ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 03

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ACCA’s obsession with things getting done over dinner, drinks, and parties continues apace, as Mauve quietly invites Jean to an intimate dinner that, considering Jean’s blushing, almost feels like a date. In reality, it’s a business engagement.

Mauve has been told to stop investigating, but she wants Jean, with his 13-district-wide gaze, to keep his eyes and ears open for intel on the coup rumors. She’s also concerned that if the heir apparent Prince Schwan (a known puffed-up doofus) ascends, it could threaten the peace of the kingdom.

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As for the Prince’s grandfather the king, he seems like a pretty laid-back, kindly fellow, more concerned with the selection of sweets and fruits at the royal gala than anything else.

Schwan’s a pretty typical idiot prince, and it’s not that comforting to know how close he is to the throne, at which time he vows to disband ACCA, install a puppet privy council president, and do other not-so-cool things. Even his secretary Magi only seems to respect the dude so much.

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As for Jean, he’s one of the many ACCA-affiliated guests who are invited to the event, including Mauve, all five chief officers, and Niino, who brings Lotta along as his assistant (but seemingly really just so she can get a taste of the high life, I’m guessing).

As he floats about the palace, Jean can’t help but feel again like he’s being watched, and it’s because, well, he is. There are rumors all over about an impending coup, and there are enough hotshots in one place to actually make something like that a possibility.

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The thing is, Jean, as far as we know, isn’t an intermediary for the rebels planning the coup. At least, that’s not what Chief Officer Lilium thinks. He trusts his instincts, which tell him he can trust Jean. Groshular, on the other hand, is the one he believes is really behind the coup plot. He’s responsible for the rumors, after all – what better way to deflect attention?

Jean is seen as someone who is a big fan of order and preserving peace, concepts both Lilium and Mauve share, which is why they both come to him seeking an alliance with him. No doubt they’ll work and work quickly to stop a coup from happening, if they can. The question that remains is, is Jean really the person they (and we) think he is?

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 02

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Despite the threat of bad things on the horizon, the still-for-now peaceful world of ACCA is a very comfortable place to jump into and spend time, and the show continues a relaxed pace that draws you in rather than makes you nervous or impatient.

While we start with more frankly unnecessary explanation of Dowa and ACCA (though it’s good to now know what an ‘acca’ is), we suddenly find that the “mushroomhead” rookie officer Rail was never going to be able to frame Jean Otus for anything, because the well-informed Jean was on to him all along. It’s a nice demonstration of Jean’s towering competence that it’s important to establish for later on.

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The show keeps things grounded in reality and humanity by continuing to show Jean and others hanging around food and drink. This week we see Jean have breakfast, lunch and dinner, having lively discussions in each one.

Jean’s also often grabbing food for the house and his sister, which is how he bumps into Mauve, who has been ordered to cease her solo investigations, which had to deal with rumors of a coup d’etat plot.

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We also meet an actual not-work friend of Jean’s in Nino, who is a freelance reporter (and certainly looks the part). He’s on good terms with Jean’s sister Lotta too, so Nino is clearly a guy Jean trusts when he tells him not to worry about the feeling he’s being followed.

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I’m loving watching Jean’s far-flung travels between districts, and the way it isolates him from both home and office. He’s out there on his own, autonomous, soaking everything in, doing his job with what seems to be pride.

And yet…is the Jean Otus we’re seeing just an elaborate, near-perfect cover? Chief Officer Groshular believes Otus has something to do with the coup plot, so he has an elite undercover agent following him…who it’s hinted at earlier with a silhouette, then confirmed to be Nino, whom Groshular calls “Crow.” What a tangled web ACCA weaves.

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Right now, it seems just as plausible (if not more so) Jean is totally innocent, and his unorthodox behavior, combined with an inaccurate tip, has led Groshular to cast his suspicions upon him. But it’s intriguing to wonder if we’re only trusting Jean based on what we’ve seen and not the person Jean Otus truly is, hiding just beneath the surface.

Once he arrives in Jumoku, Jean almost looks like Alice, dealing with people and things far bigger (or smaller, in the case of “Tintin”) than they should be. It adds to the disorienting feeling of who is following whom.

