Kabukichou Sherlock – 09 – Not Who They Seem

Irene has a target on her back now courtesy of Jack, who wants the egg USB drive back. It’s decided that she should stay with Sherlock for the time being for her own safety, which means Watson has to move out.

The episode plays on Sherlock’s obvious attraction to Irene, as well as Irene’s general fitness as a domestic partner—she even gets him to eat ordinary food! She also has fun teasing him, because apparently when it comes to women Sherlock is thirteen years old.

The same goes for Kyougoku, who his head-over-heels in love with Maki-chan and has a plan to woo her that’s straight out of a middle-schooler’s mind.  He places her on an impossibly high pedestal and showers her with gifts, including a diamond ring to hold her hand, but all Maki-chan wants is a boyfriend with whom to go on ordinary dates.

Maki gets her wish, and they eventually end up in a hotel, where Kyougoku presumably learns Maki’s secret down below. The outcome of this particular plot is ambiguous and not particularly compelling. That the success of Kyougoku’s plan somehow inspires Watson to serve as a lookout for Irene (once Sherlock’s place is ransacked and they move her to a former yakuza hideout)—it’s a bit thin, motivation-wise.

Much is made this week about him having nothing to do, which makes you wonder whether he’ll ever bring up his case with Sherlock, or if it’s a running gag that he never will. Matters are made worse by the fact Watson is terrible at keeping Irene safe. On her first night in the theater, she gets stabbed, while Sherlock runs after a decoy. He’s not even a good doctor, as he fails to administer any kind of first aid, but just kneels beside her, gawking.

It isn’t until later, when Sherlock gives word that Irene has died of her injuries, that Watson realizes Moriarty—who was with Irene just before he arrived—shouldn’t have known where Irene was. Many clues in this and previous episodes point to Moriarty as Jack. I’m also not convinced Irene is really dead. Sherlock may just be saying that in earshot of Moriarty because he’s already pegged the kid as the culprit.

Vinland Saga – 13 – The Prince is Beautiful, But Cautious

After what looked like a no-win scenario had unfolded for Askeladd, Thorfinn, and Prince Canute, the standoff actually de-escalates when Askeladd starts speaking Welsh, to the surprise of even Bjorn.

It’s his assessment that their “hosts” from Brycheiniog won’t do them any harm, but they cannot let a horde of Danes cross their lands unchallenged, hence their intimidating posture. Askeladd tries to get Canute to intimidate them back, but the prince hides behind Ragnar.

Askeladd and Gratianus have a private meeting with the Brycheiniog commander, Asser, in which Askeladd reveals that he is half Dane and half Welsh, and a living descendant of the legendary King Artorius of Brittania, who inspired the legend of King Arthur.

The episode’s cryptic cold open depicts him in his youth bringing his dying mother back to Wales, and Gratianus greeting him. It should be noted young Askeladd looks a lot like Thorfinn. No wonder he’s taken such a shine to him; he’s the son he never had.

Anyway, Askeladd agrees to hand over the weapons of all his men and allow themselves to be escorted across Brycheiniog so Asser and his king can save face and look good to the common subjects. In exchange, Askeladd will see to it Canute is the one who succeeds the Danish throne, which means he’ll have a powerful seat at the table with which to ensure a treaty of non-aggression with Wales is arranged.

The fact of the matter is, Askeladd hates the Danes, likely in part (if not mostly) because of what they did to his mother. He seems as intent of keeping Wales unspoiled for her sake as anything else. But between some concerned looks from Bjorn and some groaning of his men, he will be testing their loyalty—and the secrets he’s kept from them—to their furthest limits by changing their route to Gainsborough.

In the meantime, Prince Canute finally hits his limit for enduring verbal abuse and mockery from Thorfinn, and calmly explains that as a prince he must be more cautious with his words…before abandoning that cautiousness to give Thorfinn a piece of his mind. Ragnar is shocked, but in a good way; he knows more than most how he might be hurting the fledgling by not insisting he leave the nest.

Still, Ragnar’s desire to protect a child who has already endured so much (Canute’s childhood was not a happy or peaceful one) seems to override that logic. It’s probably heartening to no end to hear Canute speaking to someone other than him; it means Canute and Thorfinn are, against all odds, developing a rapport. That can only be good for the both of them.

Vinland Saga – 12 – The Face of a King

As Thorkell’s forces chases his, Askeladd sends a message across the Severn River, hoping for some reinforcements to even the odds. His “Ear”, an Asian-looking man with very good hearing, can tell the enemy is only a few days away, if that.

