KonoSuba 2 – 05

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No matter how much ass Aqua kicks, she always finds a way to negate every positive contribution she makes to the party. To whit: the magic circle she set up in the dungeon a couple weeks ago is causing monsters to pour out and cause a big to-do. So the gang has to go back to the dungeon and sort it out.

Megumin continues to wisely stay out of dungeons, and this time Aqua joins her in passing on the adventure, so this time Kazuma is paired up with Darkness. Both of them have complicated feelings on the matter of being alone together in dark places.

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In a twist, no less than a commander of the Demon King’s armies, Vanir, has set up shop in the dungeon. Vanir is your typical blowhard villain, though he brings some vibrant enthusiasm and tongue-in-cheekness to his role.

After some initial success making contact, Darkness is unable to land a hit, and only manages to defeat Vanir when Kazuma trips on a bit of stone, crashes into Vanir, who by sheer dumb luck ends up getting slashed. With his body gone, the mask that remains latches itself on Darkness, and the fun begins, as Vanir is shocked to find Darkness is actually pretty okay with being possessed by a demon.

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She’s so okay, in fact, that every time Vanir thinks he’s achieved “full domination”, Darkness chimes back in. The back-and-forth repartee between a defiantly turned-on Darkness and an increasingly flustered Vanir should get old quick, but never does.

Aqua is ready with exorcism magic, but due to Darkness’ intense magical resistance, it’s a big chore bringing him down. Darkness ultimately has to consent to being blown up by Megumin, who, after all, has been practicing as is pretty good at making a big-ass explosion.

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In an even bigger twist, in light of defeating Vanir (and the mobile fortess earlier), Sena and the state she represents lifts all suspicion from Kazuma (who did, after all, help defeat a Demon King Commander right before her eyes) and the party still clears 40 million eries after their debts are taken care of.

Not a bad night’s work in the dungeon, and entertainingly done in the zany, hyper-caffeinated way I’ve come to expect of earlier KonoSuba. I had grown a bit weary of Kazuma & Co. being broke and miserable; it’s good to see them enjoy a victory, even if something might come up early in the next episode that’ll slap them back down into the muck.

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Attack on Titan – 10

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After building a partial Titan to protect Mikasa and Armin, Eren considers going on alone to his parents’ basement in Shiganshina. In the present situation, Armin is crippled not only be fear, but the feeling he’s worthless and holding the other two back. One would think he wouldn’t still feel this way after his baller plan to liberate the resupply depot, but then again this is a pretty stressful situation, which can lead people to reopen still-raw wounds.

The reality is that Armin is a crucial member of the young triad: the brains. So it makes sense that those same brains can betray him by making him overthink things and be his own harshest critic. One reason Eren is a more effective conventional fighter is that he doesn’t think as much. So Eren leaves it to Armin to secure his safety as well as Mikasa’s, because of the three he’s the only one who can do it.

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To do so, Armin must disarm and expose himself to Woerman and his troops; which takes every drop of courage he has, but also proves he has plenty of courage. Unfortunately, Woerman is so spooked (rightfully so) by the prospect of Titans who look, walk, and talk just like humans, he’s no longer thinking rationally, only viscerally, which means he’s impervious even to Armin’s most dogged and reasonable arguments for sparing their lives.

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Woerman is about to take them out with a second cannon shot when his arm is suddenly stayed by his superior, General Dot Pixis, whose sudden presence catches everyone by surprise. He’s a bit of a weirdo (if he’s going to be eaten by a Titan, he’d prefer if it was by a smoking-hot lady Titan), but he’s got a lot more sense in this situation than Woerman, and more importantly, his actions aren’t driven by fear. He uses his judgment and his authority to save the three cadets, then asks to meet with them personally atop the wall.

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I liked Pixis’ attitude towards the nobility in an earlier episode, and I like his no-nonsense practicality in dealing with Eren here. He takes Armin at his word that it’s possible someone like Eren with “Titan Power” can be utilized to re-take Trost, if only by sealing the breach in the wall with a boulder.

Pixis first asks Eren if he can do it, but Eren isn’t entirely sure and worried about answering “irresponsibly.” So Pixis rephrases: Will he or won’t he? Obviously, he will. But even if Eren has found a valuable, powerful ally in Pixis (and we’re by no means sure of even that), and even if he does seal the breach and save the district, there will always be some, like Woerman, who won’t look at the evidence or listen to reason. Those who have let Fear take over, and will consider anything remotely Titan-related an enemy to be vanquished.

