumo tribute. Is this it for Mikumo? What exactly did she and Walkure do that seemed to play right into Lloyd’s hands? Will Freyja, Hayate, and Cassim ever figure out what exactly is the right thing to do?

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 10

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Another unfamiliar ceiling…and another unfamiliar but very welcome occurance: that we may be able to bask in Subaru’s latest victories. He’s alive, the kids are safe and their curses are removed, and neither of the twins are dead, hate him, or want to kill him. This calls for a celebratory steamed sweet potato and some Puck-applause!

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For course, every silver lining has its cloud, which is this case is Beako’s latest unfortunate news for Subie: he still carries the curse of the mabeasts who nommed him, and that curse will allow them to essentially “eat” him remotely by taking all his mana.

He has only half a day. No surprise, then, that Rem has already gone out alone to hunt down the mabeasts who are on the other end of the curse, thus “canceling the meal” and saving Subie, whom she’s become rather fond of, clearly.

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Going into that forest is not for the faint-hearted, but Subie isn’t letting his Return By Death skill undermine his commitment: he’s going in like he has only one life to live, because he really does only have one life he wants to live, and it’s one where everyone, including Rem, is alive.

Joining Subie is Ram, who warns him she’s not the fighter her younger sister is, though she has a pretty nifty Clairvoyance skill, as well as some intimidating wind-elemental magic. Emilia is too drained from healing Subie, so she’s out, as is Puck, while Subie arms himself with the “sharpest sword in the village”, presented as a gift for his heroism.

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Notably absent from the party? Beatrice, despite her likely being more than capable of contributing offense. So while imperfect, the Subie/Ram duo gets off to a good start, with Ram showing off the damage her wind magic can do.

Then Subie gets a bright idea, using the very curse keeping him from talking to others about Return By Death to lure all mabeasts to his and Ram’s location, luring Rem in turn.

For the record, Rem is looking particularly badass and dangerous this week, as her Demon Mode makes her a formidable but also reckless and unstable killing machine.

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Despite Rem’s initial good intentions (saving Subie), because she’s gotten little carried away by the power of her horn (which Ram lacks), so it also comes as no surprise that after surviving a potentially fatal fall off a cliff, Subie and Ram have to deal with a Rem who isn’t too picky about her targets.

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I thought for sure this is how the episode would end: Subie unexpectedly catching a mace to the head and waking back up in the village inn with a sleeping Emilia by his side. It is a new “save point”, after all, and I assumed his Return By Death was only delayed last week so it could occur this week.

Mind you, I wasn’t happy about that prospect, which is why I was happy that Re:Zero decided not to kill Subie this week, either. Perhaps it’s aware of the potential for “Reset Button Fatigue”, especially after we only got a grand total of five minutes of victory to bask in.

That suspension of Subie’s death wasn’t certain at all, though. I like how the episode kept me guessing till the end, with a thoroughly berserk and unpredictable Rem flailing that mace around (sorry weapons experts) and Subie seemingly having few options.

Of course, I was also amused by the tactic he employs in his effort to cut Rem’s horn and restore her to normal: by tossing Ram straight at her, as a smokescreen for his strike. It almost works on the first try, too…but as Subie said earlier, the “difficulty level” is demonically high, to the point where nothing will work on the first try.

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That being said, “Fate-sama” quickly gives Subie a second chance to take out Rem’s horn, and he re-resolves himself not to wuss out at the last second, out of fear of killing either twin. That horn has simply gotta go. I hope he can get it, just like I hope all the mabeasts killed this week mean he’s no longer going to be remotely eaten.

Re:Zero’s action isn’t regularly head-and-shoulders above Kabaneri (despite being better in every other category) but it really distinguished itself this week with some astonishingly cool and exciting animation, made all the more compelling by how much we care about the combatants. Rem truly came off as a force of nature ready to explode. But here’s hoping she doesn’t!

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 12 (Fin)

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With all the emotional groundwork laid, all this episode has to do is flick the domino and watch them cascade, in a finale that levels up its core duo, gets them to overcome their respective “will-blocks”, and makes some interesting connections on the side while tying up loose ends.

Takeru has been stabbed by Haunted, but Ootori doesn’t hesitate to fight him, even deciding to form a contract with Vlad, something she swore she wouldn’t do until it came time to carry out her revenge. Ironically, had she done it for that reason, Vlad assures her he would have eaten her alive.