The men are worried, and Bjorn relays that worry, but Askeladd is content to leave everyone in the dark. He also hasn’t been quite the same since seeing Prince Canute’s face. It just doesn’t seem like the face of a king. To be fair, Canute is young…but so is Thorfinn.

A thick, brooding atmosphere of impending doom pervades the march of Askeladd’s men as they grow more fatigued and Thorkell draws closer, but takes on a more otherworldly hue once they arrive at the spot where Askeladd says the reinforcements will be waiting.

The rendezvous point is a Roman ruin, suffused in fog. The soundtrack starts to boom with synth bass and brash, punishing tuba as Askeladd draws near and bows in deference to the two figures in romanesque garb. Eventually, triremes come into view.

These aren’t representatives of the Roman Empire reborn, nor another world, but one of the stubbornly independent kingdoms of Wales. Any enemy of the English is a ally of theirs. Askeladd’s connections enable them to cross Wales to reach Gainsborough rather than deal with Thorkell.

It will be a long journey, and the lands of Wales are rough and unforgiving, so Askeladd appoints Thorfinn as Prince Canute’s bodyguard. Amusingly, the Welsh commander mistakes Finn as the Danish prince, and says the same thing Askeladd thought when he sees his face—just not king material…at least not yet.

Thorfinn’s job is to make sure Canute lives to fulfill his destiny, but despite being the same age the two couldn’t have more different paths to get to that age. Finn is cold to Canute, while the prince is frightened of Finn. We’ll see if putting the two together toughens Canute, softens Finn…or both. Of course, the challenge of just keeping Canute alive becomes painfully plain when their forces are lured into a trap, with archers from a neighboring Welsh kingdom raining arrows down on them.

In an odd aside, we see an aged, balding Leif Erikson arriving at a port, and spots one of the slaves being taken away. (S?)he looks a lot like Thorfinn: messy straw hair, brown eyes. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on here. Does this scene place some time after the ambush? I doubt Finn would be so easily captured. If you have any insight into that, let me know in the comments.

Otherwise, this was an interesting episode to mark the halfway point of the series. Thorfinn is protecting Canute mostly to get another duel out of Askeladd, a duel that’s sure to be the closest yet as he grows stronger and Askeladd gets older. But there’s a lot going on around him that threatens postpone or even deprive him of that duel, if for instance Askeladd doesn’t survive the ambush.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 07 – The Bodyguard

Like a jargon-heavy book that keeps making you flip to the glossary in the back, the Academy City Underworld arc was so laden with groups, individuals, motives and goals that I had to refer to the Index wiki on more than one occasion just to find out who the hell some of the people were. As a result, it was hard to sit back and just enjoy the action.

So thank goodness this week is a far simpler Index episode (even though it takes a number of turns), featuring a straightforward plot and familiar, beloved  characters. It certainly starts out where Kamijou Touma would prefer to be, at school, where the most fraught action is being chased by a burly teacher when he and Tsuchimikado are the only two able to escape school to get to the convenience store for the lunch they want.

For all the misfortune swirling around him, Touma does catch a break every once in a while. In this case, a very lovely break in the person of Itsuwa, who mistakes Saigo for a hostile and takes him out for Touma. She’s come to A.C. to serve as Touma’s bodyguard due to stirrings that the powerful Saint Acqua of the Back (or Rear) is going to target him.

The rest of Amakusa is there to back Itsuwa up, as well as to try to get her to pull the trigger on Touma, whom she apparently likes. In this venture it’s Itsuwa who is more unfortunate, since she must contend with the jealousy of Biribiri, who makes a welcome return to the show. Misaka was actually concerned that Touma had amnesia, only to catch him deep in Itsuwa’s bust. Thankfully, Touma manages to keep Itsuwa from mistaking her for a hostile…even though she kinda is!

This also marks the rare Index III episode that actually has sizable portions of Index in it, as she watches with concern as Itsuwa enters her and Touma’s home, buys the loyalty of Sphinx with some high-quality bonito, and starts making dinner.

Like living a simple high school life with occasionally exciting lunch runs, just seeing a girl in his kitchen making dinner gives him no end of joy. The fact that Itsuwa is acting like a proper house guest and helping out exposes how comparatively little his other guest Index does.

Of course, the reason Index doesn’t help out is that her help often only causes more work, such as when she pours an entire bottle of drain cleaner down the shower and almost causes a fire.

