Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 11

After Skypeing with William Macbeth, Leo calls his sister for the first time in a blue moon, and three words from her turn his world upside-down: “I’m getting married.” It’s so sudden, and yet he contacts her so infrequently it’s only natural he’d miss out on the details of her relationship leading up to her engagement.

Michella is also on her way to Hellsalem’s Lot, and arranges for Leo meet her and her new fiancee at their hotel. Leo is there, but he’s nervous. Is this new man going to supplant him as Michella’s knight? Much of Libra shows up to guard Leo, though perhaps they just want to sneak a look at some Watch sibling love?

Leo and Michella’s reunion is simple but moving. Leo’s introduction to her fiancee, Toby McLachlan, is also very straightforward, as is the inevitable twist that he’s not human. Or rather, his body has been possessed by something not human.

Maybe those other Libra folks showed up out of pure instinct, since the only person who can see the monster attached to Toby is Leo, with his All-Seeing Eyes of the Gods. But here’s the kicker: the monster, one Doctor Gamimozu, has an All-Seeing Eye of his own.

He assures Leo that Toby isn’t being harmed, and that Michella won’t be either. But still, it’s hard to trust a guy hiding from everyone else, and who seems to admire Riga El Menuhyut, the “ophthalmological engineer to the eminent” who gave Leo his eyes and took Michella’s sight.

The not-so-good doctor is surveying all of the Prostheses of the Gods, and I guess he figured the best way to look at the one with eyes observing human history’s greatest event—Hellsalem’s Lot—was through Toby. Interestingly, Toby still has a degree of autonomy; he’s not a fake person, and his love for Michella seems genuine.

As amusingly demonstrated by Zapp telling Leo he needs to head off to his love shack, none of the Libra members sense any threat, so when an emergency call for a nasty mindless blood breed goes out, they mobilize to relieve the cops, and Leo’s services are needed as well.

Steven, Zapp, and Zed are able to incapacitate the breed, but they and Klaus need the creature’s true name in order to seal it. That’s where Leo comes in, though with Gamimozu watching his every move via mini-drone, Leo isn’t happy about revealing what he does to the doctor, nor does he appreciate the patronizing praise.

But Gamimozu isn’t just here to observe at a distance. He wants to possess Leo, the consequences of which I don’t even want to ponder. In a nicely-placed flashback to young Leo and Michella drawing in her room, Michella tells basically the same tale unfolding in the present. But when Leo asks her how the “warriors” will deal with the hidden “ghosts”, Michella replies “I don’t know. How should he?”

The odds are certainly against Leo, what with Gamimozu’s ability to see as much as Leo can, his being totally hidden from the other Libra members, possessing far superior strength to Leo, and oh yeah, the fact both Toby and Michella are one stray blade away from losing their heads. “How should he”, indeed.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 09

The “Desperate Fight in the Macro Zone” concludes in epic, massively satisfying, and surprisingly moving fashion, proving that splitting it into two parts was a smart move. Hellsalem’s Lot gathers on rooftops to watch the pandemonium unfold, confident the world’s largest individual, Gigagigafutmassif will put the Rielmonster in its place.

Of course, using force against Riel only makes him bigger and stronger, leading Giga to beat a hasty retreat and leaving the crowd without a champion to save them from certain ruin. Chain and the Werewolf Bureau are in the midst of a week wine cellar-emptying girls’ “night” out, and miss the whole thing.

Riel has long since had his fill of his situation, but Gemnemo is unsympathetic; he wants his latest experiment to play itself out to its devastating conclusion, with him pulling the strings the whole way. Riel now knows how solitary it is “at the top” of the city’s food chain.

For such an action-packed episode, the first act is mostly Riel fondly remembering one fine day in Central Park (or whatever it’s called in HSL) with Leo. When a batted baseball breaks Riel’s arm, Leo goes to bat for him, not only standing up to the bully that hit the ball and laughed at Riel’s arm, but headbutting him.

Leo didn’t back down on that lovely, pastoral day (it really is a gorgeous memory accompanied by an appropriately wistful musical score), despite being small and relatively puny; Riel, on the other hand, is disgusted with himself for running away in a similar situation.

Now that he’s more lucid, he can see Libra members not back down even though their opponent is orders of magnitude bigger and stronger. And with infiltration expert Chain indisposed, it falls to lil’ Leo and Sonic to deposit Li Gado’s weapon into Riel’s giant body. Leo has to take his God’s Eyes to their absolute limit, but he’s not giving up on his friend.

Gado makes it clear that Riel is probably not even in control of his body any more, as Gemnemo is a control freak who responds to Riel’s second thoughts by starting an operation that will eliminate his free will—but not his senses, making him watch and hear all the millions he’ll kill.

