Banana Fish – 11 – Ashilles Heel

Turns out leading a gang is like riding a bike: you never really forget how to do it. Ash slides right back into his simpler life, and Eiji sees, for the first time, Ash the Leader, and how all his subordinates hang on his every word and breath.

They’re also impressed that Eiji isn’t scared of waking Ash up from a two-hour nap. But once Ash is up, he sends them all off on an intelligence-gathering mission, leaving him and Eiji alone to enjoy a simple meal of takeout together.

It’s there that Eiji sees yet another side of Ash, as for the first time ever in their friendship they can just relax. He also learns that Ash has cucurbitophobia (fear of pumpkins) and teases him for it, eliciting a very boyish pout.

That night we see the contrast between the two young men: Eiji sleeping soundly and Ash waking up from nightmares that will probably never go away. Ash lets himself be vulnerable with Eiji and cries into his lap; it’s how they both end up falling asleep.

Ash gets up at dawn, letting Eiji sleep in, and sets to work on his laptop. Having spent his jade earring buying guns from “The Fly” yesterday, Ash hacks into Golzine’s stocks, using the spyware he implanted on Dino’s computer while Dino was having fun with him.

So not only is Dino’s favorite mansion in ruins, but so are his finances, and those of the mafia organization he’s a part of. He’ll have to answer to the dons now, which means his life is a lot more complicated and fraught with danger. From what we know of Dino, no one deserves it more…though Arthur is trying to make a case for himself.

Ash uses his influx of cash to buy an $8 million condo right next to a building owned by the Corsican organization, showing he’s still a fan of bold moves. He has Max pretend to be his dad to cosign on the purchase. But Max is worried that for all Ash has accomplished since gaining his freedom, he still has one potentially crippling weakness: Eiji.

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Banana Fish – 10 – Wounded Tiger

The youngest Lee brother sat out last week’s unpleasantness, but returns to Ash to tend to his wounds and also decides to lend him a hand in escaping from Dino’s mansion. Dino is away for the night demonstrating Banana Fish on a woman who is forced to kill her husband, a presidential candidate. Meanwhile Ash’s gang has joined forces with Shorter’s Chinese crew, led by Sing, and after gathering some intel, they hit the mansion the same night Dino is out.

Ash makes use of the key Lee slipped him by doing a bit of gymnastics, then frees Max and Ibe, head to the armory full of military-grade weapons. From there, Ash becomes the “devil himself”, mowing through Dino’s men on one side of the house while his allies burst in and take care of business from the other. Lee leaves Ash with one more gift: injecting Abe Dawson with a paralytic.

That means, after meeting up with his men, Ash tells them to all get the hell out before Dino’s cavalry arrives, then heads down to the lab, where Abe had been busy extracting Shorter’s brain. Dawson begs for his life, but Ash responds by emptying a mag into him, then burns Shorter’s body so he can pass over in peace.

That gesture leads to a misunderstanding with Sing, Shorter’s subordinate, who heard that Ash killed Shorter (but doesn’t know why). He picks the wrong time to demand vengeance against Ash, who makes quick work of Sing, but lets him run away.

Sing ends up running right into Lee, who takes him away in a helicopter and spots Ash in his red Italian sports car heading back into Manhattan. It was an ugly one, and came at a high cost, but it was good to see a win for Ash, even if it just meant getting his freedom back.

Overlord III – 09 – Paving the Way

Faced with the overwhelming, terrible power of Aura and Mare, Emperor El Nix can hardly ignore a demand to travel to the Tomb of Nazarick to apologize personally. Though El Nix is such a busy man, the ensuing trip ends up being a rare opportunity for an afternoon nap, as well as a quick assessment of his potential queens, from Princess Renner (“praiseworthy but somewhat sickening”) to an “old hag that stays young with magic.” Ah, to be an emperor…

But once he and his retinue arrive, they are immediately reminded how much more powerful Ains Ooal Gown is than them, from the Maids who can control the weather (and whip up some top-notch Tang) to a healthy supply of Death Knights (who are relegated to serving said Tang). Nix’s Head Wizard Flugel is both terrified and amazed, almost to the point of rejuvination. His laugher is both out of sheer awe and wonder, but also kind of an “Oh shit, we’re so screwed.”