Itsuwa cuts off their ensuing dust-up, rents a motorcycle and sidecar, and takes Touma and Index to a splendid public bathhouse in the 22nd School District, which is entirely underground yet has a giant screen in its “sky” projecting the real sky. It’s a really beautiful motorcycle ride that shows yet another side of the sprawling city.

Naturally, Misaka ends up in the same bath as Index and Itsuwa, and as Itsuwa clumsily tries to explain how Touma came to end up in her breasts she then becomes the target of Index’s ire, while Biribiri stews until she overheats and a medical team with a stretcher has to be called.

I presume Misaka had to be temporarily taken out of comission in order to lend more peril to the final act of the episode. Touma and Itsuwa go on what could be construed as a romantic evening constitutional, but once they reach the bridge (Touma and bridges don’t mix!), Acqua suddenly appears, and wastes no time mopping the floor with the both of them.

Itsuwa is a strong and honorable bodyguard, but she simply has no chance against a Saint, and her restoration spells have limited effect on Touma due to his right arm. About that arm: Acqua will let him live if he cuts it off and gives it to him. He couldn’t care less about Kamijou Touma, he wants Imagine Breaker taken out of the equation of church and global affairs.

In his surpassing charity, Acqua doesn’t simply take what he wants, even though he’s certainly capable of doing so (unless Imagine Breaker somehow prevents the arm from being separated from Touma’s body). He gives Touma one day to decide whether he’ll give it up willingly, or die. And since Itsuwa is his sworn bodyguard, she and the rest of Amakusa will certainly die defending him before he does.

So yeah, a Saint with the Right Hand of God either wants Touma’s arm or his life, and Itsuwa alone won’t be enough to stop him. Like I said, straightforward! I imagine one needs a Saint to fight a Saint, so we’ll see if Kanzaki enters the fray…not to mention Misaka once she recovers from overheating in the bath.

Overlord II – 07

As “Momon” contends with mounting expenses for his various ventures, Gazef (who considers Ainz his savior) seeks out Climb, the princess’ bodyguard. He may have come from nothing and is young and inexperienced, and Gazef seems certain there’s a ceiling to his ability, but Climb is still someone who can hold his own against Gazef in battle, which is more than he can say for most other fighters.

Climb needs to be strong. His Princess, Renner (voiced by The Heroine herself), is called a “monster” by her own older brother, the second prince. There is all manner of wrangling and under-the-table deals between the royals and nobles and Eight Fingers in this kingdom. As such, despite noble warriors like Climb and Gazef, it’s a kingdom slowly rotting from the inside.

Princess Renner, one of the kingdom’s few principled, moral leaders, seeks to cut out that rot, but without any kind of military force of her own she needs willing swords and shields. She has them in the elite adventurer group Blue Rose, who we were introduced to last week burning Eight Fingers’ drug fields.

Renner welcomes Climb to a meeting she’s having with members of Blue Rose, who are preparing to hit other Eight Fingers targets. Renner doesn’t want Blue Rose’s Lakyus Aindra to sully her name and that of her families in such activities, but she has little choice, as she can’t very well send Climb out alone. Instead, Lakyus will “borrow” Climb.

Meanwhile, in the mansion seemingly occupied only by Sebas and Solution, the former has made Tuare a maid, much to the latter’s chagrin. Solution does not like humans and doesn’t see Tuare’s presence as anything other than a nuisance at best and a threat to Ainz at worst.

When unsavory parties arrive who wish to get Tuare back from Sebas, and they give him until the day after tomorrow to surrender either her or the “lady” of the house, Solution. These guys are obviously scum, but they and Solution are alike in one important way: neither of them give a shit about Tuare’s well-being.

Only Sebas does, and since only 41 or so people in the whole dang world are stronger than him, Sebas would normally get his way, and Tuare would remain safe. But even he can’t be everywhere at once, which is why when he goes for a stroll to think things over, Solution breaks protocol and contacts Lord Ainz to report the possibility that Sebas has turned on them.

That seems farfetched to me, in that so far all he’s done is demonstrated his empathy for humans and been a Good Samaritan for a woman who had nothing and no one else. If anything, if Ainz hears the whole story he’d find a way to applaud Sebas’ actions. Is Solution overreacting, or does she sense something Sebas a mere human such as myself cannot?

Fate / Zero – 04

“You can’t see it, but trust me…it’s there.”

Here it is: the first Grail War battle in which neither side is trying to lose, and what do you know, it’s between Saber and Lancer. It feels like there’s been a lot of buildup to this, but I was still caught off guard by just how well-executed it was.

