Steins Gate – 13

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How to follow up a cliffhanger that belongs in the pantheon of cliffhangers (along with “Mr. Worf, Fire” and “Boomer Shoots Adama”)? The same way those were followed up: by dropping us right back into the same moment it left us; in this case, with Moeka shooting Mayuri in the head. Moeka is aiming at Rintarou when Suzuha bursts back into the lab and takes out all of the other gunmen.

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She left to go turn on the 42″ CRT downstairs, and then returns to buy Rintarou and Kurisu just enough time to activate the time leaping machine, during which Kurisu too is shot right in front of Rintarou. Right after Steins;Gate’s best ending to date, we get its best cold open. The adrenaline was pumping from start to finish, even though I was reasonably certain Rintarou would get away.

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He ends up in the memory of the cemetery where Mayuri is looking up at a grave, and we learn the significance of that memory. The grave is Mayuri’s grandmother’s, and she’d visit it every day. One day, Rintarou watched as she became bathed in Rembrandt Lighting he feared would lift her up and away, so he ran to her, embraced her, and told her she can’t go anywhere, because she’s his “hostage” now.

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The cemetery is only a temporary stop, however, as Rintarou wakes up just before 5:00 PM the same evening Mayuri gets killed. Without stopping to explain anything, he cancels the party and runs out to look for Mayuri.

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Of course, Kurisu, being a genius, figures out pretty quickly that Rintarou used the time leap machine, it worked, and now has memories of the, or rather a future. But he’s in too much of a hurry and can only promise to tell everyone everything later, even Mayuri herself; his curtness frightens her. Of course, considering he just watched her die, I can’t expect him to have acted any more calmly.

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It’s that emotional trauma he carries that makes him slip up, realizing too late the trains were stopped by a bomb threat, likely for this purpose. The Mad Scientist finally has The Organization after him, and always seems to be one step ahead. A chase, a take-down, and Rintarou and Mayuri separate. He tells her to run, and she does, right into an alley where a waiting car runs her over.

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Rintarou is close to home, so he’s able to use the time leap machine again, but at this point I’m starting to think about Waremete, a Fall 2014 show I watched but left the reviewing duties to Zane. Turns out the visual novel it’s based upon was released a year after Steins;Gate. 

Here, as in WareMete, a protagonist tries multiple times to save someone, but no matter how they change the events of the day that someone dies, the person always finds a way to die, as if the timeline is attempting to balance itself. That’s what seems to be happening here.

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I say that because the first two times Mayuri is killed, it’s due to SERN’s actions, but SERN couldn’t have made Nae run up to Mayuri, trip, and accidentally shove her onto the subway track. That’s not outside interference; that’s…something else. Breaking the pattern of Mayuri’s deaths isn’t as simple as isolating her. Maybe it’s the watch?

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And then, there’s the possibility that Mayuri simply can’t be saved, no matter how many times Rintarou is able to go back. Pair that with the fact the trauma of watching her die is cumulative, and it won’t be long before Rintarou is simply too emotionally broken to have the necessary wits about him, which is all the more reason to tell the others what’s going on.

It all comes back to the cemetery memory. Was Rintarou only reacting to the strange light, or was there really something to his fear Mayuri was about to disappear? When he embraced her, was he only delaying the inevitable? SERN and time seem to be conspiring against him, and he is in way over his head.

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S;G reviews are back!…but only once a week.

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Psycho-Pass – 18

Another nice father-son moment
Another nice father-son moment

Kogami Shinya is a sharp felow. Since the day he met Makishima Shougo, and resolved to judge him, he’d probably suspected he wouldn’t be able to get the job done if he remained a detective under the law. The bizarre actions and motivations of Chief Kasei this week serve as the final nail in the coffin for his career as a detective, a career he ends on his own terms. It’s a heartbreaking end, in particular for his colleague and friend Akane, but it was inevitable.

"Yes, prove your usefulness by killing your ex-partner. LET THE HATE FLOOOW."
“Yes, prove your usefulness by killing your ex-partner. LET THE HATE FLOOOW.”

