Durarara!! x2 Shou – 04

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You Do NOT Pick on Mikado…and you do NOT take a Kodata punch.

For three weeks, we’ve watched intently and patiently as Durarara!! built another painstakingly insane Rube Goldberg machine with a combination of familiar and new faces. This week, the machine is complete, and all that’s left is to switch it on and hope it works. Well, it not only held together, but blew me away. Even more amazing? For our friends, this was a day off.

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Let’s merge these chases!

Rather than a changing of the guard, this culmination was an initiation for the communities newbies.  The existing team isn’t going anywhere, necessarily, so the new guys will be augmenting and adding complexity…which is in ample supply this week.

The van quartet, fresh from rescuing the twins, also show up in time to rescue Mikado, Anri, and Aoba, and all of a sudden the van’s at capacity with the zebras on their back. In a brilliant piece of synergy, their chase merges with Celty’s, and the only way to get the kids safe is to hold the stampede off.

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“Time to do my thing.”

Celty finds an underpass and does just that, using her Dullahan skills to form a barrier. But even if the force against her is mostly numbskulls, there are hundreds of them, and she’s not about to kill anyone today.

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“Your assistance is appreciated.”

When her web starts getting holes, the man in her package pops out to help, looking a lot like a lanky Freddy Krueger. They’re also assisted by a headless suit of armor, which we see at the beginning is in Ruri’s workshop. This episode is called “Do as the Romans Do”, and Ruri and “Freddy” are in Rome, so they dive right in to help Celty.

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You tore my shirt and dropped by 500-yen coffee. Prepare to DIE.

The Zebra gang is soundly beaten, but because they know their boss won’t tolerate them crawling home with their tails between their legs, they try to find a tough rival gang to dice with. Bad move. Those unwelcome in Rome who pick fights meet a sticky end…and I’m not just talking about Shizuo’s spilled Starbucks.

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“Why don’t you smile?” “I AM smiling.”

Meanwhile, Kasuka makes what is the beginning of a beautiful personal relationship with Ruri a professional one as well, getting her signed to his agency after the CEO of hers has turned up missing. Ruri remarks how there’s so much she hasn’t told Kasuka about her, like what the missing CEO did to her, how she became Hollywood, and plenty else besides.

Kasuka doesn’t want to hear it; but not because he’s being insensitive. He’s afraid if she’s allowed to say everything she wants, she’ll think she’s free to die, and he doesn’t want her to die. Not only that, when she threatened to kill him, he got flustered and excited; he felt emotion. He’s not going to let someone who can affect him in that way go easily. But Ruri has found kinship in Celty and Egor and tasted life in Rome, so perhaps Kasuka is worrying too much.

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“I love it when a plan comes together!”

Speaking of Doing as the Romans Do, the Izaya twins decide to craft a scheme that would make their big brother Orihara proud…if they happened to care about his opinion, that is. That scheme starts with finding Celty’s ¥1 million, and ends with Celty getting all ¥1 million back…though in a way that the twins get a first-hand look not only at Celty, but all the other crazy shit going down in this town. In other words, an adventure far more exciting and fun than a boring sightseeing tour.

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The million comes back to Celty two ways: paying Shinra ¥200K for patching up Egor, then via the Sushi Head Chef (repaying the twins for fronting the Shinra cash) by hiring Celty to transport Egor in a bag for ¥800K. It gets Celty out in the open, and the twins a front-row seat. It also caused a lot of collateral damage, but most of that affected the biker gangs and bounty hunters, who were asking for it making such a stink in Ikebukuro anyway.

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While that busy day may have initiated, the twins and Egor to the Way Things Work in Rome, while adding their own mayhem to the formula, they still retire to their own apartment for a quiet celebratory meal. They’re not Dollars, after all; not yet, anyway.

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Back in possesion of her ¥1 million, Celty decides to learn how to cook, in order to be a better girlfriend to Shinra. In her choice of women, she demonstrates how your first (Anri) or second (Erika) contact may not have what you’re looking for (and let’s face it, those two just aren’t cooks, through and through) one or both of them are sur eto know someone who does, i.e. Mika, who is a top-notch cook.

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And in the process of searching for one, Celty turned the one-on-one lesson into a cooking class, which results in Shinra’s suggestion for a big Dollars hot pot party. While voicing her worry that continuing dangerous jobs will put Shinra and her other friends in danger, Shinra’s response is perfect:

“We’re family, so a little trouble doesn’t faze me…And if I can scale that wall with you, no predicament on earth can ever feel like trouble to me…See, I was able to overcome the greatest wall of all, getting you to love me, right?”

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We’ll see if that testimony holds up, because as Izaya remarks to Namie as the two observe the post-party-they-weren’t-invited-to chatter online, this was everyone’s day off. Soon, vacation will be over. Not only that, there’s another newcomer to Rome—Aoba—firing up a new gang to rival the Dollars and stir up his own trouble, but first aiming to get rid of Orihara.