I didn’t even mind the frequent cuts away from the combatants to their various observers, because the weight of their interests and stakes in this fight felt just as significant as the thrill of the fight.

“Did I leave the oven on?”

Lancer, AKA Diarmuid of the Love Spot (best name, or bestest?), is a formidable opponent, able to surprise Saber and Iri on more than one occasion with his surprise tactics based on insufficient intelligence on his abilities.

But these aren’t two people who don’t like each other fighting to the death, it’s two people who through their interaction in battle only gain more and more Capital-R Respect for one another. They’re knights, but they’re also warriors who love a good opponent and they’re having a blast.

NOT THE BANGS

What also made the fight so engrossing was my complete lack of an idea how it would go. Early on, Saber is pushed back on her heels, so to speak, made to discard her armor only to play straight into Lancer’s Gáe Buidhe-and-Gáe Dearg dual-wielding hands.

But while he draws blood and seems to have the edge in the battle, even he knows one cannot simply underestimate a Saber-class Servant, especially one who has yet to really dig into her own bag of tricks.

(One thing I did not realize until this episode is how and why Saber’s sword is invisible: she conceals it with wind magic because it bears her true name. That…actually makes a lot of sense.)

YOU GUYS I BROUGHT BEER

But what truly makes the battle special is that it isn’t the only thing going on. Aside from Matou and Uryuu, virtually everyone is carefully watching this fight, from Toosaka through Kirei via Assassin (who still, for the moment, believe Iri is Saber’s Master) and Kiritsugu and Maiya, to Velvet and Rider.

Iskandar is increasingly worried he’ll lose the chance to have a good fight against the other heroes if he lets Lancer kill Saber too soon, so he crashes the party in grand fashion, landing between them in his chariot in a cloud of lightning. Quite the entrance, and one that promises a more complex and nuanced outcome than simply one Servant beating another.

And this is because these are three epic heroes we’re dealing with—not mindless obedient robots—whose actions are driven almost as much by their histories and charisma as by their Masters’ orders.

Fate / Zero – 03

“Oh sorry, did YOU want wine?” | “What channel is He-Man on?”
As Tokiomi apologizes to his Servant Archer (AKA Gilgamesh) and begs him to be patient as the plan unfolds, Waiver celebrates the death of Assassin, but his Servant Rider (AKA Iskandar) doesn’t really care, and is far more concerned with acquiring B-2 Stealth Bombers and other weaponry with which to defeat…Bill Clinton.

I enjoyed the contrast between these two Servant-Master pairs, with Tokiomi exercising the utmost deference to Archer, who abides by his wishes while Rider is more of a constant nuisance to Waiver, who can’t even get him to enter spirit mode. I can’t blame Rider; Waiver may have shown guts in stealing the relic with which to summon him, but he hasn’t done anything to inspire confidence since then.

They’ve already won the Holy Fashion War.
Rider’s not caring about Assassin’s death is just as well, since Assassin isn’t actually dead; he can take the form of many different people. What is dead are Kirei’s chances of winning the War, so he withdraws and is granted asylum in the Church by the observer, his dad Risei, and plans to use his Assassins to spy on all of the remaining Servants for Tokiomi.

Meanwhile, with Saber summoned and ready to go, she accompanies Irisviel to Fuyuki City, her love’s hometown, and the first place she’s ever left Einzbern Castle to visit. While Iri sightsees, Saber is her knight and bodyguard, wearing a stylish, practical black suit that contrasts nicely with Iri’s snow-white garb. They make a stunning pair…even though Iri isn’t Saber’s real Master.

“I sense my man kissing someone…”
That guy, Kiritsugu, arrived in Fuyuki a bit earlier, and enters a hotel room to find his assistant Maiya and a cache of weapons with which he’ll fight the War. When his thoughts turn to his frail daughter and he momentarily despairs, Maiya re-centers him by taking him in her arms and kissing him.

Whatever history those two have, I doubt it’s a threat to the union Kiritsugu and Irisviel, an unexpected pairing, but both a necessary and intriguing one. Their love for and trust for one another is above reproach. Irisviel, meanwhile, enjoys a walk on the beach with her night in black tailored suit, until Saber detects trouble nearby.

“Okay…let’s see what you got.”
The women head to the harbor, where the Servant Lancer is waiting for them, but with no Master in sight. Far from being concerned by a potential attacker in the night, it would seem Irisviel was acting as a faux Master of Saber in order to accomplish what came to pass: luring out the last Servant unaccounted for.