But first, Kasei, or rather, the Sybil “brain trust”. Faced with the prospect of further challenges to their perfect little system at the hands of Makishima makes them bolder and less concerned with decorum. I mean, trying to pass off the plane crash as an opportunity for Ginoza to sweep his failures under the rug is one thing, but doing it after he and others just saw a body being carted away from a plane that only had Makishima and drones aboard – pretty brazen!

In case there was any doubt, yes: Tsunemori Akane is the shit.
In case there was any doubt, yes: Tsunemori Akane is the shit.

Things get worse when Ginoza, fully aware Kogami is his best detective—better than he’ll ever be—tries to bend the rules a little and get Kogami on Division 2, searching for Kagari. It backfires, and this time Kasei puts her hand on Ginoza’s Dominator as it’s being aimed at Kogami, transforming it into a Lethal Eliminator. Ginoza hesitates pulling the trigger long enough for a particularly gutsy Akane to shoot Kogami instead with the Paralyzer (for the second time sinc they’ve met; both times to save him).

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Because she was technically performing her duties, and said she believed Ginoza’s Dom was “malfunctioning”, she gets off without punishment, but there can be no doubt that Sybil will be looking very carefully at Akane from this point on, illustrated by naught but Kasei’s cold cyborg stare. There can be no overstating how masterfully this show stages incredibly tense situations.

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That tension is followed up by some of the best character work yet in a show that’s brimming with it to begin with, as Kogami prepares to go off the reservation. Karanomori lets him take the last remaining helmet, telling him he has six days before Sybil countermeasures render it useless. She knows he may not come back, too, so wonders aloud if she should ever have slept with him. Then Masaoka pours him some of the good stuff and gives him the key to a safe house he used back in the day.

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As this is all going on, Akane is still asleep by his hospital bed. Akane, who made him promise to keep being a detective; not to think of himself as merely a hunting dog to do her dirty work. What Akane didn’t realize is that, if they could talk, a dog would promise anything to you out of loyalty, regardless of whether they could keep it.

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Unlike that hypothetical talking, promising dog, Kogami has the benefit of knowing he’s making a mistake out of a largely selfish determination to pursue Makishima and stop the killing. But he’ll do it anyway, because he won’t be able to live with himself anyway if he lets Makishima get away. Tears well up in Akane’s eyes as she reads his farewell letter, but as Masaoka said, far better to have written that then left without a word.

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What’s her next move?

Kogami has six days, and then he’s a big blinking light on Sybil’s Big Board. I recall Akane saying stopping Makishima is more important than her remaining an inspector. Would she become a latent criminal to save her beloved colleague from himself, or will she let him do what he feels he needs to do, and hope they won’t cross paths. She won’t be able to just use the Paralyzer a third time.

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Psycho-Pass – 14

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It’s probably no coincidence that the episode after the chief confirms that Makishima is rare but not unique in his ability to confound Sybil, brutal crimes start cropping up that are committed by those with similarly clear Psycho-Passes. Unlike Makishima, they’re wearing helmets, so it much be a question of technology and not genetics.

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It’s later determined that the helmets run scans of everyone and copies the lowest Crime Coefficient among them, so as far as any technology with AI is concerned, the one wearing the helmet is a good law-abiding citizen above suspicion, even as he’s shoving scissors or pens into pharmacists or stripping and beating a woman to death with a hammer. The system is being well and truly gamed.

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It’s not surprising there’s extant tech that can, if not flummox Sybil, at least deceive her by copying a clear Psycho-Pass. What is truly chilling is how all of the witnesses to these horrible crimes stand there and do nothing, as the helmet-wearer’s associates film it all. Chilling because years of depending on Sybil to maintain peace has rendered the average person incapable of even fathoming what a murder is, let alone do anything to stop it.

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While the helmets are yet another tool Makishima uses to enable would-be murderers and thugs, the effect of the crimes being committed on the city are far more than the sum of their parts. In addition to raising the area stress levels, which could render entire neighborhoods latent criminals if kept up, it is a means of planting public doubt in the system; a crack in the dam that could lead to a deluge.