Be it Aoba, Egor, Ruri and Kusaka, or the Izaya twins, haven’t quite experienced this place when the sparks are really firing. This episode’s dark closing ellipsis may foretell a time in the near future when the twins’ scheme, as fantastic and entertaining a machine as it was, will be seen as a harmless toy by comparison.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 03

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Drrr!!x2 continues its free-wheeling pulp-fiction-style non-linear storytelling. This week we get more pieces of the puzzle started in the first two, and the image we start to see is that while Ikebukuro is full of misfits of one sort or another, there is a class of misfit above the rest with supernatural powers that finds it particularly hard to exist in the normal world. But while that world isn’t easy, it isn’t unforgiving.

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The “Zombie” Shizuo duels (and defeats) is Hollywood, the serial killer who has been tearing people apart. Shizuo’s brother Kasuka learns that Hollywood is really idol, actress, and master makeup artist Hijiribe Ruri. He takes her to his place and has Shinra come by to patch her up, and they learn she has healing powers on par with Shizuo and Celty. In other words, another ‘S-class misfit’.

Kasuka may not have super-strength, but he’s on their same level; he wields a tremendous amount of power, but through his charisma, not his muscles. Ruri wields through both, but at different ends of her personality. He can relate to Ruri’s feeling like she’s on the wrong planet. And as much as growing up with Mitsuo stunted Kasuka’s ability to express his emotions, he still has them, and gathers insight from his acting roles to make sense of them.

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In this regard, he saved Ruri despite knowing what she is, because she was a damsel in distress, and anyone who’d ignore or forsake her isn’t a man. This is obviously quite hubristic, as Ruri could have easily killed him at any time, but Kasuka put her life before his own. Her alias may be Hollywood, but he’s the one following the classic script of the dashing knight in shining armor, albeit an expressionless one.

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Kasuka arranges to have Celty deliver Ruri back to her place safe and sound. I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose Celty specifically so Ruri can see how another S-Class misfit survives and thrives in the modern, mundane world where absolutes aren’t allowed and nothing is sacred. Celty’s kindness inspires Ruri to rethink her plight in life. Yes, she’s a monster, but that’s nothing to apologize for, as it’s nothing she can change, and monsters can enjoy life too.

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That’s just Kasuka and Ruri’s part in this episode. We get a better idea of the timeline of events because Shinra is involved in many of them (he had a long and busy night!). He’s ripped away from Ruri to fix up the guy the twins found and brought to Russia Sushi, chats about Ruri with his dad, who wanted her as a test subject, and is swarmed on the way home by tabloid reporters who saw him exit Kasuka’s house.

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The next morning, Saburou and Mairu are beside themselves at the news their respective true loves ended up with each other instead of them. There’s no solace for Saburou save Kyouhei’s insistence he’s more wholesome than the bickering, twisted Erika and Walker, but Kururi calms Mairu down with a long kiss.

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Their PDA gets the attention of a particularly ridiculous-looking gang of thugs who surround them menacingly, but Kyouhei & Co. pass by just in time to shoo them off, and the twins show they can handle themselves against small fry if they have to. Ikebukuro may be crawling with potential trouble, but there’s also a potential ally around every corner. Forget six degrees of separation; most of the cast are only one or two away.

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While not quite on the same existential level as our S-Classes, Mairu and Kururi are still misfits in this city, with ideas and attitudes that may clash with the conventions of the world they live in. But like Celty staying one step ahead of the bounty hunters, Mitsuo punishing petty thieves, or Kasuka and Ruri staying one step ahead of the tabloids, if the world doesn’t have a place for you, you make one.

I wonder what kind of misfit Aoba is. Another student and manipulator of humanity, and Izaya’s successor? Or something else? Let the tour of Ikebukuro begin.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 09

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Proving that slipping back into knighthood is like riding a bike, Kaisar gets the command of a search party to find Fava and Amira, and finds them almost immediately in the middle of a very cool forest that wouldn’t be out of place in Nausicaa or Mononoke Hime. Their own arrival there is punctuated by Amira reiterating that she can’t fly with just one wing, which is a pretty good running joke.

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Lavalley sent Kaisar because he wants to stay in the city, because some sketchy shit is going down, not least of which Jeanne has been framed for attempting to assassinated the king, who as we know isn’t the most confident fellow right now. Such is the extent of his paranoia, none of Jeanne’s very reasonable arguments sway him in the least.

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While imprisoned, a creepy red-eyed fellow pays Jeanne a visit and offers her something very suspicious to drink in order to “learn the truth about her gods”.  The guardian angel Michael is nowhere to be found, but Jeanne is staying true to her faith for now. She’s followed her faith and her fate this far; now’s not the time to be faltering or tasting weird drinks.

