Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 16

Action is the name of the game on this week’s Baha Soul, with thrilling chases, an intense arena battle, daring escapes, and high-altitude rescues. It all starts when Bacchus, Hamsa, and Nina start talking about how and why Bacchus left Heaven, mentioning the hippogriff. El waits for his chance.

As Alessand continues to side with Charioce and Dias holds out hope for their old captain, Kaisar is stuffed in a cage and released in the middle of the arena, where he must fight Azazel to the death. Azzy may not be quite clear about why he’s still alive, but he’s not just going to lay down for the fallen knight, who manages to hold his own even though he’s missing a hand. Jaime Lannister, eat your heart out.

Once Bacchus, Hamsa and Nina realize El is missing (with Nina wearing El’s clothes, suggesting El went to the unusual trouble of dressing her after stealing her clothes) and formulate a plan to retrieve him, using lots of wordless hand (and wing) signals but getting the timing all wrong, causing a startled El to take wing and fly off.

Just when Azazel is about to put Kaisar down, Favaro, in the stands all along in a very puffy disguise (and clean-shaven), throws him Rocky, and Kaisar quickly gets the upper hand and “runs Azazel through” (though his precise strike doesn’t really touch Azzy).

As Favaro’s matador-like theme plays, he unleashes his crafty bounty hunter arsenal of crossbow bolts and smoke bombs, giving the three lads cover to escape, as Charioce reclines in his throne, seemingly unconcerned.

Nina catches up to El in a hovering platform in a very pretty chase through Heaven, but when she tries to pounce on him in mid-air she misses and starts to fall down and through the celestial barrier. Naturally, El descends at top speed to catch her, because he’s still, in her words “Mugaro”, despite having changed “a little bit.”

The two of them are then saved by Bacchus and Hamsa, who called Hippogriff and skedaddled just when Heavenly guards surrounded them. Back to Anatae they go, where El intends not to fight, but to bring peace.

At a very picturesque meeting spot, Rita unites with Kaisar, Rocky, Favaro and Azazel. The latter tries to slink off, claiming “this is as far” as he goes; but Kaisar tells him if they all work together, they can save demons as well as humans and gods from Charioce’s havoc. I loved Rita’s smile when Azzy walks by her, Kaisar’s words having worked. And all it takes is a look to bring Favaro along for the ride.

Not long ago all of the main cast was imprisoned in some way. Now, suddenly, they’re all free (for now) and in strong groups (again, for now). Will the two groups stay apart, or combine to create a force even Charioce will have trouble with? Will Nina’s continued Charioce conflict jeopardize the whole enterprise? Can El succeed without using force (which we know is limited in its scope an duration before he collapses)? We shall see.

Alice to Zouroku – 03

In the aftermath of Sana’s big pig-conjuring hiccup, she’s loath to come right out and apologize to Zouroku (as any little kid would be), but playing Good Cop Bad Old Man, Ryuu manages to get Sana to wear a tracking device so he and Shizuku can help keep her safe.

He also wants Zouroku to go ahead and adopt Sana, which is a big step, but isn’t necessarily out of the question for the ol’ buzzard. Sana is a highly believable (and adorable) little kid throughout, constantly asking for juice but taking offense when Sanae asks if she needs help in the potty.

Meanwhile, Kitou takes of the kid gloves and sends in Minnie C Tachibana (again) to retrieve Sana. While en route to her mission we learn quite a bit about Minnie that makes her both a more sympathetic character and explains why she’s on the side of the bad guys.

Minnie met and immediately fell in love with and married an American marine, but when he was killed defusing a bomb in Iraq, she was a lost at sea (figuratively). That is, until she was reborn as a Dream of Alice out of a desire to be held in his big hairy arms – the arms we saw in episode one.

We also learn, I believe for the first time, that Sana’s elaborately costumed saviour from that first episode was actually Shizuku; they have the same blue mirror gate, after all. What’s interesting about this is that while Minnie, the Twins, and the Artist are all under the control of the facility, Shizuku is not only free but leads a normal life.

This is probably why despite Sana possessing power many magnitudes higher than she, Shizuku is working to keep Sana free. At her young age, she still has a chance to lead a normal life. But controlling her powers is key.

And what powers. In another flashback we see Kaitou showing Minnie C the “Wonderland” Sana conjured with a thought. Among the Dreams of Alice, Sana is clearly the crown jewel for them, and the facility wants to keep studying her under it’s determined if others can gain the same level of power.

Minnie C is fully on board with this, because if she can attain Sana’s power, she might be able to bring back her husband. That seems like a long shot, but she clearly thinks its worth it and has dedicated her life to that goal, even though Sana’s power specifically does not harm humans…for now.

Minnie C and Shizuku, then are diametrically opposed in their treatment of Sana. Minnie C has absolutely no compulsions about violently restraining Sana and threatening to break her neck. Sana is The Objective, nothing more. For Shizuku, as well as Zouroku and Sanae, Sana is a little girl who deserves better than lab rat status simply because she has supernatural power.

