Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 26 (S2 01) – Sleeping Beauty, Weeping Hero

Allow me to indulge in a brief tangent: I’m playing Final Fantasy VII Remake at a more leisurely pace than most. I knew, as with Re:Zero here, it would be a while before we get the continuation, so I’d best savor what I’ve got, right? Anyway, I had just managed to defeat the much ballyhooed Airbuster boss at the end of Chapter 7, after which with Cloud falls through a church roof and lands on Aerith’s flowerbed.

Coming off such a long mission at the Mako Reactor culminating in a stressful, protracted boss battle, I expected a little respite to catch my breath. No such luck: within minutes Cloud is locked in a very tricky one-on-one fight with Reno. I went at him much the same way I’d fought Airbuster—and had my ass handed to me to the tune of four Game Overs before I got used to his patterns and found his weakness.

The point is, FF7R wasn’t ready to let me rest just yet, or even spend any time celebrating what had felt like a significant victory. It was immediately time to deal with the next crisis It’s the same with Re:Zero’s second season. Turns out watching the director’s cut wasn’t necessary, as the only unique scene it had—Emilia’s infamous “Who’s Rem?”—is the cold open of this first episode.

What we didn’t know is why exactly Lia suddenly forgot Rem. Was there another whale? Did the teleportation back from Isekai Quartet‘s “Chibi High School World” cause the amnesia? Re:Zero 2 wastes no time answering that question: Re:Zero’s Airbuster (the White Whale) may be defeated, but there’s no time to celebrate, because now its Reno is on the scene.

“Reno” in this case refers to not one but two new heretofore unseen Sin Archbishops of the Witch’s Cult: That of Greed, the smug Regulus Corneas, and Gluttony, the manic Lye Batenkaitos. The convoy that includes the wagon carrying Rem and Crusch is suddenly ambushed by the bishops, resulting in a huge amount of carnage.

Lye is a lot like Betel in his goofy over-the-top spiel, but Regulus is the more fearsome one to my eye and ear. He’s so calm, well-spoken, and put together, wasting no movement in his horrifically violent attacks. He looks more like Reinhard or Julius than a Sin Archbishop, which is somehow more unsettling.

When Crusch fights force with force, interrupting Regulus’ monologue, he is insulted by her lack of manners and relieves her of her left arm. After administering first aid, Rem breaks out her flail, but it’s telling that she makes it absolutely clear that she’s not the one they need to worry about, but the man she loves, her hero, The Hero, Natsuki Subaru.

That turns out to be a bad move, as neither archbishop considers Rem to be much of a threat, and as we saw what happened when she fought the Sin Archbishop of Sloth Betelgeuse, this battle was going to end about as well as my first tussle with the slippery Reno in FF7R. Emi’s question to Subaru meant the battle had already been decided, and Rem lost.

As steeled as I was to witness it firsthand, I was still not prepared for the devastating flashes of Rem and Subaru’s future before losing consciousness: sitting on a bench with their newborn second child; their firstborn standing nearby. Welcome Back to Re:Zero, where there is no limit to the amount of times your heart will get stomped on!

Once the convoys arrive at Crusch’s estate, Subaru is on the edge of panic as he restlessly searches the scores of dead and wounded for Rem. First he spots blue hair, but it’s not her. Finally, he finds her, unconscious. The healer doesn’t know who she is, and can do nothing for her. After lashing out at the man in anger, he quickly descends into crippling despair, grabs the nearest broken sword, points it at his throat, and kills himself.

Of course, Return by Death doesn’t take him back to a point in time before Rem is attacked; only to the back of the wagon with Emilia just before he mentions Rem. He’s too late to stop Rem’s attackers. He’ll have to save her after the fact.

Puck informs him that Gluttony literally devours not just memories, but someone’s very name. This is what was done to Rem, which means the girl lying in bed is an empty shell. She won’t wake up unless her name and memories are restored. I imagine killing Gluttony will do the trick, but who knows?

Meanwhile, everyone else has indeed never heard of Rem, while Crusch, the last person she was with, also had her memories eaten, to the point she doesn’t even know herself. At an impromptu meeting between Subaru, Emilia, Wilheim, Felis, and Crusch, Felis puts Crusch’s welfare first and proposes an end to an alliance with Emilia that no longer serves a benefit, only a burden.

Subaru bristles at that, and at Felis’ misplaced blame and selfish caution. Even though Crusch doesn’t really know who she is, she sides with Subaru, as does Wilheim. Gluttony, Greed, and the Witch’s Cult are threats to all (there are reports of others throughout the land falling victim to Gluttony), and so all of them must stay together to determine the proper path to defeating them.

Moving forward requires that Subaru accept that Rem is out of the picture for now, that there’s nothing he can immediately do about it, and going without sleep to stay by her bedside helps neither of them. Emilia comes to Rem’s room to say as much, and while she has no memories of Rem, she can tell she’s Ram’s sister. She’s also come to tell Subaru that she wants to help Subaru carry the weight of Rem. He saved her, and now it’s her turn to save him.

This causes Subaru to politely ask her to turn away so he can cry, but soon after bawling big sopping sheets tears, she wraps her arms around him in a hug of support. And so we start with the Hero at his lowest point (so far, at least…it can always go lower!), unable even to put on a Tough Guy act, and the Heroine promising to save him, starting with helping him process the situation so that they can begin to find a solution.