As for who commands Lancy, I’m not ruling out Archibald, who has been curiously absent despite Waiver having stolen his relic for Rider. And as for who will win this duel, I suspect neither party will end up dying, since we’re only three episodes in. A draw, perhaps? Either way, I can’t wait to see it.

Zero continues to excel where often UBW fell down, managing to make virtually every patch of dialogue (or monologue) compelling, integrating just enough comedy to avoid being too stodgy or serious, and most important, making every participant either eminently rootable, deliciously loathable, or a lovely synthesis of the two.

Hundred – 06

hun61

Anyone hoping this week’s Hundred would out-do Bakuon’s T&A quota may come away disappointed: there was precious little time for girls to throw off their clothes and jump Hayato, what with all the battlin’ going on. And hey, what do you know, Sakura’s Hundred also gives her defensive capabilities. Why does she need a part-time bodyguard, again?

hun63

Apparently not from the pack of elite variants who poach savages. The group of three (four?) make the Little Garden students look a bit silly; though perhaps that’s not entirely fair as you’re talking about pros (albeit young ones) against amateur students. Nice outfits, though.

hun62

Sakura expresses a little confusion over Emile’s possessiveness towards Hayato (being a “boy” and all), but nothing comes of it, and in any case, there’s no time for fooling around since there’s savages to fight! Only the hunters fought and beat the savages for them. And there actualy was time for a lot of standing around and talking. As for the savages, they seem really slow and dumb.

hun64

The savage hunters, imaginatively called “hunters” by Claire at their debriefing, are after savage cores, because cores and variable stones are basically the same thing, both technologically and monetarily speaking. But this is all Top Secret, so don’t tell anyone, even though the science loli told half the cast.

hun65

Sakura spends a good amount of time on a beach with no bodyguard, it seems, because she’s already there when Hayato answers her summons. When Hayato says everyone’s looking forward to the concert, Sakura goes into a pity spiral, saying people are only affected by her song because she’s a variant and that’s her skill. Hayato rebuts: she touched him and Karen way back before she was an idol, so quit hatin’ on yoself!

hun66

The concert ensues, and, erm, it’s okay I guess? Pretty underwhelming. They never even bothered to animate Sakura singing; not even once! Which begs the question, why have such an ambitious idol concert scene if you don’t have the budget? I don’t know, but at the end Sakura breaks out the same song she sang to Hayato and Karen, which is nice.

hun67

After giving Karen, who really should be dead from all the exposure to the outside (why else would she be confined to a hospital room the rest of her life?) an autograph and handshake, Sakura closes in for a big ‘ol smooth on Hayato’s cheek, making the polyamorous lil’ scamp blush like a rose – and outrage all the other girls present currently crushing on him.

hun68

It wouldn’t be Hundred without closing with an even more ridiculous portrayal of Hayato’s harem, in which three of his girls tug and pull at him like he’s the last carton of milk at the store during a blizzard. You break him, you bought him, ladies…and what are you gonna do when you get him?

16rating_6

Hundred – 05

hun51

What’s Kirishima Hayato’s secret for getting all these hot ladies falling at his feet? From what I can tell, it’s to be as nondescript and vapid a character as it is possible to be while still able to be called a “character.”

hun52

They don’t just fall at his feet of their own accord, though: they forget they don’t have their bikini top tied on, or slip and fall on top of him. So it’s not just vapidity, but the fact that physics itself seem to favor the guy.

hun53

Hundred does its darndest to not spend any more time than it needs to on silly matters like protecting civilization from a scourge of powerful monsters. Instead, it prefers having Hayato go on a date with Emilia after turning down Claire’s swimming challenge.

hun54

Wait, but isn’t he supposed to be Sakura’s bodyguard, you ask? Apparently not full-time. Which is unfortunate, because Sakura disappears when he’s off the job. Thankfully, she used his GPD signal to track him down so she can take him somewhere special to her. Emilia gets ditched. Don’t hate the playa…

hun55

I’m not sure Hayato signed up to have Sakura prattle on interminably about her increasingly dark and cruel past as they admire the islands’ version of the grand canyon (the geography of this place, and why its not overrun with savages, escapes me).

I think I fell asleep during some of the exposition, but from what I heard, Sakura had the same virus as Karen, was sold to a mad scientist and injected with Savage cells in an attempt to build a super-slayer. Not-fun times.

hun56

Then Sakura proceeds to connect every significant part of her life to Hayato, from the one who set her on the path to idoldom, to the one who preserved the place where she apparently has good (rather than horrifying) memories, and the fact both of them are variants and thus “share the same fate.”