We leave Sana in the firm hands of Minnie’s beloved, and the good guys only have the faintest idea where she might have gone. But Shizuku is flying through the city, hoping she’s going in the right direction, and won’t rest until she’s found and re-rescued. Hopefully she won’t be too late before Minnie C’s obsession allows Sana to be hurt any further.

Alice to Zouroku – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Sana, who belongs to a group of supernatural power-wielding humans known as “Dreams of Alice”, has escaped the research facility where she’s been held as long as she can remember.

While being pursued by the facility’s director, armed with other Dreams of Alice, Sana meets Kashimura Zouroku, an elderly florist, who gets caught up in the ensuing chaos.

He eventually agrees to let her stay at his place “for a while” as long as she helps him out and doesn’t use her powers.

A2Z, as I’ll be shortening it to, is a seinen anime, and as such, deals with what could have been a moetastic mess with a clear-eyed sobriety, a deliberate pace, and with a refined attention to detail. Zouroku is truly an Old Man’s Old Man, who wouldn’t be out of place in a show like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, and the way the young Sana instantly starts cramping his old man style is highly believable as well as entertaining.

We’ve seen plenty of “I don’t need this” characters, but Zouroku immediately earns that attitude by having so many years under his belt, and to a degree, having earned the right to live his life the way he wants. If a bunch of magic-using urchins start messing up his Shinjuku, well, he has a problem with that. Of course, once he learns where Sana is from, and how she’s no doubt had to deal with stuff no little kid should, his position softens, without breaking down into 3-gatsu no Lion Gushy Grandpa Mode.

I also liked the application of the magic itself. It’s weird, fun, and creative without getting too whimsical. As soon as we saw Tachibana standing on the palm of a giant hand, I knew we were in for some weird stuff, and her short but exciting dual with Sana’s mysterious benefactor, as well as the Mini car chase with the chain-and-arrow-wielding twins, are very well-directed sequences. The CGI is very much noticeable, but not distractingly so.

What I appreciated was that mundane scenes of Shinjuku are treated with as much care as those action scenes. This may be a first episode and the animation quality may well dip, but for now the world of A2Z is lively and lived-in, avoiding being too flashy, surreal, or stylized. Similarly, the character design is very simple, but effective, calling to mind that of Madoka Magica. A little kiddy, belying its more mature themes.

We don’t know exactly what’s up with Zouroku and his granddaughter, but my take was that she passed away or maybe moved out on bad terms (it’s suggested she’s older than Sana in any case). The sudden appearance of Sana in Zouroku’s life suggests this won’t be a one-sided relationship: both parties will get something out of it.

Sure, at first, that means more trouble for Zouroku, but whether he was planning on it or not, it also afford the opportunity for him to do something more important than a floral arrangement for a yakuza’s girlfriend.

What exactly that is, and whether or not he’ll simply stay out of the way when Sana & Co. go off on each other again, I look forward to finding out. This confident double episode was a surefire way to get me quickly invested.

Macross Delta – 25

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The predictable patterns of Macross Delta continue into the penultimate episode, where the action and daring of last week transitions into a relatively quiet, exposition-filled outing (well, quiet until the ending).

Berger Stone shows up again and again launches into a wordy infodump that includes references to other Macross shows. The Windermereans (mostly blindly) rally around Lloyd, including King Heinz, who shows his knights how little time he has left.

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Stone basically lays out that if Lloyd uses the Star Singer to create an interconnected humanoid network, it will be very bad, but we already knew that. When Freyja hides her bandaged hand, she hides it way too obviously to not be noticed by Mirage and Hayate. Walkure is wounded and scattered, but Kaname intends to step up to the plate, and if she has to go down, she’ll be going down swinging for the fences.

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Mirage once again gives way so that Hayate can hang out with Freyja. Though Freyja is literally marked for death, the events of the final episode will be instrumental in confirming whether her hand crystal will kill her, or if the limited age of Windermereans will continue to be a problem.

The show takes the effort to bring Hayate and Freyja closer together by revealing that his Dad once visited Windermere and gave lil’ Freyja the little device she still carries with her, and ends with the classic Macross theme “Do You Remember Love?”, once sung by Lyn Minmey and other singers.

But it’s telling that it’s Freyja’s laugh, not her song, that helps ease his heart. After all, Stone just told everyone songs are a weapon.

 

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Not just a weapon, but the weapon. After some peaceful space credits, the episode upshifts, raising the stakes for the endgame, as the giant NUNS fleet I initially thought Chaos would have to somehow stop, falls under the spell of Mikumo’s Song of the Stars (sung under duress/hypnosis).

Thus brainwashed, the captains and crew of the ships activate the dimensional weapons in their weapons bays, utterly destroying the fleet in a matter of moments. Thousands of souls cry out, and Lloyd looks on approvingly, apparently that much closer to his ultimate goal of galactic domination.

The remnants of Walkure, and Chaos’ handful of ships and fighters now seem hopelessly outmatched against the terrifying might of Lloyd’s newest and most powerful weapon: their friend and comrade.

We’ll see if and how they manage to defeat him, and who will join their cause, and who among those we’ve come to know will be sacrificed in the name of galactic peace.

