Fate/Extra Last Encore – 03

Shinji’s attempt to destroy Hakuno and Saber fails when Toosaka Rin shows up, hacks Shinji’s systems, and lends Hakuno and Saber a ride out of the tower on her flying motorcycle—all good stuff. We don’t learn anything more about Hakuno’s “Dead Face”, only that it drew Rin to their location.

Rin takes them to a run-down but still very stylish safe house, and explains why she interceded on their behalf: while she is only a former Master, she is the only one in the city (other than Hakuno) to have not fully surrendered to the stagnation of Mayor Matou’s grand plan.

She’s a resistance of one, and now that Hakuno, a fully-active Master, and his Servant Saber have appeared, that resistance grows to three. The only means of reaching the upper level is to defeat the “king” of the one they’re on: Shinji—who also happens to be an active Master. Hakuno and Saber met his Servant in the bar.

The morning of their assault on Central Tower, Hakuno glimpses Saber resplendent on the rooftop’s morning light, surrounded by birds. This show is nothing if not pretty and sometimes drop-dead gorgeous in its staging of people and places.

Rin assists in Hakuno and Saber’s infiltration of the tower, which necessitates her remaining behind to fight Shinji’s Berserkers, leaving the other two free to ride the elevators to the non-projection Shinji’s location.

Once they reach that location—which appears in the form of a standard Japanese school rooftop, Shinji recalls the victory that got him to where he is today. In light of that victory, he is game for a duel against Hakuno and Saber.

With that, massive walls begin to rise above the cityscape, great hatches open, and the entire level is quickly flooded with water, turning the city into an ocean. I love how intricately rendered this city has been the last two episodes, only for the show to completely destroy it here.

The reason for the transformation is that Shinji’s Servant Rider has a naval theme: she is Francis(ca?) Drake, and leads an armada of flying sailing ships to face Saber and her…saber.

Rider’s Noble Phantasm is the “Golden Wild Hunt” / Temesoro el Draque, and Saber is seemingly overwhelmed and sinks into the deluge, too low on mana to mount a counterattack.

That is, until Hakuno dives to her location on the “sea floor” and transfer his plentiful stores of mana through a kiss, which I don’t believe I’ve seen before in a Fate series.

It works a treat, and Saber rises out of the water and rams Rider’s flagship with a ship of her own, revealing her Noble Phantasm one of her skills is “Imperial Privilege”, which enables her to copy her opponent’s ability. Rider and Saber face off in a decisive dual, but Rider’s flintlocks appear to jam at a crucial moment, while Saber’s sword does not miss Rider.

Shinji gets to have an uncharacteristically noble end when he decides to ascend with his Servant rather than break his contract at the last moment to continue living.

And that’s pretty much Mission Accomplished for Hakuno and Saber. With Shinji gone, the level is restored to its true state: that of a vast, eerie, deserted ruin. That majestic city was only ever an illusion in which cowards could stagnate for all time. While that state wasn’t ideal, there is still a measure of sadness in what was lost…even if I won’t miss Shinji, as usual.

With that, a lift descends for Hakuno and Saber, which will bear them to the next level up. Rin, who obviously did not drown in the deluge, trails right behind them on her flying motorcycle. What visual wonders, challenges, Masters and Servants await them on the second level? I can’t wait to find out.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 20

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In an initially cryptic prologue, a young man who looks like a more well put-together Subaru approaches a fair lass who looks like a redheaded Emilia. It’s actually a very young Wilheim van Astrea meeting his future love, Theresia, but I’m sure the resemblances aren’t an accident.

Theresia may be gone and isn’t coming back, but this entire grand battle is Subaru’s attempt to protect Emilia from a demise (and, in turn, himself from Puck’s primal wrath). He couldn’t do it alone, so he called upon those with common purpose, and the result unfolds this week.

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Watching him dust himself off and craft the plan and set up the pieces made for a World Heritage List-worthy outing; and while it wasn’t really in doubt that the payoff would, er, pay off, there was also a lingering feeling that Subaru was due for another setback. This is Re:Zero, after all. Not victory comes easily, nor on the first try.

That being said, the joint Karsten/Hoshin army packs a whollop, unleashing all their best attacks and dealing seroius damage to the whale, who is none to happy that the ambush tables were turned. One weapon even turns night into day, which makes the battle a lot easier to see. This isn’t ufotable-level combat, mind you, but it doesn’t need to be, and gets the job done.