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Instead, she’s doing this for Takeru, her captain and her friend, and his beloved sister. It’s a nobler cause, and Vlad equips her accordingly. Like Takeru and Haunted, Ootori gets to don her badass relic eater armor, with which she’s able to push Haunted back and retrieve Takeru. The other three arrive in a van to pick them up.

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With Takeru healed but still out cold for some reason, all the girls can do is fight back Kisek’s overflowing demon mass. Takeru, meanwhile, is in his subconscious with Lapis, who wants him to give himself body and soul so that she can best achieve all his desires. With this, Lapis kisses Takeru, the first overtly romantic act undertaken by the relic eater—albeit only in his mind.

With that, Takeru is now in God Hunter Mode. He drains all of Ootori’s energy, then tells her he may not be able to walk beside her anymore, and asks the others to hang back too, as there’s no time to explain. Takeru is preparing for the worst case scenario in which he dies trying to fulfill his wishes regarding Kiseki. And no one will argue that no one else can stand up against the raging Kiseki.

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Turns out his wishes aren’t to kill Kiseki and die with her. For all these years he’s been conflicted between kill and protect, but now what he wants is the latter, no matter what it may cost. And because of his deepened contract with Lapis, he’s able to not only overpower Haunted and get him out of the picture, but convince his sister with his sheer resolve to start questioning herself whether she truly wants to die, and discovers that’s just one of the hundreds of demon voices speaking for her. Ideally, she wants to live too.

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The wavering weakens and eventually dissolves the overflow mass, and Takeru pulls her out of the mess, safe and sound. The road ahead will be tough, but the two have now decided together that they’ll walk it nonetheless instead of taking the “easy way out”, mutual destruction. And they won’t be alone on that road; turns out Takeru and Ootori will be able to walk it together, along with Suginami, Mari, and Usagi.

Speaking of names, Orochi’s last name is Kusanagi, suggesting a relation to Takeru, while the chairman of Valhalla is another, even quirkier Suginami. Finally, that little blue-haired elf girl Suginami saved back at Alchemist turns out to be Kanaria, another Valhalla member. All these connections hint that a sequel is feasible, even if none is promised. Honestly I’d tune in, if only to experience more of its awesome soundtrack.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 11

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Takeru is categorical with Kiseki: He’s not going to kill her. And if someday he’s forced to, it will be the day he dies too. One might think Kiseki would prefer if her brother lives on with the life she never got to live, but Takeru’s a stubborn mutha. He may also be a fool; but I also have a sister, and I don’t think I’d feel any differently than he does, so I’m a fool too.

His words are enough of a comfort that Kiseki promises she’ll try to hold out longer, but it isn’t long until the siblings are cornered by Kirigaya and Yoshimizu, who is now apparently his relic eater. Then their duel is interrupted by Kurogane and Director Ootori, who retain custody of Kiseki and put Takeru in solitary to cool his jets.

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While Takeru and Kiseki were enjoying normal life, some very big things were going down. The war between Inquisition and Valhalla goes into full swing, with the latter eager to capture Kiseki (whom they regard as one of their own—a “harbinger of chaos”—and they’re not entirely wrong), and the former setting up several decoys to misdirect them. In this whole big peripheral chess game, Takeru is but a pawn, but Kiseki is the King. But I will say, while there have been Preston and Zane episodes, this one is definitely up my alley: packed with action.

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Of course, all that action wouldn’t be worth much if it didn’t have something compelling to back it up, and when we see Takeru’s flashback, which he dreams while in solitary, we get that something. Not long after learning Kiseki was his sister and a powerful immortal demon, she killed the rest of their family and household. But his father didn’t order him to kill his sister. Instead he offered him the choice: kill her, or protect her. That’s what Takeru chose to do—in fact, it’s all he could do—and he’s stuck to his guns ever since.

When he wakes up, he hears Ootori in the adjacent cell, apologizing for getting him in this situation (even though he’s eager to thank her, not blame her). She wants to share his burden the way he pledged to bear have of hers. Why? Well, because he changed her life, and changed her. Without him, she wouldn’t have the “peaceful life” she has now; she’d still be consumed by revenge. It’s no confession of love, but one of intense admiration, gratitude, and hard-earned fondness. Ueda Reina knocks it out of the park here.

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The two lament more can’t be done, but then they’re broken out and given the opportunity to do just that, thanks to some help from their friends. While Takeru promised to share the future or ongoing burdens of Usagi, Mari, and Suginami, the fact of the matter is, thanks to his past deeds, they’re pretty set at the moment, and have no qualms about inverting the deal without delay.

