Golden Kamuy – 36 (Fin) – Not For Nothing

We were left hanging with the vicious knife fight between Kiroranke and Lt. Koito. Both use their arm or hand to block a knife from digging too deep into their vitals, but Koito gets a much-needed assist from Tanigaki and Tsukishima. Kiroranke, as dangerous as any wounded animal, produces one more bomb, but Koito is able to slice it away so it doesn’t blow everyone up.

They’re about to finish Kiroranke when Asirpa arrives in time to stop them; she wants to hear him explain why he shot her Aca. She doesn’t get an answer before he draws his last breath, but he dies happily, knowing Asirpa did indeed figure out the code, and their journey north wasn’t for naught. It’s also implied by Sofia’s reaction (prior to rejoining her fellow inmates) that she Kiroranke and Wilk formed a love triangle. Kiroranke’s body is buried in ice that will melt into the Azur river and flow back to his homeland.

Kiroranke and Asirpa try to go after Sofia, but find everyone’s favorite Stenka shoujo, Gansoku Maiharu. Kiroranke is the only one who ends up dying on the ice floes; Ogata remains alive and Tsukishima’s neck wound isn’t life-threatening. As Sugimoto returns Asirpa’s ceremonial knife to her, Sofia returns Kiroranke’s to him, confirming there was something going on between them.

Back at the Nivkh village in Ako, Tsukishima gets Svetlana to agree to write a letter to her parents which he’ll deliver as proof she’s alive, so that they can escape the black pit of uncertainty and know for sure their girl is okay. She heads to Russia with Gansoku, and the narrator indicates they’ll have a number of exciting adventures in the future.

This final Kamuy of the season wouldn’t be complete without another Ainu food session, so Asirpa explains mosu, a lucious-sounding treat made with fish skin, berries and seal fat. She describes the Nivkh, like the other tribes in Karafuto, as “a little bit different and a little bit the same”, and takes comfort in that.

Ogata is beyond Nivkh medicine, so everyone dresses up like Nivkh and reach out to the Russian doctor in Ako. He quickly recognizes Sugimoto’s Japanese, but still agrees to operate on Ogata. Unfortunately, no one thought to tie Ogata to the bed.

The moment he comes through post-op, he gets up, holds the nurse hostage, knocks Koito down, and escapes on a horse in nothing but his gown. Asirpa and Sugimoto are too late to catch him and the latter’s shots miss his horse, but Sugimoto is fine with that. He urges Ogata to get better so he can kill him fair and square later.

That need to do any and all dirty work, including killing, for Asirpa’s sake so she doesn’t have to bloody her own hands, defines Sugimoto. He withholds Wilk’s desire for Asirpa to be a guerilla fighter in the war between the Ainu and the Imperial enemies of Japan and Russia—but Sugimoto wants better than that for her. Maybe, with the gold, she can lead the Ainu into peace, not another horrible war that will claim her soul.

Sugimoto’s had his fill of war, but he’ll still fight all the battles needed to protect Asirpa. And as both of them are still in need of money to achieve their goals, Sugimoto renews their contract as partners, and Asirpa concurs. They remain on the same road together, with Sugimoto continuing to work with Tsurumi’s men per their agreement, and Asirpa hoping to learn who killed the Ainu and what ultimately became of her Aca.

So ends a another incredibly strong season of Golden Kamuy, a wonderful melange of a show that combines stylish, inventive, often brutal combat, enriching cultural and historical education, some of the best comedy of the season (with a prodigious side of beefcake), and many of the better characters and relationships. None were more compelling than Asirpa and Sugimoto, and now that they’ve finally reunited I look forward to a fourth season of their adventures together.

Golden Kamuy – 35 – Finding Warmth in the Shattered Ice

The reunion of old buddies Shiraishi and Sugimoto is appropriately gross, as the former’s nose snot ends up in Sugimoto’s eye. This is actually foreshadowing for another key reunion, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

These two men are still separated from Asirpa, just as Asirpa finds herself alone with Ogata—the only person who knows Asirpa has remembered the secret to Wilk’s code. Both groups have shattered on the ice floes, as Tsukishima finds Svetlana in the cold while Tanigaki and Koito are ambushed by escaped prisoners.

While Sugimoto uses his coat as a sail to steer their ice floe where they want (yet another lifesaving lesson Asirpa taught him), Tsukishima urges Svetlana to return home, only for her to tell him she willingly went with whoever would take her—anything to get away from the boredom of life in that lighthouse.

Live certainly isn’t boring for anyone on these ice floes, as Tanigaki and Koito successfully repel the bandits. However, an unlikely reunion occurs when Kiroranke emerges from behind an ice boulder. Tanigaki, who seeks revenge for the death of Inkarmat, gives Kiroranke his bone-handled knife back—by stabbing him with it.

As the skies seem to darken and the snow and wind intensify, so too does the tension between Ogata and Asirpa. He knows she’s figured it out, and asks her while they’re alone if she’ll tell him. He only wants a little gold; to have all of it would mean getting tangled up in war with all the parties who want it. He also believes she wishes to return home to her kotan and spend her days hunting in the woods.

When his methods of persuasion don’t work, he reveals that Sugimoto wasn’t quite dead when he saw him, and tells her his last words about giving some gold to his friend’s widow Tome for her eye surgery. Then Asirpa catches Ogata in a lie when she asks him if Sugimoto said anything about food, and Ogata says he wanted monkfish stew. Asirpa knows Sugimoto’s true final wish would be for dried persimmons.