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After Wilhem cuts out one of the whale’s eyes (GROSS!), it unleashes a cloud of fog, and its counterattack begins. We see concern in Crusch’s expression as the sky dims, and Wil remembers telling the lovely redhead in the ruins how his sword is the only way to protect someone as a knight.

He failed in that task, but not for want of trying, and is resolute in his desire to make up for the failure by vanquishing the whale once and for all.

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But the whale has more tricks up its sleeve: its fog cleaves the earth and utterly destroys a good chunk of the force. Many of the survivors succomb to the whale’s devastating, mind-piercing song, which makes them hurt themselves. Fortunately Felis is there to neutralize the effects with his healing magic.

Subaru sees that someone needs to step up and change the tune of this battle, and decides it should be him. He openly mentions Return by Death, which has the desired effect of infusing him with a fresh batch of the Witch’s stench, drawing the whale to him like a fish to a lure.

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This gives Wil a fresh chance to do more damage to the whale, but he ends up in the wrong position at the wrong time: right in front of the whale’s mouth as it scoops the earth around him up like a cloud of shrimp.

Wil stops and recalls one last time, the night he was saved by the Master Swordsman, who turned out to be Theresia. The fact is, he was never strong enough to protect her; instead, the reverse was the case. Even when he lashed out in frustration, Theresia proved she was the better swordsman, even if she didn’t understand why.

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But Wil never got over the face he could not protect the woman he loved, nor stop her from protecting him. He saw himself as the expendable one, and would have died happily if it meant she could live on, or even better, especially if she could then step down as Master Swordsman.

But that’s not exactly fair to Theresia, and I’m glad the show brings up the fact Wilheim’s desire for revenge, and putting himself in the literal jaws of the whale, may not have been the right thing to do, or indeed what Theresia wanted. She died to save him so he could live on. But he spent the last fourteen years living only for this day.

Whether he survived this battle or died fighting, he was going to end things. And I’m not sure Theresia would approve. Especially since we learn there isn’t just one white whale, but several. Talk about a Re:Zero knife twist!

What if now, Subaru has to die, plan all this out again, and the next time, include Priscilla and possibly others? I’m also weary that the Witch’s Cult will take advantage of the Karsten’s scattered, weakened army to launch their own strike.

The plan was sound, it just wasn’t quite enough to end things. Will Subie be able to accomplish what Wilheim couldn’t—save the one he loves—without sacrificing himself?

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 19

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MAN, I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER.

It’s a tired phrase, but I can’t think of a more apt use for it than the latest Re:Zero, where Subaru gets to start over from Zero and doesn’t squander the chance. Rather than begging like a babbling loon for an obscure, partially-formed goal, he comes to Crusch Karsten—and Anastasia Hoshin, and the Merchant’s Guild—with a sensible, viable arrangement, with the White Whale at the core.

In this manner, Subaru unwittingly becomes the catalyst for a grand battle that was in the making long before he arrived in this world. EVERYONE detests the White Whale. Thanks to his past lives, he not only knows how to properly approach and negotiate with these people—from a position of strength and common cause, and pride—he knows where the White Whale will show up next, and most importantly, when, thanks to his “metia.”

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When Subaru is speaking to Crusch, and Felis, and Wilheim in a manner that makes them receptive, he seems to find the unlikely hero within himself, a hero who has united groups with various opposing interests in less important areas but a shared loathing of the White Whale.

And because of the way he composes himself and presents his plan, everyone is not only willing, but eager to hear him out. Crusch is suspicious at first, but she can see the wind of dishonesty when someone lies, and Subaru, though clearly still intimidated, is making an honest, courageous effort that she doesn’t overlook.

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Part of me hated Crusch for so cruelly refusing Subie’s assistance the first time around, but I couldn’t blame her, as he was giving her no reason to help or believe him. Here he did his homework, recalling all the various goings-on in his past lives (combined with Hoshin’s major burn) to uncover the battle Crusch was preparing for anyway, and offer something that could give them all a decisive advantage over their foe.

Everyone works through the night to get ready, and Subie meets Hoshin’s mercenary captain Ricardo, numerous veterans who came out of retirement to, like Wilheim, avenge their lost loved ones upon the Whale. Subaru sees this is bigger than him, but none of this would be possible without him. He’s making it, damnit…he’s making it!

And God, it’s so good just to see everyone smiling and laughing again, even if it is, in part, to hide how goshdarn scared they all are of the task before them.