Gemnemo, in the end, is just another bully who has exploited Riel’s need to be stronger for his own scientific gain. Thankfuly, Sonic gets to Gemnemo in time to stop him, and Riel’s giant body gradually shrinks, until he stumbles and falls into the Eternal Hollow.

In the aftermath, Zapp tries to excoriate a contrite (and likely hungover) Chain for being AWOL during the battle, but Leo steps in to remind Zapp that he was indisposed as well due to his attempt to swindle Riel when he was more human-sized.

Five days later, Leo has a walk in the park, still picturesque and tranquil, but seems lonelier without Mr. Riel by his side. All of a sudden, he notices something under his shoe: Gado’s weapon shrunk Riel to the size of a mouse!

But Riel is actually just fine being this size; for one thing, the view’s not bad (Leo now appears monumental to him, matching his bravery and loyalty to his friends); for another, he wouldn’t feel right being all the way back to normal after the fuss he caused.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 07

I love how B3 episodes are often constructed like intricate Rube Goldberg machines, summoning a whole lotta energy and preparation for seemingly simple tasks, or in this case, a case of petty theft by an arrogant brat turning into a super-abridged Die Hard, brief mecha battle, a downwardly-revised corporate earnings statement, a hard-earned lesson in not getting too arrogant, and a successful Libra New Year’s Eve party.

Leo finally acquiring a reservation to the perfect party hall starts things off, and talk between him, Zapp, Steven and Chain turns to the immense cost of the equipment that keeps Zed on the roster. Zed’s always been isolated in the “airscape” due to his aquatic nature, but even with his portable air-breathing pods, he still feels out of place.

Compound that with him overhearing what a financial burden he is, and Zed decides to strike out and acquire some downtime employment. He’s turned away by both human and inhuman, and the places that accept anyone are too…intense.

Meanwhile, our prodigy CEO brat threatens death for those who interrupt her music, even by a fraction of a second. She feels the only place safe is in isolation, between her very expensive headphones. She wants to be isolated; Zed seems tired of the loneliness.

After a fruitless day of job-hunting, Zed gets drunk. While stumbling home, CEO brat spots his pods, mistakes them for “artifact quality” headphones, and sends two of her heavies to “negotiate” for its acquisition. Zed isn’t parting with them, but the two seemingly super-human trench coats are too much for him in his inebriated state.

Leo, ever Zed’s loyal friend and advocate, is out looking for Zed with Zapp and Chain, and they find him on the street, without his pods, suffocating in the open air. They return him to his tube, but as it will take a month to procure new pods, it’s looking like he’ll miss the party. Leo is dejected.

Using his All-Seeing Eyes of the Gods, Leo learns that two big guys in trench coats mugged Zed, and tracks their signatures to the headquarters of Walhalla Dynamics, makers of weapons, among them an extremely powerful model of android that can take out combat helicopters.

Like most jobs, this is not one for Leo; his skills have already been employed to find the place. Thankfully, despite much of Libra being mobilized to deal with an outbreak of garbage golems at the municipal landfills, Chain is free and joins the search for Zed’s pods, as does Zapp, standing on top of Chain and Leo like Chain always does to him.

While Chain and Leo want this handled quietly and delicately, Zapp jumps out of the shadows and confronts a guard. When the guard isn’t helpful, Zapp uses his blood to tear him and the other swarming gods new ones, revealing they’re only androids.

Chain uses the commotion down below to infiltrate the building and swipe the pods right out from under the CEO Brat’s nose. The CEO attacks her with remote guns, but they of course go right through Chain. Chain accosts the CEO, then leaves her CEO with a bit of advice, and has the lines of the night:

How does it feel to have someone stroking your myocardium directly? Perhaps you have become very successful and can pretty much manipulate the world at your whim, but don’t grow too arrogant. The next time you try a stunt like this, I’ll be here in a second. I’ll skip the pleasantries and drive a rusty nail through you.

Pretty righteous shit. I only wish the CEO’s face had been revealed, or we had gotten the story on why she was so obsessed with headphones…which Zed’s pods weren’t, by the way.

It doesn’t seem like she learned her lesson, because she sends the aforementioned angelic mecha after Chain, Zapp and Leo. Thankfully, Zed is there to destroy it on the spot without any trouble, thanks to a blood technique that creates a bubble of water around his head, allowing him to breathe without the pods, rendering the entire mission to retrieve them somewhat unnecessary.

Still! It showed that even if Chain, Zapp and Leo laugh out loud at the ridiculous sight of him wearing what looks like a space helmet, or bellyache about the cost of his equipment, the fact they went so far to get his pods back shows Zed how much he means to them; that they’ve got his back, and that he should have theirs.