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Macross Delta – 24

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Hayate, Mirage and Freyja are in custody for a good part of this episode, and what with the restraints and show trial and general passivity of Heinz (the only one who can pardon them), things certainly looked pretty bad for our triangle…in a vacuum.

But Arad, Kaname, Makina and Reina were still free, thanks in part to Mikumo and in part to their own competence. While pondering their next move, the still-free members of Chaos are approached by Berger (sporting a new voice actor, as the original is in poor health), who promptly leads them to Chekhov’s Still-working VF-22.

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Lloyd’s courtship of Mikumo continues, as he tells her she’s not only an artificial life form, but also the legendary Star Singer, descended from the Protoculture. Hard to argue with him considering what she’s managed to do.

Furthermore, he believes Walkure was created to provide cover for her. She was once Lady M’s, but now she’s Lloyd’s, and he intends to use her; her own desires are irrelevant to the equation.

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After the show trial (which is a bit dull), we get to the execution, which consists of the three condemned taking flying leaps off the edge of a huge sheer cliff. Hayate stalls as much as he can, assuring both himself and the girls that this isn’t the end.

Sure enough, the VF-22 streaks through the sky and causes a big ol’ ruckus, allowing Hayate and Mirage’s remote-controlled planes to catch them when they jump. It’s a neat stunt, though the whole exercise makes the Windermereans look a bit dumb.

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A huge aerial battle ensues between Delta and the Aerial Knights as Walkure attempts to destroy the protoculture system without Mikumo’s help. It doesn’t go well: Makina takes a sniper’s bullet for Freyja, and while they try to keep it together, Lloyd repeats a mantra enough times to awaken the Star Singer within Mikumo, and her song starts overpowering everyone.

So Walkure/Delta has no choice but to retreat, having left Windermere in much worse shape than when they arrived. Makina may heal, but now Lloyd has perhaps the Ultimate Trump Card in an awakened Star Singer, while an ice crystal appears on Freyja for the first time; it would seem her singing has shortened her already-short life.

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Macross Delta – 23

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Now that everyone is on Windermere, the this episode has a strong “this is it”, “last-level” feeling to it, where things are going to end one way or another, but hopefully in favor of Walkure and Delta. If they reach the capital and have a tactical show, they’ll win.

But there are serious obstacles, and they make that outcome still feel distant: everyone is scattered across the region, and everyone is constantly on the run from Winderemeran pursuers, including the Aerial Knights.

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There are still some welcome moments of peace, however, such as when Freyja leads Hayate and Mirage through caves she used to play in as a child (yikes), and the surroundings and proximity to her home village dredges up memories of singing Ranke Lee songs as a young child.

We also, somewhat amazingly, see Mikumo eat with others for the first time, with Maki and Reina teasing her and bringing out some more human reactions in her. They think she’ll only become a better singer once she actually starts having more human experiences.

Then we have Freyja and Mirage, envying one another for being able to go so far for Hayate’s sake, before their talk is broken up by Hayate.

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Mikumo unveils her criminally underused rocket petticoat and martial arts skills to allow Maki and Reina to flee, but Hayate, Freyja and Mirage are caught (and almost killed) by Bogue and the Knights, while Roid confronts Mikumo (in a kind of creepy stalker-y way) and says the trigger words that knock her unconscious. Looks like this mission isn’t going to be as easy as it looks on paper, which is as it should be.

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For all of Bogue’s bluster, King Heinz wants the prisoners alive to stand trial before execution, so Lord Lloyd indulges Hayate’s desire to see what they accuse his father Wright of doing with his own eyes. Upon seeing the still seething crater that was once the city of Karlisle (where Bogue’s sister served), Freyja starts to sing a song to soothe the souls lost there, but Bogue knocks her down.

Neither she nor Mirage can change the Windermerans’ long-standing belief in what went down here, and when more evidence is sought, they bring them to a chamber where Wrights’ VF-22 is on display, where his body was found and from which the dimensional bomb was deployed.

That just about seals the deal, right? Wright totally did this horrible thing? Perhaps, but like Mirage, I wouldn’t rule out a heretofore unrevealed motivation…was the same weapon being developed in Karlisle, for instance, and did Wright save the rest of the planet by destroying it?

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If there’s anything else there, there’s only a few episodes left to educate us and complete the picture that still seems to be missing some key strokes. As for Lloyd, it would seem his designs are to replace the ailing Heinz with Mikumo. Mikumo has said again and again that as long as she able to sing, that’s all that matters.

That philosophy will certainly be put to the test, as will her loyalties and human willpower, as Lloyd isn’t just going to let her sing, but make her sing to further his plans for galactic domination. Here’s hoping there’s enough humanity in her to resist. If not, she might soon be fighting against her former comrades in Walkure and Delta.

In any case…that’s way too many pairs of glasses.

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Kiznaiver – 04

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With the seven assembled, things slow down quite a bit as they get to know each other a little better, either voluntarily (Nico) or reluctantly (Honoka). And everyone is a little uncomfortable around Hisomu, mostly because the ways he senses the world and derives pleasure are so different from theirs. But…are they, really?