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Nino/Crow is clearly perfectly comfortable observing Jean in plain sight; they go back 15 years to high school (though Nino cryptically says he’s been watching him for 30), after all. So is Jean oblivious to the fact his buddy is his tail, or is he well aware, and on his toes to avoid giving Nino anything to work with? Does Jean only pretend to get really drunk to lull Nino in a false sense of security?

It looks like the makings of a great noirish cat-and-mouse game thus far, presented with stylish art and a gorgeous soundtrack. ACCA exudes confidence without arrogance, telling a good yarn without getting too serious about it. But always present is that subtle background noise of looming dread in a peaceful world.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Jist: From the creator of House of Five Leaves, the director of Space Dandy and One Punch Man, and Madhouse, ACCA follows the vice-chairman and second-in-command of ACCA’s Inspection Department Jean Otus, fulfilling one last audit before the department is shuttered.

However, Otus’ exposing of corruption in a district results in the shuttering being cancelled. Otus starts to feel like he’s being followed and watched, as he wonders if his department was really spared because trouble is on the horizon in otherwise-peaceful Dowa.

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Rejecting the notion that all police dramas must start with a bang and with thrilling action or the capturing of some devious members of the criminal classes, ACCA takes a far more leisurely, introspective, and detailed approach.

While some early scenes where ACCA officers talk to each other about the structure and purpose of their own organization (which is a little clunky), the episode rights itself by diving into the monotonous but not awful day-to-day existence of a glorified functionary who seems to be coasting.

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If this all feels somewhat boring, I think that’s kind of the point. There’s a distinct foreboding feeling lurking on the margins of otherwise mundane world of Dowa. Comments about the increasing number of fires and the fact the King of Dowa has just turned 99 adds to the looming dread.

Nice little details like Otus’ penchant for smoking cigarettes (a rare luxury in Dowa), the birdlike form of the country, and all the various organizations and ranks and their relationships with one another also kept me interested.

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But while trouble may loom (Otus’ discovery of black market corruption indicates there could be larger rot lurking in the depths of ACCA, and one of the org’s “Chief Five” mentions a possible coup d’etat), life nevertheless continues as normal, and that’s where ACCA really shines.

Otus and his colleagues spend a lot of time either in diners, bars and cafes, or opening up tasty treats at work (specifically, at or around 10). The building he lives in is managed by his sister, who wants him to get out of ACCA and join her in the family business.

All those little slice of life moments add up to a rich, lived-in experience, which makes up for the lack of exciting action. The visuals are nothing fancy, but get the job done, while the eclectic soundtrack is superb. If ACCA continues along this offbeat tack, it should secure a firm place on my Winter watchlist.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 20

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If it’s wrong to be immersed in this particular slice of formulaic shounen entertainment, I don’t want to be right. This episode put wasn’t perfect, but it got use through the epic battle between Yuto and the twins with a decent variety of twists, then capitalized on all of the good work it’s done with Roku and Benio to bring the arc to a close.

I’ve been clear about my dislike of the one-dimensional Yuto, but he’s made much more interesting by Benio’s assertion he’s hiding how much damage they actually did to him—without lessoning the threat he still poses as long as he remains on his two feet.

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I was hoping Benio could have ended things with Yuto with her new awesome Kegare legs, but she blasts through all her power too quickly, and Roku has to step in and save her. When Roku just can’t watch Yuto beat Benio anymore, the episode turns his power knob up to 11.

He can fight on the same level as Yuto, and he’s healed when Yuto blasts a hole in him. Furthermore, since they’re in Magano, all of the spirits of Roku’s friends whom Yuto turned into Kegare literally have his back, and he gains the final boost he needs to blow Yuto away.

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Blow him away he does, with a big ‘ol authoritative energy beam…but Yuto isn’t dead. C’mon now, there are 30 episodes left! Also, he merely “fell into darkness.” He’ll be back, but he’s gone for now, and Roku and Benio really can go home and have that ohagi. So I’m happy.

Could I have been happier? Sure. Why didn’t Yuto ever think to break Roku’s legs, or broken his instead of Benio’s? If he had, Benio would have had to save Roku, not the other way around. But I’ll let it go; both of them saved each other; who got the last lick in is not of much consequence.

What mattered was that SnO get the aftermath right after the battle ended. And what had been a nominal 8 up to the end of the battle rose to a 9, thanks to doing just that.