It’s a strong return to form for Re:Zero, which at this point is a known quantity in terms of how it operates and to never expect things to work out too soon without significant hardship and suffering on the part characters. Two new sniveling supervillains are here, and their Emilia-lookin’ Witch queen still looms.

Hopefully no one is starting their Re:Zero journey with this episode; that would be…interesting. Suffice it to say, if you enjoyed the first season, the second picks right up where it left off both in story, tone, and style. I’m eager to see and learn more. Thankfully, the wait is over.

 

Kakushigoto – 12 (Fin) – Lifting the Veil

Kakushigoto’s finale is truly a crowd-pleaser, and I mean that in the best way. It spends its entire runtime in the “future” and painstakingly reveals all of the mysteries and answered all of the questions we might’ve gathered from the slow trickle of information throughout the season. It expertly released and justified all that built-up anticipation to deliver one satisfying reveal after another—including several secrets we didn’t consider!

For one thing, neither we nor Hime had any idea Kakushi was the love child of a kabuki actor and his mistress (though it explains a lot!). We didn’t know he had a half-sister, who had a son the same age as Hime, who visits her at the Kamakura house.

Among the other blanks of Kakushi’s story are also filled in, we learn that for ten years after his wife was lost at sea he spent a significant amount of his income on continued searches, not believing she was gone. When Hime was in middle school the tabloid article came out that killed his confidence in ever being able to make readers laugh again.

After finishing Tights and putting his pen down for good, Kakushi took on a number of menial labor jobs, culminating in perhaps the most ironic and symbolic accident imaginable: in a forklift accident he was crushed by a palate full of the very manga publication he quit drawing for.

Kakushi has been in a coma for over a year, but he same day Hime’s cousin visits her, he regains consciousness, and Ichiko and the Detective Agency escort Hime to the hospital, where they learn that he has amnesia—specifically,  he has no memories of the last seven years.

For Hime to finally see her father awake only for him to not recognize her seems almost too cruel, but I was confident Kakushigoto would find a clever way for things to eventually work out. Sure enough, the key to restoring Kakushi’s memories is the thing he loved doing for a living, despite keeping it secret from Hime.

Kakushi’s seven-year gap means he’s stuck in the time when Hime was ten (i.e. all those episodes that felt like the present at the time but are now the past). As such, he believes Tights in the Wind is still in publication…and he’s eager to get back to work.

His old team of assistants (including Rasuna, who is now an accomplished mangaka in her own right, with Tomaruin as her editor) gets back together, and turn the hospital room into a studio. Assuming Hime is a new assistant, he asks her to go to his house and make sure his daughter isn’t lonely. Of course, her daughter will always be least lonely when she’s with her dad.

Seeing her dad working for the first time is momentous for Hime; so much so that seeing him so happy doing what he loves makes her hesitant to continue efforts to restore his memories. He’ll get back the good times in the last seven years, but also all the heartbreak and despair.

What ultimately sways her is when she asks him if he’s happiest being able to continue drawing his manga, and he says no; the one thing that makes him happier than anything would be Hime growing up big and healthy. Hime rushes back to Kamakura, the Detective Agency in tow, and returns to the room with all of his manuscripts of the last seven years.

As Kakushi looks them over and remembers drawing them, he also remembers moments of Hime’s life that took place when he drew them. As the veil on those seven years of memories is pulled back, he watches Hime grow into the 18-year-old woman before him and finally recognizes his daughter. His first instinct, of course, is to try to hide the manga from her; to maintain the secret.

Now, as Kakushi prepares a comeback (perhaps with a story very similar to what we just watched…very meta!), we see the tables have turned: Hime has secrets of her own, like the fact that while she’s an accomplished and award-winning painter following her mother’s father’s footsteps, she also has a passion for drawing manga, something she’ll keep secret from her dad for a while. It’s only fair!

Kakushigoto was a beautiful blending of the clever, sometimes goofy, sometimes artfully intricate “miscommunication” humor of author Kumeta Kouji with genuine and powerful emotional stakes. It never felt too melodramatic or goofy because the drama and levity were always so well balanced. Indeed, that made it feel more real, despite how convoluted some of the mysteries and secrets turned out to be. The wit was sharp, while the heart was always warmed.

No matter how many walls or veils or feints Kakushi put up to keep his precious daughter from the truth of his livelihood, he couldn’t hide his true passion from her forever. Nor could the truth that whether he could feed that passion for a living or not was immaterial in the face of his overarching priority: ensuring Hime had a stable, happy childhood full of laughter and fun.

Hime is as stunningly awesome and beautiful an adult as she was an adorable, air-headed kid, and she has a bright future whether she pursues painting, manga, both, or neither. It can be said without reservation: Papa did good.

Hinamatsuri – 09 – A Tropical Vacay, a Promotion…and a Funeral

If Hina had simply been sent home via orb, none of the hilarity this week would have transpired. Chalk that up to an “organization” that is way more incompetent than you’d expect of an entity that deals with girls with terrifying telekinetic abilities. You’d think there’d have been some kind of revolt at this point.

Consider Mao: the “shy but capable” courier meant to deliver a new orb to Kei for Hina to use to return home (so that’s not off the table like it is for the officially-dead Anzu). Only Mao is transported to a remote tropical island just north of Indonesia, and both her orb and the spare for Hina are washed away within moments of arriving.