Once Nix & Co. are finally given an audience, things are actually quite cordial until Demiurge (in an animalistic disguise) talks out of turn, taking offense to Nix thinking he can use honorifics as if he was on equal terms with Lord Ains. Ains uses Demiurge’s little diplomatic snafu as an excuse to forgive the emperor for allowing his lord to send Workers into Nazarick.

This comes as great surprise to the young but cunning emperor, and uses that to suggest an alliance, in which Ains would start up and rule a country, and the empire would assist in any way they can. Ains agrees to this almost too easily for Nix to believe, but decides he’ll take every concession he can get, especially from a would-be foe he has absolutely no change against.

Once the two parties part ways, El Nix is confused by the ease with which his head wizard decides to jump into a coach and accompany him back to the capital. Nix knows Flugel well enough to know he wouldn’t be able to resist sticking around to try to acquire some of the immensely powerful magic he witnessed during their parlay.

And El Nix is exactly right: behind his back, Flugel has already met with “Momon” and agreed to give him “everything he has” in exchange for becoming the student of a tenth-tier “god.” Not sure he can truly rely on Flugel, El Nix plans to bring all of the human powers together in an alliance against Nazarick, all while pretending to be a friend to Nazarick.

Everything’s all going according to plan…only it’s Demiurge’s plan being carried out, not Ains. Ains actually doesn’t really know quite where Demiurge is going, and since he’s the boss, he can get away with ordering Demiurge to explain everything…for now. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Demi knew how ignorant Ains was to his plan, and was moving against him.

Of course, I know better…Demi would never move against his lord…or should I say, Sorcerer King—the winner in the throne room brainstorming session for a new title for Ains once he has his own country to rule.

Banana Fish – 09 – Dino’s Inferno

If it wasn’t clear last week, it certainly is now: things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better. Ash is in custody, on his way to New York. Eiji and Shorter are already there. Shorter is injected with Banana Fish and comes to think of Eiji as the manifestation of all his worst fears.

Eiji just manages to escape becoming just another one of Dino Golzine’s sexual conquests (he’s called away by Ash’s arrival). Yut-Lung, like Ash, is far more willing to get on with it for the sake of survival, and tells Eiji he should start thinking that way if he likes breathing.

Dino has a bit of a flair for the theatric, and so dresses up all of his hostages in black tie for a sumptuous dinner before getting to the “main event”, Ash having to watch Shorter kill Eiji with a knife. This is all just thoroughly unpleasant, especially with the younger Dawson brother doing his Mad Scientist thing and Arthur smirking and laughing through it all, having a blast.

The only—and I mean only—two glimmers of hope for any of the “good guys” are Yut-Lung escaping from the bedroom (though he doesn’t do anything this week, he only watches) and Shorter’s and Ash’s gangs deciding to join forces to spring their leaders.

But those glimmers of hope are too little, too late, as Ash’s chains are loosened and he’s given a gun with one bullet. He shoots Shorter before Shorter can kill Eiji, and to add insult to injury, Dawson drags Shorter’s body away to dissect his brain.

If it wasn’t already obvious, Ash and his misfit friends are so far out of their depth it’s not even funny (except to Arthur, who finds all of this hilarious.) It sucks to see Shorter go, and awful to see it happen by Ash’s own hand.

Now he, Eiji, Ibe and Max will have to hope either Yut-Lung makes a move on Dino, and/or Ash and Shorter’s men can turn the tables. But it is not looking good at all for our brash, handsome, precocious young gangster.

Banana Fish – 08 – A Very Bad Trip

I won’t mince words: this was a mostly thoroughly unpleasant episode to watch. While it’s not a deal-breaker when things never seem go the protagonist’s way, you have to throw the audience a bone once in a while. BF’s eighth episode did not oblige. Pretty much everything sucks for everyone.