I imagine Sakura is going to be disappointed when she learns that Hayato does not and will not belong to just one woman. He belongs to them all. His blandness…it’s just so breathtaking.

hun57

Oh HEY! It’s a savage! Those variant kids from last week, perhaps? They come pretty late in this episode. In fact, they come at the very end, before Hayato has any time to break out his Hundred and, you know, fight them.

Instead we spent what felt like an eternity watching Hayato jump from one girl to another, turning one Claire for Emilia, ditching Emilia for Sakura, and telling Sakura, who is pouring her heart out, to “calm down there.” Maybe the real monster in Hundred is Hayato.

16rating_4

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 01 (First Impressions)

gibo11

One thing I’ve learned about Gundam over the years is that no one show or OVA with its name slapped on it can ever wholly ruin its legacy, nor prevent me from checking out the next project with an open mind. Reconguista was an unqualified disaster in part because it was so in love with itself, it built a towering wall of self-congratulatory retrospection around itself, leaving me out in the cold.

Recon in G was also spearheaded by Yoshiyuki Tomino, whose specific style came off as both out-of-touch and proudly, stubbornly exclusionary of anyone but the most die-hard fans of his work, ignoring all Gundam that had followed, most of which improved on the original.

It was not a step, but a zero-gravity leap backwards, one even more troubling because a full 26-episode season’s worth of resources were committed to an sugary, empty love letter to itself. But like I said, I wasn’t going to let past failure prevent me from catching something new and exciting from the Gundam brand…and Iron-Blooded Orphans (which I’ll shorten to GIBO from here on) is just what the doctor ordered.

gibo12

One reason I had reason to believe GIBO wouldn’t be another dud was staff: Putting Gundam in the hands of Tatsuyuki Nagai (AnoHana, Railgun, Toradora) pays immediate dividends. Nagai retains much of the charming Gundam milieu, but rather than keep it exactly as it was in the Carter Administration, he updates and refines the flow of the action.

Okada Mari (AnoHana, Hanasaku Iroha, Nagi no Asukara, Toradora) tweaks and humanizes the classic Gundam dialogue style and brings it into the 21st century, while Yokoyama Masaru (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo) brings a fresh musical perspective to the sweeping score.

Compared to Reconguista, there’s young blood at work here, but their impressive CVs and relevance in the current anime world shines through in their collaboration here. While Reconguista shut me out, GIBO drew me in, with a slightly dirty hand.

gibo13

So what’s GIBO about? Well, there are many thick, juicy layers to excavate, but it’s all pretty organically unfolded. On the Martian colony of Chryse you have the titular Iron-Blooded Orphans like protagonist Mikazuki Augus, who serve at the bottom rung of the private security company CGS.

The citizens of Chryse are starting to demand independence form the Earth Sphere, but their own cowardly president intends to save his own skin by throwing his people to the wolves. Those he betrays include his own daughter, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, a well-loved, charismatic young agitator who Earth Sphere wants out of the picture.

To make that happen, Aina’s dad Norman lets her handpick the CGS Third Group to serve as her bodyguards for her trip to Earth. Doing so appeals to her desire to “see and feel the truth” and feel the pain of the victims of the Earth Sphere’s rule over Chryse. But in actual truth, the irregular child soldiers, used as cannon fodder by the greedy CGS president Maruda, aren’t expected to stand a chance against Earth’s elite Gjallarhorn unit, which is being deployed to put down the Chryse rebellion in its infancy.

It’s a cowardly, dastardly plot by the self-involved old guard to retain power by snuffing out the flame of youth and hope. It also shows that these old guys know how to play the game far better than Aina, at least at the moment.

gibo14

The main couple, Mikazuki and Aina, are from the opposite extreme ends of Chryse’s social spectrum, but unlike your typical aloof princess character, Aina wants to be “on equal terms” with the CGS grunts protecting her, so as to better understand the people she leads and serves. In a clever bit of misdirection, Mika refuses her repeated attempts to shake his hand not because he resents or distrusts her, but becaused his hands are filthy.