From there, the first act is a one-woman homage to Cast Away starring Ozawa Ari as Mao. She certainly is capable, able to survive just fine for days thanks to her ability (though why’d it take twelve days to make clothes?) Like Tom Hanks, she makes a friend—two friends, Anzu and Hina—out of coconuts. Unlike Tom Hanks, she voices both of them.

Weeks pass, and like Hanks, her hair gets longer and she develops a more stoicly intense look, while her “friends” have grown bodies. But eventually she snaps, tosses the coconuts—which are not her real friends, but just, well coconuts—off a cliff, and does what she should have done weeks ago: builds a raft and sails for the mainland (though ends up in Thailand, not Japan).

With Hina’s departure again indefinitely on hold, we move on to Nitta. He and Sabu have been ordered to pick up Nitta’s former brother Naito “The Slayer” from prison. With the president in a coma prior to naming a successor, an idiotic little power struggle plays out, thanks in equal part to Hina and Sabu.

Nitta manages to convince Naito not to challenge the lieutenant, but when Gramps wakes up and names Nitta his successor (to placate Hina, to whom he’s taken a shine), Sabu has too quick a text trigger. Both the lieutenant and Naito believe Nitta played them to steal the throne. Nitta sets the old man straight and the lieutenant is reinstalled two minutes later, but Sabu never texts this to the still-enraged lieutenant.

Before he knows it, Nitta is encased in an oil drum full of hardened concrete, with the LT and Naito ready to make him swim with the fishes. But Sabu’s chronic nausea is the first sign something is amiss. Nita’s failure to “nut up and go out like a villain” is another.

The president arrives just in time to corroborate Nitta’s defense. Once the LT and Naito realize they jumped the gun (with Sabu continuing to vomit but not own up to causing this) it’s needless to say an awkward situation. The LT decides to promote Nita to replace him on the spot, and everyone cheers him…but he just wants to be let out of the damn concrete. Where’s Hina when you need her?

Well, she and Nitta are apparently fine now after she walked in on his “one-man party.” We know this because there’s a helpful side note at the bottom of the screen. And that’s fine with me; that shortcut enables us to move on to something funnier: Hina planning a celebration for Nitta’s promotion.

She reaches out to virtually all of her amassed acquaintances, who all have different suggestions. I particularly liked Mika’s suggestion of booze…while drinking booze, stating she’s always celebrating the fact she was born, which is a slick way to excuse her alcoholism! A woman after my heart…

Hina can’t decide which persons advice to use, so she combines them. However, she isn’t able to procure booze, and spends so much on flowers she cans afford a cake, so makes one out of salt

3-gatsu no Lion – 24

A new tournament bracket has been released, and Nikaidou is furious that he and Rei are in different groups…as if Rei had anything to do with the seeding. The only thing for it is for the two to win their respective groups and face each other in the finals.

Nikaidou then launches into a torrent of trash-talk, calling Rei arrogant and pompous, and their loudness almost gets them kicked out of the watching room where the other pros are watching Souya and Kumakura. The two are still kids, after all…they need to argue with shoji, not words.

A couple other younger pros start talking about Shimada’s mental and physical state after losing to Souya, and Gotou, who hears a bit too much of it, is having none of it, sticking up for the absent Shimada by saying unproven young whelps who may never get within a mile of a title match shouldn’t be running their mouths about those who have “been in the ring.”

Rei is glad Shimada is being defended, but laments that the defense is coming from the same person who has caused, intentionally and unintentionally, his sister to suffer. It gets to the whole idea of “chaos” in this segment, in which both humans and shogi are full of contradictions and paradoxes; all mysteries that will never be solved, but we must simply live with.

In a move that surprises all spectators young and old, Kumakura responds to Souya’s seemingly innocuous move made to force a reaction out of his opponent…suddenly resigns, giving Souya another successful title defense. It’s only after everyone plays through that Rei and the other see what Kumakura saw: that Souya had beaten him, seeing many many moves ahead to Kuma’s doom.

Meanwhile, Kyouko is performing all of the duties of your classic wife figure for Gotou, and we learn why: his actual wife is in a coma in the hospital.

Rei may only see a villain and a scoundrel (or at best, an uneasy ally against those who would drag Shimada thorough the mud), but Kyouko’s been around him a lot more time, and while she may be blinded by infatuation, she also sees a role to play in Gotou’s wife’s absence…especially if her prognosis is such that soon Gotou will be a widower.

It’s not pretty to see him getting along with, even sharing the bed with, another woman poised to “attack” him while his wife still draws breath, but who ever said humanity was pretty? Not to mention, without Gotou, Kyouko always seems lost and alone, and Rei can’t be the one to fill the hole in her heart.

But Gotou made a good point to Rei that echos his own thoughts about chaos: seeing everything in good and bad or black and white is a recipe for a poor understanding the world. Life isn’t Go! If I had to choose between the two games, it’s more like Shoji.

As for the man who gives his name to this segment, Kumakura: he’s lost again, but takes the defeat with a cool calmness that makes many of his peers swoon. Of course, that is a public calmness; below the surface boils a man who has been shattered into pieces having to collect them all and re-construct himself in time for the next title challenge.

It’s a thankless, cruel task, but it’s the only way he knows how to live. Not to mention, kicking the shit out of a wall is always a quick way to release pent-up frustration!