Take the hostage situation involving JessicaJennifer and Michael. Lee’s thugs demand Max hand Ash over if he doesn’t want his family killed, but when they show up, the thugs are gone, replaced by police. Michael is fine, and Jennifer is alive (though it’s implied she was raped by one of the thugs).

While Ash and Max are gone, Yue-Lung makes his move, incapacitating both Ibe and Eiji and preparing to take the latter to his brothers in Chinatown. While paralized, Ibe can still see and hear, and so knows Shorter betrayed them, something Shorter is not proud of.

While he may have officially turned his coat against Ash, Shorter makes it his personal mission to see no harm comes to Eiji…which will be a tall order, as the Lees plan to hand him over to Golzine where he’ll be sold into sexual slavery just like Ash was. I’d point out that Eiji is not a “boy” but a 20-something adult, but the show is keen on him being the damsel-in-distress, while the paralytic completes his total loss of agency.

No, it will be up to Shorter to try to keep him safe (he vows to kill him and himself if/when that’s no longer possible) and Ash and his friends to rescue him from the clutches of the Lees and Golzine. But first, Alexis, the older brother of Abraham Dawson (and owner of the house where Yue-Lung was essentially squatting) shows up out of nowhere to inch the mystery forward.

Lex shows Ash and Max his hidden research room and the info they get from him indicate Golzine is doing a deal with the US Government to weaponize Banana Fish, which can be used to perfect soviet-era drug hypnosis. Then Lee’s men show up at Lex’s house, capture him, Ash, Max, and a recovered Ibe, and prepare to ship them all off back to New York.

Going to Los Angeles may have netted some answers for Ash & Co., but their presence there got Jennifer raped, Michael traumatized, and Lex’s lab torched. This is way bigger than revenge now where Ash likes it or not, but even assuming he frees himself from captivity and gets his .45 back, fighting Golzine and his government co-conspirators won’t be easy; perhaps the goal should be exposing them to the public.

We’ll also have to keep an eye on Yue-Lung, whose two half-brothers killed his mother in front of him when he was six. Despite his talk about it being in the past, it’s also in his back pocket, and he’s willing to go down himself if it means taking Hua-Lung and Wang-Lung with him. Perhaps he’ll eventually join Ash and Eiji to form a bad-guy-busting bishounen triad?

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online – 04 – The Game is the Game

Back to the “present” of Squad Jam (though not far enough into the present where Karen is entertaining her diminutive friends IRL). I tell ya, this show can give one temporal whiplash like nobody’s business.

Having defeated the pros and after another scan, LLENN and M determine they’re one of only three squads remaining. One of them ambushes them from hovercraft in the lake, forcing the huge M to set up his “space battleship armor” shielding, while the tiny LLENN remains just plain hard to hit.

Safe behind his shield, M is able to pick off the hovercraft gunners one by one and takes out the last one with a well-placed grenade that detonates underwater, sending the craft and its occupant flying and vulnerable to LLENN’s killshot.

M was able to kill all of those enemies without creating bullet lines, because he learned to aim without his finger on the trigger or using Bullet Circle assist. But when the next scan comes, the last team is not only right on top of them, but in position to take a shot at LLENN, not missing a fatal spot by much.

M grabs LLENN and races out of there with one of the hovercraft, getting shot in the process, but LLENN heals the two and they prepare for a counterattack. But first, LLENN lets M read a letter he was going to read before they were ambushed.

Immediately after reading the letter, he pulls a gun…on LLENN, saying he’s “sorry” before pulling the trigger. His shot misses; LLENN’s agility wins out again, and moments later his safety is on and she has her gun trained on him, demanding to know why he betrayed her.

M merely responds with streams of tears, begging the Pink Devil not to kill him, because he doesn’t want to die. It’s a 180 in M’s character, though he did mention he prefers fighting from a distance and from the safest possible position.

