Alderamin on the Sky – 12

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Another solid episode follows last week’s, as Ikta’s thankless task to clean up the horrific mess General Safida created continues. During a brief respite in the action, Nana engages with Suya, offering her both her arms if it will set things right.

It doesn’t, because Suya doesn’t want Nana’s legs chopped off. In an episode where several characters work to relieve burdens from their comrades and/or friends, Sazaluf clarifies that Suya didn’t kill anyone; he did, with his orders to them.

He, in turn, doesn’t share the entire burden of responsibility, since he too has superiors. But when the guy at the top—Safida—doesn’t know what he’s doing and does everything wrong (and for the wrong reasons), it undermines the entire system.

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Torway has grown these last twelve episodes, and he believes he can help relieve some of the burden Ikta carries once Sazaluf all but hands over command of the operation to him.

Ikta is up to it—indeed, it’s where he should have been all along—but even for Ikta, up against someone he hasn’t ruled out being the real genius of his generation, this is a desperate situation, and the margin of error on the Imperial side continues to narrow.

It’s nice to see even the Kiokans know and respect what it means to be of the Igsem family. But this week we see the beginning of the end of their hegemony on the battlefield.

The mission Torway undertakes is air rifle-on-air rifle, from a great distance. Many died repelling the would-be ambush, but not a single blade touched blood. It’s interesting, though that the leader of the “Ghosts” laments it has to be this way; that things can’t be settled in a duel with Yatori.

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It’s telling that Yatori and her unit didn’t have much to do today, another day when the primacy of The Sword dwindled a little bit more. It’s all but snuffed out along with Ikta’s entire strategy when Jean deploys explosive cannons for long-range bombardment, jeopardizing the entire enterprise with two days remaining.

Ikta doesn’t care all that much about the Igsem star falling as the Remion light rises. To him, the greatest burden out of any of their circle is borne by Yatori, even if she won’t admit it. And he makes it clear everything he’s done since joining the military (against his mom’s wishes) was to lessen her burdens, and make that broken promise more forgivable.

In other words, Yatori is not just Ikta’s other hand, but his muse as well, driving him to find an ideal future. But in the present, Jean is advancing, once again changing the rules. If they’re going to survive the next two days, they’ll have to adapt even more, while never losing sight of a future where, at least, they get the hell out of there in one piece.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 02

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Alderamin continues to move along with a wonderful briskness, but not so quickly that the events that transpire don’t hold weight. Last week’s predicament is handled fairly easily by Ikuta, but only because he makes it look easy.

In reality, he’s doing something really hard, especially for someone relatively young: he realizes what he can do and what he cannot; when to act and when to let his friends act. Igsem and Torway follow his lead and thanks to their assistance, the three guards are dealt with.

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Torway is shaken by his faltering during a crucial moment, but Igsem is there to support and praise him for his role in securing the princess. As for Chamille herself, the deaths of the three Kioka soldiers weighs heavily on her, to the point she bites her finger to release the “rotten” royal blood.

While Igsem comforted Torway, it’s Ikuta who comforts Chamille, assuring her her blood “tastes just fine” and to take care of the life he and his companions have worked so hard to preserve. His words make the princess blush, but she can also clearly see there is greatness in Ikuta.

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You can see both Chamille and Ikuta sharing a distaste for bloodshed; Chamille due to her imperial status; Ikuta do to his latent ability as well as the nature of the empire he lives in. As such, Ikuta treats the fallen Kioka soldiers’ remains with respect.

The next day, now possessed of a Kioka blimp, Ikuta formulates an ingenious strategem to get the princess safely across the border without firing a shot. Donning a Kioka uniform and armed with great acting ability and balls of steel, he marches right to the Kioka garrison and threatens the commander (his career, not his life) with the errant blimp.

There are a couple issues with this plan—the lieutenant in charge doesn’t ask for any identification, and lets Ikuta escort the others across. We also cut to a full month after they return to the empire, during which much has transpired that will shape their fates.

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But the events that unfold a month later justify the rapid jump in time. During that month, the famous General Rikan is sent to a battle Ikuta knows he’ll lose, since the empire no longer wants the undeveloped territory. But Rikan, the quintessentiall badass military man, is going to do his goddamn job, even if he knows the war is rigged. Honor, loyalty, “unscientific stupidity”; Ikuta can call it what he likes; he can’t stop Rikan.

Shortly after news of Rikan’s defeat, a demoralizing blow to the people of Katjvarna, the emperor gives Ikuta, Igsem, and the others an audience. Igsem had to knock Ikuta down when he was getting in Rikan’s face, but she warns him not to try pulling any of that shit in front of the emperor, and Ikuta seems to get it. I love their relationship!

