To Your Eternity – 19 – Killing With Kindness

We begin the penultimate episode of To Your Eternity with Hayase…doing a good deed?! That’s right, she’s using her not inconsiderable combat prowess to defeat the Nokker Zombies before they can kill innocent men, women or children. When a Nokker tries to infect her, she flexes—both literally and figuratively.

The Nokker stops in Hayase’s arm and seems to listen when she tells it that appearing before Hoshi in such a gross, unpleasant form is Doing It All Wrong; if it wants Fushi as she does, it will have to treat it with kindness. Their little confab is broken up when Oniguma!Fushi steps on Hayase…but once again stops short of killing her.

While Fushi doesn’t kill her, he’ll wish he had restrained her in some way before the day is out. Perhaps he’s distracted by the fact Tonari and Sander are in mortal danger. He bails them out of a bad way by using his Gugu form to burn the entire corpse pit. But while the bulk of the immediate Nokker threat is neutralized in those flames, his Creator tells him three Nokkers still remain on the island.

Those Nokkers were once Oopa, Uroy, and Mia, but you can’t really say it’s them anymore, as we already saw them chilling in Paradise last week. Nevertheless, it won’t be easy for Fushi to put their overthrown bodies out of their misery.

That’s when Hayase, who as I said wasn’t sufficiently neutralized, scoops up both Tonari and Sander, drugs them both, and threatens to toss them into the flaming corpse pit…unless Fushi accepts her offer. You see, she wants to keep him “clean” and “pure” as a being who can neither kill nor be killed. She’ll gladly kill and sully herself for him.

But Hayase never picked up on the fact that her go-to sedative doesn’t work on Tonari for long, and Tonari decides to pull Hayase down into the flames with her. With three of her friends dead and what she perceives as a lifetime of missteps to answer for, ridding Fushi of his greatest adversary in exchange for her life seems like a square deal.

Fushi disagrees, swooping out to save both Tonari and Hayase from certain death. And for once, he’s the one to knock out Hayase with the same poison he once accidentally knocked out the others.

Speaking of the others, when Tonari gingerly picks up a sword with tears streaming down her eyes, ready to put down the husks that were once Oopa, Uroy and Mia, Fushi steps in to do it, having both summoned the courage and not wanting Tonari to have to do the deed.

During a solemn private memorial, one of the elder islanders asks their ostensible leader if she has any words for the people. Tonari says to stop the killing…especially after everyone saw what became of them making piles of corpses.

After wandering the island offering foot and supplies to anyone who needs them, Fushi takes his leave from the island, knowing it’s only a matter of time before the Nokkers return again. He bids Tonari and Sander an very understated farewell, if you consider how many pitched emotional moments they shared previously. Maybe that’s the point; they’ve been through, and lost, a lot. They’re tired.

One person who is tireless in her obsession with Fushi is Hayase, who wakes up elated to find she’s sharing a boat with Fushi. She confesses to Fushi how much she loves him and has always loved him ever since she first saw him, and offers to show him what that love means.

Fushi is understandably repulsed by Hayase and her offer, and pulls a trick I’d say would be cruel for anyone other than Hayase, considering the shit she’s pulled these last nineteen episodes. Fushi clones the rowboat and paddles away, leaving a tied-up Hayase stranded in a becalmed sea nowhere near land.

But as he returns to the mainland (and to Pioran) guided by Tonari’s owl, a Nokker core—perhaps the very one who spent some very formative minutes inside her arm—hops onto her boat and attacks her. Is this finally the end of Hayase? I’m loath to predict that, but the preview suggests the fighting may be over, even if the dying isn’t. But then death, like pain, breeds growth.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

To Your Eternity – 18 – Paradise Bound

Tonari, who has become somewhat fond of Fushi beyond his utility as a tool for advancing her interests, wasn’t about to leave him to the tender ministrations of the “hag” Hayase. So she rows back to the island to save him, only to discover he already freed himself from the pit, which wasn’t half as deep as Pioran’s prison wall was high. Faced with having to explain why she’s there, Tonari tries out her best tsundere act.

The seas aren’t suitable for heading back out by boat, so Tonari and Fushi spend the night in a cave beside a campfire. Tonari asks about what exactly the man in black is. Is he a thoughtful god, trying to stave off the world’s destruction by creating Fushi? Or is he a demon, and the Nokkers are the servants of the real God(s) tasked with stopping him?