She breaks Ogata’s grip and knocks her bow, but Ogata reminds her of when she stopped Sugimoto from killing him, and when she vowed never to kill for the gold or anything else. Ogata actually takes sick pride in trying to goad Asirpa into murdering him, since to him that would mean they were alike in their “impurity”. Sugimoto manages to arrive in time to shout out, but Asirpa is startled and looses the arrow straight into Ogata’s eye.

Sugimoto quickly administers first aid, purging the poisoned from the wound and bandaging it to slow the bleeding. He won’t let Ogata die. because he won’t let him make Asirpa a killer. When the ice floes split again, threatening to separate Asirpa and Sugimoto, he reaches his hand out, she leaps to grab it, and they successfully embrace. After an entire season of them apart, finally they’re together again, and it feels so good to see it!

Of course, this is Golden Kamuy, a show never afraid to follow up a tearful, touchingly cathartic reunion with some absurdly gross comedy. Asirpa says she “can’t let go”, but we soon learn she literally can’t, because her damn eyelid is stuck on Sugi’s frozen coat button! Shiraishi, who is holding Ryuu back from interrupting the lovebirds’ reunion, is quickly summoned for assistance.

As we learned, the best way to separate skin from cold metal is piss, and if there’s anything Shiraishi is always full of, it’s piss. This leads to perhaps the most hilariously fucked-up line in the entire Golden Kamuy series: “Piss on her face!” The snow lets up, the sky brightens, and the sun starts to peak through the clouds as Shiraishi, Sugimoto, and Asirpa revel in rainbow-making golden showers. It is utterly glorious.

The episode then jumps back a few minutes and returns to the darkness of the storm, as Tsukishima, Koito, and Svetlana find an injured Tanigaki, who tells them Kiroranke is wounded and on the run. While in pursuit, the two soldiers make the mistake of picking up Tanigaki’s rifle, which was rigged with a bomb by Kiroranke. Tsukishima’s neck is gashed in the blast, but Koito is relatively okay, and continues the chase.

He and Kiroranke eventually become locked in a bitter grappling match; Koito with his saber and Kiroranke with his rifle. Kiroranke has escaped worse scrapes in his long bloody history, but with Asirpa learning the truth about his treachery at Abashiri Prison and Sugimoto already knowing he’s bad news, whatever becomes of him, he can no longer hide his true colors.

As of this tremendous episode’s ending, Ogata, Tanigaki, Tsukishima, and Kiroranke are all seriously wounded, while Koito may be about to be. Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Shiraishi are all fine. Sofia strangely plays no role in this episode, but I wonder where her loyalties will lie (I suspect with herself) while Svetlana just wants to go to St. Petersburg. Most importantly, Sugimoto and Asirpa are together again. That one fact makes my whole month.

Golden Kamuy – 30 – The Flag-Bearer

The dead Russian doesn’t just have a wanted poster with a sketch of Kuroranke, but Wilk as well, as we learn the two worked together to kill the emperor. Ogata’s game of cat-and-mout with Vasily concludes when he makes the Russian shoot first—at the wrong thing.

Vasily saw signs of covered footprints leaving the unmoving cloaked figure, which led to an Uilta coffin in a tree. But it turns out the coffin was the decoy, and when Vasily shoots it, thats when Ogata, the cloaked figure after all, shoots Vasily through the face.

Ogata masked his breath by eating snow, but hours of that and sitting in the bitter cold take their toll, and he end up with a horrible fever. He starts to have delirious dreams of the past when he was still trying to recruit his ultra-pure of blood and heart half brother Yuusaku, the flag-bearer for their unit.

There’s a superstition in the army about the flag-bearer being a virgin as a form of protection from the bullets. Ogata never cared for that, but he can’t really complain when Asirpa and Shiraishi participate in an Uilta healing ceremony designed to draw out the “wicked thing” causing his fever—in his case, lingering memories of his failed attempts to corrupt Yuusaku.

During the ritual, Shiraishi meets with Asirpa outside, telling her it’s not safe for her in Russia, particularly when their guide killed the emperor. Kiroranke leaves the tent too and comes as clean as you’d expect, telling them his old name was Yulbars, and he and Wilk killed the emperor who forged a treaty that threatened all far-east minority peoples. Asirpa decides not to run away, hoping to find the gold “when the killing is done”.

Ogata’s dreams resolve in a revisiting of the episode 19, when we first learned of Ogata’s unfortunate family situation. When Ogata notes Yuusuke hasn’t killed a single Russian during his tour, he offers up a prisoner for him to execute, but Yuusuke refuses. The next time he marches into battle bearing the flag, Ogata shoots him in the head, ending the failed mission to bring him into the fold with Tsurumi and negating the superstition of the flag-bearer’s invincibility in the same shot.

Because ultimately, Ogata is right: surviving bullets on the battlefield has nothing to do with chastity, nobility of one’s blood or the purity of one’s heart or soul. Yuusuke may have been the most moral man on the battlefield, but that made him an easy target for any bullet, not just Ogata’s. When his blood spilled, it was just blood, like anyone else’s.

After an Uilta fortune-telling ritual involving reading the cracks in burnt reindeer shoulder blade (that apparently goes well), Asirpa joins Kiroranke and a recovered Ogata further north, but Shiraishi is poised to stay behind. They say their goodbyes, but when Shiraishi remembers Sugimoto urging him to keep Asirpa safe, he runs after them.