Ikuta, of course, probably has an inkling of why they’ve been summoned, and his suspicions are confirmed when the emperor bestows upon them the title of imperial knights. That means they’re going to be trained as soldiers, whether that’s what he wanted or not.

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After the ceremony, in a coach with Igsem, Chamille (who is still just a kid, after all) can’t quite control her enthusiasm for making Ikuta into a hero, one of the three things he never wanted to be (the others being a noble and a soldier). She tells him too much about what she knows about his father (disgraced famous general) or his mother (former imperial concubine awarded to his dad).

Here we see just how much trouble Ikuta can get into when his emotions run rampant: he threatens to snap the princess’ neck; Igsem takes him down and warns him she’ll have to kill him if that happens. She doesn’t want do, but you can tell she sure as shit will. She’s a vital check on the wreckless abandon a troubled Ikuta can get into. He’s got the brilliance—and the ability—of Howl.

Later, when everyone’s cooled down a bit, Igsem leaves the festivities on what may be one of the best nights of her life, to sit with her good friend who declares he’s having one of his worst. Igsem doesn’t lecture him, she just listens and sits. Because like Chamille, she sees great things in Ikuta. No doubt he sees this in himself, and it probably scares the hell out of him. But he won’t be alone on this impending journey.

This episode demonstrated Alderamin’s ability to draw in very close to its surprisingly nuanced characters, and yet still draw back to reveal the huge world they inhabit, which is bound to explode into further combat as the show progresses, and in which heroes will rise.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 01 (First Impressions)

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Five students en route to elite military officer exams end up having to abandon ship in a storm, and end up with their princess behind enemy lines.

First of all, Alderamin avoids a common pratfall of warring-country fantasy shows—the introductory infodump—by simply plopping us right into the thick of things, letting pertinent facts crop up in natural conversation, and trusting its viewers. This felt like a supremely confident show, with taut dialogue and attractive characters.

The protagonist and reluctant hero is Ikuta, who should, by all rights, be immensely annoying, and yet remains almost painfully likable throughout the episode. He’s seemingly quietly good at everything, including war, and yet he hates war and exerting energy of any kind.

He’s also an enthusiast of women (a poonhound if you will), but he’s kept nicely in check by his longtime friend Igsem. Ikuta and Igsem’s frienship is an early hook for me. Igsem is strong, proud, and supremely confident in who she is, what her relationship with Ikuta is, how to deal with him, and most importantly, isn’t trying to change the rascal.

It’s nice to see a boy-girl pair good friends without being either a couple or overly confrontational to each other, and I enjoyed their banter, chemistry and comedy. Not to mention Igsem is voiced perfectly by Taneda Risa (Rory from Gate).

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I even enjoyed the rather lengthy scene of the five soldiers meeting below decks. Each character has a distinct look and personality, and it’s fun to watch Ikuta bounce off them one by one. Heck, he even gets an inappropriate comment about the princess in after she momentarily appears at their door.

But generally, things in this scene stay nice and breezy, capturing the close quarters, boredom and need to pass time a maritime journey consists of. It also lulls us into a sense of security that’s suddenly, rudely thrashed when the ship hits a storm and starts to go down.

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Ikuta also shows that while he can be a cad, he also won’t hesitate to rescue a drowning girl in a storm, at the risk of his own life.

Mentioning before the ship sinks that chess between soldiers is most properly played blindfolded (due to the need for a general on the ground to fill in blanks of a battle with their imagination), Ikuta clearly has a good sense of things.

It’s auspicious, then, that his act of heroism was directed at none other but the princess of the empire he serves, the 12-year-old Chamille Kitora Katjvanmaninik (Gesundheit!), voiced ably by the always adorable Minase Inori.

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Ikuta, along with gunner Torway Remion, also discover that they’re in the territory of their sworn enemy, the Kioka Republic. When he reports this to the princess and the others, and lists their choices (surrender, which is easy, or attempt to break through the border, which is a gamble), Princess Chamille rejects surrender with extreme prejudice.

Watching a member of the royal family really gets to Ikuta (surprising even himself) but while he overreacts (requiring Igsem to take him down) the princess realizes she overreacted as well, and the group decides to take a couple of days to figure out what to do.

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Like the meet-and-greet aboard the ship, things get light again, with the group having a sumptuous feast, and Ikuta even has time to weave himself a hammock out of leaves (like I said, guy can do everything). The moment Chamille “got it” and entered into the Church of Hammocks (of which I’m also a practicing member) was lovely moment perfectly curdled by a Kioka scout blimp sighting.