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Roku wakes to a smiling Benio. They meet with Arima and the 12 Guardians, the latter of which threaten discipline. But Benio helps reinforce the facts: the guardians wouldn’t have gotten there in time, their friends and family were threatened, and Seigen failed. So no punishment.

However, Arima’s nice-guy mask cracks more than once in this meeting, as he reiterates Roku’s true mission, which isn’t to train or become stronger or even fight or exorcise anyone or anything; it’s to marry Benio and conceive the Miko.

Roku turns the issue around by first going up to Benio and proposing to her, but then asking what exactly a newborn baby is going to be able to do about calamities that will arrive before he’s a glimmer in Roku’s eye? He isn’t going to wait and put such a burden on an infant. He’s going to keep getting stronger and make sure the Miko has as little left to do in the world-saving department as possible.

Benio are of the same mind on this, so Arima indulges them: they have two years to become stronger than the 12 Guardians. The consequences if they can’t? Marriage and babymakin’.

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Make no mistake: neither Roku nor Benio are ready for those things yet. But right here and now, they are a couple, and both have gotten more and more comfortable with that after everything they’ve been through and how they’ve come through for one another.

After all of that, and then enjoying a festival together, and after Roku buys Benio a new pair of sakura-themed hairpins, Plan B looks less like something they’ve always want to avoid, and more like something they’ll want anyway, when they’re ready.

Oh, and Mayura is going to be an exorcist, so she can stand and fight beside her friends. Good to hear; someone with such inventive expressions shouldn’t be kept on the sidelines.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 19

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Uhh…that ohagi will have to wait.

Roku and Benio give it their all, but they haven’t seen the true breadth and depth of Yuto’s power until now. He gives Rokuro the choice to join him or die (typical villain offer) and when they don’t cower before him, he actually loses the goofy grin and gets angry.

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Don’t get me wrong, Yuto’s still a major drag, but at least he’s showing other emotions in the face of his foes’ defiance. But as I suspected, this isn’t a one episode-and-done battle (no way it could be), and as powerful and determined as the Twin Stars have become, they still only had one day to prepare. It just wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

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Yuto is somewhat surprised by what the duo’s resonance can do, but even their finishing move only causes him to momentarily shed his human skin, revealing his entire body is riddled with Kegare corruption, just like Rokuro’s arm. That’s gotta mess with a guy, which at least explains what a manic, sadistic creep he is.

Once his normal body is back, he separates his two opponents, making sure to get some good devastating putdowns of his sister in before destroying her legs and leaving her to wallow in her weakness and be devoured by some passing Kegare. Rokuro can do nothing, as Yuto puts him in a chokehold.

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Except Benio isn’t devoured. Instead, Kamui appears, having been drawn to a “cool battle” he’s sore he wasn’t invited to. He offers Benio one of his trademark 10-second decisions: he’ll give her new Kegare legs to replace her ruined human ones. But it will mean taking on a curse just like Rokuro and her brother, and she might get lost in the chaos.

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What breaks her out of becoming totally consumed by her new legs are the cries of her name from Rokuro. When he pulls her out of the darkness and into the light, she realizes why it is she feels so warm and at peace whenever she’s around him: she’s fallen in love with the guy.

That love forges Kegare legs that Kamui admits look the furthest thing from impure, as if the love took the raw Kegare material and made it something beautiful and good. Rokuro laments Benio’s decision right up until she darts around like a lightning bolt and shows everyone what those new legs can do.

Thanks to the wild card Kamui—and Benio coming to grips with her feelings—Rokuro and Benio are still in this thing. But Yuto seems pretty dang pissed his sister was “chosen,” and isn’t just going to lay down and be easily defeated.

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P.S. I’ve finally learned how long SnO will be: 50 episodes. That means barring any season-long hiatuses, the show will continue through Fall ’16 and Winter ’17. I’ll be sticking with it to the hopefully-not-bitter end. The extra length bodes well for Rokuro and Benio’s slowly-brewing romance, for which this episode was definitely a landmark.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 18

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This episode followed up on Rokuro’s vow to take care of Yuto by having Benio right by his side every step of the way. After all this time together making each other stronger, it would be silly and futile for him to fight Yuto alone.