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Not long after Kaisar and Favaro pseudo-duel, the two of them plus Demon-Amira are suddenly transported to another dimension within the woods, where Kaisar and Amira worry at a large fang-like protrusion stuck in the very odd-looking ground. When they fail, they wordlessly look to Favaro to give it a go, and he yanks it out as easily as a dandelion, to his and everyone’s shock. And that’s not the only shock…

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That odd-looking green ‘ground’ is really the flesh of a massive and ancient dragon, who is glad to be rid of the barb, put there by Bahamut 2,000 years ago. I realize having a big ancient animal throw exposition at the heroes is a common trope in this genre, but this dragon is pretty frikkin’ awesome-looking and sounding, so I don’t mind. I also like how Amira initially calls him “geezer”, but Favaro tells her to call him “mister” instead.

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Of course, once the dragon says his piece — about how Bahamut’s reawakening and thus everyone’s destruction is inevitable, and only by staying here can Amira maybe stave it all off, meaning she’ll never see her mother — Fava himself uses “geezer” in rejecting the dragon’s talk of fate.

The dragon, perhaps impressed by the puny human’s audacity, wishes them well on their quest to change their fate. In any case, he can’t stop them. But he does pull Fava aside for a quick word before the trio departs.

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Back in Antae, the King has decreed that Jeanne is to be burned at the stake as a witch, which is bogus as hell. Lavalley’s entreats for clemency fall on deaf and possibly drunk royal ears. The fact that Rita is still free in the city gives us some hope Jeanne can escape this particular predicament, but Rita snoops around and is caught in the larder of the same sketchy red-eyed guy who probably put the king up to all this in the first place.

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Using the Bahamut barb, the trio warps to Prudisia earlier than I expected, though I welcome the quick transition. Something tells me a place called “The Valley of Demons” isn’t going to be a cakewalk, but Amira wants her mommy, so they’ll continue on.

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Oh yeah, about that word Puff wanted with Favaro…he tells him if he really wants to change fate — i.e. stop Bahamut from destroying the world, the only thing he can do, according to the dragon, is to kill Amira, thus destroying the key and preventing it and the seal from manifesting.

That’s a tough pill to swallow, and yet again puts Favaro on the darker side of gray, as well as giving him a much larger role to play in the affairs of the world, just as Jeanne suggested could very well come to pass.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 08

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The battle of Antae is won, and King Charioce offers Jeanne her own lands as a reward, perhaps to get her out of the limelight. Naturally, she refuses, and the king doesn’t take the refusal well. He started out as a somewhat bumbling and generally harmless monarch, but it was only a matter of time before her power and his butted up. Ironically, Jeanne couldn’t care less about the power the king is desperate to maintain. She just wants to do her duty.

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Meanwhile, staring at the Bahamut statue brings all kinds of memories to the surface for Amira, including when a demon lord told her she was special and directed her to Helheim, where “her wish will certainly be fulfilled.” For Amira, that means finding her mother.

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As for her father, Amira deduces that it’s none other than Sir Lavalley of the Orleans Knights, Jeanne’s lieutenant. While Jeanne turns down land, Kaisar takes the king’s offer of knighthood graciously, while Favaro pretty much just goes alone with it, because hell, if nothing else he gets his nice knife back! The ceremony is crashed by the angel Michael, who’s there to bestow a new, even more bad-ass sword.

The king has his arms outstretched, but it lands in Jeanne’s hands. Doesn’t Michael know it’s not a good idea to make this king look weak? He doesn’t. Must be the disconnect between human psychology and the angels’ logic-based reasoning.

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While we’re on the subject of parents, the King looks at a portrait of his dearly departed mother, who then appears in ghost form to warn him that someone is preparing to betray him; Jeanne, specifically. That’s total horseshit, but the king swallows it because he’s a petty, paranoid fellow.

This may also be the handiwork of the demons, but it would be fine if it wasn’t, too, because for the king to be such a volatile wild card at this stage certainly makes things interesting.

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Favaro shows Amira (who calls him “Fava”) Lavalley’s quarters, and there we learn that while he’s not her father, he was a bodyguard for her mother, Nicole, who was an angel exiled from heaven. On a particularly nasty demon attack, the demon lord Beelzebub snatched baby Amira away. That demon sped Amira’s growth, which explains why she Amira acts so childish despite being grown-up in appearance.

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Before relieving him to go look for her daughter, Nicole gave Lavalley a pendant identical to the one Amira carries. When put together, they bring up a map of her present location: Prudisia, the Valley of Demons. Amira wastes no time sneaking out of the city, and while Fava bristles at the idea of going with her and simply wants his tail gone (as useful as it was last week), she beckons for him to join her and meet her mother, and he tags along.

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Of course, this means that they’re leaving Antae, which is where the angels wanted Amira to stay put under the protection of the king. Of course, the king is too busy with betrayals, trysts, murders and conspiracies, which allows Amira slip through his fingers, bound to the absolute last place the Angels want her to go: demon territory.