After the successful New Year’s party, and with the service industry out of the question, Zed finds a new stream of income via street performance, using his blood powers to entertain parkgoers. A job’s a job!

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 06

After sustaining a head injury when Zapp punts him into a bad guy, Leo has the same dream he always has: Michella sacrificing her sight and legs for his sake while he stands around doing nothing. We’re reminded of the prime reason Leo is in Hellsalem’s Lot: to cure her.

He shows Dr. Estevez his eyes, but neither she nor Director Grana have ever heard of a case of them being removed. It’s not a medical procedure; more a termination of a contract, which won’t come without considerable cost. Leo laments that he feels as powerless to save Michella as he was the day he arrived. Klaus told him there’s always light, but he can’t see it.

Then the magic, intensity, and downright insanity of simply living in the HSL, not to mention being affiliated with Libra, eventually restokes his hope of saving his sister, thus becoming the “turtle knight” who protects the princess in Michella’s drawings.

How specifically does he get inspired? A lockout!

While Steven is hacking computer systems to stop criminals from bringing down earthshaking beings who rain destruction upon the city, an old foe believed to have been incarcerated surfaces, and all of Libra goes out to deal with it, when only Steven was needed.

Only Anila remains at Libra HQ, and a single crane fly who had infiltrated the interior soon turns into a massive swarm, and one of them evolves into a humanoid of increasing intelligence and power. He sets Defcon 2, turning Libra into an impregnable fortress, with the bulk of Libra’s members trapped outside.

Klaus calls Yurian, a Ghostbuster-looking “locksmith” to override the lockout, but it will be slow going. Meanwhile, the team can’t prevent Chain, entering HQ in her usual way, from getting blasted by the building’s defense systems.

She’s fine, and even caught a glance at the bugs, whose leader becomes more and more sophisticated in speech as he talks to Klaus over the phone, basically saying he’s borrowing HQ until he becomes a god.

The delay of Bugman’s evolution could spell the end of the city, as a particularly large Earthshaker begins to descend, adding far greater stakes to the emergency than simply being locked out of a house when the oven was left on.

However, Klaus doesn’t panic; he turns to his training and his ability, has Yurian open the tiniest of holes in the defense system, and climbs the tower with blood pitons, using Leo’s eyes to discern when to avoid the security grid. Demonstrating he’s not quite ready for godhood, the Bugman idiotically goes outside to see what’s up and gets blood-lanced.

Steve tracks down the hackers controlling the Earthshaker and take them out before it touches the ground, saving tens of thousands. And thus, having watched Klaus not giving up while riding on his back, Leo resolves not to despair or give up on saving Michella. After all, you never know what this city will throw at you.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 04

It’s a Chain episode! I love Chain. She’s my hero. She’s so badass, and her perching game is unsurpassed. She’s one of the five members of the Werewolf Squad, whose relativistic superhuman power to alter matter (including their bodies) at the subatomic level make them perfect covert operatives and infiltration specialists.

After a mission to intimidate a general who wants to create a Blood Breed army (something Libra can’t allow), Chain is overjoyed to get a supportive phone call from her long-time crush, Steven A. Starphase.

Chain seriously needs a maid (or a maid squad), but she seems to have a pretty nice life, bounding from skyscraper to skyscraper, helping Leo’s friend remember things with a notepad, getting into drinking contests with bullies.

But all that seems to be at risk when we see a shadowy figure in contact with the pro-BB-weaponization generals, apparently willing to screw up the Werewolf Bureau and Libra’s plans to maintain balance.

The Chain slice-of-life also includes office life, in which she uses Zapp as a surfboard when he tries to go for the breakfast she got for Gilbert. Zapp yells at her and threatens to use her boobs as punching bags, and gets a LOOK that freezes him in his tracks. As tough as Zapp is, Chain’s tougher, and you can tell he respects her power.

The Werewolves are suddenly pressed into service when the bureau catches wind of a plan to launch a missile armed with what could be a Blood Breed Virus-tipped warhead. It’s a Mission Impossible homage with a BBB twist…Mission Chainpossible.

That mission begins with the five wolves emerging from the full moon, carrying out a high-altitude freefall penetration. When the missile already launches, their mission changes to telling the missile to ditch in the sea. Once in the building, the wolves phase through ceilings, floors, walls, piping, wiring, and all the lasers and sensors that comprise the security network, which would work just great against ordinary humans.

Once in, the five set to work hacking the five redundant computer systems that guide the missile. Everything is going swimmingly…until Velved, a disgruntled former member of the Werewolf Squad, intervenes.

