Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 18 – Go Forward, Gain Nothing

I’ll be honest: It’s weird seeing Suletta in the standard drab Asticassia uniform, but in true Suletta fashion she’s decided to take her fall from grace in stride: by going forward. She still has a wish list, and so she starts knocking items off, from asking “a cool question” in class o eating lunch with friends. Her cheerful attitude doesn’t sit quite right with her Earth House chums, particularly Chuchu.

Guel isn’t wearing his white Holder’s uniform, as he’s joined the ranks of High Schoolers Doing Adult Business, taking over Jeturk from Lauda. His new fiancée Miorine is also in a snappy business suit, a clear visual sign that they’re too cool for school. Mio has a Benerit Group presidential election to win, but neither she nor Guel have the track record to get the time of day from the real adults.

As with Shaddiq and his girls, there’s an air of “playing at being adults” to them, but the fact is with their fathers dead or incapacitated, Mio and Guel have no choice but to step up, regardless of whether they’re ready or deserving. It’s a blow to Mio to learn Shaddiq is also in the running for president, and also in the lead thanks to his alliance with Peil.

Suletta still tends the greenhouse I assume Mio has abandoned due to her new hectic work schedule. Lauda stops by to toss another “Mercurian wench” barb her way, but when Chuchu gets in his face, he, Petra, and Felsi thank her for saving his life. She’s not sure what to do with that, but is still pissed that Suletta is taking this the way she is.

But from Suletta’s perspective, Mio did nothing wrong. Suletta broke her promise never to lose a duel. Though, if she knew it was Mio who hit the kill switch on Aerial she might think differently. As for Nika, she’s still in purgatory with a dour Norea who just wants to kill Spacians and an Elan looking for something to do with Peil backing Shaddiq.

As protests on earth spread and grow more violent (which I believe is Shaddiq’s doing), Mio, while in confrence with Guel and Prospera, believes speaking to the Earthians directly is the kind of bold move that could help her make up her huge deficit against Shaddiq. At the same time, the Earth House arranges to have Suletta meet with Mio.

Bel runs afoul of Jun Feng. And then there’s Martin, who sold out Nika. He goes to a designated school counseling booth to speak to an automated Haro, only to be busted by Seceila of all people, calling him a “dirty rat.” This episode checks in on literally everyone.

When Suletta parts ways with her Earth buddies to see Mio, she ends up in a dark hangar, reunited with Aerial. She hops into the cockpit and flies out into space, where she admits to Aerial that she’s not so sure she’s gained two by moving forward. It hurts not seeing Mio.

That’s when Gundam’s light trim turns from red to blue, and Suletta finds herself in a kind of virtual construct where she meets Eri’s avatar face to face. Eri tells her she “filled in” for her admirably, and tells Suletta she’s one of her “repli-children” created from her genes.

Once Permet Score Eight is reached, Eri doesn’t need a pilot. Quiet Zero, which Suletta knows nothing about, will create a world where Eri can live, so Suletta isn’t needed anymore. So she urges Suletta to stop clinging to her, and to mom.

With that Suletta is ejected from Aerial’s cockpit, and drifts through space in a spin until caught by Prospera. Her mom tells her everything is just as Eri said, and it’s time she go back to school, which she says has all she needs “to fill her heart.” Both Eri and Prospera want Suletta to live freely, as Mio does, but without a bride, or duels, or Aerial to pilot, Suletta is feeling particularly empty and useless.

If the episode began with Suletta pretending everything was okay and moving forward, the end of the episode shows her in full existential meltdown. Everyone and everything has conspired to strip away all of the things she had used to define herself up to this point. Seeing (but notably not hearing) her sobbing as she floats in space sure feels like rock bottom.

The question is, what will become of this newly empty vessel; this blank slate that is Suletta Mercury? I am extremely interested to find out if she’ll finally move forward for real, and if she’ll chooses to reject the path of safety and tedium her mother, sister, and bride have laid out for her.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 17 – The Final Duel

Backed into a corner, Miorine agrees to take over Prospera’s Quiet Zero program. Prospera only asks that Suletta be allowed to participate in one last duel with Aerial, and then Mio can “do as she pleases” with her. Mio’s next interaction with Suletta demonstrates the strain of their still ill-defined relationship.

Based purely on Miorine’s reaction and not her inner morality, Suletta apologizes for “saying something weird” in the greenhouse (about killing if her mom told her to). When Mio asks if Suletta would ever give up Aerial, Suletta flatly says no; Aerial is family, after all.

Suletta then talks about celebrating Mio’s upcoming 17th birthday, unaware that it’s already the beginning of the end for her. At the Benerit Group Front, Business Wonder Boy Shaddiq voices his intention to run for president and form an alliance with the Peil Group.

Back at the greenhouse, Suletta is watering plants when Elan comes in. Having failed to steal Aerial, he confronts her directly to give it to him. When she tells him she doesn’t like him like this, he says the Elan she did like is gone and not coming back. Then he pulls a Taser on her.

She’s rescued…by Geul, who dispatches Elan with alacrity, then offers thanks to Suletta for helping inspire him “move forward and gain two.” He admits that part of her is what he fell for, and makes clear to her that she’s precious to him.

Suletta understands this is a confession, and politely rejects him, for she too has someone precious. That someone, Miorine, is hiding in the bushes listening, and eventually shows herself to declare to Suletta what she wants for her birthday: for her to win one last duel … against Guel.

I thought we were done with the “kid gloves” of the school duels, but this one is touted again and again as the “last” such duel, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. While Suletta simply asks that if she wins, Jeturk house align themselves with Earth House to stem the harassment from other Spacian houses, if Guel wins, he gets Aerial.

Miorine, who is present for the pre-duel ceremony, tells her those stakes don’t matter if Suletta wins, and she’s never lost. But now that we know Mio wants Suletta out of that cockpit at any cost, this felt different. Suletta doesn’t feel invincible here; she feels like a sitting duck.