Then again, considering all the weird crap going on in Antae and with the king, maybe getting away is the safest move after all, at least for now.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 07

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Bahamut bursts out of its recap week gate full speed ahead with a very well-orchestrated and balanced episode, as Azazel leads a large demon host to the walls of Antae to re-capture the God Key, AKA Amira.

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The episode is clever in that on one side of the castle walls, Jeanne d’Arc leads the defense of the city in a big, loud, shiny, yelly battle, in which she successfully uses her trusty Maltet to dispatch Pazuzu. But this battle isn’t the whole episode. In fact, the battle is just a distraction so Azazel can sneak in.

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Inside the castle walls, the episode hasn’t forgotten about our quartet of heroes and heroines, but while there’s certainly plenty of dread – especially when Azazel arrives, there’s the feeling the larger battle is far away. It’s a lot more claustrophobic, but also a lot livlier thanks to the banter between Favaro and Kaisar.

After meeting with that shadowy guy, Amira just wants to eat eat eat, and if she didn’t pass out from the wine, she herself would be one more obstacles to keeping her alive and free from the fallen angel’s clutches.

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The episode doesn’t pretend this is an even fight, either: Azazel looks down on Favaro, Kaisar, and Rita like they’re insignificant ants to be swiped away before claiming his prize. They can’t hope to beat him, but they can take turns delaying him. First Favaro stays behind so the others can escape, in a display that clearly shows some of what Jeanne said to him about being more than just an ex-bounty hunter stuck. Heck, he even puts his demon tail into it!

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Once Rita has Amira safely away from the fight, Kaisar returns, not about to allow someone else to kill “his father’s killer.” Again Fav and Kai show how well they work together and stab Azazel through the heart. But, of course, Azazel doesn’t have a heart, and human weapons can’t kill him. He still plays dead for a moment just to mess with them. This, and his response after Favaro accused him of cheating, are both great moments for the evil yet irreverant bastard: “Well, I am a demon.” You are indeed.

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The guys are in a bad way, but Kaisar happens to turn his sword in such a way that he notices a faint glimmer of light down in the city streets. He then makes a seemingly suicidal rush at Azazel, but in the knick of time, a great light appears behind him. It’s not the rising sun, but Jeanne with Maltet, who spotted Azazel and needed those few moments Kaisar gave her to execute her attack and send Azazel packing.

I’m not sure exactly how the physics of Kaisar’s stunt worked, but nor do I care; it was a sweet setpiece that also united the battle that had been going on inside the castle with the one happening outside. Rita, unfortunately got the short end of the stick, but she definitely contributed.

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With the demon army repelled and the day won, all that’s left is to stuff Amira back in her room to keep her safe. Alas, it only takes a moment (after she glimpses her ‘father’) for Amira to wander away from Rita and into the square where the giant Bahamut statue stands. There, the terrifying power of Bahamut and the past destruction it’s caused flashes through her bandaged head. We witnessed a lovely battle, but it was only a battle. There are plenty more foes to fight before the war is won.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 06

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And so, aboard a zombie dragon, our variably gallant anti-heroes narrowly escape the clutches of both Azazel and the Jeanne d’Arc-led Orleans Knights–oh wait, scratch that. They’re free for just a few hours before they’re eventually taken prisoner by the latter. But our pals thrive in constant peril, so I wasn’t concerned.

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Azazel, meanwhile, is going to have to try to live (or unlive?) down the humiliaiton of letting Amira and the humans slip through his fingers. Heck, Lucifer won’t even see the man, and both Cerberus and another co-worker are quick to lay into the convert. I for one am glad Azazel’s failure isn’t simply shrugged off. He has to redeem himself, which means going after that God Key.

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Favaro, Kaisar, Amira and Rita are brought before the king in the royal capital of Antae, but their al fresco trial is crashed by not one or two but three angels – Raphael, Michael, and Uriel, who direct the king to place Amira under heavy guard and spare the lives of her companions.

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I love everything about this scene. The angels beaming onto the scene, as if on some medieval teleconference, reducing the impressive-looking King to a mere errand boy. His Majesty assumed the angels would want the captives executed at once, but the angels show everyone a feed of angels struggling to keep Bahamut contained. Amira is one of the keys to Bahamut, and they fear the emotional damage of having her friends executed could make an element that is presently stable unstable.

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Then, after shaking the king’s hand, Favaro immediately proceeds to upset Amira immensely, telling her he’s done risking his neck for her, wants his demon tail gone and to be left alone. It cuts Amira to the quick, and I must say, it’s not Favaro’s best moment, but this is who he is: almost always lookin’ out for Number One.

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Favaro and Amira don’t part on good terms when the former checks out what the demon alert warns of: a group of colossal ghouls headed towards the city. He then watches as Jeanne rides out with her heavenly spear and turns the ghouls into mincemeat with an awesome display of pyrotechnics. It’s a neat reminder of just how serious the demon threat is, and how vital Jeanne’s skills are. One even has to wonder how the city survived in her absence.