One aspect I like about this team’s chemstry and how far they’ve come is that they know Takeru so well, they’re shocked when he doesn’t tell them he doesn’t want to involve them out of concern for their safety. Mari and Usagi immediately start suspecting something went on with him and Ootori in solitary to change his standard tune. Which is kinda true, but not in the way they’re imagining; the way that makes Ootori blush.

When Valhalla troops attack Kiseki’s transport, Kurogane and Kirigaya fight them off. Then a Valhalla leader, Orochi, shows up, and Kurogane orders Kirigaya to clear out. We don’t see their fight, but the buildup to it, whether we end up seeing it next week or not, was very well done. The music direction remains exemplary, as the scene practically hums with the potential power of the two fighters, expressed not with overly bombastic orchestra, but a relatively low-key electronic track that nonetheless emanates gravitas.

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Then Kirigaya’s face contorts, as he’s sick of transporting one of the “heretics” he hates so much and wants to exact revenge upon, and he opens up the back and prepares to kill Kiseki. Of course, Takeru arrives in the Nick of Time to stop him, but even with Ootori and Usagi backing him up, he and Kiseki aren’t out of the woods. Kiseki herself is starting to involuntarily overflow, and at the worst posssible time, the cavalier, flamboyant Haunted shows up (who is, at least, less boring than Kirigaya).

Announcing he’s here to bring Kiseki back to Valhalla with him, for her own good, impaling Takeru on multiple thorns only accelerates her overflow. If Takeru isn’t dead (and I doubt he is), he’s certainly out of commission for the time being, leaving the rest of the 35th to deal with Haunted (assuming Kurogane gets his money’s worth with Orochi and is delayed).

By being taken out here and now, Takeru has placed his burdens completely on the shoulders of his friends and comrades. But they won’t shrink from their duty. This should be quite a finale.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 10

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This week we finally meet Kusanagi’s little sister, and she’s Akira. with Chaika’s voice. Things start to look very wrong right from the get-go, as Takeru has to swear half his life away just to get to a fake glass partition to see her (it’s actually a large video screen).

Kiseki looks stunted, tired, and is wearing what looks like a straightjacket in the antiseptic but very dark facility. Indeed, what could have been a lame “little sister is in love with her brother” episode takes a dark turn indeed, making last week’s beach episode (which I did get around to watching) well-timed.

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It wouldn’t be an Akira tribute without a Kaneda Slide, which Ootori has the honor of doing during a nighttime motorcycle chase with some low-level artifact-smuggling baddies. It’s good to see the platoon, no longer beset by personal matters among its members, working at full strength again, and doing a more than competent job.

Still, the one guy who hasn’t faced major personal conflict yet is Takeru, and that changes this week with the intro of his Sis, who Ootori isn’t even aware he’s seen yet but suggest he does, as she notices he looks unrested and troubled.

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And anyone would be that if their cute little sister had as much mana as Kiseki, along with “Overflow Syndrome”, a condition that demands she be locked away and killed over and over so that her cells don’t envelop the entire world. I’m not sure I care for Sougetsu’s cavalier demeanor while describing the situation, but then again perhaps someone such as him charged with protecting the world needs to maintain a certain sense of humor to avoid being consumed, if not by Kiseki, than by despair.

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His methods don’t seem to be working particularly well, however, because the next time Kiseki resurrects, she goes berserk and breaks out of the supermax facility. Takeru encounters her in a dark alley, where she absoluely slaughtered (off-camera) another perp he was chasing while on another mission with the 35th.

Faced with his sister out in the open, and knowing the threat she presents, Takeru’s first reaction is to keep Ootori and the others back, even drawing his sword on them to make certain they come no closer. But Ootori assures him that while she knows he’s suffering, they’re not his enemy. They take Kiseki to a safe house together.

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There, Suginami tells the others what Kiseki is, and they decide what do do with her: give her back to the Inquisition. But not before she gets to go on a date with her brother. Now, this was just a shameless opportunity to exploit Kiseki’s adorable character design by having the girls dress her up in various outfits (thankfully the one they settle on is decent). But there’s also a profound sadness to it, especially what happens later, because this is the first and only time she’s gotten to interact with anyone other than Takeru in anything resembling a normal human way.

And while out with her brother, Kiseki repeats the request he didn’t hear the last time, because his time was up and he was ordered to leave her. “—- me,” she said, but I can’t read anime lips so good, so I didn’t know the rest, and even suspected the show would get cute again and be “kiss me.” But she asks him to kill her. To release her from her wretched cycle of dead, rebirth, and the appalling solitary confinement and restraint in between, and to release the world from the existential threat she presents.