When we first saw the bone cracks indicating “someone approaching from behind”, I took it to mean Sugimoto’s group was closing on them and they’d eventually meet up. But here it’s revealed Shiraishi, was the person from behind foretold by the bone. Then, after they leave, more cracks appear on that same bone, turning the good sign into a bad one.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Golden Kamuy – 29 – The Way of the Sniper

Sugimoto & Co. put on that big show for nothing; Asirpa & CO. were, as was hinted by the closing poop scene, already far to the north. We don’t check in on Sugimoto this week, and the possibility of the two groups reuniting anytime soon remains remote.

On one level, that’s a shame, because the relationship of Asirpa and Sugimoto forms the emotional heart of Golden Kamuy. Put simply, I care about the two of them more than anyone else, and the prospect of them being apart all season is…frustrating.

So far, Golden Kamuy has ably tempered that lingering frustration to a tolerable trickle, because on another level, the two groups together would simply be too many characters in one place. Separate, the two groups and their unique dynamics have room to breathe.

Also, while the main duo are a critical piece of the whole, they are not the only piece of interest by a long shot. The two split groups also mean double the cultural education and immersion, as demonstrated when Asirpa & Co. enter the lands of the Uilta, whose traditions include suspending the coffins of their dead in the air with planks rather than bury them.

In this part of the island reindeer are the main game, and Ogata immediately commits a cultural faux pas by shooting one. It was a kept Reindeer that, along with the rest of its herd, comprises the sum total of a Uilta family’s material wealth. Their first contact with the Uilta consists of an apology followed by a cooperative reindeer hunt to make up for the lost property.

Kiroranke was hoping for just such an encounter, because Asirpa’s father Wilk made the same mistake as Ogata back in the day. Watching the Uilta’s way of hunting wild reindeer—using their own reindeer as a decoy to mask their approach—awakens more childhood memories for Asirpa and her aca.

Ogata impresses the Uilta elder with his prowess with a three-shot rifle, killing the entire herd of wild reindeer without letting any escape. The Uilta only have a single-shot bolt-action rifle, but as they put it following Ogata’s success, if he lived there then there soon wouldn’t be any reindeer left to hunt!

That night Asirpa gets to satisfy her brain-tooth (and give us a Hinna Face) with the reindeer brains—which taste just like those of the southern deer she’s accustomed to. They also partake of freshly-baked bread and the equivalent of reindeer butter—no part of the animal is wasted, of course.

The nomadic Uilta may be nominally Ainu, but in their game, hunting methods, dwellings, and cuisine, they’re very distinct from their southern cousins, accentuating the cultural diversity that still endured during that time in one of the more remote parts of the world.

The group lucked out by making contact with the Uilta and helping them take down a herd. Hiring the dogsleds to take them north left them broke, but the Uilta don’t care about money, only reindeer. Kiroranke also knows that nomadic tribes are tacitally allowed to cross the Japanese-Russian border, so they disguise themselves as Uilta to cross the border by reindeer sled.

Things go pear-shaped due to an unforeseen development. Turns out Lt. Tsurumi’s maccinations can reach northern Sakhalin from Otaru, and he has no intention of letting Kiroranke move freely. Tsurumi learned that a young Kiroranke was one of the revolutionaries responsible for the assassination of Russian Emperor Alexander II in St. Petersberg back in 1881.

The Russians very much want to catch everyone involved in the regicide, so Tsurumi tips them off that one of them will be crossing the border in Sakhalin. Sure enough, border troops are  hiding in the woods, and a sniper shoots the Uilta elder in the head. Ogata realizes he wasn’t the one shot because he’d switched rifles with the elder, lending his new three-shot model to him.

This also tells Ogata that the sniper who fired isn’t just a good shot, but a suspicious one. Asirpa and the others hide behind sleds and reindeer, but they’re well and truly pinned down. Even so, Kiroranke exposes himself to fire in order to grab the wounded but still breathing elder, and the Russian sniper, Vasily, lets him, later citing “respect for someone risking their life for a comrade”.

That moment of Vasily’s hesitation gives Ogata the opening to shoot Vasily’s comrade, Ilya. He doesn’t shoot him fatally in the head, but in the stomach, which ensures the Russians will be slowed down in caring for him enough for them to give them the slip into the woods. Ogata also seems invigorated and even a little giddy at the prospect of a serious playmate with which to fight a two-man “Part Two of the Russo-Japanese War.”

What follows is an intricate and fascinating chess match between Ogata and Vasily. While the cultures of Russians and Japanese are wildly different, the mind and disposition of a sniper is pretty much the same no matter where you’re from: whoever has the colder ice water in their veins will prevail. Ogata knows the ideal sniper will only be interested in “murder and pursuing their prey”, and so Vasily would soon split off from his unit and wounded comrade for that second thing.

It dawns on Vasily it wasn’t respect that kept him from shooting Kiroranke, but the lack of agency: a sniper kills at a time of their choosing, not when the target says so. Similarly, when Vasily’s men fall for a simple gunpowder trap set by Kiroranke, they start screaming in pain, but Ogata isn’t surprised his opponent doesn’t react—a good sniper can listen to his comrade’s screams all night and not be fazed.