Having teamed up with one of the 13 Kings who specializes in “hypersensitivity”, Velved manages to locate and restrain four of the five wolves. Chain, however, is a cut above the others, and no matter how many levels of sensitivity Velved kicks things up, she cannot find Chain, who keeps diving deeper and deeper into physical obscurity.

The other wolves worry Chain could go too far and not be able to return after diluting her existence so much. But that hardly matters to Chain, who clearly feels she must do everything she can to assure the success of the mission, which she does. She materializes her gun, shoots Velved, and the four freed wolves shut the missile down. Crisis averted!

But what of Chain? Is she gone for good? Ha, hardly. But there is a very specific protocol to “bring her back”, which is different for every werewolf. It’s called a “token”, the one thing in the world that will always draw them back to their life; kind of like the totems in Inception that tie people to reality.

In Chain’s case, the token consists of Steven A Starphase (who has no idea what’s going on) knocking on her door and announcing he’s come to visit her. Chain reappears instantly, which is unfortunate for her, because her place is still a nightmarish mess!

So as thanks for restoring her existence, Steve gets the same thing Zapp did – a smack in the face. But later, we see she’s cleaned her place up, and still happy Steven stopped by.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 03

Just after daydreaming about that horrible day Michella went blind, an out-of-it Leo bumps into a big bully who takes his wallet containing Michella’s allowance. Chain witnesses Leo in a bind, but apparently has other matters to attend to.

Steven and his maid Veded prepare a super-classy dinner soiree, while Zapp is recruited by Tracy to find her oriental shorthair cat Mizaria…or she’ll cut his dick off with magic.

So yeah…lot’s going on this week! But hey, it’s not Hellsalem’s Lot if every day that ends in “-day” if a lot’s not going on. Did I mention Count Gigagigafutmassif is on the move…and that he’s taller than any skyscraper in the city?

What has always enhanced the already lush texture of KS&B’s great variety of stories is how they intertwine in interesting ways, much like Durarara!!. The fortunes of the various Libra POV characters this week also vary wildly as the episode progresses.

Zapp immediately runs into problems trying to find Tracy’s cat, and while Leo arms himself with a stun baton to get his wallet back, the bully just slugs him and uses his own baton on him. Of course, Leo can defeat him at any time with his eyes, he just doesn’t feel right using them for self-serving purposes…even when failure means Michella going without.

As for Steve, his snobby dinner party goes positively swimmingly…until he goes into the kitchen alone, turns around, and every one of his guests is pointing a biological gun at him. Fortunately, Steve is not one to get so easily ambushed, and took steps to ensure he could use his ice magic to get the upper hand anytime he wanted.

Steve also doesn’t bother handing his guests over to Libra, instead relying on his own special squad to “take care” of them in ways of which Libra’s leader wouldn’t necessarily approve. Bottom line: You come at Starphase, you best come correct.

These amateurs did not. Steve also rethinks whether he’s been enjoying ordinary life too much, considering his duties and the nasty enemies those duties can sometimes create.

Chain clearly saw Leo getting tossed by the bully, but takes a backdoor approach to getting Leo’s wallet back: she turns on her charm (wonderful stuff from Kobayashi Yuu here), promises a good time if the brute can beat her in shots, then drinks him under the table with ease, grabbing not just Leo’s wallet, but the bully’s toady.

It was nice to see a baddie put in his place with something other than brute force, even though Chain could have obviously dropped the guy anytime she wanted. This way was more fun for her!

Alas, Chain did Leo’s work for him, which means he never managed to get one over on his bully. It’s just as well; considering the handicap he demands of himself (no use of the eyes), he’s just not a fighter, nor should he be.

Since his toady was robbed by Chain, the two have to pay their bar bills with…their bodies, leaving them as nothing but heads hopping about in glass bulbs, to be attacked by…Mizaria!…who is then picked up by…Veded!, who finds her way back to Steve just as a united Leo and Zapp pass by.

Speaking of fortunes, we never see Zapp actually retrieve the cat and return it to Tracy, leaving the status of his manhood in tongue-in-cheek doubt. The closing shot—of Chain paying for her big night with a long prayer to the porcelain god—was pitch perfect way to close this fun, diverse outing.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 01 (First Impressions)

Kekkai Sensen returns with quite a few literal bangs, launching straight back into high gear in a feverishly action-packed opening salvo; a colorful ballet of bizarre blink-and-you’ll-miss it sights.

In the middle of all this chaos is Leonardo Watch, delivering pizzas as Femt unleashes a swarm of vicious flesh-eating monsters on Hellsalem’s Lot; a swarm the superpowered agents of Libra quickly pacify…while yelling the longwinded names of special moves over one another. Klaus von Reinherz is always good for an epic coup-de-grace, and we get one in the very first minutes. Sometimes more is more.