Even as Aina tries to reach out to those below her, they’re so conditioned to keep their distance they politely decline her entreaties. Aina’s seiyu Terasaki Yuki often voices boys and younger versions of adult male characters, but her robust pipes lend the pretty Aina some gravitas.

gibo15

The same night Aina arrives at CGS headquarters, Gjallarhorn springs into action, but in their arrogance their stealth attack is quickly sniffed out. CGS soldiers like Biscuit Griffon (whose retro design I really dug) whisk Aina to safety as the bullets start to fly. She’s constantly insisting that she can help out, and no one refutes her claim, but she has infinitely more value as the leader of the Chryse resistance than an exposed front-line soldier.

gibo16

Mind you, it isn’t CGS as a whole that is sacrificed in this operation, but the Third Group members composed of Mika, his “big brother” Orga Itsuka, Biscuit, et al. The higher ups try to use them as a decoy and human shield to cover their retreat, but they’re foiled when Biscuit remotely launches signal flares, giving the retreating brass and First Corps’ position away to the enemy, which eases off the Third. Still, it isn’t long until Gjallarhorn stops messing around and fields a mobile suit, which can outrun and outgun anything the Third Group has…with one very notable exception.

gibo17

In the cold open, we see a sight not out of place in a previous Gundam series, 00, in which a young Mika has just killed on apparent orders from Orga. He turns arond and nonchalantly asks Orga “What should I do next?” It’s a dream of a memory Orga wakes up from, which is revisited when the present-day Mika asks him the very same question. In the memory, Orga replies “We’re going…somewhere not here…to the place where we truly belong.” Their lives aren’t just about surviving when the deck stacked against them at every turn. It’s about finding purpose to those lives they’re fighting for tooth and nail.

gibo18

So how do they get there? By fighting the man. Gjallarhorn’s cocky young commander Orlis swats at the CGS bugs with his mobile suit until he’s challenged by a second, stronger suit, a Gundam, piloted by Mika as the Third Group’s trump card. Mika brings Orlis’ suit down in iconic fashion, creating a symbol of what must be done in order to find that place where the iron-blooded orphans belong.

No doubt Mika, Orga, Biscuit & the rest of CGS’s third group will serve as a vanguard for what will become Aina Bernstein’s Chryse Independence movement. Their deeds will change the history of Mars and will affect the lives of many, from Danji, the would-be rookie hero who got too close to the enemy and paid the ultimate price, to the too-adorable-for-words shop girl who seems to carry a flame for Mika, all the way to the most powerful sniveling old white guys in the galaxy.

I can’t wait to see what comes next.

9_brav2

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 09

aka91

This week Shirayuki is still drunk, but also conscious enough to start wandering around on a mission. Of what sort remains a mystery until Obi figures it out (after swatting the Clarines equivalent of a paparazzo): her drunkenness has brought her guilt over Zen’s punishment at Laxdo drives her to want to ride there; only problem is, she can’t ride a horse.

Zen offers to take her, but qualifies that he’s just recently back from there, and produces the proof: some rare herbs that only grow in snow, and a detailed journal of the health of the garrison, both prepared by Shuka, the fortress’ herbalist-in-training. It’s enough to appease and please Shirayuki, though she wouldn’t have gotten far anyway, as she passes out again.

aka92

Since this show has trained us to expect a flashback whenever Shirayuki passes out, we get a brief continuation of Mitsuhide’s recalling of the tragic events with Zen and Atri. Turns out Zen thought something was off about Atri too, but wanted to believe that gut feeling was overly suspicious. Losing Atri and being wrong shook Zen to the core, but it was ‘Hide who told him nobody will ever get close to a prince who prioritizes his suspicions. Essentially, Zen wasn’t wrong, or unprincely, to hope he was wrong about Atri. He was just wrong to have no backup plan.

I think that’s why in the present Zen keeps Atri’s arrowhead in a prominent spot in his desk drawer, which Hide spots, triggering the flashback. Since Atri has no grave, it’s a memorial, but also a reminder to take extra care in vetting those he’d allow close to him. It’s what he believes he’s achieved with Obi, which is why he presents him with a royal ID and the official role of royal messenger, though he’s still expected to keep an eye on Shirayuki whenever Zen can’t spare one.

aka93

Obi purports to be like us, merely observers, not participants, in the goings-on within Wistal Castle. However, Zen seems to be welcoming him into the same tight-knit fold already consisting of Mitsuhide and Kiki (whose story we have yet to hear, unless I forgot about it :P). The episode ends with a wonderful atmosphere of everything being right in the world, with the stars shining down, Shirayuki peacefully sleeping it off, Zen and Obi drinking together, and Hide and Kiki sparring.

And that’s all fine and dandy…except that this episode also felt a bit too stagnant; that we’re going over and over the same themes about Zen finding the right balance of warmth and authority, and surrounding himself with those he trusts. He mentions a path he’s on, similar to how Shirayuki puts it; and indeed, she’s on that path, as well as all his trusted friends and attendants. Rather than talking about it more, why not let’s get back on that path and continue down that path, shall we?