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Back in heaven (I guess?) the lady angels direct blame at Bowie-esque Michael for allowing Amira to escape with the key in the first place, causing this tenuous situation. Michael, for his part, did manage to cut one of her wings off, but the fact of the matter is, Amira is able to transform between angel and demon.

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After a night of epicurian delights, a very drunk Favaro settles in for the night against a cold stone wall, but is confronted by an uncertain Kaisar. No doubt Favaro is at the stage in his evening where the booze has stopped flowing and the boobs have stopped bouncing and he can’t help but look back upon how he treated Amira and feel a little regret, and so tells Kaisar to make with the dinner knife he swiped from the dining hall and have at him. He is a nefarious, lying, backstabbing villain, after all. Favaro, naturally, is armed with a fork, which can double as an afro pick if the need arises.

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This dinnerware duel, another novel invention of an gloriously inventive show, is broken up by Rita, who manages to smack both of them in the face with her arm-cannon to announce that Amira has flown the coop. They split up to look for her.

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The mysterious cloaked man who breaks Amira out claims to be able to fulfill her wish: to know who she is and what she was meant to do. He has a gem that glows like hers, and she even entertains the possibility this is her father, though that could just be because Favaro said she had to have a father because everyone has a father. Even though she’s surely quite angry with Favaro, his influence is felt.

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The episode could’ve ended right there, but it wasn’t done yet. We get one of the more intriguing conversations of the show, one between Favaro, who has stumbled upon a stone statue of Bahamut, and an off-duty Jeanne in street clothes. Jeanne tells Favaro the tale of Bahamut, who was sealed when Zeus and Satan sacrificed themselves, and the prophesied hero who would protect the world when Bahamut returned. Jeanne’s people believe she’s that hero, and she, once a simple farm girl, has come to as well.

Because of her own humble beginnings, she questions Favaro’s notion that he doesn’t have anything to do with this mess of angels, demons, and prophesies. I question it too: If booze, girls, and freedom were all he really needed, he wouldn’t be standing in that courtyard talking to Jeanne-freakin’-d’Arc. He met her, and Amira, and reunited with his old frenemy Kaisar for a reason. There’s a greater role than the one he’s settled for so far. He need only step upon the stage.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 05

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Bahamut delivers yet another exceedingly exciting, breathlessly swift-moving episode where no one is standing still long. Favaro teams up with Rita to infiltrate the enemy castle, then convinces Kaisar to put aside his vengence for the moment so they can rescue Amira. The plot is pretty straightforward, which works in its favor, because what makes the episode truly special (and immensely fun) is the execution and details of that plot, along with its ability to utilize — and reward us for — our emotional investment in the characters.

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Last week Azazel snatched up Amira and Kaisar with the tentacles from his boss flying bio-castle, Gregor, and is enjoying a fine repast as Amira is tortured by Pazuzu. I loved the almost office-like atmosphere of the villans’ lair. Kaisar also has to watch, and when he brings up Favaro as the demon who tricked Amira into stealing the God Key, they all heartily guffaw. It’s great how as clearly evil as these guys are, Favaro is even worse than all of them in Kaisar’s mind.

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But, of course, that’s far too harsh, and being far too narrow-minded about who is responsible for who’s downfall and death. But harsh and quick-to-judgment is Kaisar’s M.O. in dealings with Favaro. Meanwhile, Favaro is able to convince Bacchus to lend him his flying carriage, but only if he pays the “fare”, which Bacchus leaves up to him. Favaro chooses to sacrifice his bounty hunter armband — practically his livelihood, up to this point — making him just another outlaw. That’s dedication, especially for a demon-girl who gave you a tail and your childhood friend who wants to kill you.

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Rita and Favaro prove just as irresistable a duo as Kaisar…moreso, even. Unlike the upstanding-to-the-point-of-back-spasms Kaisar, Favaro and Rita remain stubbornly morally ambiguous (although one could argue that Kaisar’s vendetta and bloodlust are hardly morally pure virtues, even if he thinks he’s righteous). For half a ‘mo, Favaro considered the advantages of having Amira and Kaisar out of his hair, but sees that Rita is willing to spring into action, so he follows her lead.

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On more than one occasion, Rita wonders out loud why Favaro is going so far, as if to validate the fact she’s doing the same thing for Kaisar. And so they egg each other on to be the brave, and valiant heroes. And they proceed to kick some Gregor dungeon grunt ass on their way to where Amira is being held.

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Kaisar, who is also there, was told all about what Amira is and what she did, but he ends up being used as a pawn by his captors, who egg him on into taking care of their intruder problem for them. And after all that traveling, Favaro is a half-step behind the rested and super-pissed Kaisar, who’s still convinced Favaro is guilty of putting Amira in danger too. Again, this is a perfectly reasonable position for someone with his level of loathing towards Favaro.

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Rita ends up breaking up the fight by launching her separated arm at his face and calling him a “brat”; which is a pretty awesome way to break up a fight!