When the group breaks off (Kacchon, Chidori, and Tenga were already home), Yuta and Honoka have an exchange very common for them, with outwardly polite compliments by the former parried by icy insults by the latter. Yuta’s vanity and Honoka’s unpleasantness seem to feed of one another. Honoka can like it or not, she is bonding.

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As for Kacchon, after the girl in his dream turns her head and reveals herself as a younger Sonozaki, he becomes way more fixated on her. This irks Chidori, but only because she clearly still has present-tense feelings for Kacchon and is jealous.

Jealousy is envy, which made me wonder: for all of Sonozaki’s talk of new deadly sins, do these seven still represent the old ones? Here’s as close as I got:

Honoka: pride
Nico: covetousness
Hisomu: lust
Tenga: anger
Yuta: gluttony
Chidori: envy
Agata: sloth

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Anyway, when Sonozaki appears to inform the seven they’ll be going on a summer ‘training’ camp and to eat a giant plate of fried rice to deepen their bonds, Kocchan goes after her, asks that they exchange emails (as the seven did earlier) and invites her to join them.

As someone getting used to (knowingly) sharing bonds of friendship with others, a part of him (perhaps fueled by his dream) may wonder if Sonozaki’s distance is intentional or even necessary, or if a part of her would like to connect. That connecting with others line has haunted Kocchan and drives him to include Sonozaki in their camp getaway.

Sonozaki also reveals to the group that she and all the Gomorins around town are members of the Kizuna Committee, a group that “for various reasons” is growing smaller but hasn’t “given up” on its core mission of cracking the code for world peace.

It’s not a ton of useful info, but it does indicate she’s not alone in this operation, only one link in the chain, and that she is one of the true believers who will stick around to the end.

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As for accepting Kacchon’s invitation (and his gentlemanly offer to carry her bag), Sonozaki seems to be proving his theory (about her not necessarily minding connecting with someone, even him) right. Honoka is dubious as always, however, and wonders if there’s a connection between Hisomu’s sudden late addition to the group and her increased presence.

Then there’s Chidori, who doesn’t like Kacchon’s interactions with Sonozaki one bit, no ma’am she does not. Well, she has no one to blame but herself for backtracking on her confession by strongly insisting (to someone she knows will usually take what she says at face value) her love for him was in the past.

Then again, maybe it took Kacchon’s heightened ‘flirtation’ with Sonozaki for her to realize that. One thing is clear: whatever pain is being derived by her jealousy for that situation isn’t being shared among the other six.

Tenga doesn’t have to be connected to read what’s written clearly all over Chidori in thick black marker, and his offer to help her (along with her delayed acceptance of that offer) suggest one more mini-alliance among many that have sprouted up in the septet.

Some decent character moments, but the lack of action and slowed pace was conspicuous this week. The school counselor and teacher seeming to recruit Agata’s former bullies is only touched upon without much explanation, so I’ll reserve judgement on that until we learn how they’ll be used. If one one thought the bullies were gone, but like Yuta’s girlfriends, it would seem they still have a role to play.

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Kiznaiver – 03

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Maki’s murder confession turns out to just be a sick joke, as she amends her self-introduction as someone with a “terrible personality”, which seems to be enough for Sonozaki. With that, there’s nothing left to do but go home and prepare for the school day. But someone—who from the OP is clearly the seventh Kiznaiver—is watching them, seemingly approvingly.

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Tenga decides the best place for him to crash is at Agatas, to make sure “random people don’t do random things” to him, which would now affect everyone. He’s surprised to learn not only are Agata’s parents away on business, but Chidori lives right next door to him.

As romantic a scenario as that might sound, especially after the two’s confessions, Chidori makes it plain (though not veyr convincingly) that her love for him was in the past.

Agata naturally finds a way to make her pity him by asking whether he should just forget she said anything, worried “unnecessary things” would make things awkward. While he made a smidgen of progress last week, this kid still has a long way to go as far as making connections.

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The entire day is marked by the Kiznaivers all feeling a sudden jolt of shared pain, but when they’re all together, they learn it’s the pain of the seventh, whom they’ve not yet met. Once they figure out there’s a seventh, Sonozaki assigns them their next mission: find him.

I’ll also say that just because all the Kizzys are connected through pain doesn’t make them suddenly best friends at schol. Yuta doesn’t like “weirdos” like Tenga, Nico, and even Chidori hanging around him, nor do his girlfriends. But this is all about adaptation. Yuta can like it or not, he’s in a different clique now.

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Through process of elimination, the six determine the seventh is Hisomu Yoshiharu, the only classmate not at school. They show up at his Ayanami Rei-style grimy apartment and use his own cries from their shared pain to flush him out. What follows is a breathless chase across town, with Tenga continuatlly punching Yuta so Hisomu will cry out and they can locate him.

When Chidori and Nico decide they’re tired of feeling the pain of others getting punched, they ask Tenga to hit them, but are stopped by the neighborhood watch ladies, allowing Hisomu to give them the slip. Agata, however, keeps following him, meets him on a bridge over a highway, and tells him he wants to “make a connection,” as Sonozaki assured him all humans wish to do.