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Attack on Titan – 09

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The show chooses a rather odd time to introduce us to a new group of characters in the elite Scout Regiment, led by “neat freak” Captain Levi. I saw bizarre because there’s still quite a bit that needs to be resolved with Eren. As great as it is to see soldiers other than Mikasa having success in killing Titans, the truth is I was patiently waiting for the show to get back to the main characters, which thankfully happens about a third of the way in.

Before returning to the present, we find out what became of Eren after being swallowed. Not surprisingly, he ended up in the Titan’s gut, surrounded by his dead comrades being slowly digested, which…gross. But Eren refuses to give up, doggone it, and a light flashes and he transforms into Titan Eren, bursting out of the Titan who ate him and commencing his rampage.

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When Eren wakes up, he finds himself in a bit of a predicament. No good deed goes unpunished here on AoT, which means an entire battalion of his fellow soldiers have their weapons trained on him, Mikasa, and Armin. They’re led by a very twitchy commander who looks like he needs a lot more sleep, and everyone is convinced Eren is a Titan in disguise who needs to be eliminated.

With Eren still highly disoriented, negotiations break down pretty quickly, with Mikasa only offering temporary relief by putting herself between the guns and Eren and challenging anyone who wants to try to hurt him to get through her first. Eren finally cries that he’s a human, but the commander has already made his decision. Mikasa tries to get Eren away as the cannon above them fires, but Eren…does something else.

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And that something else is transforming back into a Titan, using his only partially constructed Titan body to shield his friends from the cannon blast. Once again, a bold action keeps him and them alive, but only a little longer: it doesn’t exactly help his claim he’s human, and I doubt such a trick can be pulled twice in such short order.

Preceding Eren’s last-ditch effort to keep death at bay, he experiences flashes of memory, like his dreams in earlier episodes, in which his father tells him the key around his neck and the secrets in the basement of their home are of utmost importance. I imagine the power he’s awakened has something to do with those secrets.

But first things first: how are he, Mikasa and Armin going to stay alive long enough to uncover those secrets? Forget the Titans; he’s got humanity against him at the moment. Talk about ‘out of the frying pan, into the freezer’.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 48

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Okay: so the peach tree is actually Beni and Momo’s ship, which Washuu needs in order to set everything straight. They start the start-up process as Yuki tries to hack into the warhead. They’re confronted by troops, but Touri, Hana, and Hachiko take care of them. When more arrive, Kurihara orders a retreat, warning the girls to get as far away as they can.

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Something tells me with Washuu on their side, they won’t have to worry about anything going BANG, at least in this situation. When Beni gets the ship started, Tenchi and Momo finally ‘synchronize’ in the same time, much to Momo’s tearful delight. Some progress at last!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 47

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With the rift widening, the Galaxy Police commander has no choice but to swallow his pride and ask for Washuu’s help. Washuu, understandably smug, agrees to ‘bring the situation under control’, but only if the GP drops all the charges against her. With no leverage to negotiate, the commander caves completely.

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Meanwhile (if that’s even the right term to use in this situation), Momo and Tenchi are ships passing in the night, only the ‘night’ in question is a variety of random timelines, all presented in different color palettes. Tenchi doesn’t know what the heck is going on, only that he has to try to stick with Momo through it all.

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As Washuu gets in her spacetime manipulation chair (or whatever), cracks her knuckles and gets started, Ryouko and Beni finally soft-land at the bottom of that cavern, where they find an enormous blossoming peach tree. What does it mean? Err…I’ll have to get back to you on that.

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Black Bullet – 12

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While I wouldn’t exactly say Gado was unfit for command, one can’t deny that his decisions he made led to costly defeats. But even if there was no way he could have predicted the events that would follow it, one of his last acts as commander may have been his best: sending Rentaro off to defeat Pleiades rather than executing him.

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Rentaro’s unusual sentence leads to him running into Kagetane and Kohina, and they collectively have the strength to take out a weakened Pleiades all by themselves, opening Aldeberan open to airstrikes that force him back for at least another few hours. Rentaro returns to camp to learn Gado is dead, and as the next-highest ranked promoter (due to all his past victories in this show), he is the new commander.

