Re: Zero – 39 – Two Clowns at the Mercy of Fate

As with NeverlandRe:Zero’s second season picks up right where it left off when we last tuned in: with Otto administering some tough love on Subaru, who ultimately aceepts the merchant’s offer of help. His confidence and that wry glint in his eye restored, Subaru marches into Roswaal’s room and makes a bet: he’ll save everyone in the sanctuary and mansion without sacrificing anyone, all without resorting to Return by Death.

Roswaal notably doesn’t smile throughout this entire exchange until Subaru makes his resolve plain (and acknowledges the greed inherent in his plan), and Roswaal accepts the bet. Otto wonders if it’s simply because Rosy has never lost a bet. But like, er, an angry mob storming the U.S. Capitol to hijack democracy, there’s a first time for everything, and if all goes according to plan, Roswaal may find himself on the losing end of a bet for the first time.

Subaru isn’t going to rely only on himself to save everyone, but instead rely on and put his trust in his friends and allies. Otto got things started, but he alone won’t be enough. Ram seems intent on remaining on Roswaal’s side, though out of deference to their unspoken friendship she does give Subaru a key clue: that Emilia hasn’t figured out why she’s struggling in the trial, and won’t be able to pass until she does.

Subaru also visits Ryuzu for help, and learns that the Ryuzu he’s speaking to is one of three “supervisors” of the crystal, among the first four copies. Shima was once the fourth, but was relieved of her duties for her role in rescuing Garfiel from the graveyard when he attempted the trials. Thus Subie learns that a big part of why Gar is against the barrier falling is due to the fact his mother abandoned him and Frederica and “chose the outside.”

Emilia is exhausted when Subie visits her and asks her directly to tell him about the trial so far. He doesn’t promise she’ll feel better for telling him, but wants to share the burden of worry with her. She mentions how she was once frozen in ice (as we saw in the Frozen Bonds OVA), suddenly remembers her mother, then recalls a deal she made with Roswaal: if she won the Royal Selection, he would thaw the forest where her folks remained frozen.

Emilia feels she should be ashamed to seek the throne for such “personal reasons”, but our boy Subie can relate, to say the least, and assures her that wanting to help people is noble no matter how small the number. With Subie offering his unconditional trust and support, and helping her take the first step to resolving her trial stalemate, Emilia is able to finally fall sleep.

Unfortunately Emilia doesn’t awaken as peacefully as she falls asleep, as she sees a fuzzy memory of when she was a small child being separated from her mother before waking up in tears. Subaru took the step of pretending to try to harm Emilia so Puck would finally emerge in corporeal form, and he’s there when Emilia awakens.

Her elation is short-lived, as Puck is tiny—able to fit in the palm of her hand—and also has some sad news: he’s decided to break their contract, first forged when she was in dire need of protection from the arbiter Melakeura back in Frozen Bonds.

There are two primary reasons for this: first, the contract is blocking memories essential for Emilia to continue with the trial (and, incidently, life). Second, Puck is confident he can entrust his daughter to the one whose love for her is second only to his own: Natsuki Subaru.

That night, Emilia takes Subaru’s hand and asks him to stay with her throughout the night. With the seal on her memories broken, it will be a long and painful one. In one new memory, Emilia is being embraced by someone she calls Mother Fortuna, telling her that “all the people who told you ‘that kind lie’ wanted to protect her.”

Emilia wakes up, calls Fortuna a liar, calls Puck a liar, and when she sees Subaru isn’t there, calls him a liar. But I imagine Subaru had to leave her bedside to begin implementing all the various conspiracies he’s arranged with Otto. That morning, Emilia is missing, and Ram and Garfiel lead the search, but Subie already knows where she is: in the Graveyard. He sits beside her with an open ear and open heart, ready to help her get through this.

Re:Zero Season 2 Part 2 isn’t messing around. The witch’s tea party is over, as is Subaru’s crisis of confidence and competence, and oh yeah, Puck’s gone, just like that! It’s far more development than I expected, and with Emilia’s memory block finally lifted, her trial can proceed with the aim of raising the barrier on the Sanctuary. Takahashi Rie does some of her most beautiful and vulnerable voice work, and I expect we’ll get more of it.

Re: Zero – 38 – The Starting Line of Resolve

Just as Subaru is dealing with Echidna’s apparent heel turn, along with the antics of all the other whimsical witches, Satella shuffles back into his presence, forever enrobed in black miasma, loving him and wanting him to love her. But for the first time, Satty has more to say about love, specifically begging him to love himself more.

Subie isn’t about to be lectured by a bunch of witches. The way he does things and saves those he loves is his business, and if he has to keep suffering and dying, so be it, as long as he doesn’t lose anyone else like he lost Ram. He’s had so much of his fill of these witches he decides to peace out by biting his tongue and bleeding out.