When Kiroranke, Asirpa and Shiraishi double back to the wounded Russian Ilya, he presents the wanted poster featuring a sketch of a young Kiroranke, shocking Asirpa and Shiraishi. But Ogata and Vasily are in their own little Sniper World, waiting for one another to make the first move. Vasily thinks he has the cloaked foe in his sights, but it looks for all the world like a decoy.

The episode ends leaving us in that suspenseful moment before Ogata presumably emerges from an angle Vasily didn’t expect and does him in, clearing their path to the prison where Kiroranke’s comrades are imprisoned. But how will Ogata, Asirpa and Shiraishi react to that wanted poster? And will this incident at the border slow their group down enough for Sugimoto & Co. to gain a little ground?

Appare-Ranman! – 07 – People Aren’t Machines

From what I gather, Gil’s car catches up to the others, mows through the debris, and detonates rocks in the valley, forcing everyone else to take a detour. But thanks to some highly questionable editing we’re shown events out of order, and in some cases more than once, adding needless confusion to the sequence.

Appare’s car manages to make it through the explosion only to break down; eventually Xialian and Al either catch up to them or backtrack and offer to take turns towing him. Neither want an easy win, which leaving Appare behind would cause.

They end up camping for the night, with Appare proving useless at hunting, fishing, and cooking. Kosame dreams of his mother being murdered protecting him and wakes up screaming. Appare is starting to act more human as he realizes people aren’t engines driven merely by logic and science.

By the time the three drivers make it to Eli, Nevada, Gil has already been their eight hours and is ready to go, but they block him. Hototo wants answers about what happened to his father.

When the crowd starts to stone him, Appare, Xialian, Al, and even Sophia shield him with their bodies. Finally, Gil removes his mask and speaks, revealing he and his big brother were merely impersonating Gil, which means they had nothing to do with Hototo’s dad.

 

 

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 05 – No Need to Panic

This week the Second Division of Modern Crimes goes on a field trip—er, I mean an assignment to basically be warm bodies in front of an embassy during a sensitive diplomatic visit from a South American head of state.

Daisuke is apparently out because his grandmother has taken ill, but his colleagues learn that he’s the one the president is meeting with in his gran’s stead, since the Kambe conglomerate is building the dam that will change his country.

Hoshino and the First Division never let Haru and the Seconds forget their place, including when there’s a mix-up with their fancy lunches; the second have to surrender tasty Kyoto bentos in exchange for noodle cups. Basically no one other than Haru wants to be there and isn’t taking their job seriously, but are simply happy to be outside.

Meanwhile, Daisuke and the president are ushered into a panic room, but not before Daisuke launches a tiny surveillance drone from the heel of his shoe. They eventually learn that one of the embassy’s security detail is from a fraction opposed to the dam, and is responsible for the murder of the embassy chef.

We soon learn the reason he had to kill: he smuggled a VX gas bomb through the normal kitchen deliveries, and the chef saw too much. The terrorist then placed the bomb in the panic room so it would only kill the president and Daisuke.

Haru and Co. just so happen to notice when the perp leaps over the wall and attempts to flee. Haru gives chase (his colleagues are not in good enough shape to keep up), but the perp ends up saying his piece and jumping off the roof to his death. Due to wide-scale comms jamming, Haru can’t contact Daisuke or anyone else.

Suzue, who had no doubt been monitoring Daisuke closely, is on her way via motorcycle, but swerves to avoid a cat and must continue on foot. Even more distressing, when Daisuke asks HEUSC for the specs of the bomb so he can defuse it, HEUSC…refuses, stating Daisuke lacks proper authorization to be told that info. Unlimited his balance may be, but not his security clearance.

Daisuke resorts to a last-gasp effort to mitigate the gas release, but Haru ends up opening the door and saving his partner and the president in the absolute nick of time. While the terrorist had disposed of what he thought was the only unusual star-shaped key, Haru learns through Saeki that the embassy janitor made a copy so he could use the room to…ugh…jerk off.

This is how despite doing little other than eating strangely-flavored chips and almost successfully stealing the First Division’s lunch, Saeki ends up being the X-factor in the success of the mission, simply because she noticed the janitor wearing what looked like an uncharacteristically stylish piece of jewelry.

Thus ends another case-of-the-week, with the added bonus of Haru saving Daisuke despite the latter having access to HEUSC. I’m also glad Suzue wasn’t seriously hurt in her accident; I imagine she knows how to ditch any number of vehicles in a survivable manner; she’s exceedingly capable.

I’ve actually quite enjoyed the episodic nature of Millionaire Detective, but between Daisuke’s HEUSC access block, the Kambe-based origins of the bomb that almost killed him, and the fact Daisuke doesn’t intend to take over as the family head, there’s some interesting serial elements in play.

I’m also hoping that the tension between Haru and Hoshino is relieved at some point, if for no other reason than the Haru-vs.-First Division dynamic is growing rather stale. Heck, if Haru and Daisuke were able to achieve détente, anything is possible.

Elfen Lied – 13 (Fin) – A Brief Dream in This Hell

As Kouta wanders home in a daze, his memories returning thanks to the violent sights he’s seen, Kurama fishes Nana out of the water, saving his daughter once again and admonishing her for not moving much, much further away (though his instructions should have been more detailed). Lucy neutralizes Bando (though notably doesn’t kill him), and Shirakawa’s assistant keeps the dormant Mariko safe—and keeps her self-destruct safely in his hand.