She also owns up to her father having been a murderer, and how she came to see him no differently than any other lowlife on the island: deserving of death. But she doesn’t see herself any differently, as in her mind she kills anyone she doesn’t like. She believes the island has poisoned her heart.

Fushi tries to cheer her up by saying that even if both their “parents” are or were demons, the two of them still do what they want to do. Being in that cave is proof of it: Tonari wasn’t about to let herself be saved at the cost of Fushi, while Fushi wasn’t about to let himself live out his existence as Hayase’s toy.

That night, Tonari dreams a familiar dream of a happy home with a living mother and father proud of her for the books she writes. Upon waking up, Tonari decides she’ll need to come up with a new dream, a new story less grounded in the past. She envisions herself, her crew, Fushi, and Pioran all relaxing and loving life on the beach.

It’s a lovely, idyllic image, and also the last upbeat image to appear in the episode; it’s all downhill from there. That morning when about to cast off, the Creator notifies Fushi that the Nokkers are attacking the town. Despite everyone worth saving on the island already off of it, Fushi heads towards danger, turning his back on an exasperated Tonari.

To his credit, Fushi isn’t doing this because the Creator is goading him to do it—it was Fushi who asked him to warn him when the Nokkers returned. It’s just that Fushi always has and probably always will blame his existence for the death of all the people who’ve died around him. If he can lesson that even a little, he must try.

The thing is, Fushi is cursed to be just too goshdarn likable to be left alone by those who enter his orbit. When he arrives at a hellish scene of corpses being reanimated into zombies by the Nokkers and wreaking havoc, it isn’t long before Tonari comes to help, and the rest of her crew also show up to help the both of them.

It strains credulity just a bit that they not only returned to the island so soon, but knew exactly where Fushi and Tonari were. What should be a devastating emotional climax is once again undermined by the fact barely any of it is animated, as with two episodes left the show is blatantly running on fumes.

Finally, the fact we’ve seen Mia, Oopa, and Uroy as Nokker zombies every week leading up to this episode, so we knew exactly what would become of them. Thile their souls may have passed to a paradise similar to the one in Tonari’s new dream, their bodies remain on Jananda; shambling nightmares Fushi isn’t strong enough to put down.

Great Pretender – 18 – The Pressure is the Reward

Makoto, Abby, and Cynthia are bound, fitted with weights, and taken out to sea to be executed. However, Oz begs Suzaku Akemi to spare his boy. Oz tells Makoto to kill Abby and Cynthia to prove his loyalty, and the two women tell him they’re neither friends nor family, and would kill him if they were in his shoes.

Makoto doesn’t believe that, and in any case can’t hurt either of them, so Oz shoots them instead, and they fall overboard and under the waves, apparently dead…but quite possibly not? What matters is Makoto thinks they’re dead, and when Akemi offers him Oz’s life, he takes it.

For several days Makoto neither talks nor eats, but turns a page when he’s able to grieve his losses in Akemi’s welcome arms. Two months pass, and she’s taken him under her wing like a surrogate son—replacing the one who walked away from the family business.

Because Makoto is a highly capable person who increases Akemi’s profits, she puts him in charge of the human auctions without hesitation and arranges for him to have a room at her house, deepening their relationship. Ishigami has never seen the boss like this, and fears she’s taking it too easy.

He makes sure Makoto understands that the pressure he’s feeling is both the reward and what keeps one on their toes enough to hang in there. He also warns him that while Akemi won the last round, Shanghai problem isn’t going to go away. Makoto comes home to find Oz outside his apartment. (If he faked his death, it stands to reason Cynthia and Abby are probably fine too, though that’s left up in the air for now).

From a slick office overlooking a futuristic, fluorescent Shanghai, Liu has his fortune told by a famous fortune teller—whom we later learn was paid by Laurent to give him a particular fortune that will accelerate his plans to “resolve” things with their Japanese parent. After the teller leaves, Laurent walks in asking for Liu.

As Liu tells Chen, how a book was translated made the difference in which received the Nobel Prize. It’s the same with international business negotiations. Flashback to when Laurent was a boy in Brussels, and intrinsically understood the value and the power of being a good interpreter…as well as the cost of not having adequate skills.