We also got a respite episode this week after two straight battles, and the physical and emotional training the Twin Stars do in the 24 hours before the showdown thankfully isn’t limited to a montage, but occupies the entire episode.

Lots of Rokuro and Benio on their own bouncing off one another is always good, and they manage to get over how nervous they are to be holding hands by learning the broad strokes of their resonance ability.

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But Yuto (busy placing lilies on school desks in Magano, the twerp) isn’t just the fuel that allows the Twin Stars to resonate better; he’s also a demon in Benio’s dreams that leads her to run to the dorm for granny’s comfort and advice.

Granny tells Benio it’s fine to run, but warns her not to do anything she’ll regret, as regrets bind you tighter and tighter throughout life. Benio is scared shitless of the battle to come, but she also knows she’ll deeply regret leaving Rokuro alone.

So she re-resolves to fight with him, and Granny sends her on her way. She finds Rokuro still in the basement, asleep after testing his new Red Talisman (which packs such a punch, I worry for their lovenest’s structural integrity).

Rokuro may be impulsive, rude, and a pervert, but Benio still appreciates all the times he and only he showed her “the way out of the darkness.” She’s never expressed herself as brightly before they met. She realizes he makes her better as a person, not just an exorcist, and she does the same with him.

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It’s a relief, then, that when she nods off beside him and they wake up together in each other’s arms, their mutual shock soon turns to laughter. There’s a quick bit more backstory when Rokuro reveals to Benio that his real right arm was eaten by his friends, and while he underwent corruption, he didn’t fully turn, only his arm.

Having learned he had to exorcise a friend of his (a girl who seemed to like him, to boot) on top of everything else, Benio tries to offer apologies both for her initial dismissal of his determination and for her brother’s sins, but there’s no need. Rokuro and Benio are through apologizing to one another. It’s time to get out there, beat that prick Yuto, come home, and eat some ohagi!

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 17

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Like Roku and Benio, I was tired after last week’s battle, hoping there’d be a respite…and then Ijika Yuto had to show up…again. I know he’s pretty much the big bad of this show so far, but I’ve been on record since he showed up that I simply do not care for the singsongy little twerp, because unlike other well-worn elements of SnO, he hasn’t been able to expand or subvert his generic smirking villain nature. I don’t like how he talks, and I don’t like how he holds back for dramatic effect.

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Seigen looks more than capable of overpowering Yuto, and Yuto’s expressions suggest the same. However, Yuto’s just messing around; in reality, he’s far more powerful than Seigen. But he’s just too in love with foreplay and dragging a battle out. In addition to Yuto, I also don’t like it when the show spends extended periods in Magano—it’s cool-looking, but too abstract and fantastical to carry much weight as a setting.

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Seigen is down, but not out, so after taking another hit for Roku and boxing up Roku, Benio, and Mayura in a protective barrier, he launches an apparent suicide attack in order to stop Yuto from harming the future parents of the Miko. I do like how Seigen, for all his bad attitude, has become a believer in the Twin Stars, which I guess is why he felt confident that the end of his life wouldn’t mean the end of the cause.

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Naturally, his near-suicide attack has little to no effect on Yuto, meaning Yuto is clearly strong enough to have already done everything he could want to do—including kill everyone here in the first minute of the episode. But he doesn’t, because he still wants to see Roku unleash the full potential he sees in him…if only to turn him into a corruption as he did the Hinatsuki dorm kids and Mayura.

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One more gripe against this episode: it pretty much sidelined our Twin Stars, who for most of the running time can only react to Yuto and Seigen, and in Rokuro’s case yell and scream far too much for one episode. However, when they finally get some time at the end, they don’t waste it.

Jiisan gives Roku what Seigen prepared for him—a special elite exorcist armor that’s hella cool-looking—which Roku quickly puts on and tells Benio (still grieving over what’s become of her brother) he’s not going to wait for a four guardian task force to arrive and deal with Yuto. It’s something “he has to do himself.” Hopefully, he actually means himself and Benio.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 16

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Rokuro and Benio are stung by Seigen’s venomous negative reinforcement, but what truly stings is that they do still consider themselves as weak as he complains. Their sullen moods catch the attention of Mayura, and when she bumps into her dad, she learns the reason for them pretty quick, and decides to remedy it with a home-cooked meal.