In this instance, with LLENN’s P90 at his throat, he’s suddenly way out of his comfort zone, so it’s understandable we’d see a new side of him. But it doesn’t explain why he suddenly pulled his gun on her. I suspect there’s a real-world reason for it. All I know is, LLENN’s reaction to his sudden change in character was priceless.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 21

In an episode that opens with Chise sharing a bed with Elias, these two splitting up would have been at the absolute bottom of things I expected to happen. But with her condition deteriorating and the meeting with the witches ending up almost completely fruitless, Elias decides to take Chise’s life out of her own hands, for what he believes to be her own sake…as well as his own happiness. Before they part ways, Mariel reminds Elias that only life can pay for life.

Elias has always been called “half-assed” or a “monster” but Chise was the first and only one who would “look at just me.” Well, thanks to his actions this week, she may never look at him that way, or any other way, ever again.

Just as she relays her suspicions Elias and Ruth are up to something behind her back and asks for Ariel to back her up, Elias knocks Chise out. She guides herself out of the dream with an image of Nevin, telling her that whatever others have planned for her, all she can do is be clear on what she needs to do.

With that, Chise breaks out of the dream by stabbing herself in the leg and does what must be done: stop Elias and/or Ruth from sacrificing anyone to save her. When she finds Elias has brought Stella into the house to be the sacrifice, Chise is, understandably, furious.

Even worse is when Elias tries to explain himself: not liking how Chise looked at Stella (i.e. their friendship), and not being able to stand it, and stating as long as Chise can continue to live he’ll be happy. After urging Stella to run away, she punches Elias in the face and storms out.

Of course, what Chise didn’t know is that Stella had already been possessed by Joseph, AKA Cartiphilus, who only pretended to be Stella in distress. But it doesn’t matter; Stella or Cartiphilus-possessing-Stella, Elias sought to transfer Chise’s curse to them. That makes Elias no different in Chise’s eyes anymore. He is a monster after all.

But here’s the thing: human beings are perfectly capable of becoming monsters, or doing monstrous things, if they feel there are no other options. If anything, Elias taking the steps he did were simultaneously appallingly naive and contemptuous of Chise’s wishes, and just plain wrong, but incredibly human nonetheless.

Chise isn’t the kind of human to put her life or welfare before anyone else’s. Cartiphilus knows this, and also knows how angry Chise is by Elia’s betrayal. So he offers her Stella’s life and a spell that will save her own, in exchange for her cooperation. And Chise accepts without hesitation, teleporting away with Carty and leaving her necklace behind.

Kokkoku – 08

Sagawa completes his merging with a Specter while able to maintain his own will. I just wish his various “experiments” he performs had a bit more bite. Now he’s essentially just a Hulk-like OP monster man, and he doesn’t even seem to take much if any joy out of his success. As he says, he’s a cautious man and always has been, but in this case a cautious villain is a dull villain.

Killing off his remaining followers didn’t really do much for me, since I never knew them anyway. It’s Sagawa’s apparent disinterest in quickly dispatching the Yukawas, Majima and Sako that confuses me.

More than once they butt right up against him, and he doesn’t put a lot of effort into taking them out, giving them ample chances to escape him, and even leaving Tubasa with them.

At this point in the story it feels like things have stalled, which shouldn’t be the case considering how the villain has powered up and become even more lethal. But it feels stalled because Sugawa is such a drab, boring dude who has slowed to a crawl right before the finish line.

It’s even more concerning that this is the eighth of what I presume to be 11-13 episodes. If things are this slow now, and the only remaining baddies remain as dull as they are, how in the heck are they going to fill the time?

Perhaps the family drama that results if Gramps really is expelled from Stasis, and Takafumi continues to oppose the rest of the family’s desire to be rid of Stasis, will inject some energy into the proceedings. All I know is the increased focus on the bad guys this week didn’t do the show any favors.

Kokkoku – 07

Shouko’s brother Yosuke is alive after all, if profoundly malnourished. Shouko is overjoyed, and watching her embrace her long-dormant kin leads Juri to embrace Makoto just as tightly when he’s released. Mr. Eyelash Spots, AKA Sako, wants to join the Yukawas as an ally, if they’ll have him. I guess he’s had his fill of all this Stasis shit. He’s not alone.