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Hisomu responds by asking Agata to jump to his death. Agata and Tenga realize jumping is the only way they’ll keep him from running off again…but Tenga can’t do it, and Agata beats him to it. He ricochets off a box van and falls into a MINI convertible, bloodied and concussed, but alive.

All six other Kiznaivers felt his pain, including Hisomu, who we learn is a masochist who loves and gets off on pain, to the disgust of Maki and Yuta but the fascination of Nico. The mission is complete, and now all seven modern deadly sins (Hisomu’s being “immorality”) are now represented.

While at first I was fuzzy on why they drew out the intro of the seventh member to the third week, as the episode ended I acknowledged the fact that this guy reacts the opposite way to pain as everyone else, making him exceptional among exceptions.

Sonozaki declares in an address at the institute where she works that obtaining the “true connection” involves those “tripped up by sin” who “struggle in the darkness” and find the true power od their bonds…even if those bonds were artificially established.

I wonder what their next mission will be, beyond the overarching task of surviving the Summer. I’m also a little apprehensive that it’s implied that will be no cakewalk.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 06 (30)

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This relatively spare (and almost entirely supernatural-free) episode focuses on the major players once more: Mikado, Masaomi, Anri, and Izaya, with Chikage narrating as he learns more about the state of things in Ikebukuro.

While much of that state can be attributed to Izaya, who has Chess, Shoji, Go, and Othello pieces scattered on his game board as he builds a house of tarot cards (a bit too much game imagery here, frankly) he’s correct in stating no one person is to blame, because everyone played little roles that added up.

At this point, he’s super-excited about Mikado’s state in particular, and interested in what he’ll do next, even if it means he himself becomes a pawn. He also wants this to be a humans-only game from here on out, which means taking Anri, Kasane, Celty and Shizuo out of this stage.

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Still, it’s Anri’s human side that shines in her first meeting with Mikajima Saki, which cam as a surprise to me, considering how long this show has gone on. Saki has come prepared for war if Anri was to express feelings for Masaomi. While she heard from her boyfriend that Mikado was crazy about Anri, she wanted to meet her one-on-one to get her own impression of her.

What she finds is a cute, charming, mild-mannered young lady who has convinced herself that she’s a parasite who neither knows how to love anyone nor believes she deserves to love or be loved. It’s a much more nuanced situation than Saki imagined. The reality is, she’s no more certain of what love is than Anri, but being a parasite (or a puppet, as she once was) doesn’t automatically disqualify them from love and happiness.

Mika decides to further explain her relationship with Masaomi by going into her past with him; to a time Anri wasn’t present for. Despite having made a promise to the guys that they’d reveal their respective secrets upon meeting again, Anri is intrigued and lets Mika proceed.

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Izaya’s efforts seem intended to pare down the players, especially limiting them to those who are only plain old flesh-and-blood humans. Mika’s efforts seem intended to enlighten her about the love triangle in which she’s been the fourth vertex for long enough.

And then Chikage, who is titularly “in for a penny, in for a pound”, breaks Masaomi’s dilemma down to brass tacks: He wants to see Mikado and save him (either by punching him or being punched, in the simplest possible terms). Blue Square is in the way, so Chikage will help Masaomi get close. If Mikado won’t answer a call from Masaomi’s phone, then Chikage will call him on his. Easy peasy, right?

…Perhaps not. Izumii Ran visits Mikado (much to Aoba’s consternation), they proceed to have a very civil conversation, Izumii gives Mikado some kind of “gift” hidden in his arm sling, and then leaves in the car of Awakusu’s Aozaki, activity that Aozaki’s rival Akabayashi learns about pretty quickly.

These are presumably the “grown-ups” Chikage is worried about getting tangled up with. His basic plan could work if he could just get two old estranged friends in the same room together to hash it out, but with an apparently important object now in Mikado’s possession that probably wasn’t given to him so he could pull out of his tailspin, it may already be too late for basics.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 05 (29)

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I misread Kasane’s intent last week: she didn’t come to Shinra’s intending to make a deal. Instead, she’s only implementing the next step in her comprehensive Celty research. She takes control of Shinra with a long kiss, plucks him out of his wheelchair and jumps out the window into the night.

Celty goes berserk, transforming into a big black ball of rage and gives chase just as Kasane intended. We see a lot of emotions going through the darkness of Celty’s mind, but the one that stands out the most is Shinra, Shinra, Shinra. And so her body moves instinctively to retrieve him.

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As Varona stands by a car with Celty’s head inside, Kasane leads Berserk Celty through the skies of Ikebukuro, periodically firing blades to slow her down. Meanwhile, Chikage accompanies Masaomi to his Yellow Scarves hideout after saving him from Izumii earlier in the day, putting their fight on hold for now.

Masaomi, for his part, is shocked to hear Izumii is fighting on Mikado’s behalf as a member of the Dollars, while Chikage wonders what version of the Dollars he’s encountered truly represents them.

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Kasane eventually meets up with Varona, who is this week’s narrator, and unlike everyone else running around this week has a lot of time to think about things. She admits she felt the euphoria that comes from gaining power when she stole the head; but it didn’t last long, and she realizes that it’s because her cover was blown instantly, and by Shizuo, no less.