So yeah, no Ryougo or Haruka this week…but I like how Seigen doesn’t feel he deserves to be Mayura’s dad, yet she isn’t about to stop calling him that.

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Mayura succeeds in cheering Rokuro and Benio up, just as she always has in Rokuro’s case, and as he walks her home she helps him out more by assuring him he and Benio aren’t weak (without mentioning her pops).

Roku is super grateful for everything she’s done, but just as Mayura is about to quietly express her feelings for him, she suddenly falls victim to Kegare corruption.

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Would the show, one week removed from killing off a character we just met, go a step further and kill off a character we’ve known and liked since the beginning (and who, practically speaking, was kinda in the way of Arima’s Miko plans for Benio and Roku)?

It certainly seemed that way…at least at first. But when Seigen showed up and said her daughter was already dead, but then proceeded to have trouble killing the cursed (yet stylish!) thing his daughter became, I started to have doubts Mayura’s time was truly up.

When Benio touched Roku and they could hear Mayura’s voice calling for help, that clinched it.

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So rather than add to Benio and Roku’s emotional trauma, Kegare-Mayura provides an opportunity to try out a super purification spell only the Twin Star Exorcists can pull off together, all while showing Seigen they’re more than just talk.

At first the episode teases us when their overpowered attack is seemingly broken by the maniacally giggling KM. But Rokuro and Benio hold out their arms to catch Mayura as the Kegare armor dissolves away.

And though Mayura will be fine, Roku still bawls over the fact he could have saved his friends back in the day if only he’d had this power. That turns out to be the perfect segue for the reappearance of Ijika Yuto, whom I hope Roku realizes he cannot fight alone.

You’ve got Benio and Seigen in your party. Granted, someone has to protect Mayura, but I still like their chances.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 15

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We go from a leisurely Tanabata recap to an episode that really piles on the plot at breakneck speed: Ryougo’s exorcist friend Fushihara introduces him to another fellow exorcist, Haruka, and they start dating; but then Fushihara becomes a Kegare Corruption Rokuro and Benio aren’t able to deal with, but Seigen is.

WHEW! That’s a lot. But I did appreciate the “Lower Decks” style of this episode; focusing on not only minor characters, but far less powerful and distinguished exorcists. It’s just a job, and not always their only job; and there’s life to live in between exorcisms.

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Also, Haruka is SUPER-CUTE in the way she takes charge in her rapidly-developing relationship with Ryougo, whose entire life up to that point had been work (exorcism) and family (the dorm).

In what turned out to be a death flag-laden chat with Ryougo at daycare, Fushihara wants Ryougo to understand that in order to be the best exorcist you can be, there has to be something special you want to protect.

With Fushi, it’s the kids crawling all over the two as they have this serious talk (which is a nice touch). For Ryougo, perhaps it’s Haruka, as the two share a hug of grief in the rain in a very nicely composed shot.

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Of course, Fushihara didn’t merely die; this show can be cruel that way. Instead, he turned into the same thing Rokuro’s friends did when Benio’s bro turned them into corruptions. That initially freezes Rokuro, and Benio starts the boss fight alone; never a recipe for success.

Indeed, neither seem to have either the strength or the resolve to kill something they know was Ryougo’s best mate a few hours ago. Seigen, assigned to this neck of the woods by Arima specifcially to deal with the sudden scourage of corruptions, ends up taking the ex-Fushihara out.

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After that, he opens a gate and tells Rokuro and Benio to SCAT, telling them flat out they don’t have what it takes to be exorcists worth anything to the cause. Pretty harsh, but after they leave, we see he may only be trying to protect them without losing his rep as a hardass. And this certainly won’t be the last case of Kegare corruption.

From there, Ryougo visits the daycare where Fushi used to work, this time with Haruka, and receives the photo his friend always kept with him, to remember what was important and what to protect…a different kind of talisman.

Despite its focus on minor characters and breathless pace, I enjoyed this episode. Ryougo may be a stiff, but I liked Haruka and Fushihara a lot (even though we got way too little time to get to know the latter). I also applaud the choice to offer a glimpse of the world from the perspective of who are neither elite nor chosen ones; just ordinary workin’ exorcists.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 24 (Fin de 2nd Season)

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Asterisk War’s 24th episode wraps up the Liseltania/Assassin mini-arc, then sets up all of the new storylines and characters who will populate a likely third season. In that regard, it’s a combination of a wrap-up and stringing-along episode.