This episode had solid slice of life and some good internal stuff with Rei…but after only catching a brief glimpse last week, I definitely missed the Kawamotos.

I realize the show is probably following the source’s chapters and the sisters and their grandpa are just one part of Rei’s life, but they’re an important (not to mention adorable!) one, and I hope we get to spend more quality time with them soon.

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 11

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Last week really wiped the show’s slate clean, as I truly had no idea what was going to happen after seeing Satoru about to drown in a freezing lake. Part of me expected another time-jump, but unlike the last time it happened, young Satoru was in mortal distress. He couldn’t very well jump back to his future self if his past self was drowning.

But at some point between then and this week, Satoru survived Yashiro’s attempt on his life. In fact, it seems to be Yashiro who saved him, because no one else was around. However, when he presumably returned Satoru to his mother, he was fast asleep, and when we rejoin him, he wakes up for the first time in fifteen years.

Wait…what?

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Satoru’s generally excellent physical condition in spite of that long slumber is credited to his mother, who spend four hours out of every day keeping him clean, well-fed and exercising his joints and muscles, all while making ends meet with a convenience store job. If I didn’t already consider Sachiko a Super-Mom—before this act of selfless devotion and hope absent any indication Satoru would ever wake up—I sure would now.

However, when he wakes up, Satoru’s memories are scrambled, and he has no idea what put him in the comatose state in the first place, though he does remember Kenya and Hiromi, and wastes no time trying to walk again as a young cancer patient watches. However, Satoru can’t shake the feeling (as his older self narrates, suggesting even this isn’t the present day of the show) his old friends are being kept from bringing up certain things, perhaps at his mothers’ request.

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I harbored pretty neutral feelings about this situation, and the fact that Yashiro may have well let Satoru live only to wait for him to wake back up so he can finish what he started. But for some reason, it just didn’t sit right for me when an older Kayo appeared with an infant in her arms, and we later learn she married Hiromi and they started a family while he was asleep.

Satoru takes this a lot better than I do, and I say that knowing it was silly to think Kayo and Hiromi would put their lives on hold—the way Satoru’s mom did—in the off-chance he woke up. But it still stinks—a lot—that Satoru missed his shot with Kayo because he saved her, and that she ended up with one of the other two kids he saved. An unavoidable but still raw and frankly pretty disappointing deal to the shipper in me.

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But Satoru, happy he was able to save Kayo and Hiromi (along with Aya, the older version of whom we don’t see), is content to be the honored hero, and knows he still has vast stores of motivational power for the young cancer patient, Kumi, who is as amazed by everyone else by his quick recovery.

Satoru proves he’s his selfless, loving, heroic mother’s son, by offering Kumi advice on how to have courage: starting with simply picturing the people you care about in your head.

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Then Yashiro shows up, and it’s only a matter of time before he says or does something that triggers Satoru’s memory of who he really is and what he did to him fifteen years ago. I’m not that sure why Yashiro befriended Kumi (another victim?), but he actually seems to enjoy how his relationship with Satoru returns to the way it was, if only briefly.

Satoru seems to recall everything when Yashiro starts tapping the handle of his wheelchair, and now we’re right back where last week left off: a virtually helpless Satoru all alone in the clutches of Yashiro. Only in this timeline, Kayo had no choice but to pass Satoru by and choose someone else. Not saying that will be undone, but I wouldn’t rule out another time-leap back to the past now that Satoru is conscious and knows the score.

Nor would I mind such a development. I know, one shouldn’t push their luck, but surely he could create a future where he (and his mother) don’t have to sacrifice a significant chunk of their lives and happiness so that Kayo, Hiromi and Aya could be saved. But first thing’s first: Satoru has to somehow survive his latest encounter with Yashiro.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 12 (Fin)

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Both this sequel series and its final episode share the title “insight”, meaning “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.” Throughout much of the story, the public at large didn’t have much insight into anything beyond what they collectively felt they wanted in the moment.

Their growing enthusiasm with becoming one, fueled by Gelsadra’s brief rule and new ways of doing things, created a new enemy that no one saw coming until it was too late, due to their lack of insight into themselves. That enemy was the pervading atmosphere.

Everyone was to blame, but an individual was still needed to represent collective guilt and collective culpability; a bad guy who the Gatchamen would beat so badly, the atmosphere would become too terrifying for anyone to want to be a part of it any more.

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As Tsubasa explains to the public on the Milione Show, in the second phase of their plan, she says Hajime took that role. She used Berg-Katze’s power to become Gel-san, then told her G-men comrades to beat her mercilessly before a live nationwide audience.

Hajime was the ultimate hero of heroes in Gatchaman because he realizes her role in protecting the planet goes beyond simply saving whoever is right in front of her, but, when necessary, saving everyone from themselves, even if it means putting her life on the line. Rather than go with the flow or settle for quick votes and easy answers that feel good, Hajime thought, long and hard, about what she, Ichinose Hajime, could do.

Last week’s straightforward battle is thus place in a far different and more compelling context, with added dialogue that accentuates how conflicted the G-men really were about beating up “Gel-san”, because it was really Hajime. Yet again and again, she told them not to stop, until they literally cleaved her in two. As a result, she’s in a coma, and the sight of her on TV incites public rage against Gel-san.

