Lycoris Recoil – 05 – Heart of Steel

LycoReco’s next mission seems almost as innocuous as Chisato and Takina’s day off of shopping: serving as a Tokyo tour guides for Mr. Matsushita, a man with advanced ALS who wants to see the sights of his homeland one last time. The reason he’s hiring two Lycoris is that by returning to Japan he makes himself a target to the same assassin who killed his wife and daughter two years ago.

Chisato lovingly hand-crafts the best darn tour itinerary possible, only to realize once the client arrives that he’ll need it in digital format; thankfully they have Kurumi to digitize it. When he asks if Chisato thinks it’s strange that machines are keeping him alive, she says not at all, and casually drops perhaps the biggest bombshell yet about herself: she has a completely artificial heart.

While Chisato and Takina take Matsushita on a water bus to avoid Sumida Ward traffic and Chisato flashes her elite tour guide skills, Detective Abe is down in the ruins of the train station with his young partner, finding a whole mess of bullet holes evidencing a terrorist attack. The thing is, they’re not supposed to be there, and when they see flashlights they slip away.

That Chisato spots Abe and his partner on the street and greets them is one of those small-world-in-a-big-city moments that really brings the setting to life. Tokyo is as much a character this week anyone else, with its bustling streets and historic landmarks.

While taking a breather back on the water bus, Takina wants follow-up on Chisato’s claim of an artificial heart. Chisato adds it works an absolute treat despite her not having a heartbeat. Takina can’t resist trying to feel. Meanwhile, the assassin Matsushida was fearing shows up.

This whole time Kurumi has eyes on the girls and client via her trusty drone, while Mizuki is on the ground shadowing the assassin once he arrives. His nickname is “Silent Jin” and he’s a no-nonsense consummate professional Mika happened to once work with. It’s really fun watching LycoReco coordinate their efforts…until their whole system gets blown up.

Jin immediately sets about demonstrating what a badass professional he is by shooting down Kurumi’s drone and finding and neutralizing Mizuki (though not before she slaps a transmitter on his coat). Kurumi does the most physical activity she’s probably done in days by running to the window of the café and tossing out a spare drone.

But that drone will take time to get where she needs it to be, and with Mizuki temporarily off the board (she later turns up alive) Chisato and Takina are on their own. Takina acts as a lure for Jin, leading him away from Matsushita, but Matsushita then goes off on his own.

Chisato catches up to him in front of Tokyo Station, and he tells her he’s realized from their behavior that the assassin who killed his family is nearby, and intends to kill him. There’s a resignation in the way he seems to be intentionally making himself a prime target for Jin, who has a high vantage point in some scaffolding.

Takina manages to cause Jin’s killing shot to miss and then bum rushes him, and the two fall through the scaffolding. Takina fortunately lands on some soft bags of building material, but it’s another demonstration of how she acts before thinking long-term (which has its pros and cons).

An out-of-breath Mizuki finally arrives (she really had a workout this week), and Chisato leaves Matsushita in her care, worried that Takina could be in trouble. Sure enough, Takina gets grazed in the leg and her mobility is severely curtailed, leaving her a sitting duck for Jin.

Well, Chisato isn’t about to let her partner get killed, so she springs into action, firing rounds that create puffs of colored sand to blind Jin (a modern take on an ancient ninja blinding tactic metsubushi) then gets right up in Jin’s business and unloads a clip of concussive rounds that put him down without ending his life.

When Matsushita sees Jin is still alive, he insists Chisato kill him, reminding her of the mission she carries as an Alan Child. Because Chisato is Chisato, she respectfully declines to kill Jin, saying she only wants to help others, like the person who gave her her Alan pendant. With that, all of Matsushita’s machines shut down, and we get the biggest twist of the episode: Matsushita didn’t exist.