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Having had some sense knocked into him, Kaisar agrees to table his quarrel with Favaro until Amira is safe and they’re all off Gregor — but only after Favaro makes a gesture that limits his options in a future he’s classically never planned for: he tells Kaisar when the time comes to face him, he won’t run.

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As all that’s going on aboard Gregor, we get a little surprise: Jeanne d’Arc! Here I thought we had been watching flashbacks of yore, but she’s actually been in the same present as Favaro & Co. all along. In a gloriously staged deus ex machina, she arrives just when the Gregor is about to pass through the gate to the Demon capital of Cochytus. In a particularly bad-ass tactic, her Orleans Knights close the gate while Gregor is only partially in, thus slicing that portion off and crippling it.

We get a good helping of how Orleans fight: with arrows and catapults and spears, all thrown and launched through magic circles that intensify their offensive effect. This time, the battle was in broad daylight, and thus easier to see!

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Favaro and Kaisar work together to take out Pazuzu and use the handy chains and pulleys to lift themselves to safety. Azazel attempts to re-take Amira into custody, but is slapped back and forced to retreat when some form of demon guardian shields her.

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All’s well that ends well, with Favaro, Kaisar, Amira, and Rita flying off into the sunset aboard a zombified dragon, presumably to continue their odyssey to Helheim. But a lot of uncertainty lies on that horizon. Azazel & Co. will be back on their tail before long, as will the Orleans Knights. Favaro has cast aside his career and agreed to face of with Kaisar, and still has a tail. Rita could zombify or eat the others at any time! (though that’s unlikely). And the angels are having a heckuva time keeping an awakening Bahamut at bay, which is an existential threat to the entire world.

But so soon after surviving the day by the skin of their teeth, I’m sure the crew isn’t particularly concerned about what may come tomorrow. Instead, they’re probably content to enjoy that sunset and that smooth ride of that Zombie Dragon, which I’m sure is the name of a band.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 04

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I will never tire of Amira’s many expressions

Put simply, Shingeki no Bahamut simply kicks ass at telling rousing, impeccably-orchestrated stories of adventure. Last week featured a town of illusion and undead ruled by a powerful, devious, but ultimately bored necromancer. Rita ended up following Kaisar looking for a change of pace and a little excitement…and her decision paid almost immediate dividends.

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“D’you even know how to USE that?”

Entitled “Reunion at Ysmenport”, we’re immediately treated to a beautifully-rendered, well-worn and lived-in city; I could almost smell the fish…and other things such cities have. As street swindler ends up giving both Favaro and Kaisar information how where to get where they want to go. Favaro needs to get to Helheim (and can only keep up the lie about knowing how to get there for so long. Kaisar simply wants to get to Favaro.

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Mmmm…you gotta love crab.

What ensues is perhaps the most complete and exciting episode of the series so far, a journey on the high seas with giant sea monsters of varying tastiness, demon sailors, zombie sailors, demon sailors fighting zombie sailors, demon girls fighting sea monsters, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a lot going on!

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Taking an undead necromancer hostage: Not a good idea

But it’s not just action: after three episodes of Kaisar chasing Favaro across the ends of the earth, we finally learn why: Favaro’s dad was the one who attacked the convoy carrying the king’s tribute, which was overseen by Kaisar’s father. Kaisar and Favaro were childhood friends despite being from different classes, but Kaisar saw what happened as a betrayal, and his desire for revenge has driven him on a continuing quest to nail Favaro to the wall.

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Ruff! Ruff!

Oh, and also…the demons in demonworld finally stop commenting on what’s transpiring in the regular world and spring into action! I’m not the biggest fan of the dog-demon-girl with her puppets Cerberus (!), but at least these guys are consistent. Every time Amira transforms, they’re able to locate her.

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All that work, and it tastes like crap.

Amira does so when that giant crab emerges from the deep and threatens the ship…and Favaro. While there was probably no way Favaro could have dealt with the beast himself, it was still a risky move that ends up giving Favaro’s dad’s old friend and fellow “honorable thief”, Captain Amon, an opportunity to reveal himself as having “gone into business for himself”, just like Favaro. The jewels he and Favaro’s dad stole were filled with magic that brought forth killer demons, and only Amon survived, but he did so by becoming a demon himself…a bounty-hunter demon! And right now, Amira’s price is so high, Amon is fine simply killing Favaro rather than turn him in.

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So boss.

Meanwhile, Kaisar and Rita have not been standing still. They secured passage on another ship, which turns out to be pirates who aim to rob Kaisar and sell the girl. What’s so great is that so many people would find this a relatively alarming situation, but Kaisar knows what he’s doing and easily dispatches several pirates with his superior swordsmanship.

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Also, Rita isn’t really a “girl” anymore; not entirely. What she is is someone who you most definitely want on your side. The pirates numbers are meaningless; she kills them all then reanimates them as a freaking Zombie Pirate Crew under her command. It just keeps getting better!