For once, “Great Lord” Sugawa and the Yukawas have something in common: they want to seal the Stasis spell. However, Sugawa, who had the sacred manuscripts of the Genuine Love Society researched, determining that they were all written by the same person over 500 years, wants to follow the founder’s path and live a much longer time.

While Sugawa discusses his plans to let the outsider Shiomi succeed him as Great Lord, one of his disciples—a true believer—is eavesdropping, and is so often the case with these kind of organizations, a leader like Sugawa must always beware of those so committed they’ll put the Cause before its leader.

There are only four true believers left, plus one hired muscle, Shiomi, and Sugawa. They are all who remain to oppose the Yukawas. Once Juri changes into some new duds (which she’s also now wearing in the OP) the plan is laid out: she’ll expel the seven remaining opponents, leave Stasis and seal the spell.

Takafumi is the one member of the Yukawas who doesn’t want the spell sealed, and thinks the others are fools for wanting to do so. But the Master Stone ends up in the hands of the disciple who believes Sugawa betrayed them, and the handover is tense.

Sugawa tries to smooth things over by saying Shiomi will only be a temporary arrangement, but his disciple knows what he heard and has already made his choice and draws his blade. Sugawa then gives his “last sermon”, asking what it’s like to be completely controlled by a specter.

I imagine he’s going to be able to proceed even if his disciples try to interfere. It will fall to the Yukawas to stop him and reclaim their lives.

Juuni Taisen – 03

Is it just me, or have the POV warriors gotten progressively more interesting with each episode? After Boar and Dog, we now learn more about Chicken (Niwatori), who had spent last week showing Dog one side only to turn on him and show her true one.

Niwatori’s childhood was…rough, to put it comically mildly. We find her where the cops do: malnourished and filthy in an apartment filled with garbage and blood. It’s not her blood; it’s that of her parent(s), which, considering her “pecking” specialty, she killed by repeatedly pecking bits out of hem with an egg topper.

Her own memories of this time are quite foggy; she spent some time at a facility after a hospital visit, and after regaining her physical health, she was adopted by the Niwa family, whose matriarch was interested in utilizing her special ability to speak to birds.

They trained her into a soldier and assassin who can hide in plain sight and deceived and betrayed so many people, she had no idea who was a friend or enemy.

Back in the present, Niwatori has successfully fooled Dog unto his death, and makes quick work of Zombie Boar with a swarm of birds under her control, who peco their prey to pieces and pick flesh from bone.

Feeling peckish herself, Niwatori enters a convenience store and encounters Rat, who has no quarrel with her, and leads her to the sewers to meet Monkey.

Niwatori finds herself unusually affected, even moved by Shuryuu’s seemingly catch-less kindness and earnestness, and believes Dog’s One Man Army poison has heightened her emotions as well as her body.

Even though she finds herself perfectly capable of killing Monkey and Rat right there and then, and knows that is the best course of action to ensure victory in the Zodiac War, she just…can’t do it. She withdraws…and when she does, she’s so busy cursing herself for making such a dumb move, she doesn’t realize Ox is right there, ready to kill her.

Naturally, because Niwatori is the POV character this week, she has to die, and she’s not even the first warrior Ox kills this week (that honor goes to Horse, whom we don’t learn much about before his demise).

Still, she faces her imminent death standing tall, with a defiant look in her eye, and after sacrificing so many of her beloved birds to defeat Zombie Boar, there’s a poetry to her giving up her body to feed still more of those birds.

I won’t say that she came out of the hell of her childhood—in which she was no doubt pecked away at to the brink of death—to live a life of honor or morality. Indeed, she saw herself as an instrument—another weapon in the Niwa family’s arsenal—and little else.

We don’t know what wish she’d have asked for had she won the Zodiac War. But I will say that for the brief time I got to know her, I emphasized and liked Niwatori, and the show feels a little smaller without her, as I’m sure it will continue to feel as more POV characters meet their maker.

Saekano 2 – 07

It’s been two months since Winter Comiket, and Cherry Blessing has done well in both sales and critical reception. But with their first game released, Blessing Software is at a crossroads. Utaha is finishing up her newest novel, while Eriri is still blowing past art deadlines (what she’s painting, we never see).