Varona remains a deeply wounded and scarred young woman, but Ikebukuro and Shizuo have definitely had a profound – and I believe positive – effect on how she looks at the world and her role and values in it. She isn’t denying her feelings, only trying to figure out what they are and why she has them, and it all comes back to Shizuo and the peaceful daily life she enjoyed. She concludes it’s too late to go back now; that life is gone. But is it?

As chance would have it, after teaching some punk kids a lesson, Shizuo ends up with another bike on his shoulder when he encounters Celty’s horse. In the funniest and coolest scene of this entire Ketsu arc, the horse goes through various forms of transportation for Shizuo to ride it until settling on the bike, which he mounts and is then propelled at very un-bike-like speed.

While I’m unsure how interconnected Celty and her horse are, or whether they’re one and the same, it did seem like the horse was acting more reasonably than the mindless black ball of rage being messed with by Kasane. Whatever the case, it’s a given that the horse and Shizuo are on a direct course to the car with both Shinra and her head in it, which just so happens to be driven by his former adoptive protege.

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Comet Lucifer – 03

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After plucking their host’s last straw by knocking over his perfect pot of curry, Sogo, Kaon, Felia, and the very irritatingly-voiced Moura are kicked out of the cafe, which thankfully still shows signs of the damage Moura caused. They take Felia downtown and show her the sights, and we get a very pleasant, detailed, yet wordless montage of their fun, and likely expensive, day to keep Felia entertained.

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Everything is chipper until in her excitement Felia bumps into a passerby, sending her pigeon-cat cake flying. She tries to use her telekinesis to save it, but Moura startles her, and the cake is dumped on a purple-haired cafe patron, who seemed annoyed but not unreasonably angry with the incident. Turns out he’s a master hacker-terrorist who has been watching Felia for some time, and judging from his expressions and gestures in his dark office, he’s also quite unhinged in the “creepy unhinged villain” kind of way.

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In order to induce as many expressions of fear and worry on his “mademoiselle” Felia (which he watches with relish on cameras, which…ew), he throws the entire city’s traffic control system into chaos, thus turning the city into a game board and the kids game pieces he moves around by controlling the ample technology around them. Even Gus and his blonde buddy aren’t immune from the disarray.

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But every time the Bad Guy tries to close in on Felia, Sogo and Kaon split up and misdirect and serve as decoys to keep him off balance, until he gets angry and steps up his game, activating a spider-type mecha to pursue Kaon and Felia on a cable car. Sogo gets as high up into the air as possible and Kaon throws Soura to him, activating Soura’s mecha transformation.

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Once Soura is in play, it’s Game Over for the bad guy, as his mecha is beaten back and the cable breaks. Felia uses her “force power” to give the cable car a soft landing, while the bad guy falls victim to the cable’s recoil, which gives him a reverse mohawk.

The physics (magic hoverboards and telekinesis aside, of course) were pretty solid, right up until here; such a huge cable would surely have taken off his head, if not more. Instead he gets an old-style anime villain comeuppance, even though he surely put dozens of people in the hospital with his reckless antics…all for his personal entertainment.

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Even the most gorgeous sunsets of the Fall season can’t save this episode, or this show, from the inescapable fact that it is artful, attractive, and often thrilling (and thus watchable) but utterly lacking in substance, making it my Fall guilty pleasure. It’s cotton candy; empty calories with no payoff; a bunch of elaborate fun stuff that happens, and then it’s over. Sure, Alfried joins Gus’ dream team, but we just saw Alfried fail miserably to a couple of kids, so it’s not like he’s that much of a threat. He’s just an overwrought creeper.

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Kekkai Sensen – 02

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A giant Nausicaa-style beast flying over a Gothic/Art Deco alternate NYC skyline as if it were the most mundane thing in the world: This is one of the iconic, “nutshell” images of Kekkai Sensen, which joins the 10 Club this weekend with one hell of a second episode.

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After last week dropped us in the middle of Jerusalem’s (or Hellsalem’s) Lot with Leo and had at it, this week starts with formal introductions to his new co-workers at Libra, and they’re a fun, colorful bunch that also feels like a tight-knit family. Leo’s the ‘new adopted kid brother’ to Zapp, who is always butting heads with his ‘sister’ Chain, while Klaus has an undeniable dad-like quality to him. (He also looks like Beast from X-men.)

Rounding out the core of the Libra we know is organizer Steven A Starphase and Combat Butler…yes, Combat Butler, Gilbert F. Altstein (Alfred, anyone?) Leo seems a little overwhelmed with all the new names, but thanks to the helpful HUD-style character labeling, and the sheer variety of colorful personalities, it was a cinch for me to remember them.

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There’s more great world and character building as Leo continues his pizza delivery route, as the untold numbers of Libra members are all over Jerusalem’s/Hellsalem’s Lot but keep a low profile like the Dollars of Durarara!!, so it makes sense to keep living his regular life. The only thing is, every pizza he tries to deliver is intercepted by Zapp, who seems to be testing Leo’s reflexes (and patience!) while simultaneously keeping an eye on the boy with the Eyes That See All, a valuable new tool in the Libra arsenal.