But when it comes down to it, he doesn’t want to die, or even be hurt. Minerva can sense this, and so heals him with a headbutt. The witches share the sentiment that Subaru is someone worth keeping alive and watching, and so he acknowledges that each one of them has helped him in some form or another.

Heck, if not for Satella, he wouldn’t have Return by Death, his only means thus far of doing anything in this world. Yet when Echidna holds out her hand for Subaru to take, promising him she’ll take him to whatever future he desires, he rejects it. If he’s going to find his value to others beyond his continued death, he feels he must look for it himself.

Before parting, he does take the hand of the most unexpected witch: Satella’s, promising he’ll endeavor to love himself a little more, and also that one day he’ll honor her wish to return and “kill” her.


Of c0urse, even if Subie is proceeding without direct witch assistance, he’s still going to need allies. He awakens outside for once; Otto tells him Patrasche entered the graveyard to retrieve him. When Subaru asks why, Otto mocks his denseness; clearly, it’s because Patrache loves him and cares about him. And despite his tsundere reaction, Otto clearly feels the same way.

But while Subaru has loving friends in Otto and Patrache, he’ll find no such affection from Roswaal, beyond his role as the margrave’s avatar of hope. He insists on Subaru following his recommendations to put Emilia first and everyone else second; Roswall sees Subie as a tool to save only one and no one else. Doing everything for Emilia’s sake, to him, means ignoring everything she wants.

That said, Roswaal believes Subie has yet to find his resolve, and indeed is only barely on the starting line on the road to that resolve. So he forces the issue, copping to having ordered the assassins at the mansion. By creating a situation where even someone with Return by Death can only be in one place at one time, he’s forcing Subie to make a choice: Emilia, or the others.

And I thought Echidna was bad! She’s only true to her nature as a witch of greed; Roswaal is, and fully admits to being, completely insane, and has been so ever since he first saw the witch’s eyes. But to him, insanity is a requisite, not a liability, to achieving his goals, and he wants Subie to be just like him.

Subaru runs out, determined not to be anything like him, but the shock of learning he’s been set up in this way by Roswaal for just that purpose sends him into another uncontrollable fit of despair, running through the forest until he trips and takes a tumble, then repeating over and over what he should do, and coming up blank.

When in such a state, there’s nothing for it but for someone to pull him out, and Otto happily takes up that mantle by punching Subaru in the face. Subtle it ain’t, but it was what Subie needed, when it was needed. Otto scolds him for continuing to put up a brave face right up until he’s on the edge of madness-by-despair.

Hopefully Subaru has gotten the hint that yes, doggone it, people like him, and with our without the witches’ help or Roswaal’s hindrance, they’ll find out what to do together. Unfortunately, we won’t find out what until part two in January 2021, when hopefully things will be looking up a bit in our own world!

Re: Zero – 37 – Seven’s a Crowd

Returning by Death to the graveyard and Emilia, Subaru is more determined than ever to save her and the people of the sanctuary and mansion, even at the cost of his life. But upon returning and begging Echidna for an audience, he starts to experience what a voice much like his own voice calls “unthinkable presents”: visions of the worlds after he’d died and Returned by Death. Worlds that kept going without him.

Again and again, he witnesses what he’s indeed never considered: that in those worlds he leaves, those he leaves behind still suffer his loss, and he certainly feels both the crush of those deaths now compounded by his guilt over causing further pain to those he loves. Then again, this could be the second trial, and not true reality.

Those experiences flash by faster and faster, giving us not only a glimpse of how Emilia, Beatrice and Ram (among others) react to his demise, but serving as a kind of mini-montage of all the times he’s died period, starting from the very beginning. Then, all of a sudden, we hear a familiar voice…of Rem. Rem is there to comfort Subaru and urge him to basically lay down, rest, and let her shoulder his burdens.

Once the shock and elation of reuniting with a conscious Rem wears off, Subaru realizes this isn’t Rem. Rem may love and dote upon him, but at the same time, no one is stricter when it comes to him overcoming the pain and standing back up on his own two feet…Starting Over from Zero and such!

Turns out it’s not Rem after all, but a very flustered Carmilla, Witch of Lust, sent to the graveyard by Echidna to keep his mind from being totally worn away by the trial, an illusion that drew upon his memories. The trial, to, Subaru, would seem to present a series of failures, almost mocking his efforts as pointless.

However, Echidna assures him that he is where he is now due to everything he’s seen, done, and experience, good and bad. It mattered. None of it was a waste. To that end, since he’s here now, she wishes to enter into a formal contract with him, forming a bond between their souls that will enable her to help him when it’s needed, and will grant her the ability to Return by Death with him.