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But Tsubasa implores everyone to follow Hajime’s example and think carefully about what is to be done about Gelsadra: Should they expel him from Earth, allow him to stay, or leave it up to the Gatchamen? Unlike all other previous votes, the people have a whole month to decide, and can change their votes as much as they want until the final tally.

As the days and weeks go by, anti-Gel-san sentiment goes from a boil to a simmer, as after longer and more thorough thought, everyone starts to take responsibility for what happened to the atmosphere rather than blame it all on Gel-san, who was, after all, only a naive facilitator with the very best intentions.

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When the vote comes, Tsubasa is relieved that not only do the people (by a narrow margin) agree to let Gel-san stay on Earth, but only a tiny sliver left it up to Gatchamen. Well over 90% of the population decided for themselves. To Suzuki Rizumu’s delight, the people evolved beyond the level of apes.

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After the vote, public opinion is driven a little less by what happens to be the flavor of the week, but greater intuitive understanding of the situation and their own individual power to shape their own opinion. X tells Rui to think long and hard about what to do about the Crowds, who play with the remaining, calm, Kuu-sama. The Prime Minister reminds his salty colleagues in the Diet that everyone was responsible for the atmospheric fiasco, and everyone is responsible for preventing it from happening again.

As for the savior who woke everyone up from their destructive bliss, Hajime does, thankfully, eventually wake up from her long slumber, without any fuss and grateful she slept so well. She’s clearly happy her big plan worked out, since so much of it depended on her fellow Gatchamen as well as the general public to make it a success.

Now, with the world more or less back to normal, the G-men await the next arrival of an alien who might, unwittingly or not, take a certain human quality to its most dangerous extreme. If that ever happens, I’ll be here to watch and cover it. GATCHA!

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 11 (23)

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The Dollars supposedly doesn’t have a hierarchy or a “symbol”, just as it doesn’t have a color, but as far as Shinra is concerned, the unofficial twin chief deterrents of the Dollars are Shizuo (armed) and Kodata (psychological). And I can’t really argue with him that things could crumble quickly now that one is in a coma and the other is arrested, even if Celty believes things won’t be that different.

Meanwhile, Anri is with Erika as the two wait for Dotachin to wake up; one because of everything he’s done for her, and the other for the same reason, but also so that she can tell Walker and Sabura as soon as Kodata awakes, hoping to stop them from doing something rash, like, say, toss a molotov into a karaoke bar.

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Just the Dollars lose two very visible, well-known and feared pillars, Kida is back in town, re-mustering the Yellow Scarves to “save” Mikado from himself, even if he has to “kick his butt.” As far as Kida’s concerned, Mikado is in the wrong pool and out of his depth, and he’s going to pull him out, whether he wants out or not.

As Aoba leads Mikado and Blue Square to a new hideout (the same one where there was the yakuza dust-up) Mikado doesn’t seem interested in quitting. In fact, he seems both shocked and a little excited that Aoba invited Celty to join them, proposing she fill one of the void left by Kodata; and after meeting with Izaya, Akabayashi shows up, wanting to join and possibly fill the void left by Shizuo.

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Seemingly more peripheral to the apparently imminent showdown between the Dollars and Yellow Scarves (with the Dragon Zombies possibly involved as well), Namie is abducted by her uncle Seitaro, who also plans to capture Seiji and use him to get her to cooperate. It’s Yadogiri Jinnai’s secretary Kujiraji Kusane who subdues her.

And again floating above it all, though not aware of everything yet (such as who is using one of his screen aliases in the chat room) is Izaya, Namie’s former employer. That mysterious chatter is spreading rumors of the Yellow Scarves using Kodata to declare war on the Dollars.

Ikebukuro is a tinderbox once again, and there are a variety of potential sparks that could set it ablaze. We’ll see who ends up setting the fire, and how much damage it will do next week, in the final episode of the Ten cour.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 14

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I don’t usually pay much attention to episode titles, but “The Beautiful and Damned” is pretty damned apropos. Beautiful, damned people are fighting for their respective beautiful, damned worlds.

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Let’s start with Inaho. His new eye (flawed though it still is), has greatly increased his ability to measure and assess situations and formulate tweaks to existing resources and strategy in realtime. It also allows him to determine not only that Inko has put on weight, but whose words are accompanied by a vocal “tell” indicating she’s not being entirely honest with him (due to her feelings for him).

Using Inko as a test subject for his new eye is a dick move, sure, but it’s Pure Inaho. Rayet rightly calls him a dick (well, an idiot, at least), but this is how Inaho flirts. He detects a similar tell in the “Princess Asseylum’s” speech. If he survives the war, he’d make a badass detective.

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To my relief, it turns out Asseylum is in a persistent coma, not intentionally imprisoned in that tube, which makes sense considering her injuries last season (I can see either she or Inaho surviving relatively unscathed, but both? Nah-ah). Eddelrittuo isn’t strictly allowed to see her, but Slaine’s a nice guy so he won’t tell anyone, and promises her the princess will wake up someday.

Listening from the other side of the heavy metal door (she must have really good ears) is Princess Lemrina, who doesn’t seem to like Slaine’s regular visits to Asseylum one bit. To the point she deactivates Tharsis’ Aldnoah drive just when Slaine is about to embark on a mission.