Mariko’s powers return and she escapes her captors, and then she and Lucy find each other and have a duel. It’s a testament to Lucy’s experience and toughness in Diclonius combat that she manages to last as long as she does against a far superior opponent. But while she loses a horn and a fair amount of blood, Mariko fails to kill Lucy off…because her dad arrives in time to stop her.

Just as she could tell her “mother” was a fake, Mariko can instantly sense that Kurama is indeed her father, and is shocked when he pulls his gun on her. When she spots Nana with Kurama, and hears her call him Papa, Mariko’s jealousy spills out and she proceeds to beat Nana up with her Vectors.

Then Kurama drops his gun, draws in close, and wraps his real daughter in his warm embrace…for the first time. He carries her off while ordering the assistant to activate the device. This time the child whose life he takes is his own, but he goes out with her, assuring her that both her parents loved her to their last breaths.

The assistant is about to shoot Nana, but his head is blown off…by Lucy. She can’t go back home to Kouta after what she’s done, but Nana is innocent and good and kind, so she asks Nana to do what she can’t and live a good and happy life. Nana obeys.

Back at the facility, Kurakawa reveals he’s a wannabe Diclonius just like his son, while Arakawa quietly hides Kouta’s record, feeling bad for him. We’ll never know if she ever got that bath…

Then we have an extended and emotional goodbye between Lucy and Kouta, who finally realizes that she, Nyu, and the girl he met at the orphanage were all her. Lucy tells him the happiest days were the ones with him as a boy. They were a brief and beautiful dream in the hell that was her life, and she survived this long so she could tell him how sorry she was for what went down.

She turns to leave, but Kouta won’t let her go just yet. In fact, he wants her to stay, even if he can’t forgive her. They kiss and embrace, reenacting the Klimt painting, with Lucy flashing an El Greco hand. We then see Lucy on the bridge, facing a huge military force, and a battle ensues…with an intentionally ambiguous result.

Some time later, the household of Kouta, Yuka, Mayu and Nana is a happy one. Nana’s cooking skills are improving, and they have an extra place setting for Lucy. Then they hear Wanta barking outside, and Kouta goes to see who it is.

The silhouette behind the paper door looks a lot like Lucy in her dress, but before he can open the door to confirm it, the grandfather clock Nyu always messed with, which he could’ve sworn was permanently silent, begins to chime.

And so we say farewell to the brutal, haunting, and poignant Elfen Lied, a story as much about how some can continue to endure, love, and be loved after living through unspeakable suffering—and how some can’t—as it is about scientific arrogance and ambition gone awry. Heck, it’s about a lot more than that, and I’ll be thinking about its hard-hitting symbols and themes for a long time.

Elfen Lied was also a blast from the past in the best possible way. Anime character design and animation has evolved quite a bit in sixteen years, but like the Dicloniï that evolution wasn’t necessarily all for the better. I’ve also rarely seen a series mix body horror and comedy with such effectiveness. What could have been a tonal mess only draws you in deeper and made me care about the characters more. You feel every horrible act of violence and cruelty, just as you feel every pulse of warmth and kindness.

Finally, the series is greatly elevated by music from the duo of Konishi Kayo and Kondou Yukio (who’d go on to score House of Five Leaves and … sigh … Pupa). I don’t think I’ll ever see or hear an theme as hauntingly beautiful and sad as “Lilium”. Mine eyes welled up Every. Damn. Time. They truly don’t make ’em like they used to.

Elfen Lied – 11 – Doing Whatever You Can

This week we meet AKIRA Number 35, AKA Mariko, who beyond the massive steel shutters is merely a frail five-year-old girl. Only one person has ever interacted with her in her lifetime: a researcher named Saitou, who likens Mariko her daughter and is eager to see her for the first time. Shirakawa has no choice but to unleash Mariko in order to deal with Lucy, and Saitou is the only human Mariko will trust and listen to.

Uh…yeah…that doesn’t go so well.

In the very likely chance Saitou was disemboweled, de-spined, and de-kidneyed by Mariko—who after all correctly assessed Saitou was not her mother—Mariko has bombs placed within her body that can be detonated if she refuses to come to heel. I was sure Shirakawa was a goner too, but in a last-gasp gesture, it’s Saitou (or at least the top half of Saitou that clings to life for a minute or so) who presses the button that blows off Mariko’s arm.

It’s good that Spring 2020 has its share of feel-good shows (Arte and Princess Connect among them), otherwise I’m not sure I’d quite be able to endure the unrelenting pitch-black darkness of Elfen Lied. It loves to show us idyllic moments in Kouta’s house as his little family of misfits begins to gel, knowing much if not all of that family could soon end up as expressionist splatter on the fusuma.

Nevertheless, I’ll take the good times while there are still good times to be had. They include Kouta officially welcoming Nana to the household not as a guest, but a member, and leaves her chore training to Mayu. Seeming similar in age (and both haunted by unspeakable trauma) Mayu and Nana continue to develop a friendship closely bordering on sisterhood. Then there’s Nyu.

When Kouta shows Nana a photo of his dead sister Kanae, memories well up in Nyu, and in those moments, Nana senses Lucy. Nyu then chops her hair off to more closely resemble Kanae so she can forgive Kouta for being mean to her just before she died. It’s looking more and more like Lucy killed Kanae and Kouta repressed the memory.