It’s hard to see her sudden dropping of this proposal to be the sum product of a deliberate and calculated effort on her part to butter him up and come across as a reasonable, even benevolent ally. To make her promise to help him achieve the future he wants—not to mention use her body, mind, and soul however he likes—appealing.

When the other witches (including Sekhmet, Witch of Sloth, who constantly yawns!) appear up one by one to warn Subaru not to take the deal—there’s too much fine print Echidna isn’t telling him—she launches into a passionate monologue describing in detail all of the ways she’ll help him, declaring it, essentially, a “vow of love.”

But as with Carmilla as Fake Rem, the vow feels hollow and performative to Subaru. Echidna may indeed be a kind, gentle, naïve maiden, but she’s also a witch, and the Witch of Greed, no less. It is her greed that primarily drives her wish to contract with him, as it would “contribute greatly” to the satisfaction of her curiosity. But that assumes she can ever be satisfied.

By the time miasma is coming off Echida and her face has become more demon-like, Subaru finally asks her what he wanted to from the moment he returned: Does she know Beatrice? Yes. Does she know “that person” whom Beatrice has waited? No. In fact, Echidna always intended, and has been waiting all these 400 years, to see whether Beatrice would choose “that person” herself.

Basically, Echidna is pointing out that she gave Beatrice a raw, cruel deal before asking Subaru to trust her enough to give her a “taste” of everything he is, was, and will be. And Subaru isn’t having it. He declines her offer, and while Echidna looks disappointed and even miffed, she probably doesn’t think her fight for Subaru and his Return by Death is over just because he refused once.

Still, before we see fully how she’ll deal with that refusal, the seventh witch, Satella, makes her appearance, just in time for the second season’s first cour finale next week. I’m hoping she has a bit more to say to Subie than “I love you”!

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 24 – Taking It Up a Notch

Once Doppelganger creates a giant concrete kaiju, my first question was “Why doesn’t Mikoto just do the same thing with metal?” She then smirks and proceeds to do just that, answering another question in the process: “What if Mikoto went pretty much ALL out?” Seeing the Railgun’s sheepish grin at the prospect of having to up her game a couple of notches, and then doing so, ranks right up there among her best and most badass moments.

Misaka Mikoto isn’t someone who isn’t sure about herself or her abilities; on the contrary, it’s almost scary how quickly she can power up to the point her colossal electro-iron-sand puppet is railgunning huge holes in Doppel’s rubble puppet (ruppet?). It’s just too bad the kaiju battle is a feint. Doppel’s true target is the stealth dataship, which she locates thanks in part to all the iron sand Mikoto sends into the atmosphere taking out all of the gas tanks Doppel tries to toss at the populated part of the city.

Things even get a bit Evangelion-esque when Doppel pulls out another party trick: the ability to spontaneously generate enormous masses of matter in a similar manner to slime molds and zombie ant parasites. She uses a gigantic clone of herself to grab hold of the airship and render it visible. At this point the real Kuriba Ryouko pleads with her mechanical double for just “two more months”, whereupon she’ll be able to eradicate her own soul and allow Doppel to take over her body fully.

The thing is, Doppel is no longer interested in Kuriba’s body, or in simply existing as an individual anymore. Kuriba falls off the airship, but the Scavengers chip in to locate and pluck her out of the air; Leader’s thank you to Mikoto for her earlier assistance. She uses her ability to serve as spotter for Mikoto as Doppel attacks her with more slime mold-esque clones.

Bottom line: Doppel wants revenge against humanity, beyond simply destroying her creator. By the way, she’s ready to do that and level the city thanks to rigging twenty huge fuel tanks in strategic locations. Having been taught emotions by the researchers, she can’t help but feel envy and hatred to humans.

Mikoto’s answer to this threat is to fire her Railgun directly at Doppel’s core body, but Leader ominously warns Mikoto—albeit too late—that there’s a problem with her line of fire. Doppel is consumed by the light from the railgun blast…but that’s as far as the episode takes us.

With a preview full of Railgun’s friends and frenemies, I imagine Doppel is either destroyed or otherwise neutralized—but we’ll see what cost is incurred as a result. Until then, this will go down in the annals of all-time best-looking duels, and as always it’s an absolute delight to watch Mikoto do her stuff.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 23 – Koncrete Kaiju

Leader is Leader of Scavenger for a reason: not only is she smart as a whip and good at thinking on her feet, she’s also pragmatic. When the Railgun arrives, she knows there’s no use fighting her or getting on her bad side. Leader has a mission that needs accomplishing, so she tells Mikoto she’s an  undercover member of Judgment tasked with retrieving the doppelganger.

It’s fun to watch Leader navigate a virtual minefield with her subterfuge, not knowing how the Railgun will respond to what she says. Luckily for her, she can relate to Seike as a fellow “civilian” aiding Judgment since she does that for Kuroko and Uiharu all the time. Leader also lucks out when she learns Mikoto is big Gekota fan…but is less enamored of Leader’s praise for fellow Level 5 Shokuhou Misaki.