Miorine wants Suletta to be happy, but doesn’t believe she can truly be that when fighting and killing. So in addition to striking a deal with Prospera that will prove decisive in the coming duel, Mio tells Guel to reclaim her as his bride, so that his company can support her in the coming election.

Just as Miorine is preparing to push Suletta from the center of everything to the margins where she can be kept safe, Elan joins Norea and Nika in a storage room of misfit toys, no longer loyal to or wanted by anyone. It’s a compelling room of wild cards, and more importantly, Suletta can’t rely on Nika’s technical skill to fix up Aerial, who is not 100%.

When the duel begins, it looks like it will be another easy victory for Suletta. She’s committed, and her Gund-Bits are overwhelming, as always. Add to that Guel, who has cut his hair as a symbol of his rebirth and also been embraced and supported by Lauda, Petra (who is now dating Lauda?) and Felsi, is experiencing some pretty brutal effects of PTSD.

When he freezes up, that family calls out to him, waking him up and allowing him to dodge Suletta’s decisive antenna-severing blow. Then Mio receives a notification from Prospera on her phone: an Aerial kill switch. Suletta hears Eri say “I’m sorry” as “Happy Birthday” plays, and after briefly hesitating, she hits the button, and Aerial shuts down and goes dark.

Guel takes the deactivated Aerial’s antenna and wins the duel. Shortly after, Miorine opens Suletta’s cockpit to let her know it was she who shut Aerial down, because she wanted her to lose. This duel was a trade, and Suletta made a “good shield”, but her usefulness to Miorine is now at an end.

In one final twist of the knife before saying goodbye to her “Mercurian country bumpkin”, Miorine brings up Suletta’s uniform settings and removes the Holder regalia, as with her defeat she is no longer the holder.

She may no longer be anything, anymore. Miorine knows Prospera sent Suletta here to fight and win duels. Now there will be no more duels (though I’m not holding by breath about that), and she has lost. It’s an absolutely brutal, heart-wrenching turn of events … but I can’t fault Miorine.

Ultimately, Mio knew Suletta would never quit fighting in a Gundam of her own volition. Aerial had to be taken from her for her own good. Mio did this because she loves Suletta and wants her to be free from her terrible mother all this political bullshit, and from a life of further bloodshed that will eventually tear at her soul.

The question is, now that Suletta is at or fast approaching rock bottom, what the heck—if anything—is next for her? She’s been well and truly taken off the board. From her perspective, Miorine betrayed her, dumped her, broke her heart because she was falling short as a groom, even if that’s not at all the case. Now comes the picking up of the pieces.


Hell’s Paradise – 02 – Bearing Your Burdens

It’s two impressive first outings in a row, as we delve into Sagiri’s brutal past as a girl raised in the Yamada clan. She regales us with the time she first saw her father behead a man. It was a storyteller who wanted to be executed while telling his story. Her father’s cut was so swift and clean, he kept telling the story after he was beheaded.

From that point onward, Sagiri vowed to develop that same flawless strike as her dad, but from the first head she separated from a condemned and every one thereafter, she felt the weight of fear and doubt in her swing. This is visualized quite creepily as the tortured ghosts of those she killed not only appearing in the reflection of her blade, but groping her naked body in her mind’s eye.

In other words, the Sagiri we saw last week was the same Sagiri she needed Gabimaru to see: a Sagiri without weaknesses or flaws. The reality is, she was only hiding those things. She, along with nine other Yamada Asaemon executioners, flank the 30-odd condemned prisoners gathered for the trip to “Paradise.” They present the only person who ever returned alive, but he’s changed, flowers sprouted from sores on his body, and he seems locked in a kind of blissful fugue sta

When one of the prisoners says “f— this” and tries to peace out, he’s immediately beheaded, with the implication that anyone else who puts a toe out of line will meet the same fate. The shogun also introduces another wrinkle: the prisoners will have to “reduce their numbers” because there’s only so much room on the boat to the island and only ten Asaemons.

A huge, bloody brawl ensues that enables us to get a glimpse of some of the other prisoners. They’re a colorful bunch, including a svelte, deadly kunoichi, a giant, an a cannibalistic courtesan. But when three of them looking to escape target Sagiri as the weakest of the samurai, she tells her elder colleague that she’s got this.

Back when she was stoned by kids for simply being one of the Yamada clan, she didn’t simply hide and cower; she picked up a rock and prepared to fight back. So too here, she lops the three charging prisoners’ heads off one by one.

The only one to not move throughout all of this may just be the most dangerous of all the prisoners: Gabimaru the Hollow. He approaches the shogun and tells him this is fucked up, but there’s no defying his decision. When other prisoners approach him with the intent to kill, he lets out a big exaggerated sigh, like they are totally putting him out…then he gets to work.

While last week we saw what he’s capable of when he uses ninjutsu, here he simply uses his bare hands and feet to tear through people like they’re made out of papier-mache. Fountains of blood spew from his vicious strikes, and prisoners fall left and right without being able to so much as touch him.

But what really gets to Sagiri is what he said before engaging in combat: he’s not immune to the weight of the lives he’s taking; he’s resolved to carry it. The key to perfecting her swordsmanship isn’t becoming strong enough to eliminate all fear and doubt; that’s impossible. Instead, she has to bear those burdens.

By the time Gabimaru’s rampage is over, he is one of only ten prisoners remaining, equalling the number of Asaemon. They then board the ship, pass through curtains of fog, and eventually their destination emerges. It is hauntingly beautiful, lush and filled with life. Killing a few rowdy prisoners on a beach will clearly be one of the easier things both Gabimaru and Sagiri have had to do compared to what awaits them on that island.

Gabimaru and Sagiri make for a compelling lead duo, and these episodes do a stellar job of giving us their backstories and motivations. Neither are mindless or perfect tools for killing as they appear on the surface, but feel like real people who have simply been through some shit. We’ll see how the island (not to mention the other Asaemon and prisoners) affects their dynamic.