Laurent’s mother, who is severely dyslexic, gets swindled and ruined by a businessman, all because she couldn’t read what she was signing. While cooking dinner for her and Laurent while out of sorts, the pan slips out of her hands and we can speculate that she was killed by oil burns.

Flash forward several years to Paris when Laurent is a poker hustler and womanizer. The men who lost to him beat him unconscious, but when he wakes up in an alley, filthy and bloodied, he spots the very man who swindled his mother years ago—and whom he blames for her death.

Laurent buys a knife at the hardware store and follows the man, but when he chooses the time to stab him, a dark-complexioned, white-haired woman steps in front of him and the blade plunges into her instead. In seeking revenge for his mom, Laurent accidentally stabbed the wrong person.

Makoto is hearing about Laurent’s past from his suddenly-not-dead(again) Oz. I wouldn’t be surprised if the two were in cahoots, while Makoto is yet again an unwitting pawn in an even longer con, even as he and Akemi grow closer as surrogate mother and son.

Arte – 08 – Finding Her Footing

After assuring Angelo and Darcia that she’ll be back, Arte prepares to step into Yuri’s wagon and the next chapter of her life. Before she does, Leo impresses upon her the importance of using that chapter to think more seriously on how she wants to make her way in the world, and whether that aligns with her continued apprenticeship with him.

Arte is certainly excited by her impending adventure, but can’t hide the worry in her face. Was she only ever holding Leo back from his work? Would he prefer if she didn’t return? Matters aren’t helped when Yuri presents her a portable altarpiece Leo told him to give to her, and she can’t help but see it as a parting gift.

One little check back on Leo sitting alone in his workshop makes it clear he’s become accustomed enough to Arte that’s it’s suddenly “too quiet” for him. Once on a boat to Venice, Arte is impressed by everyone else’s ability to not only stand and walk steadily on the heaving deck, but spar on it as well.

Alas, Arte finds herself on unsteady footing both physically and emotionally, as she can’t stop thinking in circles about Leo. That’s when she forgets she’s on a boat, where everyone must be responsible for their personal safety, gets up too fast, gets woozy, and falls overboard.

She wakes up warm and dry, in new clothes Yuri and his servant put on her (though Yuri assures her he has “no interest” of that kind young girls like her), and Yuri reveals he’s known Arte has been worried about having been a burden to Leo, but finds her so fascinating to watch that he let her be.

While that almost resulted in her accidental drowning, Yuri tells Arte that she worries needlessly. Leo didn’t discourage her from returning beacause she’s in his way, but because he might be in her way. As a noblewoman, she’ll have more opportunities (like this one) that he didn’t as a former beggar, and that she shouldn’t overlook them out of deference to him.

When the boat arrives in Venice, Arte is overwhelmed and delighted by all the new sights and sounds, the diversity of people all over the world—and how good Venetians are at balancing on boats! She’s also wowed by Yuri’s impressive collection of Oriental objets d’arte

While there’s a lot of exciting new things for her to see, Arte shows Venice some new things too, like a noblewoman carrying a heavy chest up four flights, or shaking the hand of a handmaiden while politely declining her service. She projects modernity and confidence even a former tutor warns her that Yuri’s niece is “unmanagable.”

When Arte finally meets Yuri’s sister-in-law Sofia, she can’t help but agree with his belief that she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her daughter Katarina is equally striking, like a delicate shy fine doll hiding behind her mother’s skirt. But she’s only shy when Sofia and Yuri are around.

Once it’s just her and Arte, Katarina reveals her true willful nature, haughtily reproaching Arte for her unrefined activities since arriving and expressing much doubt she’ll be any different from the previous tutors. Having heard all she cares to know about Arte, Katarina curls up for a nap, warning Arte not to wake her.

Looks like her usual method of simply being nice and friendly ain’t gonna cut it for Arte. She may now be on (relatively) dry land, but finding her footing with this young lady may prove far tougher than lugging heavy loads up four flights!