Leader is ultimately successful in getting Mikoto to help her, and it’s a good thing she does, because the doppelganger is far, far beyond the talents of the members of Scavenger alone. She also gets to watch firsthand just how much of a badass the third-ranked Railgun is against such a foe. The doppel, for her part, wants to “level up” some more before properly fighting her.

Leader has Mikoto lure the doppel to a district of abandoned warehouses. It makes sense to Mikoto because that area will result in the fewest casualties, but she asks Leader to evacuate the district of all Skill Out members. Leader wants the doppel in that district because that’s where Scavenger’s contract says to make the exchange with the lab coats. Yakumaru performs a lovely bit of theater convincing a bunch of punks to be chivalrous for a change, helping her warn others to evacuate.

As Mikoto pokes, prods, and analyzes the doppel while air-boarding on a scrap of metal, Leader makes contact with the researchers, and when they quibble about the details, Leader loses her patience. She and her comrades have almost died five times over trying to capture this subject, and their client’s van isn’t going anywhere (thanks to Seike) until their Joan Hancock is on the bottom line of that contract.

But while Leader and crew escapes with the signed contract, their reputation on the mend, Mikoto’s left holding the doppel bag, her sparking hands having become decidedly fuller as the doppel grows to the size of a kaiju.  It’s also the case that Leader feels kinda bad about deceiving the kind and well-meaning Railgun, but she’s not loyal to Judgment; she’s loyal to the Dark Side, and to her organization.

Carole & Tuesday – 13 – Army of Two Steps Back

I’m not sure why every episode of Carole & Tuesday needs to begin by reminding us about the “Miraculous Seven Minutes” that haven’t happened yet, as if we forgot. We get it: they’ll set it into motion! It will change Mars forever! Shut up about it, would ya?!

For now, all C&T get for not winning, but also not quite losing, Mars Brightest is a lot of notoriety, not all of it welcome. They muddle through talk shows and interviews, while Angela, owner of a new contract with a 20 million Woolong singing bonus, has already released her first single.

It features such stirring slogans as “breaking chains”, “keep moving”, “taking control”, “today’s a new day”, and “find my heaven,” collections of words no one has ever thought to put together before! New day, same crappy lyrics.

C&T’s new fame is earning them zero Woolongs but plenty of headaches. At a laundromat, Tuesday is surrounded by brusque gents, and is only saved further harassment by the intervention of a fellow clothes-washer who is probably Carole’s long-lost father (or at least, we’re supposed to wonder if that’s who he is).

When Gus and Dahlia cross paths, they’re all smiles and passive aggression, but Angela cuts through the crap: C&T better get their heads out of the clouds and start making hits soon, or else she’s going to leave them in the dust come Mars Grammy time. Heck, she’ll probably leave them in the dust anyway, but like Mars Brightest, she still wants a fair fight.

There’s nothing fair about the contract meeting at Brightest Records, the studio run by Catherine. As Tuesday’s suddenly very Trump-like mom starts talking about deporting illegal immigrants (which makes one ask the uncomfortable, what exactly is Carole’s official immigration status?) Gus rejects Cathy’s offer without consulting the girls, taking money out pockets and food out of their mouths without any guarantee of alternate sources of income.

Daddy Gus has simply decided, unilaterally, that C&T are going to be an indie group, selling their songs online to “boost their commercial value” and make their negotiating position better. And the girls just…allow it. It’s baffling; they’re just not developed enough as a group to be turning down reasonable offers; not when it’s really past time they started, you know, earning money to “live” and “eat”.

And don’t get me started on Gus dragging them to the rougher side of town to play an impromptu concert no one there asked for, all to lure out a “genius producer” who loves swinging a goddamned ax around. But hey, I guess it will all work out. Those Miraculous Seven Minutes are coming, or so they say! I just don’t know if I’m going to make it there…

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 09 – Awful Superheroes

Tsukiyama Shuu……is BACK, YA’LL! He knows Kaneki Ken when he sees him…and “Sasaki Haise” IS Kaneki Ken and Shuu will have him. He’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before he gives him up!

Even if he doesn’t know who he is. That means striding right up to the pack of young Doves that surrounds him…and having to be scooped up and whisked away by Kanae. No matter; it’s great to see the Gourmet has his appetite and vigor back…all thanks to Hori Chie (Kanae seemed particularly clueless about how to quell their master’s slump).

The Quinx are in that ward because Kan…er, Sasaki wants to have them all fitted for masks at Uta’s shop, so they can infiltrate ghouls. Uta is glad to be of service, and has a high opinion of every Quinx member. Kori officially denies Sasaki’s request to go forward on such a plan, but cannot deny it’s a good idea considering how similar the Quinx are to Ghouls.