Just as life was perfectly normal aboard the ship until it suddenly snapped, the group’s haven is breached just as suddenly. Chamille is also every bit a little kid, too, as she runs far too far away to go to the bathroom and ends up being pursued by Kioka soldiers.

She’d have been in deep doo-doo were it not again for—you guessed it—Ituka distracting her pursuers; neither his first, nor likely his last, demonstration of heroism, leadership, and immense competence. Funny how the first episode of this “chronicle of fantastical warfare” didn’t have any actual warfare in it, and was still more than adequately entertaining. I shall be back for more!

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Rolling Girls – 02

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Alright, I’m calling it: Rolling Girls’s second episode is the Best Episode of the Winter so far; beating Saekano – 01 by a hair. So it’s fitting that it’s called “The Center of the World”, because that’s where it felt like I was for nearly twenty-five minutes.

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It was, quite simply, The Complete Package: an addictive blend of Kill la Kill’s hypercaffinated, escalating battles and back-stories; One Off’s motorcycles and attractive character design; Zvezda’s ‘Power of Youth’ element; and finally, Amagi Brilliant Park’s eclectic collection of lovable characters, punchy dialogue, and a story that’s equal parts Swiss watch and Rube Goldberg machine.

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All of those shows I listed that remind me of this had their flaws, but RG manages to avoid most or all of them. Frankly, if there were any, they’d bee quickly lost in dizzying yet controlled pace of the action. Things seem on the edge of flying completely off the rails, like the roller coaster of non-combatant hostages.

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But rather than do that, RG rearranges the coaster’s track and keeps the ride going. Considering just how much was thrown at my eyes and ears, it’s a wonder I can tease out a simple synopsis, but that’s the beauty of controlled, well-organized chaos.

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So here goes: Nozomi learns Maccha Green is Masami, and Masami created the persona so Nozomi wouldn’t risk her life trying to save her like she did in the past.

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Only this week Nozomi and Shigyo end up dueling so fiercely, they end up taking each other right out of the peacebrokering game for two months. But while the battles get more and more intense and ridiculous as the episode progreses, they also gain more and more thematic resonance.

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The shit that goes on is simply unreal, but nothing comes out of left field, even what seem to be the most absurd occurances. Masami’s secret weapon is the Ramen Vomit Stream (from their eating contest earlier) that comes up after Shigyo beats her up, and a man wearing a croccodile mask gets accidentally punched. How do you confuse that face for Nozomis?!

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Particularly impressive is when Masami gets some shots in on Shigyo, it seems to conjure up long-lost memories for Shigyo, about how she once idolized and trained to become a superhero she learned was a fraud when he appeared in a magazine unmasked. The amount of visual information is stunning, and while it sure looks like a mess in these many many screencaps, it just wasn’t.

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The show also making use of every cubic inch of the space the two are fighting in, with the Giant Maccha Robot (which was only a giant inflatable dummy, but still fooled Shigyo last week), springs a leak when a big bird tries to steal octopus balls from smaller birds perched on it.

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Masami seems to have more pure dumb luck on her side, both with the vomit and with the blimp crash landing right where Shigyo stands. Masami’s toughness is also on full display, as she’s able to shield Nozomi from the blimp in the nick of time, despite having just taken a crushing blow from Shigyo.

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Getting back to that full use of 3D space, when the duel reaches the level in which all the non-combatants on both sides are simply blown away by the sheer force of the Bests’ attacks, we get to see it from Nozomi’s POV.

But as we said, the battle eventually does end—off-camera, ironically—with the two combatants laid up in the hospital for a couple months. As Masami can’t protect her in there, Nozomi figures it’s time to protect her, and decides to be a peacebroker-for-hire in her place.

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From the way her cool dad convinces her mom to agree to it, to Nozomi mounting her super-cool motorcycle in super-cool light and then hurting her leg on the starter, this progression from battle to Nozomi’s next move is as heartwarming as it is hilarious.

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I thought, then, that the next few episodes would be spent gathering the other three members of the titular Rolling Girls. Nope! She gathers them all up (both intentionally and by chance) in the final minute of the episode, as she’s riding out of town! After a maximalist battle, a minimalist team-build. I loved it. rg215

And these weren’t random people, either: Nozomi and Yukina had already bonded (and gone through hell together) and Yukina simply likes the idea of going for a ride, Hibiki Ai was the enemy Rest who was kicked out and needs a ride, and Misono Chiaya was a customer at Nozomi’s fam’s restaruant. So off they go, to settle disputes and hunt for the rare Moonlight Stones that give Bests their powers. I for one am PUMPED.

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