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Of course, that’s precisely what Makishima wants: not just to expose Sybil as a sham, but to demonstrate that humanity has been torn from its natural state into a withering limbo of boredom; boredom he’ll cure. And if anyone manages to catch on and try to stop him, so much the better. The status quo is his bane.

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Kogami pulls off some nifty detective work here, studying the recorded scans of the crime to determine the Psycho-Pass was coming from someone other than the culprit, and narrowing their search by identifying someone with the motive to harm the victim. Akane’s role here is small, but amusingly consists of literally staying away from the action, lest the perp copy her Psycho-Pass and render the Dominators inert. In this case, having Enforcers who could successfully target and administer justice to “themselves” proved essential.

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Psycho-Pass – 13

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After reading Ginoza’s report about Akane’s Dominator malfunctioning, the Bureau Chief has a simple response: as far as the public is concerned, that malfunction never occurred. After Ginoza vouches for Akane’s aptitude, the Chief has little choice but to let her pupil in on what the next level up knows.

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Specifically, roughly one out of two million people are like Makishima: “criminally asymptomatic” and immune to the Dominators’—to Sybil’s—judgement. That is not a public fact, nor is it ever meant to be, since the Sybil system must be perfect in order to justify society’s acceptance of it.

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That perfection is, of course, a farce, and so various means are employed to come as close to perfection as possible, including having humans rather than drones handle Dominators. That requires enforcers who aren’t bound by a clear Psycho-Pass, as well as inspectors who risk theirs by being so close to crime.

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It also requires a rather inelegant protocol in the event an asymptomatic criminal is found. Makishima is not the first; the last one, Touma, is officially “missing”, but let’s not kid ourselves: he was quietly eliminated and swept under the rug, and the chief has the same fate in store for Makishima. All Ginoza has to do is fetch him for her.

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I don’t think I have to point out the irony of a system of supposed moral perfection requiring morally suspect methods to survive, or the real-world parallels. Suffice it to say, Sybil is a lie, and closer people are to its true workings, the less trustworthy they become. But even so, for now, Ginoza, Kogami, and even Akane are going to stay the course.

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I was worried that Akane’s experience would turn her into an enforcer, but she recovers remarkably quickly. Not only that, she’s all gung-ho about undergoing a “memory scoop”, essentially reliving Yuki’s murder so they can process an image of Makishima’s face, because her memory is the only lead they have.

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She comes right out and says she’s willing to become an enforcer if it means nabbing Makishima. However, her Psycho-Pass never reaches the danger zone during the scoop and recovers incredibly quickly afterwards. At this point, and with all the now-realized doubts about Sybil swirling in my head, I was wondering if Akane is “under”-symptomatic; if Sybil has an incomplete picture of her soul.

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That could, in theory, eventually make her a target of Sybil’s minders, just as Makishima is. After all, when pursuing perfection, why only go after the asymptomatic? Why not go after the weak readings next? Still, for now, Akane’s still within the dark about all that, and still an Inspector, and her primary goal is to capture Makishima. The photo extracted from her memory breaks the case wide open.

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Wanting to know more about Akane from someone who spend more time with her, Ginoza asks Masaoka, and in their conversation it’s revealed that they’re father and son, which…makes sense, actually. I can’t recall any past dialogue that would contradict it. It also explains why the dude is always so uptight: he shares office space with the living embodiment of his potential future.

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Zankyou no Terror – 11 (Fin)

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The perpetrators of the failed Athena Project meant for its child subjects to be discarded and forgotten. Nine and Twelve’s plan wasn’t about revenge, but about making sure they and the others weren’t forgotten; that those still alive who were responsible were plucked from beneath the rocks they’d hidden under. With increasingly stunning yet nonlethal attacks, they gradually built up their stature, until no one would be able to forget what they did, and by extension, that they lived.

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The most stunning yet is the high-altitude detonation of the stolen atomic bomb, which ended up not harming anyone but disabled all electronics in Japan. While it was yet another means of gaining attention and exposure among the masses, it also served as a firm counter-riposte to the efforts of the members of the Athena project to use technology to artificially enhance mankind. For at least a time, the EMP emitted from the bomb reverted the country to a far simpler state.