I decided to stick with AW for 24 episodes mostly because I dug the Rasmus Faber soundtrack, and I’ll admit that most of the less squeaky characters have grown on me.

Ayato remains as stubbornly dull as wallpaper paste, but he’s got a decent harem that’s gelled nicely, and there’s clearly more story to tell that will likely be of the same quality as the two cours that preceeded it, so continuing this series will ultimately come down to my schedule and what better shows, if any, air on the same day.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself! There wasn’t even a preview or announcement for a third cour at the end of this episode, so let’s focus on the second season finale. The wrap-up part turned out about as expected: Ayato wakes up, and the group works together to defeat Gustave and his imposing but ultimately not too challenging Hydra.

The battle scenes are appropriately over-the-top, if a bit too stylized for my taste, and call to mind an older, similar show that was usually a lot more balls-out with the combat, Chrome Shelled Regios. (I honestly couldn’t name many major non-cosmetic differences between Leyfon Alseif and Amagiri Ayato, by the way. ;)

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Suffice it to say, Leyf–I-I mean, Ayato does his thing with Ser=Veresta, Saya does her big gun thing, Julis does her Strega flower thing, Kirin does her slick samurai thing, and Claudia does her background political thing, as her Dad was the one who hired Gustave, something he did to protect his daughter but which she never the less is pretty disappointed about.

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Papa Enfield wanted to keep Claudia out of the Gryps Festa, but that ain’t gonna happen, which means instead of fighting in separate two-by-two battles, our core quintet will all be on the same side against teams from the other schools.

Ayato agrees to join them after finally learning what’s become of his sister (though why she has to be nude is never explained) and he’s approached by the latest kooky mad scientist, Hilda Jane Rowlands, who is introduced far too hastily.

Combined with Julis’ continued struggle in getting her best friend Ophelia back, whatever Dirk has planned with Ernesta on his side, all of Claudia’s stuff, and that idol lady who is sure to return, there’s no shortage of material for another cour; possibly two.

While I’m weary of committing to a third season of a show that never knocked by socks off in its second, I will at least give it a look when it airs, if for no other reason, than to hear what ol’ Rasmus cooks up for the OP/ED…

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 23

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In the alleged second-to-last episode of Asterisk War (at least of its second season), Julis storms out of a lot of rooms. She feels overprotected and unconcerned with threats like Gustave Marlowe, confident she and her friends can take care of themselves.

However, whether she likes it or not, her Festa victory has skyrocketed her “value” to the IEF. When Jolbert asks if she’ll at least consent to becoming engaged to Ayato (so the IEF won’t marry her off to someone worse), and asks her not to participate in Gryps Festa (lest IEF put her on the throne, where she’ll suffer in frustration and futility).

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Meanwhile, Claudia continues her trend of talking in dark rooms, this time to Yabuki, who’s involved in a lot more than we ever get to see. While it sometimes results in things getting fairly jumbled up, I do appreciate that Ayato and Julis aren’t in the center of everything, and like us, aren’t aware of everything going on just beyond their periphery.

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Julis goes to her orphanage to cool down, and Sister Therese and the nuns seem like warm and pleasant folk. But when Julis’ long-lost friend comes up, she has to storm off again, only to find that friend—or whatever it is she’s become—driving past in a limo.

First of all, coincidence much? Secondly, shouldn’t a fancy limo like that have tinting that would keep people from seeing who’s inside? Telephones project little “Sound Only” holograms in the air; you’d think this world would have window tinting down.

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With that somewhat sudden and clunky coincidence, Julis runs after the limo, ending up in the snowy mountains, and Ayato follows her because, well, what else is he going to do? She manages to find her quarry: a bored-yet-imperious white-haired girl named Ophelia, who quickly demonstrates that neither Julis or Ayato are any match for her.

Then Gustave, the assassin from last week, shows up, asks Ophelia if he can kill the two, Dirk calls and summons her home, and she splits, leaving a winded Ayato to juggle protecting an out-cold Julis and fighting not just a two-headed dog, but a three-headed dog as well! Talk about a weird, random predicament.