Meanwhile, creepy-looking Kijima has released a gruesome video of him torturing a member of Shuu’s household staff, presumably out securing food for him. Kijima is dangling his captive as bait, no doubt hoping to snag more important Ghouls. Not the most pleasant methods!

Within a day or so, Shuu’s Kaneki-fueled recovery is complete. The kid’s alive, and so he can keep on living. The hard part will be to get someone who’s forgotten who they are to remember who he is.

Shuu arranges for a number of “chance encounters”, but if we’re generous, he’s basically just stalking Sasaki, and coming to the same roadblock every time: the pesky Quinx kids that keep him from being alone with Kaneki.

Kanae hires a team from Aogiri Tree, including Torso, to eliminate the Quinx Squad so her master can have what he wants (Kanae also gives Shuu a second photo, at which point a much more lucid Shuu realizes his little friend Hori is supplying the pics for his benefit).

Quinx ends up scattered, with Sasaki taking on the bulk of the Ghouls in a parking lot; Tooru and Saiko go one way, while Urie and Shirazu go another. Among the mercs is the “Grave Robber”, who is a fan of burgundy nail polish and, presumably, stealing quinques from the Doves she’s killed.

When up against Kanae, Shirazu’s kagune is damaged and he has to use Nutcracker…but he just can’t. He’s still not okay with how things went down, and especially not okay with using what amounts to her corpse as a weapon. Luckily, a stronger Urie is up to the task of forcing Kanae to retreat, and then intervenes in the battle between Tooru and Grave Robber.

Saiko, who was told to hide, is found by…someone, who proceeds to try to choke her out until she’s saved by…someone else. So many new (or old?) faces to keep up with! Her vague description of her savior causes Sasaki stare into space thoughtfully, as Eto, who we know wants Kaneki to get his memories back, perches atop a building not far away.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 10

Now that they’ve arrived at Antarctica, the expedition weighs anchor and starts to bring supplies ashore using a very badass helicopter. The high school girls take a trip (which Yuzu likes not at all) and get to see the ship from the sky (it’s a thrilling bit of CGI) before being deposited at Syowa Station.

Kanae gives the girls—and by extension us—a tour of the facilities, including seperate bedrooms for all four of them, a luxury after having to share a berth at sea. While spartan, the habitations are also quite cozy and homey, far nicer than what I was expecting.

I really enjoyed the contrast between the cool Antarctic “night” (light-wise it stays dusk at its darkest) and the warm, inviting, lived-in interiors; the perfect place to kick back after a hard day’s work.

As unloading, cleaning, and other duties mount, Yuzu learns she’s been offered a role on a popular Japanese TV drama (there’s cell service at the station), but is worried it would mean, as it’s always meant throughout her career, the end of her time with Mari, Shirase and Hinata.

True to that career, she even comes up with a “friendship contract” for them to sign, causing Mari to cry and hug Yuzu with a distinct “you poor thing” vibe.

There were times when Yuzu seemed almost painfully naive about what friends and friendship are, but then I remembered that these three girls are her first, so naturally she wouldn’t be sure when the threshold of friendship had passed. Of course, no one really knows when that happens; friendships may not be as solid and structured as marriages or parenthood, but that’s what sets them apart as something special.

Mari takes the time to impart some wisdom to Yuzu regarding what she considers friendship (since it can be different for everyone) using Megumi as an example. Mari has been sending her pics, and whether Megu responds right away or as often or not, she always knows when Megumi has seen the message by the notification on the phone. That, in turn, helps Mari imagine what Megumi might be doing or thinking about in that moment.

With that, the other three arrive and unveil what they had been planning for Yuzu all along: a surprise birthday party. Her real birthday passed when they were all horribly seasick, so the Christmas party made her sad.

So the girls prepped some poppers and cake so that she could celebrate her very first birthday with friends. It’s almost too much to handle, as Yuzu starts bawling and can’t even speak clearly because of all the tears and snot.

But the next day, when Mari and Yuzu are off doing different tasks, Yuzu sends Mari a text not apologizing, but thanking her. Just a simple little check-in that lets both Mari and Yuzu know that they’re thinking of one another. Finally, Yuzu seems to get what friendship is, and that one should never overthink it.

Fate/Extra Last Encore – 02

Our introduction to this new Fate world and story continues with a classic Shaft-type episode that is dense in conversation and exposition, but festooned with lavish trappings that befit a story of this scope. F/ELE (as I’ll be calling it for brevity’s sake) has a lot that is familiar to fans of Fate, fans of Shaft, and fans of both such as myself.

Indeed, the manner in which Kishinami Hakuno summons Saber when he is on death’s door is essentially a reversal of Araragi Koyomi’s first meeting and rescue of Kiss-Shot, another blonde of legendary status, in Kizumonogatari. And while Hakuno is so far a walking bag of virtues, this new-look Saber, voiced by all-star seiyu Tange Sakura, is a lot of fun to watch.