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Shibazaki became the Oedipus to Nine and Twelve’s Sphinx, looking past easy answers to solve the riddles of where they came from, what they were doing, and why. They unwittingly helped him to solve the case that had ruined his career, and finally learn what those he suspected of wrongdoing were up to, and putting them away for it. Justice tastes a lot better when it is acknowledged not just by oneself or amongst a few individuals, but by the same system that once helped shelter the wrongdoers.

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I will say that even in a series of a mere eleven episodes, Five’s arc was ultimately a bit of a detour, though as the only other surviving Athena subject, her actions tore Nine and Twelve apart, threatening the whole enterprise, only to bring them back together as strong as ever following her demise. She represented an alternate effect of Athena: that of unchecked chaos and rage. It’s also worth noting that after the end of the facility, she was and remained alone right up until her final confrontation with the others, while at least Nine and Twelve had each other, which had a grounding effect.

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Even so, just before the bomb goes off, when Lisa isn’t sure whether the world is about to end, Twelve tells her he and Nine were never needed by anyone until they met her and everything changed. Neither were ever ones for true, honest human interaction, let alone feeling what it was like to care for someone so much that you’d do anything to save them, which Twelve got that with Lisa. Even if he and Nine didn’t (nor intended to) survive the gestation of the better world they sought to build, they didn’t take Lisa down with them.

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On the contrary, through her adventures and their many rescues of her and acts of kindness towards her, Twelve and Nine instilled a fresh appreciation for life, and while many will ask her what it was like to be “Sphinx’s hostage” for all that time, she could never tell them much, because they’d never fully understand: she wan’t their hostage. She was their friend; their little sister whom they kept safe without fail. And they gave her hope.

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Zankyou no Terror – 10

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Twelve deals with the guilt of betraying Nine, while trying to have fun with Lisa. Nine rolls the dice and surrenders to the police. Five makes one last desperate grasp at Nine, who “belongs to her.”

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Shibazaki comes face to face with Shunzo Mamiya, who orchestrated the Athena Project and the investigation of whom led to his demotion. An atomic bomb is released into the sky, to go off at 10pm. This episode isn’t messing around, expertly setting up the endgame.

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Interestingly, this episode is Five’s last. For those of you who tired of her relatively petty and nebulous vendetta and terrible English, rejoice, for she ends up doing herself in. Physically deteriorating, she senses the end is near, and after a harrowing chase and crossing the line with her American handlers, all that’s left to do on that highway is thank Nine for being the reason she stayed alive this long at all; to pursue him.

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She has him in her sight, but doesn’t pull the trigger, knowing she’s been beaten. Instead, she gives Nine a chaste parting kiss and ignites the pool of gasoline she’s standing in. This explosion was brought to you by the number Five.

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With Five now gone, all that’s left is for Nine to expose Athena to the world, if that was indeed his plan. The only problem is, the press conference he demanded the police allow him to hold is interrupted by Five’s meddling, and the atomic bomb is loosed, unable to be stopped by anyone.

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While meeting with Shunzo, who was convinced the spirit of Japan was “that of a loser, without a shred of dignity”, and thus pushed forward with Athena, Shibazaki can fathom the scale of the backlash, which looks tenuously close to being realized.

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In his final broadcast, transmitted automatically when Nine doesn’t get to the Hyatt at 8:00 PM, Sphinx One warns that nothing can stop the bomb. If he’s right, then we’re in for a catastrophe in the finale. But I’m not entirely convinced he’s not bluffing at this point.

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I’m not even sure his entire plan from the start was to draw out Five so that she could, well, finish herself off. Also, Twelve even ends up redeeming himself somewhat by interfering in Five’s pursuit of Nine, and I like how he does so on Lisa’s urging, telling him how happy she was when he saved her, and how Nine will probably feel the same way. Five may be gone, but there’s a lot left to sort out.