Leo finally has a home all his own, and is about to fire up his much-awaited (and very expensive) X-Station Double X video game sconsole when his pals Zapp and Zed toss a metal box through his window containing none other than the disembodied head of American Presidential Envoy Franz Ackerman, who far calmer about being just a head than I would be.

Within a few minutes of meeting Ackerman(‘s head) Leo finds himself caught up in another multi-vector, high-powered battle between the various criminal factions after the head, and his new home and video game console are destroyed. IN the first episode. Poor guy. Fortunately, he’s got powerful friends who are more than a match for his pursuers.

All Leo has to do is keep running towards Federal Hall, where Ackerman’s address will take place, and Libra takes care of him. That’s easier said than done, as the constant outrageous attempts on his life by more and more dangerous monsters and artillery take their toll on Leo’s psyche until he’d rather simply curl up in a ball.

It’s Ackerman, who again, is a head relieved of his body, who manages to instill a sense of hope and duty in Leo, asserting that “willingly backing down while any possibility remains is unreasonable beyond reason!”

Leo borrows his co-worker’s pizza delivery bike, head and body are reunited, the address promotion rapprochement between the two worlds takes place, and Libra can score another victory in maintaining balance. Unfortunately, Leo doesn’t get reimbursed by the government for his lost home and video games, as Acky promised. Hey, politicians can inspire, but they also often lie to achieve their ends!

It’s a rousing return to one of my favorite series in recent years, owing to it’s strangeness, its bizarre beauty, its bumping soundtrack, and its wide storytelling potential. More of this, please!

Kekkai Sensen – 08

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After a White and Black cold open that might confirm they’re the orphans of the “casters” who stopped the catastrophe that threatened the city, we get a lovely rapid fire sequence of Zapp’s daily hedonistic life. It takes on a familiar pattern:

  1. Wake up hungover in the bed of last night’s conquest
  2. Grab breakfast at a fast food joint
  3. Gamble at the horse races and lose
  4. Beat up would be thieves and take their money
  5. Gamble at the slots and lose
  6. Drink away his bad fortune at a hostess club
  7. Repeat!

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It’s either an honest life Zapp loves living, or the only life he knows how to live. It’s probably the latter, because when he meets the girl of his dreams in step 2, it’s as if a new path opens before him, and he’s majorly excited to go down it.

He’s so overzealous in pursuing her, he grows a huge gut from all the fast food he’s ordering, and creeps her out with stalkeresque obsessive behavior. But hey, the man knows what he wants, which we’re not quite sure of since we never see her face!

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This is an entertaining episode in that it doesn’t just very efficiently dive deep into Zapp’s personal life, of which we’ve only seen bits and pieces, but also teach us a bit about his roots. A lot of his present lifestyle may be a means of rebelling against a past of torturous training under the heel of his Big Dipper Style master, Raju Jugei Shizuyoshi.

Jugei’s a dude so powerful and badass that only a small piece of his body is able to take on and defeat a hi-class blood breed. He’s the latest in this show’s cavalcade of unique and intriguing non-human characters, this time it’s the super-arrogant alien who speaks a language too complex for lowly humans to comprehend.

Libra even mistakes him for a blood breed, even though he’s one of their greatest weapons against them. The problem is, he’s like smoke only showing up once every decade or so and doing what he wants. He’s like a hyper-distilled Zapp.

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To test his former pupil, Jugei places Zapp in a blood bubble and tasks him with sealing the final form of the blood breed, AKA zhen tai dan. He has no idea how he’s going to do it until Chain gets the idea to pretend Angelica’s calling him aching for Zapp’s masculine touch. In the blink of an eye the job is done. You gotta hand it to the guy, he’s got a system, and it works: make him think he’s going to get laid by his crush, and he can do anything. Naturally, Chain only called Time.

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Operating almost totally independently of the Zapp/Jugei/Libra A-plot is the B-plot of Black and White, in which we learn Black actually has two distinct personas, one of which is worried the other is manipulating their sister, but the other, nastier one assuring himself that White knows what she’s doing and is doing it willingly.

What is “it?” Being friends with Leo…to snatch his eyes? The show is keeping its cards close on this one. I’ve enjoyed Leo and White’s interactions so far, but I need more info to be fully emotionally invested.

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Kekkai Sensen – 07

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Leo and White’s brother Black (who is also voiced by Kugimiya Rie) hit it off, despite my expectations they’d treat each other more like rivals. They bond over the fact that they both have headstrong little sisters and both of them are mocked by their peers for being weak or ineffectual. Black tries to sell this further by spilling his drink and then falling out of the booth while cleaning it up.