Hell’s Paradise – 01 (First Impressions) – Do It for Her

The ninja Gabimaru, known as “Gabimaru the Hollow”, is ready to die. He’s killed countless people and claims to have no attachments to life. Leaving his home village of Iwagakure (which is forbidden), he finds himself condemned to death by a magistrate. But for whatever reason, he’s just…not able to die. No matter the method—swords, fire, bulls, oil—he endures.

A young and extremely focused inspector records events as they unfold and interviews Gabimaru nightly after the failed execution attempts. She gets the distinct feeling that all this “hollow” stuff may just be branding, and that Gabimaru is actually resisting death rather than wishing it would come and not being able to die.

Turns out Gabimaru has a wife back in Iwagakure. She alone treated him not like a tool for killing or a monster to be feared, but as her darling husband. She taught him how to act like a proper, normal spouse, and wanted nothing more than to live a simple life with him as his wife.

One day, Gabimaru is taken to a dark cellar where the inspector is waiting for him with katana in hand. Turns out she’s the Yamada Asaemon Sagiri, an elite executioner who answers only to the shogun. Unlike the previous methods of his demise that failed, Sagiri is fully capable of killing Gabimaru…if he let her. Instead, he simply proves her theory right by dodging her killing strikes.

He can vehemently insist he’s hollow and has no attachments to life, but words are wind, and his actions say otherwise. Once Gabimaru has stolen a guard’s katana and he and Sagiri have crossed blades for a while, she presents him with a full pardon from the Shogunate. Her mission here wasn’t to kill him, but to test and recruit him.

An island that once only existed in myth and legend has been found far to the southwest, and the Shogun believes the Elixir of Life can be found there. Sagiri was tasked with recruiting capable individuals on death row who have a strong will to live. And despite Gabimaru once leaving his wife, perhaps out of fear his line of work would endanger her, he most definitely still wants to live to see her again.

Sagiri knows this now, and formally invites Gabimaru to join her on this expedition. He’ll be competing against other criminals—the worst of the worst—as the pardon will only go to the one who finds the elixir.

The magistrate objects to surrendering his prisoner and has his guards threaten Sagiri, so Gabimaru grants her previous request to see some of his ninjutsu, and in the blink of an eye the guards are nothing but a pile of smoldering bodies. Knowing the gig is up, Gabimaru relents, and he and Sagiri have a deal.

It took a bit, and I have another episode to watch, but I finally got around to watching Hell’s Paradise, and I’m very glad I did. Just about everything about it works: the dialogue and direction, the animation and character designs, the music, and the dark humor.

Hanamori Yumiri excels as the sardonic, deadpan Sagiri, while Gabimaru is an instantly sympathetic character despite his bloody past. I know it won’t be easy by any means, as it entails going to paradise and back and not turning into flowers…but I want him to come home to his love.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 13 (S2 E01) – Estranged Couple


This week opens with much bombastic action, as Suletta pilots her newly-rebuilt Aerial and proceeds to turn a gauntlet of five scrub challengers into chop suey with ease. Because she’s the Holder, she must accept a duel every two weeks, and the rich houses challenge her every time they can. This seems excessive for a student, but Suletta handles it with aplomb and her usual bright smile, which contrasts to her new, more vicious combat style.

Sulettta remaining the Holder, and student at Asticassia, are really the only positive things happening in her life right now. Her bride Miorine remains by her alive but comatose father’s side, hoping and praying for him to wake up while also dealing with the trauma of seeing Suletta splat someone right in front of her. GUND-Arm Inc. operations are suspended, so Earth House is in a holding pattern.

While public record is that the Plant Quetta incident was an “accident”, the Benerit Group is very much aware of what went down. They aren’t going to take the death of Vim Jeturk and attempted assassination of their president sitting down, and send forces to Earth to deal with those responsible. Shaddiq’s playing of both sides remains a secret, but he too is sidelined, forbidden from duels or family business.

Finally, we have Nika, essentially a third protagonist after Suletta and Miorine, still struggling with the guilt of aiding Shaddiq and almost getting her whole house (not to mention Miorine, her father, and Suletta) killed. I’m certain Suletta would forgive her if she explains herself properly, but even when given opportunities throughout the episode, she stays mum about her role in the Quetta affair.

That brings us to the big news at Asticassia: an Open Campus, allowing outside students to visit, tour, and participate in courses and activities. Among them are Earthian “Witches” and secret Dawn members Sophie Pulone and Norea du Noc. The moment Sophie finds Suletta she latches onto her and adopts her as a “big sister”, but this isn’t all glowing admiration; it’s at least partly an act.

We know that because obviously Sophie and Norea aren’t just here as transfer students (something “New Elan” notes is quite unusual). Nika knows this too, and tells Norea that she and her friends and comrades are done with this whole business. Norea pulls a knife on Nika, mocks her for playing the victim, thanks her for her service thus far, and asks politely for her cooperation in achieving both of their goals. It’s the last time Norea is polite, and her only warning to Nika.

I’d curse Norea for being such a jerk, but unfortunately she’s right; maybe Dawn would have found another mole, but their mole was Nika; she made her bed and now has to sleep in it. As for Sophie, she’s an agent of pure chaos at the Open Campus festival, dragging her “big sis” along and enjoying all there is to enjoy. One positive side-effect of this is that she snatches Suletta away from another attempt by Elan to ask her out on a date. Elan deciding to try a new tack next time filled me with dread.

When no one’s looking (because apparently there’s no security in the hangers during Open Campus???) Norea and Sophie crack into Pharact and try to hack the Gund Format, to no avail. When Nika arrives to force them to stop or she’ll blab, Norea activates the MS and prepares to crush Nika underfoot. She may not be as outwardly unhinged as Sophie, but Norea’s just as if not more volatile and dangerous if angered.