Yuka comes home from the grocery store just as Kouta is embracing Nyu and telling her he “likes her too”, sending a heartbroken Yuka off to sulk. That’s when she discovers the entire area has been cordoned off by police in preparation for Mariko’s arrival on the mainland, now in a wheelchair and escorted by Shirakawa. Kurama, meanwhile, is off on his own, and conscripting Bando to hell him kill Lucy.

Nana can sense Mariko’s arrival, as well as her overwhelming murderous intent. In order to protect Mayu, Kouta, Yuka, and yes even Nyu (whom she hopes stays Nyu forever), she runs off to meet Mariko face-to-face. Unfortunately, Nana is woefully outmatched and uninformed; she isn’t even aware of just how many vectors Mariko has, nor how far they reach.

Mariko proceeds to “have fun” by toying with poor Nana like a cat with a freshly-caught mouse. As far as Shirakawa & Co. are concerned it’s all good…as long as 35 ends Lucy as well. Feel-good this show is not…but it is damned compelling.

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 01 (First Impressions) – Anything’s Obtainable

Two men from completely different backgrounds start out hundreds of miles away, only to end up in the same car at the top of an opened drawbridge. Like a car gradually coasting down an increasingly steep hill, Fugou Keiji builds momentum slowly but surely, using a bustling Tokyo and a ticking time bomb to add to the difficulty level. And yet, nothing is really that difficult for Kanbe Daisuke, because his account balance is, for all intents and purposes, bottomless.

Daisuke has decided if things are going to be so easy for him, he should at least do some public good. Katou Haru, his future partner in the Metro Police’s Modern Crime Department, Second Division, couldn’t be more different than Daisuke. His credo is “money isn’t everything”, and his primary loyalty is to the ideal of justice for all, regardless of their assets. It’s simple, direct contrast that should make for a fun buddy cop dynamic.

Of course, first the show needs to bring these two together, and that’s where Yoko and Hiroshi come in. At first this pair of lovers are separate from the case involving classic cars, a wealthy Arabian prince, and a bomb. But after Hiroshi pooh-poohs a number of Ginza jewelry stores due to their tight security, he and Yoko end up inadvertently sticking up…a fancy chocolatier.

While Daisuke and Haru are essentially ciphers for their opposing philosophies this week, Yoko and Hiroshi are the beating emotional heart of the episode. Yoko’s gun is loaded only with paint rounds, but Hiroshi’s need for cash to appease the syndicate, and her feelings for Hiroshi despite his being a useless dipshit, lead them into a deeper and deeper hole, as they end up stealing the very van containing the bomb as a getaway car.

Daisuke quickly demonstrates how he does things by pulling the prince himself out of the fastest car in the parade—a mint AC Cobra—and paying over three times the prince’s offer on the spot thanks to his Augmented Reality/AI “butler”, HUESC. His character inhabits elements of James Bond, Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, and Richie Rich, and he’s an appropriately arrogant asshole about throwing his monetary weight around. He barely acknowledges the presence of Haru in his car.

Using HUESC to hack the traffic control of a major chunk of Tokyo, Daisuke arranges things so both he and the van they’re pursuing have a clear path to the drawbridge mentioned earlier. When Yoko tries to cross, Daisuke has HUESC open the bridge, trapping her and Hiroshi.

Then, in a move that’s more vigilante than cop, he pushes the van off the edge of the bridge into the drink with the Cobra. At no point does he warn the occupants either of the bomb in the back of the van or his intent to sink said van, implying they’re expendable as long as the bomb is neutralized. Hiroshi bails out, leaving Yoko all alone, and it’s up to Haru to save her.

At the foot of the bridge, a tearful Hiroshi is waiting there for Yoko, expecting her to forgive him for leaving her to die…which she does, as his mewling brings tears to her eyes. She just can’t quit this guy! Such a realistic depiction of a co-dependent relationship that benefits neither party.

Speaking of which, Haru manages to avoid falling with the van, but is just barely hanging onto the edge of the bridge. Does Daisuke lend him a helping hand? Readers, HE DOES NOT. He just stares at Haru like he’s an insignificant bug, until Haru’s grip gives out and he plunges into the drink. With the crisis averted, Daisuke simply saw no reason to muss his no doubt ruinously expensive suit dragging Haru up to safety.

The next day, all of the damages billed to the department have been paid twice over; a magical reset button Haru’s supervisor is all to happy to accept in exchange for Daisuke joining the Second Division. On the rooftop of police HQ, Haru confronts Daisuke, serenely smoking an expensive cigar on the helipad.

He condemns Daisuke’s methods as unbecoming an police officer, and warns him he’s no superhero, no matter how many lives he saved. Daisuke sidesteps lives altogether, and simply asks Haru “How much?” In a clever touch, we get an invoice of all the costs associated with the events of the episode before the credits roll.

Fugou Keiji is slick, stylish fun that pulls you in and takes you on a ride. It’s as inspirational (in terms of what’s possible given unlimited funds) as it is cautionary (showing what kind of person those funds makes you). I can’t wait to see how Daisuke and Haru butt heads in future cases, and what crazy expenditures Daisuke will rack up in the name of Getting Shit Done. This wasn’t initially on my Spring list…but it is now.

No Guns Life – 10 – Tomorrow Never Knows

From the moment he prepares to leave on his job, which turns out to be blowing up a train full of Berühren officials for Spitzbergen, Colt is prepared for this to be his final day. He’s not thinking about tomorrow for himself, only his bedridden mother and his two little sisters.