7_mag

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 08

aka81

Raj is back home and Shirayuki’s place in the castle is secure, but now half of Wistal is convinced she’s actually Zen’s fiancee, for better or worse, so Zen assigns Obi, recently returned from a no-supervision trip to test his trustworthiness, to guard her. The two have had a prickly history together, but end up getting along. The problem is, the Chief herbalist tries to pull a prank on them, unaware of just how much Shirayuki can’t handle her liquor.

aka82

With Shirayuki thus knocked out, the rest of the episode is given over to the story of how Mitsuhide was assigned to Zen, just as Obi was assigned to Shirayuki. Mitsu struggled to connect to the young prince, who said he had to maintain distance to maintain authority, like his brother Izana (who ordered Mitsu to guard him), yet has an increasingly suspicious secret friend and brother-like figure in the archer guard Atri.

Like me, Mitsu was almost instantly weary of Atri, him because of his instincts, me because of all the shots of him making an arrowhead and squinting forebodingly into the camera. The last straw is when Atri says he’s switching to the night shift and would like it if Zen came out to see him then. Zen was obviously very naive around this time.

aka83

Fortunately Izana assigned Mitsu to him when he did, because both of them are able to stop Atri’s associates, disgruntled rebels from Lido, from capturing or hurting Zen; Mitsu even manages to slice Atri’s arrow in two while it’s in flight, which is almost incredulously badass.

The naive Zen largely died that night when Atri, someone he thought was his friend turned on him, having waited for his opportunity the whole time. Even so, Zen mourns Atri’s death, and Atri remarks that it might have been better if Zen wasn’t a prince, otherwise they wouldn’t be in such a situation and could have been friends.

Obi gives Shirayuki the same line (which Mitsuhide overhears, leading to this flashback), but Shirayuki warns Obi not to talk like that, lest she take it as an insult. Zen is a prince, she’s an apprentice herbalist (who later accidentally gets toasted). On the path she’s traveling, she’s accepted all these things, and like a good politician, isnt’ about entertaining theoreticals.

8_mag

GANGSTA. – 06

gang61

Nic spends the episode recovering from his injuries (Paulklee shot him with drugs, not bullets) under Nina’s admirable ministrations as the clouds continue to dump rain on Ergastulum, as if to wash away the blood of the last battle. But the duel with Doug and the shootouts that accompanied it may only be a taste of what’s to come, as the Corsicans are about to throw off the delicate balance that has been sustained by going after the Christianos, a family beholden to Monroe.

gang62

It’s fitting in an episode called “THORN” that everyone deals with various literal and emotional thorns in their sides or minds. Both Nic and Worick carry a lot of baggage from their highly traumatic pasts. Nic was the son of a prostitute shanghaied into mercenary service; Wallace is the unwanted and unloved son of a drunk, violent crime boss whose light we know is destined to go out.

gang63

Wallace got over his prejudice for his perceived low-rent bodyguard and befriends Nic and even teaches him to read and write, most likely out of a desire to have one friend in his life; someone who doesn’t curse his existence. While we’re still missing a couple of bits and pieces in the middle, the genesis of their friendship, which would persist for decades to the present, is making more and more sense.

gang64

Ally has her own thorn in the form of  withdrawal due to an appalling drug her pimp plied her with regularly in order to keep her submissive and in line. The horror movie scene that ended last week’s episode turned out to be hallucinations from that withdrawal, and Dr. Theo informs Worick that Ally has yet to fully recover, though it will happen with time. Some thorns can’t be removed too quickly.

When a shoeless, rain-soaked Ally kisses Worick on the street, it’s filmed as if it were a climactic, passionate romantic scene, right up until she tries to undo Worick’s pants and we realize she’s still hallucinating Barry, and is ready to do anything to him if only he doesn’t hurt her. Ironically, Worick does technically hurt her—by head-butting—in order to snap her out of it (not sure how that works medically, but whatever), but since her head’s harder than his he ends up hurting himself more.

gang65

At any rate, it’s one of the show’s best scenes, and combined with Nic’s recovery, the Handymen and their administrative assistant are back in business…just in time for another war. Even in his hospital bed, Nic looks as ready as ever to take on whole battalions on his own, but a part of me thinks Worick would really rather just kick back in his apartment and talk about his crappy day with Ally-chan.

8_brav2