Slaine and Lemrina stand out among all the beautiful, damned people in the world of A/Z. Up to this point, many people were asking ‘Hey, where the heck did this chick come from?”…turns out, that was the point. All her life, Lemrina has been the ignored and forgotten princess; Asseylum’s sister by another mother; the Kato Megumi of the Vers Royal Family.

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No one ever had any cause to admire or love or even take notice of her, until Asseylum was out of the picture. Only then is she unique and indispensable to Count Saazbaum and Slaine. In this context, it’s perfectly understandable that we’ve never seen hide nor tail of her.

When she calls Slaine out on this bullshit, he’s ready, showing her he’s dealt with hardship and isolation as well (and still has the back scars to prove it), getting on one knee, and earning a kiss that gives him the power to activate Tharsis once by himself.

There’s so much good stuff going on in this exchange: Slaine is either being extremely manipulative or extremely sincere (or both), and Lemrina either totally believes him or is willing to let the display appease her. Regardless of whether either or both harbor deceit, the fact is they need one another: Lemrina wants to take over everything her sister once had, and Slaine needs his kat to move.

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Speaking of beautiful and damned, how ’bout that view of Earth from the Satellite Belt? I haven’t mentioned the fact that this week we get a space battle, and a damned good one, at that. The setup is simple: like two ships passing in the night, UE and Vers bases are about to cross paths along their orbits.

The largest UE space force since the very beginning of the war (which didn’t go well for Earth) has been amassed at Trident, while a similarly large force is making the trip to Marineros. When those forces meet, there are lovely fireworks, but the build-up is handled nicely, particularly the logistics of transporting Slaine, Saazbaum, and the Stygis Platoon where it needs to be.

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The tension also builds on the EU side, allowing Darzana to get another little dig in on her uncharacteristically nervous XO. Not surprisingly, Inaho isn’t the slightest bit flustered at the prospect of his first space battle. He simply floats over to his by now highly-modded but still orange trainer, steps into his office and gets to work.

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There are few backdrops to a space battle more attractive than the big ol’ Blue Marble itself, partially obscured by clusters of satellites, which we learn create a gravity gradient that must be compensated for in order for weapon shots to hit their targets (gravity gradient=”wind”).

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Inevitably, Orange and Bat encounter one another, but between Inaho’s mad skillz and Tharsis’ superior stats, neither Inaho nor Slaine are even able to land a love tap on the other. Their brief skirmish this week was a stalemate, but now Slaine knows Inaho is alive, and Inaho knows what’s become of Slaine.

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I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’d truly like to see these two not only at each others’ throats on the battlefield, but trading dry insults in person. We’ll see how and when the show decides to bring them back together in either setting, and when Chekhov’s Comatose Princess wakes up and puts the kibosh on both Saazbaum and Lemrina’s ambitions.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 12 (Fin)

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With the overarching objective of saving Kaori successfully and satisfyingly (if tragically in terms of the cost of Yui) achieved, I had no idea where the show would go in its final act. I’d argue in its post-main-plot-resolution state it was just as successful and satisfying.

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The odd feelings of deja vu and of some kind of ‘absence’ in the astronomy club and in its members’ lives don’t simply go away. On the contrary, the feelings get even stronger for Sou, who is constantly reminded every time he sees something or somewhere that Yui had once been in another timeline. Also, there are lots of coincidences like everyone who had Uchihama Syndrome suddenly waking up…at once.

That makes sense (in the science of the show), because she came back a lot, and because the human brain is a quantum turing machine (again, in the show), it is capable of retaining information it recorded in other timelines. But still, for now, that ‘temporal residue’ manifests faint echoes or mirages. Enough to get Sou thinking, but not about anything concrete.

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For her part, Kaori seems to be alright after Sou rejected her the previous day. She comes right out and says she feels like she can move forward now, which obviously wasn’t the case when buses kept killing her. Sou’s recollection of the rejection, particularly the reason, are hazy to him (he did hit his head, after all).

Kaori insists he said he only sees them as childhood friends, which suggests that he didn’t say he couldn’t love her because he already loved Yui…because Yui didn’t exist anymore. And yet…he keeps being reminded that someone existed at some point; most strongly when he finds an old mannequin where he had found a naked Yui so many times ‘before.’

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Surprisingly, we head back to the future where an old, worn Sou and a weary Airi continue to look over a comatose Kaori. Here, they’re resolved to the fact that Yui may have failed in her final attempt, though even if she succeeded, the universe they live in wouldn’t necessarily vanish, but continue along in parallel to the one she created by saving Kaori.

When Airi wonders out loud whether Sou only ever saw Yui as a tool, and sent her to the past knowing she would disappear if she succeeded, you can feel her own bitterness and impatience with Sou, as she’s the living, breathing, non-artificial woman right in front of him with whom he could have found happiness had he only let go of the past and let himself.

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The day of the festival arrives, and their planetarium cafe finally goes off without a hitch. But yet again, being there gazing at the stars and hearing the same things he said about them to Yui both in the past and future, Sou starts to get deja vu again and cries, but about exactly what he still isn’t sure.

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He even gets a flash of the night he and Yui gazed at the stars alone, only there’s nothing but a dark cloud where she sat. Compare that to Kaori becoming the most visible person at the school and named Miss Uchihama, and it’s as if the fates of Yui and Kaori were reversed.