They’re slowly starving, looking as if they’ve come straight out of Grave of the Fireflies. The life in their eyes is fading, but Colt hopes to give them a future in the form of money, even if he won’t be around to enjoy it with them. It’s a simple yet powerful look into the marginalized lives Berühren grinds under its boots every day to further its own ambitions.

When Tetsuro comes to the arranged place and time, he and Mary soon learn what Colt is about to do. When Mary is almost arrested by a security bot, Tetsuro takes it over, and when they find Colt about to carry out his plan, he initially mistakes the bot as an enemy until realizing it’s Tetsuro.

Regardless, as much as Tetsuro (lawful good in this case) pleads with Colt (chaotic good) not to commit a crime that will hurt people (even lawful evil people), Colt sees this as the only option left to him that will secure a tomorrow for his family. He’s committed to being the means to and end—the end of their suffering—and nothing more.

Colt’s plan is turned on its head when a higher-level Berühren heavy shows up and tells him there are no targets on the train he means to bomb: only innocent protesters and children. Now not only will Colt not get paid, but Spitzbergen will be tagged as mindless terrorists who’ll just kill anyone.

Not about to let that happen, Colt leaps to the car where the bomb is and extracts it, but before he can toss it away, his meds give out and he can no longer move. That’s when Tetsuro ups his Harmony, giving his security bot a second wind, and tosses the bomb away, saving Colt and the innocents.

Colt took quite a bit of damage to both his cybernetic and organic parts, and all Tetsuro can do is use Harmony to help get him home. Alas, he dies of his injuries right outside that home, before he can say goodbye to his family. We also learn it’s doubtful he’ll even be paid, as the Spitzbergen contact is arrested by Juuzou and handed over to the Security Bureau’s Chief Rosso.

I worry for Colt’s mom and kids, especially as they’re only three in a city of thousands in such a hopeless situation. Will Mary, who never found out anything about Victor, bring them into Juuzou’s place? There’s only so much they can do, especially when a new danger in Pepper is waiting for Juuzou as soon as he returns to his office. It’s just one thing after another, and any one of those things could mean no more tomorrows.

Cop Craft – 02 – Fearful Kitten

When gunshots won’t bring down one of the zombified baddies, Tirana ignore’s Kei and kills it with her sword. Kei then impugns Tirana’s honor by insinuating she’s working against the case for profit, Tirana puts her blade to Kei’s neck and warns him never to insult her like that again, and Kei points his pistol at Tirana’s face.

At the Medical Examiner’s office (Cecil, Kei’s ex), they determine that Rick’s murderer and the guy Tirana slashed were both dead before they were killed: place under a wizard’s spell and manipulated like remote control zombies. But it doesn’t take an M.D. or Ph.D. to pick up on the fact that Tirana and Kei’s relationship is having a tough gestation.

Kei drops Tirana off at her hotel, but within minutes she’s tossed for not surrendering her sword (indeed a ridiculous request to make of a knight), and she calls his cell. He considers leaving her to sleep on the ground for the night, but reconsiders and picks her up. The moment her face of dejection turns to joy is a sight to behold.

At Kei’s place we learn why he wears a mask: a cat allergy. But he was the only person at the station who would take the cat in, so he’s keeping it “temporarily.” This leads Tirana to laugh and realize Kei is more of a softie than he lets on, and then thanks her for letting her stay. Appropriately, Kei later checks a translator and learns she was flubbing his name intentionally to the phrase “fearful kitten.”

I liked how those neat mini-mysteries were organically solved this week, as Kei and Tirana put down their defenses and act more like the professional partners they’re supposed to be (Tirana also mentions that despite her childlike appearance she’s 26). The veil is also lifted on the identity of the villains and their plan. A club owner from Semaani named “Mr. Elbaji” meets with a “terrorist” named “Mr. Kareem.”

The former demonstrates a prototype “fairy bomb” that enables his on-staff wizard, Zelada the Sage, to control humans without the time and effort of getting them hooked on fairy dust (like the two zombies Kei and Tirana have encountered). They test it on a couple doomed cops who respond to a call. Once the bomb is perfected it could be used as a superpower-threatening WMD.

After Rick’s suitably morose funeral which Tirana observes from a respectful distance, she and Kei inspect the corpses of the cops, which again suggests they were fairy dust users, but since they’re cops, there’s something else in play here. Tirana suspects gold to be a factor, unaware of just how big the threat is becoming.

Kei believes a digitally-controlled manufacturing device is in use, and some digging reveals that a Mr. Elbaji is in possession of such a device. Obviously from a world where justice is dispensed more quickly and the ideals of chivalry still rule, Tirana wants to go after the guy immediately, but Kei tell her they need to find proof and do paperwork first.

During dinner at a diner, Tirana goes to the bathroom, but leaves her sword behind, something she said was as important as her life (and which got her kicked out of her hotel). By the time Kei realizes she didn’t go to the bathroom, it’s too late; she’s in the wind. Just when the two were getting along, Tirana goes her own way, for her own reasons. When Kei catches up to her, he’s not going to be happy.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 25 (Fin)

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This was an episode full of tying up loose ends, the most important of which being Subaru presenting himself before Emilia a better and more useful man than the last time he saw her. He even gets to be a badass action hero! But as a loose-ends episode, it works very nicely, even if it’s not perfect, and leaves a lot hanging in the air (likely for another season, but not anytime soon).