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Zankyou no Terror – 09

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Betray your brother, run away, or die with the girl he’s come to care for. The day Twelve had been dreading, when things go bad and he has to make an impossible choice, arrives much earlier than he probably hoped. With a ton of bombs strapped to her and not enough time to defuse them, Twelve ultimately makes a choice based on where he is there and then. Giving up the location doesn’t mean Nine’s certain death, just the destruction of their alliance (in all likelihood) and the jeopardizing of their grand scheme.

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But with Lisa sitting there—covered with bombs, initially trembling with fear; but after comforting words, becomes calm and accepting of her impending death—there’s no choice. Twelve can’t let her die. If he could give his life to save hers, he probably would have, but that wasn’t one of the options Five gave him. I must say, Five really did make good use of Lisa, and I’m alternating between the great risk she took and the reality that Twelve had already demonstrated to her that he would do anything to protect her, even sell out Nine.

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But despite being fairly certain, as Five was, that Twelve and Lisa weren’t going to blow up, did nothing to deflate the raw, horrifying, virtuoso tension of that Ferris Wheel scene. Yes, Ferris Wheels are a goofily poetic place to stage such a scene—as they’re supposed to be a place where joy is experienced, rather than despair (Deadman Wonderland FTW)—but the music sells the shit out of it, as does the animation of the characters’ faces. Not to mention, with two episodes left, it’s not impossible for them to die now—just highly unlikely. I’m glad they didn’t.

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This episode’s awesome continues as Shibazaki and Hamura pay a visit to Aoki, one of the researchers who participated in Project Athena, in which human pharmacological experimentation was performed on 26 numbered orphan test subjects, with the goal of synthesizing an artificial “savant syndrome”; an exercise in eugenics that went far beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. Aoki gives a weak “Befehl ist Befehl” defense, but he knows he’s a monster; in fact, he’s glad someone came so he could make his confession before he died.

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What brings everything together isn’t just that Shibazaki is now aware of Twelve and Nine’s past, and that they have a very good reason to be pissed off; nor is it merely the fact that Twelve and Nine didn’t steal plutonium, but an experimental and probably highly destructive nuclear weapon. No, it’s that the one who gave Aoki his marching orders to poke and prod helpless kids to death, was none other than the politician who Shibazaki came so very close to bagging before he was demoted for peering to deeply into the abyss.

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Shibazaki can add thus add this to his heavy satchel of regrets: all those years ago, he might’ve had an opportunity, however small, to expose and put an end to Athena, had he rejected his demotion, gone rogue, and continued his investigation outside the law, as he is doing now. How far will he go this time? How far will the powers that be let him? It’s also implied from talk of “being out of time” and Five collapsing, that the remaining three subjects wont live much longer, even if they put aside their troubles. Now I’m thinking maybe Lisa outlives everyone else.

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Zankyou no Terror – 08

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Following the Battle of Haneda, Five proves not particularly gracious in defeat, but she’s intent on winning the war, no matter how many rules she has to break or how much blood is spilt. To that end, she targets Sphinx’s weak link—Lisa—just as a lion goes for the weakest prey.

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Her attack isn’t exactly subtle: delivering a timed bomb to Sphinx’s apartment that Lisa barely evades, but it gets the job done: without their hideout, Nine and Twelve feel more vulnerable than ever. More importantly, Five makes that situation all Lisa’s fault, so rather than stick around and cause them more trouble, Lisa decides to run off…right into Five’s clutches.

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On the other end of things, Shibazaki’s colleagues are thrown off the case entirely and get suspended for three months, while he’s all but fired, having to turn in his badge. I like how the show doesn’t let them off the hook for their blatant insubordination last week, but I also like how his lack of a badge doesn’t stop Shibazaki from pursuing the case anyway, even going to his semi-estranged daughter for insight into nuclear weapons.

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Between the public record, police archives, an interview with a politician tied to the organization that instigated the “Athena Project”, and orphanage visits, Shibazaki starts to piece together who Sphinx (and likely Five) are orphans the government spirited away and basically fucked with. The more he learns, the more he starts to feel for Sphinx; while they’re called “terrorists” in this day an age, there was a time when they’d be, as he says, “something else.”