Fortunately for Nika, Suletta slides in with her scooter just in time to grab her and save her life. She tells everyone to stop fighting, but Norea takes Nika’s threat to expose them seriously. To protect the secrecy of their mission and roles, she’s ready to stomp both of them. Suletta stops her by challenging her to a duel. If she wins, Norea and Sophie won’t be able to lay a finger on Nika. If Norea wins, well…[runs finger across throat].

Suletta urges them, as students, to follow school rules, even though she’s talking to two literal terrorists who could give two shits about anyone’s rules or laws. But they agree, probably because Norea knows an “unfortunate accident” is more plausible in a duel than right there in the hanger, likely before she wanted to make any noise.

As for Miorine, she’s not alone where she’s currently being confined and questioned as her father recovers. Lady Prospera is there too. She admits Suletta went too far, but Miorine can’t deny that she and her dad would probably be dead without her actions, so Prospera urges her to remain friends. Miorine seems open to that, even if it will be hard to even face Suletta again.

Prospera also has a favor to ask of Miorine: that she take over the work of her father’s most secretive, and possibly most important, project: Quiet Zero. Apparently, the project has something to do with using the GUND Format’s network to “rewrite the world” into one without war. Suffice it to say, no good can come of Suletta and Miorine being apart. This first episode back was jam-packed with material, and upped the political and personal drama to the max. I’m all here for it.

NieR: Automata Ver 1.1a – 07 – Missions Don’t Need Hairpins

“Emotions are prohibited”, and yet Operator 6O contacts 2B to tell her she’d look good with a lunar tear (a kind of lily) in her hair. Why would YoRHa androids care about aesthetics aside from their practical or tactical use? Maybe, I guess, because enough time has passed and these androids have lived and been regenerated enough that they do have emotions, and it’s a fool’s errand to deny or suppress them.

2B has shown time and time again that she not only has emotions, but is willing to let them guide her actions rather than her strict YoRHa programming and independent from Bunker directives. It’s why when Pascal reports that Little Sister is missing after looking for parts for her Big Sister, 2B agrees to a sidequest to find her. It’s not like they have anything else going on.

Pascal gives 2B and 9S a lift to the Forest Kingdom with his new flight attachments, and the androids learn that he can change out his body parts as needed. That leads to a talk about how much can be changed before Pascal is no longer Pascal. He believes that as long as the heart of someone, be they human, Machine Lifeform, or android, remains, they are still themselves.

Within the Forest Kingdom there’s a sprawling ruined castle of brick and stone, calling to mind not just Castle in the Sky but the classic video game Ico. The visuals and soundtrack combine for another another triumph of location establishment and atmosphere setting. But while the kingdom is supposed to be guarded by a fierce ML fighting force, nearly all are destroyed, and by someone who knew what they were doing.

Various record chips held by the castle’s defeated occupants contain not just a dispassionate record of events 256 and 128 years ago, but a history of their kingdom, from when their first king declared their kingdom, to when he died and was succeeded by a new “Little King”. There’s also a record of four hours ago, when the intruder is revealed to be a female android.

As they’re walking on a bridge high above a long drop,  the stone beneath 9S’ feet crumbles, but Pascal saves him. 9S is shocked by this since he’s been badmouthing Pascal and all MLs the whole time, and even afterwards he still can’t fully trust him. But they eventually find the Little Sister, who has fallen in love with one of the castle guards and wishes to be married.

With one sidequest complete, the sister’s new fiancé gives the androids another: save the Little King, who is under threat from the intruder. They reach the throne room and find the King—the Machine Lifeform version of a babe in riveted metal swaddling clothes—but they are too late to save it, as it is run clean through by the blade of the female android intruder.

The Pod identifies this android as the ex-soldier A2, currently classified a deserter and a fugitive (and I’m guessing she’s the “Number Two” from last week’s exploration of Lily’s past). After crossing blades and having hers shattered by 2B (the upgraded model must have an advantage), 9S asks A2 why she betrayed Command. A2 responds that Command was the ones doing the betraying.

Judging from what went down last week, I’m not skeptical in the least about A2’s assertion. She runs off before 2B and 9S can question her further, but I hope we get to see her again. I’m also eager to see what Adam does when he feels he and Eve have amassed enough knowledge…and clothing.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In / Spectre – 16 – Honeymoon Period

Kotoko tells Masayuki and Yuki-onna that she knows precisely who the culprit is, and furthermore, that the police aren’t really seriously suspecting him at the moment, which explains why they haven’t been hounding him of late.

The reason? Evidence indicates that the victim Mahiru didn’t have any of her effects taken, and there’s every indication that she and the murderer had time to converse. In that time, she would have surely warned the murderer about the formal accusation she’d written up beforehand.

After all, Mahiru wasn’t trying to be killed, and would do everything she could to avoid that outcome. And if Masayuki killed Mahiru, he would have taken steps to obscure her identity and/or the location of her body. And the cops already all but ruled Masayuki out as a serious suspect after he was wishy-washy about his alibi, and unprepared to defend himself from the facts they’d collected thus far.

As for why it looked like Mahiru was trying to write Masayuki’s name on her hand? That was written by the true murderer after killing her. Before Kotoko says the name of the murder—Iizuka Nagisa—the name already pops up in Masayuki’s name as the only possible culprit.

Iizuka was the only one who sided with him when he was forced out of his company. She loved him, and murdered Mahiru and framed Masayuki so that he’d have no choice but to go to her for support. Sure enough, as Kotoko discuss this, Iizuka calls Masayuki, but he doesn’t answer.

Kotoko reveals that she didn’t deduce this from the mere facts of the case as they stand, but from the eyewitness ghosts who were at the scene of the crime when it occurred. They identified a woman that matched Iizuka’s description. If that’s “cheating”, Masayuki can hardly complain, as the information Kotoko gathered from the ghosts categorically clears his name.