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The first loose end is Betelgeuse, who very annoyingly won’t go down much of the first act. I was pleased Subaru used the Witch’s curse to expel Betelgeuse from his head so Julius could finish him, especially since we got a good look at the witch Satella herself. She does look a lot like Emilia…if Emilia were all black with a purple outline and glowing eyes!

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I rolled my eyes a little when moments after defeating Betelgeuse, Juli and Subie get a call from Felix about another problem fresh out of the blue: an unaccounted-for sack full of fire stones.

There wasn’t any doubt that sack would be stashed in the wagon Emilia and the village children just happen to be riding in, nor was there the slightest chance, even in an often sadistic show like this, that this latest particular bomb would go off.

When Subie and Otto are acting like a comedy duo in a wagon Otto has nitrous’d with his magic in the last episode, it’s reasonable to assume things will work out.

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The whole rescue attempt felt like an excuse for Subaru to confront Emilia as the one who led the army, something she only just learned about from some snot-nosed kids who don’t know how to keep their damn mouths shut. Betelgeuse’s extended demise further delayed the inevitable reunion, and by the time Betel had become a Ghibli Goop Monster with his head on fire, I had long since had my fill of the manic bastard.

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But the how of how Subaru came to triumphantly reunite with Emilia didn’t mar the fact that this episode took great strides to repair what had been an estranged relationship not just between these two, but between myself, representing the non-manga-reading audience, and Emilia. Takahashi Rie does a great job reintroducing Emilia-tan to us, as she gets to express a good number of powerful emotions during the final ordeal.

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Subaru basically gets to make the perfect series of gestures to reunite with Emilia, swooping in, grabbing the bomb, and running off to get it away, but not before telling Emilia he loves her. After smashing the whales, the giant fallen tree is the gift that keeps giving, as its trunk largely shields Subaru from the blast he’s still pretty close to when the stones detonate.

It is here when Emilia, still processing everything Subaru has done for her these last few days/weeks, completely unbidden, springs into action, rushing into the danger, desperate to find Subaru alive and alright. And perhaps because the show is finally done torturing us, he is!

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From there, there’s no long, sprawling epilogue, showing what becomes of who. Just a simple scene of Subaru lying on Emilia’s lap, the two of them overjoyed to be together again.

The way Subaru describes it, Emilia is made happy for the first time by the prospect of “special treatment.” This can’t quite match the Rem Confession episode in emotional power, but it comes darned close with much less time to work with.

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I also appreciated that Emilia doesn’t have an instant reply to Subaru’s confession. It’s all well and good to say “I love you too”, but loving and being loved are so new to her it’s going to take time. Time Subaru assures her she has.

Subaru doesn’t wake up back in front of that convenience store, but merely admires Emilia’s tearful, radiant smile, as the episode fades to white and we’re treated to an extended mix of the original ED.

All in all, an imperfect but still solid and satisfying, and entertaining finale. If a second season comes along one day (April 2020!—Ed.), I’ll surely be tuning in. If not, it was a fun ride. Often stressful, enraging, and heartbreaking…but also fun.

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91 Days – 08

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91 Days’ eighth episode continues the brisk pre-recap pace of the seventh, with sufficient bodies dropping to make a final showdown in three to four weeks’ time seem…not all that far away. Whatever peace Nero got from killing his brother, it doesn’t last due to three men: Delphy, the new, incorruptible sheriff in town; Fango, who thinks it’s time to wipe out the Vanettis…and Corteo.

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Coreto is sick of hanging around the mafia. He wants “Avilio” to get on with it already. But Avilio is playing such a long game, he has no qualms about following Nero’s orders to kill Delphy—or his wife and young daughter—to eliminate the threat.

It’s a cursed loyalty; Avilio does these things because he won’t let Delphy or Fango have his prey. He’s going to keep Nero standing until he’s good and ready to bring him down himself. But it’s an approach that’s isolated him from his friend, who is tired of being a doormat.

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91 Days decides not to go down the very dark road of offing Delphy’s family, but it sure do manage to make me believe it was going to, right up until we see the empty seat in the flaming car.

Delphy’s wife and daughter didn’t have to die for him to halt the investigation; he only needed to experience a scant moment of fear that they were dead. In this, Avilio demonstrates he’s not totally lost.

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As for Corteo, he somehow gets mixed up with Fango, perhaps out of a need to rebel against a situation and a lifestyle that had grown intolerable. He must be desperate to the edge of reason, however, to think he’d have a more tolerable experience hanging out with Fango than the Vanettis.

When Fango tries to take out Nero, it doesn’t take long for Avilio to suspect him, but he doesn’t immediately take action, despite Corteo all but presenting himself as the latest obstacle to Avilio’s ultimate revenge: another party who could potentially steal Nero away from him (by prematurely getting him killed).

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When Corteo is escorted to a room in Fango’s fortress—too his almost certain death—Fango toys with him the way a cat plays with a mouse. Then Corteo bears his fangs in a blaze of violence, beating Fango to death because he threatened to tell Nero about his betrayal.

Corteo may have been trying to simply end the ordeal with Nero’s untimely death, so that he and Avilio could move on with their lives. Instead, the opposite occured: Avilio dug in his heels, and Corteo came to discover that once his friend dragged him into this, there was never any possibility of getting out. Avilio’s vendetta is a black hole; no light escapes.

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