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Nine and Twelve are doing what they’re doing because they’re evil and hate civilization, but because they were wronged, and the government that wronged them must reap what it has sown. Twelve entertains the possibility of backing out, forgetting that they’re in far too deep to back out. But when Lisa runs off, his mission with Nine becomes secondary. At the end of the day, asking someone to join them or die wasn’t much of a choice, as Lisa fiercely wants to stay alive no matter what.

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As such, Twelve is guilty for involving her and won’t allow her to be a casualty in their feud with Five and the government. It’s not exactly love, but it’s concern; a degree of genuine humanity that all of the horrors of Athena Project couldn’t tear away in the end. If Twelve is going to die, he’ll die protecting Lisa. I gotta say, things aren’t looking good for them, but Shibazaki is close to blowing the whole thing open; it’s a matter of how far he can (and will) go to pursue the justice the higher-ups won’t.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 06

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The Orbital Knights of Vers got what they wanted: an official declaration of war by their emperor. Upon hearing this news, quite a few mecha protagonists would gnash their teeth and tighten their fists in indignation, but Inaho just shoots Asseylum a look that says “Well, looks like your plan went nowhere, Princess!”

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With the war resuming, Captain Magbaredge and the ragtag combination of crew, trainees, and civilians, has little choice but to run and hide where they doubt the Martians would bother them: Tanegashima, an uninhabited land scarred by Heaven’s Fall. It’s a homecoming for Lt. Marito, as that’s where he and his friend Humeray fought Vers kataphrakts with obsolete tanks 15 years ago; a fight only Marito survived.

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Adding fuel to his fire of guilt, Darzana discloses that Humeray was her brother and she blames Marito for his death. I must say I wasn’t expecting that kind of connection between him and what seemed like a side character, but I did enjoy that whole scene of the three adults drinking on the flight deck.

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AZ continues its trend of keeping the peril cranked up and not giving its underdog heroes much of a respite. They could have done a momentum-killing rest episode of mostly character work and it probably would have been just fine, but AZ’s got things to do, so we meet the first female Orbital Knight, someone who apparently was interested in planting her flag on a ruin.

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In fact, it’s that calm, reflective drinking scene on the flight deck she interrupts by launching the four arms of her kataphrakt at the Terran ship like missiles. Even HE rounds won’t penetrate her armor, and the most they can do after Morito himself jumps in the cockpit of a Kat (and after having another panic attack) is to deflect her arms with the blast force of heavy ordinance. Even then, they’re on the verge of defeat when Inaho runs out of bullets.

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They’re saved in the knick of time by Slaine, freshly escaped from Cruhteo and looking for the orange trainee Inaho favors. Now, even if most of them don’t know it yet, the Terrans have the only one on Earth who can control Aldnoah tech (Asseylum), and the son of the lead researcher (Slaine). Combined with the cool-as-a-cucumber Inaho, the vengeful sister, and the functioning alcoholic vet, there’s a nice team coming into focus.

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Stray Observations:

  • I liked how Yuki told Inaho to address her as Warrant Officer Kaizuka on the ship, but when they’re in the cockpit, she allows “Yuki-nee”, which is as good a callsign as any.
  • The rivalry between Slaine and Inaho begins before they formally meet, as Inaho corrects Asseylum on why Earth’s sky is blue; Asseylum having been taught by Slaine.
  • Saazbaum brings up wanting to interogate Slaine now, when Slaine is on the run? Great timing, guy.
  • Even upside down, or out of ammo, Inaho stays cool.
    “Wait…We’re not dead?” Oh Inko…please don’t die!

Aldnoah.Zero – 05

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To their enemies and detractors, Slaine and Inaho are insignificant, pathetic, impudent nobodies. Even so, Slaine is able to contact the Emperor of Vers, while Inaho must face off against Vlad a second time, and a second time shows him the door, only this time it’s a permanent arrangement.