With Masayuki’s name sure to be cleared and only a matter of time before Mahiru is arrested, Kotoko gives him and Yuki-onna her blessing—as long as they use protection! Kurou shows up shortly thereafter, terrifying Yuki-onna (as he tends to do). Kotoko then tells Masayuki and Yuki-onna to get lost and bone already, since they’re now in “the optimal mood.” Yuki-onna  scoops Masayuki up and flies them back home.

While riding a flying yokai home, Kotoko and Kurou talk about the case a bit more. Kotoko explains further how Mahiru had overplayed her hand. She wanted a suspected Masayuki in the palm of her hand, but ultimately didn’t go any further lest the consequences of framing him cause him distress. The two conclude that Masayuki has and may well continue to have horrible luck with women.

Even Yuki-onna, who has been good to and for him thus far, is still a thoroughly volatile yokai who could one day freeze him to death for a slight real or imagined. Kurou likens Masayuki’s plight with his own, not just where his ex and Rikka are concerned but with Kotoko. Kotoko is not amused by this remark!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In / Spectre – 15 – So Generous, It’s Creepy

This episode was an emotional roller coaster! It begins by rewinding from Yuki-onna’s request to Kotoko to the police detectives questioning Masayuki. Their reasons for suspecting him of murdering his ex-wife are numerous: Mahiru left a note accusing him should she die suspiciously; the beginning of his name scrawled on her hand; and camera footage of Masayuki with a woman that looks just like her.

The police have reasonable cause to suspect, but not arrest Masayuki, and his failure to definitively state he had no alibi doesn’t help his case. But what choice does he have? He can’t tell the police he was having tempura and drinks with a yuki-onna on the night of Mahiru’s murder. Why, they’d think he was nuts…even though it’s the truth! Days pass and the police don’t bother Masayuki again, but it’s still looknig bad.

Then Yuki-onna, who was present in rabbit form for the entire talk with the police, asks him if she looks like his ex-wife, and he admits that she does, so it was Yuki-onna in the camera photo. Hers was the face of the one person in his life who didn’t betray him, but he admits he felt bad for marrying for whom he was otherwise unsuited.

Masayuki decides he’ll head out and try to find the real culprit, but Yuki-onna tells him to wait, and when he keeps going with a full head of steam,. she freezes him in his tracks—literally! 

Yuki-onna correctly diagnoses this as Masayuki being impatient and restless and wanting to prove his innocence at any cost, but with no leads and nothing to go on, the best move is to stay put, eat some food, get some rest. Then she remembers that her Ladyship, the Goddess of Wisdom, is just the person to solve this case, so she reaches out to her.

Yuki-onna flies Masayuki deep into the mountains to a cave where Kotoko is waiting. Rather than her going right into the particulars of the case, Masayuki gets a better taste of who Kotoko is, namely someone still quintessentially human despite her status as a goddess to supernatural beings near and far. That’s because Kotoko is upset that Kurou blew her off and she had to get cold pork cutlet from the local konbini.

I was so happy to see my favorite goddess of wisdom meeting my new favorite human-yokai couple, about to dish out the solution to their problems. But that’s where the roller coaster starts hurtling down to the earth, as Kotoko points out that not only does Yuki-onna’s wishy-washy sense of human time make her a poor alibi, but Masayuki might have capitalized on that poor sense to manipulate her into trusting him implicitly.

With Yuki-onna’s unwavering trust, Masayuki could kill his ex-wife one night, have tempura with Yuki-onna, and say they were doing the latter on the night of the murder, thus making him look innocent in her eyes and persecuted by the police. He could even convince her to kill the business partners who betrayed him.

Kotoko is so precise (as always) in laying out this theory that it even had me questioning if Masayuki really did have such a diabolical plot in motion, and had pulled the wool over Yuki-onna’s eyes with food, drink, and companionship. But you know who didn’t suspect Masayuki, even after hearing all this? Yuki-onna herself. She prostrates herself, says Masayuki has a truly kind heart, and demands that her Ladyship reconsider her stance.

Kotoko responds to Yuki-onna’s display by making it clear she’s all too aware that Masayuki isn’t the culprit, and that everything she uttered about otherwise was a lie. Among the reasons she trusts Masayuki? He’s been refusing Yuki-onna’s sexual advances! If he’d wanted to gain her trust quickly, he’d have swept her off her feet.

While Kotoko’s theory of Masayuki being a yokai-manipulating criminal mastermind was harsh and at times cruel, it was still crucial for her to say what she said, so she could enlighten Masayuki to the fact that Yuki-onna trusted him so much, she was even willing to defy her goddess for his sake.

By underscoring the courage Yuki-onna demonstrated for him, Kotoko hopes Masayuki will make the effort to regain some of his own courage. Even if this criminal investigation is all tied up with a neat bow and he gets off scot-free (as he should), Kotoko suspects that won’t be the end of Masayuki’s troubles.

A new start is in order. Masayuki owns up to being terrified of interacting with people—that lack of interaction is why he doesn’t have a human alibi—and tenderly gathers Yuki-onna’s cold white hand into his to thank her for going to bat for him. As for the true culprit of his ex-wife’s murder? Naturally, Kotoko already knows that too!

In / Spectre – 14 – Youkai Alibi

In/Spectre can really spin a good yarn. This week we meet Muroi Masayuki, who is pushed off a mountain by his best friend. As he lays contemplating his imminent death, a spunky yuki-onna (Yuuki Aoi) pays him a visit. She’s not there to kill him, though she does think long and hard about it when he knocks her looks!

Yuki-onna subverts Masayuki’s idea of her kind by building an conjuring an igloo around him so he’ll last the night, then flying him down the mountain in a princess carry, all for half of the cash he’s carrying. Once back in town, he’s able to walk in on his former friend lying about what happened and finger him for attempted murder.