We also get a Nisemonogatari-esque bath scene, not just in any bath, but a sprawling, elaborate Roman-style mixed bath strewn with rose petals. It’s hardly a Shinbo production without such a bath, where a young man and a young woman talk business utterly unfazed by the fact they’re both stark nakked.

When they arrive at the first level, which Saber believes will be the first battlefield of the next Holy Grail War, she is surprised to find a bustling metropolis that, far from being ravaged by war, is united in celebration. At first Saber doesn’t mind this twist at all, and soaks it all in, and we learn that while Tange’s Cardcaptor Sakura says “ho’e,” her Saber says “umu.”

They visit an empty bar occupied by only one, somewhat suspicious woman with pink hair dressed as a bartender. When Saber presents herself as a foe and bids her chosen opponent defend herself, the lady scoffs; surely Saber jests. There is no Holy Grail War here, she says; the Masters have sold off their Servants to live in eternal happiness and peace; that’s what’s being celebrated.

Both Saber and Hakuno seem a bit disappointed by this news, but also somewhat skeptical. When seven splendidly uniformed policewomen arrive, surround the pair, and ask them to accompany them to the Mayor’s office, Saber may gush about how pretty they look, but just as with her outwardly carefree soaking in of the city, Saber is likely staying on her guard and gathering information as if there were a war in progress, which is as it should be.

As they’re escorted to the Central Tower and ride its super-fancy elevator to the top, Hakuno starts to remember some of what happened before he arrived here. Saber said his memory would start to return upon becoming a Master, and his vision of a pile of dead classmates serve to remind him of what had to be done to get this far.

However, the mayor—who turns out to be Matou Shinji, appearing before the pair as a hologram—would prefer if they go no farther. After waxing poetic about the benefits of the AI and NPC-rich Utopia he’s helped build (and performing the Shaft Head Tilt), he finally brings up the price of all this happiness. Citizenship requires all Masters to sell off their Servants.

Naturally, Hakuno refuses, and Shinji stops playing nice, reveally he had physically isolated Saber some time ago with his suite of high-tech digital smoke and mirrors, and sics not one or two but three nasty-looking Berserkers upon Saber. She seems to relish a fight at last, as I did, but at the same time she doesn’t seem that impressed by her foes.

Meanwhile, Shinji’s sexy police all stab Hakuno with their swords. For defying the order of things, the plan is to use Saber as a power source as other Servants have been used, and for Hakuno to simply die.

Only Hakuno didn’t get the right script, and refuses to let a few impalings bring him down. To his attackers’ shock, he pulls out their swords one by one and then seemingly powers-up/transforms, a phenomenon Toosaka Rin senses from the top of a building elsewhere in the city.

Rin calls it “Dead Face.” Whatever that is, it’s clear Hakuno isn’t there to celebrate, or live comfortably, or die. He is there to fight.

Fate / Zero – 17

For Risei and Tokiomi, the greatest blunder they committed in the Holy Grail War was believing they knew and understood who Kirei was, when he seemingly didn’t even know until recently, after a few key conversations with Lady MacGilgabeth.

Risei, who Kirei was probably planning to kill, was murdered by Kayneth, but by the end of this episode, Tokiomi is dead too, by Kirei’s own hand, petty much forced by accelerating events.

Fate/Zero isn’t subtle about death flags, and it sure looked like even Tokiomi himself sensed his end was near when he visited Rin and Aoi one last time. The only thing that escaped him was the means of that end; surely he must’ve thought if he died, it would be fighting against his enemies, not his own student.

But back to forcing Kirei’s hand: with Risei dead, Tokiomi proposes a temporary alliance with Irisviel, who is flanked by Saber and Maiya in the church where they meet (odd choice of venue if you ask me, considering it couldn’t even protect the observer.)

Iri agrees with Tokiomi that they should save the battle between themselves for the end, once Rider and Berserker are dealt with … but only if he expels Kirei from Japan immediately.

It’s not an unreasonable demand, considering Kirei and the Einzberns have “bad blood” Tokiomi didn’t know about, but Kirei is also not a Master anymore, and thus should step away from the war altogether. Upon leaving the meeting, Iri collapses onto Maiya’s shoulder, confiding in her that she’s not just any homonculus, but the Holy Grail itself given human form.

When this Holy Grail War is over, she will die and the grail will take whatever new form the winner desires; only Avalon is keeping her going. Maiya promises she’ll stay by Iri’s side until the end.

With one more one-on-one chat between Tokiomi and Archer, Tokiomi has decided what he’s going to do, and has Archer’s support. Kirei will get to explore his “dark desires”, and Gilgamesh will gain a more entertaining Master.