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She rams her newly-acquired (and much larger) ship into Amon’s and that’s when the previously-mentioned battle between amphibious demon sailors and zombie pirate sailors commences, with Favaro, Amira, Amon, and eventually Kaisar literally above the fray in the rigging. Up here we get some Pirates of the Caribbean-style tightrope combat for good measure.

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Frankly, I really liked Amon as a friend of Favaro’s and as a link to his past, but not all baddies can become allies like Rita. Speaking of baddies, after Amon is vanquished, the head demon dude Azazel sends a giant tentacle to pluck up Amira, inadvertently bringing Kaisar along for the ride, too. He stops Cerberus from killing him instantly, but whatever he has in store for the bonus human can’t be good.

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I…I didn’t see that coming! Who am I kidding, I hardly saw anything coming this week, and that’s why it was so fantastic. I was almost always on the edge of my seat. Now we have quite a predicament on our hands: both Favaro and Rita’s traveling companions have been taken prisoner by powerful but unknown foes. Will these two team up to get their respective partners back? I’m guessing Favaro still wants to get rid of his tail, and Rita wants to turn more things undead, sooo…yeah.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 03

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That’s the look of a person you can TRUST.

The town of Nebelville is cloaked in foreboding fog, which causes Kaisar to pass out while searching for Favaro, who now has a bounty out on him. But when Kaisar went into that fog, he already had a fog around him: a fog of singlemindedness bordering on obsession, that occludes his ability to see he’s stumbling into a very carefully-laid TRAP.

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The funny thing is, he’s so successful in tracking Favaro down, he arrives at Favaro’s next destination before he even gets there. Lucky for him Favaro’s mind isn’t as fogged up with vendetta and loathing for his nemesis. Favaro wants to get rid of his damn tail. That means escorting Amira to Helheim (which is still way way way far away, Missy), which means he needs coin, which means he has to do what he does best: bounty-hunt.

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After climbing a cliff to snatch up herbs to make an antidote before facing his quarry, he realizes he could have used Amira to simply fly up to them. Amira corrects, him, saying she cannot fly (though she can clearly jump really high) after losing a wing in “The Incident.”

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That “incident” she speaks of is the time she, as a demon, broke into the realm of the gods — where demons aren’t supposed to be able to tread” — and stole the God Key, which is to say, absorbed it into her soul. So yeah, she’s down a wing, but she’s also totally the God Key, which explains why we’re taken to the realm of both angels and demons as they discuss how to neutralize/exploit this development. Bahamut is waking up, after all. That’s not good…right? It’s probably not good for a simple bounty hunter like Favaro.

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Meanwhile, both Kaisar and I are totally taken in by the Fog of Nebelville, seeing it how he sees it when he wakes up: a quaint but cozy town whose doctor’s daughter Rita rescued him, set his broken arm, and fed him, before her father asks him to help them out with a troll-like demon problem. Kaisar, the valiant knight, would be happy to assist in any way he can. All of this seems to piss Rita off.

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Look at that place. This show has some sweet-ass settings, I’ll give it that.

Kaisar sees a bit of himself in Rita’s disdain for her family, inspiring him to regale her with pretty much his life story: family of knights; hard upbringing; resented folks and rebelled against them. But then, when a King’s Tribute was stolen under his father’s watch, his dad was hanged and the entire House of Lidfort ruined and torn asunder. It’s a sad tale well-told with energy and drama by Kaisar, but Rita is unmoved, sick of “playing house.”

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The next morning (if you can call it that; so damn foggy!), the first of a multitude of dominoes the episode had artfully set up is nudged over, and everything comes together. As soon as the one of the trolls Kaisar faces starts talking with a somewhat Favaro-y speech pattern, I knew the fog was having some kind of hallucinatory effect on Kaisar. In reality, everyone in Nebelville is dead and rotting.

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And who’s behind it…Rita! Rita, who also happens to be the target Favaro was preparing for all along. He and Amira come in with handkerchiefs soaked in the herb potion he made, protecting them from the fog’s effects. Whether she aimed to use Kaisar as a pawn to defend her, or was just bored with two hundred years of necromancing, the jig is suddenly up for Little Miss Rita.

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She sics her town’s worth of zombies, but again, as they’re both highly capable fighters, Favaro and Amira have no trouble shaking them off. I love how while hunting a bounty, Favaro ends up saving the life of the bounty hunter hunting for him. When Rita’s own father bites her, and she collapses to the ground, I’ll admit, I felt bad. That’s right when I learn Favaro isn’t even after her, just her book, a “black bible.” In another example of how Favaro, like the Honey Badger, don’t give a shit, he leaves Kaisar bent over Rita’s bloody, soon to be zombified corpse, with the decision of having to finish her off before she rises.