Golden Kamuy – 21 – The Naked Truth

While visiting Asirpa’s relatives, the crew learns of a band of blind bandits who were once sulfur miners on Mount Iwo. Those who weren’t killed by the acid ended up sightless, and attack anyone they can in the dark. They’re led by a former Abashiri inmate, Toni Anji, who also has tattoos. They head to a local hot spring, but while all the guys are relaxing in the bath, the blind bandits snuff out all the light and attack.

As a result, Sugimoto, Tanigaki, Ogata, Kiroranke, and Shiraishi have to fight an enemy they can’t see with their dicks out. The enemy can “see” them just fine thanks to echolocation by tongue-clicking; a clever tactic that also creates an unsettling atmosphere.

As with the aphrodisiac sea otter incident, the beefcake is strong with this episode, with tasteful angles and shadows preventing everyone’s manhood from being exposed. Only Asirpa and Inkarmat remain clothed. Golden Kamuy has proven quite adept at creating compelling action set pieces, and taking away both the clothes and eyesight of the combatants is yet another example of that proficiency. It’s also pretty hilarious.

While she’s still weary of Kiroranke, Inkarmat still joins him and Tanigaki on a boat to try to escape the bandits, but Toni and his cohorts toss stones to gauge distance before he opens fire, shooting Tanigaki and capsizing the boat. Inkarmat can’t swim, and starts to sink, and even has a vision of a circle of bears coming to claim her soul.

But Tanigaki, who was only shot through the butt, dives into the lake and rescues her, and she rewards him with a kiss. She thought for sure she was a goner, but he showed her that the fate her fortune-telling portends can be changed.

As dawn starts to peek out of the horizon, Sugimoto and Ogata (the only one of them with a gun) infiltrate the bandits’ hideout, but soon find the windows are all nailed shut, and another ambush ensues in the pitch black. Toni goes after Sugimoto, and the two grapple and come to a standoff.

That’s when Hijikata suddenly appears to greet his old fellow inmate, and Ushiyama tears through the walls to let the sun in. The threat is over, with Sugimoto & Co. leaving Toni Anji to Hijikata & Co., provided he can get a copy of the tattoos he bears.

As the now fully-reunited supergroup heads into town to take their pictures taken, of all things, Tsurumi “punishes” his Abashiri mole, Private Usami, by drawing stick figures on his symmetrical face moles (a mole with moles, heh heh). Usami, like so many young men, is so smitten with the Lieutenant that it’s hardly punishment at all.

As for Sugimoto, he is compared to a young Hijikata by the old man’s photographer friend: “like a demon, but also kind.” But while locked in battle in the darkness, Toni Anji said sensed something else those with sight couldn’t: that Sugimoto could never return to who he was. I guess we’ll find out.

Grand Blue – 12 (Fin) – The Final Binge

Grand Blue finishes up with the club traveling to Miyakojima, which despite being part of Okinawa Prefecture is a 190-mile flight away from that island. The far-flung locale is not only home to the tradition of “Otori” (endless drinking) but some great diving spots, which the gang reaches by powerboat—only Iori can’t join the others since he missed his chance to get certified with Aina and Kouhei.

Chisa can see that Iori seems down and left out, and so stays behind on the third of three dives to cheer him up. Turns out he’s not that blue; he’s green from seasickness aboard the boat. Even so, the two have a nice time together.

That night, with the planned restaurant closed, Ryuu, Shinji, and their heavy-drinking compatriots set up an impromptu Otori, with everyone adding their chosen alcohol to a huge earthenware pot to share throughout the night. Iori and Kouhei aren’t really up to this level of drinking, but their senpais emphatically insist, and won’t allow them to dilute the concoction with water.

They soon run out of booze, and so the only non-buzzed member, Aina, heads out to buy more. She conscripts Iori to help her with the load, but he hops in the van wearing nothing but boxers, which even on the tropical island elicits a stop by the police.

Upon returning to the party Aina accidentally takes the wrong cup from Azusa and downs it in one gulp. Turns out it’s the near-lethal Otori Juice, and she instantly becomes tanked, losing her inhibitions and going after Iori and Kouhei’s boxers.

While briefly escaping her clutches, Kouhei curses Iori for tricking him into joining the club, but Iori points out to him that by joining he actually got what he wanted: a fun, exciting, almost dream-like first year of college. Just before Aina leaps out from the darkness Kouhei considers it more of a nightmare.