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Unfortunately, Slaine’s efforts have the opposite effect that he intended, because Count Saazbaum got to His Majesty first. The emperor may know Slaine since he was a child rescued by his granddaughter after crash landing on Mars, but right now all he cares about is exacting justice for an assassination that didn’t really happen, and certainly wasn’t the UE’s fault.

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The emperor had initially issued an armistice this week, but you wouldn’t have known it from Vlad’s actions. Apparently repairing his personal honor through a rematch with the “Orange Brat” trumps an imperial decree. But when the cat’s away the mice will play, and the cat is between 54.6 and 401 million km away.

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Vlad lands on the deck of the aircraft carrier where Inaho & Co are aboard and starts wrecking up the place, but while the professional soldiers in their top-of-the-line kataphrakts are carved up like a cake, Inaho is ready for him with more unconventional tactics, making full use of explosive armor, putting Vlad’s kat into a hold.

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Vlad’s so confident he’s going to make mincemeat out of Inaho’s orange trainer, he neglects his surroundings. Inaho has the helm tilt the ship as he has Vlad caught in a hold, then bails out as the two kats fall overboard. The heat from Vlad’s own swords causes a steam explosion that destroys him.

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All in all, pretty awesome battle, though he makes the other soldiers look bad, they’re products of their conventional military training, which won’t work against Vers. It’s also a nice touch that the one to pick him up from his escape pod is Rayet, holding out a hand, seeming to say wordlessly “I like living, so thanks for saving us. Again.”

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Rayet also seems to do Asseylum a favor by discouraging her from revealing herself to the ship’s captain and asking them to contact her gramps. Gramps is convinced she’s dead, and unless she can sneak into an orbital knight’s castle and contact him directly, he’ll stay convinced.

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Since Saazbaum is now aware of Slaine’s treachery, further communication with the emporer by anyone with the actual truth in their possession will be no mean feat. The armistice is off again, as are the gloves.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 04

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This was yet another tour-de-force nail-biter of backs-up-against-the-wall, all or nothing action. Again, it’s not a question of whether humanity can defeat Vers; that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But you take small victories where you can get them, and for Inaho and company, every day their cargo of civilians is safe from harm is a victory.

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Even if their hometown of Shinawara is a meteorite-ridden ruin, they’re still alive; an act of resistance against Vers in and of itself. After Inaho saved her, Asseylum decides to reveal her true identity to him, and he’s his usual cool-as-a-cucumber self. It’s ironic that there’s another character named “Calm” who’s a lot less calm than Inaho; none of what this show has thrown at him has really flustered him.

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With the civilians safe, their new mission is to find the means for the princess to contact her grandfather the emperor; she believes knowing she’s still alive will halt the war in its tracks, but that’s an exceedingly naive assumption. Even if grandpa wants peace with the Terrans as much as she does, the Orbital Knights have landed, staked their claims, and blood is in the water. It’s a veritable feeding frenzy down there, and glory is the repast.

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Still, that’s the plan. Inaho may not consider the princess the enemy, but Rayet won’t hesistate to expose her if she deems it necessary. That becomes a possibility when the navy hovercraft they’re aboard and the installation where they’re resupplying falls under the attack of a Vers kataphrakt, one that wields a really bright, noisy light katana. One by one, the forward Terran kataphrakts are felled, and a great tension builds as the enemy draws closer and closer.

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Asseylum volunteers to go out there and speak to the pilot as she did before, but she’d be flipping a coin over whether he’s loyal or one of the co-conspirators who tried to assassinate her (and still believe they succeeded). Instead, Inaho and Calm go out in their trainers and do what they do best: improvise. Using a cargo crane to knock the Vers kataphrakt on its ass was particularly inspired, and I loved Inko’s sheepish reaction when it doesn’t work a second time.

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But again, Inaho & Co. aren’t trying to pull off miracles, only buying time, plain and simple, for the cavalry to arrive in the form of another naval vessel armed with enough teeth to compel the enemy to bug out. When you’re such an overwhelming underdog, sometimes you need to depend on things other than your own strength and skill—like luck, timing, and the enemy’s arrogance or indifference—to survive the day.