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Those eyes pay immediate dividends, as while Leo is on his pizza route with Zapp in tow, he detects a dry cleaning van that doesn’t look right. In fact, he’s just seen past a form of camouflage previously unknown to and undetected by Libra, hiding a demonic courier van illegally transporting live humans.

Leo decides to retreat and regroup when he accidentaly meets eyes with the baddies, but it’s too late, and swiftly pounce on his Honda Gyro and nab him, leaving Zapp out of commision in a pool of his own blood. Tellingly, Zapp makes sure to get some of that blood on Leo’s clothes before the crims take him.

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From here we see the true awesome ability of Libra in action, utilizing far more than just brute strength to maintain the balance in the city. As a tied-up Leo protests the bad guy’s blatant violation of the “Chrysler-Galadona Accord”, Zapp is in contact with Chain, Klaus, and Steve. Chain has eyeballs on the van, but when it turns into a far less conspicuous vehicle (a Toyota Camry, LOL), she loses it. But Libra’s not done yet.

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The whole reason Zapp is in such a bad way, and furthermore seems to absorb every blood transfusion the hospital gives him, is that he’s got a thin strand of blood tied to the van that nabbed Leo. When Leo manages to stop (read: crash) the van by using his eyes to overwhelm the vision of his captors, all Zapp has to do is ignite that blood thread, but since he can’t move, it’s up to Chain to follow the fire to paydirt. Klaus, Steve, and Gil also follow in their jersey-barrier-busting, badass LXG-style custom pursuit vehicle.

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From there, the chase is on, which we follow both by watching Chain fly along the rooftops, in the crazily-driving butler’s instruments, and a nifty 3DCG map that tracks everyone. It’s a fantastically set-up and thrillingly staged chase scene that really capitalizes on the complexity of the city and the super-abilities of the cast. And it’s all set to Jazz. This show knows what it’s doing.

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So does Libra, and so once they catch up to the van of couriers (who weren’t prepared to be detected in the first place, let alone for serious combat), it doesn’t take long to take them out and recover the missing people, along with Leo, who was badly injured in the accident.

Still, by taking it upon himself to fight his captors rather than just sit and wait for help from others is something his Libra-mates admire, and they congratulate him on a job well done, which they couldn’t have done without him in the first place.

Leo also realizes Zapp was stalking him because it was his way of serving as his bodyguard, something Libra would never let Leo go around without, considering his valuable eyes.

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Having been officially accepted into Libra and proven both to them and himself that he belongs there and has something unique to offer, Leo wanders the hospital grounds while completing his convalescence.

In a gorgeous, ‘I so want to go to there’ cemetery, he meets a philosophical ghost, White (Kugimiya Rie!), who asks him whether it’s best to fear death despite is inevitability, or not fear it out of the belief it isn’t inevitable? Some interesting food for thought from another intriguing new character, and yet another layer from among Kekkai Sensen’s elaborate multitudes to explore.

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Steins Gate – 17

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Hmmm…Well, that didn’t work. At least not all the way.

Steins;Gate may twist time into knots, but it never wastes it, snatching away Okarin’s (and my) sweet relief that Mayushii is safe in the first thirty seconds. Okarin stopping his past self from stopping Suzuha from going back to the 70s before the storm damaged her time machine (whew) only delayed Mayushii’s death a little; it didn’t prevent it. For that, he’s going to have to get that divergence number closer to 1.0. Much closer.

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So it’s back to the drawing board for Okarin. Thankfully, he has the adorable genius Kurisu on hand to help him decide what to draw up next. She theorizes that because sending one D-mail to cancel another made incremental progress, cancelling other D-mails that ended up changing the past will lead to further progress.

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It’s a good theory, but undoing D-mails will have a profound interpersonal cost on the lab members, touched on when Kurisu laments she won’t remember Okarin calling her Kurisu (not remembering the first time he did it). But that kind of change is peanuts compared to The last D-mail Okarin undid, which caused Suzuha to never meet her father. The next D-mail he has to undo is the Feyris sent; the one that somehow prevented Akiba from becoming an Otaku Mecca.

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That “somehow” is key, because Okarin can’t change anything if he doesn’t know what Feyris actually did. When he tracks her down, she’s slightly occupied; on the run from a gang of over-zealous Rai-Net Battler gamers sore over her beating them at a tournament. If Okarin wants to talk to her, he’s going to have to keep up.

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The difficulty of prying the truth from the frazzled Feyris is aggravated by his talk with her being constantly interrupted by bursts of chasing, but Okarin eventually able to get her attention by mentioning “May Queen”, the name of her cafe that never was, and a name no one but her should know.

Okarin goes so far as to bring Feyris to the site where her cafe was (or should be), and something very unsettling and haunting occurs: the area briefly shifts back and forth between its current abandoned state and the May Queen, causing Feyris to nearly faint. Even before this happens, the atmosphere is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

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This is a phenomenon I don’t believe we’ve seen before, and I think it has something to do with the effect of Okarin’s Reading Steiner “leaking”; making those he’s in close contact with remember along with him, at least to a degree. I’m interested to see how far this “leaking” goes and if it’s permanent or merely fleeting.