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Before that sinks in, Rentaro visits Shouma’s injured partner Midori, whose corruption level is reaching critical. He has a chance to take her out while she’s still human, but he can’t do it, but she manages to sneak away and do it herself. Midori was only a wisp of character, but her scene with Rentaro has a quiet, sad weight to it. Having Gado’s initiator Asaka pair up with Shouma was also a neat development, even if, again, Asaka is barely a character.

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After that, Rentaro takes the reins of the remaining forces and yanks tight, suffering no objections. When someone suggests they cut and run, Rentaro cuts him with his sword; he explains his ruthlessness as an effort to make his men fear him more than they fear the Gastrea. It helps when Miori arrives with some primo Shiba Brand weaponry and a plan to take out Aldebaran so he won’t come back.

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In another moving scene, Enju asks Rentaro why so many people hate the cursed children so much, and whether being in the civil service is just a means of thinning their ranks. Assuring her like the big brother he is, Rentaro says he became a civil officer to risk his life to save people. The people they’re saving can’t be judged if they’re devoured by the Gastrea, so he’ll keep fighting to save them now, and worry about whether they were worthy of saving later.

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Stray Observations:

  • Pleiades and Aldebaran bellow like whales, but they’re also not that fearsome…like whales. The CGI-to-regular animation transitions were pretty jarring, too.
  • “Papa, can I cut them?”…”You may kill half of them.” What a great dad! I really missed these two.
  • Midori also mentions a “darkness” that could consume Kisara unless Rentaro keeps her close. Sure enough, she promises him she’ll always be by his side, no matter how ruthless he gets.
  • Thankfully the Kisara-Midori rivalry doesn’t rear its annoying head; too much shit to do!
  • Midori’s demise reinforced something that’s been hanging over the show’s head for some time: Enju’s also perilously close to crossing the red line of corruption. Will that come into play in the finale? That would be rather sadistic of the show…
  • Oh God, that insuffrable lickspittle Yasuwaki is back and has something planned for Rentaro. Can’t this punk go die a horrible death already?

 

 

 

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 08

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Zvezda has been very zany, witty, whimsical and fun over its first seven outings, but it’s not what you’d call sophisticated drama. This episode aims to change that, as Zvezda’s secret base is infiltrated deeper than ever before, while the history of Zvezda’s dependable rock General Pepel AKA Shikabane Gorou is explored deeper than before. The show decides not to immediately jump into the confrontation between Asuta and his dad, instead revealing the mysterious commander of White Light, who harbors a personal grudge against Zvezda and its chief, Gorou.

Things start off innocently enough, as Gorou is checking out pastry exhibition, which is hilariously random but also disarming, since maybe the old man’s just there for the sweets. After their big battle last week, Asuta, Kate, and Robo are simply kicking back, and the lead voice actress in Kate’s favorite anime turns out to be White Light’s commander, White Falcon. Things take a turn for the worse when she bombards Kate, Asuta, Robo, and Tasha with puppeteer waves and invites herself to their base, where she deploys a large White Light contingent.

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It’s a very nice dastardly plot because it comes out of nowhere, as does Falcon herself. Even so, she makes a lot of progress because she identified and isolated Zvezda’s most conventionally powerful (i.e., non-magical) member at the moment. The connections come fast and furious: the pastry chef Pierre was thrown out of the gang by Gorou’s wife(?), Tsubaki; White Falcon is really Tsubaki’s sister (possibly making her Gorou’s sister-in-law); Itsuka is Tsubaki’s daughter. All these ties both enrich and explain the underlying conflict between Zvezda and White Light; now it more closely resembles a family feud.

This episode also bucked the trend of focusing on Asuta (the ostensible protagonist) or Kate (the ostensible leader of Zvezda), and focused on the underutilized but incredibly Badass Old Dude; his Old Dude friend who’s really good at baking (and stopping steamrollers); and his Old Dude past, which shaped the Old Dude he is today. After being disguised as a stationary bronze bust for the last two weeks, he gets his time in the spotlight, brings a welcome dose of seriousness and gravitas, and shows Kaori that he won’t allow himself or Zvezda and the ideal of world conquest to be defeated as neatly as she’d planned.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)