Fate/Extra Last Encore – 05

Last week Rani painted a morose picture: there are only a few thousand humans still alive on Earth, a dire scenario the species hasn’t seen since the last ice age. Combined with the dreadful state of SE.RA.PH, mankind is staring at the edge of oblivion.

It’s a much bigger crisis than I had comprehended at the time (due partially to spotty translation); almost too big a crisis for our MC, who still isn’t sure how many times he’s died and been brought back (though it’s been a lot). All I know is, he may be humanity’s last hope.

It certainly isn’t Dan Blackmore, a knight who fought and was defeated by Hakuno 999 years ago. He lost not due to lack of willpower or clarity of duty, but simply because he had more regrets and thus less resolve, than his opponent.

But now that Dan’s back, he’s not going to let anything get in the way of his winning—in lieu of the Holy Grail or ascending, continued victories are their own reward, and has been for nearly a millennium.

Once Hakuno is over the initial shock of learning what year it really is and how long things have been left to rot, he, Saber and Rani talk Dan, Archer, and strategy.

First, since he was already defeated and died, Dan is no longer a true Master (why Hakuno, who has also died a lot, is a true Master is a head-scratcher for your humble author). As for his servant, Archer’s true name is Robin Hood, an expert in guerrilla warfare, who has two noble phantasms but cannot use both simultaneously.

One allows him to attack undetected; the other, Yew Bow, is more of a coup-de-grace, and is only effective after the first phantasm has been used to shoot the target with a poison arrow. The Yew Bow detonates the poison in the target’s blood, killing them from the inside out.

For the battle, Saber takes on Robin by herself, dodging a number of invisible arrows until one finally gets her, thus exposing her to the poison Robin will use to blow her up. But her part of the plan is simply to keep Robin busy, partly by asking why he still serves a man who is no longer a Master, to which his reply is both concise and logical: Would you tell a knight who’s been brought back to life and fought 999 years to simply give it up?

Meanwhile Hakuno learns more from Rani (in her awesome futuristic motorcycle and sidecar) about Moon Cell’s quandary: while it can manage the “exterior” of humans, it could not understand their “core”—their reactions and emotions—even when it invited them to SE.RA.PH. for observation. So it simply discards those emotions to the bottom floor.

By that same token, there is no physical or observable “world of the dead” on Earth, but SE.RA.PH. made it quantifiable, such that the hatred (and presumably other emotions) of the dead still roam around as “ghosts,” which is exactly what happened to Dan Blackmore. One could also say he respawned.

Hakuno and Rani’s chat is cut short by their arrival at the clock tower, but as soon as they emerge from the forest, Rani is shot and she and Hakuno knocked off the bike. Hakuno finds cover, but Rani is out in the open, obviously bate to take.

Many “ghosts” start to surround Rani, urging Hakuno to forget about her and continue up the tower to defeat Blackmore, but he rejects their certainty and chooses to save her instead, donning the Death Face to gain exceptional speed that avoids the gunshots. Rani is unable to move, but still able to fight.

Deeper in the forest, Robin deems the time is right to use Yew Bow on Saber, only to have it fail spectacularly. Saber, you see, picked up on the fact the detonator targets the impurities—the poison—in the target’s blood. Her answer to that is to simply bleed out, and once Robin detonates it, divert the blood-blast with her sword.

It works like a charm, and Robin isn’t ready when she charges him and runs him through. How can she survive bleeding out? Well, aside from being Saber and thus very tough, she apparently has up to three extra lives provided her body remains intact. Losing her blood now and again isn’t that big a deal…especially if it helps secure a path to victory for her Master.

That leaves Dan on his own against Hakuno, who does not fall for the trap of Dan being at the top of the clock tower just because the bells ring every time he takes a shot. Dan is in fact in the tower of the citadel, firing at the bells, while the clock tower is lined with explosives.

No matter; once atop the clock tower, Hakuno, in Death Face mode, shoots Dan before he can shoot him, and Dan dies with a distinct sense of relief he can finally be with his wife again. Upon his death, the elevator appears immediately, leaving Hakuno no time to get Rani.

But as Saber says, Rani never intended to ascend at all. She was always content to tend to the dead and watch one last “star” ascend, which Hakuno and Saber do thanks to her assistance. 50 years of “rebellion” against Blackmore were enough.

Oh, and Rin’s still hanging out on the elevator as they start their ascent to the third stratum—though Hakuno and Saber aren’t sure why.

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Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 05

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Not a promising start, Vanadis…not a promising start

In my review of last week’s disappointing episode, which led Oigakkosan to drop the show in disgust, I mentioned that I myself would consider ceasing reviews as well if the show didn’t “improve significantly” this week. There’s just too much good stuff to watch this Fall to be wading in mediocrity.

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“Don’t pay special attention to her! I know, I’M paying special attention to her, but don’t pay special attention to her!”

Was this week’s episode an improvement? Yes it was…although that’s not hard when the last episode had a boob-size fight instigated by the heroine and Tigre sucking on a boob (though one not related to that fight). Was it a significant improvement? No. Too many of the same problems plaguing last week, plus a couple new ones, kept this out of the minimum “good” or even “fine” rating it needed for us to retain it.

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Limalisha recovers so she can make pained faces and comment when Elen is being overly childish in her dealings with Ludmila, but she doesn’t call her out on it strongly enough. The comely war maiden who had maintained a quiet dignity in the first episode has devolved into an embarrassment whose petty antics have grown increasingly hard to watch.

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It’s no wonder, then, that having been caught in the crossfire between the war maidens long enough, Tigre eventually chooses to strike out on his own in order to find the backdoor route to the Citadel of Tatra, a stronghold Elen aims to take from Ludmila. Yes, this is to stop Elen from charging in on her own, but…wait: Why doesn’t Elen just charge in on her own?

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I appreciate that the war maidens aren’t invincible, and that they serve as generals for the armies of the lands they serve, but…they clearly possess the power to single-handedly take out entire armies. Wouldn’t it be a lot less of a waste of life and material if the maidens simply fought each other, as champions of their lands?

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There’s a very strange transition from Ludmila accompanying Tigre and Elen to a market to sample wheat gruel, to a series of battles between the two maidens’ armies, all of it not exactly pretty to watch, not because it’s bloody, but because the animation is underwhelming and they’re battles I just don’t care about. The old-guy narration has officially gotten old, as well.

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At any rate, Tigre implements his plan, but happens to hit the same fox with an arrow as Ludmila does while hunting. Because of the bearskin Lim gave him, Ludmila can’t see his face, but his impressive marksmanship impresses her enough to lovingly prepare him an elaborate cup of tea, confirm that she hates the Thernardiers, and ask him to join her, completely unaware he’s Tigre. This is the best part of the episode, but it’s also totally isolated from everything else. And I don’t buy that she’s not cold in that get-up.

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Tigre follows her tracks (what kind of war maiden allows herself to be followed?) and finds the route he was searching for, then meets back up with Elen and her siege force. After failing to blast through the gates with Arifar on her own, Tigre again borrows her power for his bow and get the job done, setting up a showdown between Elen and Ludmila. But frankly, I’m not keen on seeing those two interact again. No good can come of it.

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