Claudia ends up rescuing Ayato and Julis and forcing Gustave to withdraw, but the battle lines have been drawn. Gustave will be back, and no doubt Julis will keep going after her former friend…if that’s indeed who she is. It’s looking more and more like we’re getting a third set of twelve eps (at least): there are simply too many balls in the air to catch them all next week.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 22

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Not long after a casual discussion with Julis over their Winter vacation plans, Ayato, Saya, Claudia and Kirin are whisked away to her home country of Lieseltania, first aboard a private jet, then a Rolls-Royce limo through a jubilant victory parade, and finally given rooms at a humongous palace.

There they meet Julis’ brother, King Jolbert, and his wife Maria, who plan to hold a banquet in their honor to thank them for helping his sister. The cold open actually handles the breathlessness of such a sequence of events quite well. It also shows how relatively down-to-earth Julis is, despite her regal home situation

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Of course, this is only another venue in which to rub in Saya and Claudia’s faces the fact that Ayato belongs to Julis first and foremost. Saya swallows her pride and commits herself to staying by Ayato’s side if ever he needs aid, without getting into any kind of romantic talk that might end up with her rejected.

Similarly, Claudia seeks to unite both Ayato and the others on her team in the upcoming Gryps Festa, which will be no picnic, judging from all the names they throw around.

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Asterisk War has never been all that interesting in terms of cloudy politics, but we get a lot more of that at the banquet, when after explaining that her country is a puppet state and her brother a cooperative puppet, she points out all the ladies around him who are his lovers…and also spies.

Jolbert is almost a grown-up version of Ayato, perfectly comfortable juggling women without a care in the world. Ayato does care, and he’s a little overwhelmed by the evening dress of his girls, who also all want to hang on his arm but aren’t quite sure how, so they simply glom onto him.

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Finally, things take a little turn for the ridiculous, as a battle springs up in the middle of what had been a very peaceful episode. Some butler dude with a bionic eye summons a giant chimera of all things. Fortunately, Saya has a weapon stashed under her dress, Julis can use her strega powers without a lux, and Ayato is perfectly capable of bringing the beast down with his martial arts.

It seems this was a warning more than anything else, though butler guy seemed to have hoped the chimera would have polished Ayato off. He doesn’t want him joining Claudia’s team, but something tells me Ayato is going to anyway, and he’ll deal with the challenges that result with the rest of his team.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 21

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Well now, the final battle between Amagiri/Julis and AR-D didn’t last as long as I thought: in fact, it gets wrapped up in the first ten minutes! Of course, I never believed for a second Amagiri and Julis were going to lose to an autonomous Gundam knockoff, and the resulting foregone-conclusion feeling diluted the joy of victory, but no matter: it was a suitably intense final, with Julis helping Amagiri transform Ser=Versta into the form best suited for him.

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Once he has his new, smaller, lighter, faster sword, it’s Game Over for AR-D, who is gracious in defeat. Amagiri and Julis get their trophy, heaps of applause, and the adoration of all…except for those lurking in the shadows.

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While Amagiri and Julis soak in the victory, thank their friends, celebrate, flirt a little, and wonder what’s next, Dirk the Tyrant is busy trying to recruit Ernesta (and possibly succeeds by withholding vital raw materials for her research). Yabuki tries to take out the former Grimalkin agent Werner in a sewer, but fails.

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Finally, a police investigation finds no evidence Dirk or Le Wolfe were involved in Flora’s kidnapping, frustrating Julis, who wants justice. But it’s clear while our hero and his ladies fight the good fight the right way, they are surrounded by cockroaches scheming and corrupting behind their backs.

Chief among those scumbags is Asterisk Steering Committee Chairman Mesa, who tells Julis lies about the investigation (in truth, he’s allied with Dirk, if not working for him) and more despicably, tells Amagiri lies about starting a search for his sister Haruka.

All this poor kid has wanted since the start is to see his sister alive and well, and he’s exceeded everyone’s expectations (except perhaps his own and Julis’) in getting to a place where he can actually make the request, and yet he still has to deal with all this backroom political bullshit and a perv keeping Haruka stashed away naked in a stasis tube.

If you ask me, they all need a taste of Amagiri’s newly-optimized blade. I wonder how he and Julis will play this in the next three episodes, and if a reunion with Haruka will be deferred for a third season (which would be kinda lame).

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