When Okarin tells Feyris that Mayushii’s life is in danger, Feyris is, surprisingly, still hesitant to cooperate, but she turns out to have a very good reason: she sent that D-mail to save the life of her father, who died ten years ago in the original world line.

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This explains why he so suddenly appeared in her apartment after she sent the D-mail, and fully re-inserts Feyris, whose D-mail had far-reaching effects on the timeline but who had been largely sidelined since episode 9, right back into the thick of things, showing just how deep a bench this show has. It also introduces the unenviable but  inevitable choice of saving one person’s life at the cost of another but not being able to save both.

But before they can determine how to proceed, the crazed Rai-Netters corner them, and we get a tense, stark scene in which they beat Okarin bloody and prepare to take Feyris away to their deranged leader for God-knows-what manner of unpleasantness.

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Even in his beaten-down state, Okarin is able to stall the thugs long enough for help to arrive in the most unexpected form imaginable: Feyris’ dad’s chauffeur squeezes his S-Class limo through the alley and scares off the thugs.

Call it a deus (or patrem?) ex machina if you must—it was quite a strange sequence of events—but the fact the thugs’ boss on the other end of the phone is promptly arrested suggests a coordinated, quick-response security system is in place to protect Feyris, a system necessitated by the fact she’s a celebrity in her own right, but also the daughter of a rich and powerful man and thus a target for kidnapping.

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But even with such a system, Feyris would have been in big trouble had Okarin not been there to delay them. That isn’t lost on Feyris or her dad, who agree to tell Okarin what became of the IBN 5100 he used to own, in a very slick segue. Ten years ago, while preparing to board his flight for work ten years ago, her dad received a text that his daughter had been kidnapped, and as he was not as wealthy back then, had to sell his IBN in order to afford her ransom.

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This talk is followed by Feyris paying Okarin a visit in the guest room where he’s resting after a day of running and being beaten up. Okarin has had many exquisitely tender, moving scenes with Kurisu, Mayushii, and Suzuha; now it’s Feyris’ turn…or I should say, Akiha Rumiho’s turn.

She drops their usual chuuni code and nicknames in order to thank him properly, and to tell him everything she couldn’t say in front of her father, in one of the most sharply written and powerfully-acted scenes of the series thus far. Not bad for a character we’ve barely seen for eight episodes, but always liked. Considerable props to Miyano Mamoru and Momoi Haruko.

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Ten years ago, Rumiho was so angry and bitter at her dad for going on his trip, she told him she hated him before he left. That was the last time she ever saw him, as he was killed in a plane crash. When Okarin let her send a D-mail, she sent the false kidnapping message, which kept her dad off that flight and brought him home by train, which led to the current world line. It was a selfish choice, but a perfectly understandable one. If the means to save a dead loved one you didn’t part ways with amicably was in the palm of your hand, who wouldn’t make that choice?

Now that she knows that D-mail may well have sealed Mayushii’s doom, she voices her willingness to send a D-mail undoing it. When asked if she’s “sure about this”, she answers honestly: not at all. But now she can see both the world as it is and as it was, and she is sure of one thing: her father loved her dearly as she loved him, and nothing she said or did would change that fact. Having her father back was a “beautiful dream”, but it isn’t something she’s willing to continue at the cost of Mayushii’s life. Her father died on that plane. He was supposed to die. Now she’s at peace with that. Mostly.

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But more than that, after what her “Prince” Okarin went through to protect her, she feels compelled to return the favor by helping him. She’s always admired and idolized Okarin (ironic as she herself is an idol to many others), but here that admiration takes a turn for the romantic. Calling him her prince, I half-expected her to steal a kiss, but she settles for a behind-the-back hug and permission to cry. It’s just beautiful all around.

Now Okarin finds himself in a situation with Feyris similar to the one with Kurisu: anytime he has these wonderful, powerful moments with either, he travels back in time and everything is lost. Here, Feyris hopes she’ll remember the experiences and words they shared. Okarin tells her she almost certainly will remember, but he expresses far more confidence than he actually has on that front.

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Once Feyris sends her father a D-mail telling him the kidnapping was just a joke, the past changes again. Okarin finds himself in the lab, and Feyris comes up behind him. When he puts his hands on her shoulders, ready to ask if she remembers anything, both Kurisu and Mayushii remark that he’s being awfully lovey-dovey with their friend.

I interpreted Feyris’ response to them — about her and Okarin fighting side by side as lovers in a past life — no less than three different ways. One: She remembers nothing, and is merely talking in their usual chuuni code, which she often uses to express her fondness for Okarin and only coincidentally describes their past dealings. Two: She remembers something, but the memories have to be triggered, as Okarin triggered her memory of the maid cafe before. Three: She remembers everything, and is telling Kurisu and Mayushii the truth.

I’m sorta leaning towards door number two. But whatever the case, Akihabara has returned to its proper state, Rumiho’s father is dead, yet the whereabouts of the 5100 remain unknown. This was still only one step on a very long stair. But it was a fantastic one.

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