Eleven years pass, and Masayuki moves back to the town by the mountain where he met the Yuki-onna. As luck would have it, he doesn’t need to search far for her, as she’s enjoying soft serve in human form. When he tells her about the time he met a yuki-onna she’s initially furious he broke his vow of silence, but he’s sure she’s the same person, so he technically isn’t.

Masayuki is coming off a divorce from a woman who cheated on him and tried to kill him, as well as the hostile takeover of his company by another former friend. Understandably distrustful of future human interactions, he sought her out. Yuki-onna is eminently interested in human food and drink (and cars!), so he agrees to buy her booze and cook for her at his bachelor pad.

An adorable, mutually beneficial friendship ensues. The connection to the In/Spectre we know finally comes when Yuki-onna speaks glowingly about her lady and Goddess of Wisdom, Kotoko. Yuki-onna cleared befriending Masayuki with Kotoko, and even got approval for sexual relations with him should things go that way (as long as they use protection!)

The good vibes suddenly sour when detectives come to Masayuki’s door to inform him that his ex-wife has been murdered, but that’s where Kotoko comes in. Yuki-onna reports that she knows for a fact Masayuki wasn’t the culprit because she was with him at the time of the murder. The problem is she can’t go to the cops and Masayuki can’t say the source of his alibi is a yokai.

It looks to be a fascinating case, and one that has a lot more resonance now that I’ve come to know and become quite fond both Yuki-onna and Masayuki. They make a surpassingly cute and charming couple whose playful banter and cozy chemistry rivals Kotoko and Kurou, and if anyone can get this out of this legal dilemma, it’s the Goddess of Wisdom.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 12 – School’s Out for Winter

As the Dawn of Fold attack continues, the Dads are on the move. Vim Jeturk decides to pilot his Sol Dilanza rather than be Shaddiq’s puppet any longer. Delling finds Miorine, but true-to-character, his first words aren’t “Thank God you’re alright” but “What are you wearing?” since she’s not in an evac suit.

Poor Suletta is still shut off from the rest of the plant by the emergency bulkheads, but Sophie spots her, and shoots around her area to try to goad her into running off to the Aerial. When Dominicus tries to subdue her with Antidote, Sophie goes up to Permet Level Four … nearly killing herself in the process.

Like the bloody epilogue that got Witch from Mercury off to such a stirring start, this season one finale really accentuates the essential frailty of human beings. Delling is seriously wounded by a piece of errant shrapnel, while using his body to shield his daughter. For all his abuse and neglect, when the chips were down, he chose her over everything else.

When Norea spots GUND-Arm’s spaceship—with Earth House still on board—she takes aim and prepares to destroy it as part of the mission to keep anyone from escaping. She only stays her hand when Nika flashes the correct code with a signal light. Nika saves everyone on that ship, including herself, but Martin sees her signaling to the enemy. The gig is up.

When Guel overhears that a Gundam from Asticassia is on Plant Quetta, he pilots a mobile suit and heads out, determined to move forward “after Suletta”. But in the heat of his first real space battle, he almost loses it. He’s able to do what is necessary to survive—i.e. kill someone—but the one he ends up killing is his own father, Vim.

Suletta manages to crawl her way through the plant and make it to Hangar 78 where Aerial is—just as Lady Prospera knew she would. Mercury gets there first, and is about to be discovered by Dawn when Prospera arrives and kills them all. Mercury is shocked, but her mother lays out the calculus. All she did was move forward and gain two by killing others to save her.

There’s a beautiful, heartbreaking shot of Prospera and Suletta on opposite sides of a doorway, splattered blood between them. It can’t be any clearer: this is where moving forward means you can’t go back. Suletta, so easily manipulated by her mother and their credo, steps onto that blood and crosses the threshold.

When Sophie arrives to play, Suletta is already in Aerial’s cockpit and deflects her attacks with her Bits, then fires up her rockets and shoves Sophie the hell out of the hangar, scolding her for behaving in such a crass manner. That said, it’s my assumption Sophie may never have had a mother to scold her.

Suletta doesn’t know it, but as she scuffles with Sophie and then Norea, she’s buying time for the authorities to arrive with reinforcements. Once an entire patrol fleet enters the area, Naji gives the signal to retreat. While she complains, even Sophie doesn’t disobey, and hopes to see her “Big Sister” again. I’m sure she will.

Shaddiq gets word that the Dawn’s operation failed, and he doesn’t really react, wearing the same serene smile as usual. While I’m sure he’s been careful in trying to keep distance between himself and Earthian terrorists, the fact he doesn’t have Aerial and Delling isn’t confirmed dead will surely come back on him in some manner.

But there’s is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing more shocking and upsetting than the final scene of the season, in which Miorine is cornered by one straggling member of Dawn while pushing her injured father on a makeshift gurney. Before he can kill Delling, Suletta blasts through the bulkhead and smashes him with Aerial’s hand, turning him into a fine paste of blood and guts just inches from where Miorine stands.

Suletta hops out of the cockpit with her usual chipper demeanor, and even jokes about being such a klutz when she slips on the blood and guts. She reaches out her hand—which again, is covered in blood and guts of a man she just killed—to her bride. Miorine is quite rightly absolutely aghast and terrified at the Suletta before her. “How can you smile right now,” she asks, before declaring her groom a “murderer”.

All season Witch from Mercury had been lulling us into a false sense of security by showing us duel after bloodless duel at space high school. Well, graduation has come early for Guel, Nika, Miorine, and Suletta, in a cruel blast of twisted metal and a spray of blood. Nothing will be the same going forward for any of them. In other words, it’s Gundam being Gundam.