Kirei helps Gil finalize his choice by saying the Holy Grail can only be activating by sacrificing all seven Servants, meaning Tokiomi was eventually going to use a command seal to force Gil to commit suicide.

So after thanking Kirei for being his loyal student and comrade, Tokiomi presents him with a will leaving his wealth to Rin and appointing Kirei as her guardian. Kirei then takes that newly-gifted dagger and kills Tokiomi with it.

The literal backstabbing, while extensively telegraphed, is still a powerful, disturbing moment. With this betrayal, Kirei becomes Archer’s new Master, and the dynamic of the War is irreparably changed. And I must say, I fear Kirei a hell of a lot more than Tokiomi as an adversary to Kiritsugu and Iri, because, well, Kirei himself fears the guy.

Fate / Zero – 16

It’s no rest for the weary or hungry in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of Caster and his monster. Sola-Ui is hoping her beloved Lancer’s contributions will net her a fresh command seal, but she ends up losing her two remaining seals when Maiya sneaks up and cuts her fucking arm off before calmly reporting to Kiritsugu.

Sola-Ui’s fiancee Kayneth seems to fare better, as he manages to convince Risei to bestow upon him a new seal as a reward, then shoots Risei before peaceing out of the church, though if I were him I’d have checked to see if the brakes weren’t stuck on; he seemed to have some trouble with the wheelchair.

When Lancer returns to report that Sola-Ui is alive but missing, a particularly revitalized Kayneth really lays into his Servant, even accusing him of seducing his fiancee, just like he seduced that of his commander of yore. Lancer has to break into the endless berating, because someone has arrived.

That someone is Saber, with Iri in tow. While everyone is exhausted from the battle, there is yet some time before the dawn, so she (probably wisely) suggests there will be no better time to get their chivalrous duel out of the way.

Lancer assents, and the two have at it with a kind of infectious glee, finally able to fight nobly one-on-one after such a distasteful monster battle. If ever there was a ‘heromance’ on Fate/Zero (not a one-sided one like Caster), it’s these two. Which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see their noble duel cruelly cut short by the implementation of Kiritsugu’s underhanded but ruinously effective gambit to take Lancer and Kayneth off the board for good.

The dueling Saber and Lancer are essentially distracting themselves from the fact their masters are in the shadows, “negotiating.” I use quotes because Kiritsugu has all the leverage and Kayneth has none. Kiritsugu has Sola-Ui, and makes Kay sign a contract of geis in which Kiritsugu will be unable to kill or even harm him or Sola-Ui. In exchange, Kay has to use his final command seal to force Lancer to run himself through with his own single remaining lance.

Kay takes the deal, and the impaled Lancer is disgusted and enraged, cursing everyone—including Saber, whom he assumes is in on it—as he slowly dies and evaporates into the either. Then Kiritsugu holds up his end of the bargain: he can’t kill Kayneth or Sola-Ui…so he has Maiya do it for him, and when Kayneth is begging for death, Kiritsugu must decline due to the contract. Ice. Cold.

It falls to Saber to put Kayneth out of his misery, but no one is more disgusted with Kiritsugu than she, as she openly questions his true motives for winning the HGW, considering the underhanded, dishonorable depths to which he is willing to stoop.

Even Iri, who Kiritsugu points out hadn’t seen “the way he kills” until now, is clearly angry at him and demands he speak to Saber directly and not through her. And Kiritsugu finally explains why he’s been so loath to interact with Saber and so unwilling to heed her council: because she is a knight, imbued with heroic honor and chivalry. And he doesn’t believe a knight can save the world.

Throughout history, knights and other heroes have inspired men to set out, fight, and die. It’s a deadly wheel that Kiritsugu intends to break. If he is victorious, he will see to it the blood shed in the HGW will be the “last blood shed by humanity,” and he doesn’t care what he has to do or how his actions make him look, as long as he gets the job done. It’s the ultimate ends-justify-the-means argument, and it’s hard to argue with it.

Saber’s reaction to Kiritsugu’s passionate rant is to deduce that for someone to speak the way he does, he must have at some point in he past fought nobly and justly, only for something to go horribly wrong to lead to his fall from chivalry. Saber is of the mind that his methods not only won’t break the wheel, but strengthen it by stoking resentment, hatred, and further conflict unbound by any decency.

I can appreciate both viewpoints (a testament to the quality writing and characterization) and while I can’t endorse Kiritsugu’s methods, I can’t argue with their utility and effectiveness thus far: only Rider, Berserker, and Archer remain in the war, and he has all of his command seals.

But I take the collapse of the downright exhausted Iri after Kiritsugu departs as a bad omen; things have been going too smoothly so far. I sense rougher seas ahead.