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This week, Subaru succeeded in all the ways he failed in previous attempts to save Emilia all by himself, or with last-minute help from others. Even though Priscilla isn’t a part of the alliance (and is totally absent this week), her reaction to Subie trying to kiss her feet was a powerful lesson Subie keeps with him, and is brought up again when he chooses his ground dragon, a breed known for its intense pride. He can’t accomplish anything alone, and he can’t inspire or convince others without that pride.

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Last week was ALL Rem and Subie, elevating Rem to “best girl of the year” status for many. I don’t have many strong arguments against that, so I’ll let it stand, especially when she doubles down this week on her absolute faith in Subaru, keeping his spirits up even when he starts to doubt if his cell phone will actually help them (considering how cruel this show can be, I too was worried this to all be for nothing).

But now Rem isn’t the only one trusting of or grateful to Subaru. He’s convinced two candidates battling for the throne to join forces, for crying out loud. And the merchants! As for stern-faced Wilheim, he gets a lot more fine strokes this week as one of those older men in this world who lost something to the WW, and is grateful for the opportunity to avenge his wife (who was once Master Swordsman, underscoring how dangerous the WW is).

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Perhaps one of the best moments of a highly satisfying and morale-boosting episode, another gem in a show full of them, is the moments of silence as the hour of the Whale’s arrival approaches. There’s so much built-up tension, combined with the possibility that it might not show up, or that the Witch Cultists would ambush the army.

Then the silence is broken by a strange electronic musical noise that took be totally off-guard (even though he said he’d set it earlier): Subaru’s cell phone alarm.

The cheerful chime feels like a terribly foreboding harbinger to some foul occurrence, but then the whale makes its appearance, and Subaru charges in first with Rem loosing her magic with prejudice. That changes Crusch’s face from terror and worry to a defiant smirk, and the battle begins.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 12 (Fin)

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We were a bit weary that this last episode would be another nightmare of poor animation and cut corners, but thankfully there was enough gas in the tank for a respectable-looking finale. We even get a shot of Cecil talking next to a reflective sculpture; a nice effect. Ironically, while this was a far better episode in terms of production values, we thought the previous episode had a better story.

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That’s because the resolution to the Makusu trial left us a bit cold. We will say that it hardly made sense for him to suddenly cooperate with Cecil after carefully planning the ritual only to fail to summon Lucifer, so it makes sense that come trial time, he double-crosses his counsel and even accuses her of murdering Shizumu. It’s the word of the former Chief Justice against an excitable teenager with a history of getting into magical trouble, and he spins a good yarn for the court.

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While his betrayal made sense and we were on the whole glad to see the last episode return to its legal procedural roots, we found the trial itself a bit clumsy and random. Part of that was the fact the prosecution seems more on Makusu’s side than his defense. But Cecil suddenly pulling Grimoire 365 out of the talisman Shizumu returned to her, combined with the surprise trump witness (why didn’t Makusu make sure he was dead?); those were were plot conveniences that gave Cecil victory without actually having to do any sleuthing, hence the leaving us cold.

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We will say, however, that on the whole, the series didn’t leave us cold. We really enjoyed watching Cecil befriend her colorful colleagues, defend lots of people who tried to kill her. She didn’t so much uncover the conspiracy as Makusu made numerous tactical errors, most important the fact that Tento Moyo was already Lucifer’s vessel…we think. So while the show stumbled with its ending, placing it just below Witch Craft Works on the Big Board, it was still a refreshing dark horse we’re not sorry we looked into.

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Cumulative Average Rating: 6.917
MAL Score: 6.45

Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 11

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The whole purpose of anime and most other audiovisual media, is to show as well as tell what is going on. This episode told us quite a bit, much of which could have been very interesting, but unfortunately it also happened to be one of the single worst-animated episodes of anime we have ever reviewed. It doesn’t even seem accurate to call it badly-animated, since a very large portion wasn’t animated at all. This episode simply felt unfinished, which made it extremely difficult to get invested in what was ostensibly going on. It was like trying to read this review…without vowels.

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Mind you, we haven’t been insensitive to the fact that WizBar in general is not a show that has ever prided itself on flawless presentation. But it could also be that a lot of the production budget was spent both on the first episode and on CGI effects such as the metamoloids. Frankly, it wasn’t worth it, and we would have preferred more balance in the visuals. But the show had always managed to muddle through, with the story pulling enough weight to forgive the shortcomings.