It turns out a medical patient that was missing from a facility was used as a “fake” Matsushita by a third party, who saw through the goggles on the man’s eyes, remote controled his wheelchair, and spoke via the internet. Why this person went through so much trouble to specifically try to make Chisato kill Jin, we don’t know. We only know that a woman paid Jin cash to kill “Matsushita” and he didn’t ask any more questions.

If last week’s Lycoris massacre wasn’t foreboding enough, the penultimate scene in this episode features Mashima’s grey overall-wearing associates luring the attention of a Lycoris so he can run her down with his car, and then they empty their clips into her for good measure. All of these guys have a serious hatred of the Lycoris, and they’re surely not done. Someone will have to stop them, and lethal force may be necessary.

But at least for a little while longer (probably too short a while), Chisato and Takina don’t have to worry about that. Unaware of the Lycrois killings, Chisato is more worried about whether being called an amazing tour guide was just a lie. Takina assures her that she wasn’t, and whoever was controlling that poor old man was genuine in their praise.

Then, with no one else around, Takina sees Chisato is open and lays her head upon her chest so she can hear—or rather not hear—her lack of a heartbeat. It is a beautifully animated (no surprise for this show) and incredibly heartwarming gesture that shows just how close these two have become. Unfortunately, this comes just in time for the shit to hit the fan courtesy of Mashima.

Lycoris Recoil – 04 – Lycra Regird

After having Takina practice shooting non-lethal rounds in the café’s  basement range (what a concept) Chisato, frustrated by being beaten in a VR battle game by a player called “Fuki” (who is actually Fuki), plops the headgear on Takina and lets her rip.

Takina defeates Fuki, but while doing a flip dodging virtual fire, Chisato discovers that Takina always wears tactical boxer shorts under her skirt, the result of Mika messing with her when it comes to “regulation clothing”. With no mission this week, this calls for a shopping trip.

While underwear shopping sounds like a thin premise for an episode, what this really is is an opportunity for Chisato and Takina’s galmance to continue blossoming as they hang out in less lethal or official circumstances. Takina treats the trip like another mission, even bringing her gun, but Chisato makes her promise not to take it out.

They’re not Lycoris today, just two friends hanging out, buying cute clothes, and eating beautiful delicious fancy junk food. While Chisato is helping out some tourists with the menu with her perfect French, Takina looks up at the blue sky, the wind blows her hair about, and she seems to get what Chisato was on about, and she smiles.

Their next trip on their girldate is to the aquarium, where Chisato naturally has an annual pass and mimics the movements of the various marine life. Takina also gets Chisato to open up a bit more about why she left the DA, where she probably could have gotten away with her non-lethal methods.

That’s when Chisato reveals her owl pendant signifying (whether she knows it or not) that she’s an “Alan Child”, part of the Alan Institute that either finds or produces “geniuses” such as her in all forms. Chisato says she left DA to find “someone” who also bears the pendant, who Mika knows to be Shinji, the older blonde dude always stopping by the café.

Seeing Chisato looking wistful and even a little down compels Takina to embrace her silly side, running over to the tank and mimicking a fish, inviting Chisato (and little kids watching) to join in. This cheers Chisato right up, because she knows Takina smiling and acting silly, like geniuses, are truly gifts from God.

It’s a good thing the girls aren’t Lycoris this week, because I doubt even Chisato could have dodged what happens at the Kita-Oshiage metro station. A green-haired ne’er do-well and his band of terrorists disguised as workmen whip out all manner of heavy weaponry and open fire at the next approaching train.

When they stop firing, they realize the train is empty, but for a large task force of Lycoris, who return fire and kill everyone. Green-hair is only wounded, and detonates a series of bombs he set, blasting the station, train, and Lycoris aboard it to smithereens.

When Chisato and Takina walk past the taped-off station, Takina wants to check things out, but Chisato grabs her hand and tells her if she takes out her gun she’ll be arrested. They’re not Lycoris today, so whatever went on down in that station isn’t their concern. They also have a bunch of shopping bags, so they should just head home. The news reports a train collision and derailment, but makes clear that no one was hurt or injured.