SERVAMP – 01 (First Impressions)

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Shirota Mahiru, 15, likes simple things, hates troublesome things, after being orphaned his uncle becomes the “someone” to raise him, and leads him to take in a stray black cat he names Kuro that turns out to be a vampire, whom he forms a Servant-Vampire (“Servamp”) contract with to save his friends.

First of all, Shirota Mahiru is a liar. If he really hated troublesome things, he wouldn’t have saved the cat, and not regretted not taking it in. Instead, he did the one thing that would make the most trouble for him, having to take care of a pet where before he didn’t have one.

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That aside, Shirota Mahiru is also a composite of several dozen shounen heroes I’ve already seen before, which is problematic. Of course his mom got wasted in a car accident and of course he’s great at housework and would make a great wife and of course he gets saddled with an odd-couple partner.

This color-by-numbers slog continues with the expected personality-clashing slapstick, right up until things get serious when one of Mahiru’s friends seemingly loses all of his blood at once when attacked by the vampires a friend told them might be lurking around. As for why vampires exist in this world, well…they just do, ’cause.

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Speaking of “of course”, of course the bad guy is a loopy flamboyant dude in a white suit and top hat who slurs his words as he raves and swears because oooh, he’s such a Craaayzee Vampire Villain Dude! And what do you know, when Kuro (most inventive name for a character EVER) sees Mahiru put his life on the line to save his friends, he springs into action and kills (well, wounds) the crazy vamp, completing their contract and ensuring similar battles in the future.

Count me out of this yawn (and, I might mention, sausage) factory. I’m rating this niche appeal…you know, for the kind of viewer who just isn’t interested in watching something they’ve never seen a hundred times before. Because that would be too troublesome.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 14

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It stood to reason Subaru wouldn’t quickly or easily fix things with Emilia, or even determine how. As disheartening proof, Emilia doesn’t so much as appear this week. Her absence creates a yawning void considering where she and Subaru left things. Still, I had no idea things would get so much worse so quickly. And yet they do: Re:Zero lets the shit fly free into a very big fan, and nobody comes out clean.

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What’s devastating about what transpires centers on some intentionally harsh words from Felix that sort of echo what Julius had to say (and what he risked his career and chivalry to try to teach Subie, to no avail): Even if Subaru had a plan, even if he involved himself, even if he risked everything to try to do something to protect Emilia, it wouldn’t matter.

That’s how out of his element he is: those who would be his enemies (or at least the political rivals of Emilia) are doing their utmost to simply keep Subaru out of it, not because they’re worried he’d make things worse, but because he’d only end up dead, accomplishing nothing.

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Subie being Subie, he respectfully dismisses stern warnings from both Crusch (who if nothing else was a decent host) and Felix (who had been healing his gate) and heads back home to Roswaal Mathers’ domain as soon as he hears of reports of suspicious movement near the mansion.

The one bright light in the yawning abyss this week was Rem, staying by Subaru’s side no matter how pathetic he gets (indeed, largely because he’s pathetic), not due to any contracts or obligations or honor, but simply because she wants to.

We know what that means even if Subaru isn’t particularly receptive to it: Rem cares about him, at least as much as he cares about Emilia, and Rem won’t leave his side. Her “save a tiny bit of that for me”, talking about his feelings for Emilia, might be the saddest line of the show so far. She deserves so much more than a tiny bit.

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But as far as she takes him, even Rem can’t find it in her to take Subaru to whatever is going in the Mathers lands. Instead, she leaves for the mansion in the night, leaving a note pleading Subaru to heed her words: Stay behind; wait for her return; trust in her.

He can’t. He uses every means at his disposal to get closer and closer to the place no one wants him anywhere near for his own good. He takes Rem’s note as another endorsement of the “Subaru can’t do anything” narrative.

When he’s running in the dark and becomes suddenly surrounded by a circle of sinister-looking mages who don’t even bother to kill him before racing off, it’s clear that Yup, he can’t do anything…not about this.

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In case he didn’t get the message there, he finally arrives at the village near the mansion, and it’s the site of a massacre of men, women, and children. Was this the result of the intense public prejudice against Emilia’s half-elf lineage, which she barely ever mentioned to Subaru? Was it the work of those mages? I don’t know, but I’ll admit the sight shocked me.

But the village was nothing compared to Subaru entering the Mathers estate, seeing a bloody flail, and then coming upon the lifeless, bloodied body of Rem, as she recites her letter to him. I can’t believe Rem is dead any more than Subaru wants to, and though I wouldn’t put it past Re:Zero to make these myriad tragedies stick, one can’t discount the fact Subaru can do something no one around him knows he can do: Die, and by doing so, blow up everything that’s transpired to this point.

Will he do that? If he does Return by Death, where and when does he wake up, and what the hell can he do to prevent this? As for if he doesn’t RbD, well…I don’t particularly want to think about that.

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