To be fair to Suletta, I’m not sure what else she could have done in that moment when it was either the shooter or Miorine. But now Suletta’s innocence is gone forever, Miorine will never look at her the same way again, and she isn’t even aware. For all she gained by following her mother’s motto to the letter, we’ve yet to see what she’ll lose. That will be revealed in season two this coming Spring.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 11 – Renewal of Vows

As GUND-Arm arrives at Plant Quetta to retrieve Aerial, Suletta has never felt more isolated or useless, both from her bride and her colleagues. Her mother Prospera, meanwhile, has made inroads with Delling, possibly at the wrong time considering the multifaceted plot against him.

Dawn of Fold holds the transport Guel is on and order them to carry on like nothing’s amiss while they hitch a ride to Quetta. Guel notices they’re using Jeturk mobile suits, thus doing the one thing a capable captive shouldn’t do: draw attention to yourself. Sophie, one of Dawn’s pilots, now knows he’s someone to keep an eye on.

Suletta has withdrawn so much into her own insecurities and fear that she ends up without a lunch, and ends up sitting in the space bathroom alone. Guel’s father gets fed up with Delling to the point he’s escorted away by his guards, but that turns out to be intentional, as he plants a transmitter on one of those guards.

It’s all part of the scheme he’s carrying out with Shaddiq. But while Jeturk wants the Earthians they arranged to commence the attack in two hours, Shaddiq has other plans. Ultimately Jeturk is just a pawn in his game. He gives the go order immediately, and Dawn of Fold springs into action.

While this is going on, Suletta is withdrawn into her depression spiral, and calls her mom to say she’s become scared of everyone and everything. Prospera tells her to come to the hangar where she and Aerial, her family, are waiting. But when Miorine learns of Suletta’s location and that’s she’s been avoiding her, she forces open the bathroom door and blocks the way. Suletta flees and a zero-gravity chase ensues.

Miorine ends up tricking Suletta by pretending to be out of breath, knowing she’ll come to her aid. When she does, Miorine grabs her tight and doesn’t let go, and the two have a much-needed reconciliation. While Miorine doesn’t own up to how distant she’s been due to GUND-Arm business, she tells Suletta that she needs to reach out and say something when something’s troubling her.

The only reason Miorine is there and GUND-Arm even exists is because of Suletta’s motto to move forward and gain two. Because of that, she will continue to rely on Suletta to help her with this new life. Moreover, she needs her groom to tell her she can rely on her, and that she won’t lose any duels, and she won’t leave her side.

It’s a beautiful cathartic scene that reaffirms their relationship. I’m immensely glad these two made up before shit hit the fan, which happens almost immediately after. Unidentified mobile suits disperse jamming pods to isolate Quetta, and a plant-wide emergency is sounded.

Jeturk’s dad knows Shaddiq backstabbed him, while Shaddiq tell his Grassley housemates that even though Miorine is on Quetta, if luck is with her (as it was with him, an orphan), she’ll survive the strike.

There’s also a knowing cut to Nana, who has betrayed Suletta, Miorine, and her Earth House/GUND-Arm family and friends. She was the key to Shaddiq getting in touch with Dawn of Fold, and will carry a fair share of the responsibility for the impending consequences.

There’s also the little matter of one of Dawn of Fold’s two Earthain witch pilots, Sophie, being a complete loose cannon. She starts her cutting laser before her fellow witch Norea despite that not being the plan, and then refuses to be a mere distraction in the operation. It’s clear she’s going to do what she wants, adding a chaotic element to Shaddiq’s careful planning.

As for that luck Shaddiq mentioned, Miorine and Suletta end up separated on opposite sides of an emergency bulkhead. While no longer emotionally isolated at episode’s end, now she’s physically isolated, both from her bride and from her Gundam.

Luck ends up on Sophie’s side, as she gets to meet the Witch from Mercury earlier than she expected. And while she acts like a swooning fangirl for Mercury’s abilities, it’s clear what she really wants is to fight against her in a Gundam duel. Whatever socio-political considerations are in play, Sophie just wants to play.

Here’s hoping Suletta can get to Aerial to oblige and humble this wild child from Earth. Maybe Guel can help out in some way from his position on Dawn of Fold’s ostensible command ship, or Miorine and the GUND-Arm team can pitch in, and Nana can redeem herself in some way.

Akiba Maid War – 07 – RocknPorkRolla

A week has passed since Nerula was gunned down in an alley, and Nagomi has run away from the Oinky Doink. The others, particularly Ranko, are worried about her, especially since Manami and the Maidalien war hawks aren’t finished. While Ranko is out distributing flyers, she spots a pink ninja who claims not to be Nagomi, but clearly is.

Since Nagomi insist’s she’s not Nagomi, Ranko tells this “mystery ninja” the situation: she and the Oinky Doink maids are worried about her. But if Nagomi fled out of fear to the oddly safer ninja café business, it wasn’t fear of being hurt or killed. It was fear of standing by and doing nothing while another friends of her dies.

This is a typical action movie protagonist pattern: after a great defeat, the hero withdraws, suffering a crisis of purpose. But outside forces, like Nerula’s grieving fans, conspire to bring her back to where she needs to be: at Oinky Doink, as the new kind of Akiba maid Nerula knew she could be.

But how? The ramen guy gives Nagomi the other piece of the picture to bring her around. It’s something he’s learned being in the ramen business with the reputation as someone whose ramen never changes: staying the same actually requires change. So Nagomi returns to the dojo and considers what that means.

That night, Manami and over two dozen of her henchmaids advance on Oinky Doink, outnumbering them over two-to-one. I knew Ranko and Zoya were worth ten of the average maid in fighting ability, but that’s still a lot of maids and a lot of bullets. The pig maids make use of homefield advantage and the element of surprise as much as they can, diverting and splitting up Manami’s maids.

This is the first time we see Shiipon and Yumechi in sustained action (their attack on the Sheep happening off-camera) but they handle themselves well. Even so, eventually the Maidaliens surround the Pigs, and Manami’s machine gun looks like a decisive advantage.