It seems like an equatable arrangement for all, except for one problem: Kiseki is Takeru’s little sister. He loves her, and he’s never once considered killing her, no matter how dangerous or miserable she was.  I predict he’ll react to her request with disgust…even if part of him knows there may be no other way.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 09

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This week Aoi discovers the perfect way for Akane to be able to be more assertive and comfortable with helping people without being crippled by her shyness: become someone else. Kanade supposedly creates a set of “jamming glasses”, but as the cold open indicated, they don’t actually work; rather, both Akane’s siblings and the general public are well aware she’s Akane, they just don’t want to let on that they know, lest she revert to her painfully shy state. A nice case of mind over matter.

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Even when Akane saves someone without her glasses or cosplay, she simply concludes it’s because “Scarlet Bloom” has become so popular, they’re mistaking her for Akane. Meanwhile, the superhero act works wonders, propelling her from fifth place to second, even beating out Kanade, who along with Aoi perpetuated the tapestry of lies that facilitated their younger sister’s rise.

Meanwhile, Sad, Insecure Misaki is sad and insecure again, and needs Haruka to cheer her up and tell her she’s the best sibling to be king, because she has the perspective of the masses, what with being average and all. That only holds water, if you set aside the fact she can make highly-talented clones of herself, and that’s not something so easily set aside!

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Finally, Aoi, architect of Akane’s rise, feels bad about the way her friends are mistaken as her entourage of attendants by onlookers. They also mysteriously abandon her one after the other, with flimsy excuses. Alone, Aoi starts to rethink socializing with her friends so much, since she’ll only become more of a burden to them as King, or something.

Of course, she’s quite mistaken; her friends only went off to set up a surprise birthday party for her, confirming the value they place in their friendship with her. While still leading in the polls, Aoi still doesn’t want to be king. She’d rather help her siblings reach that goal, while in the meantime enjoying the friendships she forged on her own, without any mind control.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 08

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JnD may be based on a 4-koma, but that doesn’t mean it can’t carry on compelling, moving serialized stories, including in the romance department.

It’s even a bit coy about it, starting off with all the Sakurada siblings’ powers going berserk in an occasional phase called “Break Out.” I’m assuming this only happens in adolescence, as it would be pretty inconvenient for the king to be so compromised at regular intervals. That being said, seeing everyone’s  power going haywire in one place makes for some good visual comedy.

Shuu isn’t immune to Break Out, and inadvertently teleports away as he’s walking Satou Hana (the girl who confessed to him a few eps back) home. Hana panics—not unreasonably—and calls Akane for help. Akane uses this as an excuse to practice hanging out in big crowds, and promptly assuages Hana’s fears about Shuu teleporting away intentionally.

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Hana and Akane have some great comedic exchanges in which one is weirding out the other, and the balance is pretty good. Akane completing her inner monologue by yelling “I’ll do it”, or Hana loudly ruling out marriage without context to the crowds around them. I also like Akane’s two-birds-with-one-stone plan to offer advice to Hana while enduring crowds.

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But her Break Out isn’t gone, and crazy, scary things start happening, Hana doesn’t panic, but covers Akane up just as her clothes are being torn up by berserk gravity manipulation (the show avoids fanservice, since this is a serious moment). Hana then goes the extra mile, covering Akane’s escape indoors by loudly, proudly confessing her love for Shuu and her intention to go out with him with marriage in mind for the future, to great applause.

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Shuu seems pretty okay with Hana’s announcement when he sees it on TV (and would probably be even more okay if he knew she was making the announcement to save his sister undue embarrassment), but Kanade is concerned about his indifference, both about how Hana is taking charge of their relationship and, perhaps, also how little he seems to be interested in becoming king.

That’s a perfect segue to a flashback segment that serves as a How I Met Your Mother for the Sakurada parents, King Souichirou and his consort Satsuki. Unlike his kids, Sou spend much of his school years alone, constantly accompanied by his guardian/maid Sowa. He could see the discomfort in people, because reading auras is his superpower.

One day, while escaping from Sowa’s gaze for the seventeenth time, he explores the roof of the school and finds a coral-haired girl sleeping in the sun like a cat, with a petal on her nose. He gets close enough to make her think he’s up to no good (and she tells him it could be construed as an insult if he wasn’t, demonstrating the complicated nature of girls) and conscripts him as her pack-horse for grocery shopping (blowing off class in the process).