Then the school pop idol Karin comes by the club room to regale them of her experience on stage, when for one moment she saw the friend she thought she had but no one else had remembered. Karin, like the club members, had clearly formed a deep enough bond that her brain retained memories and even imagery of Yui even after she vanished.

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That same ability to retain is echoed in a car ride (MAZDA FD RX-7 FTW!!!) in the future with Airi and Sou, who tells her that even if Kaori was saved and Yui never needed to be created by Sou, the memories and emotions still within past Sou’s head will ultimately lead him to create Yui anyway, but for a different reason; one that really capitalizes on the whole ‘chicken or egg’ nature of the show.

Sou won’t be able to stop picking at that mental scab, and when the time comes, he’ll create Yui because he wants to see her again.

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Then, after a worrisome delay, the effects of Yui’s actions reveal themselves in future Sou’s timeline, and Kaori finally wakes up, her mind no longer trapped behind a causality roadblock.

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The resulting passionate reunion and hug is a real showstopper, and yet I noted Sou’s words well: “You came way too late, dummy!” I wouldn’t be shocked if at this point, even this Sou’s love for Yui outstrips whatever romantic feelings he had for Kaori.

That’s not to discount his elation at Kaori waking up, but he isn’t elated because the love of his life woke up; she isn’t that anymore, nor was she ever. He’s elated because his beloved childhood friend woke up, without whom he had been just as lost as she was.

His true love, meanwhile, has yet to be born. It’s a little weird to think that Sou was the creator of his own true love, because that’s a kind of situation ripe for the assignment of sinister undertones in a lot of fiction, be it literary or visual. But if ever there was a case of ‘good playing God’, this is it.

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Let’s not forget that Yui couldn’t have been made without some of the information from Kaori’s brain. It’s as if Sou would have been able to fall for the person Kaori is, if only she were someone else. Yui was that someone else.

As the box beside the computer in the club room glows once more, I have more questions, like ‘if Yui is coming back, how did that happen without a comatose Kaori?’…but the time for questions has ended, and I’m satisfied with the answers I did get, plus the ones to questions I didn’t even ask. This show was a nice bit of light sci-fi romance that I don’t regret sticking with.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 11

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Yui is in a predicament. She was sent to the past to save Kaori’s life, but it wasn’t as simple as keeping her away from the runaway bus. Now she’s finally cracked it, and Sou simply won’t leave her alone.

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And then there’s the slightly more pressing matter of…her existence. I’m not sure Future Sou and Airi told Yui, but if she’s successful in saving Kaori, Sou will have never had to create her, so she will cease to exist. That’s not really ideal, because after all this time she’s fallen for Sou and can’t deny part of her wants to be with him.

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Whether or not Sou and the others recall even a faint glimmer of having known Yui before she entered their lives (from the previous times she went back and ended up naked in his arms), on this, perhaps the last time she can come back, Yui finally stumbles on the answer to saving Kaori: by having Sou give her a straight answer.

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With no other ideas, Yui decides to facilitate that course of events. She can no longer afford to be subtle or clever (and in any case that never worked before) so she just comes out and tells Sou that Kaori will confess to him tomorrow, and that he has to give her an answer. The thing is, after how Yui has acted the last few days, Sou takes this in a much different way than Yui intended. It’s almost a case of unintended reverse psychology.

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Kaori reacts the same way when Yui is equally upfront in insisting she harbors no romantic feelings whatsoever for Sou. Kaori isn’t buying what Yui is selling, even if Yui didn’t have possess fragments of Kaori’s memories and personality that come through in her behavior and demeanor.

Kaori can tell Yui’s lying…because she is lying. But Kaori will still confess. No matter what happens, she can’t move forward the way things are. This is also literally true, as every time Sou hasn’t answered Kaori, she’s ended up dead shortly thereafter.

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Things go almost like clockwork on the fateful day, but only in where people are, and when. In terms of what’s said to who, things go far differently than Yui imagined. Despite her feelings for Sou, she never imagined his straight answer to Kaori would be a rejection. After all, they grew up together. Kaori has had so much more time with him! Surely he must return those feelings! Well, he doesn’t…and ironically, it’s thanks to Yui.

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This time Kaori stays at school while Sou chases once more after Yui, who had done her best to say her goodbyes, both to her friends and to the town. But so flags her down just as the bus arrives. It crashes as before, but Yui and Sou avoid it and survive. The loop has been broken.

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It’s here where Sou tells Yui he rejected Kaori…because he really loves her. Yui returns his confession with her own, plus a kiss (get out of the street, lovebirds!), but she knows this is the end for her. Her mission is complete, so she was never created, and she disappears. Put simply, this is time-trippy romantic tragedy done right.

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It’s not the somewhat silly kind of ‘vanishing in his arms’ disappearance either, though she does go a bit translucent. Rather, time continues as if she had never been there. Well, almost. The astronomy club finds Sou at the crash site, and everyone thinks very hard about whether everyone is really accounted for. Furthermore, Sou puts his hands to his lips, where a Yui that never was just kissed him.

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In every physical form, Yui is gone, or rather never existed…even in the group photo, BTTF-style. But somewhere in the hearts and minds of the others, particularly Sou, a part of her still seems to linger. An absence is felt, even if they know not why. Was Sou’s rejection of Kaori negated? Is Yui well and truly gone? Have we really seen the last of her?