That’s because as far as the public is concerned, the Lycoris are no one. The deeds those young girls performed defending the citizenry from agents of destruction will never be heralded; they may not even receive funerals. They had no family except each other, and now they’re all dead and the incident that killed them swept under yet another rug.

That’s why it’s so important to Chisato that Takina learn to loosen up and live a little, whether it’s wearing cuter clothes or less tactical underwear, spending too much money on too many calories or carbs, or being goofballs beside the fish tanks. Because people out there like the green-haired guy (Majima) and Robota (who makes contact with him and proposes a partnership) want to destroy the Lycoris and what they represent.

Chisato and Takina could be killed in the line of duty any day, at any moment, and their deeds and sacrifice forgotten. So it behooves them to look up at the blue sky, feel the wind in their hair, and laugh when they can.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 06 – Killing Her Properly

A part of me was disappointed with how relatively cleanly Menou’s path to redemption became when Orwell went full Genie Jafar levels of evil. But I shouldn’t have worried; Virgin Road pulls off a rip-roaringly epic mid-cour finale that’s both ass-kicking and heartwarming.

While Menou fights Orwell down below, Akari’s “blanching” is interrupted by an automated time magic spell, which revives who I’ll call Akari Prime, who knows everything that has happened in all the previous time loops she’s experienced.

It’s thrilling to see this knowing Akari easily dispatch her captors, as well as to learn that she knows Menou has been trying to kill her, but she loves her so much that if she must die, she wants no one but Menou to kill her.

Akari ZAPs herself back to a simpler, earlier version of herself, but keeps a sense of deja vu and her love for Menou, which is clearly the most important part of her existence. No wonder Akari fell for Menou so hard in such a brief time together. Akari Prime also does something pretty “mean”, but also necessary to defeat Orwell.

In the bowels of the castle, Momo and Ashuna are stalemated against the demon and red dragon. But then Akari remotely ages Momo’s most prized possession: the ribbons Menou gave her when she was little. Now, we know Menou is excellent at wielding ether but has a very short supply. But her aide is no slouch in the ether-wielding department, and possesses vast stores of the stuff.

She is so freaking pissed when the dragon’s flame burns away what’s left of her ribbons, she goes absolutely ballistic, unleashing an attack that brings half of the castle down on top of her. For one terrible moment I thought she’d ethered Ashuna, but not, the swole princess not only escapes, but has never had more fun.

Following Momo’s lead, she whips out a mega-blade to defeat the demon with no regard for the corrupt castle where she was brought up. Then it’s Game Over for Orwell at the halfway point of the episode, because Akari and Menou are reunited. That means Menou’s ether supply is no longer of any concern.

That said, it’s her against Orwell and her Red Angel automaton, but the advantage doesn’t last long when Momo, still super pissed, brings down the cathedral’s barrier and beats the red angel to a pulp. Momo takes advantage of her competent aide’s distraction to create a diversion of bubbles…and etheric camouflage.

By appearing as Flare, she’s able to make Orwell hesitate for just the few moments she needs to throw a knife at her unguarded head. But it still is guarded, as the apparently not-too-judgey cathedral itself protects her simply due to her position as Archbishop. This even surprises Orwell, who thought for a second she was a goner.

She isn’t, which means she’s still quite a handful for Menou what with her RGB wand, and Menou knows it. In order to defeat her she’ll have to use Akari’s Pure Concept and delve deeper than she ever has into Akari’s subconscious.

I lit up when I heard that, because that means Menou is going to catch a glimpse of Akari Prime, who is still in there somewhere. A trippy dream sequence ensues as Menou enters Akari’s mind while dealing with her own subconscious, which admits she was never able to become the villain Flare taught her to be.