Ranko prepares to make a desperate charge to take Manami out or die trying (as far as she’s concerned protecting the café is worth it) but suddenly the elevator opens and a cloud of smoke gets off. Dozens of smoke bombs explode and disorient both sides. And through the smoke, Nagomin appears, prepared for battle.

With her almost preposterously hastily-acquired ninja skills, within seconds she’s disarmed Manami and claimed the machine gun for their side. Manami switches to her trademark bat, but once she’s in the pigsty, the maids of Oinky Doink and their ninja maid savoir are ready for her.

True to who she is, through the ensuing chaos, many bullets fly, but none of them from a gun held by Nagomi. Instead she uses the tools of the ninja trade, like kunai and nets, which buy her co-workers time to go on the offensive.

When the dust clears it’s just a wounded Manami and her lieutenant Miyabi, surrounded by the bodies of their fallen comrades. Miyabi gets Manami to retreat before they too are killed, but after Miyabi dresses Manami’s leg, Manami dismisses her and she departs in shame.

Nagomi shows up with Ranko as backup, and despite her sorry state Manami is still ready to throw down. But Nagomi isn’t there to fight. Nor is she there as a ninja. She’s a maid, and she reminds Manami what maids are truly all about: not dying in glorious battle, but serving their masters with moe moe kyun.

When Manami rises to shut the young whippersnapper up, Nagomi again uses her new ninja skills to lay the smackdown on Manami. Again, Nagomi demands that Manami feel the moe moe kyun, and she finally relents, deciding that pig hunting time is over.

Ranko lets Manami withdraw, and welcomes Nagomi back into the pigsty. But Manami gets a rude awakening back at Maidalien HQ. Not only did the boss Ugaki refuse to commit any more forces to this silly war, but she got all the Maidalien brass to agree to a merger with Creatureland.

Manami could not change like Nagomi did, and ends up gunned down by her former allies who are sick of her bloodlust. They want to make money, and they’ll make more if she’s dead than running around shooting people. So she meets her end in a swirling puddle of her own blood. Unfortunately for Oinky Doink, their next foe looks to be their own Creatureland masters.

This was a great step forward for Nagomi, but it wasn’t perfect. I kinda wish Manami had stuck around a bit, as small a chance as redemption for someone her would have been. Also, the animation of the raid, aside from some fun moments, was also surprisingly underwhelming, considering what I know the show is capable of from the premiere and the MMA episode.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akiba Maid War – 06 – The Batmaid

Rather than a stinger that shows some kind of absurd situation our Oinky-Doink maids find themselves in, we get some narration about the delicate balance struck between the Creatureland and Maidalien groups. Ranko’s slaughter of Wuv-Wuv Moonbeam upset that balance.

When Crimson Supernova returns from seven years of prison to Maidalien’s HQ, she smells weakness and smashes it with her red bat. Whoever wiped out Wuv-Wuv will also taste that bat, which is why it’s ironic that she hits it off with Ranko at the ramen spot they both love.

Because Wuv-Wuv also wiped out Maid Sheep (never mind the sheep started it), Creatureland’s brass instructs Tenchou to take on Maidalien … all by themselves. It’s clearly meant to be a mission that will result in Oinky-Doink’s destruction, but they’ll also be destroyed if they refuse.

The increased tensions ripple through Akiba’s streets, and even Nagomi and Nerula are on edge; the distance between them symbolizing their allegiances to the opposing sides of the coming war. But when Tenchou lays out the situation, Nagomi refuses to fight Nerula.

Tenchou suggests that Nagomi and Nerula take an Oath of Sisterhood that will bind them together. For a moment I was worried Nerula would reject Nagomi’s outstretched hand, either out of loyalty to her group or fear of reprisal, but she turns out to be true blue, and before the ramen guy and Tenchou, they take their oath and exchange name cards.

When Tenchou tries to persuade Nagomi into spying on Maidalien through Nerula, Nagomi is truly disgusted … but Nerula takes the initiative, warning her new sister that her group is coming for Oinky-Doink, and even tipping off the cops to her violent new “acting” boss Manami’s plan.

Nagomi is terribly worried when Nerula goes to ground, but thanks to the ramen guy she and Ranko manage to find her hiding in an alley, not far from where her fellow Maidalien maids are hunting for her. Nerula is happy to see her sister “one last time”, a phrase Nagomi doesn’t like one bit.

But like Ranko (and unlike Nagomi), Nerula is clear-eyed about what it means to be a maid in Akiba. She betrayed her group, and is ready for the consequences when Manami and her right-hand maid show up to deal them out.

Only if Nerula is going to go down, she’s going to go down trying to take Manami with her. Manami is nothing but an agent of chaos who wants to flood Akiba’s streets with blood (never mind that Ranko kiiinda already did this in the first episode, thus creating Manami’s motivation for going after Oinky-Doink).

Nerula doesn’t let Nagomi interfere as she lunges at Manami with a dagger, hitting nothing but air. When Manami beats her down with her bat, she gets back up, which is when Manami pulls a gun and puts several bullets in Nerula’s midsection.

Ranko pulls her sidearm and reminds the Maidaliens of the code, and Manami and her colleague depart before the coppers come. But the die is cast and the war has begun, even if the first casualty is not from Creatureland. None of that matters to Nagomi in the moment; she’s just trying to stop Nerula’s bleeding.

Nagomi is heartbroken and devastated when Nerula raises her bloodied hand to her sister’s cheek before breathing her last. Ranko warned that oaths of sisterhood don’t always work out, but if there’s any consolation to Nerula’s death, it’s that she died never having to fight her sister.

AMW is no stranger to goofy, absurd, over-the-top climaxes to its episodes, but this is the first one that’s played absolutely straight for drama, and it succeeds. Could this tragedy be what finally motivates Nagomi to take up arms to prevent anyone else she cares about from being taken?

Or will Nagomi take Nerula’s last words to heart, resolving to stay the maid she is: a maid of peace and non-violence? Whatever path she takes, the goofy fun times are done.

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