I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen in next week’s finale. I kinda like that!

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 10

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Who is Furukawa Yui?

Sure, she’s an artificially-created body sent back in time to save Kaori. But that mission has made her far more than that. With each failed attempt that resets the timeline, she amasses more memories and feelings, becoming a more and more integral participant in the mission, rather than a simple observe-and-protect role.

Again and again the universe finds a way to kill Kaori, and Yui feels close to a solution that’s an intricate balance of intricate planning and limited intervention. But working alone without the ability to ask for help from anyone else (for obvious reason) put her at an instant disadvantage against the universe, and it doesn’t play down to its opponent.

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Yui even has time against her. While she’s been able to go back a great number of times (dozens? thousands?), going back has very real consequences. More and more of her afterimages appear, stirring up rumors of ghosts, while anyone who comes in contact with them falls into a coma and never wakes up, a “syndrome” that is probably their consciousness being sucked into a different timeline. Yikes!

After seeing how hard the rest of the Astronomy Club and a haunted Sou in particular worked to make Yui’s mission possible last week, this week did everything from her perspective, and really made a case for just how difficult juggling the cumulative variables has become for her, including one variable that has nothing to do with temporarl oscillations or runaway buses.

That variable is love. Her love for Sou, in particular. Remember that Yui was originally a prototype for a body that would hold Kaori’s consciousness, freeing her from the body the accident had destroyed. I maintain that some if not most of Kaori either transferred or copied to Yui unbeknownst to Sou or the others.

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If that’s the case, the love triangle of Yui, Kaori, and Sou is really a triangle of two different Kaoris and Sou; one more complication in what’s looking like a mission that was doomed from the start.

At the same time, Yui can’t be passed off as a mere copy or knockoff of Kaori any more than she can be dismissed (or dismiss herself) as a tool; not after everything she’s been through. All of those trips, all of those wonderful memories she has with Sou and the others before Kaori dies, keep building up, and each time she touches The Box they all come surging back.

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Sou may only be joking when he says Yui is like “an old woman” for sitting out in the sun, but perhaps she is very old indeed, in terms of her life experience and the amount of cumulative time and happiness she’s spent with Sou (none of which he could possibly know about).

Right now, with time running out, Yui believes the only way to Kaori is if Sou loves her. Each time we’ve seen her die was before he could properly respond to her, so there’s something to that. But Yui may be overlooking something, because to her this is a Mission and she’s an expendable element. 

Maybe the only real way to save Kaori is for Yui to let herself love Sou. If there’s a part Kaori in her consciousness, the clashing of that part with the Kaori in the past could be what’s triggering the latter Kaori’s death, as if time and the universe were correcting the paradox of two girls with identical love for Sou.

I’ll admit I may be a bit free-wheeling (and way off!) in my theories and analysis here,  but I love how this show really gets the ol’ noggin churning, which can’t be a bad thing!

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 09

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I find stories involving time travel, particularly stories in which the motivation to use time is to save a doomed loved one, compelling by nature. The simple human concept of there being one person for everyone makes the hard-edged sci-fi elements go down more easily for us humans. And if it wasn’t clear by now, Sou believes Kaori is the only one for him.

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However, balancing the technobabble with the ease of emotional connection is not an easy task, and the formula is very precise. This episode is a classic case of having to breathlessly compress so much science and plot into one episode, there is virtually no room left for emotional rests. It doesn’t help that a lot of what goes on is narrated to us by Sou.

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I’ll elaborate on that. Unlike any previous WareMete episode, this one spans many years, documenting the events immediately after Kaori’s accident, which doesn’t result in her death, but rather a coma from which she simply won’t wake up. Those early scenes of Sou sitting wordlessly in her hospital room are the most effective, emotionally speaking.

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But this an ambitious episode that intends to cover a lot of ground, both because Sou has to become that grizzled fellow Yui remembered a couple episodes back, and because the kind of sophisticated, barely even theoretically possible work that needs to be done, requires years to do.

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But precisely because so much time passes in so little running time, covering so much plot, the characters are badly neglected, and feel like they’re standing still. Perhaps that’s the intention: that this is a timeline in which the personal lives of the remaining astronomy club members (sans Kenny, but honestly who cares about Kenny) are essentially sacrificed to finding a way to revive Kaori.

I buy that Sou has no other life, but not the others. This episode’s goal, perhaps, was to get the presentation of this morose “post-bad ending” timeline over with as quickly as possible, as it’s not the timeline that would have happened had Yui successfully saved Kaori. Perhaps a “good ending” really is still in reach.

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But still, an endiing is what one makes of it. After Kaori’s accident, Sou put everything he had into saving her. Just as the episode neglected characters in order to orient everyone to the point when Yui (who we learn may possess a speck of Kaori’s personality) is sent back to the past, Sou neglects Airi throughout the timeline. She’s always by his side helping and supporting, but his gaze never meets her; it’s perpetually pointed backward.

I won’t say this episode was a total waste, because there were facts we needed to learn, yet I can’t deny its essential nature as a more-redundant-than-no plot-dump that did the characters no favors. I could complain that it felt too rushed, but a part of me is glad the show only spend one episode on this timeline, ending with Past Sou finding Yui, completing the time paradox and creating the possibility that things could go differently this time. Whether they’ll go differently enough to save Kaori is anyone’s guess.

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