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And then there’s Slaine, who gets in his plane and heads right back to Cruhteo, lying that the meteorite bombardment did Trillram in and not mentioning that Asseylum still draws breath. Even if Cruhteo didn’t conspire against the princess, he’s still exploiting the situation for all it’s worth. And While he gets smacked around, Slaine seems to convince his superior to let him continue to participate in the battle, meaning we can’t rule out him and Asseylum reuniting again.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 03

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Last week A/Z left the two bands of Terrans we’re following in Tokyo with some steep hills to climb: Lt. Marito to save the civilian stragglers and his students, and Inaho and his friends to mount some kind, any kind of counterattack against Sir Trillram’s purple pillbug. The damn thing has to have its weaknesses; they turned out to be very glaring weaknesses in the end, but time, prodding, and a good deal of decoy work was needed to reveal and exploit them.

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After Inaho devises plan and they prepare as best they can, It’s SHOWTIME, Everybody! and A/Z does not disappoint with the righteous action that follows. I particularly liked Asseylum handling a grenade launcher while Rayet handled the wheel of the decoy truck. Inko pilots a Terran kataphrakt along with Inaho and Calm, so the ladies aren’t sitting on the sidelines here.

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As it turns out, Trillram’s kataphrakt is totally blind without help from recon drones in the air, easily obscured by smoke bombs, and while most of the pillbug’s surface is covered by that impenetrable barrier, there are “bald spots” that enable it to function at all, which Inaho finds when the pillbug falls into the bay. As Count Saazbaum pointed out, there’s no time to waste; the kataphrakt’s technology revolved around a strategy of quickly and utterly defeating the enemy.

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But the “rats” who survived the initial onslaught were small, crafty and had enough time to chew through that technology. Needless to say, it was extremely satisfying to see the damn thing finally go down, with Inaho dedicating his coup de grace to the friend whose hand slipped out of his the day before. He and his friends old and new proved something this day, both to the rest of the world and their conquerors: the Vers aren’t invincible, and if they want to play at war, they’ll get one.

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Another nice shift in momentum for the good guys: Slaine shedding his status as Terran lapdog, when he comes to pick up Trillram and learns of the plot to assassinate the princess. Trillram is still too arrogant for his own good and turns his back on Slaine, who snatches up his sidearm and terminates his command with extreme prejudice. Now if only Slaine can somehow meet back up with Asseylum. There’s far more work to be done…and traitors to expose, if any of Vers will still listen.

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 05

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I like how the show has been spending a little time with the chummy members of the Gillette Corps to show that they’re not villains, nor does their leader really see his target as villains to be defeated. Alberic even envies Toru’s group a bit, for moving forward along a sure path, something he can’t yet see for himself.

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What he shouldn’t envy about the Acura siblings is their responsibility to watch Chaika like a hawk, lest she get snatched up by low-level thugs. Though after making a brief appearance as a dragon and then a cat, Fredrika bows out for most of the episode. No sooner is she absent than the others must cross an abandoned city and get ambushed.

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It isn’t Gillette that ambushes them, but the Bizarro version of their trio. The two trios end up abducting each other’s Chaikas. They’re remarkably similar, though not identical; Chaika Bogdan is older (and shapelier), and she dons another very cool-looking piece of fantasy RPGarb. I also enjoyed the two groups’ respective “torture” sessions, consisting of mostly harmless teasing.

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Here’s the rub: their goals aren’t entirely identical either. While Trabant the White wants simply to give her pops a proper burial and be on her way, Bogdan the Red seeks revenge against all who wronged him. We’re talking a lot of vengeance murders, but both the look in her eye and the nifty snake sword in her hand (a slenderer version of Renji Abarai’s Zabimaru) suggest she’s committed to this goal.

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She also insists Trabant is a fake, but as Tooru says, they could both be fake. Or real. Maybe the emperor made a whole batch of clone twins and scattered them around the world, all implanted with the same goal to avenge him should he fall, or even bring him back to life, which is well within the realm of possibility. In any case, the plot is building to a lovely velvety thickness.

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