Just as Akari always has Akari Prime in the back of her mind ready to protect her, Menou always harbored a desire to be a non-sarcastically pure, just, and strong priestess. And in a way, she has remained that, as she didn’t go along with Orwell’s scheme.

Subcon Menou is ready to take her own life with her blade when she’s stopped by Akari in the classroom of her school. There, Akari tells her she’ll be her best friend, no matter what happens.

This acknowledgement of their bond allows Menou to unlock her and Akari’s combined powers, against which Orwell’s RGB wand is absolutely no match. The white beam overwhelms the rainbow beam, and rather than her planned de-aging, Orwell’s aging is ultra-accelerated to just a few moments before her death.

She almost seems to regret having cast aside all that was just and pure for her own path, and considering it led to her ruin, I can’t blame her. But this isn’t her story, it’s that of Menou and Akari, and of Momo and Ashuna, the latter of which finds the former sleeping off her berserkness. She tells the slumbering Momo that she genuinely enjoyed fighting by her side.

In the aftermath of the battles that claimed both the Noblesse’s castle and the Faust’s cathedral, the public report is that Orwell died in battle, her heretical crimes never to be revealed. She wasn’t too big to fail, but the Faust are, which means Menou still has a job, and still has values to uphold.

In a beautiful callback to last week’s shopping, which feels like a dang year ago, Menou instantly cheers a contrite, weepy Momo up with twin red scrunchies, which immediately become her new most prized possessions. Menou also explains how the Akari now among them is a regressed version of one from a distant future, but despite “resetting”, she maintained her affection for her. As we saw, that’s a feature, not a bug, of Akari’s magecraft.

Menou decides she’ll stay by Akari’s side in order to find a way to kill her. After all, Akari is still an existential threat to the world, something Prime Akari is aware of. Because of that and her love for Menou, she not only doesn’t hold it against her, but welcomes the day Akari will kill her.

We catch a glimpse of that future in the form of a nightmare non-Prime Akari has before waking up in her hotel room with Menou. It’s definitely a nightmare for Akari Prime, because it’s the day Menou dies before she can kill her, leaving the deed to Flare.

All Akari Prime can do is keep going back, making adjustments, and maintaining her faith that one of these times around, her beloved Menou will kill her properly.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 03 – Freedom, Not Fear

After a scene involving the pudgy, scheming old men who run Zirnitra from the capital, Sangrad (some who want to kill Irina as soon as the mission is over, some who want to wait and see), we see Lev get his first R&R since taking on the job of Irina’s handler. His former candidate comrades are a mix of curious, pitying, and superior.

It’s clear that due to his time with Irina, he’s no longer one of them…and that might not be the worst thing. As for “things”, it’s clear Anya doesn’t consider Irina one, but a fellow person. As a scientist, she knows the best way to overcome fear of something is to understand it better. She understands vampires to an extent she doesn’t fear them in the least. On the contrary; she adores “Irinyan”.

Lev ends up applying this axiom to Irina’s acrophobia, by exposing her to the most extreme heights so she can eventually realize how goddamn awesome it is when you’re flying and thus overcome her fear. Their moonlight flight is a series highlight in terms of visual panache; it really draws you in, like the great Miyazaki adventure in the sky.

Lev’s experiment on his “test subject” works like a charm, as Irina’s fears are replaced by wonder and a thirst for freedom unquenchable by even the fizziest lemon seltzer available. But the flight doesn’t just change Irina. It continues a gradual but inevitable change in Lev, from a soldier carrying out his duty of handling a test subject, to a young lad developing feelings for Irina Luminesk as if she were an ordinary human woman.

Lev isn’t training Irina in order to achieve the mission anymore; he’s training her so the government won’t dispose of her for not measuring up. Fortunately Irina excels at pretty much everything they throw at her, and once she’s over her acrophobia, flight and parachuting (another bravura sequence) is no exception. One of Lev’s colleagues warns him not to develop feelings for Irina, but it’s clearly already way too late for that!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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