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She does rise…but later Kaisar walks across the same landscape as Favaro and Amira had earlier, with Rita following behind, seemingly alive and well, but probably…something else as well. And now, just like Favaro, Kaisar has a lovely and powerful traveling companion all his own! You gotta love the dichotomy of these two.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 02

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This was one of those episodes that had a little bit of everything, and just kept getting better and better. I don’t care if this is based off a Pachinko game; it’s a blast. The cold open takes us to an Olympus-style heavenly realm, then down to a legendary battle between Jeanne D’arc’s army of knights and the forces of darkness. All with the titular Bahamut floating in the sky, dormant but ominous.

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After an awesome OP with a healthy dose of metal, we return to the present and to Favaro’s latest predicament: in kissing him the previous night, the pink-haired maiden gave him a demon’s tail, which won’t go away until he tells her the way to Helheim as promised. Life’s tough in a world without Google Maps. The only thing that matters to Favaro is getting rid of that tail. But he probably lied about knowing where Helheim is. Probably, because when he looks the lady straight in the eye, it isn’t long before he has to smirk.

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That’s beside the point, as after escaping once again from his noble nemesis Kaisar, Fav immediately considers simply murdering the woman in order to break the spell. That’s right, this guy shot Greedo first; he’s no saint, and he’s always looked out for one guy: Favaro. When he brings her along to a manor to slay a demon goat (ram?) mounted in the wall, he sees her demon power again and realizes killing her won’t be so easy. So he plays a longer game.

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With the bounty Bacchus pays him for the work the lady mostly did, Favaro buys her some clothes (after trying on a good number of outfits), some food, and then some drink, which she’s apparently never had before, but enjoys quite a bit, to the point that when the music picks up, she joins Favaro for some stirring, sexy and very well-animated dancing, followed by a dip in a gorgeous starlit lake.

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At this point, Favaro is thinking it’s the perfect time to stab her in the back, but then he learns her name—Amira—and why she wants to go to Helheim—to reunite with her mother—and he hesitates just long enough for Kaisar to burst out of the lake, having held his breath an untold amount of time. Kaisar, momentarily dazed by Amira’s beauty, gets drop-kicked by Favaro, and the two escape again. Between the goat in the wall, the fantastic dancing, and Kaisar, this episode is full of surprises.

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Here’s another, though I shouldn’t have been surprised: the next day, Favaro sells Amira out to knights for what looks like pocket change. Can you believe this piece of work? Lucky for him, his own horse won’t sit back and let her get killed. And oh yeah, the knights, with all their bad-ass armor and magic circles, only manage to give Amira strange and oddly pleasant tingles, so she was never in much danger.

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Still, now that he’s with Amira again, Favaro decides, for now at least, to stick with her. When they’re blocked on either side of a rope bridge over a massive waterfall, Fav shoots the bridge and they drop, Fugitive-style. I imagine a lot more thrilling predicaments and death-defying stunts are in store for this trouble-prone couple, as they now have a bounty out against them (which Kaisar takes up), while a collection of demon authorities watch the progress of Amira, who bears one of the two “God Keys” that can unlock Bahamut.

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Even if Amira is your standard fish-out-of-water bishoujo with hidden powers, it’s a hell of a lot of fun whether she’s hanging out with Favaro having fun or showing off those frightening (and slick) powers. The cat-and-mouse between the roguish Favaro and Kaisar, stemming from some incident we don’t yet know about (but the details of which vary greatly between the two) is similarly amusing to watch unfold.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 01

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Shingeki no Bahamut’s first episode was a breathless and unrelenting assault on the senses…in a good way! From a beam- and explosion-packed prologue to a highly-caffeinated chase through a Renaissance-era town, this show doesn’t let up for more than a few moments before it springs back into action.

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Mind you, I’m still processing everything that happened, but basically, Favaro Leone is a maverick bounty hunter who does what he wants when he wants it, and somehow because of him the wealthy Kaisar Lidfort has also become a bounty hunter. Favaro tracks down his target, Garth, then celebrates at the bar, where he boasts of heading to Helheim soon. A mysterious but beautiful woman overhears this.

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She asks him to lead her to Helheim, and he agrees, in exchange for a kiss. Before that kiss can happen, Garth’s brother Ghos shows up, summoning an even bigger beast than his brother to batle Favaro. The pink-haired lady steps in and transforms into a monstrously-powerful demon woman who takes care of the summon as Favaro kills Ghos, another bounty for his godlike patron Bacchus.

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The woman reverts to her human form and give Favaro the kiss he desires, and he passes out, entering a dream world of crumbling earth and ferocious Bahamuts. When he wakes up the next morning he has a demon tail, which is an unusual, frightening thing even in this world—and there’s no doubt the woman is responsible.

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It’s one hell of a loud, boisterous, and elaborate opening salvo for Shingeki no Bahamut. It’s great to hear the always-hilarious Yoshino Hiroyuki (Bossun, Sket Dance; Meow, Space Dandy) voicing a lead role, and the brash swashbuckling rogue Favaro is a perfect role for him. The setting is lush in detail; the action frenetic, and the pace is fantastically brisk. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but I like it.

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