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After his face is called dull by the grocer, he and the girl head to her home, where four hungry mouths are waiting for her to make dinner (her parents are working late, not deceased). She makes dinner and Sou joins them, and it’s a transformative experience for him, whose parents have both passed and has no siblings.

The warmth and happiness exuding from the girl’s family puts a kind of spell on him. This girl, Satsuki, will be the girl he ends up marrying. Someone who makes him a better person; brings out new parts of him he didn’t know he had. She helped him become a better king, who can connect with the people in spite of his dull face It’s a lovely, funny, and incredibly efficient love story.

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Fast-forward to the present, and Satsuki remains a strong force, not letting the fact her husband is king let him get away with slacking around the house. When Shuu, presently considering a relationship of his own, seeks advice from his dad, Sou tells him the duty of a king is to make sure his family is living happily. In other words, a king must “rule” his house first, otherwise, why should he be fit to rule anything else?

Shuu takes that advice to heart when meeting with Hana on the same rooftop where Sou met Satsuki (a nice touch there!), but Hana is worried her antics at the cafe crossed the line, and Shuu is about to dump her. She maintains that fear when he accidentally teleports them both to an arctic range, even going so far as to fear he’s going to leave her there after dumping her!

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Of course, she’s got it all wrong: Shuu was glad and inspired by her courageous, confident announcement, and far from thinking she’s not a good match for her, he was worried he wasn’t a good enough match for her. But he wants to be, and he’s going to work to become just that, if Hana would stay by his side even after the elections.

It’s a lovely romantic moment and a happy ending that’s about to be punctuated by a kiss…but the episode reminds us they are in Antarctica (or Nepal)…and Shuu need to get them somewhere warmer pronto!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, completes and episode full of wit and heart; funny images and touching moments and connections. In other words, the best JnD yet.

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Owari no Seraph – 11

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Mika has finally reunited with the one surviving member of his family, Yuu, who he’d shoved and insisted he run away while he was bleeding on the floor many years ago. The conditions of their reunion aren’t ideal, what with Yuu’s sword being in Mika’s chest, but once Yuu sees Mika’s face, he’s unable to close the deal and kill him, even though Guren is yelling at him to do so. Yuu may be getting used to his new family, but faced with his original family, he can’t do anything, even if Mika is in a white coat.

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Mika’s plan is as half-baked as the original plan that got the two of them in their predicament to begin with: he wants to run off with Yuu. But where? How? What will they do? How will they live? For all the years he’s had to think about it, it just doesn’t seem like he’s thought about it that much. All Mika knows is Yuu is being used (Yuused?) by the other filthy humans, and he wants to run away with him. Yuu…isn’t so sure. Those filthy humans are his friends and comrades now.

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Mika literally whisks Yuu away in his arms, but Yuu resists, looking back at a troubling sight: all of those friends being restrained by powerful vampires, some of whom proceed to feed off of them. The Extermination Squad has never been in a worse way, and thoughout these intense cuts I was screaming at Yuu to do something, anything to save them. At the same time, I knew in his current state there was no way Yuu would be able to save everyone at once.

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Finally, as if a switch were flipped as a result of his predicament, one of Yuu’s eyes fills with blood, and he recedes into his subconscious, where Ashuramaru tells him even she fears the monster stirring within him and advises him to run off with Mika. But that’s something he simply can’t do; his loyalties between his friends and Mika are split down the middle.

The monster awakens and erupts from him, and he proceeds to go absolutely berserk on vampires and humans alike, something Guren apparently had been expecting, calling Yuu his trump card. Yet Yuu is about to slice Shinoa in two when Mika of all people comes between them, urging him not to kill humans, lest Yuu become like him. Then Shinoa manages to grab hold of Yuu and calm him down, but she’s obviously quite freaked out by the whole situation. No casual banter this week, no siree!

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Then Shinoa’s relative—maybe brother?—shows up with the cavalry, praising Guren’s “low-level” outfit for holding out as long as they did before ordering the live capture of the nobles. And just from the badass look of the guy, that order doesn’t sound all that far-fetched.

While it looks like the humans may be on the verge of winning the day, Yuu has clearly been changed forever, both in now knowing Mika is still (sorta) alive, and having awakened the indiscriminately ferocious beast within him. Looking forward to the aftermath in Owari’s first cour’s final week.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 12

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Last week, our brave, valiant, devoted young Makai knights, brothers in blood as well as calling, stood shoulder-to-shoulder against Mendoza and his partially-summoned beast, poised to teach the bad guy a valuable lesson about going up against good. But then Mendoza got Leon to focus on him, took him into his clutches…and pretty much ruined him forever. I didn’t see that coming, I’ll tell you that right now!