With that, the gang heads back home, passing the time looking at photos of their time in Miyakojima, which bring smiles to all, even Chisa, for whom the antics of Iori, Kouhei & Co. have warmed to her somewhat. It’s as good a place to end as any; Grand Blue was in danger of too often repeating its themes without sufficient development of relationships to justify more episodes.

Ultimately, while the actual diving scenes were certainly beautiful and aspirational, they weren’t the most numerous, and always took a backseat to the drinking, arguing, and weird, exaggerated distorted closeups of peoples’ faces. It wasn’t without its share of laughs and heartwarming moments, including Chisa’s final smile.

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 04 (28)

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Chikage’s confrontation with Masaomi and the Yellow Scarves looked like bad news, but he’s only there on behalf of himself, and wants to use them to smoke out the “purge” Dollars who hit Kodata. But because this is a meeting of gang leaders who don’t mind the occasional rumble, it comes to fisticuffs, and we see Masaomi in actual action for the first time in a long while.

I assumed he had some skill to be the leader of a color gang (even one as wishy-washy as the scarves), but I didn’t expect him to hold his own so well against Chikage (though he isn’t able to do any damage, he’s able to dodge his attacks well enough). Still, the “blood is thicker than water” title/theme applies here, as Chikage is loyal to Kodata through the bond they forged in righteous, honorable combat.

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The Saika family reunion continues, with Anri stating her reservations about manipulating people she holds dear with Saika as Haruna does. It comes down to them having different values. Kasane lays it out thusly: one can either entirely enslave their Saika or allow their Saika to entirely enslave them. Anri is trying to be nice to “both sides”, which Kasane believes is untenable.

Of course, she’s driven by the desire to acquire Saika from Anri, which would mean extracting her, but that can only happen if Anri truly doesn’t want Saika anymore. Anri still feels she owes Saika for saving her from her father, among other things. But Kasane remarks that Anri is too hard on herself for believing herself a parasite, or somehow not or less than human.

Letting go of Saika could perhaps mean returning to “normal” humanity in a biological sense, but she’ll always be one of the “family” by virture of her flesh, her blood, and her past. It’s a fascinating discussion between three very different personalities. Erika lightens the mood effectively both by inviting Kasane to a cosplay event and announcing Dotachin has come out of a coma and can see visitors tomorrow.

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Masaomi and Chikage’s duel continues, with Chikage ending up falling off the building when Masaomi bails out. Just then, Izumii Ran shows up with a gang of men and his mallet, looking to continue his revenge tour.

His taunts easily provoke Masaomi into attacking him, but a fierce punch to Izumii’s head only results in Masaomi breaking his hand. Will Chikage, who was just fighting Masaomi, get back up to that roof and help him stay alive against another superior opponent?

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Like Dotachin, Shizuo has been mostly an inert element this cour, as he’s in jail after a woman pressed charges against him for assault. An obvious Saika plant in the cell neighboring him wants him to tear up the joint so they can make off with the head in the commotion, in exchange for the charges against him being dropped.

However, this Saika plant seems to be too late with his proposal, as Shizuo is released without having to do anything after the woman drops the charges. No sooner is he free to go than some kind of rocket or missile hits the police van carrying Celty’s head. Varona of all people makes off with it, staring down Shizuo momentarily before zooming off on her bike. Shizuo assumes this is more of that wretched Izaya’s handiwork.

Prior to this to-do, around dusk, presumably after Haruna left Kasane and Anri, she is kidnapped by a Saika slave and brought to her former boyfriend Takashi, who has plans for her, none of them good.

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All the news of Celty’s head being out there, exposed to the world, causes her nightmares. She wakes up to find an understanding and supportive Shinra, who has spent the day trying to deal with the Yagiri siblings under control (mostly through sedation).

When Emilia says a girl with glasses is at the door, Shinra assumes it’s Anri, but it’s not; it’s Kasane, who is apparently not done wheeling and dealing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the one who hired/compelled Varona to snatch Celty’s head.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 03 (27)

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Mairu and Kururi sorta narrate this episode, but only sparingly, but they have a couple funny moments despite never appearing in the episode (even through chat): First, Mairu interrupts just before a masked man tells Shijimi his name. Second, Mairu wonders if some kind of world revolution is afoot, and Kururi calls that “a stretch.”