Tomoya’s rival Iori surmises that Cherry was able to surpass his game in reviews (if not in sales) because both writer and artist grew and surpassed themselves. Now that the trio has been through it all together, the girls are far less careful about how they act at school around Tomoya.

Tomoya, Eri, and Utaha are all getting along swimmingly post-Comiket, but Tomoya has been unable to make any progress whatsoever in making up with Megumi. She gives him a listless “good morning” and doesn’t answer her phone when he calls her.

That ignored call is the beginning of Tomoya starting to actually stop and carefully consider everything Megumi had done for and with him, and the manner in which treated her in return. Because he took her commitment lightly and shut her out at a crucial moment, she’s not picking up now to discuss with him the pros and cons of a new, second game.

Valentine’s Day arrives, and when he brings up the possibility of giving her more work, Eriri simply wants more time to relax, not worry about such things, give him chocolate, take his arm and walk with him.

To her chagrin, he has lunch with Utaha, who also gives him chocolate, and offers to sign her real name (not her pen name) “all over his body”, in a classic Utaha tease that’s probably more sincere than Tomoya is willing to realize.

Utaha also released her latest novel, and plans to start another soon. Since she’s already in university, she won’t be coming to school anymore after today. So Tomoya asks her, almost desperately, if she’d write for him again.

Despite her resentment of Tomoya’s protectiveness with Eriri, she bashfully admits she wants to make another game with her. Eriri, out in the hall making sure Utaha doesn’t make any moves, hears Utaha’s warm tone.

If Tomoya can come up with an idea, it looks like Utako Kasumi and Kashiwagi Eri are all on board. Which leaves Megumi (sorry Hyoudou, you’re not a main!). Tomoya makes an effort to track her down, but she slips out just as school ends. He spots her eating alone in a cafe, texts her a request for a circle meeting, and watches her not ignore it, giving him hope that maybe their friendship hasn’t “run its natural course” quite yet after all.

Then he goes home, and late into the night, he plays Cherry Blessing through. Playing it brings up all of the memories he has of Megumi working tirelessly by his side to make the game such a success, and how little appreciation he showed in his words, actions, or lack thereof. So Tomoya curls up in shame. At last—a glimmer of self-awareness from the guy.

Thinking of her also inspires Tomoya to come up with a title for the upcoming game he’ll aim to release in time for Summer Comiket: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. Meta! Here’s hoping he can make proper amends—and Megumi is willing to take the fool back.

Saekano 2 – 06

Both the immediate (Eriri collapsing) and long-term (finishing the game) crises are resolved this week, with one major caveat: to rescue Eriri, Tomoya gave up on a full Winter Comiket release, even though that’s the reason Eriri ended up in such a state (that, and her obsession with quality with the threat of Hashima Izumi looming).

Ironically, it’s Izumi’s bro (and Tomoya’s chief rival) Iori who comes to Tomoya’s aid, offering a ride to Eriri’s villa. Tomoya finds Eriri really did get everything done, and more to the point, he believes it’s her best work and the best work he’s seen all year.

That brings a smile to the gradually-recovering Eriri, but she’s even happier to hear him say, categorically, that she’s his “number one;” that her new art is better than Izumi’s. She doesn’t mind that he doesn’t go so far as to tell her she’s beaten Utaha and Michiru, but she happily infers it.

After that, the two settle back into the same routine as when they were little kids: staying indoors, playing games and watching anime, which Tomoya both notes was because Eriri was so sick so often, but also doesn’t complain about.

He goes further in wanting to apologize to the others in Eriri’s stead, as he’s the director and all, but Eriri insists: if she can’t apologize properly, she can’t keep moving forward. So she does so, and the whole crew is on hand for Winter Comiket…albeit with only 100 hastily burned copies of Cherry Blessing.

It’s shocking how quickly all the work they’d done suddenly becomes a finished product, which sells out within 30 minutes due to lots of buzz about a new game with studs like Kashiwagi and Kasumi collaborating. At the market, Eriri also apologizes to Izumi for how she treated her, and explains why she did (fear of being surpassed).