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But the truth is: Black is not the 4-eyed weenie he’s presenting himself as. He’s deceiving the boy with the All Seeing Eyes. In fact, his true identity is “XXXX” or “Blank”, one of the 13 Elder Vampires.

That revelation isn’t unveiled until the very end of the episode, but frankly, there was always something not quite right about Black, ever since Leo saw him on the subway, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise he’s up to no good, and possibly after Leo’s eyes, as Leo might just be the most normal person in HSL if he didn’t have those eyes,

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The bulk of the episode is given over to a situation in which Zapp is taken prisoner by a gangster and boxing junkie, and resolves the situation by inviting Klaus to “rescue” him. Klaus arrives at what turns out to be a massive underground boxing arena, and he is thrown into the ring to throw down bare-knuckle with huma and monster alike.

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The brawl is fun enough, I guess, but it feels like a bit of a re-hash of Klaus’ far more inspired and elegant Prosfair match with Fulgrouche, and lacks the heart of, say, Leo’s friendships with White and the mushroom man Nej. There also isn’t much in the way of stakes, as even the largest and most fearsome combatants are taken out all too easily.

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The only challenger to put up any kind of fight is the proprietor of the establishment, who is so excited about Klaus’ dominance he can’t help step into the ring personally. Klaus whips out his left fist (he’d been using his right the whole time, holding back) and blasts the gangster’s head off in a graphic display that shocks everyone, but not half as much as when a tiny red blood breed emerges from the stump to finally defeat, but not kill, Klaus.

Why does he spare him? Not quite sure. For a moment I thought he was going to take over his body, but that didn’t happen either. Still, it was very unexpected and creepy.

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By the end, everyone is safe, and Zapp tries to take advantage of the fact Klaus is pretty beaten up by attacking him, but fails once more, as he’s no match at all. Between all that dawdling in the ring, the brief commentary on the universality of fighting in the ring, and the not-so-surprising reveal of Black as Blank all add up to this not being Kekkai Sensen’s finest effort.

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Kekkai Sensen – 06

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Hellsalem’s Lot (or HLC) seemed like a topsy-turvy melting pot up until this week, when we learn there is a fully-enclosed “Humans Only” district along 42nd Street called “Ghetto Heights.” I guess it’s to be expected; after all, most humans wouldn’t venture to deep into the Alterworld.

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Still, the fact there’s a pocket of segregation where ignorance of and prejudice towards the alterworld “monsters” who inhabit the rest of the city can take root and fester gives this episode a distinct political bent, and paints Leonardo Watch as someone who’s not 100% okay with the idea of such a district…even if its where you can get the best burgers in the city.

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When stripped of its Blood Blockade Battlefront trappings, this week’s story is simplicity itself: Leo comes across a mushroom-type Alterworldian named Nej who also loves those famous burgers; so much so that it’s the first thing he asks for when hit by a tanker truck. But because he isn’t allowed in Ghetto Heights, it isn’t easy to acquire them.

When the truckers start screwing Nej on the price of the burgers, Leo decides to buy them for him without any upcharge, and they become fast friends, sharing the food that united them all over the city.

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One night, those same two up-to-no-good truckers hit Nej again, and one of them starts to beat him with a bat in the street; about as awful and dark moment in race relations as we’ve seen in Kekkai, which is saying something in a show with vampires!

Beating Nej turns him red, until he finally releases a cloud of spores that knock everyone out and wipe their memories of the past 13 hours, including his own. Everyone, except the one trucker who was wearing a gas mask because his partner peed his pants in the truck. I’m not going to asks who these guys owe money, but they’re certainly not the sharpest tacks.

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When Libra gets word of the amnesia cloud, Leo gets it in his head Nej may have had darker motives, but we know, of course, it was all a misunderstanding; the cloud his body simply reacted naturally to stress. In any case, Nej doesn’t remember anything.

The truckers then kidnap Leo and Nej, hoping to use the latter to help them commit crimes and amnesize their victims. Except that they underestimate the depth of Leo and Nej’s friendship. Leo hits the truckers with his trippy nausea-vision, and gets slugged in the head for his trouble, causing Nej to get so angry he blows his top again.

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Leo wakes up in a familiar place—the hospital—with White by his bedside. He goes out for another burger from 42nd Street, and scenes of all the places where he had burgers with Nej flash through his mind’s eye, only with no one in them. He tears up, but knows not why, until Nej is once again hit by a vehicle in the street and asks Leo for a burger.

Whether because the friendship he forged or his eyes transcended the effect of the spores, Leo kinda sorta remembers the affable mushroom man, and gladly hands a burger over. He unwittingly ordered enough for two, after all.

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I like how the Leo & Nej story comes full circle like this, and that even people who supposedly “never met” (but really did) still find each other in HLC and still manage to hit it off, despite their profound biological differences.