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Overcome by grief, pain and rage over vivid imagery of his mother dying (courtesy of Mendoza’s magic), Leon loses control and transforms into a terrifying beast. Mendy made it so that it’s as if Leon never left those flames his mother was being roasted in when she birthed him, and the flames that protrude from the Berserk-Garo cause significant damage and death to the city.

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Obviously Leon didn’t mean for things to go this far, but the fact remains he has to be stopped, one way or another. Herman is too injured to do it, so it falls to Alphonso, who hasn’t let Mendoza get close and still has full control of his faculties and his armor. You know your final battle isn’t going well when you have to allocate significant time and energy to taking out your own ally before he destroys the city you’re supposed to be protecting!

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Alfie manages to kick Leon out of the Garo armor at a very high altitude. Emma saves Leon by cushioning his fall with a soft, fluffy stone column. By this time, Mendoza’s pet is fully formed and ready to complete the work Leon inadvertently started.

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Alfie needs to make a choice quick, and makes it, taking Leon’s sword, donning the armor of the Golden Knight himself, and going after Mendoza and the beast. All a dazed Leon can do is watch his prized armor he worked so hard for move and fight without him. All because he let Mendoza get too close, and continued to harbor thoughts of anger, hatred, and revenge – which even Mendoza correctly asserted were piss-poor motivations for a Makai Knight, any way you slice it.

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Mendoza doesn’t get any lengthy farewell speeches, however, nor does his face contort very dramatically, before the very horror he summoned swallows him up and is then sliced clean in half by Alfie-Garo. The scourge of Valiante is gone…but sadly, so are Leon’s days as a Makai Knight.

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He says he did ‘nothing’, but that’s not true…he burned much of the city and probably killed a lot of people, and wouldn’t have stopped had Alfie not forced him out of his armor. I must say, that’s a heck of a bitter pill to give one of your heroes to swallow in the penultimate episode.

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The hero-ship basically passed from Leon, who utterly failed, to Prince Alfonso, who is welcomed back to the palace with open, happy arms. Unfortunately, one of his first actions upon returning is to go to his mother, who committed suicide rather than serve as Mendoza’s hostage.

In the heat of the moment the previous night, Alfie cursed Leon as a useless weakling, a coward, and above all, a great disappointment…but he knows that if his own mother hadn’t sacrificed herself, he might well have gone the exact same path as Leon.

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Mind you, just because Mendoza had ammo against Leon and used it doesn’t completely vindicate Leon; the fact remains his actions were motivated by the wrong reasons for someone wishing to be a Makai Knight. He was wrong, and that wrongness accelerated his downfall. At the end we see him alone, with no more means to fight nor anything to fight for.

To him, that means there’s nothing to live for either, so he prepares to toss himself off a cliff. Seems to me like a perfect time for Emma to show up with her magic thread! Not to mention, back at Santa Bard, Octavia is ostensibly still lurking.

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Aquarion Evol – 05

Thee newly united, co-ed elements of Holy Angel Academy are broken up into groups of three and unleashed into Neo-Kowloon to enter into all manner of suspiciously-date-like situations while the newly arrived child chairman Crea, High Commander Fudo, and other faculty observe them. All elements are fitted with armbands that shock them if feelings of love grow too intense. Amata is teamed up with Mikono and Zessica; the former gets upset that Amata is excited by Zessica’s shameless flirting. She stalks off, but Amata follows her and they almost fall in love before a romantic sunset when the Abductor Kagura crashes the scene.

We’ll tell you, we’re a bit surprised we were totally okay with the premise of this episode – in which the boys and girls essentially go on dates for school – which is awesome in and of itself. But it isn’t just for fun or for purposes of coupling off. Far from it: with the wild card of the electro-armbands, this is about training the raw and excited elements to control their emotions – the things that power their mecha. The goal is the ‘edge of love’, not true love itself. Two elements falling in love is what caused the last Aquarion catastrophe. Donar Dantes was a copilot, and he lost the love of his life along with his arms when the mecha went berserk.

This makes Donar quite the tragic figure, but also underscores the dangers of what Mikono and Amata are playing around with. Besides Donar, we see more of High Commander Fudo, who lays down some devastating donut metaphors, the academy’s doll-come-to-life chairman, and peripheral students like MIX and Sazanka. We also must note just how amazing the series continues to look. Everything is polished to dazzling and the colors are as intense as the emotions flying around.


Rating: 4