Yet in the midst Eriri dispensing all of her apologies and the team dispensing every last copy of their game, something seems off. The camera uncharacteristically lingers on Megumi too often, and she seems to be hiding something that will certainly rain on the parade of the big release.

Content to quietly skip the post-release party and go home for the time being, when Tomoya forces the issue, she finally has a very Kato-ish “outburst”, one that cuts Tomoya to the quick, far more than if she had yelled or cried. In his haste to save Eriri, he neglected to tell her about anything that was going on, during the precise days she said she’d make sure she was available for him, no matter what.

Tomoya took her earnest promises and commitments lightly, and ultimately ignored them altogether and took everything on himself, keeping her in the dark until everything worked out. That is something Megumi cannot forget, nor easily forgive.

As happy as I am to see Tomoya and Eriri on such good terms again, I can’t say I blame Megumi. If getting out of the doghouse is even possible, Tomoya, with his famous lack of awareness, may find doing so even tougher than making a dating sim from scratch.

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 06

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Who’s cuter than Mamushi? LIL’ MAMUSHI! XD

As soon as we were in flashback mode with Mamushi, I knew Ao no Exorcist had a better story to tell than her turn to the dark side and ultimate demise. It was also an early indicator I was in for a good episode, and this turned out to be the best Ao 2 to date. For once, I wasn’t feeling impatient or shortchanged during the credits. Instead, I was pumped up.

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Whether intentional or not, the backstory of Master Tatsuma meeting Fujimoto, and the resulting expanding of his world (and evolution of his beliefs) is, at least so far, the best thing to come out of this Ao 2. I’d say it’s done Rin & Co. a disservice by sidelining and outshining them, if it wasn’t such a good backstory.

Of course, when the guy you thought was a bandit ends up healing your comrades…and your pregnant wife you thought was going to die, that tends to have a profound effect on how you look at the world and how you judge people.

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Despite his bluster and stated plans to kill a kid with the Koma Sword, Fujimoto spends enough time with Fujimoto to know he won’t actually kill the kid he speaks of (the, ahem, spawn of satan, as it turns out). And Tatsuma is done praying to a sword he knows is empty, having unsheathed it as a curious youth.

By being exposed to Fujimoto, Tatsuma learns there may be a better way to protect his people other than strict, at times self-destructive orthodoxy. So ever since his father died and passed on the ultimate secret of the Myoda sect to him, he’s been looking for a way to exit the sect from its 150-year obligation.

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To Mamushi’s surprise, that obligation turns out to be holding the shriveled body of the Impure King, employing the power fire demon Karura and removing the King’s eyes to keep him in a dormant state. Karura not only demands but draws its power from the secrets of men—the more and bigger the better.

Of course, when the guy you thought was a bandit ends up healing your comrades…and your pregnant wife you thought was going to die, that tends to have a profound effect on how you look at the world and how you judge people. Those secrets have done nothing but allow the Myoda to keep, essentially, a nuke in their sub-basement.

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Mamushi, who is also determined to protect her people, is quickly betrayed by her former teacher when he takes the eye she was carrying and re-awakens the Impure King himself, Akira-like in form and expanding to ginormous size.

The twist is that the titular Fujouou isn’t even Todou’s target. He only awakened the King to force Suguro Tatsuma out and compel him to summon Todou’s true target: Karura, whom Todou devours and from whom he gains youth and vigor.

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Todou is now more powerful than ever, but to my relief, Mamushi is no longer his acolyte, now that she knows their interests don’t align at all. Before Karura is taken from him (and before he’s stabbed through the throat) Tatsuma manages to seal the Impure King with a powerful spell. But using that spell means he can no longer defeat him.

He entrusts that task, in his hastily-scrawled letter, to Rin, knowing it’s an unenviable task to be saddled with, and indeed that it could result in Rin’s death, either by failing to take down the King or by being executed by the authorities for using his blue flames. Of course, we all know Rin isn’t just going to sit back and save himself.

Tatsuma saw a good man in Fujomoto, and clearly saw a good young man in Rin. I doubt Rin will let him down.

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