The episode closes on a not-so-related but still interesting note, with Leo entering the hospital ward to find White sitting on a bed smiling and laughing with another guy. Leo switches from panic to nervous relief when he learns the guy is White’s big bro, Black.

But to both Leo and us, it’s the kid on the subway, whom we’ve also seen with Femt, opening a whole can of worms about whether Black always intended for Leo to get close to White so he could meet him this night. He’s got the All-Seeing Eyes, after all.

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Kekkai Sensen – 05

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Sometimes, when there’s a girl you like, you just need a kick in the pants to ask her out, or in Leo’s case, a gargantuan monster truck-slash-fortress operated by Aligura, the Queen of Monomania.

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Leo is out with Zapp, lamenting the fact he can’t tell what White is thinking, when that truck suddenly bears down on them, and Aligura snatches up Leo. Once aboard Aligura’s awesome, sumptuously-appointed vehicle-base, Leo gets a little crash course in the monomania Aligura is infamous for.

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Love could be described as a kind of monomania, and when Aligura loved two men: Dendro Brody for his personality and Dog Hummer for his looks, she combined them into one, similar to the way someone takes separate ingredients to make their ideal dish.  Throughout his ordeal with the highly unstable Aligura, who tries to press him for details about his own love life, Leo is mostly terrified and begging Klaus to save him.

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Turns out this is more than just a job for Klaus, or KK, Chain, Lucky, or Zapp; it’s also a job for the object of Aligura’s affection, as well as her creation: Hummer-Brody, who in his combined form is a massive red demon-like monster with incredible brute strength who is also intensely upbeat, friendly and personable.

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Aligura wants her man/men back, but as she herself says about love, you push and push and the one who pushes hardest wins, and that’s Hummer-Brody, fusing all of Dendro’s blood into a giant fist with which he launches Aligura’s truck into the sky, where it breaks up and spreads debris all over the city, injuring “hundreds if not thousands.” Chain plucks Leo out of the sky, and all he needs are five stitches. Just another day!

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Only it isn’t just another day, because even before Aligura kidnaps him, White is on Leo’s mind. When he mentions her, she sneezes where she is, and when she sees him at the hospital smiling and laughing with another guy, he’s jealous. So just when he’s about to drive off home after a long, tiring day, he marches into White’s room and asks her out to a movie.

After the giddy thrills of aiding her escape from the hospital and motorcycle ride, the comedy movie surprisingly makes her cry, but cheers her up with some good-old self-deprecation, calling himself “pathetic” compared to his more capable sister Michella, something White refutes by calling saying he’s a good guy before cuddling up to him.

Thanks in part to Aligura’s unique perspective on the matter, Leo was able to push himself a little closer to the girl he likes.

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Kekkai Sensen – 04

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A third of the way into Spring ’15, Blood Blockade Battlefront is my number one. Nothing can match its scale and complexity, and creativity of its world(s), the swiftness and confidence of its storytelling, or its rapidly expanding yet increasingly diverse and charming cast, anchored by perhaps the weakest among them, possessing the strongest of weapons in their battle for balance.

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Elaborate action and effective comedy go hand in hand with Kekkai, as demonstrated when a big Libra party to let their hair down comes to screetching halt when Leo finally decides to say something, which happens to be his description of something he saw in the subway that matches the description of the greatest potential threat to humanity: blood breeds, AKA vampires.

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Just like that the stakes are raised significantly. We only got the smallest glimpse of what Angel Scale could do to the balance, but this feels like a much more existential threat. Vampires are taken seriously here; something I’m thankful for after seven seasons of True Blood, in which they did everything from play Wii Golf in their living rooms to have sex with their head turned around backwards. But they were never very frightening, nor are the ones in Owari no Seraph. The Blood Breeds of Kekkai are, because they’re strange and unknown and…er…variably corporeal.

That doesn’t mean the leading expert on them can be the hilariously lucky Blitz T. Abrams, who possesses a curse that only affects people (and vehicles) around him, meaning he’s never that fun to be around if you don’t like physical pain, even if it’s not his fault. It doesn’t bother Klaus, who sees Abrams as a mentor of sorts.

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With Leo’s eyes, Abrams is confident they can really get the lay of the vampire land (normally people aren’t able to see vamps unless they want to be seen.) So they plunge into the depths of Hell—on public transportation!—so Leo can take a good look at the “Edge of Nothingness” so Libra can get a better idea of what they’re up against.

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Like previous journeys to the Alterworld, this was another lush symphony of bizarre dreamscapes—I really dug the Final Fantasy vibe of the train station carved into a tree, below which is their ultimate destination. Along with all its narrative and character pros, this eye candy, and the eclectic soundtrack, are what pull Kekkai ahead of the rest.