That’s certainly true, since Durarara!! has virtually strayed outside Ikebukuro’s borders, nor has there ever been any indication that the things that go on there have any effect on the outside world. But what if Ikebukuro was the world, in it’s entirety, as for all intents of purposes, it is in the show? It would mean the world really was in the midst of upheaval.

All the characters who dot Ikebukuro’s landscape are the players who shape Ikebukuro World. Rather than gangs, the Dollars and Yellow Scarves and mafia are nations; their leaders world leaders. And Saika isn’t just a parasitic demon, but an ideological movement. Anri, Niekawa Haruna, and Kujiragi Kasane are three different “schools” of Saika, and those schools butt up against each other this week.

Ever since Anri cut Haruna, there have been two Saikas inside her mingling, and since Anri’s Saika is older, it’s a form of control that’s also opened Haruna up to other emotions and ways of thinking – as well as Anri’s confused feelings for Mikado and Masaomi. Haruna wants to join forces – Anri will help her attain “real love” with Takashi; and in return she’ll help Anri with her romances.

 

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Anri declines, because she doesn’t want to use Saika for nefarious purposes, only to protect; which provokes Haruna into fighting her. That’s when Kasane, who was hanging out in the park the whole time, neutralizes and chastises the “daughter” Haruna for raising a hand to her “mother” Anri (speaking in Saika terms, of course.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean Kasane is on Anri’s side. In fact, Kasane is somewhat surprised by how little Anri has mastered or even used Saika; which frustrates her more now that she knows how good having freedom feels. So she breaks out a proposition, just as Haruna did. No joining forces; rather, she’ll take Saika off Anri’s hands for a handsome, fair sum. I mean, if she’s using it so little, she doesn’t really need her, right?

The only problem is, while Anri certainly hasn’t mastered Saika, she has more or less accepted her as a part of her, not to mention relied on her in times of trouble; she’d likely be dead without her. Losing her wouldn’t necessarily make her human (a human would never have had Saika to begin with), so I’m doubtful she’ll make the deal. However, I’m also doubtful Kasane will give up easily.

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Despite the rarity with which she needs or uses it, Anri has become dependent on Saika as a form of defense in a dangerous Ikebukuro World; a weapon to keep sharks off her in that world’s roiling waves. Meanwhile, Mikado tells Izaya in a lengthy but wonderful phone call that he wishes to remain in a boat, detached from those waves, but able to watch them ebb and flow and be entertained.

That’s the “interesting world” he first sought when he arrived in Ikebukuro World (an arrival akin to a birth). It’s why he founded the Dollars. And it’s why he’s evolved into someone who isn’t the slightest bit surprised by the face Celty’s head is in a bush (though he is relieved by Mika’s hilarious voicemail message about it not being her head).

Now he’s put himself in a position to press the reset button on the Dollars, hoping he’ll catch lightning in a bottle once more. He and Izaya are revealed to be a lot more alike than I ever considered, as the two may use different metaphors, but both seem willing to act as both arsonist and firefighter in order to mold the world into something interesting.

I’d say Mikado differs in that he has empathy for humans and has a few he actually cares about and doesn’t want swept up in those waves…but I doubt Izaya wants his sisters hurt, either. It’s also interesting in this particular situation, that Mikado knows something – that Celty’s head was found in the park – before Izaya.

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That’s a rare moment of someone having the upper hand over Izaya, which is always nice. And knowledge is definitely power in Ikebukuro World; just look at which Saika dominated the other two, and why. That being said, there’s nothing Izaya adores more than humans acting unpredictably.

The Saika trio and Mikado-Izaya phone call are the A/B plots, but the episode still managed to fit in a C and a D: There’s the hiding Shijimi, who is approached by a masked man who was in the passenger seat of the car that hit Dotachin, offering to bring him in on some kind of heist of Yadogiri Jinnai’s fortune.

Then there’s Chikage confronting Masaomi and his Yellow Scarves, 1 on 8, and giving them a choice: let themselves be taken over, or be destroyed. And we know there’s no one among those 8 scarves who is a match for Chikage alone. Mairu is right: the time of revolution, war, and global upheaval is nigh in the Ikebukuro World.

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