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But this…was something else; the shark was officially jumped. There were far too many close ups, establishing shots, lines of dialogue and actions by people we never see, and agonizingly long still shots. Some potentially powerful and/or poignant moments were thoroughly ruined by all of this nonsense. On many occasions throughout the fiasco, we felt pretty bad for the people involved in the show who weren’t responsible for bungling the budget, for they were let down as much as we were, if not more so.

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All that aside (and it’s pretty damn hard to move it aside!) a lot happened this week: Shimuzu raided Butterfly and eventually captured Cecil, Makusu had his little ritual, and we find out that Lucifer had already awakened and taken human form, that of Tento Moyo. She merges with Cecil, who grows fangs and a tail (first instance of a tail bursting through panties…yeah, they animated that), but Shimuzu Does The Right Thing (as we hoped) in the eleventh hour and dies protecting Cecil.

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Cecil and Makusu have one big confusing Metamoloid battle that ends in the upper atmosphere, but when their mechas dissolve Cecil sprouts wings and saves Makusu’s life, only for him to request he defend him at his impending trial, which is actually a nice twist that brings everything back to Magic Law, which we always found more interesting than Magic Conspiracies. So yeah, a lot happened! We kinda wish we could have, you know, seen all of it, instead of just parts of it…

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 10

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Cecil always knew there was something fishy about her mom’s trial and conviction, but she didn’t know there was something fishy about still being alive after the altercation. Nor did she know of the ongoing war between the Labone and Macal, two Wud factions for and against coexistence with muggles normal humans, respectively.

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This week Cecil continues to be swept up in a torrent of new information, and while she and her fellow Butterfly barristers haven’t quite processed everything and remain in the dark about who is behind all of this and why, they are at least aware and on altert. So naturally, Cecil goes off on her own again.

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Frankly we would have been fine with a relatively undramatic run of “trial-of-the-week” episodes, provided there was enough variety to them, but it’s clear from the get-go that the balance of WizBar was going to be All About Cecil and the conspiracy closing in on her. It was also a clever to turn the previously-foreboding Shark Knight into Cecil’s allies, while Shizumu was the bad guy all along, despite their rapport.

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Even better, Shizumu is not 100% sure he’s doing the right thing (because duh, he isn’t). Makusu, on the other hand, is kinda dull and getting increasingly confident and thus sloppy in his methods to “procure the catalyst.” We’re hoping that inner conflict results in Shizumu turning against Makusu, but with Makusu’s power and an increasingly-sketchy Moyo stalking around, it might not be enough to save Cecil from turning into a tool of Lucifer.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 09

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Cecil resumes her investigation of the incident six years ago that led to her mother being sentenced to death (we’ll set aside the fact she wasn’t instantly put to death, as we’ve seen done to other condemned). Seseri warns everyone not to act alone, so Cecil acts alone, rushing bull-headed into all the people involved in the case, and getting stonewalled by all of them.

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After the judge in the trial throws her out of his office, Cecil turns to Shizumu for aid. They have a very interesting, pseudo-romantic scene together in a paddleboat, which is hit by another boat forcing Shizumu to grab Cecil into a compromising position to save her from falling overboard. Throughout this episode we see Shizumu struggling with his conscience. On the one hand, he feels obligated to obey his father, and probably shares a bit of his dad’s hatred for the humans who have oppressed Wuds.

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But his inability to throw away the protective charm Cecil gave him, his confrontation with Quinn, and the look on his face when he’s about to kidnap Cecil using the investigation files as bait all suggest he’s taking no pleasure in deceiving her. But blood proves thicker than water, and if it wasn’t for Sameoka Kiba of Shark Knight (who also spotted Tento Moyo in Canada), Shizumu would have done what his father asked of him: continue preparing “the catalyst” for whatever dread ritual being cooking up.

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We can understand Cecil going to a cop she trusts for help, but we don’t understand why she keeps the rest of the firm in the dark, and doesn’t even enlist Natsuna’s help, even though Natsuna offered it last week. Natsuna’s tsundere defense of Cecil when Seseri chews her out for tardiness (and the other barristers’ shock) was an awesome little scene, but it didn’t result in any collaboration.

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Even when Ageha takes Cecil aside and tells her everyone at Butterfly are her friends whom she can count on, Cecil still goes to Shizumu alone. To uncover the truth about her mom’s case, and more to the point, to stay alive and free, she’s going to have to rely on them more, which means being more open. Of course, depending on Tento Moyo’s true loyalties, even that could backfire.

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