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While there are a lot of bright sparks affecting his vision, Leo is still able to discern the blood breeds within the nothingness, and it’s not good: more than the 13 believed to exist, there are hundreds of them lurking down there, and if any one of them wanted to take human form and wreak havoc in Hellsalem’s Lot, they’d do plenty of damage indeed. And As the members of Libra back in Hellsalem report, that’s exactly what’s happening.

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When the traditional authorities prove not to be up to the challenge against elite vampires, “specialists” Steven and KK take over, and at least for a time, hold their own with their special abilities, before the female vampire brings the hammer down on them. Klaus, who is watching a live video stream courtesy of Chain (use of modern mobile tech is another neat aspect of Kekkai’s world-building), hops back on the train with Abrams and Zapp, and implores Leo to find those vamps’ weaknesses, because only he has the eyes to see them.

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Steve and KK weren’t sure if they’d survive the fight they were getting into. All they knew was that they had to buy as much time for Klaus and Leo as they could before being neutralized, trusting they’d come through. They do: Klaus makes almost as awesome an entrance as Abrams, and armed with the Vampire’s true name, seals her into a cyberpunk cross.

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Leo is amazed they made it, and weary that it took so much exertion to take out one elite blood breed when there are perhaps a thousand lurking in hell. But the lesson that sets him a little more at ease is as simple as the world he lives in is complicated: no one knows what’s coming tomorrow. Plenty of pain and suffering may be in store. But defeat is assured if one gives up.

9_mag

Kekkai Sensen – 03

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Leo isn’t one to freak out when confronted by a ghost, especially if she’s cute. Instead, he takes her picture to confirm if she’s a ghost, but she shows up in the photos. White tells him she likes him and draws nearer, only for Leo to wake up in his apartment. The transition has us wondering how much of his interactino with White is in his head, but there’s no time to ponder such things, as he’s being evicted and has forty seconds to vacate or, presumably, be eaten. Just another day in the ‘Lot!

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From there, we see him dozing on the couch in Libra HQ, refusing a stipend any higher than the standard rate even though he’s still delivering pizzas and sending money home. But this week Leo is on the sidelines, as the bulk of the episode follows Klaus on his quest to satisfy his fix of Prosfair, which is perhaps best described as “Chess on Acid”. It’s a game as intricate and bonkers as the world that conceived it.

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Initially, the game is introduced as a little joke, with the physically imposing yet cultured Klaus getting way to into it on his original Macintosh(!), to the bemusement of his colleagues. But when Zapp and Chain’s efforts to investigate the distribution of an advanced (and world-unbalancing) new drug called Angel Scale, it rises to the utmost importance, since one of the most powerful overbosses in the Alterworld, Arlelelle Eruca Fulgrouche (what a name!), happens to be a huge fan of Prosfair.

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When he arrives with his comely colleague K.K., Klaus is shocked to find Prosfair grandmaster Ulchenko has also come to challenge Fulgrouche. In the Russian’s mind, he has risen as high as he can amongst mankind in the game, and so playing a non-human is the next logical step. Also, he wants his country to have nuclear weapons, something Fulgrouche can make happen.

Alas, Ulchenko is no match for the don, coming up two minutes short of the nine hours he had to survive in a game. The exponentialy increasing speed and complexity of the game as it drags out nearly kills Ulchenko, and as per their agreement, since he lost, Fulgrouche will take the rest of that life.

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That’s when Klaus finds his opening to finally connect these events with the mission to uncover the Angel Scale ring. If Klaus lasts 99 hours straight, Fulgrouche agrees to not only reveal the trafficking routes of the drug, but also spare the Russian. And doggone it, the guy does it! As K.K. chain smokes and Ulchenko waits in stunned disbelief.

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Klaus doesn’t win, but he hangs with Fulgrouche for the full 99 hours, and all to the lovely stylings of Ludwig van’s vaunted Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy, an inspired use of a classic piece of music that really lends the duel otherworldly grandeur, as befits a prosfair battle taking place in the Alterworld.

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Klaus gets the trafficking routes, Ulchenko is freed, and K.K. makes sure Libra takes out all the cells pushing Angel Scale. It’s all made possible thanks to Klaus’ unparalleled strength, selflessness, and perseverance. Yet, to hear it from Leo, book-ending the episode with his interactions with White, he has no idea what Klaus did for the firm, and he may never know.

All Steve Starphase said is that “anything in this world can happen”, which has so far proven true. For Leo, those words must be pretty reassuring, because the one thing he wants most in the world is to heal Michella.

10_magRABUJOI World Heritage List